Do Not Tell

No one told me,
in my haste to grow up,
that adulthood, awash
with responsibility,
would also be lonely

And, no one told me
that the days and nights
of sweating over lessons
would likely not lead
to the life imagined

nor that commitment –
the kind portrayed in movies –
does not exist – the word itself
bearing more substance
than the act, fickle as it is

No one told me that
motherhood would change
my reality permanently,
colouring it with unfathomable
pain and joy – such juxtaposition

And, no one told me that
every battle I ever arm myself for,
regardless of its justification,
is really a struggle with self –
inner demons the most menacing.

I never imagined that age,
with seismic force,
would alter my perspective so –
leave me barren and yet enriched,
enthralled with the ordinary
and unfazed by the rest

And, in the end, as I watch
the vernal rains announce renewal,
in the quiet of my solitude, I am
amazed and grateful for all
that this crazy, driven life has become
and that no one ever told me.

(This is an edited version of a poem published in April, 2019. Art my own.)

Reflecting and Rebuilding

Considering
refurbishing
childhood home

Unrecognizable now
numerous makeovers
and even re-purposing

But my heart is invested
and well, I can see potential
and, oh…I know it will take work

All the walls I’ve torn down
and the excess furniture
and how I’ve imagined duplicity

Is this folly on my part
this revisionist thinking
see…I’m sure there is treasure

hidden amongst the forgotten
buried perhaps in the attic
or other overlooked nook

And as I remember it,
the backyard is an oasis –
Yes! I think I’ll do it!

Reflection and a good dose
of elbow grease, and I’m in!
Recreating an upbringing.

(for Eugi’s Weekly Prompt: reflection. Image my own.)

Rapture

Odd, this gift of solitude.  Perched canal side, I affirm my connection to the earth, and offer thanks. Late afternoon sun casts a glow on the foliage across the way, lighting up the mirror-still water.  Vibrant reflections.

Two winters ago, I fought to breathe as temperatures fell below zero.  Impassible walkways trapped me indoors.  Depression fought for possession. Hope struggles in imposed isolation.

“There are no absolutes in life,” a professor once told me, and I think of that now –
how just when it feels as if one sentence has been handed down, sealed, an opening appears.  I am fortunate, savour the moment.

Heron’s watchful stride
invites reflection, respect –

Winter’s solitude.

(Rapture first appeared here February 2019.  I offer an edited version here.

I Wonder

Is this life-play pre-staged –
reservations made in childhood
when fun constituted priority,
and drama thrived, unchecked
by adults, bemoaning authority,
too self-absorbed to conceive
consequences beyond jest?

Or did some karmic assessment
initiate the unfolding –
social standing, and needs
prescribed as lessons,
dependents selected as inspiration,
and if so, is there a contract
revealed upon ultimate exit
or a certificate of completion
securing passage upwards?

Waiting on Heaven

“My children have come home to watch me die,”
she tells her doctor, repeats to me, #5, when I arrive.

“You leave the world the same you came in,” Doc said,
as if that makes sense, as if that offers comfort.

“We don’t want to see you suffer anymore,” I offer.
She agrees, tired of the pain.  92 and nothing but pain.

It’s not death that she fears – she’s ready –
it’s the dying – not knowing how it will happen.

“Will you be with me? When the time comes.”
I will.  Just as I did with a sister, two cousins,
father, an aunt, and countless others.

“Angel of Death,” a nurse called me once.
I shrugged: “Would you want to die alone?”

Death, I do know, is like birth,
in that the timing is unpredictable.

So, together, we’ll wait –
biding our time, talking about the present,
reflecting on the past, wondering what lies ahead.

Not all transitions, I’ve learned, are alike.

(I’ve returned home to be at my mother’s side, although, as the poem indicates, she may survive the current setback.  I’m linking this up to Manic Mondays 3 way prompt: reflection, and my own weekly challenge: transition.)

 

First Place in a Writing Contest

Thank you to the Story Circle Network for accepting my story:  Hoping to Be Missed.

I am excited to report that I won first place in the Reflections Personal Essay Contest 2018.

To read the story and find out more about the Story Circle Network, click here.

Adjust the Focus

What purpose is served
in going back – and yet,
I find myself revisiting,
expecting what?

Revelation…
apology…
renewal…

I am no more than a guest
in history’s halls
powerless to undo
the drama, only
risk further complications.

Past equates with inequity,
no point turning on
the faucet of resentment
unleashing floods of anger.

Best to focus on tomorrow
forgive the past and self
and open to the new.

A Husband and a Son

Mistook a man for a boy
once – married, realized
error, buried self in misery.
We were just nineteen.

My son is quite athletic:
quarterback, downhill racer,
musical, too – we expected
great things – a doctor, lawyer.

He laid in bed till two, rose,
reclined on couch,  amassed
piles of litter around him,
while I worked two jobs.

Recruited by the drama coach,
he made a wonderful leading
man – handsome, rugged looks,
a certain charm to his smile.

We didn’t consummate – I’m
not sexy enough, he said –
although he seemed to eye
the friend that kept him up …

He met this girl – she was
a year ahead of him – leading
lady – suddenly, he’s going out,
needs a car, gets a job –

He bought a slot car – joined
a club, raced in our basement
till 3 am – men with tiny cars-
going nowhere fast, I reeled…

She was years ahead of him –
left home at seventeen, knew
independence, responsibility –
a go-getter, highly energetic.

He couldn’t hold a job – excelled
at failure – unwilling to settle for
second best – I took on a boarder
to maintain the status quo.

We liked her all right – fit in-
like the daughter I never had,
but when they said they were
getting married – what to say?

I booked us a getaway – plan
to reconnect, ignite a spark,
instead we fought – he said
it was so easy for me – what?

He dropped out of school, took
a job at a bank – would-be manager
– sounded promising -let go a month
before the date- unfortunate.

I started staying out after hours
hanging with men – platonic;
anything to avoid the coldness
of home – an emotional void.

We told him he could call it
off – wasn’t too late.  He was
still a child – so much of life
to experience yet – why not?

Tried talking to his parents,
they said he needed a career,
not just any job – wanted him
to be somebody – I exploded.

The wedding was extravagant,
such a waste of money, really –
an embarrassment for us, but
we smiled and acted pleased.

It’s okay for the slut to work
sixteen hour days, is that it?
Nothing’s good enough for
your son – but okay for me?

We had them for dinners
Sundays – a happy ritual –
kept our eye on them, could
see the tension building.

Kicked him out before second
anniversary – either work or
leave, said I – he left – home
to mom’s couch I assumed.

He’s really still a child, my son,
needs his mother, needs to
ripen, too young to be plucked
from the vine – give it time.

Half the furniture and all
the debt and I feel like a
failure – used, betrayed,
who’ll want me now?

I worry about him – never see
him – wonder where he spends
his time – is he warm, fed, is
someone washing his clothes?

Someone does want me –
shares my dreams, opportunity
for a new life – but I can’t find
ex – shunning divorce, he hides.

He comes to Sunday dinners now
with a new woman at his side –
a soft-spoken country gal, polite
enough – I somehow miss the first.

His parents won’t tell me where
he is – hire a detective – need
to serve papers – be free of this
blemish on my heart – move on.

I ask him what his plans are, he
shrugs, looks away.  Have you
divorced?  No, Mom – nothing is
settled – still just a boy, really.

I find him at his mother’s house –
Sunday dinner – the new woman
at his side – as if nothing happened
as if my life had not been destroyed.

She was big as a house when she
came – in a hurry, of course – getting
re-married, having a child, leaving
him behind – always such drama.

It’s an old story now, child’s play –
two not-quite adults making poor
decisions – no one to blame –
I had always like his mother.

She dropped by today, to say
hello, heard I was ill, wanted to
apologize – strange child really,
old in some ways, lost in others.

Can the past ever be undone?
They were good people really –
undeserving of my recklessness,
unwittingly caught up in my pain.

We didn’t know what hit us,
I laughed – you were so full of life,
but he wasn’t ready, timing was off
for the life you were craving.

Is he happy? I ask (not mentioning
the fraud charges – saw it in the news)
I’m glad he found someone (did they
find the love that we had missed?)

He’s fine, I tell her, had his share
of tribulations – as we all do – (don’t
say he was just here this weekend
thinking about divorce – still failing.)

I wonder that she’s never moved,
still keeps this house of empty rooms,
hollow dreams echoing in the hallway,
has she found contentment in her life?

She leaves, and the warmth goes with
her – always full of sunshine despite
the rain – I let her go – like I did before –
the tempest who changed our lives.

 

What I’ve Learned From Trees

Meditating on the majestic beauty of the trees outside my window, I come to recognize something about myself. I cannot help but think that even though they are symbols of quiet strength, trees are not without their own vulnerabilities. Acts of Nature, or even human folly can bring them down, and so they, like me, are not immortal.

th-3Perhaps none of us is meant to be an impenetrable force: the kind of force I aspired to in my youth.

You see, I always thought of myself as a strong woman, however; unlike the trees I contemplated in my last post, I was not flexible – bending graciously to the winds of change – but belligerent, resistant, and arrogant. I was a right fighter. Having grown up in an atmosphere of relentless uncertainty, I commanded myself to be strong, believing that with an iron will, I could gain control of life – not just my own, but the lives of those around me. I adopted an air of superiority – pretending to know better than anyone else – even though on the inside, I never measured up. Showing vulnerability was never an option. Instead, I must have appeared the fool, and undoubtedly hurt many others.

True strength, I realize now, comes in retreating in the face of adversity, and the willingness to see beyond personal righteousness. It involves an openness to understanding alternative perspectives, and the wisdom to perceive the truth underlying the turmoil.

th-4My current life circumstances have brought me limitations: physically and mentally. My awake and energetic times are severely restricted. I am challenged to create a new definition of self, and what it is to be strong.

I dreamt of my dear cousin Bev last night. Bev passed away recently after battling cancer for ten years. In all those years she faced her struggle with a quiet strength: maintaining her outer poise, surrendering to the times of severe illness, and establishing healthy boundaries. She was a model for gracious living. Truly a strong woman.

Illness has brought me an opportunity to retreat for a while. It is allowing me the possibility of real change: measurable change. In surrendering my old sense of self, I will surely emerge new.

In the meantime, I remain open and vulnerable – not comfortable – but then at fifty-six years of age, I am well rooted. Like the trees.