Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Phoenix Soul: Vision is Here!

The latest issue of The Phoenix Soul online magazine (formerly named Sprout) is here!  Fresh off the digital presses, this month's edition centers around the theme of Vision, with contributions from some of my favorite artists, like the fierce Heather Mattern and delicious Carissa Paige (yum yum). 

I've been so enjoying writing for and reading this publication for many years now, and I love how each new issue delights and challenges me.  Plus, they're really, really pretty.  Here's a little sneak peek of what I created for this beautiful issue (of course I had to go all black sheet and write about not-seeing!):

You can learn more about The Phoenix Soul and grab a copy of Vision (and copies of previous editions) here*.

*affiliate link -- thank you for supporting the blog!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

On the Beginning of the End (Again)

at 28 weeks in my second pregnancy, summer 2012

Well, it's here.  Again.  My third trimester.

I've been dreading it.  Which I know might sound quite awful, because shouldn't every week that brings this baby closer to his birth make me happy?

And they do.  And yet.

My first pregnancy ended in stillbirth just weeks into my third trimester.  My second pregnancy's third trimester saw me trekking up and down huge mountains of anxiety each day, not to mention going on and off bed rest with preterm labor.  Oh, and breaking my elbow so badly it needed surgery and two weeks immobilization just a nine days before my son was born.

I don't seem to have a very good track record with third trimesters.

Not to say that I believe all this means I'm destined for yet another excruciating final trimester.  But I'm not looking forward to tallying nightly kick counts (thanks to my anterior placenta for making this task more stressful) and tracking the contractions that have already been making an intriguing appearance. 

And yet.
And yet

I am really starting to enjoy my sensually swelling belly for the first time this pregnancy (an enjoyment which is coming far later than usual this time).  I am loving how the kicks and jabs and all.the.heartburn. help me to imagine that this little boy is a sweet and feisty dude with crazy hair like his mama.  My feet are beginning to tingle with the sense of waddling treading on holy ground, territory that I do not expect to travel again in this life.

All that is good.  Very, very good.  And I am glad for it.  Grateful for it.  It takes some of the edge off the double-edged sword that is pregnancy after a loss.

* * *

Some days I feel normal, and this scares me.  

Because it feels like so often the day that I manage to convince my brain to release its dark imaginings of worst case scenarios is exactly the day that those fears take on flesh.  Maybe if you worry enough, anxiety yammers, maybe you'll be able to avert disaster.

Of course I know that it doesn't work like that.  But since when could anxiety ever be reasoned with?

And still . . . some days I feel normal.  Like this pregnancy will progress smoothly, that this second son will come into my arms with only the usual amount of blood and moaning.  Like there's no reason to be afraid.  Like I'll get a happy ending as easily as so many others seem to.

And other days, the future feels dark, and I find comfort in contingency plans.  Breathing is a meditation in reminding myself that I'm not the only one who aches/grieves/weeps with terror.  That happy endings are mostly myth.  That life is ever and only a path, that perceived destinations are only way-stations and rain shelters and detainment points

* * *

I really wanted my second pregnancy -- my first pregnancy-after-a-loss -- to feeling like redemption.  But mostly it was an exercise in staying in my own terrified skin.  Sacred, though.  Even with all the fear, it felt sacred.

This pregnancy, I again wanted the redemption, and enjoyment.  I also wanted to feel imbued with divine femininity.  I don't think I've gotten any of that -- being pregnant with a beautiful two year old in the house is way more physically challenging than I expected -- but it has felt normal.  I've been chasing around this gorgeous boy, and feeling like an exhausted, exponentially growing pregnant mama -- a.k.a. normal

I like that.  I mean, when I'm awake enough to really appreciate it.  And I also like how my living son keeps my eyes on, well, the living, instead of all my fears of death and catastrophe.  Lots of mama + cute buddy dates are my strategy for surviving (dare I hope to thrive? let's go with yes) the next 13 weeks.

This life, any life, all our lives -- they're not very tidy, are they?  But they are real and true and full of now and here and a fierce pile of grit, and that's important.  That is something.  Something that matters.

feeling epically huge (even though I'm not really) at 25+ weeks this time around

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Price of Becoming Who You Are?

I thought we were the forever kind of friends.  Family, I called us.  The kind who would be there when days pass dizzy like a maze, or hearts sink as heavy as stones in the salted ocean.

And I tried really hard to be a good friend (although I'm sure I wasn't always) -- by which I meant a not-too-much friend, and maybe that's really where things went wrong, at the beginning instead of at the end, like it feels.  Maybe I shouldn't have made my grief so palatable in person, or drained my soul through a mesh so that it wasn't too murky when you looked close at it.  I didn't know how to do that, or that I was allowed to.

But I always thought that our kind of family, the ones we choose, were the always-there kind.  Until they weren't there.  My husband and I left the institution for the last time not knowing, not planning for it to be, the last time, and maybe everyone thought we were angry, or going through a phase, or something, when really we were (are) trying to live true.

I didn't think that friendship depended on that.  On the institution, I mean.  I didn't think we'd lose everyone along with our certainty, which was (is) grueling enough.  But we did, or most of everyone.  The ones who kept walking with us, or came after us, or asked how we were, and meant it, with no strings attached -- they were few, and not all who I thought they would be, and I cherish them fiercely.

Should we have sent up crimson soul-flares of distress?  I thought we did.
Should we have been more clear that we loved our friends?  Yes, I'm sure. 
Should we have assumed less naively that beliefs and love were not dependent on one another?  To which I reply: do we really have to be identical to the majority before we are loveable?

You're not alone, one or two said.  We're here for you, just come back inside.  I want to, I said, but I can't right now.  Won't you meet me out here in the wilds?  And they said nothing else.

My heart bleeds for all the ways that we tried, imperfectly, to love and be loved, ways that now seem wasted, rejected.  Their silence whispers in the aching hours that I am forgettable, problematic, unwanted.  But my soul cries, louder every moment, thank you for listening to me at last.

from Mandy's Secret Message Society zine