They grow slowly

Spotted

My left eye spotted you

thanks to the light

that shines only in the first half of the morning.

Over the neighbor’s roof and down through

the dust

onto the purple chair

painted last summer by your father

in the light

of that same ray.

This is how they grow.

First one at a time, with pomp —

Then stealthily

like suburban mushrooms,

only noticed after the fact

by one who travels close to the ground.

And only in light that shines

in the first half of the morning.

Spotted

My left eye spotted you.

oliver freckles march 2014

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Sick with motherhood

I’m watching my 10 year old son move in and out of a sleep much lighter than I wish; his breath too rapid for my comfort.

He’s disturbed.

So am I.

The muscles in my neck are tight. So are his.

I realize just now my jaw is clenched. His knees move back and forth; the rapid shaking an effort to release his fear and pain.

He’s home sick today.

I’m home sick today.

But his sick is of the variety that comes and goes. And while it seems as if it will never pass — especially when you are in the throes of throwing your insides up — it will, God willing, pass.

But my sick is different.

It’s not viral.

It’s not contagious.

And I can’t be sure it will ever pass.

My sick is a panic turned into a tension turning into an ache.

When my son was little, I remember remarking what a trooper he was when he was sick. The mess was often minimal — even as a toddler he would make it just in time to vomit into the toilet; he’d hardly ever cry after — and his needs were easy to address.

I would ask him, “What do you need?” And he’d say:

More water in my sippy cup.

Some toast with jam.

A new Wiggles video.

He knew he was sick. But he knew he would feel better. We told him so, after all.

But my son is older now. And his simple desire to feel better has turned into grief that the world has inflicted such suffering on him and the anxious worry that he will never feel better again.

“Why me?” my son shouts with a burst of sudden energy.

I don’t know how to help him.

I sit next to him as he finally closes his eyes and he lets me smooth his hair off his forehead and lets his head rest on the back of my palm.

I count the freckles on his right cheek.

1 – 2 – 3 – 8 – 12 … when did he get so many freckles?

I remember we used to count them one-by-one in the bath and I’d point out when there was a new one.

But that was years ago.

Years before the lump that sits in my throat. The lump that will surely turn to tears in

5-4-3-2-1…

My son is older now.

It’s no surprise to me.

I saw it coming.

But still I am sick with motherhood

The kind of motherhood you catch when your child suddenly becomes more than a child and his needs more than a child’s needs.

The kind of sick you feel when you realize that slowly, slowly your power to heal weakens.

And he will soon need to learn how to heal on his own.

If i was a lawmaker, but then again no…

Today’s Daily Prompt:

You have the power to enact a single law. What would it be?

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

Wait for it.

I would make a law that allowed me to make three more laws.

Ha!

Don’t ever try to limit me to just one anything!

I will beat you

at your own game

every time.

But, in all seriousness, as much as I love laws — and I do, I’m one of those irritating rule followers — I have a hard time coming up with the laws I would enact first if given the opportunity.

I would certainly enact one law that would benefit mothers.

And enact another that would benefit the Earth.

Somehow both of the above laws would trickle down to benefiting children.

Not just today’s children, but tomorrow’s.

Because I think the Earth, mothers, and children are often the ones who suffer with a lack of laws in their favor.

I would enact a law, I think, that would allow one parent to choose to be at home to care for his or her children, if he or she chooses, for at least two years full-time, and then supplementary after that until the children leave home.

My new “Family Leave Law” would not emphasize the LEAVE, but the STAY.

It would make a case for staying.

So staying is something a parent could choose to do, as opposed to making a major financial sacrifice when choosing to leave a full-time job in order to care for children, which is the situation for most people.

My law would reward and support parents for choosing to take on the job of caring for, educating and nurturing their children before and after school, for which we now pay others to do in a daycare system or through paid childcare.

My law would use taxpayer’s money to offer the parent caring for the child financial benefits and significant tax breaks for the time spent caring for the child.

In many countries (not the U.S.) laws like this already exist in some form.  The existing law is not as supportive as my proposed law, per say, but it’s better than what exists right now in America under the Family  and Medical Leave Act which basically protects no one and supports nothing, but the employer.

Really.

It’s a joke.

If you have ever been pregnant, you know what I mean.

Unless you’re a teacher, a union member, or work for the state government — those guys, from what I hear, have it pretty good.

Of course, there are cases to be made for not doing this.

Israel is one such case.

People here have lots of babies.

For a long time.

I’m talking 6, 7, 10 children.

My new law could potentially create a financial hardship for the government.

Which then may lead to the government putting a cap on how many children they will subsidize.

Which then will lead to anti-government people getting all up in arms about government regulating what we can and cannot do; how many kids we can or cannot have.

Which would lead to a media frenzy.

Which would lead to an outcry. And then a backlash. And then, maybe a reversal of my law.

Which makes me really glad, for once, I’m not the one making laws.

It’s really not as easy as it appears, is it?

What law would you enact?

An imaginable future

When we first moved to Israel, I felt uncomfortable sitting on buses and in cafes.

I would casually look around, trying to avoid notice, to see if there were any suspicious people or packages about; not sure, exactly, what my reaction would be if I spotted one.

Over time I have found myself less and less suspicious. More at ease in public places, as it so happens, but still not at ease.

“At ease” is not a behavior I was born with — or maybe I was — and was just spooked one too many times by a mischievous friend or traumatized by too many VC Andrews novels.

The world, for me, has almost always been a scary place.

And I have almost always been easily startled.

While here in Israel, I cautiously scan the room for bombs; in the States, I cautiously scanned darkened evening streets for rapists and quiet alleys for thugs. I walked quickly through empty hallways and avoided elevators with lone men. I double and triple locked my doors, and was known to sometimes sleep with the lights on. Especially the night after The Blair Witch Project.

I remember being in a bar watching a band perform in New York City once, in the months just before 9/11 but fresh enough after Columbine to still be jumpy, and leaping off my seat at the sound of a small explosion in the back of the room. Someone’s hair had caught fire accidentally on the tea light candle intended for atmosphere, and instead of atmosphere we were treated to dramatic special effects.

After I caught my breath, I laughed out loud at my reaction, but internally asked myself what I had been so concerned about. What immediate danger did I think the noise indicated?

A gun shot?

An explosion?

A brawl?

It’s the first time I remember my unease extending from mild anxiety to a heightened concern for my immediate well-being and the well-being of others.

From then and there, unfortunately, my unease has only become gradually uneasier.

And not because my anxiety has worsened, and not because I moved to Israel.

In fact, my anxiety has significantly improved in the last decade since I started acknowledging it and paying attention to it and using focused breathing, meditation and mindfulness.

Moving to the slow-paced countryside of Israel, in some ways, has helped, too.

But no matter how significantly my anxiety has improved, the world hasn’t. Since 9/11, the way I see it, we have been witness to more violent crimes like those in Aurora and Newtown and Boston and have experienced the communal aftermath of incomprehensible tragedies like Katrina and Sandy and are becoming more and more awakened to the devastation of our planet and the resources we have taken advantage of all our lives.

And suddenly I am no longer a minor statistic in a clinical journal.

It’s not just me and my world viewed through an anxiety-colored lens.

The world itself has become anxiety-colored. The world itself is on edge.

I watched this video of grown men jumping out of their seats; seemingly reaching to hug each other at the sound of thunder booming loudly over Yankee Stadium during a rain delay.

At first, I giggled. It was cute. Funny.

And then I paused, and realized, it wasn’t funny at all.

Grown men — baseball players, even, symbols of fearlessness and recklessness — jumping out of their seats at the sound of a …

Boom!

We are living in a world in which we are now, clearly, all easily startled.

scaredy cats

I know I’m not the first to make the claim that the world is growing bleaker and blacker.

There are voices much louder than mine that have come before.

And even though my voice is not the first.

There is always a glimmer of hope it can become one of the last.

The year I was born poet and activist Shel Silverstein wrote:

“There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.
Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.”

(Where the Sidewalk Ends, by Shel Silverstein)

Those children are now grown.

Those children are now us.

And it’s indeed possible we have come to where the sidewalk ends.

And we need to choose in which direction we will continue.

We may continue to jump at loud noises, and then numb ourselves to an unacknowledged shared pain.

Self-medicating with food, technology, entertainment, drink, drugs, sex, consumerism, waste, whatever — silently signing the same consent form to ignore, to waive liability.

Or we may create together a world in which we can imagine its future.

A future not out of a dystopian film, but one lined with the vibrant green grass of my childhood memories and narrated by Shel Silverstein.

I want a future lined with colorful sunsets for my children to fall in love under.

And I want to hear thunder… and scream,

then giggle.

Knowing my fears are only imagined.