All posts by Jahnavi Newsom

Bare beauty and a question for you

Dear friend,

I have received your letter or message and it has been a salve to the craggy, scarred face of my heart.

To those of you who sent a letter or card or flowers (Melissa, Russell, Manjari, Chris, Ami, Ashton, Ellen, Ros, Kelsey, Chrysantha, Ben and Alice) I want you to know that your love and effort has moved us deeply. As I expressed to my friend Alice, when I receive a letter or card from you expressing your care and support, there is a sense of relief inside of me. This heavy weight in my chest is no longer only carried by me; I feel your hands holding it up as well, and it is that much easier to bear. To me, this is no small matter. Your kind actions mean the world to me. I believe that Addison feels the same.

Even just the act of sitting and reading what I write, taking the time to sit with me through each post, is something I appreciate deeply. I love seeing your comments or reading your emails. I can attribute much of my healing process to you being here—wherever you are—to receive what I am sharing. Thank you.

Here in Colorado the skies create a sapphire backdrop for the golden fields and orange or gray or white, leafless trees. I never knew dead grass and bare branches could be so beautiful. When I walk Zoso at dawn, his tracks are negatives across the frosty ground. There are sounds of crunching beneath my feet as I breath with my steps.

These days are spent working, writing, recording our album, and—for me—crying many tears. I am missing my daughter and I understand now that there is no end-date for this sadness.

A couple of weeks ago I attended a meditation retreat in the Rocky Mountains with Addison and my sister, Radha. We spent a lot of time in silence and in ceremony. At times I found myself prostrated on the ground, invoking my ancestors and spiritual teachers. I lay down on the earth, practicing letting go and asking for help. Chickadee was there. In a way she has become my ancestor, though I was the one who gave birth to her.

I asked myself a lot of questions during those five days and received few answers—but that’s too be expected in any spiritual quest.

One of the questions I continue to ponder is this: what is going to be my way of taking positive action and helping to ease the suffering of living beings on this planet?

I was reminded—during a powerful presentation given by a Lakota dharma teacher at the retreat—of the many issues which are swept under the rug and kept from public view.

I contemplated how I am living in a country whose native people have been massacred, imprisoned, lied to, and mistreated in innumerable ways by my political leaders, both past and present. The Dakota Access Pipeline was one incident that the native people and U.S. religious leaders and citizens brought to public attention. But there is so much that goes unseen. What can I do to balance the scales? Can I take responsibility for my ancestors’ actions without being crushed under the weight of tremendous regret and sadness for what cannot be taken back?

Larry Rowe, another dharma teacher at the retreat, is an African American man. He mentioned the unease he feels being in the United States, and how much safer he feels in other countries. It reminded me that someone with different skin color than me may not be treated as well. I don’t want to turn a blind eye on these things.

I do want to consider deeply where I can be the most effective in creating positive change; I know my own limitations. 

What are some ways that you take positive action in the world? I’m curious to know, if you have a minute to share in the comments below (I may very well steal your idea if it really resonates with me—heh heh heh).

Yesterday we spent three hours recording my harmonies onto a 3 1/2 minute song for the upcoming album. It felt like a good use of our time, and it was also a reality check of just how long the recording process takes, not to mention mixing the tracks before sending them to be mastered!

The song we worked on yesterday is called “Chickadee”. Addison wrote it about our daughter. There is no way I would have been able to sing the song through, but he managed it beautifully. I approached my harmonies for the song by focusing on each sentence as a separate piece. I made myself concentrate on the words as syllables or notes which I had to sing in key and match timing with Addison’s voice. It enabled me to get through the whole recording process cheerfully. Listening back through the song as a whole definitely choked me up, but by then I was done singing for the day so that was fine.

My brother—who normally lives in South India—is currently in the U.S. due to a series of events, so Addison and I took advantage of his proximity and flew him out here. You may have already seen some of the photos he’s taken since he arrived in The Love Sprockets’ Instagram or Facebook feed. (the picture at the top of this post is his)

In the next week and a half we’ll be doing some photo and video shoots with him, and he is also revamping our website. It feels good to be “starting over” in certain respects to our music and as a band. We are really embracing our band as a duet, instead of wishing it was a four piece. And this next album will have a different sound and feeling from the last one we released.

Thank you for reading this update; I hope at least some of it was interesting for you. 🙂

Don’t forget to share your own way of creating positive change (big or small) in the comments below.

Big love to you!

-Jahnavi

P.S. You may have heard or figured it out—we extended the release date for our upcoming album, entitled “Chickadee”. If you haven’t gotten around to preordering it and getting your name in the liner notes, you still have time: http://music.thelovesprockets.com/album/chickadee

As a year approaches

There is a blocked, irritated mass of muscles between the ribs on my right side. They are trying to hold things together while while my left side sags beneath the immense weight of my heart.

When I lie down, sometimes it feels as though a lead ball is resting on top of my chest. In the mornings I wonder about my ability to rise, to attend to the usual chores, work projects, exercise, music practice.

But then I realize that if I don’t get up, the lead weight will get heavier and heavier, like an alarmingly fat cat settling in for a long nap on top of me. And maybe I will suffocate under the overweight sadness.

When I get out of bed, and I set up our meditation cushions, when I read to Addison and ring the bell, when I play through a few of our songs in preparation for the upcoming show, the weight is more like a koala bear, hanging on to me from the inside, wrapped around my heart and pulling it down. It’s still heavy, but I can walk around. I can talk to people, make jokes with cashiers, edit newsletters.

And I wonder this: how can I be so heavy, while there is such a big part of me missing? My daughter lived her whole life inside of me, and then she left. When it was time for her to emerge, she refused the calling.

I was her universe.

And I was her death bed.

She was my greatest hope

And now… my greatest sorrow

And my greatest love.

A few months ago, during a set break at one of our last Austin shows, an acquaintance who was attending the performance came over to talk with me. She asked how I was doing. “How are you really doing?” she demanded.

If someone seems to truly want to know how I am doing, than I naturally respond with honesty. “Well…” I began. “It’s been hard. We’re grieving our daughter. I’ve been really sad.”

“Hey,” she said. “You’ve got to go on with your lives. You’ve got to be happy again. You can always have another baby.”

I stared at her.

You can always have another baby.

She kept talking, and it was all of the wrong things. I didn’t ask her to stop. I didn’t ask her to go away. I wish I had been able to.

I will never replace Chickadee. I know this with dead certainty.

She is not like a pet that died, or a collectible item that was stolen.

I may have other children, and they will be themselves, and I will love them for it.

A woman who I have befriended here in Colorado also lost her daughter at birth. It was 40 years ago, and yet whenever we speak of it, tears fill her eyes. She will never forget her baby girl.

Chickadee died on November 15th, 2016. She was born on November 16th, 2016.

As her death and birth anniversary approach, I hope that you will remember her. Maybe you can light a candle for us, or send a prayer. Maybe you can do a good deed on her behalf.

And if you feel inspired to send a note, a card, or whatever, you can mail it to:

520 North Sherwood Street, #26, Fort Collins, CO 80521

We will accept any and all of the love that you are able to offer, with deep gratitude.

Love,

-Jahnavi

P.S. Don’t forget you  can preorder the “Chickadee” album here:

http://music.thelovesprockets.com/album/chickadee

Your Clear Refusal of Our World

My aunt Ros was organizing some books a couple of weeks ago, when one of them fell and opened to this poem…

 

For a Child Born Dead

What ceremony can we fit

You in now? If you had come

Out of a warm and noisy room

To this, there’d be an opposite

For us to know you by. We could

Imagine you in a lively mood

 

And then look at the other side,

The mood drawn out of you, the breath

Defeated by the power of death.

But we have never seen you stride

Ambitiously the world we know.

You could not come and yet you go.

 

But there is nothing now to mar

Your clear refusal of our world.

Not in our memories can we mould

You or distort your character.

Then all our consolation is

That grief can be as pure as this.

                                                      -Elizabeth Jennings (1926)

 

Ros typed the poem out, printed it and glued it to the back of a little chickadee painting photo, which she sent to us.

The poem struck me and brought me to tears.

Elizabeth, the author of this poem, describes the sudden death of her child as “your clear refusal of our world.”

Oh how rejected I felt by my daughter when she died.

“We created such a beautiful home for you!” I cried after her death. “We got everything ready. I dusted, cleaned, planted a garden, raked leaves; we hammered in every nail on the back porch so your soft, fat legs didn’t get scraped by them. I practiced Spanish and French so you could hear me in the womb and grow up bilingual! I meditated with you every morning, I read you books, I imagined your whole life stretched out in front of us. We were going to take you on bicycle tours, take you to France to meet your relatives, take you to India to hang out with your monk uncle! You were going to have such an awesome life! Why didn’t you want it? Why didn’t you want us? How could you leave me like this?”

But then Elizabeth says, “Not in our memories can we mould or distort your character. Then, all our consolation is that grief can be pure as this.”

Chickadee was and is the perfect child. She never grew up and became tainted by the many sorrows of this world. She never had a drug problem, or yelled at me “I hate you!”. She never became depressed.

How true are Elizabeth’s words to me.

Later, I reread the poem and examined the date on which it had been written. 1926. That was almost a hundred years ago.

Almost a hundred years ago this woman experienced a loss and grief so similar to mine that the poem she wrote is one I could have written.

Grief is universal. Joy is universal. Pain is universal. Happiness is universal. Who knew that a grief this specific could be so universal? I knew and yet I needed this poem as a reminder.

Whatever you are feeling right now, whatever pain you are experiencing, whatever longing you’re having, remember this:

You are not alone.

Somewhere in the world, and at many points in history, there is someone who has felt or is feeling what you are feeling. Someone has gone through what you’re going through. Someone is going through what you are currently experiencing. Someone will experience what you are going through in the future.

Thank you, Elizabeth Jennings, for writing that poem, and Ros for finding it and sending it to us. 🙂

P.S. We are going to be releasing an E.P. in honor of our daughter’s one year anniversary, called “Chickadee”. When you preorder the album, your name will be printed on the inside of the album cover, to memorialize you as one of the people who made the project possible. Click here to preorder: https://thelovesprockets.bandcamp.com/album/chickadee

P.P.S. If you preorder “Chickadee” for $25 or more, you will get a surprise in the mail along with the new album (it might be a beautifully hand painted pair of underwear, a T-shirt, a postcard, who knows?) Click here to preorder: https://thelovesprockets.bandcamp.com/album/chickadee

Happy happy

I’ve heard that while we are babies, we can still remember our past life, and that we know many things which we slowly forget as time passes.

My mom said that when I was very little, my first words were, “Happy happy!” I would say this while bouncing and clapping my hands. She always gets a big smile on her face when she tells me that.

This morning I was meditating and practicing the Four Establishments of Mindfulness. During the second part, which is feelings, I was breathing in and saying internally, “I feel happy”, and then breathing out and saying, “I feel happy.” In that moment I saw myself as a little girl, bouncing and chanting, “Happy happy.”

I thought, “Wow, I already had this all figured out back then. I guess I forgot and now I’m reminding myself.”

I wonder if I still remembered who I was when I was learning to say “Happy.”

It’s funny and terrifying, but someone recently compared the process of re-birth, or reincarnation, to be like “attending junior high school, over and over again.”

Maybe I am currently relearning things I already know. But hopefully I’m getting better at them each time around. 🙂

How to be a badass

The man sits perfectly still in his dark brown robes, his back erect, his eyes bright and smiling. The rest of us in the room are shifting, straightening or re-bending a leg, pushing shoulders back to keep from slumping.

A giant golden Buddha sits behind Thay Tihn Mahn, a similar smile curving the statue’s lips.

Thay Tihn Mahn is answering a question, a question about how to let go of bad memories or experiences.

“When I was a child during the Vietnam war,” the monk is saying, “I saw many of my friends and neighbors killed or raped. It was very traumatic for me to see.”

His Vietnamese accent is so strong, it has taken all afternoon for me to get accustomed to the way he pronounces words, and the inflections he uses. But he speaks clearly and slowly, and I can still barely believe what I am hearing.

“I could have been consumed with hatred and anger for these people who were killing and raping. But that would be very harmful to me, and to the world.”

As he speaks, he looks from each on of us to the next person, holding eye contact for what seems like many minutes at a time.

“Instead, I had to look back at these situations. I had to look back at these memories, so painful, and see how I could find compassion for these people. That is the only way I could transform the pain.”

Everyone in the circle is watching Tihn Mahn, and perhaps they are as amazed as I am to see this man, who is so incredibly kind and ready to smile, and to realize what he had to overcome to get to the place he is now.

“So we must take our pain, our suffering,” he went on, “and make it into our strength. Through finding compassion for the people we are angry with, we become very strong.”

And here I am, sitting in front of this man who sends loving-kindness to murderers and rapists, and I feel a little silly.

I thought I was really making strides, practicing compassion for friends or family who I only perceive as causing me suffering. I feel accomplished when I take my feelings of disappointment or hurt, and I channel them into loving-kindness, and come out the other side feeling more peaceful, more at ease. That’s great and all, good for me…

But practicing loving-kindness for people who murdered your friends and neighbors? This is a whole new level of understanding and it’s really raising the bar for me.

As we drive home I wonder where Thay Tihn Mahn came from, and how he ended up building a Buddhist monastery in the mountains near Denver.  Do the people speeding on the highway below realize that a 40 foot statue of the Goddess of Compassion is gazing down at them from those mountains?

I hope one day I can be a badass like Tihn Mahn. 🙂

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If you have a minute, write a comment and say hi to me. I love hearing from you. Tell me your thoughts or share a story of what you did to get through a tough experience.

Love,

Jahnavi

P.S. By the way, my band (The Love Sprockets) is releasing our next E.P., dedicated to our daughter, Chickadee. You can preorder it here: http://music.thelovesprockets.com/album/chickadee

Every Situation is a Passing Memory

Do you ever feel like you’re living in a dream? Like, what actually makes our dreams less real than our “real life”?

When I was a teenager, I would get a kick out of going wide-eyed and saying to my best friend, “What if our dreams are real life and right now we’re just dreaming??”

Sometimes I was sure I would finally “wake up”, and my true love—Leonardo DiCaprio of course—would be sitting by my bedside holding my hand, crying tears of joy as my eyes flutter open.

Pema Chodron says, “Every situation is a passing memory.” Think about it. Everything we do, every moment, every thought is always swiftly becoming a memory. Every second that passes becomes a memory.

And you are a part of my memories, a part of what I identify to be my self. Walker Bob, Tom Weis, Maria, Alice, John Gray, Bhakta Priya, Govardhana, Chiara. The list goes on.

Bob read a poem I wrote the other day, and we cried together, hundreds of miles apart.

Tom Weis, in a dream, has his bicycles and a small trailer attached to the back of our future school-bus home.

I talked to Maria on the phone while we were on tour last week, and she was organizing multi-colored fabrics and decomposing bison masks and boxes of feathers and bones and skulls while we talked. “Do you know what is relieving and depressing all at the same time?” I said to her. “According to the Buddha the only thing we get to take with us when we die is our mind-stream. In other words, the things that I think all of the time that I find so annoying, don’t necessarily just go away after I die. Actually, the real way to let go of my negative patterns is by meditating and doing the work.” “That’s kind of terrifying to think,” she sighed.

Just before we left on tour, Bhakta Priya called me (the childhood best friend who I would contemplate concepts like dreaming vs. real life with). “I think I know why you’re calling,” I said. We hadn’t spoken in months. “Yeah,” she sighed. Govardhana had died suddenly that morning. We recalled sledding on snowy Vermont hills with him, and how he would say things to us in Italian and we couldn’t understand him.

Govardhana was diagnosed with stage four melanoma just a few months ago. I created many memories of him in these last few months, even though I haven’t seen him in 15 years. I tried to get a hold of him, called his mother and left a message, considered driving to his house with soup or flowers or… I didn’t know what I would do. I just wanted to help somehow.

I created a memory of sitting with him, sick in bed. I held his hand and he smiled, even though he felt so ill. His eyelashes were still incredibly long. I told him everything was going to be okay, no matter what.

We drove all over Colorado and played music for hundreds of different people last week, and all the while I knew that Govardhana was being grieved by his parents, his children, his friends. And it was like this heavy secret I was carrying. Anyone who I confided in had to watch me melt down into an onslaught of tears.

With only 2 days of the tour left, we found out a friend in Vermont had committed suicide.

I held that, along with everything else. A crushing weight, like the whole world was sitting on my chest.

My friend Alice shared her day with me that night. Her dad’s death anniversary had just passed and she had spent it journaling, crying, just being with him.

We got home from tour the other day. I opened an email from my old friend, Chiara, and she told me the story of being 15 years old, her dad coming home from work and going to bed, and how it felt to discover the next day that he was never going to wake up again.

“I feel crushed,” I told Addison. “I don’t know how else to describe it.”

But here I have the quiet spaces, the time in between, to contemplate, to unpack, to consider all that has come to pass in these last two weeks.

Death is a dream, as is life. How could we be expected to continue functioning after the death of a loved one if it were really truly real?

Thich Nhat Hanh says that when we die, it’s not as if we leave a blank space behind. We can’t “subtract” ourselves from the universe. Everything that makes up our essence, our continuation, is all there. It just changes form.

The Bhagavad Gita says, “Never has there been a time when you or I did not exist.”

The Buddha says there is no “you” or “I”. But there is also NOT no “you” or “I”. We are not separate, but we are not the same.

When I think about my daughter Chickadee, and her tiny body buried in Texas, I wonder. Is there any of her essence still left there? The chickadees here in Colorado flock outside of my window, chirping and eating bugs and bringing me the memory of my child. There are chickadees all over the world who bring my daughter’s memory to anyone who has heard of her.

Wherever she is now, she is also my memory. And she is your memory. And you are my memory, as I am your memory.

May you and I continue to make more memories together for a good long while.

Dear Everyone

Dear Everyone,

It has been a lonely time

Inside of here

 

No, there have been people

People to see

People to hear

People to call

But I hope to learn

To love you all

While sitting this one out

 

It gets dark in here

I’m not sure how I feel

Just a hollow

A tightness in my throat

 

She’s gone

She is really gone

I held on

Until it didn’t hurt too much

To let her go

 

And now there’s this big gone-ness

Where she once was

An open space

That a bird flies across

So vast

It’s an endless sky

But it fits inside

Me

Like she fit inside

Me

 

She’ll never not be with me

And so it hurts

Deeply

To have her leave

And see

How no one will talk to me

 

The fear is great

The fear to say or do the wrong thing

It’s safer to leave me alone

And wait

I understand

 

I also understand

That you can’t understand

And if you do

I am so sorry

 

If you do understand

Let me give you this embrace

Let me hold you so you can cry

And let me tell you that I am sorry

 

I’m sorry that you know what this feels like

And even if they are afraid to be there for you

You can learn to love

Everyone

Equally

 

Because we all want

To be happy

We all want to be free

From pain

And so you see, we are all the same

 

Dear Everyone,

I know you cannot know

How it feels to watch her go

I know you cannot feel

The space she left behind

 

But maybe somewhere

Deep inside

A past life

A dream

You were a mother

Or a baby born who stopped breathing

An alternate ending

And so perhaps you do know

How it goes

 

And no matter what

I am learning that

I can love everyone

In spite

Of

My

Self

 

Throw Me Under the Bus

It’s cool and dark in our room, and we are wrapped up in blankets, fast asleep.

Except that I’m not fast asleep all of a sudden because someone is saying something outside of our room.
“Addison,” the man’s voice says. “Addison? Addison.”

We are subletting a house in Fort Collins from a writing professor who is away for four months doing Semester At Sea. We are sleeping in her bed, which fits in the room in a strange way because of all the bookshelves and because we wanted the door to be able to close.

“Addison,” I say. He breathes the deep breath of sleep. “Addison,” I say again. “Your dad is calling you.”

Why is Addison’s dad up in the middle of the night calling for Addison? It sounds like he’s faraway. Maybe he’s standing in the hallway outside of the guest room he and Melissa are staying in. I imagine bare feet on cool, wooden floor boards.

Addison stirs finally. “What?”

“Your dad is calling you.”

He wrenches the covers off of him and we both realize he’s naked. “What Daddy?” he calls.

“It’s time to get up,” his dad says.

The wheels in my head turn and click. It must be 3:30 a.m. It must be time to get up and drive Russell and Melissa to the airport.

“Okay,” Addison says. “We’re getting up.”

“My alarm must’ve not gone off,” I say, sitting up and checking my phone. “It’s 3:37 a.m.”

“Huh.” Addison crawls out of bed and fumbles for light switches and clothes.

Today is the day. Yes, it’s the day we drive my in-laws to back to the Denver airport after their 10 day visit, but it’s also the day we hand Charlie a big wad of cash and finish buying our future home: a 1991 Bluebird school bus.

We went to a credit union yesterday, one that we knew is affiliated with our Texas credit union, and asked to withdraw $3,020.00—the remainder of the cash we needed to add to our $980 in cash at home; plus the $1100 deposit we already gave to Charlie.

The girl at the bank counter typed up our account info and then looked around for her manager. “I need my manager’s permission to go into the vault,” she explained. She was slender and small, with long black hair and red nails that clacked first on the keyboard and then on the counter top.

We made small talk while we waited for the manager. “That’s such a cool design,” she said, looking at our Love Sprockets koozie that was snugged around my Spindrift sparkling cucumber water.

“Yeah, that’s our band actually,” I told her.

“Ha ha, cool!” She looked around for her manager again. Still no sign of her. She looked back at us. “You guys drink wine, don’t you.”

We blinked in unison and then shrugged. “Sure,” Addison said.

“What wine do you recommend? I have to buy some later for my friend and I.”

Addison listed off the brand name of the last wine we’d purchased since we couldn’t remember any others. We told her where she could buy it nearby.

“I just moved here,” she explained.

I almost said, “We just moved here too,” but we seemed to have enough local knowledge acquired during our short foray here to satisfy her further inquiries. So I didn’t mention it.

“I think my manager is in the bathroom,” she said finally.

Fine time for her to take a bathroom break. I do enjoy sitting in the bathroom alone though, it’s a nice hiatus from work. A meditative zone of sorts. I imagined her manager sitting on the toilet in a dress skirt with black high heels, scrolling through Facebook on her phone. Or sending texts back and forth to her on-the-rocks boyfriend.

The counter receptionist finally decided to just give us three grand out of her cash register. “It’s going to be a lot of tens,” she said. “Is that okay?”

“Sure!” Addison said.

“We’re giving it to someone else anyways,” I laughed.

She double and triple counted the bills for us and then stuffed them into a bank envelope. They barely fit, and stuck out the top.

“Sorry about that guys. Have a great day,” she chirped with a smile and wave.

So before we walk out to the car in the predawn light, I double check for our cash wad and then shove it into the depths of my purse.

We all pile into the car, including Zoso the dog, and have a sleepover-like talk while I drive us through the dark. We talk about coming-of-age awkwardness and stigmas and parenting regrets and what Melissa and Russell enjoyed about their visit.

After we drop the parents at the airport, we look up a 24 hour Denver diner.

“Charlie isn’t going to be at the shop at 5:30 a.m.,” I note studiously.

“Nope,” Addison agrees. “He says he’ll be in at 8:30.”

Our bus has been living at the Art Builder’s Guild where Charlie runs his bus conversion operation. It’s a bus that Charlie picked out and bought at an auction, and then is selling to us.

At the diner we get tea and omelets and hash browns. I can’t eat so early in the morning but I try. We also try to get some computer and writing work done, both of us rubbing our eyes and yawning and stretching.

I take Zoso for a walk around the block while Addison keeps working.

So this is Denver. I pass a church declaring the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior, alongside a sign announcing “Spiritual Movement Yoga Classes”.

I come around a corner and see a sleepy man picking through a trash can outside of Family Dollar. He finds something and puts it in his mouth, chewing while he continues sorting through discarded takeout containers and soda cups. I imagine myself looking through that trash can and being hungry enough to eat its contents. Sadness wells up in my throat. But I’m too shy to approach the man.

A skinny man with a black lab on a leash is standing on the corner, fumbling for keys to the door of the school bus parked there. The dog is pulling at the leash, wanting to say hello to Zoso.

“Come here! Come here!” the man yells, yanking at the leash. He doesn’t look up to see us.

I decide to not approach him either, though I am curious what the inside of his bus home looks like. If Addison were with me he would have already given the homeless man some money. And maybe he would have talked to the school bus guy. I just don’t trust people who are mean to their dogs. And men seem to be more likely to see me as a “pretty girl” instead of a human being. Oh well.

When Zoso and I get back to the diner, Addison is ready to roll. It’s 8:30 a.m., so we hop in the car and head over to the Art Builder’s Guild.

When we arrive, we walk up to the shop entrance where there are sawhorses, trashcans filled with sawdust, and tools hanging on the walls. A partially converted school bus is parked inside.

Four of Charlie’s crew are standing around, clearly waiting for “the boss” to show up.

“Is Charlie in?” Addison says.

“Not yet,” a fellow with dark hair, a beanie and glasses says. “But he’ll be here soon.”

“You guys are the prison bus people right?” another fellow asks. He has dirty blond hair and a beard.

We laugh. “Yeah, I guess you’re right!”

The big shop dog greets us and we slip inside past his makeshift doggy gate. We shake hands with Ben, the dirty blond- haired guy and Tim, the guy with the glasses.

“So you guys are the bus elves huh?” I ask.

“Yep!” they say, and I even get a cracked smile from the stern looking girl in the crew.

“What are y’all working on today?”

“Still working on that bus over there,” Ben says.

“Mind if we look inside?” Addison asks.

“Sure, go ahead!” Addison steps into the bus and Ben turns to me. “Man, I’m jealous of y’alls bus.”

“Aw, did we steal it from you?”

“Nah, I’m not really ready to buy a bus right now.”

“What do you like about the bus?” I ask. It’s always nerve-wracking making a decision on something like one’s future home, so I’m eager to hear positive feedback from someone who’s seen and converted a lot of school buses.

“Oh man, I like everything about it. I love that engine, the 8.3 Cummins, that thing is so beastly. And I like it’s age. I mean, the thing is indestructible.”

“I’m glad to hear that!”

When Charlie arrives I tell him, “We have a big ol’ wad of cash for you!”

“Sweet,” he says, leading us upstairs to their loft office. Everything is covered in sawdust, but in turn it all smells great too.

“There’s going to be lots of 10s,” I tell him.

“Really? They didn’t have enough 100s at a bank?”

“Well, their manager was in the bathroom so the girl helping us had to empty out her cash drawer.”

“Well that’s awkward.”

We hand him the wad. “You’d better count that to be sure.”

He spreads the bills out and counts them, than signs the Bluebird’s title and hands it to us. “It’s your bus now!”

I want to squeal and do a jig but I don’t.

We walk over to our bus and run our hands over the front of its off-white, speckled face.

“Here it is!” Addison says. “It’s a big ‘un!”

We climb up the stairs and go inside.

“It’s so sexy!” I cry, finally doing my squealing jig.

“Well, not yet,” Addison says. “Give it some time.”

“No, it’s sexy right now. It’s got soul!

“Yeah, you’re right.”

The bus is filled with double brown seats, leaving a walking aisle in the center. There’s a metal cage in the back, which Charlie assured us was used for transporting gardening equipment, not prisoners. We choose to believe him.

The bus was used for transporting prisoners to do community work around Colorado. Kinda makes me happy, thinking of those fellas or ladies going and doing good work in their communities. I try not to imagine the guys hocking loogies on the floor as I kneel down to examine the bolts holding the seats in place.

Before Charlie and his school bus elves can get started with our conversion, we have to pull all of the seats out, gut them and recycle their metal interior, and strip out any extra metal pieces, bars or strips in the interior.

Shouldn’t be too difficult, what with this sexy new drill we bought ’n’ all.

I find the biggest hexagonal drill bit in our pack and test it on one of the bolt heads.

“Um…” I say to Addison, who walks over. “The biggest drill head is too small for these bolts.”

“Seriously?”

“Seriously.”

“Well fuck.”

“Well they lent us these pry chisel thingies and that hammer, right?”

“Yeah.”

“So maybe they’ll lend us a drill-head bit thing one size bigger.”

“Yeah maybe.”

“Here,” I hand him the one that’s too small. “Ask if we can borrow the next size up.”

“Okeydoke.”

I work on getting some screws out of the metal strips that line the rubber walkway. None of them will budge. I finally pry one out with the back of a hammer. It’s so rusty you can’t even tell it’s supposed to be a screw.

Addison returns with a bit that seems to fit the bolts.

“Alright!” I watch as he fits it into the drill and then tries to unscrew the first bolt. It spins and whirs but makes no move to pull free.

“What the…?” Addison stares at the offending bolt and tries to twist it with his fingers. “It fits, why isn’t it coming out?”

“Oh lord. Try a different bolt.”

That one also spins in place.

“WD-40,” Addison says. “Maybe they’re stuck because they’re so rusted.” He starts spritzing the bolts down with WD-40.

I try the drill out on some of the other bolts with no success. Addison tests out his greased up bolts, but they are just as unwilling as the others.

I grab the sledgehammer and chisel and starting wailing away at one of the bolts. I try to wedge it out from below, and then we both take turns trying to smash it’s stubborn little head off.

“Well this is a lot harder than I thought it was going to be,”  I say to Addison.

“Yeah, I’ll say. WTF.”

I go back to the bus elves and tell them their first drill bit isn’t working. Ben finds me another one. We test it out and the bolts continue to spin in place, like rusty, metal, stubborn, whirling dervishes.

“Ok, shall we go to a hardware store then?” Addison says.

“Yep. Let’s go.”

At the hardware store an old timer helps us find the right drill bit, as well as a wrench and a screwdriver with eight pieces. I ask for a bathroom and they send me to the store next door, a Latino clothing shop. The shop girl tells me the public can’t use their bathroom. I notice that she is wearing the exact same outfit that the gray, eyeless mannequin she just dressed is wearing.

As we’re walking back to the door, we see a little fridge filled with Topo Chicos (a Mexican mineral water drink). We haven’t seen Topo Chicos since Austin!

“You want a Topo Chico?” Addison asks me.

“Sure, why not.”

He grabs the fridge handle to open the door and we see that the handle is chained and padlocked.

“Forget that,” I say.

“Yeah, forget that.”

We get back to our bus, armed with our new tools and drill bit.

Believe it or not, the bolts continue to spin in place. While Addison consults with the school bus elves yet again, I work on prying more rusty screws out of the floor with the hammer and chisel.

Addison returns and announces that we’ll have to drill the bolt heads off with a big drill bit that we need to buy.

“Tim says if they’re not coming out than we have to drill their heads off.”

“Good lord.”

“Yeah, should we call it quits for today?” Addison looks hopeful.

“No, I want to leave here knowing that we at least have a sure way to get these seats out. I feel like we haven’t accomplished anything yet!”

“Ok, ok… do you want me to go buy a drill bit at the hardware store or do you want to go?”

“You go,” I say, kneeling back down on the floor and trying not to think about prisoner loogies. “I’ll keep ripping screws out.”

“Okeydoke. See you soon.”

As I hammer and pry and my hands get covered in rust and grime, I feel good. I feel empowered. We are not just talking about this anymore, we are doing it! People are so afraid of spending money, but I feel great spending money on this project! And the money is going to Charlie and his bus elves who all seem like wholesome human beings.

And now I’m sweating and getting dirty and maybe we’ll have pulled one seat out by the time we go home today.

If anyone ever sees us in our awesome gypsy home a year form now and says, “You guys are so lucky,” I am going to laugh—most likely—and I’m going to point to the floor and the walls of the bus and say, “You know what this bus is covered in? Our blood, sweat and tears, honey.” Hopefully not prisoner loogies too. “This bus is covered in our hopes and dreams. Our deepest longings and aspirations. Our determination to never give up, to live the life we’ve always wanted. This, my friend, is not the product of luck.”

Oh, but I’m getting ahead of myself. Addison gets back with a giant drill bit and starts trying to drill the head off one of the bolts. The drill is slipping as the bolt head turns, and little shards of metal are sliding out and piling around the mangled bolt.

Suddenly Tim appears, standing in the bus. “Hey guys, how’s it going?”

“Good!” I say.

“Yeah, we’re just trying to drill the bolt heads off like you said,” Addison says. “They keep spinning so it’s hard to really get in there. But I think it’s working.”

“Yeah,” Tim says. “You know, Charlie just mentioned something—there very well may be nuts screwed to the other end of the bolts, like, underneath the bus.”

“What?” I say.

“Oh man,” Addison says.

“Lemme see,” Tim says. I follow him outside. He sticks his head under the wheel-well. “Yep,” he says. “There are nuts on the other end of these bolts. That’s why they’re not coming out.”

“No way.” I laugh. “I would’ve never thought to check that in a millions years.”

We both crawl under the bus. I lay on my side and look to see the bolt ends that Tim is pointing at. Each one has a nut on the end, holding it in place.

“Yeah, one of you will have to hold the nut on this end,” Tim says, “While the other one unscrews it from above.”

“Wow. Thanks. This is going to take a while.”

“Yep!”

Tim leaves and I grab a wrench and crawl back under the bus. I lay down and army crawl to where I can see some bolt nuts. Then I carefully sit up, wiping gravel off of my arms, and make sure I don’t hit my head on something metal and protruding.

I am in the belly of the beast now. Wow, getting run over by a bus is really not as simple of a matter as I had perhaps previously considered. I mean, there are a lot of things under here to get caught in, or on, or to get hit by as you’re being run over! It’s really quite uncomfortable!

I feel a surge of hope that the bus will remain completely still while my head is wedged between its axles.

This is really quite intimate. Me and my bus are getting to know one another for sure.

Zoso crawls under to join me, and to escape from the hot sun above. Well, he seems to say. Dis is pretty kewl.

I reach up and tap tap tap next to two bolts, asking Addison if he can find the place I’m at from above. I tap tap and clang clang and eventually Addison’s footsteps stop above me.

“Got it,” he says. I hear the drill and then one of the bolts moves.

“Okay,” I say. I grab the nut with my wrench and hold on. “Go for it!”

The drill whirs.

“Wrong way! Other way!”

“Really? But… okay.”

The drill goes again and the bolt spins and lifts out, leaving me with a lone nut balanced on my wrench.

“Yes!” I yell. “It worked!”

“Woo hoo!” I hear Addison’s muffled victory cry from above.

Slowly but surely, a small pile of bolt nuts gather on the ground next to me.

There are some nuts I can’t reach because of pipes and tubing. And some nuts are rusted onto the ends of the bolts. Those will have to be beheaded.

We work until about noon and then I pocket the nuts and crawl out.

“Success!”Addison says when I come back inside the bus. “We got a bunch of bolts out. And we own our bus now!”

“Yay.” I’m tired and happy. “From now on we have a home no matter what.”

We don’t want to live in the bus the way it is right now, but we could if we had to. We are now proud home owners.

On Sunday we’ll come back and I’ll get thrown under the bus again, to hold nuts in place while Addison pulls them out from above. But I don’t mind.

We’re All Alone Together

Are there things you wish someone would have just *told* you when you were younger?

Such as, “Everyone goes through breakups. It’s totally normal and you will live through it!”

Or,  “I promise you, you are not the only person in the world going through this right now. You’re going to be okay.”

Or, “Many people wake up in the morning feeling depressed and anxious. Yes, it is really hard to get out of bed sometimes but it’s actually not going to get better *until* you get out of bed, so the sooner you get up the sooner you’ll feel better. I promise.”

(And while I wish that someone would have just told me these things 15 years ago, at the same time, I’ve recently tried telling my youngers these invaluable truths and so far they haven’t seemed to appreciate my aged perspective)

This morning I wake up with a ton of bricks sitting on my chest. Most of the time it gets better after I get up, but some days the bricks just stay there.

You’ll feel better once you get up, I tell myself.

But it’s running day today, I respond. I hate having to go running!

(“Running day” just means that today I go running rather than doing one of my Kundalini yoga videos. Unlike in my youth when I believed I had to love everything I did otherwise it wasn’t worth doing, now I view exercise as a necessary activity, like eating or drinking water, that I’d best get over with as soon as I possibly can in the day.)

I consider lying in bed all day, mourning my lost child and letting the bricks have their way with me.

That really doesn’t sound appealing though, so I get up.

I’ll bet there are a lot of people who are having a hard time getting out of bed today, I remind myself. I’ll bet they would be comforted knowing I was having a hard time too and they’re not the only ones.

As I wander around getting dressed, I tell Addison, “It’s running day today. I hate going running.”

He laughs, because I say this pretty much every other day.

Zoso huddles in his bed in the corner, hoping I won’t notice him. He hates running too.

I decide to leave him behind and walk him later. It’s hard enough dragging my own butt out the door.

As I begin walking down the street in my five finger shoes and exercise shorts, the familiar thoughts run through my head. It would be so much easier to go running if Addison would just come with me. I know, he can’t because of his knee, but still!

Overhead, a loud racket interrupts my internal racket. It seems a cicada and a grackle are having a showdown, about 30 feet above my head. Nearby a pack of blue jays alarm obnoxiously. Blue jays seem to like hanging out yelling at someone or something just for kicks.

Addison mentioned the other day that cicadas, unlike most insects, seem to have the ability to “scream”. He gained this knowledge the other night, when our cat Shiva brought a cicada into the house. Apparently, as Shiva tortured the poor insect, the cicada sounded a variety of distress calls. And, if it hadn’t been so loud and insistent, Addison may not have realized it was inside and may not have saved its life as a result.

High in the branches of a Texas Cedar Elm, the female grackle chases the cicada. The cicada, in turn, is shrieking in terror. I know when the grackle finally catches the insect, because as she flies from branch to branch, the sound of the screaming cicada accompanies her. She seems to be trying to figure out how to eat something so fierce and loud. Finally she flies away, over the houses and past the gang of blue jays. The cicada announces her trajectory to the entire neighborhood.

I take a deep breath and start running. I have a route through the neighborhoods figured out that will allow me to run for at least 20 minutes without ending up on a busy road.

I’ve run about four blocks, when I notice another runner overtaking me from the left. He isn’t running much faster than I, so for a few blocks we run side by side, before he takes the lead. I am smiling on the inside.

Someone else is out here running too! He’s all sweaty and his headphone cord is swinging around annoyingly like mine does! I’m not alone in my misery!

I admire his sweat-soaked T-shirt and shockingly white calves, his easy-going gait as though he is in no rush to arrive anywhere anytime soon. He doesn’t seem to mind running at all!

When he makes a turn, I realize he’s running the same route that I’ve picked out. So I follow, continuing to appreciate that we are running together, alone.

We pass a woman pushing a baby in a stroller, and ahead of her a woman walking her pit-bull boxer also wearing a sweaty T-shirt and a pink visor. See? They’re out exercising this morning too! I’ll bet they had a hard time getting out of bed too. Well, maybe not the mom with the baby, but still.

When my secret running partner turns again, I veer off in a different direction. A few mourning doves and titmice flutter away from a front-yard bird feeder as I run by. The cat who has been sneaking up on the birds, is poised behind the rise of a small hill in the yard. He sees me and dashes away, stampeding into the melee of birds and feathers and flying seed. The predator joins his former prey as they all flee from me, the apparently all-terrifying one.

Just then the pink visor lady and her pit-bull boxer overtake me, and we run together alone for a block or two. When we part ways I come upon a young Latina in black yoga pants, walking briskly, her hair swinging back and forth. I leave her behind and find myself on the final stretch of my run. Halfway up the hill ahead of me is a skinny blond woman in running shorts and a red tank-top. She’s running up the hill but she looks as if she’s faltering.

You can do it! I shout to her silently. You’re almost at the top!

She pauses to catch her breath, and I catch up to her. Then she takes off running again and now we’re both over the hump and I’m turning down my street and she’s carrying on down Cherrywood Road.

There are beads of sweat rolling down my face and I brush them away before they can land in my eyes. I open the front door to let Zoso out, wheezing and sweating. He and Shiva frolic around while I stretch out my legs.

I think about yesterday, because yesterday I was learning about how we are all alone together too. And because we were practicing for the show that’s happening today (are you coming? click here if you are and if you can’t make it, just go to facebook.com/thelovesprockets at 6 pm for the FB live show). It’s our last show in Austin and we’re playing a few songs with our new friend Arielle, who’s too cool for school and I’ll tell you more about her in a minute… 😉

So yesterday, my friend Nichole came to see me while she’s in town. She recently graduated from the Wilderness Awareness School in Washington. We haven’t seen eachother since she visited me in bed in November.

We were going to have lunch together, and I noticed I was feeling apprehensive about having to make “small-talk”, and perhaps having to try and “keep it together” so I didn’t make her uncomfortable.

Even though, if there’s anyone who’s okay with crying, it’s Nichole!

Once we were seated at the restaurant, we began sharing our experiences over the past 8 months. Eventually Nichole asked, “Why Colorado? Why do you need to move so far away?”

“Well, we need to get out of that house for one thing,” I told her. “It’s not doing me any good to stay there.” I told her about how liberating it is to be giving away and selling most of our stuff, and to be really examining what we truly need versus things we had just because we had the space in our house to have them.

I told her about Charlie Kern in Denver, CO and his school bus conversion operation.

I tried to tell her about having to go through Chickadee’s things and how sad that was for me, but I had to stop talking because I was on the verge of tears. Instead of a pile of “Congratulations on your new family member” cards, we have a pile of condolence cards, which we keep in the same box as her death certificate and her little inky footprints and her lock of hair. The quilt that her Nana made for her is sitting in our walk-in closet in a cardboard box.

Nichole was looking at me, and her eyes were filling with tears. “I could feel that,” she said, and we both just looked at eachother and cried. Someone brought our plates of food and set them in front of us. We wiped our eyes.

The other day my friend Liz sent a picture of some quotes, “Cry in public! Be a mess!” and we’d both laughed (in a texting sort of way). “I’ve gotten really good at crying in public this year,” I told her.

Nichole told me her own stories of suffering–not to complain, but just because they were experiences she’d had. She told me about one of her classmate’s brother dying, and how everyone in his class had surrounded him and held him while he sobbed. And she and I cried some more. And the waitress came to ask us how our food was and we hadn’t even tasted it yet.

The whole world has been laughing and crying with me. I’ve been suffering alone with all other beings. I’ve been running, together, with thousands of people around the world every other day. Even cicadas know how to cry.

As we were driving to my house, I told her that my musician friend, Arielle would be there to practice some songs with us. “I’d love to meet her,” Nichole said. I could have said more about Arielle, like, “Arielle is a badass girl! Her voice is like an angel! She rips guitar like Jon Mayer does in his dreams!” But I decided to let Nichole have her own experience in meeting Arielle.

Arielle is playing guitar with Addison on fiddle when we arrive. I’m so happy to see her. She’s been away, recording music with some bigwigs out in Nashville (or maybe it was Memphis) and just got back. Tonight we are going to accompany her on her song ‘Magick Again’ (which is amazing, you should listen to it while you’re reading the rest of this email). And she’s going to shred electric guitar on our songs ‘Robot’ and ‘Believe’.

We’re all sitting together in our living room full of boxes, and the dead cockroaches and dust bunnies that used to live under the furniture that is no longer there. As we play, I watch Nichole’s reaction to Arielle’s singing. I catch her eye and we both laugh.

We’re all three jamming, taking solos, and I’ve never jammed with a girl before. Nichole is sitting and smiling and clapping along. I love that Arielle is better at playing music than me. And that Nichole knows a lot more about the natural world in Austin then I do. And she’s better at being friends than me because she makes sure to see me whenever she can.

And tonight we’re playing our last show in Austin for a while and it’s so happy and so sad all at the same time.

See you tonight, either at the Red Shed Tavern in Austin at 6 pm, or onThe Love Sprocket’s Facebook page at 6 pm CT.

Love,

Jahnavi

A Fork in the Road

“I just want you to say something that will make it okay.”

I finally admit this to myself and to Addison, lying in the dark and staring at a wall I can’t see.

“Well, I love you,” he begins, and I already know that there isn’t anything he can say to make it go away.

Earlier today, I went to Planned Parenthood for a breast exam (yes, everything is fine).

After checking in, I sat in the waiting room and tried to read my ‘First Buddhist Nuns’ book, while the TV cried out to me about the gut wrenching competition between two couples attempting to sell the most stuff at a flea market. Riveting, I know, but I focused on my reading.

A surprising (or perhaps not so surprising) piece of information I gained from reading about the first Buddhist nuns in India, is that many of them became nuns after losing a child or children. Once their world was shattered, they could not imagine putting the pieces back together. They simply stepped over the wreckage and into their robes and a lifelong commitment to their spiritual practice.

It is not hard for me to imagine myself doing the same thing. Except that I just married Addison and I really like him.

I heard a mangled interpretation of what must surely be my name being called, and I snapped out of my Buddhist reverie.

Once I was seated in a tiny little office space, the doctor’s assistant ran through the usual list of questions they ask all of their patients. “Some of these questions, might be difficult to answer or upsetting,” the girl said. I stiffened a little. Oh man, please don’t ask me about pregnancies and children, let’s not get into that. “…but I have to ask them in order to be sure that you are safe and so that we know how we can best care for you.” 

I nodded. She asked about family history of diseases, STDs, birth control, if I felt safe where I was living, etc. I relaxed, and answered her questions without hesitation. 

“Have you ever been pregnant?” 

Crap. “Yes.”

“Did you carry the baby to term?”

“Yes.” Please don’t ask anything else, please just stop there, that’s all you need to know.

“Are you currently breastfeeding?”

“No.” Annnnnnnd we’re good! Right?

And then, as if an invisible stop light had changed from green to red, she stopped asking questions.

Phew. 

She led me to the exam room, where I donned a crinkly, paper vest. The doctor was taking a while to arrive, so I read more about Bhuddhist nuns, all the while feeling secretly hilarious for reading about any kind of nun at Planned Parenthood.

When the doctor came in, I slipped the book behind me and greeted her. She looked to be in her 40s, with dark, straight hair and a face that seemed to have done its fair share of laughing and crying.

“I understand there’s a lump in your breast that you’re concerned about,” she said. “I’ll definitely check that out in a minute. But first, can you tell me if there is anything that may have happened in your life recently that could have effected your body or your hormones?”

I looked around the room. I really didn’t want to bother her with the details, unless it was absolutely necessary for her to know. Then I sighed. “About…. 8 months ago I had a stillborn baby.” There, I said it. Don’t worry lady, I’ve got this under wraps. I won’t make you uncomfortable by getting all emotional about it.

She looked into my eyes, her own filling with tears. “I’m so sorry.”

Well, that does it. I didn’t hear whatever else she might have said because I broke down crying. I scrubbed at my eyes and tried to pull myself together.

“Was it a boy or a girl?” she asked.

“A girl,” I sobbed.

“Oh, a sweet little girl.” After a moment she said, “Well it is definitely relevant and I’m glad that you told me. Thank you. And I am so sorry.”

During the exam we discovered that she knows the midwife I worked with last year. I waited for that sliver of a second, waited for her to tell me that the midwife I had chosen was a quack, a terrible midwife, that it must have been all of her fault that my baby died.

But she didn’t say anything like that.  

Once she had examined me, the doctor decided to be on the safe side and send me in for an ultrasound and a mammogram. When I went to the window to pay and get my referral papers, the receptionist told me the fees had been waived. I took my referrals and looked for the doctor to give her an appreciative smile, but I didn’t see her.

Later that day, I went to get my boobs smooshed in turn between two plates of glass. Although the technician chatted merrily about the weather in Colorado and women with no pain tolerance (“You have a very high pain threshold for someone so young,” she told me), she steered clear of topics about reproduction, except for when she put a protective apron around my waist to protect my ovaries and uterus from radiation.

The woman who gave me my ultrasound also avoided the topic of pregnancies and children, and when I went out after my appointment to pay at the front desk, again they told me the fee had been waived.

Whether the Planned Parenthood doctor had instructed these other women to spare me the painful question of “do you have any children?” or the like, I don’t know. I do know that we had quickly connected through a common understanding–the love of our children and the pain of losing them.

“We are companions in suffering,” my Buddhist book told me as I waited in different appointment rooms.

I had told Addison about my day, and reflected on how thorough the doctor and technicians had been, taking me through every available examination, whether or not they thought it was totally necessary. At the end of the day, we were all pretty darn certain me and my boobs were going to be just fine.

As I lie here, I drift to that crossroads in time, a time I try not to dwell on, but one that surfaces nonetheless…

…those days right around Chickadee’s due date. That Sunday when I realized that she wasn’t moving as much. Addison’s mother seemed worried too, even though she said that her babies also moved less as she came closer to labor.

Early the next morning we went to the midwife’s house so she could check on Chickadee.

“She’s barely kicked or moved at all in the last day or so,” I told the midwife. “I didn’t realize it until last night.”

She pulled out the doppler and listened for Chickadee’s heartbeat. It sounded strong and steady.

“She sounds great,” the midwife said. “It’s not uncommon for babies to move less as they begin to lower into the birth canal. I’ve seen it in my pregnancies and with a lot of other women also.”

And right here, I freeze time. Stop everyone. Just STOP.

Would it really be such a hassle to send me into get a sonogram? Would it be so inconvenient for us to take a few hours out of our lives to make sure our baby is 100% okay?

In this time-freeze, I turn us down a different fork in the road. This time, we get a sonogram. Perhaps by the time we’ve made the appointment and driven to the clinic, Chickadee’s heart rate would have sounded distressed. In that dark, cool room, we would have seen our big, fat, upside-down baby on the screen. Would they have been able to ascertain that something was wrong?

Maybe, in this alternate reality, they would have seen something to concern them, and rushed me to the hospital. They would have induced labor and maybe, just maybe, Chickadee lives in this alternate storyline.

I tell Addison about this alternate reality, and he strokes my hair. “We did everything we could with the information we had,” he said. “We trusted our midwife completely. We didn’t know that we should be concerned. It’s not going to change anything or make us feel better to resent her now.”

“I know,” I sigh, “But maybe I feel like I failed my child. When I feel angry at my own parents for not sticking up for me or protecting me at times, now I feel like maybe I did the same thing to my own daughter. I didn’t protect her from a midwife who thought she knew everything. I feel like I failed her.”

Here come the tears.

“You didn’t fail her. You didn’t do anything wrong. She still loves you.”

I hear that we learn a lot about being parents by experimenting with our first child. Did the lesson I had to learn cost my child her life?

And out of all the women throughout history who have had miscarriages, stillbirths or who have lost children, do I really think that I was supposed to be the exception? 

By running through these alternate realities, am I really just saying that sad, inexplicable things happen to other people, and surely it wasn’t supposed to happen to ME and surely if I had just done a few things differently, I could have saved my daughter’s life…?

Surely not. Surely nothing. Surely nothing is sure.

And somewhere in this mire of fears and regrets, all of these bereft mothers and I find solid footing, and we stand stronger than we ever could have before; we know something which is also somehow unknowable–incomprehensible. We’ve reached deep inside of ourselves and either pulled ourselves up and out, or else we drown.

Yes, I want someone to say something that will make it all okay.

I also know that will never happen.

And that’s okay.