"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.
I lost my mom twenty-one years ago today. She died from
complications related to a long battle with chronic-progressive multiple
sclerosis. I was a week away from turning twenty-one. Which means I have not
had her as long as I did have her.
It used to make me unique among my friends, to have lost a
parent at such a young age. But I’m no longer young and many friends have
joined this depressing club. The dues are astronomical and no one prepares
People, moms are important. Don’t let anyone tell you
differently. Whether you were once a child or are currently a mom. They are the
sun, moon, and stars, even when they are completely obscured by darkness.
I wish she mattered less. She doesn’t. She matters more than
almost anything: that first hit of love, that childhood sense of safety, that
initial understanding of what it means to be a woman in the world: mom.
Memory is funny when it comes to dead people: I can remember
her any way I want. Which means I can also mis-remem…
Having a baby is not unlike accidentally slipping into a science fiction universe, everything you know is so completely upended. I wrote an essay about how my sense of time shifted out from under me in the first months of my daughter's life.
Excerpts in italics are from
the essay The Beginning Of Time, by Stephen W. Hawking
1. The time scale of the universe is very long compared to that for
human life. It was therefore not surprising that until recently, the universe
was thought to be essentially static and unchanging in time.
The Longest Shortest Time is
the name of a podcast on parenting that I heard about several years before
becoming a parent and filed away mentally. “The days are long but the years are
short” is another phrase used to both comfort and cajole new parents. The
implication is that parenting shifts your experience of time, as if life simply
advancing in years wasn’t enough to do the same. One hour of an infant
screaming inconsolably after her two month immunizatio…