living into questions

Cheshire coxing for a senior boat at Head of the Charles.

Believe it or not, I have been journal writing a lot this month and yet I’ve been unwilling to bring anything to the point of posting and publishing.  

Just interesting.

I read a poem every morning curtesy of Joe Riley  and his email list called Panhala.  (I can’t find a working link for the site but a subscription request might be here:  I took up this habit about 8 years ago because I never liked reading poetry and it seemed that all the work I was doing and the people that I was working with valued poetry and always had something inspirational to read to begin meetings.  At that time, I also remembered that I had promised myself to read poetry (and also Proust) in my old age, assuming as I did when I was very young and callow, that deep understanding would be mine by the time I reached oldladyhood. Somehow I came across Joe Riley’s work of sending out daily poems and I subscribed.  I deleted many without even a read when my email inbox got overwhelmingly full and I stopped in the middle of reading many times because I just didn’t get it; however, little by little, over the years, I have come to some understanding of poetry.  And I now envy poets, like painters, who can say so much, move so deeply with a minimum of words.  It is not my talent, as this long paragraph attests to, but my appreciation grows with every verse I read.  

Today’s poem was a Mary Oliver, who died at the beginning of this year and who is deeply missed by many, including me.  The end of it reads:

Wherever it was
I was supposed to be
this morning–
whatever it was I said

I would be doing–
I was standing
at the edge of the field–
I was hurrying

through my own soul,
opening its dark doors–
I was leaning out;
I was listening.

~ From Mockingbird by Mary Oliver ~

The picture of “leaning out . . . listening” so vivid and real in the moment of reading. I wanted to ask some expert who I do not know: what must I do to live with such awareness?  Of course, I know part of the answer, at least for now, a list as of yet incomplete as I settle into this new place.  I need to read.  Read, at least one poem a day I supposed, and then much more other stuff. I need to write—journal, write to friends, write fiction and post right here. I need my practice—quiet, meditation and some kind of teaching of mindfulness that is yet unknown, and some kind of garden work that also is yet unknown.  I need to let go of “my” plans for Julia and follow her lead whatever that lead may be and however confusing and vague that lead may seem.  

None of this is easy for me and I lose my focus often.  This morning, reading Mary Oliver, I remember to live into the questions.

An update, catch all of our doings:

  • I have a bad hair cut! (This seems almost too petty and vane to begin an update with but there you have where I am!) Finding some wonderful person, like the women at Bang who cut my hair and Julia’s for years, is a challenge.  A first attempt, almost a month ago, was a disaster and I am waiting for enough growth to try again with someone else.  If only someone, somewhere would advertise that they give “old lady edgy cuts” or possible “absolutely ordinary old lady cuts,” I’d have a clue where to go. Anyone who wonders how my short, straight hair could be that difficult to style does not have thin, limp, straight hair or any other kind of hair that is out of some mainstream of hair cutting that is taught in training classes.  Each time I look in the mirror, I have to recall impermanence and patience. I don’t look good, I better be learning something!
  • So much is going on with Julia.  Ups and downs that I wish I was taking time to write them all.  She is growing and if I survive this growth spurt, perhaps her life will look better on the other end of some tunnel we are in the middle of.  
  • At her first Newton IEP, Julia expressed a desire to live on her own.  It saddens me to hear her want to live with friends in an apartment. She is so far from being ready to live anywhere near on her own.  Every day, I see high school students decades more mature and independent than Julia and it pierces my heart. I still grieve for the life she will never know. I grieve for her.
  • I also find I still hold on to the possibility that Julia will one day catch up to her peers and have a typical life.  This awareness surprises me.  Hadn’t I let all of that long ago?  Apparently not. This desire is for me—I want to see my daughter do what high school students do, to give her curfews, to go on college visits, to tell her to get off the phone with the friend she spent most of the day with, to curb her enthusiasm for too many classes or too many interests.  I want to experience that part of motherhood with her.  In some sense, wanting a second child was about wanting a mothering experience that was somewhat like my first one.  I see how much I still grieve for the journey I didn’t have.
  • So this is two griefs—something I need to remember from time to time—and one of my tasks is not to confuse them.  Both need understanding, but the second is completely about me and in my power to work through and change.
  • Julia has had negative self-talk for a long time — almost since she began talking. Talking in English, that is. Sometimes she has talked about self harm; however, recently, self-harm, disappearing and suicide seem to be her go to topics whenever she is angry.  And she is angry at whatever crosses her. Regulation has always been a challenge and these days are no exception, it is clear that she could hurt herself if she had a mind to.  As crazy as this will sound, Julia has also been happier and more at ease recently.  I’ve been attributing that to school.  North is not as crowded or loud as West was.  Julia has access to more counseling services and people have more time to be helpful.  I have not put these two things together—happier and angrier—together until I typed them.
  • If anything is missing from Julia’s daily round, it would be the outside therapy that has always been a part of her life. Not sure what she needed or when we could schedule therapy, I have hung back and waited.  Admittedly, I do not miss the days of constant rushing to make after school therapy sessions on time. I started looking last week. A list of possibilities and phone numbers.  The messages that I’ve left and email I sent are part of a long referral process for a therapist.  She is still on a wait list to see a psychiatrist as part of her primary health care team.  In Madison, we saw someone every three months to tweak her meds and check in. Today, I couldn’t even talk to the administrative person who could check the wait list on the phone.  
  • Last week, for the first time a school counselor mentioned getting an an emergency safety evaluation to determine her risk for the self harm she talks about.  I’ve always assumed that her negative talk was for attention and I’ve been encouraged to believe that by others.  Last Wednesday, I left my assumptions aside and called for help. We had an emergency eval on Wednesday evening with a counselor from Riverside Community Care. Julia was able to answer questions and participate pretty well.  The counselor decided that Julia was not in any immediate danger, suggested weekly therapy and keeping an eye on developments.  The next day, I got a call from Riverside and started an intake process.  Julia called in after school to complete that process.  They are now looking for someone appropriate.  Unfortunately, although Riverside deals with trauma, they don’t have a particular expertise with ASD.  There is about a one month wait. We’ll see who they find and what kind of a relationship they can build with Julia.
  • I am joining National Novel Writing Month. I am somewhat abashed about the joining even an online group in which I’ve never considered myself qualified for.  I have worked on fiction projects—short stories, long pieces and novels—and yet, none have seen the light of day.  Not one of them is good enough to post here let alone submit to the publishing world.  And yet (Yet again), I persist.  Fiction writing is an itch that needs be scratched.  Once again. 
  • Wedding hubbub is gearing up.  One weekend, the four of us (Cheshire, Justin, Julia and I) visited a camp in NH as a possible venue. Cheshire and Justin want a weekend affair to give family and friends the chance to really be together.  I think it is a lovely idea.  Years ago, Cheshire and I went to a lovely Seattle wedding that was like this.  We came knowing 3 people and left with a party full of friends.  I think it is the gold standard for Cheshire.
  • The first camp we saw was not suitable but who could expect to hit a home run first time up at bat?!  (I applaud for my use of a cheesy but understood sport’s metaphor.) As Cheshire’e research fills in her spread sheet (Um, that makes me so proud), I am also looking and passing along anything that looks promising and has availability. And oh, it is fun being here for this planning!

As I re-read what I wrote, I don’t know if my mix of joys and concerns work together.  Wedding planning and suicide watching and novel writing—how does it fit together?  But this has been our last two weeks.  And the juggler wakes up every morning to keep the balls in the air.

Pictures from our visit to Castle in the Clouds in Moultonborough, NH.

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