Feb 222015
 

It Has Finally Happened to One of Us

It has finally happened to one of us
For a moment, forgettingpeople on path
as she forgets, that
the center point is not the I.
It is happening to her,
we are merely witnesses.

I do not remember the length of this journey
nor do I envision this journey’s end.
I do not allow myself to imagine too thickly
the upcoming changing terrain.
I have heard the stories and studied the brochures,
but never having walked this path
I work to keep my eyes from searching too far ahead
noticing only the bush to the left,
grass to the right, and
the rocky path just a few steps ahead.

It is only one foot stepping in front of the other,
breath supporting each forward motion.

My family,
walking beside me
sometimes grasps and struggles
as I sometimes gasp and stumble
we reach through arms and elbows
raise each other from skin broke open
to once again
one foot stepping in front of the other.

It has finally happened to one of us.
Eyes respond with compassion to the
frightened “I don’t know who you are,”
while the heart drops to pit
and grief becomes the anchor that roots.

In this long journey,
In this one foot in front of the other,
this stumble, rip open, raise again
the I yields to the We as
roots intertwine.
With braided arms,
we bear witness to my mother’s untethering.

© 2015, Sabrina Santa Clara

Jan 042015
 

Dear young man:

Thank you for the compliments on my beauty and
hour-glass figure,
But perhaps hitting on me at the 24-hour chant
wasn’t the very best of choices.

Dear beautiful young man with the 4% body fat cut physique:

You are indeed a pleasure to look upon.
But,
Your face is like a porcelain doll’s
Too pretty and too cool for someone with the heat of me to love.
I prefer faces like Japanese Kintsugi Pottery, made more beautiful for the cracks
I prefer a face that has placed a loved one in the grave
And one that has had to climb itself back up to happiness.

I prefer a body that has that slight soft edge of vulnerable
One that might Feel
better than it looks
One that shows its owner gives more attention to the inside
than the outside.

Dear loquacious 26 year-old:

I am not offended that you attempted to educate me,
a 49 year-old Woman with a 25-year practice,
on what is required to be an advanced yogi and the
8-limbed path.
I know that your words were peacock feathers to impress me –
I am sorry if I did not hide my amusement well.

There will come a time when you will grow weary of your own words.
Only then you will learn the gift of silence.
You will discover that the greatest wisdom comes from the quiet of the in-between spaces
And words are nothing more than a distraction from the essence of the Greater Something

There will come a time when that silence will lead you to the Great Emptiness inside
that will
at first
devastate you.
And sooner or later,
probably later,
you will experience the paradox that the Great Emptiness is,
in fact,
the source of the Overflowing Fullness.

Dear puppy:

There will come a time when you will be able to resist the temptation to jump on laps
and slobber on faces,
When you will understand that,
as cute as you are,
seasoned Women don’t much care for awkward jumps and slobbers,
we prefer seasoned Menwho understand the value of silence,
pacing and
timing.

Dear young man:

thank you
but no thank you.

 

© Sabrina Santa Clara, 2014

Jan 042015
 

kay rowe (stangl)I am only able to visit her now
about once every six weeks
My eldest sister,
who sees her every day is
sometimes unaware of the changes that
stumble my breath.

Her face still lights up when she sees me,
A toddler’s joy in an old woman’s face,
words coming in single syllables spaced far apart

I become her mouth, her tongue
lips forming words that she cannot find
Filling-in the blank spaces her mind has relinquished
Guessing at meaning that is probably,
at this point,
mostly projection

She’s stopped struggling to locate words, is
less pained by her inability to express thoughts.
At last,
yielding to the bogginess of her
low dusk brain.

Her memory is like a thin skipping stone
Briefly touching down only to rise again
Once, twice, maybe three times before
Surrendering to gravity and
sinking deep beneath the surface
wafting down to rest quietly
on consciousness’ muddy floor.

Today, I am ungrieving.

It is, I think, a restful kind of beauty.
My mother’s brow unfurrowed for the first time.
Ruminations of the past, worries of the future,
and unsatisfied longings all long gone.

The unfulfilled life as distant as her memories.
My beloved mother now, is
the freest from suffering as I’ve ever known her.

Her face still lights up when she sees me.
She could not, I doubt, locate me tethered in her past
but she knows the felt sense of safe,
familiar,
loved.

The days are coming soon,
when I will lay at the bottom of her lake,
when the eyes I look into
will not look back.

I gently hold the beauty of this moment
fragile like a robin’s egg
in softly cupped hands.
Gratitude that
for today
Her face still lights up when she sees me.

 

© Sabrina Santa Clara, 2014

Jan 042015
 

Mom n Me 2014Every morning, without fail,
she put her depression and the misery of her marriage
in the dryer that stood in the kitchen
good only for countertop space and
storing the 20 lb bag of potatoes we seemed to live on.

Every morning, without fail
She sang in her happy, lilting voice,
“good morning, Sunshine!”
as she straightened out the blankets I’d twisted in the night,
pushed back the Rapunzel hair my father forbid us to cut
and kissed me softly on the forehead.

Every morning, without fail
the love in her voice
chased the misery of my childhood back
beneath my bed,
if only for a brief moment.
Is it any wonder,
almost half a century later,
that I fall in love with every new morning?

My mother was an amazing compartmentalizer.
Before the last three years
I could count the times I’d see her cry.
Now, it is me who compartmentalizes.
I lay my grief in the hands of friends,
let it wail into the circle of community,
drain it into a poem,
anywhere that its cause cannot see.

I keep my voice and body soft as I
wipe the tears from her cheeks.
My inquiries have become a kind of short-hand,
Sad? Lonely? Scared? Confused?
She nods at one or the other but I suspect
she has lost the meanings of those words too.

She is too big a woman to place on my lap
so I take her in my arms and
lean her on my shoulder
soothe her with
the slow circle back rubs of my childhood.

I breathe slowly and softly
calming her body with my own.
Then I sing to my mother the song of my childhood,
“Hush, little baby, don’t say a word,
Mamma’s gonna buy you a mocking bird,
and if that mocking bird don’t sing,
Mamma’s gonna buy you a diamond ring.”

Being childless,
I once believed I would never know the unconditional love of motherhood.
I was wrong.

But this mothering,
is a painful kind of mothering
for what mother would pray for their own’s release?

Mother, oh my mother,
may you be relieved of this body that wanders aimlessly
as if seeking the soul that has become untethered.

Mother, oh my mother
may you be relieved of the mind that
has become too spacious to hold the fullness of you.

I’m not certain, beloved mother, what is on the other side,
But I do so hope you’re awakened there with a
“good morning, Sunshine!

 

© 2014 Sabrina Santa Clara

Aug 192013
 

Being a parent for the first time can be a steep learning curve. We don’t quite know how to “do it right,” we lack confidence, we don’t know what our little one’s messages mean, certainly not at the beginning. Being a sort of new parent to my mother is kind of like that. I am learning things like, she has forgotten how to eat a taco or a tostada, or that I must remind her to wipe and flush the toilet and wash her hands after using the restroom. Sometimes I fall short in taking care of her well because I simply don’t know how to.

This week, on the way back from her medical visit, I stopped by an outdoor mall to drop off something for repair. In the Temecula Valley this time of year, temperatures run in the very high 90s. My mother, who uses a walker, was overheated quite quickly. I sat her down outside the mall under the direct sun in the blistering heat while I jogged the 200+ yards to the car anxious for my mother’s discomfort and feeling badly that I had put her in such a position. As I was driving the car back, a UPS driver jumped out of his truck and ran over to where my mother was seated in her walker, then handed her an ice-cold bottle of water which he had opened for her, then quickly ran back to his truck. I pulled up to my mother and got out of the car as he was jumping back in his truck. One hand on my heart, another in a wave, I gave him my silent gratitude. He smiled warmly as he was putting his truck in gear and quickly was off.

I suspect I will remember that small act of kindness forever. He did not judge my ineptitude. He was clearly rushed, but not too rushed to offer a kindness, to care for an elder, to step up where I had fallen short. In spite of being rushed, he noticed, and then he acted. And that, my dear friends, is the true essence of the spiritual warrior.

Having walked a variety of spiritual paths, I have seen so many seekers who confuse the practice for the essence. That is, to orient towards practices like meditation or yoga as if they are the Something Bigger, when they are only practices to help us open and experience the Something Bigger. The purpose of meditation isn’t to be a great meditator, to sit for hours at a time without moving, it is to notice – To be mindful in our daily lives when we are in relationship to others and to our environment, then, to take that noticing and become mindfully engaged, to take action. To do what that UPS man did, because, as Jewel sang so sweetly, “in the end, only kindness matters.”

May we be mindful in our daily interactions. May we be of service to others in need, even in the small ways. May we remember that, when it comes to kindness, there is no small act.

clip no small act of kindness

Sabrina Santa Clara ~ Authentic Alchemy x3
Spiritual Counseling ~ Temecula, CA

Aug 132013
 

Humans need belief systems. They give our world order and structure. It’s not really important what the belief system is, but it is in our nature to need one. That’s just the way human psychology works. My belief system is that everything that comes across my path has the potential to serve my higher good; However, my participation is required for that good to come to fruition.

My move back to California was motivated by a need to be closer to family, and in particular, to help in the care of my mother who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. I suspect that as I return to writing, more of my posts will be about this process. In some ways, it is not the Alzheimer’s that is the important thing here. What’s important is my capacity to love, to be mindful, to sit with difficulty, to be of service, and to surrender to the path that is laid out before me.

This is no small thing as I, by nature, am not a caretaker. I am a lover, a helper, and an educator, but not really a caretaker. It’s part of the reason I chose not to have children. But, as a child of a parent with dementia, I have now become a parent to my parent. None of us can fully plan out our lives. We are given what we are given and there are many unexpected stops along the way. It’s been my experience that those unplanned stops are what make my life interesting and/or make me more fully human.

Today I arrived at my mother’s assisted living home to find she’d been crying for the last four hours. My first response, like any good parent, was to feel very protective and hold them accountable for not calling me sooner. Then I set my anger aside to be what my mother needed me to be – soft and loving.

I entered the room and bent to kiss my mother’s blotchy face. I sat next to her, touched her shoulder with one hand and held the other in mine. I looked directly into her bloodshot and watery eyes and said, “tough morning, huh?” Her face collapsed as she nodded, her eyes hooked on mine. I did not look away but sat present with her suffering. “Are you feeling lonely, mom?” She squeaked out a, “yeah.”  “I’m here now” I said, along with some other soothing comments – along with soothing touch. My mother looked at me with such trust and openness in her rawness. I am unburdened by her need for me to make it better. I know that I cannot fix it all, just as a parent cannot fix the emotional state of a five year-old. But, we hold, soothe, and stay present to ride out the storm. I think of all the times my mother has been there for me in the chaos of my childhood and the emotional wreck I call my 20s. I consider myself fortunate that I have the opportunity to help my mother in her long transition out of this world.

When I told my sister about my mother’s crying and loneliness, my sister said, “yeah, but she refuses to do things with others and just stays in her room,” as if my mother has the capacity to make wise choices at this point. I do not judge my sister. I know she is in pain. I know that it is incredibly difficult to see your own mother’s dramatic change from someone who was once so solid, independent, and rarely cried, into someone who cannot even manage her own hygiene – into someone who easily cries. Watching my own mother suffer is truly one of the most heart-wrenching experiences I’ve known. It is also terrifying to think that one day we may follow our mother in her dementia path. Fear, loss, pain and frustration – these are the difficult emotions that come with caring for a loved-one with Alzheimer’s.

We all have our own tolerance capacity. For my sister, the frustration is more tolerable than sitting into the loss and pain, which are simply too big and overwhelming for her. My nature, on the other hand, is to dive deep. And if I am honest, I have far less tolerance for frustration than I do to sitting present with loss and pain. So my path with my mother is different. I bear her pain with her, and hope that in sharing her pain that her suffering will be diminished. Perhaps it will not, but this is what I know how to do, so this is what I offer.

What is it you have to offer? What is it that you carry that may ease the suffering of another being, even if just for a moment?

clip-offering
Sabrina Santa Clara ~ Authentic Alchemy x3
Spiritual Counseling ~ Temecula, CA