My second son, as a toddler, did not like people to leave. What toddler does? But he in particular had an instinct for shepherding, a fierce drive to keep everyone physically close. It’s hard to recollect now how emotional, loud, reactive and intense he was then. A highly-sensitive extrovert, no feeling undocumented, no tear unshed. Now, at the still tender age of nine, I am often amazed at his emotional intelligence. His thoughtful deconstructing of his own emotions and the subtle way he tunes in to mine. His smile, touch on my arm, or well-timed kiss the moment my voice takes on an edge of impatience. He’s young still, they both are, but if I can help these sensitive boys grow into thoughtful men, some part of my work in the world will be done.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: shepherd(ing)
I’ve heard that it’s common for smart, competent women to feel like imposters. Juggling those balls in the air, waiting for something messy to splat to the floor, it’s easy to feel like a fraud. Is that because expectations for women are so impossibly high; so densely, intricately layered? I lived for years with a terror of making mistakes, any at all. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t make mistakes during that time, but when I did I covered them up, I hid, I berated myself, I plunged into self-loathing. Now I know that “fake it ‘til you make it” is not about assuming a mask. It’s about always overreaching a little, taking on more than is comfortable, knowing you can handle the consequences. It takes life experience to have that kind of equanimity, and a great deal of self-compassion. And a hard-wrestled, hard-earned insistence that you belong wherever you are.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: “fraud”. Today is day 60 of the new count. This is from last week.
I look around at this blog, and think maybe it needs some sprucing up. More images would be nice, a fresh coat of paint, snazzy new curtains. But I ignore that thought, and focus on what I want to be doing, a little bit of writing each day. Because I want to; because I can.
My mother’s mother, widowed and with no other children, came to stay with us two years after our emigration to Canada. It was the first time she had left Poland, left the small town where she lived in her familiar one-bedroom apartment, with the bench outside where all her neighbours congregated and the nearby cemetery where she could tend my grandfather’s grave. The hope was that she would spend the rest of her days with us, her closest and dearest kin. Instead, in our strange suburban house in this sprawling foreign land, she was lost, wildly uprooted. After a year, it was clear she could only ever be a visitor. Stronger than family bonds, we discovered, were ties to language, culture, home.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: visitor
I studied French in school for years, but only felt truly fluent the odd occasion when I spoke it drunk. At a party sometimes; or once in my early twenties in Hungary, where in the wine-cellars of Eger’s Valley of the Beautiful Women, I conversed brilliantly for hours with a man from France. I was shy then, and often overwhelmed with anxiety in social situations. A friend with an alcoholic parent once warned me of the drastic change in my personality when drinking. She was right, and yet, instead of sinking further into the dependency, the more vibrant self that had once been tightly furled eventually learned to bloom unaided. I still drink alcohol, and sometimes it relaxes me, but it’s no longer an escape or a crutch or a way to get away with things. Sometimes to my regret.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: fluent. Will I ever write a regular blog post again? I’m not making any promises either way.
Those first few days were the usual mess of blood, tears, milk. My gravid body slowly deflating, leaking and bruised. I stayed in my room, on my bed, where it all happened. Tucked the crying baby in one arm, the stunned toddler under the other; was reclaimed by the relentless cycles of sleep and waking, spun loose from clock time. By the third day I was feverish. I was swept off to the hospital, the tiny babe – an accessory, not a patient – wedged in with me on the narrow cot. Burning with heat, leaking milk, I trailed IV tubes, gown askew. My husband slept on a fold-out chair in the corner, held the baby, held us together. The toddler, hustled between grandparents, was ushered in for a visit, dazed but resolutely himself. “I am Pooh. He is Piglet,” he told us, claiming the new creature into the story, his story; so that we were complete now, we were whole.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: feverish.
This March day of sun and brisk wind, I am at home with a cold. I drink tea with ginger and honey, baptize the air with my sneezes, feel my head foggy and dazed. The cobwebs between windowpanes invite my contemplation. My house creaks, settles. I’ve heard soft scratching, found tiny pellets in corners; appraised the piles of books on the floor, the box of half-opened mail. It’s not the first time I’ve fallen sick when my kids are away. I used to dream of ambitious projects for these times, rarely realized. Now I am grateful for some hours of silence; for time to think without interruption, to tend no-one but myself. I’ve come to trust tears and menstruation as rituals of shedding: letting it out, letting it go. Perhaps these fluids in my head, considered wryly, are telling me the same thing: release, release. Take this day as it is. Let go of who you think you should be. Meet yourself as you are.
From my currently daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: release.
This morning I came across photos of Australian artist Shona Wilson’s work with ephemeral nature mandalas, intricate creations of precise symmetry constructed out of the tiniest plant parts. My breath seems to slow down when I am presented with this order, or when I can conjure it myself in small symmetrical experiments on paper or in compositions of collected parts. My favourite folk art from Poland is the circular cut-paper wycinanki of the Lublin region where I was born, delicate wheels of geometric shapes, foliage and repeated creatures, paper snowflakes taken to a higher plane. I’m soothed by balance, by the perfection of mandalas and medicine wheels, all those radiating mesmerizing mirrors of quarters and eights. Most of us are. We crave the visual representation of the ideal, of the divine. Of a perfect reciprocity and balance elusive to our brittle messy entropic world.
From my current daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: symmetry.
I’ve lost interest in being obliging. There are seasons of yes, and seasons of no. I have lately been pledged to the latter. I have been experimenting with silence. Deep full-throated silence. Using my voice only if and when and how I want to. I have been experimenting with stillness. With absence. With stealth. With staying at the edges, lurking in the shadows, reclaiming the in-between. I once said goodbye to my sullen adolescent self. Now I have welcomed her back to my table. I have thrilled in her uncooperative energy, her defiant intensity, her whims. She is a secret ally, reminding me of the epochs when I wanted to both please and resist. Now I please if I want to, resist if I choose to. I am reclaiming my time.
From my current writing practice with three women across the continent. Today is day 48. Word prompt: obliging.
This has been a winter of burrowing, hiding out in my lair like a mammal in hibernation, or a wild creature tending its wounds. Digging deep into the earth of myself, I imagine myself as grounded. It’s an internal process, I admit, not visible to everyone I encounter on my daily travels. This week I read the Handless Maiden chapter in Women Who Run with the Wolves, a book that keeps coming forward to meet me when I need its wisdom. She writes of the woman undergoing initiation, soul deep underground, but body anchored firmly in the daily rituals of the outer world. I feel this too, core strength and discipline rising like a tree out of the soil in the barren months of winter, but with vitality humming down in the roots, threading deep in the soil, sap preparing to run.
From my daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: lair. This is from two weeks ago.
I told my friend today that I miss our camping trips with kids. She said, “me too, but my kids wouldn’t come if we planned one now. It would be only me.” How could it be that we didn’t know, the year she moved further south and we camped on the property she lived on? And the following year, after she moved back to North Bay, and we met with friends at Mansfield on the summer solstice? When we made a little village of tents and sat around the fire at night, sang songs to the full moon, and drifted on our backs in the gentle current of the Pine River? How could we not have known that it would be so fleeting, so evanescent? That those days would soon be past?
From my daily writing practice with three women across the continent. Word prompt: evanescent.
June 2016. Camping with friends, a full moon and an (evanescent) rainbow. And much shorter kids than I currently have.