Impermanence

A lavender orchid – plucked from a lei – is pressed into the worn and cracked leather, tucked into the chair of the terminal’s lounge seating. Predictably brash announcements sail over the speakers as travelers crush against each other in preparation to begin or end their journey.

With strands of sea salt, permed hair falling into her teary eyes, a young girl plants a promise along with that flower petal:

“Hawaii, I promise to come back to you someday”.

It sounds so pathetic now, but at the moment the whimpering statement meant everything to a 10 year old, lamenting the impermanence of a family vacation. One in which I snorkled in the reef of an ancient volcano bed, hula-danced on stage overlooking a roasting pig, watched as drop by drop of water cascaded from Waimea Falls, and let mother ocean’s waves capture and release my childhood zest.

Upon return from this trip, I opened a custom made diary and began to write.

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Dear Diary….

These words were first carefully scrawled upon the pages of my Hello Kitty journal when I was only seven years old, letters shaky yet proud. As the years passed, the ink colors changed, sometimes the “i” would be dotted with a pink heart or a swirly sprials, and acronyms like BFF and LYLAS appeared decades before the masses of WTF and ROFLMAO. I often apologized in writing to my diary for not having written in her for days. I’m sure she held a grudge.

My tradition was to allow my mama to read the entries every few days.

I wrote about going to the “grogery store” in second grade.

In third grade, I recreated a “Will you be my girlfriend? Check Yes or No” love note that was given to me on the playground by curly-haired Eric. I think I checked a resounding No. Like, gag me with a spoon!

When I was eight, I wrote about how my mama’s boyfriend brought her pretty red, red roses.

Shortly after that entry, I wrote a two line entry about watching football with my brother while my mother got married in the other room by a justice of the peace.

I wrote about my mother’s divorce when I was nine.

I wrote about being a leg warmer-wearing, tether-ball champion in fourth grade.

In six grade, I drew pictures of the rings my mama and daddy bought me and oh, p.s. LF is such a cheapskate because she regifts Exclamation! perfume (before I know what regifiting was)!

It was simply coincidence that around then that I realized the power of the exlamation point! Seriously! Can you believe it!

When I was 12, all available diary space was overtaken with my undying pledges of love and teen lust for NKOTB.

I wrote about my like, totally cool eight grade graduation party where boys and girls in tightrolled jeans took their chances on, ewwww, spin the bottle while Ice, Ice Baby played in the background.

I most definitely did not reveal when I got my period. I swore my mother to secrecy about this embarrassing event that occurred for the first time in a hot tub on vacation. OMG.

By the time High School arrived, I was probably on my fourth diary and had been signing by name “Pea” for years.

And shortly after my freshman year, the entries faded away completely. Instead, poetic ramblings of angst and longing were written on scraps of old computer paper (and once on my entire ceiling). The notes I composed and passed during Study Hall and Spanish class became my living journal and also garnered me a detention or two. I had to have my cooler friends do that amazing chinese-star looking fold. I stored them in a rollerblades box.

At 16, I wrote my boyfriend long letters with Wet-n-Wild lipstick prints smudged on the back. They included code words for making out.

In typing class, I practiced my skills by composing notes full of gossip and details of make out sessions, click-clacking away on the typewriter as one of the fastest typers in my class.

I slowly took up journaling again in college when I wasn’t using Telnet to access chat rooms with my Lavah handle (“Lavah enters the room giggling and flipping her braids”). One of the entries listed four things I would like to do some day: Be Jason’s wife, have kids, go to Europe, try snowboarding. I’ve achieved all four.

The revolution called Email quickly took over and soon my short-lived college days were chronicled through AOL; You’ve Got Mail! I printed off and saved every single email between me and Jason.

At 19, I packed a suitcase and 4 big boxes and left the green hills of Indiana (and massive phone bills) for the dry desert of Arizona to live with Jason. I resumed Dear Diary entries, chock full of hopes and dreams.

I wrote about Jeepin’ in the canyons, job promotions, moving in to new apartments, and snowboarding.

December 21, 1999: “I am sitting in the St. Louis airport waiting to get on a flight back home to Phoenix. I have been back home in Indiana since December 10th for the most unfortunately reason. On December 15th at 11:25 am my grandpa passed away with my mom, sister, brother, and I at her side…I learned such a lesson in the dignity of the dying. Her death was gentle and peaceful, quiet and dignified, just as she had lived her 89 years of life”.

Then, a blank page separated the next entry.

February 23, 2004: “Over four years since my pen has been to this paper. I have consciously waited for the appropriate time to begin writing again. Nothing – no time – seemed appropriate after the death of grandma. This book became a memento of her death. It would beckon me to write every few months. But I could not. Nothing I wrote could possibly justify the experience of her death. I have been waiting for the right time. It is now.

Death does not rule my thoughts, command my actions, or fill my nightmares. I have come to belive that our bodies are vessels and death the means of travel. Some of us depart on the journey sooner. We cannot mourn.”

And then, come October of that same year, I began to record the way my skin expanded for the growing baby inside of me. Words sprouted as quickly as this new life. This time, the electronic pages of an internet journal functioned as my open canvas, as the lines of my Dear Diary pages.

Trimesters, homebirth plans, 40 lbs, hospital birth, grief, connection to women, vegetarianism, advocacy, shared experiences, my first birth as a doula, another life-seed, more trimesters, job displacement, 50 lbs, homebirth, co-sleeping, parenting self doubt, to here and now.

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I read that last line of of my 2004 entry and realize that lack of power I gave Death pre-children has lessened. The reality of their bright faces and chubby legs and exclamation-point spirits has grounded me more solidly in this Life. I know Death knocks and I cannot fathom that someday I or my girls will answer the door.

I read that line and still believe in travel, only this time the vessels have names like Baby Liam and Baby Ferdinand and Baby Birdie and their destinations are uncharted. And I find myself mourning for another mama’s baby. Grief – once content to be a perfect stranger – grows more personal.

Impermanence. A fact of life. An ebb and flow. A reepated lesson along my journey this year. I haven’t seem to come to terms with it. Right now, it sucks.

Our money won’t stay put. Chased dreams outrun us. A livelihood is pulled out beneath my pregnant feet. A baby is sustained inside of me. Surges of my uterus wax and wane. And then the daughter leaves my body and transform in fast-forward. Babyhood is lost within weeks. The deepest of friends leaves to find a place she belongs. Then another, a midwife – my Sage of Sages – prepares to depart as well to an ancient land, where her ancient hands will continue to heal and birth and revolutionize. Hormones peak and dip and fade. Sleep escapes. Time never stops. Grief remains and pulls perspective back into my soul with incredible G-force.

And recently, years worth of electronic files – words – slip quietly into the Death of Night, gone forever. Unrecoverable. Unretrievable but through the narrowing lens of my memory.

All I can think about is the fading ink formed into loops and lines I call words, on the paper pages of my Dear Diaries. These remain.

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“We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of time and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible in life, as in love, is in growth, in fluidity – in freedom. One must accept the serenity of the winged life, of ebb and flow, of intermittency.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh, A Gift from the Sea

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10 thoughts on “Impermanence

  1. Oh no! Computer incident?

    Loved this though, so evocative. Loved the last few paragraphs especially, the run-down of your life.

    Liam having an unchartered destination.. as much as I’d rather have him here with us and unharmed, I like the way you put that. Very much.

  2. Such rich imagery and moving writing.
    And this quote is one of my most favorites. It reminds me of what i need to know and return to again and again.

    Can’t wait to meet you in person in just three days!!!!!

  3. Hawaii, I promise to come back to you someday”.

    It sounds so pathetic now, but at the moment the whimpering statement meant everything to a 10 year old, lamenting the impermanence of a family vacation. One in which I snorkled in the reef of an ancient volcano bed, hula-danced on stage overlooking a roasting pig, watched as drop by drop of water cascaded from Waimea Falls, and let mother ocean’s waves capture and release my childhood zest.

    *****

    Nothing pathetic….

    ………about those words. Rather beautiful I’d say. Words from a lovely, thoughful girl who we always knew would grow into the incrdible woman that you have become. Never forget Hawaii. Nor shall I.

    Dad

    P.S. You forgot about “Blue” who taught you to surf on Wakikee Beach!

  4. Just as she brings the ebb and flow of life, Mother Earth loves your salty tears. Let them flow, let her share your elation and your grief.

  5. First of all, I totally remember when you came back from Hawaii when we were in 4th grade (I’m guessing); you were so freakin’ tan.

    Second of all, LMAO about LW being cheap and the exclamation perfume!!

    Third of all, I love that you recounted all of these diary experiences, because I was there for about 80% of them, and they take me back, too!!

  6. Leigh: You are entirely reflective and completely give yourself to your emotions, your attachments to life. I am so much like you. I could have written this post, or the sentiments shared; you explain it all beautifully, this pull and tug. This statement paralyzes me:

    A baby is sustained inside of me. Surges of my uterus wax and wane. And then the daughter leaves my body and transform in fast-forward. Babyhood is lost within weeks. The deepest of friends leaves to find a place she belongs.

    My God, is it ever true. Hugs to you, you eloquent woman. I really wish we lived closer. I know we’d be friends.

    (Hugs)

  7. How could I forget to mention: 1) I adore that book, too – Gift from the Sea; 2) I kept diaries growing up, all the way through college. I still try, but as you so note, it’s now my blog that has become my ‘diary.’ This saddens me, because as much as I wish to think to myself I let it all pour out on my weblog, I hold so much back. Indeed, there is an audience, and I consider just how far I can go in what I am saying. I think much of me is lost in that; I’m finding a way to get back to it myself. My diaries/ journals are tucked away in a huge tupperware bin in our basement; literally, I have 12 years worth of writings down there. Isn’t it amazing? I’m so glad I wrote as much as I did, but I fear my own kids will be daunted by the task of sorting through it all one day!

  8. This is so beautiful, I’m really happy to have read it. And Oh My Gawd I can’t believe I’m not married to Jordan Knight. My ceiling and walls were papered with pinups… *sigh*

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