I've been reading a pretty incredible book lately - She Matters: A Life In Friendships. And this book has done everything that incredible art is supposed to do. It's made me stop. Made me think. Made me reflect and dig and feel and associate and empathize. Made me shake my head, breathe deep and say, Yes. Yes I know that. I've felt that. I can't believe that even happened. Where did that go?
The wilder part still of my little reading journey is that a friend of mine, this, "life in friendships" wrote this book. An incredibly brave, bright and brutally honest friend. I had the good fortune of being cozy-ed up in my favorite bookstore when I first heard a chapter from this book. Even then I was shaking my head inside. Felt extra there. Felt it.
And the funny thing further about this friendship is that Susanna isn't a 'typical' friend. I've known her for almost a decade, yet our relationship has been of parent to teacher, associates in our small, private school, Missoula, Montana community. That said, in that context, it's been much more. Susanna brought me a burrito when Eliana was first born, gave me an advance copy of her first book, on the heavy, heavy topic of mothers and daughters. We walked around the park and talked deep. Went there. Over the years she's taught writing workshops with my students, me hanging on her grace with language, her knowledge and immersion in a subject so close to my heart, Neruda and William Carlos Williams, the way she held the attention of my small students' absolutely rapt. Years later when her father passed away, she told me that she was dealing with her grief by dancing. I joined her one night. It wasn't my typical dance scene, the two-step and down-home bar. But it was fun and easy. There was always some level of connection.
And while I was excited to read her book, I had absolutely no idea what sort of breaking open of emotion it would cause in me. I return to her honesty. Her ability to say exactly what happened. To be accountable. Her path was not smooth. I realized as I met yet another character I related to, another scene I had experienced with such intense proximity, that there was some pretty big stuff that's just been gathering dust in my emotional world.
I had the chance to tell her some of my connections. I teach my students how to make connections: text-to-text, text-to-world, text-to-self. Susanna's book has been one giant text-to-self. I sat on her sofa like a pinball in the machine, my whistles and bells sending dissonant DINGS all over her living room. There is so much. It is all so much. And while I can't go there just yet, certainly not here.
Though maybe one day....
Because I'm growing up. It's been a long, long time since those dings hit the scene with their heavy discord, their heavy grip. I've found some light, some breath. My face stopped twitching when I found my home in this sweet town, these frigid mountains, this life I'd never imagined. I married a kind and good man who loves me with all he has, who has shown me so much that is new and beautiful and bright in the world. My children. My gorgeous and precocious and wild children. They are the lights that light this path of breath, of the new, of stability and a break from the unrelenting heartache that was those first thirty years.
Wow. There. I said it. A whole lot of shit went down in my life. And it was heavy and dark and scary and unpredictable. I made some bad choices. Perhaps influenced by my parents' bad choices. There was chaos and lies and dark, dark sadness.
Yet I've always been a happy girl. As Caroline said after Brandon killed himself, Hilary and I chose the light. She said that as only a sage could. She barely knows us. And that's why his suicide brought me so down, down, down. It reminded me of my past. It reminded me how far I've come. How fortunate I am. It flooded me with the guilt that's run my life for so long. It was the first recent reminder of all those thick, black lines on my timeline. Those moments that took years and years of psychoanalysis to begin to undo. That psychoanalysis that I never told anyone about. Driving across town in LA traffic after play practice all alone. After a full day of high school. Head cheerleader, lead in the play, hard-working student, girlfriend, best friend. Sitting in traffic for sometimes hours so that I could sit in a clean room, predictable books lined neatly on the shelf, the man with the kind eyes and thick mustache, button down shirt, short sleeves, simple plaid. I don't know how much I even said some days. I was so damn tired. I was always glad to have dreams to report and pull apart. I was always glad to lie down and take a few deep breaths. Dr. Vaquer told me year after year that I did too much. That I needed to slow down. Putting a whole lot into a day was never difficult for me. I say that after a 6 am dance class, packed day of teaching, attendance at a guest speaker tonight. "The Science of Happiness." I've always been so game. Game for it all.
So now I'm game for something new. I'm game for a bit of good, old-fashioned, dealing. As my silver ball flew around Susanna's sofa, me talking, talking, talking, so glad to be heard, to know that it was safe, that she's been there and then some. That there really is nothing to be ashamed of. I know that. Yet, I've always liked being popular. I like being liked. I'm sort of a public person. Albeit in a tiny, tiny pond, I have a certain responsibility...I think...It's that same feeling as high school. How will I be judged for my truths? Is it better to just plow ahead, very honest smile, very true heart?
I processed our conversations on my skis, far back in the Rattlesnake wilderness. I saw the black lines, the DINGS rising from my past as I dug deeper into my toes, lowering into lunge after lunge. Each ding reminded me of another ding that I hadn't even spoken of, hadn't thought of in years and years and years. Each ding brought a sort of gut-wrenching joy. Made me feel how hard I've lived, how hard I've loved, how much I've thrown whole self into.
I usually prefer skiing up the main trailhead. I know it well. It's predictable. I worry less about mountain lions because it's more heavily populated, the tracks smooth. Wide, open trails with vistas of the frozen creek.
But I turned at Spring Gulch and went up the quiet way, through the thick, dark trees, the bumpier terrain. I felt a heaviness in my chest. I wanted to cry loud. I wanted to smile huge. I wanted to shout out. And then cry a bit more.
Not because it was sad. Not because I am sad.
I say it again.
Not because I am sad.
Gratitude runs thick and heavy through my veins. I watch the clouds move, welcome my children to the "rainbow disco" each time sunlight hits the prism in our kitchen window. We have a song for gratitude! For light! I smile big! I make eye contact! I feel and feel and feel.
So even if the pinball of associations made me step outside the rainbow disco for a bit, it's because it's all part of the precarious package. The timeline.
I've been mentioning the Boho revolution for a while here on this bloggy. And the gratitude. It's all coming together. I am connecting with my whole space. I finally have a few, fresh breaths from the depths of being a "new mom." I think I can safely say that I am no longer new at this. True my children are very young and there's a whole heck of a lot I know nothing about. But the feeling that there is so much more to love, so very much more beyond me? That's certainly clear.
But I'm beginning to take a bit more shape. It's beyond having a night away with my girlfriends at the hot springs, my cares laid to rest for a precious day or two, our deep talks and our revelry in not being needed. I'm standing on the precipice of yet another new thing. And I'm trying damn hard to articulate it. Perhaps it makes a bit of sense.