Saturday, December 6, 2014

69 years doesn't seem so long for a life. But that could not happen....

When I was younger, my mother always said she would die young.  Since all the people in my family always walked around talking about how sick they were and how they were going to die any minute - including my grandmother who lived to just 6 months short of her 98th birthday and a cousin who has been at death's door now for over 50 years and last I saw is still going strong - I didn't pay full attention to her words.

Today would have been my mother's 69th birthday.  I miss her something fierce and still cry on my long commute to my job at least three days out of five remembering something about those last 10 months of her life as the cancer ate away at her while I stood by helplessly, urging her and her doctors to take better care of her health, never being taken seriously.

I try to make myself remember the good things.  Like our silly game we played, going to a flea market or a Goodwill and having a little contest to see who could come up with the tackiest thing.  It was a game we loved, and we each won an equal number of times.  (The ability to spot tacky is a genetically passed-down trait for us Southern women, y'all.)  Like the love of books, which she also passed down to me.

Or like her statement that I was the great shame of her life.  Yes, that is a good thing.

I have evolved to feel sorry for my mother who was brought up in a culture of misogynistic shame. Because of this, she hid her pregnancy with me, and drove herself to the hospital on October 30, 1969, to labor and give birth to me alone.  No one in my family, save my mother, knew I existed for the first couple of days I was on this earth.  She had strongly considered giving me up for adoption.  And then my grandfather showed up at the hospital.  He had been looking for her to tell her that her own mother was in the hospital.  He convinced my mother that she was better than the shame, and so was I.  She called my dad and told him he was a father.  He showed up at the hospital and stepped up.  I have no idea how his mother took the news, but I know she spoiled me rotten my entire life.

It took me until after my mother died to see this as a fairy tale - I got to live.  I got to grow up with my family.

I wanted to talk to her about it.  Other than one phone call she made to me at work, screaming and crying, calling me "the great shame of [her] life,"  we never really got to talk about it.  Every time I brought it up, she made it clear it was not for discussion.  Then she got sick and I did not want to bring up anything else unpleasant for her to deal with.

So I feel like I am missing a piece of my history.  Maybe that's why I like digging in genealogy and am fascinated by the past.

Maybe that's why the person I feel most comfortable with at present is the narrator of my novel who is long dead and yet spilling his own confessions and history into my fingers as I type.

Maybe that's why I feel drawn to champion those who are not championed and empower them to champion themselves.

No one should live in shame.

No one should apologize for their existence.

No one should suffer at the hands of another and be made to feel "less than."

No one should be unwanted.

Happy birthday, Mommy.  I miss you.  I am still so proud of you I have no words.  You are still strong.

Saturday, September 20, 2014


my feelings for you are motile
the blush of love more like
a verdigris patina
on the afterthought of my soul.
bright, brassy hues turn sepia
when marinated in alcohol
and tears' brine.
the goddess in me feigns agape
while i evacuate, out the back door,
the dirty alley's a symphony
of cruelty and lack
- music to my ears, a familiar tune -
i shall not sing for you again.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Fulfilling self-assignment

Rifling through this month's journal (I am using a ""Decomposition Book" each month, a la Natalie Goldberg), I found a assignment I had given myself as a result of my working through Julia Cameron's Walking in this World: to post one of my most obscure poems on my blog.  Since this is the last day of the month, I wanted to complete at least one more creative task for August and decided to post this evening's verse here.

But of course, there is an interesting story to this poem. I am a big fan of the Personal Universe deck. I think I have written about it here before, but feel free to Google away.  However, my room is a wreck and I am not really in the frame of mind to clean, so I thought I would let an app that I like to play with, Ghost Radar Legacy, generate the words for me.  Google that one too, if you are curious.  (I am getting a bit lazy with the linking, sorry.)

So anyway, for your obscure enjoyment - my verse about not wanting to be obscure, I guess:

"What I Want"

What I want
is to be more than useful,
beyond this space
beyond this time
my words more than scattered consonants
discovery subterranean
like Richard III unearthed,
in London for a parking structure
mundane, I want the conversation -
alone -
to last.

(c) tbj 8.31.14

Monday, March 3, 2014

Faithful Companions and Unconditional Love

Ever since June of last year, I have slept with death in my house.  The night my mother died, I felt it slide in under the door like a poisonous mist, creep through the air of sadness that hung palpable, on stealthy panther feet.

Since that time, I can sense when death is about, scratching out with its hoary talons to snatch someone else I love away.

I looked into my mother's eyes the night she died.  I told her she was the best mother in the entire world, thanked her for trying to make me into a good person, acknowledged her sacrifices in bringing me into this vale of tears, and told her we would be okay, that she could go.

A few hours later, she did.

My dog, Kruzer (named by an animal shelter and we kept it, not wanting to confuse him) kept vigil in the yellow chair beside her hospital bed the last week of her life.  He sat, sentinel, the night she died.  And he had to go outside, restlessly roaming the yard after she died, as if he couldn't contain his grief.  When the funeral home directors came to pick up her body, he howled as if his heart was breaking and then showed his teeth from the gate, knowing that they were taking her away from us, from the house, from him, for the last time.

Now I am giving him medicine to increase his appetite so he will be more comfortable.  I am coaxing him to eat a bite of food.  I am racking my brain to come up with ideas of natural remedies so I don't feel so helpless fighting against this.

But I looked into his eyes tonight and saw the same thing I saw in my mother's.  That he was already destined for another world, and he looks to me to say, "go," release him from the bonds here.

My husband says I'm wrong, takes very little I think or say or do seriously, and for once I hope he is right.  He dismissed my feeling the night my mother died that she was on her way.  And he is dismissing me now.  I hope he is right this time.

Some may be horrified that I am equating my dog's decline with my mother's demise.  I acknowledge this.  But my dog is a sentient being.  My dog has shown me unflagging, unconditional love.  No human has ever done this.  My mother came the closest.

It's something in the eyes.  The windows of the soul.  The soul escapes, even when the windows are closed.  For this, I weep.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Death, Dying, Endings and Me

It's been a strange day.

I have been living through this grief process shit now for over 2 years.  On June 13, 2012, my mother was diagnosed with cancer.  She died on June 12, 2013, one day short of a year from that diagnosis.  One day short of a year to make decisions, know that the end was more than likely imminent, and get "her affairs in order."  Except she didn't.  In the midst of dealing with the fact that I can't call and kvetch or bitch or cry to her, I am having my guts ripped out dealing with the twisting in the wind of her estate, her dilapidated hoarder house, giving away her horses, discovering that her belongings were stolen, house broken into repeatedly, memory disgraced and disrespected, funeral not paid for, and the grave has no headstone.

Deep breath.

For the past three weeks or so, my dog has been eating less and less, and becoming more and more lethargic.  Today my dad paid for a vet visit with his vet for my dog.  Our vet four days ago told us it was a "sour stomach" and nothing was wrong.  My dad's vet says that it's elevated calcium and liver enzymes, and most likely parathyroid cancer.  Either we do an expensive blood test or we watch him get weaker and weaker and die.  So we did the blood test.  And now we wait a week.  And then go from there.  I want him well, but failing that, I want the absence of pain for him.

Meanwhile, I look at another sentient being who has given me absolutely nothing but unconditional love and watch him approach death.

I know that to live is to eventually die.

I get it.

This fact does not make it hurt any less.

And of course, life conspires to cry along with me.

A week ago I received Ariel Gore's memoir, The End of Eve and just finished it today.  I am bereft with sorrow for her, and reliving my own mother's illness and death, making the inevitable comparisons.  Intense writing at its best, this is a talented author's masterpiece.  She has always written in such a way that I felt her words, but this hit me on another whole level.  Highly recommend it.

Right now my life is full of changes.  It has been an overwhelming couple of years.  In the midst of all of this, I have discovered I am living a life I hate, and basically I want to escape being myself.  I am discovering what I really want to do, but also what has blocked me from it - an insidious self-hatred that poisons everything I do.  I am tired of trying to analyze its source.  I am more interested myself in the psychic surgery to remove its roots.  Failing that, I look toward the ultimate escape.

To answer Mary Oliver's rhetorical question, what to do with my one precious human life?

Fix it or forget it.

(Image from URL:

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014. Day One.

All in all, a better day than usual.

I actually slept a full 8 hours.  This only happened a handful of times in 2013.  Spending the first 6 months worried about my mother's health and watching her die, my decades of experience of shortchanging myself sleep held in me in good stead.  So sleeping 8 hours was a big deal.

I actually took the time to make a smoothie that contained 4 servings of fruits and vegetables, 20 g of protein and 3 g of fat.  It's my own design, but I did not have time to make it more than 2 or 3 times in 2013.

2013 was a year spent taking care of everyone but myself, in a lifetime of taking care of everyone but myself.
I am hoping to reverse this.

"The body is in need of no defense.  This cannot be too often emphasized.  It will be strong and healthy if the mind does not abuse it by assigning roles it cannot fulfill, to purposes beyond its scope, and to exalted aims which it cannot accomplish."    - A Course in Miracles

There is a Buddhist precept that reminds us to be mindful of how rare - and therefore, how grateful we should be - to find ourselves in a human birth on earth.  The body is part of that.  The Soul is an even bigger part of that.

Right now, I am going to focus on taking care of both.