BLISS

Love begets Love. When I found out that I was pregnant, I saw a constellation of stars. It was as though I had a window into cosmic bliss, experiencing joy like I never knew existed. Whatever my shortcomings as a parent, my son was wanted, loved, and the source of the greatest joy and grace I’d experienced. If I have in any way become a better person, it is because of him.

He was always his own person: a kind, protective, funny, and serious little soul. He is that rare person who can be completely in the moment and who always knew when he was in a good time and always expressed gratitude. Precocious, often wise, occasionally harsh, always supportive, he remains the person who can make me laugh to tears and of whom I am most proud. He has become a man I am happy to know and glad to consider a friend as well as a good son and great family man.

When he walked down the aisle to marry his most beloved, uniting our families, and lovingly accompanied by my own dear father, I thought I would burst with happiness. As I turned to see the generations of both families and felt my Mother’s blessing, I knew that indeed, the Circle was unbroken.

It has been a wonder to watch them grow as individuals and become even closer as a couple over the years. They had suffered quietly for years, using every means possible to sustain a pregnancy, always having their dreams dashed. They carried that sadness with grace until finally being advised to give up.

I didn’t, and I made ceremony at home, entreating my ancestors and hers. Earlier, they had joined me on a fieldwork trip, where the most respected elders chastised me for having only one child, but then took my boy aside and blessed him. Magical thinking? Yes, but I held the hope that the charms or just the way that people eventually relax after letting go of disappointment sometimes results in a “miracle.” Meanwhile, we looked into adoption and other options, knowing that any child that came to us would be OUR child, wanted and loved.

A few months later, I asked my son -a tv producer- to film an event I was chairing at the college where I taught, and he agreed. It was rare at that point for us to be able to get together outside of regular family visits, so I was especially happy to have a few hours with my son and to show him off to my colleagues. After setting up the cameras and staging areas, he suggested we take a break before the activities started and people poured in. Sitting in the dark and quiet auditorium, he put his arm around me and pulled something out of his duffle, saying he wanted me to see something and handing me what looked like a photograph. It was a sonogram of his daughter, my granddaughter, somehow already resembling her Dad at this early stage.

If I thought the heavens opened when he was conceived, I can tell you that the entire universe sang at that moment. I can count on one hand the number of times I have wept from pure, uncontainable joy, and that moment is the most memorable. My serious, often somber child, was lit up like a million Christmas trees, Times Square at night, and the Aurora Borealis in spring. For the next several months (and ever since) I was to see the deep dimples he has when smiling, every single day.

I’m here to tell you that Life presents us with many opportunities and occasions for happiness. When I conceived and again when it was confirmed, I experienced unexpected joy. My life has not been an easy one and joy was not my companion, so its visits were always special, appreciated, and noted. I didn’t know that anything could make me happier than my own child had, but I’m here to tell you that the joy of seeing my child’s happiness made my heart open up a whole new chamber. I went back into the gala in a haze of joy, my face swollen from the happy tears we’d shared and my brain on autopilot for the rest of that wonderful night.

And then she was born, and again, my joy was for their joy: my son and the beautiful soul he’d brought into our lives through love and marriage, the woman who made him aspire to greatness, and laugh, who brought out his silly side, and for whom he felt pride and gratitude. This beautiful couple were finally graced with the child they so wanted and who had- artiste that she is- built up this tremendous anticipation before gracing us with her presence on the stage of Life. Our little star was born and my heart was overwhelmed with love for this person who made my children so happy.

But then somehow, my heart expanded even further as this little blissball grew, and I loved her for herself, this shining, bright eyed wonder whose face danced with aspects of everyone I’d loved in my family, along with features from her gorgeous mother. And as she has grown, new heart chambers have emerged to accommodate my Bliss, as well as heart rooms for all of the new friends and family who’ve come into our lives because of this once tiny seed of love.

So that’s it. I just wanted to say that Love is real. It’s precious and fine and often illusive and illusionary because we humans are basically assholes with legs who tend to miss our own good times or screw them up by trying to capture, control, or otherwise change what is. It’s painful in its absence and wrenching in loss. But sometimes (perhaps as a reward for good deeds but likely for no particular reason at all) we are *blessed* with Love, true and abiding. I think that we are never exactly “deserving” as it’s popularly put, but we are graced with it and made better by it and we should cherish it. Always.

And so for me, each and every year that I live, this date is the Second Day of Bliss and Gratitude and I give thanks for my gifts of Love, from the bottom of my now endlessly expanding heart.

Sainthood Not Required

This was inspired about two weeks ago by a friend who seemed to want to control my memories. I think it’s pretty common, but it rubs me the wrong way. I understand not allowing outright lies or even disrespect, but no matter how close we are to folks, we know them differently than do others.

I’m sure my dubious reputation as a relatively friendly, fairly feisty, determined-to-be curmudgeonly crank is in no danger, but I want you to promise me that after I’m dead, you will not forget those contrasts in my personality. I promise that I will haunt you if you try to cover me with false ideas of perfectionism.

Don’t diminish me by glossing over my less than wonderful traits: I worked hard to learn how to speak up for myself, to curse, and to embrace anger. I like my sometimes twisted humor and have no desire to be portrayed in a one dimensional, sanctified way. I don’t want to be silenced in life and I don’t want the silence of the tomb to be the end of the complex human that I will have been. I can accept that I might be entirely forgotten- I’ve done nothing that rates immortality- just don’t make me over, for however long my name conjures up a picture in anyone’s mind. Enjoy the contradictory stories and opinions: consensus is not required, I changed over my lifetime and treated various people differently. I am as I can/should be.

My mistakes are mine

My struggle remains real

It took many years for me to recognize the inherent violence in perfectionism and ideologies of “sweetness” and being “good” that are thrust most particularly upon women, but just as damagingly, on the various subaltern peoples in societies that hold fast to the notion that we are inferior and must therefore strive harder to be better. It is a dehumanizing concept that supports racism and the institutionalized oppression of the many people who are literally beaten into simplistic characterizations, whether it be the “thug” or the “model minority.” Every stereotype is a diminishment of the complexities of human lives and a deterrent to human be-ing.

So have the laughs remembering the stupid things I did (please never forget jumping from a horse at a fairly high speed or crossing streams by swinging from vines in Dominica- I did that!) or the petty, snarky (yet hopefully witty) comments. Remember the failure to sometimes be there in some way when I might have been needed; the (many) times I ditched social events in favor of solitude. Maybe I’ve helped a few people, certainly I’ve hurt some. I hope I’ve been kind more often than not: I admire gentle souls and see the immaturity in my own restless, sometimes thoughtless spirit. I abhor liars, phonies, and respectability politics, but respect good bullshit, a well told story, and politeness. I’ve been blessed to have a couple of friends who’ve loved me enough to “pull my coattails” when I’ve gotten too narrowly focused or have been just plain wrong, and I can only hope that they’ll outlive me and keep anyone inclined to whitewash my memory from spoiling the party or trading in real memories for Disneyfied bull. Don’t try to control the way others who knew me saw me: they have their stories, their own relationships. But thanks for wanting to come to my defense, I appreciate the love.

I want my life to reflect my growth, my human be-coming, and memories of me should do no less. If you were lucky enough to have had the Anjana Experience, accept no substitute!

#Popeye ain’t got nothing on me.

PS I do expect to be around for another twenty years, so please don’t get freaked out and call me or start eulogizing me now. Respect the rant for what it is!