To My Son, Who is Turning Thirteen

Here we are, on the verge of big, bad teenagerdom.

I’m not going to lie, I’m scared. Not all the time, and not even about the big, bad things, but nevertheless, she persisted worrying. Have I done enough? Have I reminded you to please and thank you enough? Taught you how to tell a joke or to always deal cards to the left? Have I given you the confidence to do the right thing, even when the right thing isn’t the easy thing?

Most of the time I worry because I feel like I’m running out of time.

There are days when it seems you’ve already got one foot out of the door. I have to remind myself you’ve always had one foot out of the door, from the moment you were born. You were never mine, not really. You’ve always been your own. The universe merely placed you in my care for this dance, to make sure when you’re ready, you step through with both feet, confident and secure.

But that door? It will always open to you.

When you were an infant, swaddled like a baby burrito, you’d look up at me and I felt a million things surge through my blood all at once, like wildfire raging through my veins. Thirteen years later your eyes are nearly level with my own, but my blood still sings that same fiery song.

Those times you think I’m staring at you, looking for something to criticize? I’m really looking to see if the angle of your jaw has sharpened between dinner and breakfast.

When you catch me standing outside your door, it’s not to simply to tell you to pick your clothes up off the floor, it’s also to hear if the timber of your voice has begun to deepen.

I’m terrified I’m going to miss something, afraid one day I’ll look at you and that tiny boy, the one we fought so hard to bring into the world, is going to be impossible to recognize in the face and body of the young man you’re becoming.

In case I don’t tell you enough, I am proud of you, the way you treat everyone with kindness, the ease with which you saunter through life, your even-temper. Do you remember the night we sat around the dinner table and asked, who is the least likely to lose their temper? Without hesitation, we all pointed to you.

Keep your even temper. It will be your greatest gift in life, the ability to take a situation and diffuse it, to find the funny, or the good, the silver lining.

You are so unbelievably fortunate. You have so much opportunity at times it’s almost embarrassing. Use it. Use it to speak out for those who have less. Don’t ever take it for granted or feel like the world owes you more than what you’ve already been bestowed, because those invisible gifts you’ve been born into–the color of your skin, your sex, the opportunities we’ve been able to give to you? Those things are not due to you. You do not deserve them more than someone else. So use them. Stand up for those who walk through life with less ease, with less opportunity, with less help. Be aware of your privileges and of how you can use them for good.

Find something you want to be great at. It doesn’t matter if you are great at it, but it’s important to have something to work at, to dream about. Don’t take the easy way out. Get better. Be better.

Take time to settle into your mold. You don’t have to know who you are or what you want to do with your life. You just need to live your best life. Not everyday, no one lives their best life everyday. If someone tells you that, ignore them. If you’re batting one for ten you’re doing ok. Some days life hurts. Some days it’s tough. Some days it sucks donkey balls. It will get better. Don’t think it won’t get better.

No matter how many eye-rolls or ‘whatever’s, how many door slams or a thousand other stereotypes I’m remembering from The Breakfast Club and my own teenage years, we will be here. Sometimes you’ll feel like you don’t need us. That’s good. That means we’ve done our job. We’ll be here anyway.

You’re going to think we’re dumb and out of touch. You’re going to think you know better. You’re going to think every sneaky trick you come up with to fool us hasn’t been tried before. You’re wrong on all counts.

You won’t believe me. I know. I didn’t either.

We’re going to argue. I’m going to be wrong. You’re going to be wrong. If it’s truly important, stand up for yourself. But choose your hills wisely. Make sure it’s a hill you’re willing to die on before you dig in.

I’m going to embarrass you. Mostly accidentally but sometimes on purpose.

You’ll want to do things we don’t think you’re ready for. Sometimes we’ll screw it up. Sometimes we’ll make shitty decisions. But even when we do, try to remember it’s coming from a place of love. You won’t believe that either, but it’s true.

The world is out there waiting. There’s a lot of shit going down, a lot of bad stuff. But so much good stuff too. Don’t let the scary stuff stop you from experiencing the good. Don’t let the good stuff stop you from trying to change the bad.

Don’t let anyone else define you. If someone tells you that you have to be or do something? If they want to change you or set conditions on their love for you? Run the other way. Fast.

Life is going to hurt. Life is going to sing. It’s going to flutter and fly and sink and sometimes you’ll feel like you are drowning in your own breath. That is life. All of it put together is what makes it worth living.

Most of all I want you to know it will never be you vs. the world. We are tied together, you and me. For nine months your heartbeat tangled with mine until it was hard to tell where one stopped and the other began. Yours dances to a different tempo now, but mine? Mine will always skip a beat here and there, making sure there is a space for yours to return to when you need it.

Love,
Mom

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See You Next Tuesday

statue-of-liberty-torch-nycWith any luck my last political post will come sometime on Wednesday and will be about sweeping glass shards from the floor.

My moods during the last six months have see-sawed, as has my conviction that in January The United States of America will inaugurate its first female President. I’ve gone through heartbreak, confusion, anger, rage, grief. I’ve been horrified, delighted, uplifted. I’ve cried, both in joy and frustration.

If life is like a box of chocolates, during this election I’ve eaten everything from the caramel to the nasty candied cherry. I feel sticky, nauseated, and like I need to brush my teeth and eat nothing but salad for a week.

But…instead of watching the polls fluctuate and my anxiety escalate in this, the final stretch, I”ll be carousing around a foreign city with some fabulous females. I’m not bringing my laptop. I’m not checking the news. (Ok, I won’t be checking the new obsessively.)

I’m still worried, but this morning as I was packing, I had a sudden moment of calm. Perhaps I’ve entered the eye of Hurricane Election because suddenly I realized it was all going to be ok.

Because even if Donald Trump wins the election, the people who voted for him aren’t going to win.

I don’t mean their candidate isn’t going to win. I mean the reasons why they chose to fill in the ballot circle next to his name aren’t going to win.

You can’t make people disappear. You can’t choose simply declare you don’t ‘believe’ in homosexuality or marriage equality like you choose to ‘believe’ in the Tooth Fairy. LGBTQ human beings exist. They take up space and other dimensions. Marriage equality is a thing. Transgender citizens and same-sex spouses are not going to suddenly disappear just because a bunch of people chose to elect a vice-president who wants to shift federal money to ‘gay conversion’ programs.

You think millions of women are going to lay down and allow themselves to be groped and degraded and discriminated against because a bunch of people chose to elect a party which, for all intents and purposes, want women to just go away and bleed quietly from their wherevers? You can spout all you want about the ‘myths’ of systematic oppression or the wage gap. But they exist and they’re not going to disappear in a cloud of magical smoke. Women aren’t just going to suddenly go away and stop demanding equality.

Those who are voting for Trump on the basis of religion can pray on pious knees until they are bloody for God to smote their enemy. It’s not going to happen. They can prayer circle around women who seek out birth control and abortion. It’s not going to stop them.

They can deny climate change. It’s not going to stop it. They can deny evolution. It doesn’t make it go away.

The reasons so many Trump voters are voting for Trump? Those reasons are NEVER GOING TO WIN.

The people who’ve been checking off the ‘other’ the box next to their identity don’t need to have their existence legitimized or FDA approved. Do you think they’re going to let you take their rights and stuff them back into some fundamentalist homophobic misogynistic cupboard and lock the door?

Women aren’t going to suddenly develop the urge to dig out their grandmother’s aprons and start mixing martinis for their husbands. Life is not going to magically revert back to some black and white television version of bucolic happiness which was only pleasant and happy if you closed your eyes and ignored the lynchings and the back alley abortions and the men and women being imprisoned for being gay.

You can build a thousand walls and they will still be breached.

You can build a thousand prisons and they will still be dismantled.

You can think of a thousand ways to hate and people will still love.

The United States has been moving forward for decades. Sometimes quickly, sometimes tortuously slow. It will continue to do so, even if it takes a backward step next Tuesday.

love-trumps-hateEven if they win this battle, they will never win the war. Because that kind of exclusion, that belief that there is only one, true way? It never wins. It is always defeated. It is always squashed.

Once I figured all that out, I felt better. I finished packing and dug out my passport and tomorrow, I’ll be off.

Oh, and Donald? CU next Tuesday.

15 to Life

02ce163afe978916dd6118dfeae68b65What does 15 years of marriage look like?

15…is.

It is. 15 is like breathing. I don’t know any differently, only the space your body leaves for me to roll into. 15 years is fewer sharp edges to cut or slice. 15 is soft enough to absorb and blunt.

15 years is difficulty telling where I stop and you begin. It is mixing up histories. It is forgetting you weren’t there for part of my life and putting you there anyway; a cardboard cut-out photo-shopped in the back of my memory.

15 years is a sentence. More than a stint, less than a forever, fifteen to life. It is stranded between the rounded bookends of 10 and 20, a stepping stone on the way to 25. There are no poems that rely on 15 lines, no mysticism. But you can’t ignore it.

15 is too substantial to ignore, its bulk is too present.

15 is past settling, it is roots below the surface. It is sometimes forgetting to look because you think you remember what is in front of you, like your own reflection.

15 is elastic enough to stretch individual tastes and trust your history will snap you back together. 15 is separate vacations because 15 is knowing you don’t have to enjoy the same things to stay in love.

15 is occasional flowers, a snippet of love song, a note scribbled on the back of a napkin and left on a pillow. It is realizing random champagne is just as good as momentous occasions. It is annoyance and exasperation at the loudness of someone’s chewing, the way they say a certain word, the way they leave their things scattered about.

15 is grateful for the moments that still make you catch your breath.

15 is feeling your heart in your throat when you tell the story of how you met and realizing how very many things could have gone wrong.

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15 is truly meaning you are the love of my life because no matter what cards fate has up her tricky sleeve, you have been the love that has been there throughout year ones and twos and sixes and sevens. Through the deaths and the blue times that seemed to spilled over and stain everything else. Through the nines and tens and nights on the couch. Through the laughs and the sing-a-longs and sleepless nights of babies. The fours and fives of longing, eights and tens of whirling around each other in a tornado twisting with change. Through the elevenses and twelves of  clickety-clacking to the top of the hill and thirteens of screaming down, stomachs dropping. Through the calm of fourteens.

15 in no longer planning for a future together but being smack dab in the middle of it.

15 is understanding the possibility that someday one will exist without the other.

15 is promising to make the minutes and days and months, all the in between thens and nows, count for something.

This is 15.

 

 

 

 

The Body (A Love Letter)

597896d44805c7a7ec065a52b2c24e5fWhat is the difficulty in stripping layers of cloth and standing bared in front of my own reflection? It should be easier to face a reflection in the mirror than it is to face the secrets of a soul; easier to bare a breast, a hip, an ankle than to see unmasked the wings and horns of a self.

And yet…

and yet…

and yet it almost never is.

Even after all this time and thought and searching and acceptance and writing I maintain a complex relationship with my own body. This husk of muscle and flesh and spark and firework, this weight of tendon and sinew and bone and passion. This body.

We circle each other warily. Often we are at war, waging battles against one another, laying siege. At times we live under the flag of an uneasy truce. But the peace is always tenuous. There is always a new front to be claimed, another battle on the horizon.

This body.

These legs. These crepe-skinned knees and flesh-heavy thighs. These legs which have carried me through four and a half decades, which have run me up mountains I thought too high to climb, which have scaled heights I thought impossible from where I stood looking up.

These arms. My God, these arms. These arms which are baggy and saggy and on their way to  bat-winged. These arms which have cradled and rocked countless babies to sleep, protecting and soothing. These arms which have carried the weight of what is needed to feed my family, which have wrapped around generations, pulling grief close, pulling joy closer.

These hands. Christ, these hands which have woven the threads of love and passion and family together into a tapestry of life. These fingers which fly clacking over keys and sometimes seem to know what I need to say before my own mind recognizes it.

This womb. This womb, that hollow source of heartache. This womb which eventually harbored and nurtured two little lives, which had the strength to push those lives into this world to stand on their own, apart.

These breasts. No longer high and mighty, these forlorn breasts. These breasts which nourished two sons; and these hips, always too wide, curved and rounded leftovers of my mother’s body which expanded to accommodate and grow new human beings.

This spine. This spine now just starting to lean. This spine which has stood upright in the face of change, of heartache, of sorrow and grief. This backbone which has borne whatever I have heaped upon it without breaking, without complaint or crack.4adc46e2384f59258e0c836bd3dd5e76

This body. This body which has starved itself and run itself ragged trying to fit a tortured and distorted ideal of its own making. This body, a safe haven for a lover to harbor in, warmth and depth in which to burrow. A lap in which to snuggle, flesh soft enough to absorb the sharpness around it.

This body which despite all of this still only loves itself part of the time.

This heart. This heart which bears the scars of breaking, which has been pieced back together and still beats in time with a love ferocious and fearless. This heart which still has not completely learned to love what has loved me back so fiercely all this time.

This body.