Ch-Ch-Ch- Ch-Changes

6 Apr

2014 is well underway and changes abound.  Spring is here and the spirit of transformation is in the air.  I quit my office job a few weeks ago and I am very thankful to my husband for the opportunity to do so.

I’d been talking about making the break for a while, but the discussion got serious about a year and a half ago.  I hated the feeling of working mother guilt that nagged at me as my children would spend sometimes up to 12 hours in daycare and after school camps.  Too many evenings were spent trying to gather the motivation to pull together a home cooked meal, patience thin as we hurriedly maneuvered through homework, laundry, dishes, each night hoping to have precious few minutes of quiet time to read, watch, write something, create something, anything!,  before bedtime. It had to done within a narrow time frame, get to bed early enough to wake up before the sun, ready to do it all again.  Four hours a night, allotted to cram everything in..it never felt like enough.

I tried to remind myself that I should be grateful that I was even employed as I sat at my desk. I tried to remember that there were so many people who would be overjoyed with the opportunity to do my job.  In spite of my own affirmations of gratitude, I still felt like I was suffocating, pulled down by the minutiae of tasks before me. It was getting hard to breathe.

Finally after a weekend trying tidy the house and keep the children quiet enough so that my husband could sleep (he was working a stint of graveyard shifts), I got back to work to find an email in my inbox stating that I’d already burned through almost half of my paid time off allotment for the year.  I was reminded that I’d used up both my sick time and vacation time last year and had 60 hours unpaid as a result .  The email was a reminder that I needed to be mindful of how I used the remainder of the time I had left since it was only February.  I instantly thought of the doctors appointments that I’d already had scheduled and my stomach sank as I thought of unplanned fevers, upset stomachs and myriad events that could come up. Last year had been punctuated by my youngest spending three days in the hospital, my father falling ill and passing away and the death of my aunt.  The year had ended with me being involved in a fender bender which led to me having to miss out of work.  I felt overwhelmed and the signs all seemed to point in the same direction. It was time to walk away.

I spoke to my husband and we agreed that the time had come to give my two weeks notice. I was nervous about making the leap but thankfully the split was amicable, which made it easier.  I was able to finish working on a very large account and I had enough time to tie up the loose ends that were on my desk.  My last day fell on my father’s birthday, which I took as an omen that I made the right decision.

Life since then has been filled with the business of raising my children.  I’m able to pick up my son and am thankful to have the patience to sit with him and do his homework before baseball practice. I am grateful to be able to spend the day with my four year old daughter, reading, playing and coming up with a loose structure that works for us.  Everything seems precious to me lately. I’m able to stop and enjoy bouts of giggles, an unexpected bout of dancing and I appreciate the fact that I can completely focus on being a mom.  My husband has been thankful for the relaxed vibe in the house when he gets home from work. I won’t say that we aren’t busy, but evenings are less harried when I’ve had time to take care of my to do list throughout the day.

I wish I could say that I’ve had a huge wave of creativity crashing over me, but I’ve been trying to create a sense of order in my house and am still trying to get in the swing of things. I’ve had flurries of activity, so I know that it will come once we get into a schedule.

I’d started out concerned that I was breaking the unwritten feminist code by swapping my office persona for that of a housewife, but after some thought  I’ve come to the realization that this is not the case.  I am following my radical idea that I think that I can raise my children better than someone who I have to pay to do it for me.  If not having it all means that I  can escape the feelings of being overwhelmed and suffocating, then I guess that I can do without.

Black Pearl

16 Aug

My father died in April.

It’s been four months and I am still trying to get my  head around the fact that he isn’t here.  I am trying to adjust to this new normal.

I wake up in the morning, mother my children, go to work and trudge through the paces of my days. I am there but I am not present.

I am looking through a window and there are people talking but I can’t hear and I don’t care what they are saying.

I watch, feeling separate from what goes around me.

I am unhappy. I think too much. I drink too much.

I am lonely but am comforted by my solitude.

Melancholy hangs in the corners of my days and my mind toys with the idea of letting go of the thread that binds me to this reality.

The six year old girl in me wants to hide, cry and pull at her hair in sorrow, grabbing at the crumbling pieces of the myth that was her father.

There are emotions that are bubbling beneath the surface but I don’t know how to communicate in this language of loss, and so I am mute.

Frustrated by my inability to communicate and unable to let off the steam, the heat of my grief is burning through me.

I want to bleed it out, scream it out, but when I tear back the surface all I find is nothing. There is nothing to say.

I light  candles at my alter, burn incense and raise my intentions to the sky but I feel nothing. I am obsessed with death and I try to grab at the spaces between the moments spent with the ones that I love the most.

I dream of my father.

Sometimes he stands at the edges, watching me, like a silent witness.

Once we wandered through an old shopping mall, visiting memories that were for sale like cheap knick knacks in dollar stores filthy with age.

One night he came to me scared and wandering through oblivion, confused, unable to rest and stuck in between the living and the dead.

I try not to call to him. I hold his memory in white light and whisper prayers that he can move on.

In my optimistic moments I wonder if he is visiting me, letting me know that he is still there, like a small anchor to hold onto.

In my most fearful moments, I am afraid that he is lost, his soul still burdened by the illness that plagued his life and he still needs me. He needs me and I am paralyzed by my inability to reach across the chasm that separates us.

This is the  black pearl that is my grief,  wrought from the chafing of the splinters in my soul.  I am just now able to pull it out and observe it, vulnerable with my need for comfort.

April 13, 2013 3:40 pm

22 Apr

I sat beside you and

FELT

You slowly slip away from me.

I read words from sacred books

Raised hymns sang songs whispered prayers.

Trying to find comfort in tradition.

I tried to comfort you.

Hoping.

I was I am

Afraid to acquiesce accept give in. Let go.

I kissed your eyelashes in the soft light.

Eyes like mine. Heart like mine.

Fiery bright and proud.

Slowly racing away from here. From now.

I sat

Tracing matching lines on your hand my hand

Father and daughter

Simian Twin.

I sat watching

Watched

You slip out of the room.

Recognition in your eyes,

Gone now to take your final walk

 Into eternal night

Light ETERNAL

Filtering through the shades.

Now part of the unknown.

Forever.

I kissed your fingers

A bruised soul soothed

Under grey feathered wings.

Hot tears burning on my face

Stinging at my eyes

I was your witness and

I saw you.

There for just a moment,

Once more.

But now that you are

Gone

Who will see me?

Leviathan

22 Dec
Image
Gather tinder for the fire,
Fill the chalices up with wine.
The time to feast is upon us.
The full moon sits on high.
 
Tell the legend of Leviathan,
Dark prince of the seven seas.
Great seven headed serpent,
From his flesh the righteous will feast.
 
Leviathan is the sea beast,
Behemoth will rule the land.
Zezu curses the air all round, and
Hellmouth is where the damned will stand.
 
Tie the virgin to the beams,
Trussed bait to tempt the beast.
Hold her head underwater,
No consequence that she can’t breathe.
 
Hair tangled in the seaweed,
A dark crown to greet her doom. Her
Sheer white gown blows in the night,
Her eyes flutter and her lips are blue.
 
Can you catch him with a fishhook?
Harpoon his head with a fishing spear?
 
The young faun begs for mercy,
She smells his scent, yes the beast is near.
 
Will you tie his tongue with a strong hemp rope?
Make a pet of him, fear to make your enemies choke.
 
The waves, they crash and wane.
The monks, they chant and pray
They waves, they crash and wane.
The monks chant and pray
While she fades away.
 
 

*Image: Thomas Hobbes, Book of Job

To the victims of Sandy Hook, I am so sorry

15 Dec

I am still so saddened about yesterdays events and even more than slightly sickened from all of the pro gun propaganda that I’ve been reading all day. Why are we as a community not discussing the availability of better mental health care with the same gusto that we are rallying for our guns?  Perhaps it is because as a collective we are a sick  and unbalanced society. It’s hard to see the light when innocent children were killed and all people can manage to talk about is how we need more guns. It’s disheartening to say the least.

I’ve spent the day trying to keep my children from watching the news and overwhelmed by the onslaught of media coverage surrounding the events.  Facebook posts mingle pro-gun propaganda with photos of the young victims. 

I didn’t anticipate that this act of mindless violence would affect me so badly.  I mourn for the children who died, and I am so sad scared nervous for my own children.  It frightens me that so many are willing to shrug their shoulders at what they call our New Reality.  I am outraged at people rallying for looser gun restrictions. What could be more calloused than that at a time like this? I liken it to a salesman selling knives at the funeral of a stabbing victim.

At the most all I can hope for is that these little lives can lead us all to the light and open our eyes to the fact that something is very wrong with our society. Unless we can have an open dialogue of how to fix things, I fear that this may indeed be our new reality. 

 

Mental Illness and the Supernatural: About My Father

10 Dec

I think a lot about my father’s mental illness.  My father is a schizophrenic has schizophrenia.

When I was 12, he was working at a large commercial bakery owned by a large local grocery chain and ducked into the break room to get a sip of water and to get some respite from the smothering heat.  As he was walking to the bathroom, he slipped on a wet spot caused by a leaky water fountain and hit the back of his head on the edge of a break room table.  He developed a intracranial hematoma  as the result of his fall.  He spent a week in the hospital for monitoring and tests and was released under medical supervision.  Less than a year later he was diagnosed with manic depression and by the time I was 15 he had developed schizoafffective disorder, which was marked by severe paranoia, mood swings, violent outbursts, and sleeping. Lots and lots of sleeping. His medical cocktails included Ativan, Stelazine, Lorazapan and many others whose names I find it hard to remember.  By the time I was a senior in high school, he had been committed twice, once in a private care facility, and once, when the insurance ran out, in a Texas State Hospital.

I remember as a teenaged girl listening to my father whisper his secrets to my mother when my sisters and I were supposed to be sleeping.  More than once I heard him refer to the spot of his old injury as ” Heaven’s Gate”.  He spoke of visions and omens.  Before you roll your eyes, I will mention that this would have had to have been sometime around 1990, years before Marshall Applewhite led his cult in a suicide pact.

Before his illness, my father was a superstitious man. My mother believes that his mother was a witch and through the years told me stories of strange candles anointed with herbs  and alters laden with offerings hidden in the secret confines of my grandmother’s bedroom.   I was told that my father dabbled in witchcraft and necromancy after his father died of a heart attack during a triple bypass surgery. When I was not quite a teenager, my mother told me  that one night, after whispering passages from a book given to him by a brujero, my father suffered violent nightmares, and woke up with long scratches riddling his legs and arms.

The day that my grandmother died, my father saw what he called an omen. On the way to the grocery store, he saw a mama opossum walking with her young. As he was making his way back home, he saw the animal dead on the side of the road with her babies clinging to her lifeless body.   When he walked through the front door, I told him that my aunt called and wanted me to tell him that my grandmother was found in her living room, dead from a stroke.  He carefully placed the groceries on the kitchen table and walked into his bedroom.  I didn’t mention to him that I’d seen a strange dark figure walking in between the houses that morning as I performed my daily chore of taking out the kitchen trash.

That was the atmosphere that I grew up in: manic highs and lows, superstitions, omens, and stories.

As I get older I think more and more on the stories that my mother told me about my father’s young life and I start to question the scientific. I begin to wonder more and more about the supernatural and the effects that it could have had on my father and the effects on his health.

When I was a little girl, no more than 5, I saw a face in the glass of my bedroom window, leering and red.  It was there as plain as day and I screamed for my mother who, of course, saw nothing. Years later, when I was older, I looked out of that same window and watched in horror as I saw a man approaching one of my younger sisters, who was playing  and swinging by herself on the swing set. I tore through the house to jump to her defense, and when I finally got to her, I saw that she was alone.  She didn’t know who I was talking about when I mentioned the strange man to her. By the time I was a teenager, I often played with spells, toyed with conjuring spirits, and opened  myself to the unknown, dark or otherwise.  Once, after an enthusiastic study of the Necronomicon, complete with whispered invocations,  I woke up to find the family bathroom teeming with black ants and other insects. Freaked out, I told my mother what I’d done the night before and she made me promise that I would never play with things that I didn’t understand again. She took the book from me and burned it in the barbeque pit. All of this in the same bedroom that I’d had night terrors in as a child and in the room that all three of my sisters  will do this day say had bad mojo long after I’d moved out.

My sisters and I have  since wondered if I somehow wasn’t more successful at my fledging attempts at magic than I realized during my teenaged years.  As my father’s mental health began to deteriorate as he got older, I noticed that he was more and more focused on my old bedroom.
One weekend, when I was in my early twenties, I went to visit my dad, to take him some groceries, offer to take him out to lunch and just to make sure that he was ok.  As I walked through the house, I noticed that the edges of the door to my old bedroom were taped shut, under layers and layers of silver duct tape, not a crevice left uncovered. When I asked him why the room was sealed, he told me that there was an old woman who walked out of the room at night and wandered the house . He said that the tape was the only thing that would keep her in.  I felt a chill down my spine when he told me that the woman scared him when she would look at him and he didn’t think that the tape would work much longer. I don’t know what was more frightening, the details of his delusion or the possibility that it was true. Other than the tape, he was in good spirits, he was still bathing and seemed to be taking his meds, so I shrugged it off as just another one of his weird ideas.

At the height of his last really bad episode, a couple of months later, my father was sent back to the state mental institution, to monitor his meds, get his symptoms under control and to hopefully get him back on track.  This downward spiral is the frightening part of mental illness. Sylvia Plath had it right when she called depression the Bell Jar.  Once you have reached that tipping point and tumble in, it’s almost impossible to get out without a chemical ladder to ease your way.

Before he was about to be transported to the state facility, I was volunteered by the rest of my sisters to go back to my father’s house and gather some of his clothing and other small comforts that he could take with him to the hospital in order to make his stay more comfortable.  My key to the front door didn’t work so I had to climb through a small window that was in the bathroom, above the shower, to get into the house.  As I carefully made my way into through the window I noticed that the air was heavy and thick and even though it was sunny outside, the inside of the house was gloomy and dark.  The bathroom was covered in soda bottles, standing upright, side by side so that I had to pick my way through a narrow path to the bathroom door.  I looked at the bedroom to my right and I noticed that the tape still lined the edges of the bedroom door, but it was starting to curl and peel away in some places.  I quickly made my way through the house and sifted through the trash to find the things that he needed. I couldn’t believe how much the house had deteriorated in such a short time.  Even the walls were filthy and it looked like he hadn’t taken the trash out in weeks.  As I whispered the word “radio” out loud, I heard a small click come from the back of the hallway where the bedrooms were and heard the faint sound of music coming out of my old bedroom. My bedroom that was behind the taped door.  My heart was racing as I threw my father’s things into a duffel bag that I’d found and I quickly made my way to the front door.  The music was playing faintly through the house as I slammed the door shut and quickly jumped into my car.

I told my sisters what happened. We agreed that while my father was in the hospital none of us would enter the house alone again, and even then, only in the earliest of daylight hours.

My father has improved since then.  He has a sister who has taken it upon herself to take care of him in a way that I, or my sisters, cannot.  She renovated the rotten parts of his house, redecorated, and had a priest come to say a blessing over the repairs when they were complete, from what I was told. For this I am and always will be grateful to her. He is doing well with her at the reigns, but life with the mentally ill isn’t easy, and somehow I am always waiting for the other foot to fall and when things won’t be so great again.

I wonder if my father’s illness was somehow made worse by both his and my novice attempts at witch craft.  I wonder  if he is more sensitive because of his illness or susceptible to hauntings because he spends so much of his life in the lines between reality and perception. Who is this old woman who he mentioned to me?  Who are the figures that I saw as I was growing up?

I know that it is dangerous to blame mental illness of demons, spirits and ghosts. The history of the treatment of mental illness is riddled with stories of exorcisms, terrible suffering of the mentally ill, and often times, even death.  The dark ages of medicine were a horror story unto itself.

I do believe, however, that it is dangerous to disregard the spiritual when dealing with illness, particularly considering a history like my father’s.  Who is to say that the things that he experienced were not real? Based on the solely scientific, one could say that I was also suffering some level of illness, since I have also had experiences of my own.

I have more questions than answers, but I am still looking. Maybe one day I will have an answer.

The Rapture

10 Dec
Feel the infinite stretch out before you.
Feel the deities dominion of you.
And the rapture, it moves right through you.
The zealous passion, emancipates you.
Can you breathe into me?
Can you see right through me?
Engulf the doubts that taunt me.
Can you see into me?
Because I can’t see I can’t see I can’t see
I can’t breathe  I can’t breathe
Now I see.
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