these messy things

As always, I am wildly unprepared for this. 

I have a nasty habit of jumping into things with both feet, thrashing about, trying to make the best of a situation that, with some time, and a list, and maybe a breathing exercise or two, could have been much more easily managed.

I guess it’s because I like for things to be messy. I like the stories that come from cleaning them up. 

This time, again, I forgot to prepare. Or I chose not to, if I’m being honest. And now, I’m wildly unprepared for the pain of child birth.

I’ve spent the last two (or has it been three?) days floating around in early labor. I realized almost immediately, as the first few contractions wrapped themselves around from my belly, to my back, that I hadn’t finished any of my birthing books. I hadn’t learned any breathing exercises. I never recorded my guided meditation. I hadn’t uploaded my playlist to my phone. The surges began coming every 5 minutes, then 4, then 3, lasting longer, turning my back into forever smoldering embers and my belly inside out. 

“I think this is it,” I said, half to the pillow and half to KC after one of the surges caused me to shake. I’m bleeding from the inside, I thought.  I can’t get up. I can’t move. I can’t do this. I can’t.

“Are you sure?” He didn’t know whether to touch me, or to leave me alone, so he was sitting on the edge of the bed, one hand half-reaching, frozen between his knee and my back.

“How the fuck should I know? I’ve never done this before.”

We zipped up our bags and got dressed and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what to pull from the closet, so I ended up sliding into the car wearing a flannel that was all buttoned wrong, and the pink pajama pants that I had bought in California when I was first starting to show.

I think I realized that it wasn’t really time while we were driving to the hospital. There was a honey haze hanging about the waning moon, and the weather was cool and wet and changing, finally.

The perfect night - yet not the night. 

I should have told KC to turn the car back. But it hurt more than anything I had ever felt before. And I was wildly unprepared. So we drove on.

“4 centimeters dilated and still at 80% thinned, sweetie. That’s good, but not quite enough for you to stay. We’ll check you again in an hour, just to be sure. Is that okay?” The doctor on call was sweet, and it made me sad that I would probably never see her again.

I nodded and picked at the balls of teal lint that were stuck to the blanket. Progress. But not enough. 

“Hey, you’ve almost got half of it out of the way,” KC said after she left the room.

He was right. I patted the skin on my belly and waited for it to catch fire again. I felt so far away from her then, even though this sacred womb time is the closest to one another we will ever be.

I don’t know if I can do this, little one. I’m ready to see you. To be your mother. But this is the worst pain I’ve ever felt. Already. And I’m wildly unprepared.

This morning, I woke with a sore belly, no contractions, and two equally present thoughts.

I think I might need some kind of pain management during active labor.

And then...

What a coward I’ll be, if I opt for drugs. Any kind of drugs. What will others think? Will they still consider me a mother? Will my baby be disppointed that I couldn’t bring her little, cosmic body earth side without the help of a needle?

A natural, drug-free labor is important to me. Because I want to feel everything. I want to know her skin and her heartbeat and her first cry as it really is, not through a half-awake state of painlessness.

Feeling safe is important to me. Because I want to be present. I want to be calm and loving and fearless. I don’t want my pain to paint a haze over my eyes and spoil the feeling of her skin, the sound of her heartbeat against mine, the sound of her first earthen cry.

And I fear that those two things will not find a proper point to intersect. We’ve cultivated such a sense of smuggery about birth - that mothers who cave and choose pain relief are not quite as honorable as those who did the whole thing ‘naturally.’ I used to believe this, too. Now, not so much.

I don’t know what I’ll do. As always, I’m wildly unprepared. This is messy, and I haven’t got a lot of time left to clean up. Maybe I won’t. Maybe I’ll just allow the whole thing to tip over, to spill, to happen as it must, as it should, and I’ll float with it, and over it, and through it.

dear aspen

The other evening I was laying in bed when a cracked bit of my brain broke open.

That happens, sometimes, and it’s so strange when it does, because memories that you never even knew existed come dancing out, like they were just curled up in there, waiting for something to set them free - a smell, maybe (frying oil; saw dust) or the sound of summer leaves swiftly dying. Something familiar. Something old.

When I was a child, seven or eight maybe, the sky would get cold and my parents would take me into the woods while they cut dead trees into firewood to use during the winter. We would stop at the gas station on the edge of town first, and pick three donuts. I remember tapping on the glass case and choosing one that was much too big for me - two slabs of fried dough, covered in chocolate and split neatly with a layer of cream. I would eat the whole thing, licking my fingers, as my father drove the hooptie out past the lumber mill, the water tank on the top of the hill, through a locked, green gate, and onto a dirt road that surely led nowhere.

For a day, the forest was my home.

I was a wild, running dryad, all moss-kneed and bark-skinned, sister to the Pine, mother of chipmunks, hunter of butterflies. My father pulled the truck to the side of the road and squinted out the window, tipping back the last of his coffee, surveying the land.

“Here - this is good.” he would say. The doors opened and slammed, they gathered the saws and gasoline from the bed of the truck and headed off into the sun-streaked patch of woods, hunting for the dried corpses of fallen trees.

I would stay close, but somewhere far off, a tiny, curious thing, lost under the criss-crossed arms of ancient oak, and pine, and cedar. And oh! the stories they told! I could close my eyes and hear them whispering as a chainsaw started rumbling down the road.

The other night, laying in bed, I was seven or eight again - for a moment, a young girl nestled in twenty-two year old skin. The memories leaked from the broken bit of my brain, bringing with them both happiness, and sadness, because I feel that my imagination has been boarded up behind years of adulthood.

I miss being a child. I wish I still had the wild wonder that fueled ten thousand stories scribbled in print on paper receipts and donut napkins.

“I need to write something down!” I would shout, and I knew that the stories would be sucked back into the mouths of the trees if I didn’t catch them by the tails. So my father searched the sticky floor of the hooptie and found a pen, and I wrote them down quickly, stories about elves and witches and wandering, hooded girls.

I hope you like to write, too. I hope the stories of the forest tie knots around your heart. I’ll kneel down and you can whisper the secrets they tell you into my ear - the ones that I’ve grown too old to hear myself.

Maybe I can still hear them. Maybe I just needed to remember how. Maybe you'll teach me.

You’re going to inspire me to tell stories again. I can already tell. Not just the serious ones, like I do now, but the fairytales. The wild ones. The ones about mermaids and elves and girls with magic hoods.

My Aspen, my love, for you, I’ll write them all down. 

relaxing into autumn

I love this time of year. The few weeks that hang between summer, and autumn. Even here in Texas, where the heat lays like a heavy blanket over the flat of the Earth and the trees hum with the afternoon sun, I can feel the equinox coming early in my bones. It’s there when I wake up - a lightness, the smell of shaken leaves and the yearning for some kind of warm drink to hold between my hands. The feeling that something’s coming. Or that something’s going - I can’t tell which.

It reminds me of every love I’ve ever had. Of Jackson, and Marshall, and Travis. They were all the feeling of a quickly approaching autumn. Something fleeting - the feeling of coming, and going, and you can't tell which.

You're the only one that's ever felt like the whole season. Like finally getting there. Sinking in. You're the earthy sweetness of autumn, all pumpkin spice and woolen hats, day after month after year.

87 strange, half summer, half autumn days. That’s all. And then, we’ll pack our boxes and board a plane and shake middle fingers at the state of Texas as it shrinks into the past. One chapter is ending quickly. We’ll lick our fingers, grab at the corner of the next page, turn, turn --

It’s during these in between times - between summer and autumn, between Texas and California - that I feel I need to force things. Because the new season isn’t coming quickly enough. And there isn’t enough money in the bank account. And I haven’t written my book yet. And --

So I force stories to come, and art to form in pencil and ink, and money to appear in our bank account, and plans to line up, and then I throw it all away - backspace the stories, tear the art, erase the plans - because of course it isn’t very good. Those kinds of things - the ones that are hammered into existance with a hasty heart - never are. 

My God, I’m sure that’s what happens when folks force the big things, too. Beyond work and art and stories - when they force motherhood, and lovers, and memories to be made. When their entire life is a rowdy push from behind. They’ll feel so strangely unsatisfied with everything that they throw it all away.

Nothing is ever quite right when you force it. This I’ve learned. There’s no need to sit and burn, clenching and unclenching fists, cracking eggshells just to get at the golden center. The only things worth having are the ones that are cared for. That are loved into existence. That hatch on their own.

Folks only need a little. Someone to be there, and be warm, to pull the blanket under their chin and maybe say something kind and maybe not say anything at all. That’s all I need. That's all my art needs. And my writing. And that’s all she’ll need, too. I can do that.

I need to be here, now, relaxing into it. Into the book ideas, the art, the writing, the plane tickets home, the gestation, the labor, the delivery. Into motherhood. Into my own skin. Into autumn. 

renewing my definition of success

Today I am joining The Skinny Dip Society on an incredible blog tour! 20 women, 20 days, 20 ways to feed your soul, free your body, and love your life. After you read my post, click above to see the lineup! 

Recently, I've been feeling rather stuck.

I imagine t's because of this bouncing babe in my belly, who, according to the doctor, is quite ready to make her grand entrance 5 weeks early (I'm really not surprised - if she's anything like me, she's already impatient and itching to let the wailing, breath of the world embrace her skin). Maybe it's because I simply feel as though I'm running out of time.

I listened to a TED talk a week or so ago about success. About how we're encouraged from all angles that we can strike it rich and change the world and make an impact. And when this doesn't happen - when it's not as easy as the magazine headlines make it seem - we feel like failures, over and over again. As a coach, and a teacher, and a writer, I am guilty of pushing this message as well - onto others, and even more strongly, onto myself. 

These days, the world is full of self-help books and five-simple-steps-to-success-follow-your-dreams e-courses and coaching opportunities and quick fixes and maps to all of your desires. It's overwhelming. When we see that there are so many people who are chasing after & nearly grasping what appears to be the same dream (striking it rich; changing the world; making an impact), we might feel as if we've already failed, even if we haven't yet tried.

The truth is, very few people are successful by that narrow definition of the word.

A slice of the population will ever be financially wealthy. A handful will ever change the world (the whole world - internationally recognized & respected). And while at first, I was discouraged by these facts, I was afterwards quickly humbled by them. Softened. Renewed. Relieved.

The pressure's off, my love.

I think the biggest problem is that we're constantly told what success means. Money. Power. Popularity. Reach. 

But thinking back to the beginning, maybe this isn't what you imagined success was.

I close my eyes and invoke my childhood. Those wild-eyed years of endless opportunity and drinking in the wideness of the world. Then, what did I imagine success was? What do I still feel - truly, beneath the illusion of the media - that is is, now?

Writing a little bit every day. Traveling for myself - not to tell anyone about it or record the whole thing in a photo book. Laughing a lot. Watching sunsets from the porch. Living close to my family. Changing the world around me - one person at a time. Spending slow hours with my husband. Having a child. Teaching her to be wild, and still, and loving. Simple things. Having enough, but not too much, because too much always leads to wanting more.

Small. Hearty. Warm.

It's reassuring, really, to renew your definition of success. It doesn't have to be the same definition that the magazine titles & self-help section has painted over your heart. Dig deeper. Remember. What does success mean to you?

Write it down. Sound out the words in your mouth and notice how sweet they are.

Then, move forward. And be incredibly successful.

Don't forget to check out the rest of this beautiful blog tour! These ladies truly are following their own definition of success. They're all brilliant & contagious lights. I'm honored to be posting after Laura Madden. You can read yesterday's post here.

the running half

I want to be everywhere but here.

I woke up anxious, and flighty, and I feel that I simply must jump from my soft, new mama skin and go somewhere far off. Somewhere rough, and wild, and full of stories. Because I’ve been housed in the same white room, brushing up against the same crimson sheets, pulling open the curtains to the same bleak, smog laden neighborhood, day after month after year.

I’m tired. And I’m restless. 

I want to punch the map on the wall. I want to close my eyes and open them again and see Sonora, or Croatia, or Sedona, or somewhere that isn’t the stinking, gun powder peppered Army Base that we’re stuck in.

This happens, sometimes, but I haven’t felt it in a while. Not since I was nineteen, and living in the city. I used to wake up and explode at least once a week - fill my books with travel plans, hop on the train and take it up to Oregon, or down to the coast, just like that. 

It never fixed anything, really, because the anxious wanderlust is strapped to my ankle like an anchor, and no matter how often I travel, or how frequently I fly away, it always catches up to me. As soon as I fold my wings and rest for a moment in a new set of skin, I can feel the weight of the world coiling up around my foot, my leg, my lungs, and I have to run again and stuff my eyes with more, more, more for it to momentarily loosten.

The only thing that helps is stillness, and I know I can find that here. The more I long to run, the quieter I need to become. To reflect. To ground down.  

So much is changing, even though it’s not. Even though I’m still here, still waiting for the echos of the cannons in the late afternoon, still showing my ID to officers and driving through gates and squinting against the greyed out sun to see the planes flying overhead. 

Carrying this babe beneath my breast has been the most wild adventure yet, like a train ride a thousand times around the crest of the continent, and I can feel myself being torn in two as her journey Earthside approaches. Maybe that’s why I’m feeling anxious. Maybe that’s why I’m feeling so oddly alive.

Half of me is dying. The running half. The half that always flys away when things get hazy. And like all things, it doesn’t want to die. It wants to punch the map and trace road lines and open sleepy eyes to somewhere far off.

And the other half is growing tall. Becoming confident. Swelling. Feeling everything, all at once, deeper and deeper still. The other half is woven around a little mystery of knees and feet and fists. Every story I write about my pregnancy helps to breathe more life into that half. That soft, new mama skin that’s fitting warmer every day. 

I think I’m unlocking the anchor around my ankle with a key made of ink. Slowly, I’m learning how to rest and be present, all the while still wild in my skin. A merging of the best things, as one half quickly dies and the other unfolds.

I have so much to learn from you, little love.