Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Slow The F Down

Yes- that's something I've been known to yell either standing on the sidewalk or out of my car window at other motorists whizzing past me in my neighborhood.  Whizzing by at inappropriately high speeds- as I have arbitrarily deemed.  Like some sort of demented over-grown school crossing guard drunk on the power of a medium sized fish in a tiny pond,  and maybe one too many vodka shots in the diet coke can.

Not me-- the crossing guard.

Oh hell.  Maybe me too.

In any case- this phrase that I have so dutifully taught to my children whilst they are inhabiting the passenger seats of my road-rage filled Volvo- I find has some legs. In fact, this phrase frequently wallpapers the inside of my brain as it relates to many instances beyond automotive.  And I wonder at the power of its message.  And I wonder at my alacrity to adopt such a phrase so often in my life.

And I wonder the most if I am rather alone in my continual adherence to and upholding of this particular demand.

Because here, smack in the middle of 2013, teetering on the very western edge of this great American country we call home, I notice most people don't seem to really do a whole lot of slowing the f down. Most people would much much rather speed up.  High speed internet.  High speed car chases. High speed rail.  High speed cameras.  Everything's better that goes faster- that gets us there, that's provides us the information, that captures our moments-- fast fast fast now now now NOW!

I, on the other hand, still might be inhabiting the 20th Century.  I enjoy reading books made of paper- mostly used books.  I eat slow- taking many little bites- chewing my food until it's so smooth and paste-like, I could feed it to my baby, were I a mother bird.  I carve out as much time in my life as I can to sitting around in my family room listening to records by myself that I have recently purchased at the one or two remaining record stores in the greater Los Angeles area while wearing my 70's and 80's thrift store clothing concoctions. I read and re-read liner notes (also printed on large sheets of paper or paper products known to us old folks as 'album sleeves' and 'album jackets.'  Turns out, albums apparently don't wear any pants.  Sort of like the three little pigs.  But I digress.)

I also find myself internally trying to slow down all the time.  To do less, more often. To really take stock of what it is I think I need to be doing all the time, and just look at my list out loud and say- Nope.   No.  Just not gonna do a bunch of that stuff.  And I'm certainly not gonna do it fast.

It takes work- you know!  This slowing the f down!  And yeah yeah, it probably started somewhere in the early naught years for me in the yoga classes.  Finally learning how to meditate.  For real like.  Not just closing my eyes and not saying anything while holding my body stiff and still in the same uncomfortable cross-legged position for over 5 minutes.   No- that was the first year or so of mediation.  Then over time, I learned how to actually quiet my mind enough to not want it to end immediately.  (Now?  Are we done now?  How about now?) Took work- took so much work.  And frankly, I'm so long out of practice now on the meditation front that I believe I'd have to go all the way through that whole fidgety cramped leg, mind whirling around wondering if it's been five fucking minutes already process all over again.  Meditation is NOT like riding a bicycle, I've found.  Like slowing the f down- it is a skill that needs to be oft attended to or else it wears off like new car smell in the summer heat.

And yet- what has remained for me, what continues to be cultivated by this grumpy introspective artist chick is the residual effect of what years of meditation eventually brought on.  And that is the strong desire to slow down- take another minute at the table before clearing the dishes- take another "to do" thing off the list-- take another breath before internally berating myself for not having everything all DONE ALREADY.

I do not see the progress in speed.  I do not see the benefit from extreme multi-tasking.  I feel part of our continued moving away from each other and from real connective moments together is this cultural obsession with doing a lot of shit a lot of the time and doing it all at the same time. But I don't get it!  I do not see the "us" in Busy!  (Though it is there- the us.  It's the second and third lett...ok...anyway.)

And yes- I do hear some talking points on TV and internet awash in this sentiment.  People are nodding toward the need to get back to basics.  Slow down. Spend "quality" time with each other.  (How about just any time?  How about just doing nothing "purposefully" or "goal oriented", either alone or together?  Like, for a few hours at a time? That's what I'm talkin bout.)  But somehow it rings false for me.  Like "slowing down" has become just another bullet point on the endless list of Honey Do.  If it was anything else, we'd be less than American.  We'd somehow be -gasp- OUT OF STEP with the rest of society.

It takes skill to sit around and not do anything for some time.  And not just because we don't value it at all, but because so many of us have simply forgotten how.  We're so enrapt with our gadgets and our devices, not to mention the actual real stuff we all have to do to keep the construct of our complex lives afloat.  But any way you slice it, so much of these tasks and attention to the machines of our information age really just serve as distractions away from real awareness.  From having to actually check in and be like-- Hey, you (meaning ourself), hey- how ARE you?  What's UP?  What's going on inside there?  How's life treating you?  How are YOU treating you?  What's happening right now in this tiny space of this moment right here?  Do you have any idea, or are you too hopped up on your Cheeto bag of iwhatever information?

I find myself at times staring into space when I'm waiting for my son at his tutor/waiting for my daughter at her fencing practice/waiting to pick up my children from school/sitting in the car at that nutty red light that lasts over 2.5 minutes at the corner of Lincoln and Venice- (it really does. I've timed it. 2.5 minutes in any direction.)  Sometimes I look around me during those periods of waiting.  And I see so many others not staring into space.  They're emailing.  They're on their ipads. They're on the phone.  They're talking about the brief that needed to be filed yesterday.  They're discussing the catering plate that needs to be picked up in three hours for the fundraiser.  They're people firing on all cylinders- every waking moment of their days filled with productive conversations and the exchange of important goods and information.

And yes- a lot of the time I look around me and I feel sad and lonely.  And not because I want to be one of them.  Not because I think I should be engaging in all this power career track continual balancing act where each day consists of keeping upwards of twenty plates spinning in the air in all moments.  I do admire these folks in a way.  I admire their tenacity and grit and cultivated ability to be able to do all that so often and for so long and not come down with acute Sinusitus every 7 weeks.

But I really feel sad and lonely because I imagine there's only a small handful out there like myself who suspect that there's something deeply, inherently desperate and not right about all this behavior.  That all this busyness -- all this "progress"-- is not really progress at all.  What is it progressing?  What are we doing, doing all this stuff all the time?

Some would argue- and rightfully so- that we are busy making money to keep ourselves and our families alive with a roof over our heads, and food on the table.  That we are doing this to stay alive.  But that's not really true.  We have so many means to merely subsist, most of us.  All this busyness, I think, most of us believe is ENHANCING our lives.  This is all the shit you GET to do when you're beyond merely killing the wooly mammoth and sweeping out the cave.  All this stuff somehow makes life BETTER, people would argue.

Well hm.  I think not.  I think it makes life meaningless.  I think it focuses the spotlight on all the things with apparent value, instead of valuable things.


I plopped myself down on my shrink's couch the other day.  Sitting- - I never lie down, somehow that would seem inauthentically stereotypical.  (Though of what ERA, I know not!)  And as I ploomped myself and all my bourgeois ennui down on his overstuffed neutral toned settee, I sighed grandly.  "I'm not doing great." I say.  "Ah - you've come to the right place."  Says he.  "I think--  I think I've gone and lost my sense of humor today."  Says I.  "Oh no.  You're not gonna get all Christian on me now, are you?" Jokes he.  I smile a bit.  Ok- so maybe it's not all gone.

We tread down the well-worn path of my constant low-level distress.  The back burners are always on-- simmering pots of death anxiety, fear of total annihilation, despair of being totally invisible and completely powerless.  Sometimes things happen in my life that cause more extreme emotions- positive and negative.  But the stove is always on, regardless.

This time as we examine and discuss the contents of my simmering pots, my therapist has me do an exercise.  "Ok.  Ok, Hol.  Just for shits and giggles. Let's pretend you rule the world.  Seriously.  Not like a king or a despot, but like a god.  Like you created and rule the world.  You made it the way it is.  You made everything- you made people. What would your world look like?  What are the tenets of your societies based on?  How does it all roll in your universe?"

It was a harder task than I thought.  But I found myself answering this way.  Like a child would, I believe:

"Well- in my world.  We'd have different priorities and kind of not give a fuck about a lot of stuff we seem to now.  No one would really care who had more toys at the end and who was in charge and who was doing a great job and who wasn't.  We'd not be so concerned with who was to blame for messing everything up and with making progress and taking over this world.  We'd stop killing each other and live alongside animals and the natural world.  We'd help each other.  There would be more campfires and maybe smoking pot or drinking some nice wines together-- taking care of each other's kids.  Maybe singing songs together.  Trading recipes.  Hanging out.  Not having so many goals and concerns about winning.

But mostly I think we'd really not do nearly so much as we do now.  We'd all really just slow the fuck down."

Is what I said.

My therapist said. "Yes.  Yes, that's right.  I like your world.  Can I come live there too?"

I said "Sure."

So, at least I know there's two of us here.  Kicking it here by the campfire with a bottle of good Pinot and a guitar.  His kids watching mine ('cause they're older.)  And in between puffs on the old peace pipe, we're just hanging out and yelling at all those flipping cars driving by way too fast to "Slow The F Down!"

For god sakes.  And ours too.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

They're Trying to Convince Me We're All Idiots.

Last weekend for us was one of those Private School Three Day-ers.  Friday was deemed a "professional day" - whatever that means- and so our kids were home.

I of course did no playdate planning for Friday or Saturday.  Partly because I am a grump and was protesting the lack of school on a Friday.  And partly because I do occasionally find benefit to my children and myself having "nothing" to do.

The result of this lackadaisical attitude was that I and my family was privy to a lot of advertising over the weekend. Mostly due to the large amount of TV watching.  Including the dreaded "live" TV replete with the commercials.  And apparently, as one who rarely consumes her television live and in the moment,  I find that when you don't encounter ads for a long while, you start to really listen to them once you're re-introduced.

This led me to the conclusion that advertising is now not only insipid, boring, useless drivel I have to struggle through to get to the next chapter of my "high quality" nighttime soap is now possibly the devil's voice whispering in my ear.

And what is the devil saying to me?

The devil is saying that we American consumers are most assuredly....quite very...exceedingly...


We have to be in order to chow down on this amount of of ca-ca.

It all began with the Ford commerical Friday morning.  Or maybe it was Chevy.  Can't recall.  HA ha!  Beat you at your own game, fuckers!  You spent 9.2 million bucks creating that ad and securing choice time slots for it and I can't even recall what car you were pushing on me!  Nor even the MAKE!

(Wait, hang on.  I was just in the middle of being appropriately miffed that the advertising community believes we're all idiots.  Um.  Hang on- I may have veered perilously off course.  Let me regroup.)

Though I don't remember the make or model of the large gas guzzling full-size SUV that flashed itself upon my screen- good looking "mom" in pink plaid oxford button down and khaki pedal pushers unloading soccer ball after grocery bag after smiling athletic gear-clad child after family dog from within- I do recall one thing very particular.  I do recall the voice-over which said something about how this car "boasts the largest amount of storage space of any other car in its class...blah blah." And then -- "You DESERVE that kind of convenience."

I do?  I DESERVE it?  What does that mean? What did I do to DESERVE convenience- specifically some sort of coveted amount thereof?  Perhaps simply be born American?  The land of convenience!  (Also the land of child obesity, Big Gulps, Drive-thru Starbucks, lack of responsible gun laws?)  I guess we all "deserve" what we get.

And then later on- I encountered a jaw-dropping PSA (the dropping jaw during which was of course, my own.)  This PSA ran in three different segments during my On Demand program.  Fast forward had been disabled due to programmers finally getting hip to the fact that given a choice on whether to watch ads or not- we'd all really rather skip it.

So I was forced to enjoy all three acts of this PSA focusing on how it might be really important to move a little bit during one's TV watching hours.  One of the actresses starring in the show I was attempting to watch commercial-free was earnestly explaining into the camera lens how helpful it might be to "stand up" during commercial breaks.  Perhaps "do a little dance" or at least "move your arms around and stomp your feet up and down."  About how "easily we forget that movement is important."   All the while simultaneously demonstrating each particular movement.  So we'd be SURE to get what she's talking about.  You know- "do a little dance.  Like this."

(Sadly, many of us Americans living in the land of child and adult obesity actually have forgotten that moving one's body is pretty vital.  So ok.  Chalk one up for the advertisers.  You win on that one.)

Then later on- I'm snuggling into bed for the night.  TV is finally, thankfully OFF. Many a bedside read adorn my nightstand, all of which I'm concurrently in betwixt and between...I opt for the new monthly wildlife magazine that showed up in the mail that day. National Wildlife- A publication I assuredly began ordering years ago thinking, Hey, my kids like animals.  And so- hundreds of unread issues later having repeatedly decorated the inside of our recycling bin-- I finally decided to crack one last night in bed.  Cover filled edge to edge with chocolate brown musk oxen inhabiting frigid northern pastures.

I found myself muchly enjoying the images of the heavily carpeted musk oxen and their enormous teddy bear noses.  Not to mention those crazy bone colored horns which grip the sides of their heads like a 1920's Flapper girl curls.

Then came photos of some strange Alaskan barnacle-like crabs.  And a huge swimming throng of sea lions.  And then- I couldn't get too far into the magazine without running into it.  The ADVERTISING.  The crap which essentially pays for me to be able to have access to this delightful and informative  nature magazine. Sadly, my yearly fee of $whatever.99 is not cutting it to keep things afloat.

So I come across this:

(And I am plagarizing here- literally copying text straight from a full page jewelry ad which popped up right next to "News of the Wild" segment.  Because some things are just perfect as they are.)


Are you ready for this necklace?  You might think you are, but when dealing with 400 carats of the most robust red gem on the planet, we want you to be prepared.  Before you invite the S__ V__Ruby Necklace into your home for only $blahblah, you need to understand the consequences.

POSSIBLE SIDE EFFECTS MAY INCLUDE:  spotaneous kissing and hugging, increased heart rate, slow dancing and the urge to get away for the weekend.  Some may experience: long walks on the beach, episodes of snuggling, spooning and staring lovingly into each other's eyes.  Less serious side effects may include: increased appetite for romantic comedies and overuse of the words "honeypie" and "sweetheart."

SOUND DRAMATIC? you bet! But don't forget we're talking about ruby, the stone notorious for provoking passion, lust and intense romantic emotions throughout history....

(and my personal favorite part of the plug--)

WE DON'T PLAY BY THE LUXURY RULES.  We took the S___V___ Ruby Necklace to an independent appraiser who works with auction houses, estate sales and insurance companies.  He valued it at $BLAY DEE BLAH.  We thanked him for his professional opinion and then ignored it! Because even if a gemologist tells us that this necklace is valued at over Blay Dee Blah, we want you to wear it for ONLY $blah blah.  Yes, we're serious.

I want to find whoever wrote that copy and take them out for a drink. Good on ya, mate.  That was atrocious!

I mean- either I am a lot more of an anomaly than I believe I am, and the rest of the English speaking world is filled with complete boobs who smile knowingly at the "honeypie" part.  Or- hopefully- they're filling costly space with things that look at lot like words and just vamping.  Vamping to get to the large $WHATEVER.99 that you have to send it to PO Box Flamdee Flam.  Or check out or some such.

I suppose it must be noted that a few pages later, another full page jewelry ad from the same company ran for their STUNNING 2-CARAT TANZANITE RING FOR ONLY BLOO DE BLOO!  RANDOM COMPLIMENTS, HOWEVER, ARE ABSOLUTELY FREE."

Clearly, my favorite copywriter worked his magic on this one too.  It's got his stamp all over it:

This is not the ring to wear if you want to blend in.  Two carats of genuine tanzanite attracts attention.  Lots of it.  People will talk.  That's just what happens when you wear the passionate purple stone experts have called "the most beautiful gem discovered in generations."

Well gosh.  Experts say that.  Ironically though- they do put their foot in their mouths a bit when they tell you--

"It is found nowhere else on Earth other than in the shadow of Mount Kilimanjaro and experts say supplies will not last forever."  (again, with the Experts.  But wait- here's where it gets a bit tricky)
Fifth Avenue retailers are more than happy to charge you as if the mines were nearly empty.  One of them is selling genuine tanzanite rings online as well for well over $2000 each.  That's ridiculous."

OK.  But- um didn't you just say your experts said they won't last forever?  2000 is ridiculous?


Well, ultimately, I suppose it costs nothing for me to close the magazine. Or turn off the television.  Sometimes just stemming the constant influx of merchandising information in service of maintaining respect for my fellow human beings is worth it.  Certainly worth more than $anything.99.

We've got another three day weekend coming up in a mere few days.  You better believe this time around,the "do nothing" strategy will be replaced by some serious scheduling.  This weekend- I'm making PLANS.

Saturday, May 11, 2013


I don't really know exactly what I'm going to write today.  Which is not the way it usually goes for me here. I usually sit down eagerly- the edges of my brain pleasurably afire with a specific topic.  Or sometimes it's even two vaguely related ideas that I'm chomping at the bit to expound upon and tie together deftly with electronic silken thread.

But today I don't have any of that.  With the exception of the pleasant burning sensation.  That I've got.

The pleasant burning sensation is the closest I can come to describing what it feels like to create something, perhaps to someone who does not regularly create, or who might be unsure of the whole 'creative process.'  The spark of the creation-- a ha, note the common fire metaphor here in that tried and true colloquialism-- the spark feels a little like smoting flesh.  Honestly- it does. Because you can't get away from it.  It has you writhing a bit.  But if it's good-- or frankly, even if it's not-- the burning feels compelling- gravitational.  You don't want to pull away from it.  You want to dive in and let it take you over...let the flames engulf while you as 'channel' simply show up to capture it in your net and write it down. Or birth it in some other way here unto this physical realm because it demands that of you.  It demands that you give birth to it.

Oddly similar were the early sensations of labor pains for me- of actual giving birth.  An urgency- a pulling, a warmth, a tingling.  All of which eventually grew in massive proportion for this vessel- holy shit - and how.  What began as exciting and tingling and a bit stretch-y feeling ended up launching me head long onto the floor, wretching, writhing with excruciating yanks of pain in all directions, whimpering like a tiny child to please make it stop because I couldn't do it any more. (The three w's of giving birth.  Wretching, Writhing, Whimpering.  Why don't they tell you about those in any birthing class, is what I want to know?)

Ah.  Memories.

OK- so turns out for me there are some tendrils of connection between birthing actual people, which I've done twice,  to birthing anything else creative too, which I've done countless times.  I'm just actually discovering this as I type it to you on the virtual paperless page-- that my physical experience of those two birthing processes has similar flavor.  Hm.

Anyway.  So-- you can see now that I had to sit down and write-- it's coming out of me anyway, though I STILL as of yet, have no actual discernible TOPIC to write upon.  Right?  You don't know what this blog post is about, do you?

Well- ok-  so I titled it Middles because that was a clue that plopped itself upon my cerebral cortex in big blazing neon immediately before I sat down to type.  MIDDLES, Hol.  Duh.

See I just came from a five hour symposium on Middle School education at my kids' elementary school campus.  The place was rife with highly educated teachers and administrators and curious, well-intentioned, slightly shaky soon-to-be- middle school parents, like myself.  All there under the common umbrella of co-creating a think tank on what would make our current middle school program even stronger and better and more enriching for the children there.

And though that may not sound like the awesomest way for you to spend your Saturday (believe me, my husband and I groaned a bit this morning at the plans we had so responsibly made-- at the invitation we mature invested parents responded to in the affirmative some weeks ago.)  Despite our wariness, it actually proved to be pretty fabulous- for a couple of reasons.  First of all, turns out- I have some opinions.  Yeah- I know that may be hard to believe.  But I do.  And I like to have them heard.  Secondly,  I like to feel like I'm actually contributing to the good of the whole- like I'm here and participating. Which attending this forum allowed me to feel.

Interestingly, this is a trait our highly educated teachers and administrators kept bringing up research-based knowledge on in terms of understanding the middle school mind.  Middle schoolers really want to do worthwhile things, they told us. Middle schoolers want to feel like they're doing something important. They don't want to be given a bunch of boring drivel worksheets to waste countless hours upon at home.  They don't want to be talked down to and passed over and not connected with. They want to be engaged and feel empowered and enacted.

Hm- I'm thinking.  Really- um.  So you're saying MIDDLE school kids feel this way.  Ok.  So apparently SOMEONE has never actually graduated from middle school...(or maybe none of us has fully either?  Can I get a witness?)

What I think I'm trying to veer toward here, topically speaking, through the thunder storm of my cluttered brain, is that I am becoming ever more aware of how deeply connected I as mother am to my kids during their times of transition.

Middle school for me was really rocky- especially in the beginning.  I had just thumped unceremoniously down to the emotional basement from a nirvanic penthouse of sorts, which the 5th grade had been for me.  There was nothing I could not do in 5th grade.  Thus,  Holly Long in 5th grade was so happy and fulfilled.  6th grade took my well organized files of well being, self-acknowledgement and what had been dawning pre-pubescent feelings of empowerment and dumped them all helter skelter on the floor. I remember details.  I also remember big clouds of mauve and olive green confusion.  I remember suddenly feeling awkward all the time.  And everyone was looking at me.  And everyone was judging.  And it sucked.

So, as my kid teeters upon this very precipice, I cannot help but re-encounter my own turgid 6th grade feelings of despair.

And now, I'm also realizing- that as I veer toward the point that Middle School was tough for me, and as I sense my daughter starting to deal with some familiar territory, I'm discovering that perhaps from a larger perspective, the term 'Middle' is poignant here too in ways that don't just have to do with me and my kid.

Chrissie Hynde gave us "Middle of the Road."  In corporate society we discuss Middle Management- which now seems to be a catchword for where we don't want our children to rise to their level of incompetence.  Middle Age has had me over it's lap for awhile now, chapping my hide with its strong leather strop.  We discuss things as "middling" in negative connotative ways.  The middle of the bell curve has never been where America wants to see itself or its kids' test scores or future outlook.  The Middle Class seems to be shrinking.  No one wants to be in the middle of a crisis, or a breakdown.  All kinds of scary things happen in the middle of the night.  Whenever anyone wants to lose weight its almost always from somewhere in the middle of their body. The Middle East continuously seems to be a disastrous political mess. And then of course there's always -- the Middle Finger.

The word Middle is kind of shitty in our outlook, isn't it.  We've sort of decided that here. I guess that makes sense.  Everyone likes beginnings.  Beginnings of romantic relationships.  Beginnings of life cycles.  The beginning is related to youth- to spring- to healthy beautiful things growing and sprouting.

On the other hand the End is a little scary.  Though it is finite.  We know to leave the movie theater when we see The End.  We're sure the book is over.  The ends of phases or wars or arguments are relieving.  Even the ends of good things like a rockin party, a fun camping trip, a marriage that at one time was thriving, or just the last cookie in the box-- though hard are at least helpful.  Again, it's this sort of defining boundary.  The end.  The ends of things.  Time to get on with it and start something new.  A fresh beginning. So the ends are related to the beginnings, which we so dearly love, and make way for them.

Middles are hard.   Middles are less defined.  Middles are tricky and expansive and potentially rife with trouble.

Well- I do feel like I spend my life in the middle.  I've had some time here in the middle.  I've gotten a little better at being in the middle of nowhere.  At feeling like I'm a middling performer that somehow hasn't yet been able to cross over into a place where I feel seen enough.  As mentioned before- I'm very consciously, very continuously dealing with middle age.  And as it turns out, the middle isn't actually so bad.

The middle is where you can find balance I think.  Balance between being stinking rich and heart-breakingly poor.  Balance between knowing you're incredibly valuable and important and knowing you are also inherently insignificant and tiny.  Balance between loving every single second life has to offer, and trudging through this life as though it was an albatross heaved pitilessly upon your shoulders.

The middle is where the truth lies too- I believe.  The actuality of the greys that make up almost every conceivable life situation, despite that many would much prefer to paint them with blacks and whites.

I think I'm becoming a cheerleader for the middle.  Maybe I'd actually like to go back into Middle School and have a do-over.  Or perhaps, more accurately, re-remember my times there as fantastic grist for the mill.  As ripe fodder for whom I was to develop into over the years.  Middle School maybe got a bad rap from ME.

So, I will strive to keep my eyes wide open during my daughter's foray into this middle territory. Though I can't live it for her, I certainly can abide.  I can withstand.  I can reflect.  Here in the middle of it all.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Truman's Dream

This morning.  Not too early.  Sun fully shining already through the dull pearl of our Venetian morning cloud cover.  In fact, it's just about an hour or so before it's really time to get out of bed and get the morning routine started. My eight-year-old son climbs into bed next to me.

This is not a unique occurrence.  Truman has found his way to snuggled under the sheets tightly compressed to his mommy's side often enough these past five or so years.  It's a trait of his I cherish.  For me, it's warm and sweet and precious. Though I know for him these wee morning hour cuddles happen out of necessity- out of urgency.  Because to one degree or another, he's frightened when he stumbles down the hall and into our bed at night.

This morning was no exception.  Only this time, instead of just tapping lightly on the bed, sliding under the covers that I groggily raise for him to roll into, and falling asleep immediately like a box of barbells on my arm-- Truman comes in whimpering.  And shaking a bit.  Standing by the side of the bed like he doesn't know what to do.

Ah.  This one's not fueled by his mild sleepwalking or grey woolen fear of the dark.  No- Truman has clearly had a bad dream.

He climbs in feverishly and I wrap myself around his body. Having just emerged myself from a fairly intense REM state, shaking off the silky threads of my subconscious travels, I sleepily stroke his hair and kiss the top of his head over and over to calm him down.  I ask quietly, What's wrong, sweetie?  He mumbles something about ...dream... in the high soprano of a young terrified boy.  He says nothing more. I don't push.  We fall into a nice drowsy half hour after that.  He calms into measured breathing, so I know he has fallen back to sleep at least for these next 20 minutes or so.

My gaze finds the clock and I realize it is time to awaken.  I whisper softly in his ear Time to get up Tru.  Gotta get dressed for school.  He tenses around my arm.  No.  OK- a few more minutes then, I say.  Again, stroking his hair.  I say- Why don't you tell me a little bit about your dream last night?  I don't want to talk about it.  He squeaks again.  I know, honey, I say.  But I think it's good to talk about these things sometimes.  Then they don't stay trapped inside.

He finally acquiesces to a short series of phrases describing us- me and him- in a boat.  With one other man driving at the helm.  We're riding in the boat when suddenly- Truman falls out of the boat and into the water.  I say- how scary- you fell out into the water?  Bobbing there treading water?  He says yes.  I say- well, did I jump in and come get you like I would do?  Did I yell at the driver to stop the boat?  He says no.  The boat kept going.  You didn't come get me....

Oh my god, I'm thinking.  This is one fucked up awful dream.

Now we know Truman has some anxiety.  Lucky kid, he pulled that gene card straight out of my pool. And we've also noticed a tendency toward abandonment fears.  Which don't seem to have sprung up from any actual instance in his real life-- this time around at least.  He was never accidentally left at the park or in a grocery store cart-- not even for a minute.  Truman has never been left anywhere at any time unattended.  Unloved or abandoned. Never.

But he is wired for abandonment- he has always needed to be able to lay eyes on his parents or guardians while outside in the world --at any point in time when he is not safe at home in his house or neighborhood.  He manages his fears very well at school.  His friends think he's just the cool joker with the long blond hair goofing around in their midst. But we know the soft squishy inside he harbors.

So this dream - though terrifying- seemed about right. This seemed like a Truman Lieber nightmare in full glory.

I suddenly am struck with a moment of inspiration.  Perhaps bred from all my years of pouring through fiction and nonfiction paperbacks- four and five at a time.  All my therapy and anxious struggles of my own.  Nightmares.  Certainty of abandonment.  Shapeless murky memories of unwantedness....

I lean in again to Truman's ear, and whisper to my child, safely tucked among our toasty morning sheets and blankets- wrapped snug in his mother's arms with the faithful Beagle still snoring lightly at our feet- I whisper-  Let's change the ending of that dream.

Let's you and me rewrite your dream.  Ok?  Because it wouldn't happen that way at all.  Here's what would actually happen, my love:

Ok- so you're back on the boat, right?  Can you imagine that?  Do you see the water lapping in small waves up against the sides?  Do you hear the gales of wind blowing all around?  Do you see me and the man in the boat- standing up- looking toward the front- toward where we're headed?  Yes, he whispers- breathless. I see it.  Ok- good.  So let yourself fall into the water again.  Can you do that?  Do you feel the water all around your body now?  It's cold.  It's dark and endless. You're moving your legs to keep from sinking down into it...yes?  And you're yelling for me?  Can you do that?  Yes-- yes-- he says, a little more urgently.  Great.  Good.  Now- Look.  Look carefully at the boat.  I'm turning around!  Do you see me turning toward you?  And I SEE you in the water.  And now I'm yelling to the man to STOP THE BOAT!  STOP!  And he does.  He stops the boat from moving forward.  But more importantly, at the same time this is happening- I am JUMPING IN THE WATER.  Do you see the big splash I just made?  I just jumped in the water, and I'm swimming toward you. Fast. I'm saying "Hold on- I'm coming- I'll be right there Truman--"  do you hear me?  Yes, he says, Yes I hear you.  Good- because now, I've got you.  I'm holding onto you with one arm around your waist.  And I'm swimming us back to the boat with the other. And I'm kicking with all my might, and you are too- we're both kicking and dragging ourselves back toward the boat which has stopped for us.  It's waiting for us.  Do you see that?  Y--y-yes, I see the boat stopped, waiting for us.  Good.  Excellent.  And now Truman, I'm pushing your body up and over the side of the boat.  Pushing with all my might while I furiously kick my legs to stay afloat. Aaaaaaah---and THERE- you've just dropped back into the boat and you're lying on the floor heaving to catch your breath.  And you're ok- you're safe.  You're cold and dripping wet, but you're breathing.  You're not in the water.  You're not drowning anymore.  You're alive and safe and back in the boat.

And then in the smallest and most heartbreaking of voices, my son says, But what about you, Mom?

So then I describe quickly in some detail about how I use the last of whatever strength I have left to pull myself up and over into the boat too, and how the man takes one hand off the tiller to help me, but it takes a little bit. He can't use both hands to help me or the boat will tip over.  And about how now, I'm back in the boat, right next to Truman, also heaving on the floor for air - lungs working their very best to move the oxygen fast through the body. And I describe how we're ok after that.  We're both ok.  We both get our breath back evenly enough.  We both lie right next to each other on the bottom of the boat for some time until it gets where it's going, and no one falls out again.  And we're together.  And we're safe.

I don't know how much immediate salve my rewrite brought to my son.  I don't know how deeply the aloe of my story soothed the burn of that nightmare.  I do know he was able finally to emerge from deep within the bed moments later to plod back into his room and pull on some clothing that I laid out  for him to wear today.  I knew he was going to be ok, when I brought out a pair of pants from his drawers and he stopped me.  No, mom.  That shirt's fine, but I'm gonna wear shorts today.

Whew. Ok.  Another panic moment averted.  The searing fear sprung from the deepest depth of the subconscious silenced for awhile.

The funny thing is- as I was rewriting Truman's dream for him this morning from the soft comfort of my warm, solid bed very much perched on dry land- each line of the story- each watery image- burrowed itself indelibly into my brainstem.  It is now OUR dream- that one.  OUR subconscious story.  And I know for a most solid stone cold fact that it happened EXACTLY as we wrote it.  And will keep happening that way over and over again.  That is how that story goes.

He will always fall in the water.  I will always see him.  I will always jump in the water.  I will always swim to him.  The boat will always wait for us.  We will swim back to the boat and heave ourselves back into it. And we will always be together- safe and alive.  This moment is eternal.

This is the moment of mother and son, forever.

I don't know what happened to my son Truman before I got to him.  I don't know where he's been and what pain he's suffered through.  I do know that this time around, I get to be his mom.  And that I will go to the ends of the earth for him, and pray that he truly understands that I will always be there for him.  He will never be abandoned.  Not this time around.

I will always jump in the water for him.

Happy early Mother's Day, my dears.