Category Archives: Writing

The Muse Clio

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I’ve always given too much heart to what other people think. Born as sensitive as a suffering succulent in shallow sand – wary of the slightest tide. As cautious as a fledgling bird on a flailing tree-limb – aware how easily the wind will knock her to flight before she is able to spread her wings. I am more breakable than I’ve let on. Enduring by virtue of a stubborn will, not a capable heart; one may be surprised to hear that I will cut to my knees from the blow of a strong word faster than the blade of a swift sword. I take everything to heart and do not easily forget.

Of these things God made no mistake. He formed within me a special kind of observation to this world and a glorious fragility that is wind-worn and tested, and though indeed I am sensitive and regard others more than is healthy, I am sure the purpose is a noble aim: I will use it to create something timeless and beautiful that shall remain long after my feeble skin has turned back to dust.

The thorn in my chest is from the very beginning of my story because it took my sensitive heart and pulled it apart, and it knew the best way in. Not from birth, though this too speaks to a design that found me fighting for my place from the start, but instead from the first taste of love… Love that pushed me into crashing waves, boldly, and onto the wind, my wings open wide. Love that found me unafraid, for the first time in my life. When I trusted, wholeheartedly.

My thorn IS love. Great love. Lost love. Lost… Trust.

… You see, I’ve been told by everyone I know whom professes to love me now that I should have let it go a long, long time ago. That, by now, I should be over that day, that night, that moment. That love. The shame, as one may imagine then that I had not succeeded in putting it behind me, is a weight I’ve carried atop my shoulders for years.

‘They must be right, I am just not strong enough for this’, I thought too often. I allowed their insecurity, their uncomfortable position to tell me… what? What do you say? Except advise to get over it, move on, let – it – go. . . When I profess and process my history aloud – particular something this painful – it often serves just to make others close up further (perhaps I am stronger than I believed. . . . . . . . because at least, I face it?)

What is worse than actually living the experience is then being told for ten years that it shouldn’t matter to me as much as it does. That I am too sensitive, obviously. Worse still, that I was too young, and it probably wasn’t as good as I remember, anyway, so why hold on so long?

I have allowed the opinions of others hold me back from accepting one important truth – that time with my first love, it is my muse. My great story. Timeless, tragic, truthful. We writers dream for such a tale, salivating over the slightest tickle from one of Zeus’ daughters; Clio – weaving for me an enchanted fable of young lovers to endow me with a beautiful history, before Melpomene shatters it to pieces with one fatal blow. They worked together to create for me exactly what I would need to write with purpose. To find my voice amongst all the world, and to stand firm in my resolve that the sum of such lost love is not despair, but everlasting beauty. Such a love, lost, deserves nothing less. I could not have known it, nor would I have believed it held such promise then, for then, it only brought pain.

To write it is the point, I see that now. To use it. . . The brokenness. The loss. The exquisiteness. The innocence. The easiness. The simplicity. The sorrow. The carefree nights of which I will never know the same again as long as I live. The safety of knowing how my life would go, and believing love would persist even if I doubted myself occasionally.

Weaving the love was the easy part – the pain, and the opinions, come when enters the tragedy. I did not lose one love but more than this, the deepest trust of a mother to her child. For a decade, I mourned this loss. For ten years, I have suffered it, reminded by a song or a familiar face in the crowd. I not only lost his hand in mine, his eyes upon my heart, but the tender embrace of my goddess mother and her earthly charge to protect me at all cost. In an instant, the security I had placed in their hands was washed away by cold ocean water and a swift gust of salty air. I had trusted, God knew I would. I opened my guarded heart at the mention of his name and the insistence of her words…

“He is the one”.

And yet.

“Move on”, they insisted, with nothing else to offer so many years later when I still cry the same damn tears.

Helpless, their perspective, that I am better off this way. Sentencing me to a lesser fate, after all what was my choice? The voices over these past ten years have only tried to help me, and rarely were they meaning maliciousness, but why say anything at all unless they’ve walked in my shoes? Would you say to a man wandering the darkened cold street, who lost his home, that it was meant to be this way or it would not have happened? What purpose does this serve but that it made you feel you tried to offer some semblance of help, but you would have done better just to sit and listen! His tale, to such a conclusion as homelessness, ought to be a good one, and believe me, he knows where he went wrong and it helps nobody to remind him. He just wants someone to listen. I know this, because so have I wanted not advice or pity, but simply someone to say nothing at all. Just listen.

As sure as I can be, I was gifted this tragedy.

My mother almost lost her life and mine at my birth. I came into this world feet-first only a small fraction of healthy birth weight. She always told me this tale. . .

“I was in the hospital at 5 months so they could stop my labor. We didn’t really know what we were going to name you. As I laid there one day in that bed, I heard an angel tell me, ‘You will name her Christina Marie’, and I knew you would be okay.”

Divine, those muses. Spinning from before my birth a special story unique to my soul. My sensitive heart would blossom with a great love but before it would realize its potential it would be trampled by tragedy.

I’ve tried to make sense of it for ten years, but I see now – with great peace inside – that the sense is entirely what work I do now. It is the beauty from the pain.

The thorn is inside my chest forever. I cannot remove it. I cannot entirely relieve the pain, and I know it will be with me forever. He gave me a heart that remembers. But the beauty from my sensitive heart is only just now realized, that I’ve loved and lost, but then loved again. . . A bold testament to the strength that is not my own, but lives through me. The roots in the wet grains of sand, clutching to the earth when the waves rush forth. The growing confidence in the darting bird amongst the trees.

I can take this timid heart, afraid of what others will think, and create something beautiful against the odds. Stick up my middle finger at the “let it go’s” of the world and use it for what it is: Great material. Against my own doubt and fear. Against their voices that tell me I cannot write this because I should have let it go years ago. Is that not the point, though? That it is a new kind of tale, one only I can tell, and I have not let it go because maybe I was not supposed to? One whose beginning, middle, and end I know intimately and truthfully, and I alone can rise above what it was – to me alone – to breathe it new life, and create with it something to make the muses glean with pride. Through me, this work be done. Through me, of me, but not for me. For more than myself, but anyone who has ever felt themselves silenced by what this world would make them believe: Their story doesn’t matter, isn’t worth telling, and should not hurt the way it does. . . That you should be over that by now.

I have exhausted my give-a-shit, and instead, I am just going to trust the muse and fucking write it. Because I must. Because the muse implores me to do so. The evidence, for me, is undeniable that this is the time and space where I create. My dreams have painted him directly in front of me, so close I can almost smell his skin. He is psychically calling out to me, from the shadows of so long ago, and I believe it is Clio’s way, my sweet persistent muse, of pushing me now. I feel him in the strangest places, at the strangest times – I am sure this is beyond mortal perimeters, but that I am channeling something stronger than myself and mere memories.

I am writing from love. Remembering from love.

From something so painful, to be here with love, speaks for itself. It writes for itself. All I have to do, then, is sit back and do the work. The words will come through me, and I will nevermore be just the timid young woman who gives too much credence to the will of her counterparts, but instead, the brave writer using the heart of love and life to paint a vivid tale. A fitting tribute, the final proof that fate had not the upper hand and did not defeat me, but I loved as I looked back, and I made from the ashes something beautiful. More, that I have loved again years later, and deeply – despair did not break me, as feeble as I seem; my strength from love is mounting…

Unafraid, and unhindered. I step aside now… Clio, parchment unfurled, dip your quill. I am ready.

We Need To Let Our Children Dance

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As I watch my daughter dance barefoot around the living room my heart rate quickens and soon all the dreams of her future flashed within my mind. Her last day of High School when I kiss her forehead and shed a tear. If she chooses college that too will be another educational milestone skyrocketing her further into the sky. From there, will she wed? Will she become a mother? The possibilities, for both of my children, are tremendously unlimited.

Layla, my firstborn daughter, has a tender nature. The greatest goal she has in life is to love everyone she can possibly wrangle into a friendship. Eager, inquisitive – she is the person taking initiative, walking up to a stranger bravely and, with a smile, she coerces even the shyest of playmates into friendship.

Thinking about her, watching her move freely atop the cool tile floor, intentionally my mind drifted back into reality so that I could, once more with full intent, watch my sweet blue-eyed Lebanese American princess get her groove on.

Time stubbornly marches forward; babies grow, learn to walk and speak and dance, and soon they fly into the world. I am hesitatingly enamored with the notion that I will get to watch my babies grow into beautiful, intelligent young women… But slowly, time, can we make a deal?

Let her stay young. Fresh-faced, innocent. Layla to dance truly like it does not matter who is watching. Jemma, stark-raving naked running like a kitty-cat in the back yard… Their precious livelihood is a marvel to me, and lately, my heart has been quietly observing and taking in this moment. Right now. When she is five and baby sister is just two-and-a-half.

I can remember my childhood with an accuracy that at times shocks even my dad. Details of interpersonal relationships have always held specific importance to me: The way my mom held my hand while we were driving, or the way my dad would always stick out that one long finger just to jab me in the side because he knew it always made me buckle (he STILL does it to this day, and I STILL always collapse onto the floor merely to get away from that stinking tickle finger!) Everything my parents did, whether they knew I was looking or not, surely made an impact on their children. We all have traits we can say mirror our parents’ exactly, so obviously some sort of psychological mechanism occurs that make us learn from our parental examples.

What occurred to me is that the memories I have from even early on, well, my children are at THAT age – when their memories develop and they start to form an opinion about the ways of the world. Everything I do, say, feel, and teach them (inadvertently or intentionally) matters TREMENDOUSLY.

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I thought about that as she was dancing and I wondered, has she watched me dance? Does she see me move carefree and gracefully across the floor on my tippy-toes? Does she see in me the things that teach her what a lady should do, and is my example what she really needs? Mothers want to influence their daughters especially – to have tenderness, faith, compassion, love, grace, patience, virtue, honesty, and to pursue one’s passions… At least, these are the goals I have set for myself – but am I doing it right?

Right before I began recording her dance, she sat beside me and told me that dancing makes her heart feel happy. That her feet can even get tired but her spirit tells her she has to dance. It makes her feel alive, she said, and in her exact words, “I am so into this right now”. I about cried listening to her freely tell me what it felt like – the self-awareness and understanding of her feelings in that moment astounds me – and then she proceeded to show me, with her moves, exactly how those feelings translate into rhythm. It was… breathtaking, really, the whole sequence from emotional insights to the final tip-toed swirl.

You see, the thing is, time moves too fast – she will grow before I know it, and soon her little sister will be one who is five. The thing is, I am not the world’s best mom, and she will watch me make mistakes, but hopefully I will model forgiveness, grace, and unconditional love so perhaps they learn that from me, too. The thing is… This world is going to push my children to grow up.

From the media, to “drama” in the primary classroom between all the five-year-old girls, to the way I run my household. From the signs and billboards she soaks in that dot along the freeway, to the subtle sexually suggestive or otherwise negative advertising she will catch now and then on television. She will be force-fed propaganda and idealisms that strive to make her believe in accordance with mainstream trends in a world where freedoms are no longer free. She will be pressured to look a certain way; perfect hair, perfect teeth… Or else if she doesn’t, society will inform her both subtly and obviously that she is not good enough because her physical form is not an objectified, unrealistic standard.

Today, my big five-year-old daughter danced in the living room. Without a care in the world.

A thousand moments flashed before my eyes, but then I remembered that I, too, can live like a free, purposeful child whose radiance shines from within. Instead of dread the changes ahead, let me as her mother simply do my part to be present for her. To kiss wa-wa’s, explain about why people love each other, talk about God and the stars and why the grass is green, read bedtime stories and write short stories with brave characters named Layla and Jemma. I am the master fort carpenter, the bird-feeder filler as they eagerly await the chance to hand me up handfuls of birdseed. I am the chopper of their fruit plate, the scooper of ice-cream, the reluctant insisting that they eat their broccoli.  That is my job. To be HERE. Now. Because soon she won’t be my dancing blue-eyed princess anymore. And her little sister will not be far behind…

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I say, let them dance. Encourage the dancing. And when they do, stop, because in that moment, nothing else but her there, twirling with that smile that beckons, “just watch me one more minute, Mama,” will be the most important thing in the world to you.

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Why I Love My Sister

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Growing up, we did not always get along. As with all our siblings, we fought. One time, when we were about 14 and 11, I pushed the wrong pre-teen button and she got so mad she literally grabbed my head, threw me to the ground, and proceeded to bash my skull into the glass of the sliding back door. Yeah, I guess you could say my sister and me never really could see eye-to-eye…

But, we were kids. The two girls in a brood full of boys, there were times we were forced to form an alliance; those guys never saw it coming when we cocked our rubber band guns and shot them down like Clint Eastwood in a cheesy Western film. One thing always rang true, no matter if we were duking it out or joining forces – I always loved my little sister unlike I loved anyone in my life.

When I was 21, shortly after our mom died, I moved away from our hometown in Washington to the sunny beaches of San Diego. Amanda was a new graduate and on her way to University of Washington to pursue a Mathematics degree and me, well, I just wanted to get the hell out of town. We lost touch for the next few years, but eventually got better at using that crazy invention called the telephone; our relationship, as adults, was just beginning.

I became a mother at the age of 24 and suddenly realized how much I needed my sister. Always the more maternal one by nature, I sought out her years of nanny training and demanded she tell me the secret to raising a good child. She was by my side soon after Layla was born, and I can honestly say there were times I thought I would lose my mind, a crying baby on my hip with no clue how to soothe her, but my faithful sissy was always there to help me through… And this was well before she ever had kids of her own.

As I have gone through my adult life, with as many trials and heartaches as I have endured, she was always a constant force of encouragement, and occasionally that hard dose of humility and, well, reality that a woman needs once in a while. She never said things just to get her word in, but instead, she was kind, compassionate, and truthful – and as I have become a mother, twice now, and grown so much, there is a great deal of that wisdom that came from a young woman I have been lucky enough to call my sister.

Now, she is a mother herself. After a surprise double-visit from the stork, Amanda and Jennie now hold two precious baby girls, and Lexie and Vienna are the sunshine they had been craving for years. I was blessed to get to travel to Boston just a month after their birth and meet my two precious nieces, and I got to watch my sister perform the wondrous dance of motherhood for the first time.

It was… amazing. She is everything I want to be, as a woman – a mom, a passionate pursuer of knowledge, and just as the kind of friend anyone is lucky to have – and I just loved the opportunity to watch her in motion.

I am home now, and tonight I got to thinking how fast life moves. These moments we have with the people we love are often for some and few for others; her and me are hundreds of miles apart, as I am from my entire family, and the time we get together is precious and too-few. When I think about the fact that I am almost thirty, and realizing there is still so much I have yet to experience and do, I am grateful that as I live my life, I know I have a loyal, loving companion whom accompanies me on this journey even from miles apart. She is the reason I am still in college, frankly, because she’s all but forced me not to throw in the towel. She is my inspiration and I am so lucky to have her for my math classes (Lord knows I wouldn’t have passed them without my genius math-whiz sister!)

I think of Amanda and realize how much bravery she has. I admire her strength of conviction, and the tenacity she had to face who she was, and face this life, and instead of cowering to the pressure to be like everyone else, my sister is blazing a trail and making her life beautiful.

If I could have even have of her courage, I would consider myself beyond blessed; when I am fearful about the choices I face, or when I am down and exhausted with life, I think of her and I realize how much more I have to give. Because she never gives up on pursuing her dreams. I want to be more like that.

We all have a journey to travel, and for the most part we do this alone. But there are reasons for the people we know, and the people we meet. Some of us get lucky to meet several great people in this life. Some of us are lucky to call them family…
I know several people, and I love many, but none so have my heart quite like the girl who was raised beside me. None so much as the one whom helps me marvel at life, and see things a little clearer. Because I’ve known her since her birth, and I believe our relationship is a testament to what real family looks like; we were destined to be sisters.

Please, cherish the time you have with your family. Appreciate the phone calls, the conversations, and the embrace of a loved-one… We are here and then we are gone, and it happens in a blink. Do not take the moments lightly, but instead, cherish them, because, after all, that is what life should be about.

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