************************************Denial covers the pain of the past * A blanket over the world * Lift a corner * Don't be afraid * Your life awaits you*************************************

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Kitten's Prayer

In a breath, I’m there. 

I’m wearing the striped jumper with the uneven hem. The teacher stands at the front of the room, her blue eye shadow raccooning her eyes. I’m too fascinated with her long, red nails to be bothered by the squeak of chalk against black board. We are to write a poem, she says. We are to write it from the perspective of an animal.

I pull my yellow pencil from between my teeth, noticing the marks of my uneven bite. The skin on my small hand is smooth except where it’s bitten to the quick, around each stubby nail. I write my name at the top of the wide-lined page.

“Try to get inside the animal’s mind,” she suggests. “What is it thinking? What is it feeling?”

My mind skips over all the most interesting animals. There are elephants and rhinos and ostriches... no, how about dinosaurs! They're extinct... but they still count. They were animals, once. 

I write a word, but immediately erase it, leaving a gray mark on the once perfect page. Suddenly, I know I don't want to write about dinosaurs. I want to write about one, very specific animal - a little kitten; all black except for one irregular spot on the side of its small face. 

To me, the little blotch was interesting, but I wonder if it was this one, tiny imperfection that kept the small being from being chosen. He stayed with his mother, in a towel-lined box beside my bed, long after his siblings had found other homes.


Tabby, an experienced mother, purred proudly as the last of her litter snuggled in for a snack. “Why can’t we keep him?”

“We can’t have a male cat and a female cat in the same house.” Mom looked at me like I was crazy. 

I didn’t understand what the big deal was, but I didn’t pursue it. "I don't know who else to ask." Already, I'd carried the litter, secured in a shoe box, all over the neighborhood. "And besides, Tabby always seems so sad when her kittens are all gone."

“She’ll get over it.” 

That much was true. This was the third time my cat had managed to get outside and get pregnant. I knew that when all the kittens were gone, Tabby would comb the house, searching with a pitiful mew for a week or two, but eventually she would go back to her pre-maternal self. That part of it baffled me as much as any of the rest.

Is it really that easy for a mother to move on?

"You need to find a home for that kitten before we leave for vacation, next week." Mom turned her attention to her ironing, closing the subject for the night. 

The week passed quickly. I played kickball with my friends and watched The Brady Bunch on TV and scavenged refrigerator boxes from the new condos that were going up on the next block so we could build forts, but I did not find a home for the little kitten. Even that last night, as I tried to fall asleep with both cat and kitten in my bed, I avoided thinking about how I'd failed. In the morning, it was impossible to ignore.

It was my fault the cat was pregnant in the first place. I was responsible for making sure she didn’t get outside. I don’t know how she got out, but since I was responsible, it was all my fault, and so I was supposed to find homes for the kittens, and I had not done that either. 

I hoped the little kitten might be forgotten. My father was busy loading up the station wagon with everything he could fit inside and on top. My mother was cleaning out the refrigerator and leaving last minute instructions for my brother. He would be home, watching the house and going to summer school. He would be taking care of Tabby. He wouldn’t hardly even notice another little kitten in the house.

My father was always in a foul mood when we were getting ready to leave, and this was no exception. I stayed out of his way, hoping to avoid any trouble, and also thinking that if he didn’t see me, he might not think about the kitten.

"It's time to go!" Mom's voice rang out from the front hall, and I thought, it worked! We all headed out to the car on that hot, July day, and the kitten was still upstairs, in my room. Once we were on the road, we wouldn't stop for anything and it would be too late, by the time they remembered and maybe, by the time we got home, Mom would change her mind.

“Where’s that kitten?” My father’s impatience was clearly audible in each word.
I fidgeted.
I swallowed.
In a very soft voice, I asked, “What are you going to do?”

“I’m not going to do anything. Go get it and bring it here.”

“But… why? We can't take him with us... can we?”


I went.

When I returned to the silent car, Mom looked at me in the rear-view mirror, from her usual spot in the driver’s seat. I wanted a smile, but her eyes and the gear shifted simultaneously into drive. The tiny, terrified kitten dug it’s claws painfully into my arm as the car moved forward. I held it against me, tight enough to prevent it from scratching me again. Its heart tapped a staccato rhythm against mine.

We drove down the alley, then turned the corner and drove only two blocks before my father said, “Stop here.”

Mom, ever obedient, pulled to the curb next to Baker Park. This park was a little further from my house than the one I usually played in, but I’d spent many winter days here, when they flooded the field to turn it into a skating arena.

In Summer, it was like a different world.Mothers pushed toddlers in baby swings, while slightly older children scrambled up the slide and jungle gym. Bigger kids chased each other around the large field, which was covered in thick, short-mown grass, except where it had been worn away around home plate and the other three embedded, rubber bases.

“Put the cat out on that field.”

My throat went dry. “What? What do you mean?”

“You heard me. Put the cat out there, in the middle of the grass. It will be fine.”

The kitten, sensing my panic, struggled against my grip. “I can’t just leave him there...” 

“You sure can! You were supposed to find it a home. Now it will be up to one of those kids to do that for you.”

I searched for Mom’s eyes, in the mirror. I saw the glassy look which told me she was not going to be of any help. I opened the car door.

I crossed the street, the pavement hot under my flip-flops, the kitten clutched to my chest. At first, no one paid any attention to me, but then a boy looked to see what I was holding. I knew that boy. It was David Horner. He was in my class, last year.

"Hey, where'd you get the kitten?"

I blocked him out. I blocked them all out. I hurried to the very center of the field, disengaged the kitten from my shirt, and placed his tiny body in the grass.

“What are you doing?”

I turned and ran back to the car, the image of the black spiky tail sticking up from the grass, etched in my mind.

“She just left this cat here!” 

"You can't do that!"


My eyes and throat and the scratches on my arm all burned as I slammed the car door.


A poem. 
From an animal’s perspective.

I stare forward, as the poem forms in my mind. David Horner is in the desk in front of me. Although it might appear as if I'm looking at the back of his head, my eyes are actually out-of-focus. Do I have the same glassy-eyed look I saw on my mother's face, in the rear-view mirror? The title comes to me, first, and the rest fills in, of its own accord.

A Kitten’s Prayer
Do you hear me, God?
I want to be loved.
I’m a good little kitten.
I keep myself clean and I never scratch anyone,
Unless I’m afraid. 
Do you hear me, God?
I need a good home,
With a little girl who gives me milk
And sometimes pulls a bit of yarn
So I can play. 
Isn't she there, somewhere?
Someone as lonely as me?
If she finds me, I’ll be very good
And I’ll never ask for anything else 
Except, please, God
Don’t let my mother miss me too much
And if you would,
Please, bless all other purrers.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Taking a Bite Out of Life


My life is an orange – not a tiny tangerine or a misshapen clementine with its peal practically sloughing off on its own. Oh no, mine is one of those large and thick-skinned varieties.

For most of my life, I turned this orange over in my hand, studying its nearly impenetrable peel with a sense of hopelessness. I studied the bumpy surface, searching for any accessible point of entry. At the age of forty-seven, I finally stuck my thumbnail in and pried the first little bit away. It took me over four years, but a few months ago, the last bit of peel fell away. Finally, its ripeness sat naked on my palm. I reveled in the sight and smell of it, as it rocked heavy and full, in my hand.

The juicy taste still awaits me, but before I can pull a bit off and pop it into my mouth, I see that there are yet the veiny, white remains of the past still clinging to each section. While they are much thinner and less bitter than the coarse skin I’ve already removed, I know I will enjoy the sweetness of the fruit much more without the sinewy chords getting caught in my teeth.

And so I continue. 

I haven’t known what to make of the last several months. It’s been a time unlike any other in my life. Most noticeable is the sense of calm I’ve felt most of the time. Next, is how easily and quickly I seem to be able to return to my peaceful state, even when I’ve been spinning out pretty crazily. After that, what stands out to me is how little need I’ve had to share my creativity with anyone.

This last part concerns me.                 

Since I was a very small child, I’ve felt driven to create. I first played piano when I was three, started lessons at Northwestern University at four, and composed my first music when I was less than eight years old. After the traumatic and sudden departure of my piano teacher, when I was twelve, I never played again... but this did not squelch my need to create. I turned my attention to other things which had often been equally interesting to me. 

Throughout my later childhood and teens, I spent every spare moment drawing, painting, and writing stories and poetry. I shared my creations with anyone who would give me even a cursory glance. My head was constantly overflowing with visions and concepts I needed to express. Images would appear in my mind, representing whatever was going on in my life at that time, and after creating them to the best of my ability, I felt compelled to share them with others. It has been THE driving force in my life, and has always been equated with the words “life’s purpose” in my head.

Then, a few months ago, everything just stopped. I woke up one morning and had no desire to draw or write anything. 
The next day was the same, and the next week… 

Finally I said something to the therapist who I've relied on for so much over the last four years. I tried to explain what was going on, but it wasn't as clear in my mind as it is now. What I said was, "I'm not doing anything," because that’s how it felt. 

When we talked about it, I realized I was actually doing a lot of things… just not anything creative. She suggested that I’ve been pushing very hard for a very long time, and maybe this was just a much-needed break. 

I went with that for a while, but as the weeks passed concern hung in my head like cobwebs.

Is this who I’m going to be, from now on…? And if so, who am I, now?

I’ve always created… it’s who I am… who will I be if this is not me, anymore? 

To prove I could still do it, I forced myself to write something every day. I tried to commit to posting here, daily, but failed at that in short order. What once was a passion had become a chore. More and more, I was wasting time on facebook or other websites, distracting myself in anyway I could from something I obviously did not want to do.

But why?

I can still write. I still have things to say. The images and concepts I’ve always found in my mind are still there, waiting to be given a place in the real world. Yesterday, I created one of those images, just to prove I could still do it. The image I posted here, yesterday, has been in my mind for some time, and I've taken great pleasure from it. I thought sharing it would bring me the same joy it always has, but in reality it didn't feel any more real than it did when it was only in my mind.

What I just realized, last night, is that there is something else I’ve not been sharing. For four years, I shared almost all of my journals with my therapist. Day and night, the thoughts in my head would spew forth onto pages and pages of journals and blogs and posts on other websites. Since there was never any guarantee that anyone would respond or even notice the words I put out into the world, I would also send it to my therapist, so she could—

So she could what? She was possibly the first person I ever met who was willing to look at all of it, read through everything I sent her, and who also seemed to understand everything I said. But, why did I feel that every thought in my head had to be shared? 

The reason seems to be that nothing I thought or felt or knew felt valid until I shared it with someone else. Not one experience felt real until someone else knew of it, and the reason for that is that I did not feel I had any value. I didn't feel real or valid so I needed to be validated by others. My sense-of-self came only from outside of me, and not from within.



Friday, November 18, 2011

Never-Ending Life

Do the leaves that lie broken in a falling snow know that Spring will follow?

To me, the shift from night to day and back again, the phases of the moon, and the continuous cycle of seasons are like a promise of what awaits us, beyond this world. Like the buds on a new branch, we see only the snow, the spring, and the leaves that we bring forth. We watch as our creations grow and change, their full color emerging and ultimately fading, and then that for which we've struggled drops away... turns to dust.

Staff of Life                        ~Shen 11-18-11

Saturday, November 12, 2011

One Soul - Two Ways of Being

My oldest child – a married daughter of twenty-three – recently said of my new-found spiritual acceptance, “People start looking for God when they get older because they’re afraid of death.”

I smiled. I told her, as I’ve said many times, “I’ve been where you are, but you have yet to be where I am.”
She returned my smile – and it is my smile, from the slight down-turn at the corners of her mouth to the one front tooth that is not entirely straight – and she waited for me to go on. This patience for me to explain things, even when she doesn’t agree with me, is one of the things I most love about her.

I told her that it wasn’t fear of death, and informed her that I intended to be around for a good long time, yet. I thought for a moment, and she let me. Then I said:
When we are children, we’re learning how to be in the body we’re given, and how to live in this world. As adolescents, we focus very much on our relationships with our peers. This leads to the years when we have to get everything in order for our adult lives – finishing education, choosing a career, marriage, children, etc.
At a certain point, we have established our place in the world. For better or worse, we are pretty well set on the path we’ve created. It isn’t fear that brought me to this opening; it’s a sense of peace with where my life is, now.
I believe it was necessary to move completely into ego - into the personification of my spirit – in order to have and raise children, maintain strong relationships, and push forward in educating this physical mind in the things that seem important here, on Earth. If I had always been aware of the Great Connection, the Oneness of the Universe, I might never have fully invested in this life. I feel very strongly that there is a reason for us to be here, learning what we learn and evolving as we do. I believe it’s important and necessary. I don’t need to know why.

I’m glad I had a chance to have this discussion with my daughter, and I hope that one day, when she’s had all the children she’s going to have and has fashioned the life she is putting together, she will remember this and smile. For now, it’s her turn to be firmly established in this world. I hugged her, embracing the connection I still have to the here-and-now of existence, and at the same time I intentionally kept one foot firmly in the place I sense, just beyond this physical room.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Trust Life

One of the most commonly believed misconceptions is that we are supposed to be happy, all the time. We think that sadness is something that needs to be cured, as if it was a disease. Many of us strive to live a life free from judgment, yet we harshly judge one emotional state over another.

Feeling sad, angry, or even just plain bored are perfectly acceptable states of being. If you feel sad, be with the sadness without judging it as negative. It isn't negative unless you think it is. It's simply a reaction to life. Trust life to take you where you are meant to be.

Co Creation

Co Creation
We create the life we live

Love your inner child...

...for she holds the key...

...to your personal power.
A lesson is woven into each day.
Together they make up the tapestries of our lives.