The fall is suddenly upon us, and it is indescribably wonderful. I’ve felt this exact autumn in my bones most of my forty-one years and I could recognize it with only a handful of my senses. I remember the last ninety-plus degree day, just a short few weeks ago, and then suddenly the temperature dropped. It is still warm enough, with rich rains, sometimes violent ones. My husband kept watering our sparse tomato plants right up until last week, although I told him there was not enough summer warmth left to coax the green fruits into ripeness.
I spent my forty-first birthday exactly as I wanted: sleeping in, then rising up for leisurely coffee with Ralph. After my morning practice the four of us set to a deep clean of the house. The kind of deep clean where we pulled down every curtain, shampooed the (single) rug (we own), dusted, mopped, and cleaned the bathroom. My bedroom bureau was scrubbed and my little shelf for my Buddha wiped down with a soft, damp rag – in fact, each Buddha on my main floor got a cleaning as well. I lit charcoal in the brazier and burned resin incense; we put the cats out and aired out the quilts and washed all the bedding. We opened up gifts, each tenderly wrapped and with handwritten salutations and well-wishes.
In the late afternoon I traveled to a studio and held a yoga class, as I’ve done years in a row now on my birthday. I felt so alive on the mat tonight; our instructor led us through deep twists and triumphant standing postures and one-legged forward folds. My toes tapped through the music I’d set – a playlists of songs from 1977, the year of my birth.
I changed into my jeans and hoodie and slouchy cap straight from yoga; Ralph and the kids picked me up and we drove straight to Olympia, to a little Chinese restaurant with the best vegan entrees, comfort food. Almond chick’n, smothered in gravy and alongside steamed vegetables. And crisp lemonade – I was so thirsty after working out.
We shopped at Target and Nels and I sang on the way home – my thirteen year old son loves Lana Del Rey and has memorized every lyric and vocal flutter and soar.
Home and after a shower, chocolate cake in bed. My body feels indescribably good this evening and the comfort of my home is like a soft blanket I fold over my body, close. I do not like solitude so much, per se, but I do love having time for introspection and respite.
My little family cares for me so very well. I only hope they’d say the same of me.
My little tuxedo kitty Herbert Pocket is a shy, self-contained thing; now and then, however, she decides she needs affection. She is suddenly relentless, stropping at the ankles while I cook, or – as in this morning – swarming about me as I am deep in yoga practice. She purrs and takes menacingly little chomps with her perfect white teeth and pink tongue, her eyes directly looking into mine. This morning during savasana I pull her onto my chest and she purrs and kneads and I breathe quietly.
I have taken to more yoga practice as it has helped me with the overwhelming quantity of anger I’ve been experiencing; with the furious thoughts banging around in my braincase. Somehow it is far easier to engage myself in yoga and get a respite, than any other activity save binge-watching murder shows late at night while others sleep. And don’t be a fool and tell me the murder shows could possibly exacerbate my anger; that’s not how late night murder show marathons work!
There are other wonderful distractions. Today I sat in a salon chair and talked with a friend while she meticulously stripped the virgin color out of my long tresses, washed, dried, and applied a delicious mint green. She takes a photo and then I tuck my hair back up into a cap; it flows freely only at home. I arrive back in the late evening and when Phoenix sees me they say, pleased; “My little sea-witch!”
Ralph is making up tacos and I’m dying for a shower; it’s cold out, the kind that gets deep in your bones and only hot water can salve.
Yesterday my eldest child had their first shot of testosterone, administered by a long needle with a physician’s expertise. In two weeks we’ll return and I will watch my child learn to do this by themselves.
I am not nearly as nervous about testosterone as I was even a year ago, when I had just started educating myself more seriously about being a parent to a trans child. In some ways those early days were a little dream-like; I have a very close friend who is trans and had cheerfully thought that would be my most intimate experience – and I was grateful to be included in her life, and in her journey. When Beeps came out about thirteen months ago I am sad to say I did not realize just how much this would change our lives. It hasn’t all gone as expected, at all. We’ve had disappointments (unsupportive family with poor behaviors), elation (supportive family with awesome behaviors), a lot of great support (thank Jeebus for the internetz), and a huge learning curve. To this day, as much as I’ve read and studied, I haven’t seen anyone as eloquent, well-educated, and kind as my own child on the topic of gender issues. There’s a career in it for them if they so choose.
This child has been noticeably happier since the week dawned when they’d get their first shot; time will tell, but of course as has been my experience these sixteen years of parenting, it really is okay to trust our children. Watching my child bloom into joy, (more) affection, and a great deal more playfulness, has been both wonderful and a bit sobering. It is so easy, when a child is “well-behaved” intelligent, and (seems to be) doing so well, to ignore things rather than pay them heed. Important things.
I forgot to tell you but I am determined, by the way, on a new New Year resolution: to stop criticizing myself. It might seem entirely silly or perhaps even a vague or even unattainable goal but I absolutely know it’s important, and it’s possible. I have been practicing simply moving away from those thoughts that are repetitive criticism (or even obsessive criticism), simply stopping them. This is, I am surprised to find, entirely possible to do. Not that many years ago, I couldn’t have succeeded, and sadly I doubt I would have had an awareness of how self-critical I was. I am finding compassion to be as much a daily, nuanced, complex and fruitful practice as my daily yoga. This gives me a tremendous sense of optimism and gladness – joy, even.
Ralph and Beeps are in their last quarter of German together; “Du hast Hausaufgaben?” my husband asks our child, from the hallway through bathroom door. For their part, Phoenix has been tutoring me a bit. Today while they swept the kitchen floor they sat me down and lectured me on numbers, and how to count according to the German language. I laughed and repeated the word for “fifty-five” several times and Phoenix praised my pronunciation and my handle on their numeric system, although I felt I barely had a grasp on it all.
Also: happy vegan anniversary to me (yesterday)!
A wonderful, rich life, if the rain still pisses down and all that. Hell, it’s January. We got a ways to go.
Today I finished a birthday dress for my sweet soon-to-be-thirteen-year-old daughter. I traced a tailored garment template for my super-secret relatively-ambitious large sewing project. I got through our laundry pile and attended two back-to-back yoga classes. Ralph took a final test and got his second A+ Certification; he’s on his way to a Bachelors. When he got back in tow, we had lunch together – and helped a friend out with a wee errand.
I am feeling better. Can you tell?
Not everything is in tip-top shape. Incredibly, my cough still hangs on – and it if wasn’t for a recent chest x-ray I’d be worried. My shoulder injury affects my yoga practice a great deal. I am learning patience – and humility.
My children are cheerfully growing up – I am relegated to a support position, mostly. My son is entrenched in afterschool basketball. This week he gets a 98 on a big math test – and tonight he asks if I’m proud of him. Of course I am. He went from having absolutely-no-formal-math ever, to acing a math cirriculum so controversial and oblique that the untrained adult can’t figure it out.
My daughter is looking forward to her birthday. She probably doesn’t realize just how many special little things we have planned for her. Tonight we’re watching “The Venture Bros” and she’s snickering at my shoulder. But after one episode she stands and says, “Mom – I love watching with you, but I have to respect my body. I’m going to bed [early].” She shakes her hair out of her eyes and exits. I’m left here with a bed full of cats – Ralph off in Nels’ room, putting our son to bed.
I’m thinking family life, I stressed way too much when they were younger, my little ones. I’m only glad I started easing off a bit while they were still in the home.
Today was my 38th birthday. I took a picture first thing: before shower, before makeup, before dressing – before my first cup of coffee, even.
I had a wonderful day out with family and friends. I woke to a few gifts in the post – a large parcel of treats, and a package of yummy socks. My good friend E. picked me up and we headed to Olympia for this and that. While there, Nels and I each got a haircut – he made quite a change!
We shopped, ate food, picked up a few things, and headed back to town to reunite with the family.
After we got into town, I ran off to the yoga studio and sweated it up pretty profusely on the mat – nursing my injured shoulder all the while, of course.
Dinner at the local Rediviva – where the chef made me something special. More flowers, and a few moments with friends and my mother.
My mom made a homemade cake – a white cake with fresh berries. She made separate cupcakes for the restaurant workers too. Because that’s how she rolls.
I don’t have a picture of this – but Ralph found and paid a violinist to serenade me with “Happy Birthday”. Every year my husband finds a way to surprise me, and every time it’s something very special. It occurs to me now that he is providing a wonderful example for our children. I hope I am doing the same.
Home again – finally – and I snap a picture of Phoenix, who researched how to tie a sarong, so she could dress up for me this evening. Of all the wonderful, amazing gestures and gifts today this was the most unexpected. She is a lovely lass and as you can see – I am very grateful.
Flowers from a friend, flowers from my husband, gifts in the post: chocolate and clothing and candy and sweets.
My house is full of gifts, and warmth.
My body, tired from this evening’s yoga. My cough is a bit deeper and I look forward to rest.
I am, as always, quite grateful for the love I receive on my birthday. The loving generosity of family and friends is always humbling, and always wonderful.
“Joy goes with happiness (sukha), but there are differences. When you are thirsty and a glass of water is being served to you, that is joy. When you are actually able to drink the water, that is happiness. It is possible to develop joy in your mind, even when your body is not well. This will, in turn, help your body. Joy comes from touching things that are refreshing and beautiful, within and outside ourselves. Usually we touch only what’s wrong. If we can expand our vision and also see what is right, this wider picture always brings joy.”
– The Heart of the Buddha’s Teaching: Transforming Suffering into Peace, Joy, and Liberation, by Thich Nhat Hanh
Tonight I’m sweating it out on the mat in an hour-and-a-half vinyasa flow class. Our instructor tells us the class is about Celebration. Which can feel kind of funny while challenging the body, and not necessarily looking graceful doing it. I’m ready to try to lift into Crow arm balance, and as I do I fall – almost on my face. Instead of irritation, the word, “celebration!” shines in front of me, and I laugh. I know if I almost fall on my face, I’m practicing correctly.
The sun has slapped itself out of the trees and grey skies. The air is warming; flowers are blooming. Each winter seems darker than the one before but, incredibly this winter is passing, too. I find a talisman for my daughter’s room – “to watch over you,” I tell her. “I’m honored you thought of me,” she returns, with feeling. She is my heart. One of the things I seek, and she doesn’t know it, is her smile. When she really really smiles – her grin is crooked slightly – it is revealed: the only childlike bit of her left, a babylike softness under her chin. She is a willow, a clear torrent laughing over savage stones. She is a tigress with scuffed tennis shoes and clean nails and a slender waist and wild hair she shakes out of her eyes.
Dark clouds threaten at my temples; worries. Anger about the past. These small storms come and go; I water the seeds of mindfulness instead. I abandon my work and hold my son, and his sweet-smelling head and hair of spun gold, and his warm little body. He too is growing and soon will be a young man. I’ll be left with thorn-pricks in my arms and without a single bit of understanding as to how I survived their childhoods.
Tonight in yoga we are challenged to work up to a tripod headstand; a few minutes later, to fly into Crow. Unbelievingly (to me), I find myself able to perform three supported headstands (with an assist by my lovely partner C.) and my feet even leave the earth for a moment in Crow.
Testing the waters. I don’t have to do anything impossible. I just get to try a little bit, to stretch myself a wee bit. To get to know this body.
Today was cold, and sunny. I received phone calls and got to help a friend to two. Ralph stayed home and cooked delicious Thai fare. Ginger, garlic, peanuts, lime, noodles. Hot coffee and cream heated to scalding to go along with.
My children are happy. My son wakes this morning after a thirteen-hour sleep. My daughter, in the grocery store, puts her arms around me and we hold one another. She is as tall as I am, her hair smelling of dry grass, beautiful and simple. The children carry out our groceries and bargain for chocolate before dinner. I almost don’t care at all but I argue with them about it anyway, for familiarity’s sake.
Home and the house has the winter tidings: cats scruffily resting on clawed-up leather couches, sunlight hitting dusty surfaces, a kind of dry comfort to the air inside. Ralph cleans the fridge and starts hot water to boil for coffee. I set up my sewing machine and construct a tiny sea creature for a baby.
Tonight: my body aches – in a lovely way. Hot shower, and fragrant lentils wrapped in a warm tortilla. Another day put to bed and for what, except it is indeed very delicious to still draw breath.
Today right as I stepped out the morning’s shower I thought, My writing is in the rubbish bin. Easy to think about giving up, now that the spark is gone, a flame so long dormant one fears stoking at cold ash. I don’t write as much as I did and when I do, it’s different than it used to be.
Perhaps it’s that I hold too many confidences. To write in any detail would be insensitive, or even reckless. A friend flees a fight; her man has laid hands on her. She stands in my arms and shakes while I squeeze her tight. Another friend teeters on suicide; her text sounds “off” so I call her, and we talk. She lives another day, because something inside her wants to prevail. Another friend calls; she is angry. She dissolves into tears. I am not frightened of her pain and anger, because I know these are the paths we stumble on as we find a deeper truth. I’m honored to be asked to share a few steps along the way.
Another friend, sober for about five years who’d started “controlled” drinking this summer, has found a new meaning of ruin. Shortly after last Monday’s flood, he is detained for a hit-and-run, and a DUI. He stays in jail; his friends escort him to the local Detoxification And Stabilization facility. He can barely walk.
So: almost 9 PM and I wave to him tonight, as he and the rest of the treatment center clients have a smoke outside in the cold streetlamps. He stares back at me, dazed, a ragged bloom rooted to the earth, perhaps forgotten by almost every person on the planet this moment
That’s all – you know, just in the last couple days.
My son is growing, a half inch a month, at least; I can tell when it’s happening. He devours food indiscriminately; he sleeps twelve hours at a stretch if allowed. His features are less boy-like and not quite a man: a sprite, a changeling. His feet are beautiful and strong and he rests them on my legs and gives me a massage. He’s been attending yoga with me; his young body simply folding in half when required, and wondering at all these grownups who have to work at it.
Our weather, after the flood, changed for the better: cold crisp days and sunlight, an air fine like pine needles. A friend tells me: she say something about Spring, and I realize, Spring will happen again!
And now: the house moves to settle. My daughter runs the last of the hot water to wash her face. My husband and his fine well-built body, in our bed, a candle and low light. I am thinking to myself that when it comes to my writing, it is important I am patient, it is important I persevere. It is important that upon each point I try to tell you exactly how it is. Not much else really matters. I learned long ago that my words can make a difference, and can bring hope to others even when I merely record minutiae, when I try to tell you what it’s like – hot water in a stainless steel basin, and the sound of the washing machine, and the cats settled in and the dog’s feet skittering in his sleep as he rests at his feet, on an old blanket.
May you find that peace, and comfort. May you deeply know the joy of still being here; of still feeling the earth by hand or foot, by the cheek against the pillow. Gravity holds you there and won’t let you go.
The days are short,
The sun a spark
Hung thin between
The dark and dark
The rent money: it isn’t here (but thanks to a friend, we’ve got groceries! and – thank you thank you thank you!).
Two cats are sick; yesterdays’ gratis vet appointment fell through due to flood.
An unexpected bill (or two). An overdraft fee. Memories of when that was a lifestyle. Let it go. It’s not that way, today.
This morning: my daughter is diagnosed with asthma. The doctor can tell this is a bit for me to process. So he begins speaking slowly, explaining things in a thorough, calm manner. His kindness and dignity are so moving I feel the sting of tears in my chest.
(outwardly: I am stoic!)
I am ill – a head cold – but I do my job. I do the laundry, and the housework, and I drive a kid or two here and there. My head hurts. But I ask after people. How are they? How is their day?
I drink my water. I feel nausea. I swim in it, for a bit. I breathe deep.
(outwardly: I am stoic!)
Yoga class – a more challenging class than I’d expected. My back is strong – my leg strengthening work has clearly evidenced itself as we move through warrior, side-angle, triangle.
Headstand. I fear the attempt against a wall; I want help. I don’t ask for help. I try it. I bang my head against the wall. Everyone says, “OMG are you okay?!”
(outwardly: I am stoic!)
Lit candles: in awareness for our neighbors who have been affected by, and devastated by, the flood.
The truth is, I do have a pretty good attitude. And days like today it shows. And I need to keep a record so I can treat myself with the kindness I’d wish, in the future, I’d had the sense to enact today.