Thursday, 12 November 2015

The Antidote

Emails suggest I make sure the paint on the outside of the house is clean and every chip of paint on the inside—even the ones noted on the move-in condition report that were already here are repaired and the backyard porch is returned to its ‘pristine’ condition. What?!?! Houses don’t make it into pristine condition after they’ve been well loved for 2.5 years. Even if you take super good care of them! Movers and cleaners and walk throughs and plane tickets and travel arrangements are all in the mix now needing time on the calendar and energy to plan. Already. Even though I’d like to pretend our move is further than 6 and a bit weeks away. 

The calendar fills and fills with end of year BBQs and birthday parties and final concerts and performances and baseball and futsal and swimming and school fairs and holiday get togethers and all the this’s and that’s of end-of-school-year madness. 

As an aside: though it has been an interesting trial I vote ‘no’ on January to December school years. In the future, I’m looking forward to the last month of school insanity and the run up to the holidays being separate things. It seems futile to pretend that one can do every event and remain anywhere close to sane, but somehow the calendar on the wall just keeps filling and filling.

The boys are eager to spend as much time with friends as possible before we leave. Friends come out of the woodwork asking for one last visit and time before our looming exit from the country. 

Plus there are presents to buy for Christmas and turkeys to order for Thanksgiving and Bridger’s birthday to plan.

I know too that there a spiritual and emotional issues at play. We’re returning home to the US after essentially 7.5 years away. An end to a season of life we have loved. The realities of reverse-culture shock loom. Uncertainty and loneliness at leaving our friends here and moving to a season of making new friends in a once-familiar place. The reality of entering another season of unsettledness. Something we know from experience takes a minimum of 9 months to pass and actually in many ways lasts more like 18 months to 2 years. 

Don’t get me wrong. I see the bounty and beauty that all of this muchness represents. The big, amazing life that all the busyness belies. 

Except I find myself spending too much time on Facebook. Watching too many trailers on imdb. Old feelings I’d thought I’d finally vanquished creep in. A low-level anxiety. Uncertainty. Worry. A sort of frantic flitting around from thought to thought. The laundry backs up and meals are haphazard. I can’t quite get my bearings. I want to sleep. A lot. I gravitate towards something I chose in the deepest part of my being to reject—crisis mode. This is the chaos that sets in with a move, with the end of the year, with holidays, with busyness. 

No. I thought a few nights ago. No this doesn’t work for me. I reject crisis mode. I tried to remember what to do instead. 

So I sat on the floor with my 5 year old and played Go Fish. Which naturally turned into wrestling and laughing. That helped. Then afterwards I said yes to my 11 year old and sat in the Big Green Chair and read. Not Facebook or articles online. Books. Real, live books. Better. Much better. Dad was on a late-night work call with the Europe in the kitchen so the nearly 13 year old and I made quesadillas and sat on the floor in my room for a secret picnic and stayed up way past our bedtimes talking about friendship and moving and change. Yep. That’s the stuff.

Also ‘Spoto.’ It’s the Aussie version of slugbug and has transformed car rides into shrieking hilarity. What’s not to love about slugging each other and shouting every time we see a yellow car? We’ve been playing for about 2 weeks. I don’t mean to brag, but I’m winning. Middlest says it’s only because I sit at the front of the car. I tried to explain how much concentration driving takes, thank you very much. He doesn’t seem convinced. I don’t care. Spoto helps.

Today I felt myself drifting towards anxiety so I immediately bundled us off to Farmer’s Market. The happiest place on earth. As we left the bread stall where the man always remembers his name and gave him an extra muffin today, Littlest declared, “The world is FULL of kind people and THAT is one of them!” True, son. True. Then the cherry man gave him nearly an entire punnet of cherries. We were happy and full and we sat on the grass and ate purple carrots with the greens on but somehow he still started to look listless watching the jumping castle I’d said no to. I was considering picking up my phone. Instead we sat on the grass and played Row  Row Row Your Boat with our bare feet pressed together. We followed on to Stinky Feet and then headstands and laughing. 

Bex and Brad showed up and we talked and somehow I felt enough again. Present. With my bare feet in the grass and my bags of local grocery goodness. My happy child and my own unique Cori-ness to share with the world.

“No!” I say to the poison madness of busyness and chaos and anxiety and crisis mode. “Yes!” I say to  delightfully simple antidote of play and laughter and bare feet and connection. 

Phew. That feels so much better.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

The Sea

We have learned the ocean is not just for summer days. We have learned to soak up its beauty without getting soaking wet. 

The tide was high this morning. Coming nearly to the steps. So it doesn’t squish, like usual, up between our toes.  It gives, but only a little. Walking along. Stopping periodically to empty the small piles of sand from our shearling-lined boots. We don’t spend so much time in the sand as on it. Traveling over the top. 

It’s quiet. Both of us busy. Never too far from one another. Winter at the sea is for collecting. 

Soaking in the sounds of the waves as they steadily, steadily, swoosh along the beach. Quieter today. Gentler than yesterday. They swoosh instead of crash. Nevertheless they are relentless. 

I am reminded yet again of the enduring metaphor of the sea.

The change—constant. Sometimes generous as we can attest today with our pockets full of smooth sea glass. Other times taking so much. Sometimes gentle. Sometimes fierce. But always, always there. 

And I think, as I often do these days of how I will live without this daily injection of metaphor. The tonic effect it often has on my heart. 

What will I do without the sand? Even when we aren’t at the sea itself it is constantly there. In bags and shoes and little piles in the corners and building up in my dryer vent. 

I will miss the sand. The everywhereness of it. The pervading annoyance and comfort of sand.

What will I do without the sea? The quick-rusting of any toy or tool with the merest hint of metal. The filthy grimy windows even after Caid’s just cleaned them. The salty smell on the breeze. The swooshing background wave song that has become a constant part of our Australian soundtrack. 

The constant thereness of the sea. 

In May I was laying on Mom’s bed in Colorado. Chatting about this and that the day before we were returning home to Australia. She asked me if I was a Mountain Girl or a Sea Girl. Told me about a sermon she’d heard about it once. 

There are mountains where I am going. We will get reacquainted. I know I’ll love them again. I used to long for them when we lived in England. 

I have learned the answer to Mom’s question though. One I hadn’t known until I lived here.  

Monday, 24 August 2015

Sacred Space

Irresistible. Irrepressible. He shouts his invitation and my list of ‘to dos’ is no match for it. I am beckoned in. I bring my broom. Preparing this sacred space for our sojourn here. Gum nuts and damp leaves are brushed aside. The broom is discarded. As the zip closes the rest of the world falls away. It’s just us here. Cocooned inside the mesh. 

The light softens—the sun shining its mottled leafy pattern through the wall of magnolias. The breeze whispers her sweet song, drying up the muddy dampness of the night’s thunderstorms. The crows call their bizarre half-human cries. The schoolyard across the way sounds like us playing hooky. Reminding us that for today, we don't have to be there. Reminding me that for a few short months it’s just me and him. 

We have our ball. Our games. Offering each other our shrieks of laughter as precious gifts in our tiny universe. No one can touch us here. No one can reach us. We bounce and jump and the scwerch scwerch-ing of the springs is a song that says to my heart “be here. Only here for now.” I obey. I've been obeying for about 3 weeks now. Still I marvel that there was this universe, this precious world just outside my front door. 

Funny, I had thought it nothing but a rusty old trampoline. 

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

A Bowl full of Sunshine

Rose posted a photo today and something inside me stirred. A gentle stirring. Like the butterfly tickly flutters of a new baby growing inside. Can you photograph sunshine? She did. A big bowl of sunshine. Yellow pear shaped. Perfect round and cherry red. A photo of sunshine in red and yellow packages. A bowl full of beautiful tomatoes from her Colorado garden. 

Maybe it’s some latent farmer love. A longing for dirty hands and a ripe harvest. Perhaps that bowl of tomatoes awakened something deep in my Northern Hemisphere genetic roots. Harvesting a yummy bowl of tomatoes in August just make sense to me. Back to school and the height of the harvest season = August. Back to school and ripe tomatoes = January? That hasn't quite stopped feeling weird. 

My vision swirled. As it will with me. There were raised-box gardens and greens and zucchini and tomatoes and Steve and I mulling over the best way to fertilize.  There were chickens and flowers and I had on gardening gloves. There were canning and fermenting and preserving jars all stacked up on shelves in basements. Kate and I cooking. Scotty and the boys eating corn on the cob on the back deck. Years seemed to spin and swirl around me and all of the visions they contained were in a backyard. In Colorado. And it didn't feel weird. 

A garden. One that grows in the ground. Instead of pots and boxes that can be easily moved. Tending plants I wasn't thinking would reach their full potential with my friends and neighbors, but with me. At my house. For a long time.  

It felt like something I could enjoy. Planting. Harvesting. Planting. Harvesting. These are things one does when one stays. When one isn't leaving soon. When one enjoys the movement of season into season into season into season. I could picture jars in the pantry and bags in the freezer. Things to enjoy throughout the year. These are the actions of a stay-er. Hmmmm…staying. I could try that for a while. Especially if it meant bowls of sunshine every August. 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

My Wobbly Sure

We've lost our way a bit. It’s happened before. The path seems clear. The reasoning sound. The direction laid out. The change looms on the horizon and one begins the one step at a time journey toward another enormous change. You make a few initial plans. Have the conversations. You research shipping the dog and the furniture back home. You talk through the timing. The way is sure and clear.

Then something happens. Or lots of somethings. An event at school means hours spent with other families. You suddenly feel a part. Welcome. You can imagine a life. One without a change in direction. One in which you stay put. You start to picture your children being teenagers with their children. It feels safe. You wouldn't mind their children around the house as friends and maybe girlfriends. You feel you could call on these parents to do the teenage journey with you. You could call them after the party or before. You could count on them to help you look after your fellas and you'd love to help them look after theirs.

You volunteer as a parent helper on the class bushwalk. You smile when you realize you still can't say that one without giggling. This one hasn't slipped into your vernacular just as “walk” didn't in England. You still say “hike.” Hiking along you realize you know the names of each child in the class and almost every name of each of their parents. You like this type of life. A life where you know people. A life where you're finally not new.

You take a camping weekend away with one son. Two old ladies set up camp next to you. They hike in the mornings. Canoe in the afternoons. Boss each other about and pour each other wine as they cook dinner. Laughing and telling stories. They tell you some of them. Stories about bringing their children here to this same spot. Then bringing their grandchildren, and continuing year after year until the numbers dwindled to just the two of them. You smile and a thought accidentally occurs. One of those heart thoughts that comes into full bloom before your mind reminds your heart of the logical details at play. “That'll be me and Suse,” you think. 

Then it accidentally happens again. Except Suse thinks it this time. You're all on what has become the annual Easter Camping Extravaganza. Ten days of tents and walks along the ocean and cooking over the fire. She walks to the toilets (you have learned to finally call them that after 7 years even though it still sometimes sounds funny when it comes out). Some teenagers had helped their folks set up camp and were happily throwing a frisbee about before it got too dark. She mentions how fun that would be when ours were all big. 

You stand at the rugby game with the other moms and they cheer your boy and you cheer theirs and you laugh and all gasp at the tackle and are they all alright and remember last year when that big kid landed on my son’s head and he took it on as his personal mission to tackle that kid every single time and wonder if there’s a weight limit next year for the under 12s? Next year. Next year we won’t be here. 

Some of these thoughts—the “somethings”—that make us lose our way are simple sentimentality. We can logic them away. Talk it through quick and set ourselves back on the path. Except sometimes you just can’t logic away the pain. The pain that comes when you realize you can't picture your son’s friends in the new life. The one you're going to. You don't know who they'll be. You don't know their names. Will you know their moms and dads? Will you like them? Will they like you? Will they squeeze you tight after a weekend spent working on a fundraiser at the school and tell you they can’t wait to see you in the week? Will the girls and boys all mix together in happy friendship where you're going? Will the teachers at the new school be as helpful and fantastic as the ones have been here? What will it be like to be in high school without the great leveler you've come to love in school uniforms? Will the rugby coaches be as great as these ones? The parents as fun and laid back? The boys as encouraging to one another on the field?

One day you overhear the middle son’s friends ask him whether he'll be back, after he goes away? “Yes, but Caid. You'll be back, right?” they ask him in their 10-year-old innocence. His answer stings. Hurts somewhere deep inside. “No,” he says. “I won't be back. Hopefully I can come and visit. But I won't be BACK.” Just like that something inside unlocks and a grief begins you'd hoped could wait just a few more months. A few more blissful months of feeling settled. Included. Welcomed. Sure.

Sure. Suddenly my sure—my sure wobbles. I lose my way. Can we do it again? Can my sweet boys? Will they have the resilience to pick up this one last time? Start again? Dig in? Make friends? Find the new haunts? The new house? The new walks and hikes and just-an-hour-away drives? The camping spots we'll go to year after year? The friends who will want to go with us? Will there be a girlfriend there who I'll some day, years into the future look at across a picnic table at our favorite camping spot and laugh and boss and tell stories of years and years of memories with? 

My sure is wobbling. I've lost my way. I know all of the logic. Each pro and each con. I still see the logical reasoning that says that in just a few short months we leave again. Across the world again. To a new life. To new friends, and this time to old ones too. In a place we've been before. But my sure. My sure is wobbling. I feel afraid and I don't quite know the way this time through the grief. 

Saturday, 27 July 2013

You Are Loved

Fifty times I traced the heart. Fifty times I cut along the lines. Fifty times I wrote the words, “You are loved.” Sometimes writing, “YOU are loved.” Sometimes, “You ARE loved.” Sometimes, “You are LOVED.” Over and over again I wrote the words like a benediction. Each one a blessing on the one who would receive it. Each time stamping a belief in the truth of the statement on my own heart. 

A week ago my sweet husband announced that I had an appointment with my friend Jess to go shopping. With a budget that I had to spend. To buy new clothes. So naturally...I panicked. Seriously. Why wasn’t immediately clear even to me. It’s been a long week. One that brought to the surface questions and realizations that have been a long time coming.

Like the realization that I don’t even know what I like to wear. I somehow missed that phase of life. Perhaps because I married and had kiddos so early in my 20s and was dead broke for the period of time that many women evaluate their likes and dislikes, their no-thank-you’s and must-haves, their favorite places to budget shop and their go-ahead-and-splurge places, etc. I never did that. My closet included mostly stuff that was either handed-down from my fashionista sister or happened to be on the clearance rack at Gap. Which isn’t even my favorite store.

There was also the realization that my closet was almost completely full of items for me to “fit in to.” This is I think what prompted Wanderer to call Jess. He was taking me on a date. A dressy one. Which I was stoked about. Except that I wasn’t. Because I had nothing to wear. He was gently incredulous. I have a full closet. How could it contain nothing for me to wear? He brought me in and I pulled things out. I had cute dressy clothes. A little black dress. A fun funky top and black pants. Except--like nearly every single item in my closet--none of them fit me. “How long have these not fit you, love?” he asked me. “Hmmm...,” I had to think about it. “Since before I got pregnant with Littlest” I answered sheepishly. “Love,” he was ever so kind. “That was FOUR years ago.” 

The problems with this were many. Why was I willing to buy clothes for every other member of our family when they outgrew things or wore things out? Why hadn’t I updated things here and there? The biggest question of all though was this: Why was I unwilling to buy things in my current size? My waiting to do so drawing out into multiple YEARS because I could not accept the size that I currently was/am? 

Many women, doula clients, and friends have heard my love and genuine enthusiasm as we discussed how birth and years passing and gravity itself change their bodies. How they must learn to enjoy what their bodies become. Feel comfortable in their skin--THIS skin. This right-now skin. Own their loveliness and lovable-ness and see that they have worth beyond measure. See the beauty in the marks the journey leaves on them. Except apparently not MY right-now skin. Not my journey’s marks. Not my loveliness and lovable-ness.

I could believe in the beauty and worth of all the other women in my life. Why couldn’t I love my own body for what it was?  A strong, warrior body that had housed, birthed, and breast-fed three, BIG strong baby boys. Boys whose sojourn has left my body soft and marked. Boys who themselves have no problem honoring it. 

In fact just in the last few weeks both of my younger boys have made sweet remarks of love for my body and its current shape--not the one I should or will or wish I had. Middlest said recently after asking if he could snuggle me and “lay on my belly” (even though he’s nearly too big to do so) “I love to lay on your belly. You’re so soft.” Littlest stood before Wanderer and I recently when we were watching a movie. His daddy offered to let him sit in his lap. “No, Daddy. I want to sit with Mama because she’s SO soft.” Not my skin. Or the soft T-shirt I was wearing. My body. Snuggled up against the curves and rolls that made my lap so soft and comfy to him. This body. This one. Today. 

This is a body I couldn’t bear. I said words to myself like “fat” and “out-of-shape” and “just needs to lose a bit more weight.” So I didn’t buy clothes for this body. I just daily looked at the clothes I wished fit and morning after morning, for the three years since Littlest was born I have reprimanded myself for not fitting into the clothes contained in my closet. 

I spent the week thinking and talking and crying about all of this. I shed a lot of tears. Which is good because I haven’t been crying much lately (which is a whole other blog). I cried body-image tears, not-feeling-comfortable-in-my-own-skin tears, lonely-for-my-close-girlfriends-who-are-so-far-away tears. I just cried. I realized lots of stuff. That I’m not kind to myself. That moving across the world so much has been awesome but has really taken its toll on my body and my spirit. That I’ve lost a great deal of “me” along the way and that clothes aren’t the only area where I feel a little lost and a little unsure. I cried for my lost sense of purpose and focus and how hugely that contributes to my being uncomfortable and feeling unsafe in my own skin. I cried for the sorry I felt to other women who I want to love their own bodies and selves so much and to whom my own unwillingness to love my own self is actually a type of betrayal. 

Oh man. How could a shopping trip bring up such deep crap and pain?!? After all that crying and talking and praying I hoped I’d have it sorted, you know? That through the tears I’d wake up Tuesday morning and I’d love my body and I’d have had some sort of catharsis and be fine. Except I don’t want to be “fine.” I want to be ever so much more than “fine.” 

So I took a leap of faith. I went shopping with Jess on Tuesday anyway. I chose to say, “I love you” to the body I live in right this minute and buy it--and buy ME--some cute right-now clothes. Not clothes for the interim. Not a few things hastily bought until I “lose the rest of this weight.” Clothes. Clothes that fit. Right. Now. Holy cow. It was HARD. Hard to spend money on me. Hard because I wasn’t sure exactly what I liked. Hard because I had to try real hard to love the image in the mirror every time I put on a new item of clothing. Oy vey. When you shop--you have to look in mirrors and SEE what is really there. 

Guess what though? It was fun. Jess was super helpful. She took me to fun shops. She helped me pick out clothes in my right-now size. I actually look kind of cute when I wear my right-now size! Jeans that fit look ever so much better than tight I-wish-they-fit jeans or loose I-kept-these-to-wear-after-pregnancy jeans. Shirts that fit! A little fabulous flattering jacket. A pair of everyday flats--as opposed to the duct-taped Birkenstock sandals that I’ve worn nearly every day for about a year. 

Then...THEN?!?! Then I wore the clothes! Cause that’s the other thing I suck at. Not wanting to just return them all the second they’re bought. Or leave the tags on just in case miraculously a lose a zillion pounds in five minutes and they end up being too big.

The craziest thing happened you guys. Get this--somehow not being defeated by the first decision of the day--What should I wear?--it has totally helped. Going in and taking something that fits and that I feel cute in out of the closet and wearing it--it has helped me feel more cheerful about my days. I have even put mascara on every day this week to go with my cute clothes! Having that decision sorted has made me more able to live my day in a purposeful way. It has made me a little more confident in myself. A little more able to feel...well, ME. In a good way. In a way that even flowed out to those around me this week.

Like when on Friday I took Jess shopping--to the Farmer’s Market. I’m much more in my element there. I pointed out the good produce. I explained the benefits of sourdough bread on our digestion. I took her to the good free range butcher and delighted as the dairy-lady explained to us how much better the un-homogenized milk is for our guts. I suggested gluten and grain-free, kid-friendly packed lunch ideas. We talked about ways this thing that I am passionate about--healthy eating for our families--is part of my passion and therefore my purpose. It was fantastic. I was paying it forward to Jess who paid it forward to me. I was less distracted. I felt like I was carrying less pain. Not because I bought new jeans--though that was part of it. No, because I’d said, “I love you” to myself for the first time in a long time.

So I suppose when my assignment for our Sunday night church gathering came through on Thursday night I shouldn’t have been surprised. My job was to make 40-50 hearts with the phrase “You are loved” printed on them. Yeah. I know, right?

I also suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when Anne Lamott posted these words as part of her Facebook status on Friday morning (read the whole thing here it’s so good):

I would tell people that no matter how awful their thoughts and behavior, God HAS to love them--that's His job. And I am Exhibit A--God has to love me, and this is not my fault. I didn't trick Him or Her, or hide the grossest stuff. God just loves; period. Go figure. It's a great system. 

She says in that status that we are loved and chosen. I am loved and chosen. Me. And this is the thing--I believed her. Not a lot. But I did believe her a little. For the first time in a long time. Maybe for the first time ever.

This morning I got out watercolor paper and paints and painted--something I have in the past done only in moments of self love and self exploration and something that I haven’t done at all for over three and half years. I painted. I painted color. I painted hearts. Then when I really got going I even painted words. Words like, “lovely” and “beautiful” and “chosen” and “worthy.” Then I traced 50 hearts on the painted paper. I cut around the hearts fifty times. I borrowed pens bought by my sweet friend Alex--realizing as I wrote that she is also a friend who reflects back to me that I am loved and valued. Fifty times I wrote, “You are loved.” Fifty times I prayed those words as a benediction over the person who would receive the card on Sunday evening. Hoping that when the person picked up that heart and read those words they would believe what the words said. Fifty times over realizing that I couldn’t very well pray that, believe that, for someone else and not believe it for myself. Fifty times in a row. Over and over for a couple of hours I painted, traced, cut out, wrote, read, and chose to believe the words, “You are loved.” 

“Hey Cori, YOU are loved. You ARE loved. You are LOVED.” 

And so are YOU. For reals.  

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Bus Stop Dementors

Surely Dark Chocolate Toblerone would ward off the dementors we both were no doubt battling. I know the icy chill had gone to my heart when Alex called from the school. Middlest was at a preschool, across the Roseville Bridge and several kilometers from his school bus stop. He didn’t cry on the phone, and Pippi the preschool headmistress was so sweet, but gee whiz. He’s only 8!

Not one to wallow he had set himself to making paper airplanes from the book Pippi had lent him. He had a pretty good stack going by the time I arrived. I wanted to swallow him in a mama bear hug, but I restrained myself and honored his manhood while he completed the final airplane in his fleet. Cocooned in the back seat of the car together he allowed me a hug and told me his story. 

Apparently when he had realized he’d missed his stop he’d alerted the bus driver who had explained he couldn’t stop the bus in the middle of the bridge. “I crossed the street to the other bus stop--a girl helped me--and I looked at the bus schedule just like you showed me, but there was no 136! Only a 280! and then I didn’t know what to do!” Then finally some tears and he let me snuggle him up. He’d kept his head though. “I remembered our routine, Mom.” When he couldn’t find a policeman he found a parent with a child and asked for help. They took him to the preschool, who found the name of his school, who called me, who brought chocolate, and snuggles. 

Sometimes I think they’re not listening, but they are.