choking

words sit in my mouth-
too many pieces of gum chewed til the flavor is nearly gone.
I can’t swallow the spit or blow a bubble- there has become too much to say.
the gum just sits.
words choking me- demanding to be set free.
in my mouth I feel I can not take anything back in, but will puke the emotion.
a geyser of bile that will no longer and never more be contained.

so so so many years that I could not speak my mind for every reason that was not mine but to keep another happy.
what would people think?
who would I make mad?
what if my words led to me losing my job?
don’t embarrass your child with so much emotion.
don’t make me look bad by telling your story.

and so the words and the stories and the song lust of my survival stayed in my brain-
my heart became heavy with confusion-
why would I no longer release its song?

but now, now the words are allowed to be free and the song bird’s cage is not just opened, but redefined as a home with windows swung wide and doors freed of their hinges.

1/13/2020

childhood dreams

What I hate is when I am walking through a park with friends, feeling really on top of life, then I trip over a branch … And my fall is broken when I wake up and find myself trapped in my kid’s bed, arm locked under her sweaty little head and I have drooled all over her favorite stuffed bear. But now I’m awake, at 11pm. I decide to have a bath and a glass of wine.

With ninja-like stealth, I extract myself from her bed and stand up, on our dog. He howls, I cuss, apologize, and shush him all at the same time. As that is happening, I trip over the towel my kid left on the floor after her bath time and stumble into the wall with a thud.

At this point, my kid throws her arm across the bed and dream-sings, “All you’ll ever be is mean,” and I wait for it. That moment where my night goes from finally able to relax to being re-trapped in the cycle of Putting The Child To Bed. But somehow she stays asleep and I send a little prayer to saint Taylor Swift, because her song has made my child’s dream world exciting enough to sleep through the chaos of my parenting and kept her away from dark dreams that are shadows of our reality.

One night, at 7 years old, she woke terrified because she had been left on the side of the highway and I had been taken by the police for speeding. This was in the weeks after Sandra Bland was arrested and soon found dead in her jail cell.

The next truly scary dream came in the midst of the ICE raids in 2017. One night, after listening to coverage on the radio and hearing me talk with friends about documenting the raids, her sobs woke me. From another room, I rushed to her and had to work to wake her from the fear.

“They were taking undocumented immigrants away and we were helping the immigrants, so we were running, too. We were all camped in the woods with the pecan trees. But they found us and people were running and there was a field, so they ran to the field and the people chasing us were spraying a smoke that if you breathed it you would die.”

I held her closer, kissed the top of her head, still damp and sweet with childhood sleep filled with lost innocence, “You are with mama. We are in our house. It’s safe baby. You can finish if there’s more. Let out your story.”

She snuffled hard, took a breath, and continued, “There was also a hole in the ground and my teacher was trying to help people, but there were chains going into the hole. If you fell into the hole, you could only get out if you climbed the chains. But you had to sign a paper with one hand to say you belonged here while you climbed out with the other hand. And there were portapotties and I hid in one. Then, you woke me up.”

Our media culture seeps into the subconscious in some mighty fierce ways. But it is a media that is covering what our world has become. My daughter is ten now and she can ask enough questions to keep her dreams safe, but the fact that she has to ask those questions breaks my heart. The fact that when she was 8 her subconscious figured out that staying in this country as an undocumented person and working to become legal was tantamount to climbing up a chain, out of a pit, with one hand with a toxic gas encroaching on you. The fact that she hears enough reports of police taking people to jail over traffic violations and innocent children being killed or abandoned that she dreamt of being left on the side of the highway. Scared and alone.

As a parent, my one job is to keep her safe and alive – that she may become a good person with a full life. I think I do a damn good job of that, but having to go up against a world full of discrimination and hate makes my job way more complicated.

I’ve had people catch their breath when they learn that she was allowed to see the making of Lord of the Rings at 6 and we started watching Gray’s Anatomy when she was 9. “That’s all so graphic, so adult. She needs to keep her innocence,” they gasped.

I don’t know where these people are getting their news, but from what I’ve experienced, NPR during the 7am drive to school is far more disturbing than make-up artists explaining how they created the Orcs or Meredith Gray laying out the trials of relationships.

perfect imperfections

She is not the girl who will cause a scene. You can take her anywhere.

She pulls off Dior as easily as she changes the oil in her car.

She’ll eat funnel cake and thinks Jesus is a badass, but understands why atheists disavow religion. No topic is off limits and if she doesn’t know, she’ll listen and learn.

She is the girl who will give you space, because she needs hers, and understands some seasons are all about hockey.

She’s not jealous and more fun than you’ve ever had. Spontaneous, but measured. Beautiful and kind. If the world is on fire, she’s the one who will not let you burn.

Her fearlessness and self-confidence are a stunning combination and in exchange for being by her side, she only asks one thing …

Who are you?

She doesn’t need the answer today and she may never ask it directly, but in everything she does her heart pushes her to be better and her soul fears she will never know she’s enough.

So as her lover, who are you? What are your edges? Can you try to love people simply as they are? Can you live in joy, but savor the cruel morbidity of life? Can you make things awkward and laugh at yourself? And when she wakes screaming in the middle of the night, can you hold her and not ask why?

She’s not a pretty thing

She’s not a pretty thing.

There is no clean packaging or simplicity.

We share a bath and her voice becomes loud in the still, wet darkness.

I do not try to drown her with positive affirmations, but just sit and listen, I become terrified.

Her rage grows, I try to shrink away, but choose to keep the space.

Sobs overtake and she shakes my core, pounds the water and I hear my screams through tears that haven’t fallen in too many months.

It’s too much. I can’t. I can’t. I can’t do this. I can’t do this anymore. I can’t be the sole bread winner and parent. I can’t keep up with everything. I can’t just let things go. I can’t keep keeping the peace and being the balance. I can’t do it.

My mind won’t stop, I feel like I can’t do it. I can’t do life, not this way, but I have to do it. I have to keep moving forward, my daughter needs me. I can’t lose my mind, but the noise won’t stop. I grab pen & paper and muddle out. “You can do it. Let the anger forge a path. You don’t have to keep doing it the same way. You don’t have to keep hurting. Change your story.”

I sit with my anger and she finally knows it’s safe to surface and fill the space we share.

I sit with my anger and she is allowed to express.

Instead of imagining what I could do but not acting on my ideations, because “I’m not that kind of person,” I free her. Anger grabs for whatever is within reach- soon the room is smashed. Shaving cream and shampoo and soap are thrown against walls, the trash can is knocked over, and, as if watching myself, I get out of the bath. I see photos hanging on hallway walls. Faces with false smiles look back at me- pain relived everyday in hopes of creating balance.

Pictures are burned. My story begins a new chapter.