“I have begun to think,” he wrote in a late letter,
“that one cannot help others at all.” This
from a man who once called friendship the highest
virtue. And in another he wrote: “Will I ever
attain the end for which I have striven so long?”
His greatest aspiration was certainty
yet his doubts made him blame himself wrongly,
perceiving each painting a disaster. These swings
between boldness and mistrust, intimacy and isolation
led him to stay at home, keep himself concealed,
becoming a sort of hermit, whose passion for the world
directed every brushstroke, changed each creation
into an expression of tenderness, which he dismissed
writing: “a vague sense of apprehension persists.”
It is quiet. It is a place where
the grass sleeps and I have come to it.
When it wakes, my clocks will turn twice
and discover the necessity of stopping.
Buses pass such places. Their passengers
are mostly asleep. One light in the back
and a man who has read that mystery before.
Who calls to the deaf? To cross water,
to learn knowledge of fire, I shall
move myself backwards. A crab has always
forgotten something and dies in pursuit.
Awake and moving, I know of houses where
my pockets have emptied themselves of essentials.
Backwards, I shall find them. There is
too much shouting in a forward direction.
There is no analogy in sleep. The man
reading does not experience the road,
has forgotten his family. To discover
the fence posts, then to reach the gate.
Awakened, the grass shifts, twisting
within itself, as I do, scurrying. The teeth
of some dragons are very small. Plant them
carefully. Water and watch the ground.
“All that we do Is touched with ocean, yet we remain On the shore of what we know.” ~ Richard Wilbur, from “For Dudley”
Saturday afternoon. Storms.
So where was I? Oh yes, I left you on July 6 at the point at which Alexis was ready to push . . .
So she pushed and pushed and pushed, for two hours, but the baby’s head was facing up and turned at an angle. I guess she was looking around, but as a result, the pushing didn’t achieve very much. The nurse said to Alexis, “I’m going to step out for a moment and talk to the doctor,” and that’s when I knew . . .
Within five minutes, the room went from quiet, with just Alexis, Mike, the nurse, and me, to a room filled with people: the ob, a couple of nurses, a pediatrician, the anesthesiologist. People were breaking down things and setting up things, and the doctor told Alexis that she was going to have a c-section. She got a bit weepy, which made Mike nervous, and I was told that everything had to be packed to move to another room.Mike was suited up in sterile scrubs, and a nurse and I moved all of Alexis’s stuff (she’s a bag lady, like her mother) to another room. My mother went home, as I told her that it would be a few hours, and it was already going on 9 p.m. I promised to call her. Corey and I waited in the room, and I tried very hard not to panic.
About half past ten Mike walked into the room and said that we could go to the nursery. I think that I finally took a deep breath at that point.
“Perhaps creating something is nothing but an act of profound remembrance.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Poet’s Guide to Life, (trans. Ulrich Baer)
So Miss Olivia was born via c-section, and we were able to see her brand new, in all of her tiny, glorious wonder. Mike was more emotional than I had ever seen him, and Corey was pretty awe-struck himself. And me? I officially became MiMi at 10:11 p.m. on July 6, one day before Alexis’s 28th birthday.
They brought Alexis into the room around 11 p.m., and we started sending out text messages and texts to let everyone know about her arrival and that mother and daughter were healthy. I slept at the hospital that first night with Alexis and Olivia, and it was truly surreal—being with my first baby and her first baby.Alexis was in the hospital until Monday evening, and I’ve spent the last week at her apartment during the day, trying to help her adjust and taking care of both of them.
There have been more than a few teary breakdowns, the normal insecurities, the feelings of inadequacy. Breastfeeding wasn’t working, so Olivia is being bottle-fed. Again, causing feelings of failure, which the pediatrician (one from the same practice that all of my children went to) helped tremendously in helping to alleviate by sharing her own problems with breastfeeding. I have tried to reassure Lex by pointing out a few things that others told me along the way: A c-section is major surgery, and the body needs time to heal; I’ve done this four times, so I have a bit more experience, which only means that time is a great teacher.
“How right that the body changed over time, becoming a gallery of scars, a canvas of experience, a testament to life and one’s capacity to endure it.” ~ Janet Fitch
Let’s see, family reactions: My mother is more than a little tickled (she showed up at the hospital on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.). Eamonn is telling anyone who will listen that he has a niece and that he’s an uncle. Brett is afraid to hold Olivia as he thinks that she’s breakable, a feeling he shares with Mike who finds even burping to be a bit overwhelming as he’s afraid of patting too hard. My s-in-law has been great in taking care of the puppy for the past week, which alleviates the need for Lex to go up and down the stairs all day to take out the puppy.
Corey is enamored, but I can tell that it’s a bittersweet love as I watch him look at her fingers and her nose and her hair. Wistful, is probably the best word, and I try not to think about it too much.A steady stream of Lex’s friends and family have stopped by, sometimes all at once, which causes her to become anxious, totally understandable. Corey’s parents have had to postpone their visit until November, so we are keeping them updated as much as possible.
So we are all adjusting in our individual ways. Truthfully? I’m exhausted and kind of enjoying having today to myself to get caught up here. Each day this past week I have tried to spend fewer hours at the apartment so that there is less dependency on Lex’s part. This coming week, I’m only going in the afternoon while Brett is in class.
So that’s the latest news regarding our family’s latest addition.
I must admit to feeling a bit like I’m walking through water—I am filled with a joy I haven’t felt in years and years, yet at the same time, I am feeling a keen sense of loss and more than a bit of bittersweet longing. These are things that I cannot say to anyone but Corey, and you, of course.When I hold Olivia, my mind is taken back to the days of holding my own babies as they were new in this world. I remember things so keenly that had been long forgotten, and the remembering is too sweet. But then I am brought back to the present, and it is an unfamiliar time in which I find myself: I have passed on the birthing of new babes to the next generation, and now I must face the hard fact that I will never bear another baby, that I will never give Corey that child for which he longs.
And that I feel these things makes me ashamed, because should I not be able to see only the joy? Why must I always remember Caitlin? That Alexis gave her daughter Caitlin’s name means more than I can ever, ever express: It is a carrying on, a continuum. And it is double-edged: sweet and painful. But I suppose that is how it will always be with me, no matter what, sweet and painful.
“Again and again, I try to put down a few words. As day and sky dissolve in sheets of gray, the sea repeats your name to the desireless sand.” ~ Stephen Dobyns, from “Letter Beginning with the First Line of Your Letter”
You are probably thinking that I should be more grateful, after all, everyone is healthy, and I am, grateful, that is. I am so, so grateful, and I am so, so melancholy.
Perhaps it’s the end of a very long seven, no eight days, and my psyche has been through extreme highs and lows. And after all, it’s not my hormones that have been thrown into shock, but there is something . . . something ephemeral, just beyond my grasp, something that I cannot quite name, and I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it’s the coming down after rolling along on an adrenaline high for so long. Perhaps it’s coming face-to-face with the essence of life, the cyclical nature of our existence.I really couldn’t tell you.
I am a flawed individual, just like the rest of you, but I tend to focus too keenly on my flaws, to the detriment of anything positive. That I am aware of this does not make me any less perplexed. Awareness of a thing does not necessitate understanding of said thing.
“Those who fear the border do not know they are walking on the sea.” ~ Luis Benitez, from “The Pearl Fisherman”
Recently I ran across that ontological query: If you could take a pill that would instantly cure you, would you take it? (Or more precisely: If your mental illness could be cured by one pill, would you take it?)
Years ago I resisted Prozac because it made me feel nothing. Some of you might think that my medication is not working for me because I still have these highs and lows. I can only tell you that they are nothing compared to the pendulum that used to be my extreme emotional swings. But this is the cold, hard truth: If I did not have lows, then neither would I have highs, and living in the middle is not living for me.
I am, as someone once said, stitched together by my flaws. All that makes me who and what I am comes from my angels and my demons, from my hellish nights and my placid days. That I can feel both great joy and great sadness simultaneously only tells me that I can feel. That I know that this is not normal, only reassures me that at least I know myself, that I am not deluded enough to believe that I can be like everyone else.
I don’t know how I got onto this philosophical bent. Perhaps it would have been better saved for another post, but I have not written in a week, and all of this was churning around inside me.
I’m going to cheat a bit today, what with the longer post and everything, I’m including a shorter poem here because it just really, really fits how I’m feeling:
I am the wind.
The sea and moon?
I am the sea and moon.
Tears, pain, love, bird-flights?
I am all of them.
I dance what I am.
Sin, prayer, flight
the light that never was on land or sea?
I dance what I am.
~ Carl Sandburg
More later. Peace.
By the way, if you haven’t already checked it out, today’s Google celebrates Klimt with “The Kiss” (thinking of you, Maureen).
Music by All Thieves, “Turn and Turn Again”
The House of Belonging
in the gold light
turning this way
it was one
like any other.
the veil had gone
it must have been the quiet
that filled my room,
it must have been
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,
it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.
this is the good day
meet your love,
this is the black day
to you could die.
This is the day
how easily the thread
between this world
and the next
and I found myself
in the quiet pathway
close grained cedar
me like fire
and all the angels of this housely
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.
This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.
This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.