I am a mermaid
Cast upon the shore
But this shore is a prairie
And I all I see before me is grain
Yes, the grain feeds me
But…I need the water
Shipwrecked, of sorts
Who will bring me to the sea?
Take me back
Quench my body in undulating waters
I am a mermaid
Build a strong root in yourself,
A groundedness that is always there.
Then grow, trust that your foundation will hold you, get stronger.
Let your heart create branches that reach, far out to spread love.
Even in winter, be warm, be sturdy, and love.
I went to a screening of Janis: Little Girl Blue this weekend, and was blown away by the powerhouse that Janis Joplin was. Like so many creative people who have died too young, I couldn’t help but contemplate what she would have gone on to make and do in this world had she not been gone at the age of 27. One of Janis’ bandmates described her as someone who lived with enormous emotional honesty, for better and for worse.
Emotional honesty. This phrase has been lingering in my mind since I saw the film. It hit a chord in me as I believe I have been leaning into that very type of being. Living and loving with my whole heart. While that may sound all unicorns and rainbows, I can assure you it is not. Yes, living with my heart wide open includes parts that are beautiful and rich and amazing. But. Not wearing armor is also RAW. Tender. Vulnerable.
Still, for better and for worse, I wouldn’t live any other way. Emotional honesty is living the truest version of myself. It’s being all in. It’s risking everything to have everything. I’m learning that we cannot have the fullest love, the fullest relationships, the fullest experiences, without risk, without emotional honesty. And yes, that takes enormous trust and is scary as hell. As buoys in this sea of emotional honesty, I hold on to Brené Brown’s sentiment that we cannot selectively numb. That is, we can’t numb out pain, heartache, and disappointment without also numbing joy, happiness, and love. Numbing is numbing, across the board.
Living and leaning into emotional honesty means I’m going to cry at yoga. Ache in my heart. AND. It also means I’m going to laugh with my whole body. Be bliss-filled. And love the whole experience — darkness and light — all the same. Emotional honesty. I’m in.
I went to California for the holidays. I needed something new to do for the season, something that was different from anything I had done in my “old life,” something that would halt the flashbacks to what was happening this time last year. Those early days when my life was blowing up. Rather, when he was blowing up my life, our life. Going back east didn’t seem a good option, nor did staying put in Nebraska. I seized the invitation from my bestie, Melissa, to visit her and her husband in Los Angeles and blow out the end of this shitshow of a year with fun and sun and love.
Christmas day and evening were actually lovely. Who knew? We went to yoga in the morning at a beautiful little studio where a cellist played live while we greeted the day with sun salutations and sweat, burning through toxins, both real and metaphorical. This was followed by a sweet brunch with the dearest of British in-laws (Melissa’s) peppering the conversation in an accent I could listen to all day. We had a feast for dinner, lots of bubbles and wine. We opened our crackers and played games. I got THE best sweater as a gift. Such a reparative experience. Christmas could be good.
The 26th dawned, I turned over my phone while still half-asleep to check the time. That’s when I saw I had 27 missed calls from my sister’s daughter. 27 missed calls. When no one uses their phone as a phone anymore. This could only mean one thing. I listened to two of the voicemail messages to confirm what I already knew was true, and then I called my niece.
My mother died.
It came quick. Pneumonia and sepsis.
My niece had called me over and over so I could say goodbye. But I was a three-hour time difference away with do-not-disturb enabled on my phone so I could sleep. What would there have been to say anyway?
I sat on the settee, listening to my niece cry and tell me the details of my mother’s final hours. I was silent. Not crying. Not uttering more than a few “uh-huhs.” Melissa knew something was wrong and stood in front of me while I sat with the phone pressed to my ear. I mouthed the words, “my mother died.” And she shook her head.
She shook her head, and because she knows me so well, her head-nodding communicated all that I was feeling. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me. 2015, are you masochistic? What else you gonna dish out? Did you have to get in one final horrible blow before a new year unfolds? How awful of a year do you want to go down in history as? The year started with my husband walking out and now it’s ending with my mother dying. Un-fucking-believable.
So now what?
I’m not devastated. Don’t think that. The truth is, as many of you know, we did not have “that kind” of relationship. We were not close. Despite my attempts over the years. She was never a mother to me. Never a caregiver. It simply wasn’t in her DNA. She didn’t have a capacity for it. She was already gone before making it official when she left my father and me when I was 10. After that, I saw her when it fit her schedule, her needs. Only after constant canceling and rescheduling. She was too busy with a new life, dating, partying, trying to find shreds of happiness. Motherhood was not part of her repertoire.
Yet, she was still my mother.
I’m trying to sort out the jumble of emotions I’m feeling. Grateful to not be devastated. But, confused nonetheless. Sad. Angry. Relieved. Guilty. Numb. Unfazed. These are some of what’s floating around my heart.
How to grieve a mother I never really had? How to grieve a mother I’ve been grieving all of my life? As my therapist said, my lifelong loss of a mother finally comes to completion. Now to sort it out…
I’m a warrior. For love. I’m strong in this fight and I will fiercely love you. But as strong and vigilant as I may be, warriors get wounds. They get scraped and hurt. Amass scars. And I have my fair share of those — hurts, wounds. Scars in my heart and on my body. But that doesn’t make me give up the fight. Because friends, love… Love is the only thing worth fighting for. So I will continue to go into battle, no armor on, heart wide open. And I will prevail. Because love wins. Be a love warrior with me.