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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

How Our Senses Bring Life To Our Past

Memory is a funny thing. So often it eludes us. "What was her name?" "What street is that on?" "Who sings that song?" Little pieces of information float around in our heads. How convenient would it be if everything was filed away and easily accessible? But so often we find ourselves in the middle of a conversation and forgetting our point. Or walking into a room and wondering why we went into it in the first place.

Yet, a song, a smell, a situation can throw you back in time and sit you right back into that place. My mom used to wear Ciara perfume. Everyday. I hardly stumble on it anymore, but when I do, it's as if she's standing beside me. Music has the same power to be a time machine. If Madonna's "Like A Prayer" ever comes on the radio, it's 1989 and I'm driving down the road with my best friend, Kathleen, singing at the top of our lungs. I'm back in that moment if only for a few seconds.

Last Sunday, only one month after placing my Mom to rest, I attended the funeral of a woman I'd never met. But she was the sister of someone I admire and care for deeply. Attending the services was a vastly different experience. My Mom's was a video tribute to her life followed by a Christian minister's words. The other service involved a Rabbi describing an amazing life, accented by the beautiful, soulful song of a cantor. Sitting in the moment of celebrating this life yanked me back to just a few weeks ago when I said good-bye to my own Mom. The emotions that surfaced were visceral.

We often try to push through tough experiences. It's a survival instinct. But when we do, we create memories that are warped. We push our emotions down and vow to deal with them later. In doing so, we end up forever changing the lens through which we see certain things. Our memories dilute or amplify depending on the circumstance. Subjective and molded by the emotions we refused to confront.

When I think of my Mom's death, I want to create in my mind memories that preceded illness. I want to remember holding her hand as we walked into the bread shop. Her kissing me goodnight. The aroma of chocolate chip cookies and her perfume.

What's so wonderful about the sensory nature of memory is that even though she's gone, simple things bring her back. Right next to me.


Monday, September 9, 2013

When Your Children Pull Your Focus Outward Instead of Inward

I've written before that ideas are like butterflies. They flitter around and hopefully land on you. When they do, you must watch them carefully and focus on their beauty. Soaking it in. Because within seconds, they're gone.

People I know who write speak of a muse. That illusive thing that taps you on the shoulder and makes you look one way, then forces you to look another. That causes you to pause and reconsider your orientation. How you sit in this world and your focus.

Last night, I wanted to write about a Zac Brown lyric I'd heard. But my beautiful, nine-year-old ADHD son wanted me to listen to quotes from the movie he was watching. Just as the wave of a thought washed over me, he'd scream, "Mom, listen to this." And the thought was gone. The muse an apparition.

I'm not upset about this. My thoughts are my thoughts. Ever-changing and subject to the influx of information and influence. While my sweet baby boy, and his words, need to be embraced in their innocence and honesty.

So I sat down to expound upon a country lyric, but am instead relishing in the interruption that is the beauty of my son's love and life. The thoughts that flitter like butterflies will always be there. Looking for a landing place. But my children's need for my attention will not.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Being Bigger and Better Requires Being Open

Recently, Ty and I watched "The Life of Pi." A young boy traveling on a ship from India to California watches the ship go down with his family. The sole human survivor, he floats on a lifeboat for almost a year with a tiger named Richard Parker. Being in such a small space, he learns how to survive and navigate the seas while dealing with a Bengal tiger occupying his space. Only a few days into his journey, he finds a survival kit that includes life vests. He abandons the boat and creates a homemade float with the vests. He is terrified to co-exist with the tiger he believes will kill him. Bobbing in the sea, he looks to the sky and prays, "God, I am your vessel. Whatever comes, I want to know. Show me."

This scene caused me to think of two things: loneliness and connection. Loneliness because in our most painful moments, it feels as if we're hanging onto the tip of a mast. Simply trying to survive. Connection to something bigger than ourselves.

Sometimes, when I write stuff, people tell me they like it. That it touches them. Oftentimes, when they do this, I look back at what they're referring to and almost always, the words I've written don't seem like my own. The emotions, experiences, and things that resonate in my words are only a breath. I exhale and words appear on my computer screen.

I write this only to say that the words that end up on my computer and in my poems and books aren't my own. I'm just a vessel. Fingers that allow something from somewhere to appear. I'm a 42-year-old suburban Mom who spends her days driving kids around and making sure homework is done. Yes, I've experienced loss. Experienced life. But at the end of the day, I'm just a vessel. A vessel of love for my kids. A vessel of support for my honey who works incredibly hard. A vessel from wherever for the words that find their way into my fingertips.

We're all vessels. We all have the ability to open ourselves up to the possibility of showing someone something they haven't thought of before. We all have that thing within us that lets us be bigger than ourselves and show someone else how big they can be. How big we can be.