"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, December 28, 2009

Brotherly Love, Part One

We had almost everything we needed for the first annual Lyons Family Christmas Turling Tournament: the slip & slide, a frozen turkey, a broom of sorts. The competitors were in full gear and ready to roar. Two family members and their partners were missing, and the shadows of their choice stood in quiet contrast to the bright light joy of the day.

This event was organized by my youngest brother's daughter, who clearly has too much time on her hands. Trash talk had been traded via e-mail for days as we practiced getting into character. Characters assigned to us by my twenty-something architect NYC-living niece: Mad Mabel (mine), Walt R. Brawn-kite, Geoff Goldbroom, Mark The Grim Sweeper, the Lynncinerator, and Steezy Nicks.

As we laughed, flung the turkey, and tried not to hurt fifty-year-old bodies being driven by wild children, I marveled at how far we've come as siblings. And I grieved for the one choosing not to join us for this celebration.

I am an oldest child. The only sister to three brothers (actually six brothers, but that's another story for another day). As is the case for many adult siblings, especially, I think, in families where healthy love was not demonstrated let alone taught, ours is a complicated relationship.

Often over the years our differences have separated us - water in crevasses frozen and shattering seemingly indestructible stone. We remembered the one thing we had in common, our childhood, with such wild diversity a stranger hearing our stories would not believe we were related. At times it seemed to me that we would never be able to find a way to express our love for each other in a way that could be received as love.

That we love each other has never been in doubt. Regardless of the fact that in the past that love was often expressed as judgement, criticism and anger. I've been the guiltiest. As big sister I took my role seriously and believed it both my right and duty to share my wisdom and truth, whether my baby brothers wanted it or not.

Growing up, one of us was always a favorite and one always the pariah, with the other two somewhere on the continuum between. Depending on our mom's mood, and our behavior, the roles shifted - much like tectonic plates. So it should be no surprise that in adulthood, almost always one of us stands outside the group.

Even when the group stands with arms open and welcoming.

Right now it's our oldest brother, the charming brilliant family hero, who is unable to reach beyond righteous calcified anger aimed at our youngest brother, to take the hands holding an opening in the circle for him. He actually spent Christmas in Palm Springs alone with his wife, a last minute trip chosen against the invitation to this gathering. This brother who loves the holidays and family and traditions at least as much as the rest of us chose the most un-Christmas possible so he could cling to a ghostly victimhood.

He neither called nor answered his phone, so great was the distance. Yet his need to still be a part of things exerted itself in money and a magnum of champagne sent with our middle brother.

So he was missed, but his absence did nothing to dampen the joy and fun that flowed (or turled) through our time together. Arms remain extended, the circle open, the love of healing adults wanting relationship more than revenge or righteous indignation waiting patiently to be received. Our faith strong enough to hold the belief that this family pattern can and will be broken.

From left to right: Nicky (the organizer), Geoff (baby brother), his wife Lynn, Mark (middle brother), Mad Mabel holding Festus, my husband Walt

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Ascent of Light

The days begin to lengthen. A minute or two at a time on each end of the darkness. Just the promise is enough to lift sagging spirits and ease heavy hearts.

The sun owned the sky at the end of yesterday, so the light stayed even longer than it does on the heavy gray wet days that are the norm for our winters. The clouds press down to meet rising fog so that no light or even reflection of light shows through. Only shadows, and those go from kitten gray to coffin black. When the sun does break through, it melts much more than the frost on the ground.

As I do every year at the end of the long dark, in the first true sunlight of a dawning season, I had to resist throwing off every stitch of artificial cover to soak in as much of the promise and weak warmth as possible.

In more than five decades of winters, of living with the rhythm of falling into darkness and slowly rising back into the light, the dark never gets any easier to live with. The days of descent feel endless and suffocating, hopeless and sad. And the minute the ascent begins (I watch for the solstice on my calendar from Thanksgiving on) my heart begins to lift as well.

It's no accident that so many traditions celebrate the coming of Light during this time. Knowing I'm not alone in the darkness provides just enough comfort to make it bearable. Sharing the birth of new light feels like family in the purest sense possible.

Light comes in so many forms: A treasured friend who truly understands and sees. A wide smile shared with a homeless person. A new friend who shares a heartbreaking story from a heart glowing with love and acceptance. The innocent untamed spirit of a young child. An increasingly rare and magical day spent with a friend being dragged further and further into the shadows of mental illness. Easy laughter and good food shared with new friends. Family willing to set aside differences and hurts so that a new tradition of love and acceptance can be created. A husband who cleans up his wife's huge baking mess in the kitchen when she's not looking. A virtual network of friends who are always there to offer love and hope and words (oh the words!) that are their very own form of light.

Light in such abundance is made bright and reflected clearly in the longer days and bright promise of a sun that always returns.

Namaste. May your celebration of Light fill your heart with an overflowing abundance of love, joy and peace.

photo from Flickr

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Drips of Awareness

At first it was a bit like a drop of water from a leak that registers just below consciousness. Discomfort, annoyance, anxiety. Creeping in drop by drop until the puddle on the floor is too big to ignore.

The sense of well-being, contentment, and joy I've enjoyed these last months being disturbed by some unseen and uninvited source.

The first drips of awareness were connected to an all too familiar stretched connection in my marriage. The warmth and growing closeness born from our new dependence upon one another had become the tight, false smile of a desperate clinging to illusion. Attempts to communicate were met with stone walls which were in turn walked away from in defeated silence. Familiar, frustrating, infuriating.

A one-word commentary from a friend on a piece of writing became the drop of water that made it impossible for me to ignore the puddle. "Nice." Such a neutral word and yet I feel slashed by it. And I want to be angry about it. And I know the only power it has is the power I'm giving it.

Yesterday's yoga class had me drowning in the puddle. I've been practicing for almost four months. My body was so tight I kept falling out of poses, couldn't get fully into poses that I've been doing with ease for weeks, and for most of the session the moisture dripping from my face was more tears than sweat.

And finally the puddle was big enough for me to name. Fear.

Fear of never being able to accomplish my dream of weaving a whole life from the silk threads of marriage, career, health, love, adventure. Fear that I'm not good enough, loving enough, young enough, smart enough, strong enough, willing enough, spiritual enough, open enough, trusting enough. Given enough voice, fear will tell me I'm not enough of anything that matters to me and too much of everything that does not.

My habit has been to believe that the absence of fear means I'm doing well, and the presence of fear means I'm doing something wrong. One of my best survival skills was to reject fear in favor of anger or one of her cousins: indignation, rage, indifference. But I'm not living in survival anymore. I live a thriving life whose purpose is to heal and help others heal. I no longer believe in either/or, black/white, right/wrong.

So what do I do with this fear that will not leave me alone? That waits in ambush like the Indians lined up along the walls of a box canyon in the old Westerns. That nibbles away at my peace and equanimity like the mice hiding in our attic, unnoticed until something precious is ruined. That encases me in concrete so that I feel alone, unreachable and immutable.

The first step is to not reject or ignore her, my companion fear. At this point she's only water. Rejecting, trying to mop up without seeking the source, means there will be another puddle all too soon. Ignoring would mean that she could eventually soak into and destroy whatever she touches. And so I sit with her, try to see my face on her surface, caress her lightly. I crawl into the attic seeking the source - what unhealed and untended wound invited the safety and security she offers?

The attention seems to soothe her for now. I have some patching to do in the attic that will reduce the need for her presence. I consider for one of the first times how many others there are who feel this same pain. Instead of refusing to acknowledge our common bond (as has been my habit) because that feels like weakness, I embrace the humanity of us all and offer love and forgiveness as balm to myself and to my fellow travelers.

photo from Flickr

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Lessons in the Grocery Line, Part 2

I noticed him as I was looking for the shortest check-out line to get into. My cart was just full enough that I couldn't justify the 15 or fewer line, so I cruised by the other lines slowly. He had a cart, too, but that's not what caught my eye. He was searching the faces of people as they walked by, like he expected someone to recognize him and be glad to run into him.

I pegged him as weird right away. Harmless, but someone to be avoided because he might want to start a needy conversation that would be hard to get out of. I looked away to make sure no eye contact would happen, then headed back to the dairy section for the cream cheese I suddenly remembered I needed.

Returning to the check-out lines, I slid into the only one that didn't have a string of carts extending outward. There was one person being checked-out, and one unloading his cart. It took a few minutes before I realized he was the weird guy I'd gone in search of cream cheese to avoid.

I briefly considered changing lines, but curiosity got the better of me.

There were already several of his things on the belt, carefully arranged like houses on a city block. Only three items were left in his cart, three bags of produce. Each bag contained two vegetables, and each had the loose end wound around to create a neat cylinder. He picked up the first cylinder, containing two medium-sized red potatoes, slowly unwound the plastic, set the bag just so and draped the plastic over his other items. That routine was repeated twice, first with two identical carrots, then with two small zucchinis.

OCD? I wondered. Lives with his mom? Just got out of prison? His pressed jeans and light jacket on a day when the temperature was in the teens seemed to confirm my suspicions. Something was clearly up with this guy. Middle-aged, with gray hair just in need of a barber's attention, but clean-shaven - he seemed much younger than he looked.

When he'd completed this ritual, and his cart was empty, he looked up, straight into my nosy critical eyes. And smiled. I smiled back, caught with my judgment in full flair, grateful he couldn't read my mind. Hoping he'd buy my smile.

He tried to push his empty cart forward so I could move up to unload my groceries. The person in front of him wasn't done, so we were stuck. I shrugged, smiled again, and said it was okay, there was no hurry. I wished fervently that the checker would hurry up.

Then he did the most astonishing thing. He put the plastic bar down behind his items, and proceeded to unload my cart onto the belt. He picked up each item as though it were a rare treasure and set it gently down, smiling the whole time.

I considered my choices through significant discomfort. I said, "That's really nice. You don't have to do that." He smiled deeper and kept at his task, but offered no response.

I could have told him to stop. But he was having so much fun. And there was an air of reverence about him that over-rode everything else. So I stood there, with nothing to do but be grateful for his spontaneous gift, and be aware of how hard it was to accept, and feel sheepish (not the first time for this) about being so judgmental.

He noticed a box of sinus rinse packets toward the bottom of my cart, and for the first time engaged in conversation. "I use these. They're great. Not every day, but when I think I'm getting a cold. I think they really help."

And I responded as though this were the most normal thing in the world to talk about. "My husband uses them all the time and really likes them, too."

We exchanged a few more words about sinuses until the woman in front of him finally finished. I studied him as the checker and he conducted the usual grocery line small talk. His open face and serene attention were focused entirely on the tired woman scanning his few items. Her required customer-service smile seemed to grow warmer under his gaze.

As he prepared to leave, he turned his smile to me once more. My responding smile was genuine this time, as were my words of gratitude for his gift of an unloaded grocery cart, and my heart's acceptance of the much greater gift of spontaneous, open-hearted kindness.

photo from Flickr

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lessons in the Grocery Line, Part 1

I entered the grocery store at a brisk pace, one item on my list: laundry soap, five - maybe ten - minutes to get to yoga. Frustrated at myself - I was just at the store yesterday - and in a hurry, my focus was narrow. No room for enjoying Christmas displays, the latest People headlines or my fellow shoppers.

Beeline to the cleaning aisle, choice made quickly, happy note that it's on sale. This early, only one checkout was open, and it looked like I might get right up to the checker. As I rounded the corner, still moving at my no-time-to-waste pace, I almost collided with the woman already at the checker.

I hadn't seen her because she was in a cart. She'd just gotten to the checker, because only one item from the overflowing basket in front was on the belt. My hope of getting to yoga on time came to an instant halt because speed was not a gift she currently possessed.

Just like patience is not a gift I possess in abundance.

From the back, with her beautiful silver curls and abundant red-fleece encased hips, she could have been Mrs. Claus. However, when she looked back at me, her scowl, yellow bumpy face, and dirty band-aid covered nose made her look more like the witch of a young child's nightmare. She didn't make eye contact with me, but turned back around and pulled her cart up a bit so the checker could pull items from her basket. It was clearly a concession to my presence. I could feel her annoyance at being rushed, and not being able to unload her own groceries in her own way.

For one brief moment I considered asking her if she minded letting me go first. I invite people with one or two things to go in front of me often - in part as a meditation in the patience that so often eludes me. However, her "back-off" energy and my better sense prevailed. I took a breath, and then another, and released the urgency.

Through the checker's banter it was clear Miss B., as she called her, came through this line often. (She probably chose the early hour to avoid impatient shoppers and the need to hurry.) The checker was a pretty middle-aged woman with spiked super-blonde hair, and the amazing ability to carry on a conversation, check groceries, and bag them with the speed of a super-hero and the serenity of a saint.

Miss B.: That laundry soap isn't mine. Don't you be charging me for that.

Checker: I know. I know. I wouldn't do that. Do you want paper or plastic for the stuff that won't fit in your bag.

Miss B.: I want paper. That plastic falls over and my things go everywhere. And don't charge me for this yarn here either. I already paid for that. That's why it's in this bag (which I notice is plastic).

Checker: Oh, I was going to charge you double for that. No, triple. I've got some shopping to do.

Miss B.: I'll bet you do.

Checker: Do you have your reward card? Hurry up. Get it out. There are people waiting. Come on. Come on. (Her voice holds no impatience at all. Only the same wry humor that's been present from the start of this exchange.)

Miss B.: Hold your horses honey. They don't mind waiting. I'm moving as fast as I can. I know it's here somewhere.

Checker: Are you ready? Okay. (On the intercom) I need help out for Miss B., please. (to me, grinning) I have to warn them it's her.

By this time I was laughing out loud, happy to be audience to their routine. I watched Miss B. relax under the barrage of the checker's playfulness. She never quite smiled, or made eye-contact, but what could easily have been taken as a string of insults, or at the least rudeness, was clearly comfort to her.

When I finally found myself at the front of the line the checker aimed a crooked grin at me and said, "Did you feel the love?"

By the time I laughed my, "I sure did." reply back at her, my laundry soap was scanned, bagged and paid for. A glance at my watch assured me I would arrive at yoga in plenty of time. My light heart gently offered, "See? This is what patience can bring."

photo from Flickr

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


When I reached the onramp to the highway which would take me to the freeway which would take me home, the sight of cars lined up bumper to bumper for as far as visibility extended made my heart sink. Mark, the brother I'd been staying with near Tacoma (who generously piloted me to the highway) had been listening to the morning traffic report on the radio. Traffic was plugged all the way to the freeway - several miles up the road - and would be for some time to come.

We both knew the memorial service was later that day in the Tacoma Dome, but thought it was far enough north that it wouldn't impact my travels south. That was before we knew every police department who was sending representatives to the service was meeting at McChord Air Base. Right where the highway meets the freeway. While the service wasn't scheduled to start until 1:00, the caravan of police cars was to head north from McChord at 10:00.

I crept onto the highway at 8:00.

For more than an hour I sat wedged in traffic that moved inches at a time, feeling more reverence and gratitude than impatience. My fellow travelers seemed to be in the same place. No one tried to change lanes to jump ahead a few cars. There was no zooming or screeching or honking. Just clouds of car breath in the bright arctic morning air, and a stillness tinged with sadness and respect.

At one point a dozen police cars and motorcycles sped up the left shoulder, lights flashing. The cars in the left lane, nowhere to go really, turned wheels to the right in a move that looked for all the world like they were bowing.

Farther along, a caravan of limos with a huge motorcycle escort came onto the highway. The exit they merged from was near the restaurant where four police officers were gunned down a week ago as they sat enjoying their morning coffee. I wondered if I was seeing the families of the slain officers, and sent my heart out to partners and children who are living the cost of sacrifice those four officers made.

When the line of traffic finally delivered me to the freeway entrance - north to Seattle, south to Portland, straight ahead to McChord - I was stunned by what I saw. Police cars and motorcycles of every make and model, from multitudes of places, lined up parallel to the freeway, coming from the north, beyond my line of sight. Every one had its lights flashing, and each waited patiently to be signaled ahead to find its place in the memorial procession that would return north in just an hour.

As we (in that hour of waiting, watching, and witnessing my fellow travelers and I became "we") rounded the bend that would take us to the freeway, each car slowed a bit. Even though the road ahead was clear and we'd been held back for a very long time, we paused. I know in part it was because the sight of all those police officers in one place was astounding. But I know too that we sent our love, our condolences and our deepest respect and gratitude as we left our accidental procession and zoomed ahead into our everyday lives. Lives made easier and safer by these people gathered in unity to honor their fallen comrades, and to remind us all how very fortunate we are that there are those who are willing to die for our freedom.

photo from Flickr: police memorial in Ohio

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Bell, Noel and the Passage of Time

Unpacking Christmas stuff this week, I came across a large green bell with lots of curly red ribbon attached to it. Originally designed as a topper for a gift package, ours came into our home attached (sort of) to Toby. Two years ago.

A lot of our Christmas decorations carry specific memories, which are all the more vivid for being hidden eleven months of the year. This year as I jingled Toby's baby bell and played with the coiled curls of shiny red, I felt the passing of time in a new way.

Two years ago we brought a puppy into our home who turned our lives and expectations upside down and inside out. Even knowing how fast puppies become dogs, we weren't at all sure we could make it that long with our sanity intact, and without really talking about it, both considered whether we could keep him. Today he is the golden light that makes us laugh and softens our hearts, and whose smiling writhing greeting every time he sees us after an absence, no matter how short, makes us feel so loved.

A lifetime ago I was an abused, emotionally abandoned child being raised by parents who were both abused and emotionally abandoned children. I didn't know that then, and it would not have mattered. I did what was necessary to survive, and have spent the last couple of decades undoing those knots, and learning that there's more to life than survival.

Buried deep in one of the tubs and tubs of snowmen and Santas and silk poinsettias and angels and snowglobes and Santa and Mrs. ornaments, I find a small box that makes my heart quicken even before I've opened it. When I came into possession of the contents of this box just a few years ago, it was like I claimed a small happy part of the mostly sad life I fled as soon as I was big enough.

My mom loved Christmas and she became a different person during the holidays. Happier. Softer. More open. We had very little money, but she tried really hard to provide at least one gift for each of the four of us that would make us light up on Christmas morning. Usually Santa got the credit. I have a clear memory of the thrill of getting my Shirley Temple doll, her ringlets bouncing, white teeth showing through a red bow of a mouth, dimples permanently dented on either side.

Never a great cook, or very comfortable in the kitchen, my mom spent hours creating abundant traditional meals. Eggs, bacon, fresh-squeezed orange juice and Grandma's stollen for breakfast after presents had been opened. Turkey, bread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cauliflower with cheese sauce, pumpkin pies for a dinner that started in the early afternoon and didn't really end until bedtime much later in the day. Although I did much of the cooking for our family from the age of seven on, I wasn't allowed, or required, to help with the holiday meals.

She did the decorating herself, too. We were allowed to help put ornaments on the tree, and as I got older was given the privilege of arranging certain figurines under her supervision. Again, there wasn't much, but she loved what was there. Tinsel and candy canes, saved from year to year, were added to the tree one painstaking piece at a time. Small porcelain bells were carefully strung in a window on red ribbon. She handled them with such love and care I was sure they were priceless and irreplaceable. I have the bells now, in their original box, which has their price of 85 cents written on the back. Handmade stockings for the children only, ours from the time we were babies, were hung above the fireplace which was our only source of heat and a big source of worry for me about how Santa was going to get down without being burned.

Her favorite decoration was a set of four little angels holding red candles, spelling out "NOEL" in bright red letters. The red of the letters kept peeling off, so every year she'd color them back in with her bright red fingernail polish. I loved watching her beautiful work-worn hands applying polish to the angels.

A few years ago when we were closing down my mom's house, after she could no longer care for herself, I found boxes and boxes of Christmas stuff in the loft of her barn. Most of it was mouse-gnawed or broken or mildewed beyond redemption. Among the few things I was able to rescue was the set of Noel angels. The angels that thrill me anew every year now when I unpack them.

Their place is by my kitchen sink. They sit at the feet of a newer angel I bought a couple of years ago who represents the spirit of the little girl who not only survived her childhood, but now thrives as a part of my whole.

Love is what weaves time into the blankets that keep us warm and safe and whole. The blankets might be newer and stronger - our two years with Toby. Or much older and full of holes - a broken childhood that ended forty years ago. It's interesting that Christmas, the time of year when new life promises the end of darkness, is the time when I become most aware of the strength, resilience, and gentle persistence of love.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Dream

We were told to work on something of our own choice for this week's assignment, but to include a dream sequence.

I awaken disoriented. Still entangled in my night world, but pushed into the day world by an anguished cry. One I realize is mine the minute Marv rolls toward me with a rare look of concern on his face. Caught between worlds, I long to go back, hoping this time to change the outcome of my recurring baby dream. The magnetic pull of Marv’s attention is too strong though, and I’m pulled forward instead.

My body moves into the familiar circle of my husband’s arms before my brain has the chance to refuse the comfort of his warm embrace, and he surprises me again by pulling me even closer and holding on. One hand moves up to my head, stroking strands of sweaty hair away from my flushed face. I allow myself to melt into the rhythm of his soothing, still not fully in either world.

Marv whispers into the predawn shadows above my head. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?”

My head offers a number of responses to his questions, none of which my relaxed and comforted body is willing to risk.

No I’m not okay you asshole. I’m never going to be okay again. And yes I’m hurt. Hurt worse than you could ever possibly imagine. If I knew how to make you feel this pain, pain that you inflicted, you would never sleep again.

“It was a just a bad dream,” I say. I feel his body tense ever so slightly, but he doesn’t pull away. I want him to ask. I won’t tell him if he doesn’t. I will tell him if he does, even knowing that telling will send his body out of bed and his attention far beyond my reach.

“It must have been pretty bad for you to cry out like that.” Is that fear I hear in his voice? Does he worry about me? Does he care?

I take one more tentative step onto this path, without committing to it fully. “I’ve had this dream before. It never gets any easier. This one was the worst, though. It felt more real than anything I’ve ever experienced.” Will he ask now? Do I really want to do this and ruin the first intimate embrace we’ve had for months? Do I really want him touching me this way?

The tension in Marv’s body increases and then manifests in a very specific hardness pressing against my leg. Without permission, my body moves to eliminate any remaining space between us. And then it opens to receive him as he pushes me onto my back and under his body, until we’re in his favorite missionary position. Words hide in the shadows, driven away by the urgent hunger of our bodies. Thoughts can’t form as the hormones of passion and release wash over my brain.

With the most primitive part of my being in complete control, and Marv’s uncharacteristic intensity, my orgasm comes quick, powerful and before his. Which means I actually enjoy his with him, a blue moon occurrence for us.

When we’re lying sweat-slick and satiated, still touching but no longer embraced, he says, “That should take care of your bad dream.”

And the dream rushes back into my consciousness so fast and hard, if I were standing it would have knocked me to the ground. For once I’m grateful for the predictability of men and sex. Marv doesn’t disappoint and drifts back to sleep before I have a chance to respond. I came so close to telling him this time - I’m pretty sure it was because of his hand pushing my hair away from my face. I’m so glad he distracted both of us. Because if he knew, he’d tell Harold and I’d have to confess at a meeting or worse yet, explain why I refused to confess. I’d have to be told one more time that I need to trust God; I need to believe; I need to stop clinging to my own selfish desires.

I hate this dream, and don’t know how to make it stop. I’m pretty sure God’s the one who sends it. To remind me that I was given chances and blew them all. I can hear His voice, sounding a lot like Marv sounding like Harold, say, “Your childless life is the consequence of all your bad choices and your refusal to put Me first in all things.”

Cooling and sticky, I pull the rumpled comforter up to my chin, then close my eyes and turn my sight inward. The dream awaits me in vivid detail, like I knew it would.

I’m pregnant – huge, awkward, baby-kicking pregnant. I feel wonder and joy and redemption. Finally pregnant and due to give birth any minute. I don’t mind the pains that increase by the second because I know that soon I will hold my daughter in my arms, and this time I will keep her and love her and care for her.

The dream world shifts without transition and I find myself in a rocking chair, holding my solid sweet-smelling daughter in the crook of one arm. I gaze into the face of the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen. My heart fills, floats, explodes in fireworks of joy. Katie Beth. Mine. To keep.

Another shift. I’m alone. My arms empty. My womb empty. Standing on a dark, desolate plain, empty except for a group of women floating away from me. One who looks a lot like Harold’s wife Bonnie carries my baby. Katie Beth cries out for me, her mother. I hear a woman say, “You aren’t fit to be her mother. We’re going to find a good mother for her.” I cry out, beg for her to be returned, stretch my arms as far as they’ll go toward my lost baby. The women continue their inexorable journey toward a horizon denied me. My feet are frozen to the ground, refuse to move. I cry out again, with every fiber of my being.

The strength of the memory nearly pushes the dream cry into daylight sound. This time, however, my brain overrides my body and clamps down hard.

My eyes fly open, focus on the glitter of the popcorned ceiling, refuse welling tears. I need to do something, anything, to fill the emptiness the dream has exposed. Marv’s temporary fix has left me feeling even emptier – if that’s possible – and dirty. Harold’s prophet voice booms uninvited into the cold echoing cavern of my being. “Only through complete submission to God and your husband will you find happiness and peace. Until you’re willing to completely let go, you shut yourself off from God’s grace.”

Without looking at the softly snoring man who is my husband, at least for a while longer, I shift my body to the edge of the bed and slip silently into the new day. I can’t live this way. I won’t live this way. And if going to hell is the price I’ll have to pay for my rebellious heart, I’m starting to wonder if it could possibly be any worse than what I’m living now.

photo from Flickr