Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Into the Light

March 31, 2008
“Into the Light”
It is March 31, 2008 and I am very, very happy to report that I have risen from the quicksand of sadness and stand now on the edge of that pit with light on my face. The victorious smile I wear, I realize, has little to do with me but everything to do with the many people who came to my aid. I smile to show my gratitude, which is great.
I thought, like Jaguar Paw, I would have to conjure every ounce of strength I possessed to pull myself dramatically out of my sorrow. I was mistaken. I barely had to lift a finger and I’ve learned an incredible lesson as a result. In exposing myself, in opening myself up completely to you, in presenting to you my darkest corners in the most honest and humble way I could, the most extraordinary thing happened. I began to relax. I began to surrender not in a defeatist sort of way but in an “arms wide open, mind wide open, come what may” sort of way. I found help in most surprising of places and in the most surprising ways.

My sister Sue called me that day after she received my email. She wanted to make sure I was ok. Hearing her voice was soothing and brought me back to the innocence and wonder of my own childhood. I sat recollecting my playful world of New England and it was so healing. Sue asked me how I would lift myself up and out and at the time I thought it was ‘I’ that was going to achieve that, so I responded, “By peeling back some layers and simplifying my life even more.” She asked immediately, “How are you going to do that?” “I haven’t the foggiest idea!” I told her as I laughed. Simplify. Oh, it sounds so good and resonates so nicely but how does one actually do it? I’m sure for everyone there are a myriad of ways but this is what I did.

First, I had to accept once again that I’m a first class procrastinator. In this case, I wasn’t neglecting bills, or some report or letter, or the many mundane chores of running a household. Instead, I was procrastinating getting to the bottom of my despair. I knew I needed to get beyond the bottom of it and actually get underneath it in order to begin pushing it up and out of my being. This was going to be messy and I was dreading it. But like most proficient procrastinators I ignored the process long enough until a pinnacle was reached. That pinnacle or place is where one finds oneself unable to escape the obvious by doing other things. There is a force here that cannot be denied that acts like the ultimate motivator. I call it ‘the fuck-it factor’ or more gently put “the F-it factor”. I find myself grumbling as opposed to actually saying, “Oh, fuck-it, I’ll just do it!” It’s like being able to give myself a swift kick in the ass to get me going. It may sound abrasive and it is but it helps. So, I began.

The first layer I peeled away was darkness itself so I could reveal its counterparts, which are light, joy and laughter. I knew I needed these in abundance. The cliché “laughter is the best medicine” gagged me when I thought of it but pissed me off even more to realize its truthfulness. Darn it! I needed to find some humor and I needed to start laughing again. I fired off an email to my friend Dan telling him I needed to hear from him and specifically needed some jokes. He did not fail me and I found myself escaping into laughter. It was indeed very healing and I was ready to accept it. I realized that analyzing the darkness wasn’t what I needed to do. I have my reasons to be sad and I’m certain that I’ll revisit them repeatedly, so staring at them noticing all the detail wasn’t going to assist me in this moment. I needed to engage in things that were in direct opposition to what was making me sad and this was a little challenging because I had become somewhat stuck. Laughter lightened and loosened me up just right.

The next thing I did was read and reread several emails I had received. They were so powerful, full of tenderness and care. People reaching out to me not to lend a hand necessarily but to say very clearly, “I’m here!” It was so helpful and before I knew it, I was lighter and the force pulling me down was lessened.

I began thinking about the word “simplify” and how I could better apply that. I thought about simple food we could eat. I thought about simple maintenance in the house that would keep things tidy and reasonably organized. I thought about simple activities for the kids that would be fun and fill my ears with laughter. I began thinking about all the simple little things that make me truly, sincerely, deeply happy. I realized that one of them is music. I remembered a conversation I had with Goddess Rebekka just a few days before about a movie called Moulin Rouge starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor. It is a colorful, musical film with vibrant imagery and quirky mixing of famous songs. It is a love story and I remember the first time I saw it a few years ago, I hated it, but was moved to tears by the final love song duet by the lead actors. The second time I saw the film was some time ago and I fell in love with it and am now proud to own it. I hadn’t thought about that film since and our conversation reminded me of that love song, which I suddenly craved to hear. A few days later, I put the kids to bed popped in that movie and forwarded it to that song. I was sobbing as I watched it and at the same time cracking up over how completely absurd that was. I found myself scanning through the movie to play the few love songs that are scattered throughout. I cried a torrent of tears that night and it was such a release. The next day, the music was still in my head and I could hear Ewan McGregor’s voice singing and it was so lovely. Like a completely pathetic person with nothing better to do, I watched those scenes once again and let the tears flow freely. I knew eventually if I watched the scenes enough times and heard the songs repeatedly that the tears would end and they have but not without me practically wearing the DVD down and not without me compulsively having to buy the soundtrack so I could hear the music in my car! Oh, the ridiculous and pathetic things we do to make ourselves feel better! I’m amazed
It is such a simple thing to listen to music and to watch movies and I indulged myself completely in this one movie trying to make sense of why it resonated so deeply with me at this particular time in my life. It may seem silly to describe in detail why a particular song or movie has such a grip, but I think the power lies in their ability to remove us from our current circumstance and place us where we might have a different, if not better, view of it. I was in a place in my mind that was dark, anxious and oh so sad. Hearing the crooning gentle voice of Ewan McGregor brought me to a lulled state that gave me some peace and gentility. I can’t help but wonder if chance ever afforded itself for me to meet this person, if he wouldn’t up-chuck his Scottish ‘stovies’ to hear me say that his singing was a lul-la-bye putting to rest in me a tumultuous emotional storm. But that’s exactly what he did and the lyrics he sang began to resonate louder and clearer. If you’ll indulge me a moment:

“Come What May”
written by David Baerwald

Never knew, I could feel this way
like I’ve never seen the sky before
Want to vanish inside your kiss
Everyday I’m loving you more and more
Listen to my heart can you hear it sings
Telling me to give you everything
Seasons may change
Winter to Spring
But I love you until the end of time
Come what may (chorus)

It is a ridiculously sappy song in some respects but it spoke volumes to me at this particular time and Ewan McGregor’s voice took my breath away. Aria’s leukemia has brought a flood of emotion, that before her illness, I knew only peripherally and in the confines of my imagination. These emotions are now very real and every day I love her more and more. Every day, I love life more and more. I began listening to my own heart that was suffocating in the despairing grasp of worry. I cut loose those straps so my heart could once again be filled with creative goodness that I am so desperate to share. Presently, we are in a seasonal change of winter to spring and as I look around the farm with Spring trying to make its show through the snow that keeps falling, I marvel at the beauty surrounding me. I am overwhelmed with the grace of love from not only my family and friends but from complete strangers. I find myself full of renewed strength to once again sing at the top of my lungs, “Come what may!”

It is no accident that at the beginning of this journey I was listening repeatedly to the raw and gritty songs of the Black Crowes. As I look back at that time, I realize just how perfect that music was for my mood and my place in life. It was as if I was going through my days biting down on a stick lodged between my teeth so I could bare the pain and suppress my screams. So often I was tempted to throw back a shot of whiskey to shake my head and senses as the burning fuel cascaded down my throat leaving me a little numb. I never did because I much prefer the smell of whiskey to the actual taste, but the voice and music of the Black Crowes worked just the same. Right now as March heads out like a lion into April, I’m in need of something much softer, more gentle and soothing to my senses and I found the remedy in the voice of Ewan McGregor.

As I sit here typing, I can hear the snow melting with gentle drops landing in a puddle outside the window. The sun is shining. It is Spring Break and I’m delighting in the simplicity of my days this week. So many little simple things; food, sleep, leisure, entertainment, music, friends, writing, reading, bathing, creating, pausing, praying, rejoicing, singing, playing all gentle powers gracefully lifting me to the edge of my quicksand. Here I am in the light once again, renewed, restored, rejuvenated and most importantly ready to share my goodness and yours!


It is incredible to witness how quickly things change. One moment in a day, I am full of joy and in an instant that joy is in tatters. Aria’s cancer has been a dizzying ride in that regard and it has taught me how to surrender in some ways. This isn’t to imply that I become a victim and give up. On the contrary, I have learned to become a fuller participant allowing Life to take me where it will. The emotional jarring, the ups and downs are just part of it and I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that it takes its toll.

I have learned however, that honesty is disarming and empowering. It is rejuvenating to admit when things are good and why they are so positive as well as document those things that are full of trial and sorrow. You cannot know one without the other. It is the pairing of seeming opposites that teaches us to dwell in its place of balance.

This emails shows you a moment of real sorrow. But know this, where there sorrow there is always joy to be recovered just around the bend. And so it is.

March 26, 2008
Subject: “Quicksand”

On January 15, 2008 I made a vow to myself to be completely honest with others, especially our children about what was happening. I knew that to be honest with others meant that I first had to be completely honest with myself. This is an easy thing to say and think but often a surprisingly difficult thing to do. For a little more than a week, I’ve had to face something about myself that has proven very challenging.

I am depressed.

There it is in all its simplistic glory. It may not be much of a surprise and it certainly isn’t all that surprising to me but it has been a difficult thing to admit nonetheless. How easy it would be to justify my sadness by identifying all the things that are happening that would cause just about anyone to become depressed. I certainly possess every reason to feel sad but therein lies the inherent stigma of depression. There are millions and millions of people who seem to have everything; family, friends, fortune and fame and still they are chronically sad. They seem to have no reason to be depressed and yet they are. This misunderstanding of depression, this lack of cause and effect is the disconnect that perpetuates the negativity associated with depression keeping so many, to my mind anyway, from seeking the help and doing the work that is necessary for healing. I’m lucky. I have reasons to be depressed and I know exactly what they are. Do I need therapy? Do I need to be on medication? I don’t think so, at least not yet. I remain open to the possibility though, while trying to remain honest.

In my sadness it is so tempting to explain my reasons, illustrating them in great detail, drawing you into the shadow of my sorrow. This is the downward spiral of self-pity that is wasteful and unhelpful. After several days of doing that to 3 women I hold most dear, I realize that that approach doesn’t contribute to my healing. It helps me feel as if I’m justified and understood, which offers me valuable temporary relief, but I remain depressed and so I know that I alone must do the work it requires to lift myself from shadow back toward light. It is important to say that I recognize that I am not alone. I am surrounded by loving, tender people and I know you are there. The process of healing, however, is mine and mine alone and it is this process to which I refer. It is also important to say that I face this process sturdy, confident and unafraid.

The signs of my inevitable depression have been extremely clear and I think they are worth describing. First and foremost, my emotions have been hovering just beneath the surface of daily interactions. Tears have broken the levy of my will with the least infraction. They come uninvited, against my will shattering what I had been trying to piece together. This past week my feminine hormones were raging and I found myself battling the age-old oppressive attempts to keep ‘female emotions’ suppressed for fear of becoming ‘hysterical’ ‘too emotional’ or ‘absurd.’ These emotions were as involuntary as the internal sensation and the external erection of an adolescent boy after drooling over a naughty magazine. I feel fortunate to have such a range of emotion and I embrace them. Still, the manner in which I deal with these emotions and this depression in general requires some refinement.

Another tell-tale sign of my depression is my short fuse with the kids and the way I bark at them in exasperation. My patience is thin and I find their demands burdensome, tiresome, and annoying. This isn’t right. It inhibits me from enjoying them and inhibits me from being truly present to them. They deserve more and certainly deserve better. Under non-depressed circumstances, I am a good mother; patient, kind and creative. With these depressed circumstances I am still a good person but with faltering mothering. This needs to change.

Recently my friend, David, told me that he had been reading Haiku, which I love and he wrote me one. It touched me deeply and it helped. As the universe would have it, my dear friend, Jenny, who lives in Scotland sent me a book of Zen Haiku. I’ve read the whole thing cover to cover and am now going back very slowly, savoring each word. I came across one yesterday that spoke to the very depth of my spirit.

For the man who says
He tires of his child
There are no flowers.
(Basho (1644- 1694))

How lucky I am to have so many holding me so tenderly and so close. I am not enjoying the things that I once enjoyed. I have no energy for those things it seems. Sewing leaves me feeling like I can’t finish what I want to start. Writing letters and thank you cards finds me with empty thoughts and a silent pen. Gardening is too daunting and overwhelming to consider. I don’t know where to begin so I simply look the other way and ignore Mother nature’s plea. I don’t have energy to connect with friends. I feel scattered and mired in my circumstance so much so that I find it hard to be fully present to those I hold so dear. If I allowed myself to be drawn into that completely, I would find myself feeling guilty and unworthy of friendship, which would then become a vicious cycle of with-drawl, retreat and continued sorrow. I see the darkness of that path very clearly. It isn’t one I’m choosing to travel. For now, I am only pacing before it and today, I noticed a ray of light over my shoulder. I’ve been glancing that way a lot already.

It is liberating to admit my depression. I don’t have to exercise any energy pretending I am anything other than what I am. I am still ok. I am still strong and I am still full of clarity. The only thing that remains to be addressed is how I intend to heal and to ‘move on.’ I like that phrase very much and I use it often with my children but I realize that it can be mildly dismissive reflecting our instant fix society of today. It is as if to say, that since I recognize my depression and all of its triggers that I ought to be able to move on effortlessly like a quick swipe of dirt off the bottoms of my clogs. Process doesn’t work this way. Moving on requires deliberate intention and the methodical passage of time that is such a gentle healer.

There is an image in my mind from a movie by Mel Gibson called “Apocalypto”. This is an extremely intense film filled with horrific brutality contrasted by exquisite breath-taking beauty. Without revealing too much of the film, the main character, Jaguar Paw, is dealt a life-altering circumstance from which he desperately tries to flee. His only purpose is to return to his beautiful pregnant wife and son whose fate we know but remains an unknown to him. He is an undaunted warrior. There is a time in the film where it looks as if he will conquer his circumstance. He is running. His eyes are focused on his family and everything about his run had me on the edge of my seat when suddenly he falls into a pit of quicksand. It is a shocking moment and despite my breathless panic, he remains completely calm. He sinks quickly holding his breath never once looking distressed. He is completely submerged but slowly, methodically, he lifts one arm from the sandy thin tar-like pool and then the other in a slow-motion swim that brings him to the edge. In a final burst of energy, he slowly lifts himself from the suction of darkness and there he stands. He is covered in black with only the brilliant contrast of his eyes and his teeth staring and seething with victory. He pauses only momentarily to catch his breath and perhaps contemplate his potential defeat but soon he moves on to face his purpose.

This is how I feel. It would be so tempting to panic and fall prey to my anxiety, flailing around helplessly. It would be so easy to succumb to the downward pulling force of depression, noticing the offers of help from others but carelessly pulling them down with me. However, like Jaguar Paw, I, too, am an undaunted warrior with a clear purpose. I have a family who needs me and I need them. This image has empowered me to move slowly, simply, methodically toward the edge to where healing is. I can imagine you on edge offering to throw me a vine, lend me hand, or bend a tree branch. The emotional quicksand that has engulfed me is something from which I must pull myself. I am being forced to muster strength and wisdom I never knew I had.

In this particular exercise of writing, I find myself that much closer to the edge, which is surrounded by all of you cheering me on. I can hear you and I can see you. Slowly, steadily and with deliberate truth, I will reach the edge, standing stronger, wiser and with a victorious smile. ~j

Insights of an old Soul

Subject: Insights of an old soul
March 21, 2008

Yesterday I was getting Aria dressed and we had the most fascinating conversation.
“Mom, I want to have a ponytail again. I want you to use my black baubles. But my hair is not going to be there and then it will grow back!”
I was so floored I didn’t know how to respond. It took me a moment to collect myself. It was the first time she expressed any longing for what her hair used to be.
“Aria, after all of your hair grows back you can decide if you want long or short hair. If you want long hair again then I will definitely use your black baubles.” I told her gently.
She smiled and said, “Mom, I’m just not myself because I am so sick. But when I’m not sick anymore, then I will be me again and I will be FREE FREE FREE!”
It was all I could do not to cry. I held her shoulders and said, “Aria, that is so insightful for someone who is only 4 years old. You are an old soul and I am so proud of you.”
“Hey Mom, what’s insightful?”
“Aria, to be insightful means that you are smart and sensitive. It means that you know who you are no matter what.”
Aria looked at me with a crooked smile and said, “That’s right! Come on, let’s go play!”
Imagine. I get to be her mother!


This is a classic tale of hoping for something and having it turn out to be something completely different. This is the expression of expectations. We expect something to be a certain way. We expect it because we desire it badly and hope for it and then we’re dashed when Life has something else in mind for us. We feel irritated, let-down, rigid, and almost incapable of being open in allowing Life to reveal what it desires so fixed are we in our imaginations. There’s this idea that if we hope for something badly enough, well then by jove, it ought to come to pass. Life doesn’t work this way. We know this but in our emotional immaturity we don’t endow ourselves with the tools to readily feel it while simultaneously knowing it.
I don’t know how to not have expectations at all. I’m learning how to have fewer of them as well as learning how to be more open to Life. Afterall, it is Life that dictates the way the wind blows and I must be a student of soaring so I can harness this energy instead of always battling with it. Like everything else, it is a process and this story simply shows how expectations came to be, were dashed and then Life stepped in and was allowed to be.

Subject: Expectations
March 21, 2008

Expectations come in all shapes and sizes and despite how I try to intellectualize them away from forming, they always do. My emotions can’t help themselves, so I get ‘my hopes up’, I ‘look forward’ to things, I ‘imagine how things are going to happen’ and invariably I suffer the consequence that often accompanies expectation, which is disappointment; not always but... I suppose the goal of the enlightened soul is to focus on having fewer and fewer expectations so disappointment is lessened in the process. This is not only a challenging endeavor but one, I suspect, will take me a life-time to achieve and even that is probably being optimistic!

One of the lessons of Aria’s illness, with specific respect to her, has been to have absolutely no expectations of the day. We are living moment to moment. Things, like her mood, her appetite, her disposition and general health can fluctuate magnificently in any given day. It has been critical to have flexible plans to accommodate any sudden change and I have greatly appreciated feeling like my mind is wide open to anything and everything that happens day to day. It has been a freeing experience, because I literally find myself waking up and saying, “Come what may....” I’m sincerely open to it and I’ve had to be. Truly any other approach would be almost impossible to tolerate because the chronic disappointment likely to follow would be overwhelming to the senses in addition to all that is already overwhelming. Yet, I recently allowed myself to be trapped in the sticky dreamy roach motel of my mind and create a get-away that amounted to something completely other than what I had hoped for and counted on.

We went to Seattle this past weekend so that Doc could receive a prestigious award (The Del Cole Award) for outstanding psychiatrist in community mental health. It is a state-wide honor with only one recipient and Doc was the first physician from the Eastern part of Washington State to receive the award since its inception some 40 years ago. We were positively thrilled! We made plans to stay at a nice hotel downtown right on the water. I wanted to see, hear, and smell the water. I felt called to it somehow and I remember telling my mom, “I can’t wait to discover what I’m supposed to learn there.” It was a loud and clear kind of thought to connect to water. We talked about going to the aquarium with the kids. We planned to have a beautiful Sunday morning brunch at the hotel, with gobs and gobs of fresh seafood. We planned to go to fisherman’s wharf to bring home a cooler filled with fresh seafood as well. It was a lovely fantasy and I was so looking forward to getting some much needed rejuvenation time not to mention a nice change of scenery. I was constantly reminding myself, however, not to get my hopes up and to stay wide open and flexible to whatever may come our way.

During the week of planning, making reservations, and creating imagery of what was to happen, Reo had a stomach bug. He was uncomfortable with a sour tummy for several days. He only vomited a few times but was clearly not himself. He, fortunately, never ran a temperature and didn’t show any other symptoms. Toward the end of the week, he turned the corner and was feeling much better. Aria, meanwhile, was beginning to suffer similar symptoms. She started complaining that her tummy felt “yucky” and sure enough vomited a few times but instantly bounced back. None of the looking for pity stuff that I do when I throw-up was part of her repertoire. She simply wanted to get on with playing and being 4 years old. But we were watching her very, very closely. We felt reassured that her counts were really good so that if she in fact had some kind of infection she would be able to fight it with very little consequence. On Friday, she was up and down a little but in general good spirits. She was so excited to be taking a road trip and fully participated in the packing process. Reo was over the moon to be driving to Seattle. He could hardly wait! Friday night, Aria seemed ok and we were keeping our fingers crossed. We got up early Saturday morning so we could be on the road by 7am or so. The kids were eating breakfast and talking nonstop about the trip and so excited. All was looking good! I was relieved. At 6 30 am Aria darted to the bathroom and threw-up. I was heartbroken and completely anxious. “Mama, my tummy feels yucky!” she moaned. I felt so bad for her and for myself and I desperately tried to keep myself out of the picture. Doc and I then began having a waffling conversation that I think happened mostly in our minds at incredible speed.

“Do we go? Do we not go? If we don’t go, she will be completely devastated and what if she’s feeling better? We’ll be stuck here all weekend feeling sad we didn’t take the risk and go. However, what if we go and she’s still up and down? What if it’s something other than some variant of Reo’s stomach bug? What if she gets really sick? Well, I guess there’s children’s hospital in Seattle. What do we do? What do we do?”

It is 7am now and Aria is dancing and singing, “I’m going to Seattle! Let’s go to Seattle! Hey, mom I’m r-e-a-d-y to gooooo! Let’s go already!” Doc and I looked at each other took deep breaths and said, “Let’s go!” We were pulling out of the driveway when I noticed that I wasn’t breathing. I told Doc, “I’m not breathing. I am so tense!” Doc acknowledged me and tried to reassure me that it would be what it is and we’re going with it. Doc is incredibly skilled at keeping expectations to a minimum. I tried to convince myself to be open but I was worried. I kept checking on Aria. “Honey, how you feeling? Are you ok?” She looked withdrawn and subdued. Her enthusiasm of just a few minutes ago was gone. My radar was heading toward red alert but I was trying to keep it at manageable yellowish-orange. Still, I couldn’t help myself from constantly asking her about her well-being. The nagging thought, “Should we be doing this?” was haunting me like a scary shadow. I decided to accept that since we were going I had to accept whatever happened.

Along the drive, Aria had moments when she was having fun and was playful and talkative and other moments when she was uncomfortable and feeling yucky. Clearly, she was dealing with something but it wasn’t enough to keep her down completely. I started thinking that everything was going to be fine. I allowed myself to play with my sticky expectations. I was thinking about the water and wondering about the view of the hotel room. I was imagining the smell of the salty air. I was hearing the water as it gently lapped against the pier. I was drooling over the brunch that was waiting for us the next morning. I was envisioning the early signs of Spring in Seattle with a few red buds beginning to awaken and perhaps some yellow dotting of forsythia around town. I was relaxing and thoroughly enjoying the road trip and the sights.

About an hour outside of town, Aria began moaning, “Mama, I feel yucky!”
“Aria, do you need to throw-up?” I said with a calm voice that was surprisingly detached from my screaming anxious mind.
“No, I just feel yucky.” she replied with resignation.
We drove on. We were a little more than the halfway point when Rianna woke up from her nap and started to wail. We figured it was time for a diaper change and a general potty break so we pulled into the nearest town. It was then that Aria said in a panic, “Dada, I need to ‘fro-up’! “ We quickly pulled over with Rianna now screaming, and got Aria out of the car. Sure enough, she vomited her guts out. The poor thing! I got Rianna out and sat in the front seat and nursed with her a little so she would calm down. Aria and Doc were outside the car for a few minutes. When she was finished, she announced, “That’s better!” in a light cheery voice. I was beginning to feel like a....like a....God, I don’t know what I was feeling like! It was such a strange and foreign sensation. I was completely anxious and hell-bent on having some fun at the same time! Up and down and up and down and up and down! It was almost like I couldn’t commit to feeling much of anything because I was constantly changing. We found a convenience store, used their bathroom and were on our way.

We finally arrived in Seattle and the kids were beyond thrilled. We were checking out all the tall buildings and all the people. It was fabulous. We found the hotel where Doc was going to receive his award and found parking and headed out. We had a good 20 minutes to spare, which was perfect! Doc carried Rianna, Aria rode in a stroller, and Reo, the big boy, walked on his own accord. As we walked out of the parking garage, we noticed that a parade was happening. It was a St. Patrick’s Day parade of some kind. It was so fun! We went into the hotel and tried to find where the meeting was going to be held. We met a few people and exchanged some small talk for a minute or two when Aria said she needed to “fro-up” again. Doc scooped her up and we raced to the nearest bathroom. I took her in and as she clutched the sides of the toilet bowl, she was doing a sort of backward kick dance with her legs and feet. I was watching her and in my mind I was thinking, “Is she manipulating us? Is this some kind of weird 4 year old attention-getting behavior? Does she really feel yucky? (I answered, ‘of course she feels yucky. She just threw up an hour ago!’) What’s going on?” Nothing happened. “No fro-up Mama!” she said. So we went back outside to join Reo, Rianna and Doc. I was feeling a little dismayed. It was so hard to know what to think about how Aria was feeling. I decided that she truly wasn’t feeling well and was probably nauseated and just didn’t know what to do. Meanwhile, people were gathering for the luncheon award presentation meeting. I was very aware that we were the only people there with kids. “ Oh, you brought your whole family!” was something repeated several times most of which was very sincere. Aria was quietly sitting in her stroller picking at her dry lips. Reo was standing around observing the goings-on. Rianna wanted nothing more than to climb the stone steps just outside of the meeting room. She darted toward them at every single opportunity. I was chasing her, grabbing her, pulling her back down constantly as was Doc, who was also trying to have conversations with some of his colleagues. At one point I was taking Aria to the water fountain to have a drink, when Rianna wiggled away from Doc and within a second or two tried scrambling up the steps only to trip and bonk her chin. A nice shreeeeeeeeking-fest ensued, which only added to the potpourri of stress we were already feeling.

Deep Breath! Doc asked if it would be at all possible to be bumped to the beginning of the program and everyone was very accommodating. I didn’t hear the introduction because I was trying to hold Rianna who was doing everything in her power to get out of my arms. She was completely irritated with me and let me know. Aria was in her stroller speaking like a mouse telling me she felt yucky. I heard applause and told Reo to come to the doorway where we were standing (we didn’t even bother finding a place to sit) but he was standing in the lobby area with his hands over his ears. The applause on top of everything else was obviously too much for him. Bummer. I did manage to snap a few pictures but haven’t even looked at them yet to see if they came out. Doc went up to the podium and began his speech. Rianna had had enough and I let her down. She immediately headed for the room and the sound of her Dada’s voice. It was so much fun watching her waddle through the maze of people and see the disarmed look on their faces. It was a very nice bit of relief for me. “Hey, Mom”...”Yes Aria?” “I think I need to fro-up?” “ahhhhhh crappity-crap to crapster-crapola!” was what I heard myself say in my head, but what I actually said reflects my stellar parenting which was, “oh no..really honey? Do you think you can wait?” Ugh!! I can’t believe I said it but what’s worse is I meant it! She gave me a fish-face that was pouty and nodded her head yes. I kept checking on her and in the interim heard things like ‘Spokane’, ‘residents’, ‘some challenges’, ‘amazing people’...I checked on Reo. He was still in the lobby with his hands over his ears. Rianna was in someone’s arms perfectly content. I remained hovering over Aria ready to jettison us to the bathroom as needed. I finally made eye contact with Doc and felt tears well in my eyes when he said, “I am deeply moved and honored to accept this award. Thank you.” Applause! Way to go Doc!! I had such a huge smile. It was wonderful. He grabbed Rianna who was smiling too. Aria was not and neither was Reo. We were ready to hit the road and head to our hotel room and re-group, which is exactly what we did until we were ambushed by another doctor in the lobby on the way out. “Dr. Layton...Excuse me Dr. Layton!! I know you need to get going but I just need a few minutes of your time.” Doc being the completely noble man that he is smiled sincerely and began a lovely conversation with this man. I, on the other hand, was trying to find the nearest tree in which to sharpen my claws so I could scratch this intruder’s eyes out. I was infuriated that this man was so set on meeting his own agenda that he could not for a moment take notice of the obvious, or at least what I thought was obvious, pressure cooker our family was in. Doc introduced us and I made no pretense whatsoever at being pleased to meet him. I wouldn’t say I was vicious but I would say that in that moment I would have done anything to have Harry Potter’s wand and begin casting a witchy spell. I recognize that he was completely innocent to all the fundamental stressors creating the tension we were feeling, but the man never gave Doc the opportunity to say, ‘You know, I would love to talk with you but now really isn’t a good time.” That was the thing I found so irritating.

We left and walked back to the parking garage when we noticed a St. Patrick’s Day parade happening several blocks down the road. All of a sudden, out of a nowhere a cannon was fired that literally shook the building. I froze and my heart raced until I figured out the source of the cannon but poor Reo was completely stunned. He stood rigid almost unable to move. We coaxed him finally encouraging him to race us to the entrance of the elevator but the entire time he had his hands over his ears. So far, we were not having much fun and I was starting to feel a little weepy about it. After a short drive through downtown, we arrived at the hotel. It was lovely and the view of the water was everything I had hoped it would be. I felt myself sigh with relief. We checked in and were told that our room wasn’t going to be available for another 3 - 4 hours, which was rather shocking but we went with it. We requested a rush but felt flexible enough to go and enjoy a nice lunch and just take our time. We had an exquisite lunch and indeed our room was available before we finished dining. Everyone was so accommodating and cheerful. I was beginning to relax. We began talking about taking a walk, checking out the aquarium and so forth. We settled in and all the kids wanted to do was watch a movie. By this time, Doc and I were so wiped that we went ahead and let them. It was a nice little break.

I sat on the bed staring out a large picture window I had opened slightly at the busyness of Elliot Bay. I watched the ferries float by and smiled at the disconnect I was experiencing. I could only hear them as a sort of hypnotic hum from my hotel room, which is in contrast to their roar when riding upon them. I watched tug-boats chug along to make their connection with some of the enormous cargo ships anchored in the bay. I told myself to throw some of the anxiety I was feeling into the water and let it float away. I was able to nap for a few a minutes and I was awakened by the screeching sounds of seagulls, which was music to my ears. The kids finished their movie and begged to watch another one but Doc and I agreed that we all needed some fresh air. Oh that salty fresh air I was craving was right out our hotel. After some creative persuasion, we packed up and headed out.

We walked under beautiful open bamboo awnings that had wysteria woven up and around and in and out and on top of the simple wooden slats. They were not yet budding but it was easy to imagine the brilliance of Spring over the next month or two with clumps of lavender flowers swaying in the wind. We turned the corner to walk along the sidewalk above the water and I took my first deep breath of salty fresh air only to have my senses assaulted with a moderate whiff of,... sewer. “OH! So not the smell of salty air I was hoping for!” I said to myself. I quickly looked around and noted for what seemed like the first time that we were smack dab downtown Seattle. Fresh salty air? What was I thinking? It was then that I decided to move on and focus my attention to listening to the lapping water. I had glanced at a nearby pier and was watching the wake of a passing boat ripple toward me awaiting the gentle caressing sound as it lapped against the pylons, like sentinels standing in the water. This was the sound I was dreaming of hearing. In that moment, a distant rumbling made its presence known to my ears and before I could turn my head to find the source of the noise, a train came thundering past. I burst out laughing and found myself saying, “Ok, I get it! Clearly, this weekend is supposed to be something completely different than what I had thought I wanted or even dared to imagine. I get it! I get it! I get it!” I felt a little lighter somehow. I was definitely disappointed but the trap of expectation was so glaringly present that I could no longer ignore it. I had to exercise my flexibility and allow whatever was supposed to happen simply happen.

We arrived back to our hotel room and it was around dinner-time. We ordered service, watched another movie with the kids and basically chilled out. Aria was subdued and complained that she felt yucky. I was very aware that I was still worried and second guessing the decision to make the trip. Around 10 30 just after Doc and I had turned off the lights for our bed-time, Aria shot up like a dart and told Doc that she needed to throw-up. He grabbed her and raced to the bathroom where once again she threw her guts up. That was it for me. I burst into tears and was ready to pack up and head home. I knew intellectually that the weekend wasn’t supposed to be anything that I had expected or wanted. I knew that it would behoove me to go with the flow and just let things be what they were going to be but emotionally I wasn’t fully prepared to face that and I was crushed. I was so disappointed and filled with self-pity that the energy I knew it would take to get me out of my sadness was just too much. It dawned on me how easy it would be to succumb to this kind of sorrow and stay wallowed in it recruiting others with similar feelings and circumstances. I told Doc that I was ready to pack up and he said to me, “Let’s just rest...don’t worry about sleep...just get some rest.” His words were warm and soothing. I went back to bed and cuddled with Reo. I stayed awake a long, long time staring out the picture window at the bay.

I noticed a light in the distance. It was pulsing soft and then bright and soft and bright. It was a lighthouse and I was instantly drawn to it like a siren’s call. I tried matching my breath to its pulse but it was too fast so my breathing wasn’t relaxed. I heard myself say, “in and out and in and out” matching the rhythm of the light but those words weren’t resonating with me. In only a few moments, the words, “accept-don’t-accept, accept-don’t-accept” came to me and for several minutes I repeated that phrase partnered with the lighthouse. It calmed me but didn’t heal me. I felt like I was out of the pit of my self-pity though and could start the process of getting over my disappointment.

At that moment the cliché, “making lemonade out of lemons” came into my stream of consciousness and I found yet another cliché that sounds good but leaves me feeling empty and irritated. I imagined holding a lemon in one hand and a glass of lemonade in the other hand as if to say it is possible to take this beautiful bitter/sour lemon and morph it into this sweet refreshing beverage in a matter of a glance. I was annoyed that the whole process of making lemonade from lemons is ignored in this cliché and ‘process’ is the operative word here. There is a distinct and specific process one must take in order to fulfill this cliché and yet the variables involved are as colorful as people. I knew I was having a lemon of a time and I knew that I was being called to make lemonade. What I hadn’t yet figured out was the process to get me there, although I knew it would take some time, some reflection and some serious soul searching.
We woke up very early the next morning and Aria was cheerful. We were mildly hopeful that we might be able to go to brunch and buy the fresh salmon we were hoping to bring home. Within 30 minutes of being awake though, she was sick again and we knew it was time to leave. We packed up quickly. We cancelled our reservation to brunch and made ready to check out of the hotel. I took one last look at the bay and the gentle waves. In my mind’s eye, I was holding a glass of lemonade. With a tear or two mixed in, I slowly poured my self-defeating disappointment into the bay and watched it blend with the salty ‘sewery’ water below. I expressed my gratitude for the view and for the lessons that I was still forcing myself to learn. I turned around, left the room and was on my way home.