The breath and belly of it all….

weeping

Winter rolls into Spring and my heart rides the growing waves
that lift and toss and throw me sometimes further out
as I begin to set my hope on a door that slowly opens,
then closes sudden and an undertow sweeps me into a tailspin
and I’m struggling breathless and unable to work my wings
and here is where I learn at last to fly,
because it’s sometimes into the jaws of a strong wind
that we get our bearings because we’re ready to dig in
and maybe this is the gift in going down and out

I do the work with a gifted grief counselor – she’s a bird on a breeze
with a gentle way and healing words that call to me through the dark
and she sings a song of paradox and the eyes of my heart soften into the  hope
that doesn’t disappoint and it’s a strong tow out of fearful waters.
Because when life hurts it isn’t black or white – there’s and and both to all deep pain.
The sad and scared and mad of grief are real and but that’s only one side
and if we try to survive with just that one wing flapping helpless
we tank,  unsteady,  and helter-skelter from the sky where we were born to soar
because we need both wings set to be fully alive.

As I become less dropsy at holding paradox,
keeping journal where I puddle my hurt onto the left page and record beauty and thanks
on the right – side by side together like a perfect pair of wings,
I begin to toddle this grief out,  a fledgling,
learning to hold the full of my pain and the joy,
my love and the disappointment,  the comfort and the hurt
because there’s medicine in embracing the breath and belly of it all.

And,  yes,  showing up can expose a heart for the breaking
but I want a love that doesn’t shy or go false,
to feel it when the Comforter whispers let me hold your hand
and not draw back or slap it away
but take deep drinks of compassion offered and continue to stand,
loved and wanted by a mystery so beautiful and grand
that I lean wholehearted into the turns,  more curious than perplexed or in dread.

Because life is happening bodacious and I don’t want to miss it or be passed by
because I’m holding on tight to one version of happy
when there are a million shades
and seeing narrow makes a chest fold over bitter on itself
while healing breezes kiss a heart stretched wide.

And it helps to have a caring hand to help untie the knots
of what’s true and what’s not.

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~ The humiliation? – no.
Dig deep and don’t personalize this.

~ The shame? – hell no.  The brazen way it twists and mimics
and tries to impersonate the voice of God,
lying boldfaced that this generous goodness is harsh – Defy it.

~ the Heartbreak?  Yes. Be unapologetic about it.
The hurt is real.  Cry it out with someone safe.

~ The other painful parts of grief like anger and anxiety and sadness and loss?
Yes. Acknowledge. Feel it all.
Go there with all the help that you need.  But don’t live there.
With this wing alone,  we stay cut off from the sky.

Stretch wide the other wing as well.
There are gifts in grief,  and as I begin to unwrap them,
I see windows where before I saw only walls.

Some of the sweetest gifts,  for me,  have been learning to show up and do my best
but not more than my best,  because that’s stepping into someone else’s space.
That hardening the heart does not stop the hurt.
That a soft heart heals faster.
To not waste the pain,  because pain itself is gift.
It means you care deeply about something,  and if you’re willing to go along for the ride,
it can lead you to discover your deepest desires.

Holding paradox is sanity,
and humility
and flight.

I was going to end by telling you that I haven’t heard again from my baby girl grown
and that this road I’ve traveled to learn to hold the pain and disappointment,
alongside the joy and love and peace of letting go,
is one that I’m learning to cherish and carry
with a strong and honest hope
– it’s the story that I’ve been living.

But I get to write a different ending this week.

Because I did hear back.
Just days ago.
So beautiful and true and I will hold her trust with the tenderest care.
It’s pure gift,  sweet and sacred and unspeakably dear
but there’s nothing in me that feels any longer desperate,
like this is needed for repair
and so I can celebrate the timing of it all
because this is maybe gift-wrapped,  too:)

eye of the tiger
Your words have been balm and bread and broad strokes of grace,
finding me where my eyes were squeezed shut
to what a face may silently say,
speaking life and friendship and a healing song
that the girl of me needed to hear.
I hope we’ve been good for each other that way.
Thank you.  With love.  From the whole of my heart.

“Limitless, undying love which shines around me like a million suns
it calls me on and on across the universe.
– John Lennon

If you’re interested in some of the tools I’ve been using
in your own journey,

to help grieve it out and get stretched wide your wings,
i so recommend this DVD series by Mandy Bird and her collaborator,  Chris Saade.
A tall glass of comfort and hope,  this.

Barbeque grace and the words I couldn’t say……..

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 Shame.
It wants to shut you up,  close you in,
set your peace on fire.
And it won’t be hushed until it burns your courage down.

I lean into the turn of the year with a hungry hope and my walking-forward shoes laced up brave,
I’m going looking for some shelter in this storm
but it becomes a hurricane
as I pull out into traffic in some group work and wreck my heart instead,
my past and present colliding with such an explosion of pain
that I’m propelled through the window injured,
but land soft in a healing place.

Edith calls to tell me she’s retiring and we speak warmly –
will she please mail the birthday package I’ve sent;
she’s not sure where Amanda is right now; I tell her bold where
and she doesn’t flinch or freak and I hear smile in her voice.
We part well and I feel a chapter end.
This will be the the last gift sent where they will comb through my words to approve.
The training wheels off,  I’ll be able to look up her address and send love on my own
and this freedom is bliss to me.

I plan a heart trek to her hometown but pull up the day before
because I seefrom the cloud,  that she‘s there visiting right now
and feel it sure that this would somehow cross a line.
I couldn’t be that close and not run to her,  I know,  oh God
I want to go, but I watch instead from just hours away
as she togethers with the ones she loves and welcomes,
and I feel the thud of my un-belonging
and ache an ache that I can’t wrap words around.

Weeks later,  March 2016,  I’ve got a wilding to drive east tomorrow
to put flowers on her mother’s grave.
I’m headed uptown to a favorite barbeque place to make a foodie Friday gift
to our hardworking peeps and as I sit waiting for my bag of lemon pepper wings,
so near the street where she used to live,  I grin at the walls covered
with years of signatures and happy graffiti.
My eyes swim over to a map of our state and I feel my feet moving slow
from where I’m googling her hometown for tomorrow’s travels.
My eyes lock onto her name printed bold and pink,  right over where my google map points.
It feels like a sign and I take a picture,  kiss the wall,  pick up my takeout
and wonder at the bigness of this grace that’s holding us.

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Her mother is two years gone this day and we travel there together,  my husband and I,
to at last be in this space and it feels a sacred journey as we pull into her town
and I roll the window down because I need to breathe the air and I cry somewhere inside
because it’s happening at last to feel the where that welcomed my baby home.
It’s a really good house,  the sixteen year old of me can see,
and we eat lunch down the street at the local barbeque place
that has served the community for decades and I taste friendly food
and the neighborly way and everywhere I feel the whispers of her face.

The woods hum stories as I stand beside her mother’s grave
and see how my fistfull of daffodils look a small drop in this space so wide
that I wonder can Amanda ever hold space enough for the both of us.
Her mama loved her,  I can feel it.  I honor her that and as my fingers trace
her name I tremble  thanks for the home she made and the legacy that is hers.
If I could hold this woman’s  hand I’d squeeze it now and breathe peace,  nothing left unsaid.
I get up and wish we could stop at their house, climb out of the car,  knock on the door
and be invited inside.

But there is gift in the parting and I feel it at last
in a wrenching place where I stand with my arm draped around the girl of me
in front of the spacious yard where my daughter played football
with her people just weeks ago this day
and finally I know it right down to my atoms and cells
that I did not abandon my child.
There’s a roaring that climbs from my spirit inside to a courtroom false where I’ve often been dragged
and I see it as clear as the sun that sets in her hometown now
that abandonment was not in my heart,
but beauty and bests and safe pasture and love,
and yes,  shame,  that I wasn’t the one who deserved.
But I’m done buying into this sense that I’m less because I’m outside and not welcome in.

And as we drive back in the after of a powerful day
there builds up some brave to get ferocious with shame
and I feel a holy fury rumble up inside my soul
– where the winter wounds had closed me I feel my breath becoming whole.

(In the weeks to come there’ll be roller coaster waves
but I’ll crawl no longer beneath the dull weight
of all the words I couldn’t say.)

goodnight raleigh

“It is unearned love – the love that goes before,
that greets us on the way.
It is the help you receive when you have no bright ideas left,
when you are empty and desperate and have discovered that your best thinking
and most charming charm have failed you.
Grace is the light or electricity or juice or breeze
that takes you from that isolated place and puts you with others
who are as startled and embarrassed and eventually grateful as you are to be there.”
– Anne Lamott

So you see I’m telling our story – that part of us that aches to belong,
to be welcome,  to be seen and invited in.
In the only way I know, I’m dragging our shame into the light
and offering “I know” and “you’re okay” and “I’m with you and we’re alright”
Just a few more twists and turns through this, our season of the night.

 

Savoring shells and squirming in skin…..

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Spring 1979.
A cold Topsail wind whips my tears along the sand in the early morning dark,
where I’ve been driven by a dream that had me jumping from my sleep
to lift a crying baby I couldn’t find.
She’s several weeks gone and my heart feels sprained
by sudden stabs of fear that she’s lost in the crowd of this big wide world
and I think I’ve done the best for her but I feel only this vicious sense of coming up short,
and don’t recognize the me that’s left in the after.
As I cry my hurt along the water’s edge,  something large rolls up against my foot.
A perfect conch.  On a beach of broken pebbles.  Somehow it washes up a warm and soothing grace,
this treasure from the deep – feels like “I’ve got this” – a wink delivered on the waves.
I take it home like a token given and keep it to rest my eyes,  my hope carried through the years.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It’s hers now – I sent it along to whisper love
and finding Amanda this warm September last feels like another shell to hold;
I love this window.
Like when I’d rest my head against the doorframe to breathe in the wonder
of my littles asleep in their cribs,  so full up and tender for these tiny bundles of light wrapped in skin
It feels a little like that again,  and while Autumn is our busy season
and life doesn’t slow or gentle down for me to linger,
sometimes in the night I get up and pad down the hall to have a loving look and
it’s a beautiful thing that I can.  Another gift given and I know it.

But I don’t hear back
and as the leaves begin to fall,  an old chill comes over my soul like a fog rolling in.

I’m glad she doesn’t do fake just to make nice,
glad she’s living authentic and true,
and I support her in the story that’s her own to live and tell.

But why doesn’t she want me?

There it is, the haunting pain,
and this question doesn’t stand alone
because shame comes seeping up from the floorboards of shut off places
like a backwards flush and I feel the drag on my soul…..

“What’s wrong with me?”

weeping waters
 
We’ve all felt it,  this burning kind of shame –
accusation that haggles with your worth until it talks you down,
your defects discovered – you might have been loved but this is a dealbreaker.
And if you say or show or let on or get found out
you’ll be put out in the cold where you belong
and so you hide your love away and go small and smaller still…..
It pricks me sharp but I’m fighting to show up and stay.

It’s coming on Thanksgiving and I feel it like a fever that I can’t shake
but I open to some outlaw grace and get inspired to reach out shaking anyway.
I’ll write her every  Monday – say the words I couldn’t say,
unfold the cramped legs of what I want to give her – at last I have a way.
I plunk an easy,  newsy note into her box each Monday night,
a little heartpour sent off grinning with a prayer,
something she can count on – a love that’s always there and this is joy to me,
even with the disappointment-hangover that happens in the afterdays as she doesn’t respond,
and I grab on to the beauty that I  find and let it steele me in the keeping true.

  I’m thinking that if I feel that something needs to happen
or be in order to repair what feels broken in me
then maybe it’s gain when it doesn’t go down that way,
because insecurity gets flushed out from where it festers hidden
and as twinkle lights begin to light up the December nights,
the stuff in my basement gets dragged from where it hides
and with every “have you heard?” I squirm in my skin as shame storms down on me.
My chest goes tight now when they ask.  Please look away.  Please don’t see
me standing naked in the glare of her no thanks.

I feel so much “I’m sorry” rumble up from the deep,  not for anything I’ve done
but for what I don’t know how to be.

The longing and loss are valid – I feel it an ocean,  the grief.
But something’s not true in this shadow.
It’s easier to call the bluff on lies that others believe,
but I’ve got some bleeding blind spots – needing help myself to see.
And as Christmas comes and goes with no response still,  I’m rumbling inside to get free….

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“There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers
than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise.
With skinned knees and bruised hearts,  we choose owning our stories of struggle over hiding,  over hustling,
over pretending.  When we deny our stories,  they define us.
When we run from struggle,  we are never free.
So we turn toward truth and look it in the eye….”
– Brene Brown
(Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted in her Rising Strong)

If you’re still along for the ride,  I’ll tell you right now – this chapter doesn’t have a fairy tale ending.
It’s a love story,  and real,  and there is beauty to unfold still
but it’s messy and raw and and soaked with pain and grace;
maybe this is just exactly the stuff of getting free
(the best is still to be)

fluttering fingers and moonlight twirls…

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I didn’t mean to see her so big.
Went looking for an address so i could send a letter that was for our eyes only
and, like a dream, I found her instead.
I wanted to make sure she’d heard me….to walk all the way to the edge
and lean over the side to make certain that she’d received my heart unedited.
But there she is and I cannot look away.
It’s like discovering this incredible Christmas present in the closet when I go looking for the lights.
I know it hasn’t been offered yet,  but my eyes can’t keep from dancing:)

I scroll through more images,  like I’m hearing her echo under years of rubble.
and my heart thumps wild hope as I dig.
The rest of the world goes quiet as I unwrap gifts – a local talkshow interview
and then another,  and I’m hearing at last the music of her voice.
The moving water of my children all together laughing is my favorite sound;
now hers is flowing across my ears and I throw back my head and join every glad noise
in the universe, belting out thanks for the wild beauty of this thing.

There is a timbre that siblings share,  like the voice of rippling waters.
The river just got wider and my heart stretches with the sound.

I watch her mannerisms, mesmerized,  matching every nod and tilt and gesture,
all so famliar – I know this rhythm.
I need to grab somebody’s arm and say,  “look!” – to share the wow of this discovery
but my feet are planted where they stand,
wilding over the beauty – her intelligence and humor and heart..
What she’s building in this world is just so cool and I’m grooving to her words,
powerful and clear,  even as she explains,  “I’m adopted,”
and I take in the way a shadow passes over the light in her eyes when she says it,
the way mine do when I’m feeling hard or pain
and my hand floats unthinking to the face on screen.  Am I seeing anger?
Is that grief?  Shame?  Or do I only imagine – just my fear on the screen.
Oh baby girl.
“Please talk to me,” I ache.

053

Facebook.
Do I even dare?
I’m standing in front of her profile picture
and the long road I’ve traveled seems to end right here.
I squeeze my eyes to hush the “don’t you even.”
My fingers flutter above the friend request key.
No.  Stop.  Too much.  Is it?  It’s an invitation,  right?  Or is it barging in.
Will she welcome this discovery or feel it intrusive?
I don’t know.
I don’t know so hard it hurts.

Instead,  I keep my hand over my heart
and let my eyes wander through her posts and pictures and perspectives,
savoring each one as I go,  like picking up feathers and leaves in the park.
I’d choose to hang out with this woman.
Like all of my kids,  this is someone I enjoy.
I can’t dig any deeper and not say something…..it feels stalker-ish.
And disingenuous.  I need to brave up and tell her.

I hit the message box on her profile and the daunting blank canvas pops up on my screen.
What do I even say?   
I want Amanda to know that I found her and I’m here,
– just a few pecks of the keys away – want to connect?
And if she doesn’t want,  or doesn’t want now,  I promise not to push.
If I don’t hear back,  I won’t withdraw my love.  I’m in either way.
I tug the message into words and my finger stalls on “send,”
my heart a jumble of joy and yes and please and oh shit.
I can’t do this.  Yes you can.  Go.  Just go – I mash the button quick to send.

When at last I get around to checking addresses that night,  I’m spent,
so it doesn’t bowl me over right away the several years she spent living in my city,
leaving just before we arrived.
Tomorrow I’ll go see,  I sigh as I finally nod off,  drained by the electricity of the day.
Like a kid after too much Christmas.
A few hours later,  I pop up with a start – Instagram!  I totally forgot to check….
I trot down the hall to my computer and  there she is again -too beautiful for words.
I linger for a while,  so punch drunk in love that I can hardly send my silly self back to bed.

One more quick check – facebook, did she answer back?
Not yet.  Okay.  It’s okay.  She’s on the west coast right now – time difference and all that.
I sit for a minute and hold the sheer awesomeness of even knowing this now,
my soul twirling grateful in the moonlight.
I’m guessing tomorrow,  then.  When she’s had time to digest.
And as sleep sweeps me up at last,   I’m smiling still.

big rock love
“When you get right down to it,  Lily,  that is the only purpose grand enough
for a human life.  Not just to love,  but to persist in love.”
– Sue Monk Kidd
(The Secret Life of Bees)

 I’m seven weeks into this Summer series and I love that you’re here.
Thanks for hearing and holding the pain of my story with such balmy care;
If it doesn’t shine through the ripples yet,  I’ll write it more clear around the bend,
the peace that’s holding me and the squeeze of Love’s hand.

 

 

Facing into the wind and finally a face….

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There are 100 counties in North Carolina,
and I begin trolling through them all,
searching the obituaries for a place I’ve got a homesick longing to see.
I have to do something,  my hunger to know gone so long unfed
and I’m given over to the kind of desperate that makes you clutch and grasp and make a fist.

I want to find her hometown,  walk down her childhood streets,
see where she spent her long ago days
– to feel the traces she may have left behind.
And to find the grave of the mother she mourns.
I won’t barge into her space uninvited,  but I ache to quiet the rattle as my mind
circles ’round the lot looking always for a place to park.

But I don’t want to wreck this for either of us.
God help me please,  I’ll wait.
She’ll say when she’s ready.  She will.
I pull up,  unfold the clench of my jaw, release again the strings,
and another year goes by.

She is bright and accomplished and can find me if she wants,  I am positive.
But why doesn’t she?
Is it because she can’t hear the all of my heart?
Or because she can and doesn’t want me?
The un-knowing makes me feel small.  A mouse. My imagination on too much catnip.
And Edith,  please,  what do you actually say to her?  And how do you say?
Because,  for the love,  why doesn’t she write back?
I wrestle like this for years.
I can be minding my own business,  living as wholehearted as I know how,  and then
this roque breaker will clap down sudden like thunder and I’m splintered by the silence.

I sit down hard on every grabby impulse;  I want her to know she is free.
She doesn’t owe me anything – this I believe.
I can touch my own scar and remember vivid when they wheeled me down the halls
and away from her small body left still beneath the bilirubin lamps to make her better.
I bear down on a hope that I’m leaving her to something better,
but I can feel it inside where something tears sharp with each door they pushed me through
that I am the one who is leaving.
And as I go,  I know it like I will come to know this pain that never leaves,
that there is no way she’s not gonna feel this.

Does she feel it now,  I wonder,  and it unnerves the holes of me.

new

It’s been almost eight years since the tide rolled in with a bottle on a wave
and brought me first news of my girl.
One busy afternoon in September the agency rings again
and I grab on like a rope sweeping past.
She’s talked with Amanda and has some things to share;  do I have the time?
The orbit of everything grinds to a halt as I drop to the floor to listen hard.
Edith’s words come like giftwrapped punches.  My daughter’s whys.
I hear from a long ago place and can’t remember how to breathe.
The grown of me defends Amanda’s right to take whatever time she needs,
to feel whatever she feels – even if it’s abandoned.
She’s smart and feels deeply and her process is beautiful and valid
and I get behind her choices like an angry mama bear –
 thanks for calling,  really,   but please don’t call again unless there’s a letter.

I hold this fresh jumble of not-knowing for five minutes,  maybe a little longer,
and then lunge for my laptop,
prying open the lid long forbidden.
A newspaper in the eastern part of my state whispers the name of a woman,
survived by a daughter,  that offers an “Amanda” in the cluster of those related.
There it is.  Their family name.  Her hometown.

I know enough from Edith to be sure that she’ll have a web presence
and my fingers fly across the keys as I google the magic box
and a string of images appear.
It’s her.
Oh God,  it’s her.
I know them at once,  those honest,  hazel eyes.
I’m glad to be alone as I rock backwards on my feet and bolt from the room,
suddenly overcome by emotion that I still can’t name or figure.
My throat goes dry even as I type this now.
I return and look again,  scrolling through several images,  all so deeply familiar
and overwhelmingly and achingly and astonishingly her.

I’m head over heels,  peering through tears that geyser up from somewhere deep,
as if my belly recognizes what my eyes can just now see.
I can’t quite keep breathing,  but I love this face more than air
and I stand for a long, long while at the bright window of her smile.

gnight from the fields
“If I chase your echos down the hallways
long enough,
if I just get ahold of them once,
just once,
will it bring you back to me?”
– Tyler Knott Gregson

This Summer series.  My story finding it’s way into the light.
It’s been peck and crack and struggle and I appreciate your kind patience
as I wobble along.  If it reads smooth and clear,  then I’m not telling it true.
I can feel your questions like I’ve keenly felt mine.  I’ll answer them around the bend.