Fierce Creatures

I love that my little girl brings out the fight in me. The lioness. She craves my wildness so she can embrace her own.

My daughter is a fierce little creature. She will not back down for anyone, for anything. I try to imagine myself as I was at her age. Her fearlessness, her unbridled zest for life. That time is becoming fainter in my mind. Like the edges of a picture softening. I suppose this is the process of growing older. I’d like to think I remember what matters. The essential grace of my life as a child.

Most of my early years were spent outside. My mother felt at home outdoors and she wanted that peace for me. I can close my eyes and I’m instantly surrounded by fragrant joy. I spent many happy hours sitting in the grass making crowns from clover, under the purple lilac tree in our front yard. I can still hear the bees buzzing in the lazy summer air and the gentle pricks of grass on my bare legs. Once I came home from playing in the woods all day and I was covered in aphids. I remember my mother singing as she washed them out of my hair. I liked seeing their little green bodies floating in and out of the bubbles. Like they were having their bath also. My mother’s happiness at the evidence I was a wild thing in the woods even for just an afternoon sticks with me. She could have been angry. She could have been afraid. Instead she found it hilarious and part of the circle of life. That was a gift she gave me. I got to be a fierce little creature that afternoon.

Alice was determined to wear her princess sock the other morning. It had no match. Should it have mattered whether or not she could find the match? Probably not. But she’s been challenging me on everything lately and I just did not want to back down. Because after the princess sock it would have been her shoes, and after the shoes her jacket and then wanting a certain snack in the car and I did not have the energy to battle her! Ultimately the battle over her sock was as big as all the small battles together would have been so as usual my daughter won. I am a lioness raising another lioness, although she is mostly a straight up wildcat at only four and three quarters and she lets me know it every single day.

I’ve been battling the waves of bipolar lately. Up and down, back and forth, I’m being tossed around the stormy sea of my emotions. It’s so hard to feel like I’m making any progress on bipolar storm days. All I can do is breathe in and hold, breathe out and hold and let it be. The hardest days for me are when the weather outside is changeable. It makes me feel changeable on the inside. There is a distinct feeling to storm days. There is almost an electricity to my mind. I inwardly tell myself to “batten down the hatches.” As anyone with bipolar knows it doesn’t matter how much medication you take, there will be bad days. Really the only thing you can do is get through them.

I use sensory tricks all the time. Certain smells really help me. I am a connoisseur of perfumes, scented lotions and essential oils. Certain textures also really help, the softer the better. My family knows what it means when I’m wrapped in a blanket with a hat on and the fireplace going, candles lit and the scent of lavender pervading the room. It means I’m taking care of myself. It means I’m doing battle. It means I’m being strong as hell. I am captaining my ship over ferocious waters, through the vicious bipolar storm.

I talk a lot about wanting my daughter to learn to fight for herself, wanting her to be a warrior. But what about when the enemy lies within? That is a different kind of battle, needing a different set of skills. In a sense you are doing battle against your own mind. I find that when I am struggling it even leaks over into my dreams. My dreams become chaotic and often terrifying nightmares. I would be lying if I said this disease were not agony. I often want to still the clock for the duration of the “dip” and let it spin again when I feel more able to handle the world.

Alice senses so much of what I’m going through. The irony is the more depleted I feel the more she wants to cling to me almost as if she is pulling me out of the storm by the sheer force of her will. I have to remind myself to be consistent with her, not to surrender to the beast all children become when they know mom is tired and they might “get away with something.”

Today, after picking Alice up from school she had to use the potty. “Mama I need to go potty!” Literally the next sentence I heard her say was “Mom, there’s pee on the floor and I puked in the toilet!” She said this with the same matter of fact tone she says everything.

“What?!” I was trying to figure out the extent of the damage.

“I said there’s pee on the floor and I puked a little bit in the toilet because I don’t feel good.” I was already up the stairs by then.

“How did you get pee on the floor?” She then demonstrated how she sat too close to the edge of the toilet and the pee shot out over the edge in a yellow arc. Luckily there was a rug easily washed to catch the evidence. “Poor baby why did you throw up?” She hasn’t felt well lately and I was genuinely concerned.

“I don’t know, but I’m better now. Can I have chocolate?” I envy her youthful ability to quickly move on from things.

“Alice, of course not, you just threw up!” At this response to her query she began to howl and yell the word chocolate over and over again. My head felt like a balloon about to pop. I calmly looked at her and said, “since when has that ever worked with me?” Inside I was praying this would be enough to dissuade her. Amazingly it was. She quit howling and ran over to the pantry. She climbed up and grabbed a bag of chocolate chips, thrusting them at me.

“You really need to hide these higher!” I suppressed a laugh.

“Ok goofball.” I shoved it behind some cans on the top shelf. She was onto the next.

“I really need something sweet! These crackers!” It made no sense.

“What? Those are gluten free cheese crackers, they’re not sweet at all.” At that moment I realized this was the best part of my day. My weird, wild little daughter climbing in the pantry like the fierce creature she is.

“Well, they’re a little bit sweet…and I can have cheerios! With Almond milk!”

“Sure, that works.” All in all this was a happy outcome. She was momentarily satisfied. Soon after eating she asked for a movie on her grandma’s laptop. And then she wanted to paint space. And she did, beautifully. My daughter moves so fast I have to race along with her. Together we are going at top speed and before I know it I am flying above the raging waters of my illness.

I love that my little girl brings out the fight in me. The lioness. She craves my wildness so she can embrace her own. I know I will never stop learning from her, as she learns from me. That is the best part. The storm may throw me in a million directions. But my daughter will always guide me home.

Love Letter

With you I am me.
With you I remember my loveliness
Effervescent Time traveler you—
Simple grace little one clinging, singing, running faster than I can breathing in and out
Chewing on your collar
How can someone so small be so majestic
Mommy’s little wildcat
Fight forever baby girl

Kimkoa 2018

I Believe in Spring

What do you believe?
Here we are on the eve of Spring with Easter fast approaching. Is your home awash with pastel rabbits and pigs? Porcelain ducks with perpetually smiling beaks?

What do you believe?

Here we are on the eve of Spring with Easter fast approaching. Is your home awash with pastel rabbits and pigs? Porcelain ducks with perpetually smiling beaks? Have you hung wooden signs welcoming the new season replete with weathered flowers and baskets of eggs? Have you bought jelly beans and plastic eggs and hid them in the closet next to the yellow easter basket with its white and milk chocolate bunnies, Mn’Ms and glittering sneakers? Do you already have pink and green plastic grass tangled in your shoes? Have you ordered your daughter’s dress? And when her shoes didn’t come did you order another pair? And when THEY were delayed also did you overnight some refusing to give in? Are you getting up at the crack of Dawn on Sunday to hunt for eggs, then going to church ALL DAY LONG and then eating lamb until you pass out in a melee of embroidered skirts, glittering heels and half eaten chocolate rabbits.

What do you believe?

Is it Easter with its eggs and rabbits and obvious fertility symbolism? Or is it the resurrection of Jesus Christ who suffered and died on the cross and then three days later rose again? Because the miracle of His life is the miracle of our lives. Spring is the beginning of all things. New life emerges. Our tables are covered with delicate green buds of every vegetable and flower you can think of. My daughter loves to walk around slowly inspecting each tender leaf, exclaiming “This one is bigger, I can tell!” She has a Hello Kitty Chia Pet who had slimy seeds for days until finally it sprouted a thick green afro which my daughter finds immensely pleasurable. “Look at her hair” She cries. “She likes to watch me eat!” I think how strange and simple her world is. I think of how beautiful she is and yet how she was born of blood and pain. How all of my children greeted the world in a river of blood and pain. I didn’t notice the blood. I forgot the pain. I held new life in my arms and it was heaven. I think of the blood and the pain of Jesus, that which he endured. Whether you think he is just a children’s fable or the true Son of God he represents new beginnings, new life, and the conquering of death. Just as the tulip flower is cut from the bulb and the petals fall, so the bulb lies dormant in winter and will bloom again in a glorious God-given springtime.

What do you believe?

Do you believe in luck? Do you believe in atonement for sins committed in this life? Do you believe you’ll be rewarded for your good deeds on earth, or in Heaven? Do you believe somethings are worth dying for? According to an article in Mother Nature’s Network, in 17th century Amsterdam a single tulip bulb called the Semper Agusta was enough to buy one of the grandest homes and people went literally mad for them. It is a truly striking bloom, pure white with streaks of garnet running through it like blood. Surprisingly however its rare beauty was due to a virus. Esther Inglis-Arkell wrote in The Virus that Destroyed the Dutch Economy that the beauty of the Semper Agusta is due to a Tulip Breaking Virus transmitted by aphids. The pigmentation is changed due to a altered distribution of anthocyanin who’s color differs depending on the PH of the surrounding soil. This information was not known until the 1900s however, long after “Tulip fever” had collapsed the dutch economy. Botanists now breed a different kind of tulip, one that mimics the broken relics of classic paintings and ruined lives. By selectively breeding “Rembrant Tulips”(named for the Dutch painter who captured so many “broken tulips”) with colors that dive and careen against a placid white background we are able to catch a glimpse of how beautiful a broken thing can be.

Clean white heart
Soundless liquid pouring
Something odious filling the room
And again breath like cold meat.
Prayers raised fluttering on anxious wings
And again atonement for the first sin
A heaviness falls, a pressing.
A fire left burning, almost ashes and charred wood.
My throat closes as I open my mouth,
Bitter truths rush in past the barrier.
Choking, choking on my reality,
Gasping in a windowless airless room.
I feel the blood between my legs
And I think the red streaks on my white nightgown
Are beautiful… like the Broken Tulip.