Feeding the Feminine

It might be that I simply dreamed about an almost-dead cat. But I’d like to think it was something more: A sign that I am starting to feed the feminine, magical side of my psyche.

Two nights ago I had a dream that I came home to discover a long-forgotten cat. I found her lying on the floor and I was aghast. Yes, that’s right, I did have a cat didn’t I. I had left for a while but I was back, and I was scared she was dead.

She slowly stirred. She’d survived without food or water for some time. She was barely holding on—but she was alive.

I began to pour food kibbles onto her, literally blanketing her with food (definitely more than she needed). Slowly she began to eat. I knew she would be OK.

Whoa, right?! 

Sure, it could be I had too many nachos the night before. (Actually, I definitely had too many nachos.)

OR it could be that my psyche is telling me something.

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Bastet. Image Source.

Google informs me that the feline has long been revered as a symbol of the feminine, of mystery and magic. The Egyptian Goddess Bastet took the form of a cat. Cats often symbolize the ability to see in the dark, and the parts of our nature that are curious and independent.

This would not be the first time I’d had a deeply symbolic dream. And heck, I’d been deep in the muck the last six months, but I’d begun to emerge from it all and writing has been a big part of that shift.

Could it be that this dream was reminding me how I’d nearly forgotten to feed the feminine, magical mystical side of myself? That it was without food or water for some time?

But wow, am I feeding her now. 

 

 

In praise of the ordinary

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Image source.

The three-year-old who wants a ganilla (granola) bar, and as she eats it, occasionally walks over to silently spit the almonds into my hand.

The now-cold coffee, abandoned after chasing around the three-year-old who is spraying water into the air with glee.

The mail, the coupons, the unread newspaper. The unwashed clothes. The dogs whose nails need to be trimmed. The sweet crowing of a bird out back.

These moments that are so ordinary. You can almost miss them. Sometimes I am bored in them, sometimes I want to hurry them.

Today, I am choosing to sit with my cold coffee and smile.

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Bird Songs

This was a morning I did not want to get out of bed. Not even to write. Not even to stick my nose in the can of Cafe Bustelo! (That is highly, highly unusual.)

I eventually got out of bed. I had to—the little girl needed to get dressed and fed and cajoled into getting her mop of curls combed.

I have reason for not wanting to face the day. My sister has a hard day ahead with a medical procedure. A lot of unknowns. Unknowns are the worst, the worst! I’m anxious and worried and fretting and pretty pissed off that there is nothing I can do to make it all go away.  As much as I wanted to remained curled in a ball, hiding under the blankets, I faced the day. I got up, dressed and readied the child for daycare, made the coffee, and sat down to say a prayer for my sister.

I felt a little better.

Then I sat down and did a bit of work. (I work from home. The commute is from the coffee pot to the office desk.) Well, I realized I could not continue on with this hard day without writing for at least a bit. So, off the clock I am, writing.  My heart is in ‘Cago (what my kiddo calls “chicago. She’s cute, huh?)

 

morning in South Florida

So here I am. As soon as I sat in front of my computer a bird began a beautiful song. It lured me onto the back lanai, and I hoped I could get a look at creature. Well, it stopped.  Bashful, I guess.

I don’t know what bird sings this song. My bird identification app was no help. (Yes I have a bird identification app. No I am not secretly an aged retiree living in Florida.)

None of my usual feathered friends have a song quite like this one. It was really quite lovely. It lifted my heart and for that I am glad. It made me step outside and breathe in the fresh, damp Florida air. My sliding door to the outside is now ajar, and the noises of animals and creatures puttering about is filling my space.

I will face the day, outside of the bed. Heart in ‘Cago. Keeping an eye and ear out for that bird.

UPDATE: everything went really well for my sister. Phew. Very much relieved. 

Yellow Butterflies

Where do I start?

Do I start with the yellow butterflies that appeared before my mom’s death and have visited me ever since? Always yellow, popping up and following me on walks, outside windows and even on highways as I speed by.

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Image source. Creative Commons license.

Do I start with the visit to the stinking, rotting beach where I realized I needed to write in order to heal?

Or do I start in a traditional place—therapy—which gave me space to talk and grieve.

Or the acupuncture that released the months, years, decades of grief, slowly returning life force to my fingers and toes?

I know where one chapter of this healing ends. It ends with surrender to pain (always through writing) and a mother who continues to parent from beyond the veil.

All along, a sister. How do I explain her role in all of this? This story is as much hers as mine.  

 

Hello From the Other Side

I have a confession: I didn’t fully believe my mourning birds.

I’m talking about the birds behind this blog. The birds that came to me and were like, hey, Poppins! HELLO.

HELLOgiphy

And I was like, Hi?

And they were like, We are your blog’s omen. (Who knew blogs had omens.)

So, I looked it up. Mourning doves represent: MOTHERHOOD, LOVE, AND HOPE AFTER LOSS.

Lovely, right? This is the catch. I DIDN’T FULLY BELIEVE THIS OMEN. I was grieving. I was like, hi, you and your “hope and change” makes for a nice slogan my feathered friends. But I am not with you. Not yet.

I was like, They say that time’s supposed to heal ya, but I aint’ done much healing…

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Ok I promise, no more Adele lyrics.

Back to those birds: hope, love, blah blah blah. It still felt so far away.

That is, until recently. I’ve had nothing short of a huge shift. A release of grief. A changing of the season of my heart.

I realized yesterday that I have only been writing this blog since November.  I’ve only been writing for four months but it seems like it must be longer because so much has shifted in that time.

I know that the writing played a role in that shift. It helped me to transmute this pain, to take the heavy stuff and perform creative alchemy.

I had a hunch about something and I checked: it turns out that there are more blog posts tagged with love and hope than are tagged with grief. Even in the midst of that pain I was feeling the love.

There is so much I want to share with the dozen of you lovely humans who read my blog. I’ve started drafting some posts about the healing process. Some of it is pretty intense and to be honest, downright spiritual. I will share soon.

But in the meantime, it feels really good to say…

….HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIDE!

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(I know, I promised…I just couldn’t resist. What can I san, it’s quite possible that Adele is also my spirit animal.)

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Navigating the Holidays After Loss

It has taken three Christmases, two Easters and numerous birthdays and anniversaries since my mom passed away, but I think I finally found that elusive HOLIDAY SWEET SPOT, that place where I am able to incorporate memories of my mom into a holiday celebration without repeating the Great Christmas Eve Meltdown of 2015.

(That holiday ended with Chinese take-out. Nope, most definitely not the original menu plan.)

Until now, most holidays have played out something like this:

  1. I must remember ALL THE RECIPES my mom made for [insert holiday] and recreate them! OMIGOD THIS IS GOING TO BE AMAZING.
  2. Holy cow, I have a lot of shopping to do. Must make list.
  3. I finally made my list, awesome. No time to buy all this today but that is ok. I made the list!
  4. PHEW, I FINALLY GOT ALL THE INGREDIENTS. <collapses.>
  5. Crap, I have to make how many different recipes? (Counts in head…yep, nearly half a dozen.)
  6. I am so sad. Ugh, I can’t stand anticipatory grief. Grief just from thinking about how the grief is coming, how unfair is that. [Insert holiday] is not the same without mom. This sucks.
  7. You mean making all these recipes won’t magically bring my mom back/make grief less hard/capture all the magic of all the years of my life?? SCREW THIS!
  8. I bought all the stuff. Must make at least one dish. I’ll choose the one containing chocolate, butterscotch, sugar and corn syrup. (<—Note: ACTUAL ingredients in one of my mom’s recipes. Amazingly, she did not die of diabetes.)
  9. I ate too many of the desserts containing corn syrup. I feel like crap. This is nothing like the way mom did [insert holiday]. I am going to weep into my sugary dessert.
  10. Holidays are the WORST. Must not do this to myself again.

Yeah, as you can see I definitely make sure to always manage expectations and be gentle with myself during the holiday season.

Oh boy.

Easter just rolled around and I was determined to chill the heck out. This was a good holiday to practice on because it doesn’t hold the heavy expectations of Christmas, and if all fails, well, chocolate.

Want to hear my brilliant plan? I decided I was going to make only ONE of my mom’s recipes.

That’s it. I don’t want to give away the punch line or anything, but guess what: that’s the sweet spot.

I know: MIND BLOWN.

Let me walk you through what this looked like:

  1. I am only picking ONE recipe. ONE. Which one contains the most butter and carbs? BINGO: cheesy potatoes it is.
  2. Must buy ingredients. Awesome, I only need to pick up a few things, including corn flakes. (Every great family recipe contains corn flakes.)
  3. Time to cook. Only one ingredient requires more than opening and pouring a container!  (Must chop an onion. Look at me, I’m crying, but not from grief!)
  4. Not to brag or anything but I am basically rocking this. Yep, just throwing this dish together at 8am on Easter, but in a laid back way, not a frantic “must-find-way-to-honor-my-dead-mother” sort of way.
  5. Why, this is so easy even a child can do it!  Just had the three-year-old help by stirring ingredients for a full ten seconds. Memory-making complete.
  6. Dish prepped and in the fridge. I can relax now? This is weird. Very, very weird.
memory-making, 30 seconds at a time. (Toddler clothing is optional.)

That was it. I mean, yes, I had to open the oven door and insert delicious cheesy potato goodness into the oven, and then remove it an hour later, but really that was it. 

That. Was. It. 

This less-stress, more joy approach seems to be much better than setting ridiculous expectations and crumpling into a grief pile when it all fails.

It seems that when you honor your loved one in simple ways—and leave enough space to enjoy the honor—you might even end up having a magical moment.

At dinner, when I bit into my potatoes I felt so much love…my heart was flooded with memories of my mom and this recipe that donned so many holiday tables. It was beautiful.

(Sure, it doesn’t hurt that the recipe is also hits all the pleasure points–butter! carbs! sour cream! cheese! But I digress.)

check out these potatoes. I should be a food blogger with recipes as awesome as this.

This, my friends, is progress. I am hoping for a repeat performance with Mother’s Day. And hopefully I will have fully honed the technique by the time Christmas rolls around.

Pick one dish. Keep it simple. Feel the love. 

Cheesy potatoes for the win.
 

 

For the Love of Family

I am most definitely emerging from THE GREAT FUNK OF 2016. (Unfortunately not a throwback ’70s band but a very sad and grief-y series of months.)

Making it through to the other side? Oh it feels so good.

When I was deep in the muck I drafted a post about family. How awesome it is and how I couldn’t get through hard stuff without it and omigod can someone please pass me some Kleenex?

Yeah I wasn’t quite ready to write that post. Too emotional. Too much love.

So here I am, back to finish what I started.

Family. THEY ARE THE BEST.

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Where is this chocolate you speak of? Photo source (creative commons license).

So far, no need for tissues. I will continue. 

Recently my brother-in-law, his wife and their adorable two-year-old came to stay with us for almost two weeks. This long-ago planned visit happened to coincide within days of me finding out I was miscarrying.

To quote my sister, the visit was going to be either really good for me or really disastrous. (Love my sister, she tells it like it is.)

Know what? It was really, really good. The polar opposite of disastrous.

They were awesome and totally in-tune to the situation, offering to give space and distance and I’m sure chocolate if I had asked nicely.

The funny thing is, even though I usually burrow deep into the ground during hard times, I didn’t want space or privacy this time around. I wanted family 24-7 to love and embrace me. They did and it was nothing short of wonderful.

During their visit, our kids played together and fought over toys and chased each other with balloons. Meanwhile us adults lounged around and caught up on each others’ lives. We shared meals, tucked our kids into bed and watched Community and Six Feet Under. We talked about the hard stuff. The challenges of parenting, marriage, and yes, even conceiving a second child.

For many years, burrowing worked well-enough when the goal was to shut out further pain. Unfortunately the same door that shuts out the pain also shuts out a lot of people who would have been more than willing to help me through the hard times.

It feels good to be up here in the sunshine, with family.

Plus, I hear they keep the chocolate up here.

 

 

Signs of Spring

It is spring in Southern Florida. You have to look closely (it is easy to miss the subtle signs among the constant sunshine and blue skies) but it is here.

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Magical little dragonfly. Kind of weird and cool at the same time. Image source.

 

On a walk yesterday I noticed what appeared to be baby dragon flies. Have you ever seen such a thing? At first I didn’t even know what I was looking at. Were they flies? Were they butterflies? They seemed like something out of a fairy tale. One little booger landed on my hand! She had bright red wings. Magical.

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Flowering bougainvillea. image source.

As I walked further I suddenly noticed tons of
flowering bougainvillea that
seemed to appear out of nowhere. Overnight entire branches were now full of the bright pink blossoms.

And the baby anoles! They are the lizards you see everywhere in Florida. I noticed they were absent from our yard for a bit. Weird. And then in the last week or two tons of the little guys started to appear once again, darting around, climbing the lanai screen and scurrying under foliage.

I am heartily embracing these signs of spring. It may not be daffodils and forsythia (gosh I miss forsythia) but I’ll take it.

If you have read any of my recent posts you might have caught on to the fact that things have been a wee bit heavy in my life as of late. (Understatement?) I recently wrote about how it felt like I’ve been stuck in the winter season.

Since writing that post, a heaviness has lifted. I am pretty sure the writing itself had something to do with it. It never ceases to astound me how the simple (and yet so difficult) act of witnessing and acknowledging our pain is enough to make it go POUF. Even when it is heavy and dense and feels like it stretches back a thousand lifetimes. Doesn’t matter. Poof.

Crazy isn’t it?

I am fairly new to Florida and I’m still trying to figure out what the seasons exactly are (other than rainy…and non-rainy) but I will tell you: It feels like spring.
 

 

 

Surrendering to the Season of my Heart

I’m currently reading this little gem of a book called Anam Cara by John O’Donohue. It’s a compilation of Celtic wisdom on the themes of friendship, solitude, love, and death.

One passage in particular really resonated with me. O’Donohue describes the Celts’ wonderful intuition for life; how they respect the circle of the seasons and understand that the rhythms in nature are also active in our own hearts.  How there is wisdom in surrendering to whatever season we find ourselves in.

I can definitely relate to finding myself in a season of the heart: without a doubt it feels as though I have been stuck in winter for some time. The last three years have largely been dominated by pain and loss. My mom passed away the day that my daughter turned eight months old. Her death unearthed a well of grief much deeper than I could have anticipated. (I write about this experience a bit in another post.)

I have no doubt that releasing this grief has healed me in ways I could never have expected, and I’m certainly grateful for the fruits of the painful passage. That being said, I’m more than ready to move on to the next season of my heart.

In January when I found out I was pregnant, I was elated. In an amazing twist of fate, my due date was the date of my mother’s passing. How beautiful, I thought. New life literally springing forth after a season of loss.

But then I miscarried. It is an understatement to say that I was devastated.

I thought, really universe, more grief and loss? I have tired of this landscape. I know my husband is beyond tired of this landscape. The whole experience has rattled me and made me question whether I can trust that “this too will pass.” What is next, I bitterly ask.

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CC license, photo courtesy of Pexels.

O’Donohue reminds us that nobody is immune from bleak times. He urges—be “exceedingly gentle with yourself.”  In Anam Cara, he describes the image of a field of corn in autumn:

When the wind catches the corn, it does not stand stiff and direct against the force of the wind; were it to do this, the wind would rip it sunder. No, the corn weaves with the wind, it bends low. And when the wind is gone, it weaves back and finds its own poise and balance again. (passage from Anam Cara by John O’Donohue.)

I may not like that I still find myself in winter, but for now I will do my best to surrender to it. When I am impatient, I will remind myself that ultimately it is a season. Seasons cannot be fought or battled, but simply weathered. Seasons are not personal. Yes, it may require bending and weaving with the wind for a bit, but the wind will eventually stop, and balance will return again.

Plus, after winter comes spring. I will hold onto the faith that sometime soon, when the time is right, the ag borradh will appear: the Gaelic term for “quivering life to break forth.”

You may also enjoy An Ocean of Tears Larger than the Four Oceans.

 

 

Five Things Nobody Tells You About Miscarriage

I know what you are thinking: a listicle about miscarriage?  Yes. Because if you are going to write a dark humor piece on miscarriage, it pretty much demands a listicle format.

One in three pregnancies folks. And nobody talks about it. Ready for some truth-telling?

Quick disclaimer: I ended up not having a medical intervention so my experience might be a little different than those who do have a procedure.  You may now continue with the saddest post ever.

  1. You will suddenly be Chubby McChubbykins and have no clothes to wear and hell no you aren’t putting on those maternity pants.
  2. Whee, it is fun to shop at Target while having a miscarriage! Photo from Target.com

    You will literally be walking around Target while having a miscarriage. It turns out that if you don’t have a medical procedure you will instead experience the world’s longest, saddest period. Expelling the products of conception is process, not a single event. So, you will find yourself in Target, trying to determine the cheapest paper towels that retain that handy perforation feature, and it will hit you: Hello fellow shoppers, I am standing in Target while having a miscarriage. You might shed some tears. Let’s hope the lady next to you thinks you are just really torn-up over these paper towel prices. (See what I did there?)

  3. You have to take a freaking pregnancy test. To confirm that you are no longer pregnant. AS IF YOU DON’T ALREADY KNOW. This is officially the worst pregnancy test you have ever taken.
  4. You can’t have sex for a while because you have to make sure your cervix is freaking closed. Trust me, this won’t be a problem. You won’t be ready for a trip to funky town for a while. Your body physiologically is like, whoa, what just happened. I was pregnant, now I’m not pregnant. I can’t keep up. In the meantime, I’ll just sit over here and knit while watching some funny cat videos. (Note: I did not actually knit while watching cat videos. But now that I write this, it sounds rather pleasant to my non-sexy-time self.)
  5. Your spouse will be ready for a trip to funky town way before you are. This one wrote itself, didn’t it?

For you mother-warriors who have experienced miscarriage, anything else you would add to the list?

(And to answer my husband’s question, no, my next post will not be “The five things nobody tells you about Genocide!” I’m pretty sure Buzzfeed already published that one.)