About Me

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In this blog I have created a haven, a place I allow my deepest emotions to go and sit. I can write easily about what I’ve accomplished. This biography I can recite in my sleep. But I’ve always written poetry and in diaries since I was a teenager. I continued to write poetry in my journals, and not until 2006 did I show them to anyone. I generally write every day, at the present in memoir form. I haven’t written poetry since my mother died in January, 2007. I didn’t write at all between her death and the death of my father three years later in January, 2010. On my father’s birthday in March, 2010, I began this blog, to honor my father and to help me grieve. But I also desperately needed to write, and this stream of conscious style emerged. I needed to find my organic voice.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Quotes with power to help me see things clearer (annotated)

These are all quotes I've captured here and there--the ones that have spoken to me over the course of my father's illness and then his passing.  If you don't know me on Facebook, or where to find these quotes, I share them with you, and hope they inspire you. Peace.

“When it gets dark enough, you can see the stars.”
-Charles A. Beard

What I get from this quote is that I should not be afraid of the dark. There is mystery and wonder in it. I need to trust in the dark, that it is not a place a fear but a place of peace and beauty.

Perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.
-Rainer Maria Rilke
This says to me we must rise to the challenge and face it. The dragon in my life was my father's failing health. He needed me to be brave for him.  I hope my bravery made me beautiful in his eyes, but than can only be his call now, sadly.

I want to unfold,
I don't want to stay folded anywhere,
because where I am folded,
there I am a lie....
~ Rainer Maria Rilk

For many years, in and out of my life at home with my parents, I was folded. My parents desired a certain product from me, or so I thought. I stayed folded around them for many years. And I never felt comfortable or acceptable around them in this "folded" state.  When I "unfolded" during the year with my father, I found acceptance, love, and strength. I am glad I had the balls to do it. 

"In every life, no matter how full or empty one's purse, there is tragedy. It is the one promise life always fulfills. Thus, happiness is a gift, and the trick is not to expect it but to delight in it when it comes; and to add to other people's store of it.
What happens if, too early, we lose a parent, that party on whom we rely for only...everything? What did these people do when their families shrank?

They cried their tears.

But then they did the vital thing: they built a new family person by person. They came to see that family need not be defined merely as those with whom they share blood, but as those for whom they would give their blood."
~Nicholas Nickelby/Charles Dickens

I love this snapshot of Dickens' Nicholas Nickelby.  "They built a new family person by person." Inspiring, these words, but hard to do. Many of my friends shrank away when this  double tragedy (losing both my parents) happened. Not part of my new family.  Friends who were willing to take me as I was; empty, afraid, often crying. These are my new family.  I also keep in closer contact with my remaining family: sister, aunt and uncle. 
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in.
~Leonard Cohen

As a perfectionist, I gave myself shit for everything--I lived too far away from my father; I wasn't there enough for my father; I didn't advocate for him enough as he was dying; I tried to be the perfect daughter/companion for my father in this process. This Cohen quote says it so beautifully--the crack in something lets the light in.  What a beautiful concept. It took a lot of the pressure off, and allowed us to be ourselves as my dad and I got closer.

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.
~Louis L'Amour

I found this quote...I don't remember where, only that it spoke to me at a very deep level. Imagining there could be a beginning after the death of my father. This was very painful, but as I've gone through the grieving process, I understand better the comfort of this beautiful statement.

For here we are not afraid to follow the truth wherever it leads.
~ Thomas Jefferson

This was our motto, my dad's and mine, when we started on this journey, ultimately, to his death. Neither of us wanted to be placated, or told soft-versions of what was happening. The truth gave us the strength to follow it. We both found there was no use in deluding ourselves or pretending the journey's end was going to be something other than it was. 

"Absorbed in this world, you've made it your burden. Rise above this world. There is another vision. All your life you've paid attention to your experiences, but never to your Self. Are you searching for your Soul? Then come out of your prison. Leave the stream and join the river that flows into the Ocean. It will not lead you astray. Let the beauty you seek be what you do." - Rumi

This came to me while my father was still alive, but I've continued to read it after. At a certain point in my father's illness, in hospice at the hospital, he started seeing things we could not. Looking for things we could not know. We knew he was nearing the end, the prison of this malicious disease. At some point, early that morning, he "joined the river that flows into the ocean."


We both loved chocolate.

Being but men, we walked into the trees
Afraid, letting our syllables be soft
For fear of waking the rooks,
For fear of coming
Noiselessly into a world of wings and cries.
If we were children we might climb,
Catch the rooks sleeping, and break no twig,
And, after the soft ascent,
Thrust out our heads above the branches
To wonder at the unfailing stars.
Out of confusion, as the way is,
And the wonder, that man knows,
Out of the chaos would come bliss.
That, then, is loveliness, we said,
Children in wonder watching the stars,
Is the aim in the end.
Being but men, we walked into the trees.
~Dylan Thomas

This has very deep significance for me. The cycle of life, our awareness of life, and how, at the end, we become like children "in wonder watching the stars" as we leave this life. This comforted me enormously after my father died.

"Ever'thing there is but lovin' leaves a rust on yo' soul." ~Langston Hughes

There is stunning truth in Mr. Hughes' one line poem. Life is so fucking short. Shit doesn't matter. Love matters. Let the other stuff go. You don't have to storm the world. Love what you do. Have a good life.  Discard stuff and people that don't serve you. Find your crew. 
Do you have any quotes you want to share? I'd love to have them. <3

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Who am I now that my parents are gone?

Was I social before they died? Was it me breaking out of my shell at conservatory? When did it become alcohol-fueled social "skills"? I lost these "skills" and the false confidence once I stopped drinking. I am back to the awkward---well, wait--I have, now, what I refer to as the 'dog and pony show' for public consumption. It's not a masquerade at all. It's just me, as a caricature of myself, revved up and excited to teach the class, or meet parents, or ....whatever. What I don't know yet about myself in my personal social life is how to be normal. My normal. Am I shy? Am I asocial? Am I more of a listener than a talker?   When I drank I remember the feeling of great doors swinging open, releasing my social beast. I could talk about anything to anyone.  (What is in doubt is the quality of the conversation, my ability to listen, and then to remember.)

I don't get that feeling now; what I feel before a social event is a slight twisting of my stomach, and a fear that I wont' be able to get myself into a conversation. These years of death, and grief, have temporarily taken away my ability to find the right word for the thing I"m trying to talk about. I endlessly search for words. In my past life, I was loquacious, having a large and creative vocabulary that I used with ease. WHERE has it gone? Surely, my intelligence is not locked behind the bar.  But now, in conversation, I listen, see, watch, eyes, body language--research in a way--before I'd step into a conversation. I sometimes speak awkwardly, scramble for generically appropriate language to use in this particular company.  I have been known to stutter. I am very careful, I am on alert, and I am exhausted after what most people consider "down" time with their friends.

This kind of exhaustion happens at the end of the 'dog and pony show' too.

I want you to know that I am still struggling with the eating disorder, so I"m sure that contributes to the exhaustion happening at the end of every day.  But really, it's trying to figure who I really am that is wearing me out. My father would always tell me I was a little hard edged, brilliant, articulate, strong-willed, stubborn. And I became those things. My mother told me I should wear make up because "other people had to look at me." And so I did that, too. I literally tried to become the person each of my parents wanted. It is been evident I made it quite a distance on this presumption. I became an accomplished person, dressed myself attractively, and was considered by most a successful person.  Never the words "likeable" or "well-liked" part of those forming years. I liked to read, and so I was a loner. I was a singer in drama class, so I was artsy.  Labels swirled around me during my time at home, the place of my development . All through college, I thought I was remarkably together: focused, articulate, strong, brilliant (at times).  Through grad school, same deal, all the way through my doctorate. I was the person my parents raised me to be, although they weren't thrilled with the outcome that I'd used their language to develop myself in to a classical singer. Suddenly I became foreign to them, and I breathed life into that person.

As a professional, there are standards and practices that one learns along the way that helps in preparing for a career. One achieves those, and concerts start rolling in. Gigs roll in.  Always the late night dinner and drinking parties afterward. This is what I became, because my parents now expected it.

As a professor, I donned all that I should, hence the 'dog and pony show" was born. My personal social life roared, fueled by bottle after bottle of wine. My father noticed this and said something. I became very aware of it, (especially because my mother had died of alcoholism-related organ failure) and I stopped.

Once my father died, the depth of grief pulled me back from all of life except the necessary. For the first year, I tried to be the self my parents and I had created. It failed miserably because that, in concert with the daily 'dog and pony show' was wiping me out. Everything was automatic, which should be easier, but it was SO hard, because my grief was so deep.

I became a hermit outside of the classroom. I could keep the 'dog and pony show' going if I did nothing else with people. Socializing was work, I had trapped myself in a cave of grief, and I had nothing to contribute to conversations around the table. And I didn't plan to drink again, so all those things committed me to my house, evenings and weekends. Luckily I had a great deal of work to do in the evenings, so this was not a sacrifice, but Friday-Sunday, I spent in the safe-zone of my house.

This does not sound like the brave strong woman I was created to be. This is not the woman who understood that make up was for other people (have) to look at you. This was not the outlandish life of the party who, at 35, was drinking and puking like a college kid. Where was I if not manifested in these pre-ordained roles?

Since my mother died (2007) I have shed a lot of the negative talk she used to give me about myself. I wear make up, daily, because I like to. It's fun and creative. And frankly, I think I look better with it than without it. But I do think there's an inner attractiveness to me that doesn't need make up.

When my father died (2010) it was clear I was strong enough to handle what needed to be done as he lay dying in the hospital. But my heart was breaking, and becoming weaker by the day. The only strength I had left was a push from the Universe and when that ran out, I landed in a cottage down in Florida to rest (March 2010). It was then I started to wonder: who am I without my parents? If I were to create myself, what would I be like? Where is my organic self? It is the organic self that I want to become.

Searching for this has been challenging with so much grief still, and my enormous teaching load.

I can say this, today: I am learning that I am a bit shy with people I don't know; I will choose not to engage someone I do not like; I am effusive with my peeps, and easy going. I am my organic self with M and T and H, and my husband. I see and feel it. I am not really laid back, but I'm very happy to listen to people; I reach a point and my time with people is done. I recharge alone. I used to think I recharged by being around people, like my husband. And I am socially awkward--slightly--without alcohol smoothing the way.

My parents, I don't think they ever considered what the impacts of their deaths would have on me. I can't speak for my sister. I don't blame them for never thinking about this. Although I have elements of my parents' desires for me, I have, since their deaths, found some of my own. There are growing pains involved, and awkward conversations, and some stammering, and often in class I will not be able to find the right words for something I'm trying to say.  I have a little "absent-minded professor" in me.
But I am strong, beautiful. I can be funny, especially when I'm around people with whom I'm comfortable. I don't like social scenes like bars--they tire me out; I'd rather be home early, in my loungewear, petting the cats, watching television or reading. I also believe I am an "acquired taste" type of personality.

Still working on the rest of it.