Tag Archives: memories

Do No Harm.


My previous post, written mostly as a way to share a voice to those of us who grew up or are in relationships with people existing in tremendous dysfunction, was not difficult to write (although I was taxed heavily by writing it). It was difficult to share. I have tried to maintain a “code” of sorts in my heart, along with my appeals to Archangel Gabriel, that what I write “do no harm” — at least not intentionally.

I feel as though I did not honor that code as effectively as I would have liked. I was filled with regret, an urge to take down the post, and a feeling of shame after writing it. Those feelings were deeply similar to those I would experience after an argument with someone, as though I’d said something horrible, unforgivable to a person, to my mother.

Those feelings were again familiar. I recalled, and have recalled, numerous times when Mom and I would disagree about the course of things, and how I would suffer emotionally for telling her exactly how I felt.

Regarding that post, my greatest wish, to forgive — to actively forgive! — eludes. It’s like some prison I’m in, but it’s not all day, it’s not a life sentence and it’s open. It’s as though the prison gate is ajar and unlocked; there is no key. Yet I go in. I sit there, with my back to the window, avoiding the light. I do not understand it. I have a great life: a loving marriage; beautiful, healthy children; hobbies I thrive in; activities which fulfill my heart … yet … it eludes.

Like she did. She eluded.

Do you know how tired I am of thinking about this?

“Then don’t. Think about something else,” someone I used to know would say all the time about me or other people whose activities or looping thoughts drove her mad. It’s not that simple, or maybe it is. I used to be like that: super black & white. I could flip a switch and move on.

But then I had kids. It all changed after the kids were born. It’s like the DNA was activated: I joke now, but suddenly I cared about China. Like how an addict’s dopamine response to a certain pleasure-giving stimulus was heretofore asleep. I was always hard on Mom, but I could flip the switch when I was younger: lash out and move on.

But once I became a mother, I had a narrower window of forgiveness. It went suddenly from a case of “I don’t know what it’s like” (and to a degree, I will never actually know her life’s depth, so it still applies) to “I know what this is like, and I choose X.”

So back to my premise: do no harm. I feel like I hurt her again. I feel like I was mean to her again and that the shame and the hairshirt of regret I wore was there, cold, stiff and waiting for me to put on again.

I went to sleep that night, fitfully. I woke around 2:30 with a thought based on a quote from Rumi that I read the night before during yoga:

Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.

I woke with the thought:

Regrets are like bricks that we use to build walls around ourselves to keep love out.

That works. Right? If I stay regretful, then I don’t forgive my behavior which was a reaction to the first behavior. Up goes a brick.

So then I come back to this place of “do no harm” because I am filled with regret about the previous post. Another brick.

But then the comments from readers, and the amount of traffic the post garnered, and I know that people “clicked” to “read” it (about 300 actually) but a few people commented to me privately or on the site (2). Basically, if anyone disagreed with me, they didn’t bother to tell me. Those that were grateful for sharing what I did were extremely supportive and candid and they have my thanks.

So it begs the question: did I do harm? Make no mistake: I loved my mother. Make no mistake, I hated what she became. My dad is largely supportive of me; he’s not driving the bus, but he hasn’t come down on me and that’s just so nice.

It’s like I was still 18. I knew that was kooky, so to do what I could to move forward or investigate my allegations, I decided to open a box I had stored under nondescript stuff and wrapped in tape to supposedly protect it from little peepers since I moved out.

paranoid much?

paranoid much? When you have a situation like I did, with a parent who clearly had self-esteem issues and who mishandled a lot of parenting due to the management of those issues, there is going to be a lot of espionage. She wanted my assessments of things, but she didn’t REALLY want my assessments of things, y’dig?

On top of it all was my diary. Which inside it, was another diary.

Many of the items were from high school and college friends. In some moment of haste, I removed most potentially scandalous content. I discovered a letter from an old beau, telling me he didn’t know what to say about the direction of our relationship, and I found the letter to be a perfect example of what I would want my sons to send to a girl should they find themselves in that predicament. It was heartfelt, written in pen without one mistake, and encouraging.

I found some school papers I wrote and was thrilled to see some comments from my teachers: “Tremendous! Your voice is strong, but the run-ons and fragments made what could have been an ‘A’ paper a ‘B-‘…” (run-ons? P’shaw.) and “Deep characterization, such imagery… this would be better as a novella…” Me again: “run-ons?”   (I’ll write more about that box later, it was interesting!)

I was hopeful that I would find a warm letter from my brother written the month before my marriage but I couldn’t. I remember several years ago my mother citing that letter from him to me (it was about both our possessions of sharpened steel tongues and that we were both blessed to be marrying people who were soft and kind and “normal”), she paid particular attention to my tendency for verbal evisceration. The letter was not there, she took it. I will likely never see it again.

I looked for evidence of my tumult with Mom. There wasn’t much in the way of play-by-play. This both confused and delighted me. I don’t think I gave her much mind then. Well, there was evidence of her tampering: she’d scrawled a phone number on the corner of that old beau’s letter I mentioned, so that broke my heart a little, again. There was a comment from her in my diary, which was a very hard for me to reconcile. She was who she was. The time with that box went very quickly; it was fun, most of it.

I wrote immediately upon closing it all back up:

I read most of the content in here. The diary is full of ramblings, some funny and insightful but mostly just the neurotic, insecure blather of an American, single, young woman. Ennui, strife, doom — it’s how I got through it all. … The sum is that I had a lot of energy and was a lot of work for my parents. [My license was suspended at least twice for speeding and while I commuted to my university, I lived at home as though I were on campus, coming in at all hours.] There isn’t much of anything about Mom or from her [cards, drawings — likely because I actively disliked her during those years … brick] in here. I’m surprised by that — but I’m also relieved because despite the drama I was pretty resilient and self-absorbed. That, or it was all so ‘par for the course’ with her that I didn’t find much of it remarkable; or that I knew she would read everything, why give her an audience? … I feel lighter, not mad at all about Mom now. I saw my college work and I feel as though I’ve been rinsed delicately but completely, like an old garment. … It’s all OK now, I can let it just be…

And then the next day, that stupid regret came back. Brick… About that “actively disliking her” then, hey: that’s OK. That was part of my gig our dynamic then. I crossed that “my gig” out because I have to allow that I wasn’t formed in a vacuum; I was a product of an environment, just as we all are, just as my kids are. That as much as the 47-year-old me wants to understand that we are 1) connected, we are still 2) all our own people with our own choices, she has to allow the 16-20 -year-old me some rebellion, separation, and defense.

What I’m realizing as I write is that this “do no harm” code is foolishly not applied to myself. How much of this do we put upon ourselves? I’m guessing about 90% of it.

My mother had won the affections of SO many people from SO many generations and places in life that it made me wonder if I was the crazy one: she was like this silk scarf; a light and fun Daisy Buchanan butterfly to them and it was so different when we were alone. I compare myself to her as a heavy armored beetle.

I wondered, “Didn’t people see something?” It was the 70s. Who knows. The recurring baseline fear was that my memories were just … hijacked and rewritten. I actually considered calling a cousin for back-up, but I asked her to read the post. She did. She validated me. She saw a lot of it.

To properly understand my mom a little more, I watched Gray Gardens from 1976, and it helped so much. I gleaned from it a comment from Big Edie during one of Little Edie’s wide-ranging rants about how she could have made it on Broadway (something I heard a lot of) and her blame at her parents for her failure. Big Edie said something like this, “That’s the problem with the past. If it were right at the time, she would’ve done it. But something in her didn’t do it; I didn’t stop her… but the fact is that if it were right at that time it would’ve happened. You can’t stop fate…” Now, in all honesty, those women were a tangled mess, but I liked what Big Edie said about perception and timing — if it all was aligned and Little Edie wanted to do “it” then, she would’ve. You can’t blame other people for crap you [don’t] do. And I think that’s where I need to Work on me: I screwed up a lot then, but I was also ‘supposed’ to… the thing is though: I don’t know how much room there was in our household for more than one ‘spirited’ female.   

But the regret comes back and looms. It’s born of biblical guilt: Honor thy Mother and Father (or whatever it’s supposed to say) and I don’t know of many who did when they were teenagers. Probably Jesus was the only one.

That regret is born of my fear of other peoples’ perceptions because I was such an untamed mare then. I worry so much about how I’m perceived, that I either hold things back or I don’t admit them to myself. When I was younger, I didn’t care… I miss part of that spirit, just not the recklessness.

One of my readers suggested I read Anne Lammot’s Small Victories and the chapter on Anne’s struggle to forgive her mother after her death. In typical fashion I downloaded the book, but I will admit this: I am afraid to read it. I don’t know why. No, wait. I do: because something in me only knows Mom one way, in this one-dimensional way, that refuses to let her evolve and refused to allow her other aspects. That is not “do no harm” to anyone. I know it’s a knee-jerk reaction: you hurt me, I’ll hurt you. But I’m supposed to be evolving. And Mom’s gone… so what the what? It’s like that open prison…

Brick, please.

So it’s a lot. I’m tired of this wall building.

It’s nearing the end of the first month of the year. I need to make a change I think, in my writing, if just for a little while. I’m thinking mostly fiction for February. I think I’ll read some of those old stories I wrote and share some, updated and cleaned up. See where that goes.

I bought a new set of technical pens, based on the one I found in the box. I started doodling immediately last night. Here’s my first mandala for the year.


I would like to do one a day. I would like to run out of ink doing them.

I say things like that “would like to” because I fear I won’t keep the commitment. But how hard is it to doodle every day? I guess I will find out.

One of the writing people I subscribe to is Jill Jepson. She has a blog, “Writing a Sacred Path” and she got me thinking about this “do no harm” thing most of all, or rather as I believe, it came to me right on time. I needed something to bring me back to center. I was flinging around so much blame that I was leery of becoming toxic. For the month’s final post on January 26 (it’s not up yet today), she wrote about the concept of writing generously and what it meant. And smack in the middle of the post was this:

boom. thank you, Fate.

boom. thank you, Fate. I don’t if I’ve told secrets that weren’t mine to tell. I’ve certainly been harsh. I don’t know about cruel, but I know I’ve been angry enough to be vindictive, but I don’t know. It’s a delicate balance: where does one story end and the other begin?

To be fair, she also wrote that we don’t have to write sweetly and kindly all the time either or else there’d be no satire or horror. But that’s where my bricks are lately: in that “do no harm” concept. It’s been such a whirly 18 months for me that I guess I can see how I’ve both wanted to dodge some bullets while fire some at the same time.

So there is an in-between; and maybe I’ve struck it, in a lot of what I write. Maybe I struck it in the previous post — maybe I can just move on and stop it already. I think I’ve figured it out (I took an hour away to make chili): I regret the way it all went down. I think I just really have the saddest heart about how my mother and I treated each other and how our family had to cope. That’s a big brick, but I hope it’s the keystone. So I need to let it drop so the wall comes down…

So that’s it… I have to get off this bus, and start something new. The only way to do something different is to do something different. Start some fiction writing again or at least less posts about Mom and anger and shitty experiences. Air out my feathers and have some fun. Fiction or bust. Fiction and mandalas are from the land of Do No Harm. Right?

Thank you.

Grief: Remembering Mimi


I received an email this morning from a wonderful woman I’ve never met, but with whom I share a sad fact: we both lost our mothers last year, within six weeks of each other. I “met” this woman after reading her post on Elephant Journal where she wrote about preparing for her mother’s imminent death. I had to write to her, fresh from my mom’s own departure to tell her how her essay had touched me.

She and I write back and forth now, with greater calm than we did in our earlier days. I am so grateful for her friendship and her trust in me this morning.

I didn’t have that “luxury”: to prepare for my mother’s death.

It’s hard to determine who has it easier: those who prepare for the crescendo of their loved one leaving soon or those who have no clue and it just hits them like a grand piano. In either case the crashing music resonates for days, months… and I suppose, years.

Mom died on September 2, 2013. It’s been almost eight months. Some days are easier than others, but then some days just suck.

I try to stay strong, be upbeat for my boys and smile for people I encounter. None of it is real or false. It just is. I recognize the dangers in existing too long in either emotional state.

Today, my oldest son is 16. He and Mom, “Mimi” as she was called, had a special bond. She stayed with him every day for a year when I went back to work. My relationship with Mom was complicated. We had vastly different views on life and how to live it. I wanted more for her than she seemed to have wanted for herself. I also needed more of her than she was able to give.

My oldest son said to me with no weight other than truth the other day, “I wish I’d spent more time with Mimi.” Instantly, I felt a pang of heat and ache and my heart shrivel a bit, for I knew it was my choice that we didn’t spend so much time together; as I said, Mom was complicated.

I resisted the urge to rise to defensiveness. I resisted the urge to tell him she was difficult and complex. I nodded instead and said, “I do too,” which was the truth.

We can’t undo the things we’ve done. We can repent and repeal and revise and reinvent, but I refuse to do all that too. This is the life I’ve made for myself based on the framework, experiences, and tools I was given.

My friend’s email took me by surprise this morning, I was so glad to see it.

“Five months today,” she wrote. “I miss her so much,” she closed. Two sentences.

I got it. I wrote back with this,

She used to call at the most inopportune times, dinner blitz, school blitz, practice blitz… Just to hear my voice. She would mostly just listen on the other end, hang there, say nothing just to get a sense of the frenzy and live it a little. She would leave voicemails, “Call when it’s conveeeenient,” she would almost sing into the microphone.I used to think of her hanging on to listen as strange, creepy and weird; something I’d never ever do. She said her own mother used to do the same to her; “You don’t have to say anything,” she said she’d say. “Just Be There….”

The other day I had to listen to a voicemail cue itself up, I waited with great anticipation, almost ready to roll my eyes, because I was certain it would be her, calling, leaving a message. 

No. It wasn’t her. There was no call from Mom and there will never be another call from her again.

I get it.

And so my eyes well up, my throat thickens, my nose reddens and begins to water, my breathing deepens and I catch myself really missing my mom. So in some vain, feckless way, to bring her back, to let her sit here with me, I’ll share some other things she used to do …

When my father would drive, and she considered it too fast, instead of stating it, she would make this odd noise, “Yieelllll…. Doug…” and somehow he knew that meant to slow down. To which he would usually reply, “Jeez, Meem, willya?” and she’d say, “Fer Cripessake, Doug.”

When she would drive, which she hated to do and I don’t think she got her license until she was 40, she would veer to the right and degrade to an achingly slow pace whenever oncoming traffic was headed in our direction. This move was also accompanied by the “Yieeellll….yuuullle” sound.

She would break out into song in her best Danny Kaye, “Make ’em laugh! Make ’em laugh!” or shout out “The show must go on, Kid!”

Once she made a pot roast that I think was cured in a salt mine for months before she dared put it in an oven. My inner cheeks haven’t yet recovered. Baking was simply not her thing.

She would seldom look at the lens in photographs. Always away, just off center for some reason. She considered it theatrical, I suppose. It drove me nuts. For a while in my mid-20s I decided to mimic her, for spite. She never caught on or likely admired the practice.

She made amazing tomato sauce, like a puttanesca that was to die for. I remember smelling it very late at night when she would cook it while the rest of us were supposed to be asleep. I remember sneaking down the stairs and wedging the spindles between my eyes to spy on her eating while she watched a Columbo on television. The glow from the set that she sat about five feet from created a midnight silhouette which prevented my sleep and was often the last thing I’d see before eventually drifting off. She was always a mystery to me.

She used to put hot chili peppers on pizza, not the nicest tack, thus ensuring the children wouldn’t indulge (it’s a memory!).

I remember one Easter Sunday when it must’ve snowed in Buffalo. She hid all our baskets in different locations in our Victorian home’s myriad nooks and crannies. I found mine, or I recall vividly someone’s basket being hidden in the flour bin. I remember going back there for years to see if there was any candy left behind. That was where she stored a lot of her drawings. Mom was not a baker.

Cashmere. Always wearing cashmere and scarves. Big prescription sunglasses. Very in the mode of fashion in the 70s and then always classic after that.

She could play piano by ear with frightening accuracy.

She and my dad would sing as Dad played some honky-tonk song on the piano. They also sang, “He’s a Tramp” and I remember my body curling up with girlish pride and enthusiasm every time they did it. “Again! Again!” I remember asking.


She had several gorgeous floor-length kilts she would wear to balls and galas with my dad; he’d be in a three-piece suit or tuxedo and off they’d dash to their event, the most elegant couple of all.

This is typical of my parents' in their shots of just them. He's likely talking about politics and she's not.

This is typical of my parents’ in their shots of just them. He’s likely talking about politics and she’s not.


She used to color her hair by herself. It was often a disaster. “Ashen blonde” was her Clairol color of choice and I remember smelling the chemicals and then waiting to see what she’d done to herself. She was a naturally platinum-haired beauty, but like me, didn’t like the idea of looking “old” with her natural color. One time her hair came out the shade of eggplant. Another avocado. Sometimes it was umber. And never in a linear sense: it was a tapestry of bad home hair color jobs. She pretended not to care, but I know it bugged her. She was preoccupied with her looks in a way that for me, a modest glance at a hallway mirror makes me feel as though I’ve turned into Narcissus.

On Christmas, we would have to wait for her to rise for opening gifts. It was difficult, terribly difficult for us children to wait on Christmas morning for Mom. She would also urgently and passionately insist that we not tear into the gifts and untape them in an orderly fashion. That was also really hard. I often failed at it. As I grew up, I resented the entire Christmas experience.

Visits to restaurants were always an adventure. Mom would take the waiter hostage and reengineer the menu, order her pasta al denté (which ensured fresh pasta) and always ordered her Coke without ice, despite the numerous free refills provided. Mom loved food; she married a man who loves it and loves to talk about it and how to cook it. They were made for each other that way.

My parents and aunts & uncles and our cousins would always shut down the restaurants, usually to the chagrin of the staff and us children. If not asleep on the carpeted floor under the skirted sink in a bathroom, we could be found in a coat closet, on a bench somewhere in the establishment, or were still awake bending the silverware, or making ketchup and pepper-based potions under the tables.

Easters at the Buffalo Yacht Club always consisted of whatever food they served (often we would order “chicken in a basket” which was a fried drumstick and thigh, a biscuit and some provision of green vegetable or carrot wheels) followed by sitting on the large leather chairs in front of the Club’s 19″ RCA color TV on a rack with casters to watch either “The Ten Commandments” or “The Wizard of Oz.” Sometimes we could see a storm front come in over the lake from Canada and the boys would rush over to the “weather station” which would hum with barometer needles riding on a spool of graph paper.

Our kitchen phone had a very long curly line between the base and the receiver and I remember that if I couldn’t ever find Mom when I was looking for her, to look for the phone line and follow it. Usually it led to her sitting at the kitchen table or somewhere in the back hall by our basement stairs (which were always scary unless my brother said it was time to go to the BatCave, which he created out of our coal-room basement) looking for something to eat or cook… or maybe hiding… something I’ve become savvy to doing when I’m on a call that simply can’t be interrupted for anything but a natural or man-made disaster of epic proportions.

Tape recordings. Mom used to tape record us all the time; often without us knowing, just to hear us on tape I guess when we weren’t around. She also would tape record herself reading a sonnet or play or poem or essay. Mom preferred the past; it was easier for her, she could fashion it as it was or in a way that brought her comfort. The present must’ve been too much for her and the future? Forget about it.

Without fail, she would call the very next day to thank me for hosting her the night before. Even though she had said too many times to count, how wonderful a time she was having or “thank you” as she worked her eventual way to the car.

Goodbyes were impossible for her. She refused to utter the words. Hanging up from a phone call was terribly hard for her and I remember many times that I’d become furious or impatient because I simply couldn’t get off the phone. I simply couldn’t just do the right thing, say, “Good-bye” like normal people. It was always so hard.

“Don’t say goodbye, birdie. Just say, ‘I’ll see you later.’ Ok?” she would insist.

I’ll see you later, Mom. I really miss you.


Thank you.


Grief: Body Memory, E-mail as Archivist


The body knows. It knows the angle of the sun, the fullness of the trees, the scent of the air, the sharpness of the light, and the grace of the wind. Even if the events are different, if a person is missing and another is on the way, the body knows. And when the body senses these things, again, it knows what to do even if your mind and your heart fight savagely, like a feral dog, to stay in the present, to stay busy, to stay distracted, to do anything but go back into that cave of grief and face the reality of your absent loved one.

I wasn’t sure, but I suspected it; I knew it was either the first weekend or the second weekend in February last year. I knew it was coming in a sensuous way, but I had no clue, absolutely as though a fact, intellectually. I just had that sense of awareness, of knowing and the unrelenting waves of nostalgia, heaviness and “cling” (it’s the best word I can muster) that came and went at me like echoes in a canyon.

Last year, February 2 and 3, 2013, was the last time my entire family of origin and their families gathered in my house. I remember it as if it happened last night. I remember waking that morning, eager for the arrival of my brothers, their wives and their children. I remember making sure the sheets were on the beds, the towels in the rooms and that we had enough mac and cheese and strawberries for the kids.

Each year, our families do different things on actual Christmas, so we’ve made a tradition, over the last couple decades to celebrate “second Christmas” which I now recognize as my third favorite holiday ever. It’s usually in late January or February. We like to push it out a little later into the year because we all see each other for Thanksgiving.

I’d like to think it’s the big holidays that would do me in regarding my mother’s absence. Thanksgiving, Easter, Bastille Day. That was sort of a joke, Bastille Day. I threw it in there for comic relief, but then I realized after I typed it that it was actually the last time I saw her alive last year. We got together that day last year to celebrate my nephew’s and brother’s birthday at my house even though they were still in NY. It was the dinner that I planned the Wednesday before with an odd sense of urgency and deliberation. I never “had” to have my parents over for dinner like I had to that night. Then scant six weeks later, after my yoga retreat and a final summer vacation, she was gone.

We left our outdoor lights on the bushes out front because it was still Christmas to us. It snowed that night. I couldn’t believe it.

from my Facebook page last year.

from my Facebook page last year.

Second Christmas of 2013 was special to me, I didn’t know why, but I did my best at one moment to announce to the family — despite my brothers’ imminent mockery and my own self-consciousness at the sappiness of it all — that I couldn’t have imagined my heart fuller than at that moment: all my loved ones were, as John Mayer sings in “Stop this Train”, “safe and sound”:

Oh well now once in a while,

When it’s good and it feels like it should

And they’re all still around

And you’re still safe and sound

And you don’t miss a thing

And so you cry when you’re driving away in the dark,

Singing, ‘stop this train, I want to get off and go back home again…

Which is a song I hadn’t ever heard, despite my affection for John Mayer, until Second Christmas this year at my brother’s house and of course when I heard it, I pretty much fell to my knees emotionally. So naturally, to help me usher and attend to all these feelings I’m feeling these days, I listen to it, nod my head, sniffle and it soothes me.

It began last week, the nostalgia. I wrote to my son on his 13th birthday, again citing the Mayer song. I thought writing to him would soothe this beast, ease my pain, but it didn’t.

So then I wrote to an eFriend I met last fall after her mother died, telling her about how I was doing and closed that note, “Good thoughts are headed toward you from me.” That didn’t do it. Then I heard from a beloved cousin with whom I’ve grown amazingly and naturally close since summer, she’s like a combo sister auntie mom to me. I told her what I’d been up to: the new puppy, that I’m teaching yoga to the high school rowers now and working on my certification and all that and she asked me, in the most simple, clear and loving way, “how are you doing with your bereavement?” and I realized (even though I knew it all along) that she’s no dummy: I’m throwing all these things in my path to distract me from my pain.

But the thing is: this stuff comes at you, as your body knows, out of nowhere and if you’re not ready for it (and who is ready for an emotional sucker punch, you tell me) you fall to your soft places, curl up and cry unfettered sobs wishing that things weren’t the way they are. That they were somehow different — all along different in fact — but that your Now is unreconcilable; it’s as unreconcilable as the Then you wish were different, kinder, gentler.

Then you realize with a full heart, heavy lungs and wet eyes, that if your past were different then your now would be too. You can’t have it all: a functional mother and attendant father and a path of self-destruction which led you to the life you’ve attained now… that your children would not be here because your mate wouldn’t have stepped into your life when he did because you would’ve gone to a different college entirely if your life were somehow different, kinder, gentler, more orderly and rational.

Dovetailing. It’s all this fate stuff that happens to us when we allow ourselves to see it all with the glorious acumen and vision of a Monday morning quarterback.

Doesn’t matter. Would you trade it all? Would you trade it for just maybe one less crisis in your youth? Maybe one less heartache? One less battle with your parent that would’ve gotten you into the shower earlier? Are these the George Bailey (“It’s a Wonderful Life”) moments of our lives: that the one moment earlier in the shower before leaving for English 348 affected what parking spot we got at college, which determined the length of the walk to the car which had affected who’d we see in passing through the doorway at work who’d invited us to a party where we met our mate? I look back now and say, “No. I guess I wouldn’t trade it all.”

. . . . .

The amount of flotsam in my email inbox was absurd last week. I had close to 3,500 messages in it; something like 850 of them unread. Most of the missives are subscriptions and retailer content. Just before I went on the yoga retreat in July, I emptied it to somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 messages.

I culled the inbox on Friday, to a manageable level, 1100 messages. I know that’s still high, it was an all-day affair requiring numerous bathroom and stretch breaks. I have now the same emails in the box that I had a hard time reconciling in July: notes from my family about my mother’s health and the conversations we had with my father a year ago today about his goals and ideas for the next 18 months, 12 of which have slipped through our hands like flaming kerosene, and the conversations going forward about how to best attend to her and his goals. I don’t know what to do with those notes.

The Chinese use the same symbol for “crisis” as they do for “opportunity.”

That email traffic created a new crisis (on one hand) and opportunity (in the other hand) for me. It was at that point that my father stopped speaking with me because I had drawn a line: After I gave him all the same information he’d requested three years prior and did nothing with, I told him to perform just one task and then I would help. This pattern of his, looking like he was doing Task A while really doing Task K was a long-held tactic of his — who can blame him? It’s human nature to completely avoid what you don’t want to do. The short version is this: it took a while.

The opportunity was that my mother and I started speaking more, as we used to, conspiratorially about my father and how curmudgeonly and obstinate he would be. He would be almost petulant like a child at times. If he’s reading this, he can close his laptop. I have suppressed a lot of this for at least one year and it’s just going to spill out of me somewhere even though I’m tempering a lot of it, so …

Then I began EMDR therapy to deal with the jolts and aftershocks of heavy emotional baggage, torpedoing through the abyss as though finally freed from the cargo holds of the Titanic.

While feeling all the feelings last week, I said to my husband, “The last time I remember feeling any sense of peace and purpose and composure in this house was immediately after my return from the yoga retreat. I did some sadhana, and then I went into the hot tub all by myself and chanted for half an hour. That was the last time I felt stable. Since then, it’s as though my life has literally turned upside down.”

This upside-downedness is ok; it’s how life is away from the Tibetan mountain top.

This next year, all the way through until the anniversary of my mother’s death on Labor Day, is going to be extremely tender for me; I can feel it already. My body knows; it is preparing me, and I best listen, to undergo and re-experience the final six months of my mother’s life and how I managed it; to honor it as it affected me while also reinventing it for myself without her. It’s right there: a pool of real, a puddle of authenticity that I am afraid to drown in.

If one thing’s super clear to me now: it’s the necessity to write about it. I haven’t touched my grief, actively, in months.

Stop this train.

Thank you.