Thursday, 31 December 2015

Facing it.

"Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the Light gets in."

- Leonard Cohen

Ringing in the New Year, y'all. 

I started 2015 knowing something wasn't right. I felt it in my bones. I asked for space and was met with resentment. I stated my needs and held my ground. I could feel my life breaking, cracking, crumbling into grist. I started thinking it was me and how much I hated myself. I friend posted something about how mother photographers are always behind the camera and their children don't have a record of their own mother. I started taking selfies.

What I didn't know was that this project, a selfie a day, would become a record of my grief. My husband of 17 years asked for a divorce in April, or rather informed me that it was what I wanted. I wanted, begged for counselling instead.

In the wake of that world shattering, gifts started showing up at my metaphorical doorstep. An invitation to AWP, a fellowship in Prague, a job offer in Savannah, an offer to buy my antiques, a good lawyer, publication offers, friends holding space for me, another fellowship. As I was wading through the grief and rebuilding my own life, these things brought me small joys and more importantly something to keep me busy and getting up out of bed in the morning.

My sorrows compounded because of other people's choices that were out of my control.  It was like driving through a torrential rainstorm with traffic all around. Do I pull off the shoulder? Do I trust that others are in control of their 1000+ lbs of steel? Do I crash? Will there be a flash flood? Panic. Hold on. Cry a little or a lot.

And then the rain stops. All that's left is wet road and darkness, the stead thumping of the road beneath tires and a warm engine. Maybe there is even a rainbow. Maybe you are in Nashville now.

And finally, on Christmas Day, under the full moon in South Carolina, I held my sorrows in my hand and blew them with a kiss into the Atlantic Ocean. This mermaid is no longer landlocked. This is my offering. My grief.


I read a hilarious piece and then watched a parody with Tina Fey on "girl squads," the new jargon-y hip word for a group of girlfriends. I love watching Taylor Swift's Bad Blood video. I love hearing about groups of friends supporting each other. For so long I didn't have anything like that.

The last two years though, everything changed. I may even go back and say it has been the last 5 years- when I first met Holly and Breann, and three years ago when we created an online community and added my sister Jen, and two years ago when those folks (not all ladies, actually) facilitated and pushed me back into writing and taking a few risks (like riding the MegaBus to Georgia for a writer's retreat).

My "squad" isn't all women, but I am grateful every day for the support, the late night phone calls, the visits, the encouragement, the friendship and support. This last year was especially difficult for me and through it all I had folks sending me more encouragement and love than ever.

I can't list everyone here, but I am going to call out a few.

Thank you to Jennifer J, for actually flying out to be with me after the kids and I moved out and then again for Christmas so I wouldn't be alone. Your friendship and family love means more to me than these words can tell. May you find true love, good work, and creative space this 2016.

Thank you to Breann for being my random chat gal, holding my dearest fears and hopes, and generally encouraging me to laugh and love with reckless passion and write that way too. Your house burned down and you still showed up for all of us. May your tummy cease to be queasy and you finish your novel in 2016.

Thank you to Holly (Hollywood) P. and your incredible humour and grace. A conspiracy of oestrogen may have influenced you, but your support in my leaving Iowa was key. It was your words that ultimately gave me courage when I was doubtful and scared. I was in an abusive and toxic marriage and too drowned to see my own way out. You were my lighthouse. And now? I can count on you to talk me out of panic, get me to write through it. You've been my light since 2010 when Isaac was born. May your light burn bright and you keep on speaking your truth, fiery and brave, this 2016.

Thank you to my Ossabaw Literati. Tamara and Neil pointed me to the Vermont Studio Center, Neil also introduced me to James which led to the summer in Prague (which I needed for graduate credits to keep my job, a breathtaking space to recover from heartbreak, and the writing......), Tracy who emails me at just the right time as we each make our way travelling all over the world, Patty who gave me the very first advice through her advice column wisdom to put my own and my children first and let go of trying to care for and fix someone who needed to make the journey on their own, Tony who started the retreat that brought us all together to create a community and continue an island legacy, Victoria of the Midwest Crew who also has great taste in music and food and will be in Tybee soon, Lenore and David for opening their home to me on my journey South and for encouraging me to write the monsters out of the woods, and so many others. Thank you. May you all write your way back to the island soon!

Thank you to my mother, for your grace and forgiveness and your apology too. Thank you for sheltering and clothing all the lost souls who show up at your doorstep. Thank you for doing so with my children too while I recover from drowning and build our new home. Thank you for dedicating your time and home to creating a safe space for us. May your 2016 bring more laughter, more family, more stories, and more of everything good.

Thank you to Ms. Sparkles. You really do leave a trail of glitter everywhere and hope too. Watching your path through the mess that is divorce, one that is similar to mine in the reasons, the wounding, and the toxic aftermath, special needs parenting, homeschooling, and now healing and finding your way too, has helped me and others more than you know. Thank you for sharing your truth so we all know we are not alone.  May your 2016 bring you more love and more magic.

Thank you Dawn of Morning Rain. You helped me heal. Blew oxygen on my nearly dead ember to help kindle the fire again. Your touch pulled out the fear and the grief. You have a gift, love, for healing. May your 2016 bring more fire, laughter, and may you find good bacon again!

Jen H.- thank you for your time and words too. The website design, Art on the Prairie, and artists worry sessions. You know. May 2016 bring peace for you and space to create and more friends and music and also a trip to Savannah to see me, love.

Jen B- I do have a whole crew of Jennifers! Thank you for your sobriety. I am so proud of you. Thank you for being you, for lifting me that day when I could not stand on my own. You were a lifeline in a crisis, and so so brave. We are all lucky to have you in our lives. I miss you so much, love. I raise my glass of handcrafted local root beer to you and make secret plans for a girls getaway and beach time with you. 2017? Maybe? Yes? May your year be full of glitter and stage lights and feeling pretty and feeling loved.

And so many others too. This is but a short list and my gratitude goes so far beyond this. When I can't fall asleep at night, instead of counting sheep I count all the people and things I am grateful for.

Sunday, 27 December 2015

Reclaiming Space

This is my blog, my journal. For years I have let it be used as a marketing tool for my husband's family's farm and let others have editorial veto on content.  The divorce, which is finalized as of November, was a surprise to many because I kept our personal lives very carefully presented.

The truth is somewhere in between. I considered starting a new blog. I have actually a second place where I write about art and poetry. This space began as a journal of motherhood and self and that is what it will return to, slowly.

For now, here is the update.

The children and I are moving to Savannah, Georgia. I have work here and the climate is much better suited to us than Iowa. I have family here too. Mostly, I need the buffer from the hostility in Iowa. The hostility from the divorce was taking a toll on my health. I cannot be the mom I need to be for my children while weekly sometimes daily, facing someone and others who are so hateful, hostile, and sometimes outright violent with actions and words. I can deal with that four times a year, but not daily and not while suffering the brutally harsh Midwestern winters and living below the poverty line. I needed breathing space. Since moving out I have had only one panic/anxiety attack. Before, it was near daily. My health has improved. My finances are stable. Life is calm.

My aunt is looking at property here. That was one of the biggest reasons behind choosing Savannah, actually. Ashville, NC was higher on my list. Galveston, TX was too. I had even considered moving back to SW Louisiana to be closer to my extended family there. A long conversation with family and the revelation that my aunt was looking here and may need/want my company and help? Well, that changed everything. I have to say, Savannah has a sweet spot in my heart and it wasn't hard to convince me, not really. SCAD is here too and I am seriously considering furthering my education, perhaps there.

I cannot update on Chad. Though he is the father of my beautiful children, he has chosen a different path. He is paying the required child support. He has a good job. A wonderful support system. Anything else, you will have to ask him directly. I ask that you treat him kindly. He has found happiness and love and that is a blessing for all of us.

In the next couple weeks, as I get settled here, I will update on my reunion with my family, the fellowship I just finished in Vermont, and maybe a few posts about the place I am currently working and living, a five acre permaculture farm here in Savannah.

Friday, 15 May 2015

The Clock is Running

Everyday I have things I must do.

Feed my family, laundry, dishes, breathe.

I can get lost in these tasks. Not just lose time, but actually lose me.

I breathe. I remember. I catch glimpses of my own reflection and barely recognise myself.

This time of transition is hard. It is like there is both- not enough time to get this right and too much time spent waiting for the next part to happen.

There is a great sadness that has fallen here too, like the way that a storm that comes suddenly casts a shadow on the pasture and everything is dark.....but the wind has not yet picked up and the rain is still a ways off. We know it is coming. We prepare best we can. Yet? There are still unknowns. There are still cruelties. Still small affections. All at the same time.

This is the scariest part. Waiting. Not the breaking. Not the end. This in the middle where the air is still and we hold our breath.

This is why...make food, fold laundry, wash dishes, breathe. Over and over.

How do I keep myself moving?

My friends who are runners said this: put one foot in front of the other and run until you can't. Then walk home. You don't need special shoes or special pants. You just need your feet to move. And so running has made its way into my life. I run until my heart can't take it. I break down and cry in the darkness. I walk home. The shadows of the woods have never scared me, so this is the path I run.

Sometimes I run down the gravel roads. Not as often though because the neighbours teenagers drive a little too recklessly around here. That is not how I want my story to end- roadkill. I run.

I used to tell people if you ever see me running, you'd better run too because something big and nasty is chasing me.

Y'all. I am running. This is scary and big and the only way I can make myself cry anymore. I need to cry. If I hold it all in I am going to explode and that is also  not how I want to end.

These next 18 days are pretty intense. Starting next week I have training at Drake for fall term. Holly's birthday (which I keep forgetting to plan), then ballet rehearsal for Holly, recital and more training the next week, and then pretty soon after that I leave for Europe. 18 days more or less.

See what I mean about not enough time?