"In the midst of winter I found in me an Invincible Summer." - Camus ...On exploring strength in its many forms:
strong people, strong writing, strong curiosity, obsessions, stances, and loves.
Strength as a concept wide enough to encompass fear, truth, vulnerability, and joy.
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Evelyn Marie Rice, 15 years later
Today marks the 15 year anniversary of my mother’s death.After struggling for 7 ½ years with chronic progressive Multiple Sclerosis, she passed away.Being that it is now 15 years hence, that’s actually twice as long as the length of her illness.But illnesses are the kind of sprawling reality that takes up more time and space than actual time and space.And it really doesn’t seem to matter how much time passes, there is still a void of mom.She was far from perfect, and actually really resented when people tried to portray her as a suffering saint when she felt more suffering than sainthood.But she was wonderful.
She was creative and funny and embarrassing in the way mothers should be.She cared so much, I am still trying to learn the courage it takes to show how much you care about things.She made goofy dinners like chili boats, which consisted of Fritos floating atop chili.They were awesome, and I will be making that for lunch.She handmade the Christmas presents, each year more challenging than the last.Birdhouses, jeweled ornaments, crocheted snowflakes.When I was seven, she gave me a dollhouse she made from a two-shelf bookshelf, and had filled it with handmade items like miniature rugs and a master bedroom complete with checkbook box bed.
She gifted me with a love and respect for imagination.And books, a relationship with books that could carry me forever.
Living with her pain, and the inevitable ways illness changes a family (changing children to caretakers, living with being unable to help as much as you want to be able to, knowing that the end of it is a terrible way out) shaped me irrevocably as a person.Losing her shaped me too.I remember one of the many complicated feelings I had after her death was a great sense of unemployment.There was grief and relief that her suffering was over, but also an enormous unmooring of my sense of purpose.It seemed utterly frivolous to have to finally just focus on myself.There is a beauty to experiencing time in crisis so that you can only live each moment and can’t see past the next one.Having lost the crisis, suddenly I was faced with having to think about time in a longer fashion.Now that I could grow up, what did I want to do, who would I be?I’m still learning that one.
These changes are the most formative I’ve ever experienced.And every year I learn something more from them, unlock more of the power of growing and becoming.
Today I am going to honor her by writing.She would have liked that.She’d be glad that I’m a little better than she is about letting myself enjoy it.
I've been avoiding putting this together, because a part of me really doesn't want this year's Litquake festival to be over already. The other part of me is still cranky-tired, wandering around trying to get to all those projects I said I'd get to after Litquake, and feeling post-Christmas like. In short, this year's Litquake was AMAZING. Every year has been awesome, but this one was particularly special for me because I got to actually help plan the awesome. As a volunteer during the festival for the past several years, I definitely felt like I contributed to making each event I helped at awesome, but this year, being on the committee,* I got to witness the tremendous build up to the festival that happens the whole year prior. The amount of love, sweat and time that goes into it is incredible, and I'm not sure I've ever been part of something so cool. Which is not to say I'm not still cranky-tired and looking forward to feeling fully recovered.
What love looks like these days in my tiny corner of the world. Or, what I'm loving these days. Books: These have brought me so much delight and escape and hope lately: Housebreaking , by Colleen Hubbard The Swimmers , by Julie Otsuka A Life in Light; meditations on impermanence, by Mary Pipher Rules for Visiting , by Jessica Francis Kane This Time Tomorrow, by Emma Straub Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver Hunt, Gather, Parent , by Michaeleen Doucleff, PhD Podcasts (the links will take you to specific episodes that moved me): Crazy Good Turns HerMoney with Jean Chatzky The Lazy Genius Podcast Mega Moms Don't Have Time to Grieve Unpublished We Can Do Hard Things On Being Death, Sex and Money I was going to add another category here and then I realized all I've been consuming lately are books and podcasts. :) I love a book or podcast recommendation! What have you read or heard lately that has made your heart sing, your world grow, or brought you solace?
“When I think about all that has to transpire to get from pregnancy to the birth, I am overwhelmed by time and the unknown. It’s not useful to contemplate. There is only today, and it is good.” I documented my move from ambivalence about parenting, to IVF, to motherhood, as well as all of Year One. I did it longhand because that’s what I did back then. So now, finally, I’m typing all those pages up, in part because of the great What If that living amid a pandemic creates. And I came across this yesterday and it is so true for the current moment, for this, the fifth week of Sheltering in Place. Ways this time is like pregnancy: It can make you fat. It will definitely make you crave near-constant meals and snacks. You will swing from feeling good to anxiety-laden, angry, irritable and back again several times a day. You will want to know how this will all unfold, how hard it will get, exactly how you and your life will be changed. You can’t know any of that. Ther