17 Apr I am a woman who is moved by the weather…
I am a woman who is moved by the weather. I have lain awake all night in a fever pitch of anxiety, feeling as though the roof is going to inexplicably cave in on me only to walk out in the morning for a desperately required coffee to read in a news stand that an epic earthquake and Tsunami have been raging all night thousands of miles away. I grew up in earthquake country in the beautiful jewel box of a city with its Golden Gates spanning the bay that opened onto the Pacific Ocean and all of the mystery of the East. I grew accustomed to the movement of the mother beneath my feet, the shaking and shivers and on occasion jolts of emergent energy that tossed books from shelves and left long cracks in plate glass windows.
There has been a lot of quickly changing weather where I now live 3 hours north of my home city of San Francisco. Thunder and lightening and torrential, oak branch breaking rains, flurry’s of snow followed by several days of gracious and golden sun. Several days ago a thick, vision-obscuring fog descended followed by an almost tropical and relentless rain. This morning I look out my window and a bucolic and calm spring day is awakening. My internal barometric pressure gage has been vacillating wildly these days!
My emotional weathervane has also been responding to another kind of unpredictable weather pattern as I walk the road of family upheaval. My father recently had another in a series of strokes, this one while he had his breakfast in a Denny’s close to his home. He found himself in the E.R. sometime later, not exactly sure what he was doing there. Quite soon after this it became clear to me and to my sister that he could not be left alone anymore. Thus, the experience of shifting relationship begins for father and child.
I have walked this road several times before with my beloved stepfather, the man who truly raised me and with my wild and gorgeous mother, both of whom have shed their bodies and left me in what then felt like an orphaned state.
Yes, my birth father remained, but he had never really been a father that I felt safe with or seen by. From my child girls mind the abandonment at 5 was absolute and mysterious and certainly created a mistrust of my stepfather for a time. I called him Mr. Zimmerman for an entire year after he married my mother the year I turned 8. I graduated to Paul at 9 and gradually began to call him Papa when his enduring, quiet and solid love became irresistible. My weather vane swung calmly in his presence and when he died at 83 I felt bereft in a way that I had never before experienced. I wailed into the room where I stood having just hung up the phone following the call where a voice in the Hospital only a few miles away told me that Paul Zimmerman had died of a massive heart attack. Before we hung up I demanded that they not take him anywhere before I arrived, that I must see him one last time.
When I made my way to his room and sat with him , my head resting on his chest, a calm came over me. I stroked his head and his face and told him over and over again, how much I loved him, what a wonderful father he had been, how grateful I was and would always be for the himness of him. The weather in the room was pacific, the color was golden and my heart broke open with the beauty of the moment.
From that day forward the care and tending of my Mama began and continued forward to a May day 3 years ago when again I was called, this time to sit all day with the beautiful and unpredictable Suzie while she journeyed away from me and toward another landscape. I held her hand, I sang into her ear, I told her over and over again how much I loved her, how she was the very best mother for a wild woman like me and that it was ok, she could fly now. As the sun got closer to the horizon, she exhaled quietly and was gone. I was graced to sit with her body for hours.
Of course, I was not alone in any of these landscapes of family, of life and of death. From this vantage point however, I can only tell of what it felt like for me to be a woman without a mother or a father. For though my father was still alive, my parents were not. Over these last three years since my Mama died, I have gradually become closer to my father, my Dad, and have been able to allow some real tenderness to enter my heart for this 81 year old man who now needs care and attention.
Because of the way that he lived there is now some drama and what feels in moments like chaos surrounding him and there have been moments over these last few weeks when I have imagined myself buying a one way ticket to somewhere and travelling away from this care taking scenario! How to keep my center of balance in this storm, how to find my sea legs on this tossing vessel? As women we often find ourselves in the position of caregiver to our elder parents, a slippery slope of redefined relationships and responsibility. I have no doubt that some of you reading this are at this very moment embroiled in the complexities of this role reversal.
It is profoundly important that you keep yourself at the center of the altar of your life when the weather is unpredictable and you are being pulled in many directions! Of course this applies equally to mothering and full time work and many other forms of caregiving. Putting your own care in the primary position is often described, in an almost knee jerk and reactive way, as selfish. You might even call yourself selfish if you choose to give yourself nourishing self care instead of say, answering a phone call that you know will lead you to spend 40 minutes listening to a friend or family member who needs your help.
You’ve heard it all before, read the articles etc. that tell you that if you don’t care for yourself, how can you truly care for another!? I am here sharing with you from another angle. Women can and do, all the time, care very well for others while ignoring their own need for care. Right??!! However, I am also here to say that that is patently unnecessary and not at all fun. Yes, you are a warrior, yes you are capable beyond measure, but you, my dear sister are still the most important person in your very own amazing life!
Bending your body into endless backbends as you attempt to meet everyone’s needs but your own, even if you can, may make you wildly flexible but at the same time create a you who is unable to stand erect and uncompromising behind your own needs. First of all, what are your needs? Do you know? Please…when you’ve finished reading, take some time to simply breath and feel in to your body as you ask yourself, “What do you need?” And, “What do you want?” Yes, I said want and I meant it! What is your desire, your longing? Ask and then listen, ask some more and listen some more. Write about it, dance about it, walk about it, then do about it!
See whether you can give lavishly and abundantly every single day some time to simply be with yourself and your own needs, wants, longings and desires. Book this time, put it on your calendar, make it sacrosanct and see what happens. Well really, feel what happens. I celebrate you and your big desire, I support you in finding your way back to true center, back home to the truth of your radical embodiment.