9 months later

It just struck me: if I got pregnant around the last time I posted in late August, I’d be expecting a baby in the next few days or weeks. And then it just struck me again, only harder: I did get pregnant around the end of August and was expecting a baby at about this time, 24 years ago.

That span of time between late summer and early spring. How much can change, how fast.

I feel like I am a different person writing here, reflecting back on what took place in the nine months since I last wrote in the afterglow of this incredible adventure & awakening I had in Colorado last August. Anyone who’s had the good fortune to experience a retreat or adventure or really amazing break from “real life” in whatever form it took can probably relate to the way you take that spiritual light, that psychic high with you when you go. If you’re lucky and skilled it stays inside you like a spark you keep alive by remembering to gently blow on it once in a while while you gather twigs for the next fire you’re going to light.

I kept gently blowing on that spark for a good long while, and it kept me warm & hopeful. Even tiny sparks can throw a lot of light sometimes. Even if it rains for a while.

I put the wheels in motion to organize a retreat that I had been dreaming about for over a year. It would have been as amazing as I’d imagined, I’m pretty sure. It also would have been more challenging than I could have imagined, I’m pretty sure. But those are just what-ifs. In the end, I look back and think that maybe I dodged a bullet by having that idea go nowhere so quickly, though at the time it was a blow.

The truth is that probably I wasn’t quite ready to do it. I know I will be one day. I’m a firm believer in things happening when they should, and having as few regrets as possible no matter how difficult that is, because things are always unclear and terrifying and random from close up, and any step is really a step into the unknown. It’s only in looking back that you can sometimes see how the path appeared beneath your feet, how little separated you from the void. How easily you could have fallen.

Maybe not everyone looks back at their life and sees a series of close calls, narrowly avoided brushes with disaster. Some people are more prone to safety, probably. Others more hooked on adrenaline. Everyone has some kind of addiction, whether it’s food or blow or romance novels or exercise or work or whisky. Only some of those addictions are fatal, and some more sure and slow than fast and explosive. The ones who survive are those who learn to manage their preferred addictions: some good, some maybe not so good but balance it out with moderation and a good bit of luck and, boom, you made it to middle age, baby. Way to go!

It’s only on reflecting on the path behind that you can see how random and unlikely your survival actually was. That is probably what makes people really believe in their lord Jesus or destiny or whatever spiritual guiding principle provides the most comfort and resonant explanations for the beautiful chaos of life, and also offers a way to be grateful for all of it. I am learning to make altars and offer prayers because it feels right to have holy spaces around my home, in the smooth rock I find in my pocket, the space between the grass and my feet, the dirt under my fingernails.

The microbes are supposedly antidepressant, too, so there is that. I’m all about self-medication with plants and animals and fresh air and light. Or prayer, by which I mean all the words we speak out loud or silently to someone who isn’t there. The words we drop like white stones in a forest at dusk. The ones we twist and twine and weave like threads. The ones meant to shore us to some sense of sacredness or surety, despite the not-knowing.

In the last 9 months I started to write again, long-hand in a notebook. I’d forgotten how good it felt to journal in cursive that I can barely read — probably the last time I had a regular journalling practice was in my late 20s. But late last fall I figured that if I was going to organize this retreat I should start trying to write blog posts more regularly, and I knew that I would need a solid non-public writing practice to process everything I was going through. Which, to be honest was kind of a lot because last fall was rough. As in, I took a new job and totally blew it for a variety of reasons (mostly related to lack of child care and work space) rough. And the winter, well. We were on our way to Mexico but then got stuck up north doing renovations on our tenant-thrashed house and I observed the second anniversary of Noah’s death, which I managed a bit better than the first because I got a kitten instead of dengue. I am learning, see?

So by early March, we’d had 4 months of vacancies and associated loss of income as we renovated and moved into the main floor suite, and then renovated and moved into the basement suite. Husband person was breadwinning far out of town, so I was on my own with the kids and the move. I’d literally *just* finished settling into the basement and finding a good tenant for upstairs, had both kids in school/daycare, and even had this journalling practice going (although I was not anywhere close to blogging and had already decided to delay offering the retreat) when COVID hit and then, you know. Lockdown with 2 small kids and husband suddenly home from work, all of us crammed into a tiny basement suite while anticipating death and devastation around the world. Fun times.

But we’ve survived it, so far. Improbably, by the skin of our teeth, and with a few weeks of touch-and-go, but here we are with this amazing reminder of how lucky we are to have our little fierce and loving family that is actually TOGETHER, one of the things I had wanted more than anything. Fingers crossed that we can keep it this way. We’re trying to figure it out, which means that I’m trying to work as much as I can so husband person can be stay-at-home kind while we figure out childcare in this mess of a world we’re living in. I’m hoping to somehow restart my writing practice, and even maybe blog once in a while like I had intended so many months ago. We’ll see what happens.

I know better than to promise anything more than that. The retreat is on hold indefinitely, but I’m still keeping that spark alive because I know that one day the time will be right. I’m hoping that we will be back in Mexico next winter for a good long chunk of time, because it’s been too long since we’ve spent time with our family there, and the house and property will need a lot of work after such a long time away. I miss my horses a lot, and I’m also half terrified of how I will manage everything when we’re back because it’s no small amount of work to do everything PLUS have a couple of horses in the back yard to keep. Again, we’ll see what happens — I have no idea what it will look like.

But I do know that not knowing is one of the inescapable conditions of life, so I’d better get used to it. I mean, we can think we know a thing, but it’s usually just an illusion, an approximation of knowing at best, and it’s only later that we realize how little we actually knew. Twenty-four years ago I was anxiously waiting to meet my first baby. I had read What to Expect When You’re Expecting and Spiritual Midwifery and between those two books and my mom I probably knew enough to muddle through better than most unwed and single 20-year-olds expecting a baby. I’m glad I didn’t know how hard and good it would be all at the same time. I’m glad I was so blissfully unaware that I would only have 21 years with him. Surviving the loss of a child at any age is unimaginable, until it happens. And then it makes you realize how every moment is a gift, and not to take any of them for granted. Which is honestly a weight that no 20-year-old single mom should have to bear, because it’s a bit heavy and she’s going to have her hands full as it is.

In a little less than two weeks, we’ll celebrate his 24th birthday, the second no, third–how can that be?–with him gone. I’m getting better at learning now to navigate this. How to just cry when I need to. How to keep telling him how much I miss him. How much I will always love him. I’m learning the rituals that help: a framed photo. A candle and birthday cake. A special dinner, sushi. Wine, water, and coffee shared in the little dishes that are just for him. Holding space for the memories, all that love, all that grief, one breath at a time while the circles keep coming full circle, again and again and again.

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