more on the mystery of motherhood (or things you can’t prepare for)

motherhood-postpartum-poetry-reflections

I wasn’t prepared for the intense fleshiness and the intense poetics of it all.
For words witnessed by God and man, words of fidelity and love, to be made into the flesh of another human.
For body and soul to be crafted and to converge under my heart.

I wasn’t prepared to be assailed by a meteor shower of metaphors
for every flash of movement I felt within me,
for every red rippled mark that I found etched onto me,
for every glimpse I caught in reflection of that round and silent world I carried.

I wasn’t prepared to be struck dumb and made to submit a breathless fiat
as I was riven slowly and frighteningly.
But this sweet, damp, dark, purple thing emerged and I cradled him in my shudders and sobs and the room quieted in reverence.

And then I wasn’t prepared to have to learn to speak again,
because what words could I have found in the midst of such mysteries?
Conceiving and growing and birthing a child,
with sparks flying off the white hot welding of creation,
is, after all, close to something confoundedly divine.

But during the weeks of bathing in milk, in tears, in sweat, in blood,
and wanting so much to profanely kiss the scratched shower floor in gratefulness for the water that felt baptismal against my stretched skin and sore bones,
and during the weeks of awe over that small body hewn out of our bodies,
I remember how good it felt to say familiar, ancient words.
In that blurriness and bareness of newborn, new-mothering life,
They felt so whole, so nourishing
like daily bread.

more on the mystery of motherhood (or things you can’t prepare for)

Wednesday’s Words

handlettered psalm 34

From today’s Mass readings on this feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Witnessing the fragility of life particularly through the lens of motherhood easily makes me fearful of death. But that’s why we have the stories of the martyrs who teach us by their example to look to Him always that we may one day be together in eternity radiant with joy.

Painting: Cloud Study, John Constable, 1822

 

Wednesday’s Words

Weekly Edit 6.24.2016

Weekly Edit June twenty-fourth

Linking it up!

Gifts from the Internet

I’m mildly obsessed with the site Spiritual Friendship. I’ve linked to it before and I’ll probably link to it again (and again and again). The writers contribute an intellectual, nuanced, and compassionate voice to the conversation about homosexuality, Christianity, and culture. Something that they are insistent on that the culture at large seems to be unable to grasp is that friendship can be more than merely about social interaction. In fact, it can be deeply, intellectually and emotionally intimate and a life without that type of friendship is lacking. But it seems like when this occurs, the secular world sets off red flashing lights and wailing sirens branding it a sexual relationship. Smh.

1. Simcha writes about Frog and Toad here. I’m going to say the whole queer theory movement in literary criticism did not help the issues outlined above.

2. I’ve linked to this before, but Melinda Selmys’s words about the friendship between St. John Paul the Great and Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka are so excellent.

It should be no surprise then that John Paul II had intimate friendships with women. Indeed, his personalism would seem to demand such relationships as a sign of healthy spiritual and emotional growth. The man who cannot relate to women without lusting after them is prevented from having healthy opposite-sex friendships precisely because he is incapable of seeing women as persons. The same is true, of course, of a woman who cannot have chaste friendships with men.

3. And for kicks, in case you missed my review of this film on friendship, hop on over and do yourself a favor and watch it.

Yums!

4. It’s summer and we’ve been eating our weight in tomatoes, summer berries, and more.

-We started out with a bang when we went over to some friends’ house for a dinner and movie night and they made many a fantastic summery thing to eat (basil berry shortcake with homemade whipped cream!). Among those was salmon cooked out on the grill and it was mind-blowingly good. Crisp on the outside. Juicy on the inside. I feel spoiled now and don’t want salmon any other way.

-Then we had PW’s bruschetta and it was grand and addicting. We added goat cheese. At the same meal was this very berry fruit salad with the loveliest balsamic-mint dressing. I’m bringing it again for a playdate brunch today.

Ina Garten’s chilled cucumber soup with shrimp tastes so fresh after swimming in heat and humidity these summer days. We had it paired with tomato-carmelized onion-goat cheese puff pastry tarts.

Et cetera

5. Thinking about more famous, intimate, platonic friendships: Mole and Ratty from The Wind in the Willows, Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte (the 2008 film version of Brideshead is a clear example of how wrong our modern culture gets friendship), Saints Francis and Clare, Blessed John Henry Newman and Ambrose St. John (also J.H.N apparently wrote about the theology of friendship in his sermon on the Feast of St. John the Evangelist), Alfred Lord Tennyson and Arthur Hallam, and just for funsies, these hilario hippos. Who else ought to be added to this list?

6. A couple weeks ago, I went and saw Love and Friendship with a friend whom I love. It rekindled my love for Jane Austen who is both so, so funny and so, so wise. Virtuous love triumphs again (in the most hilarious of circumstances!)

7. More adventures with friends: two of my sweet college friends and I hit the road with the baby in tow for the Blanco Lavender Fest in the Texas Hill Country a few weeks ago. The air was sweet with lavender, the crowds were full of people dressed in pale purple and my tastebuds were having a field day over lavender flavored everything (N.B. coffee+lavender syrup+vanilla ice cream). We also found another friend there. Then last night for the eve of St. John’s Day, we went over to our friends’ house and had a traditional bonfire in honor of the saint who, in this dark world, lit the way for our Savior.

……………

Happy Feast of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. Last night, the priest who blessed our bonfire told us that one of the reasons the feast is celebrated on Midsummer’s Day, the day when the sun is highest in the year, is in reference to John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Weekly Edit 6.24.2016

For Father’s Day

Newborn fathers day

One morning, when little Léon was three or four days old, I woke up alone in our sunswept room and stumbled in my new fragile empty body out into the living room. There you two were calmly basking in the new light of the day listening to an adagio from Beethoven. And I cried and cried because how in the world is a postpartum mother supposed to deal with something so magnificent?

For Father’s Day

Review: Brooklyn and Master of None

 

master of none-brooklyn-film review

Spoiler alert for both Brooklyn and Master of None.

A while ago my sister and I left the babies with our husbands and went to one of those theaters where you can sip mojitos and gorge yourself on fried pickles while you watch your flick of choice. A truly indulgent, wholly recommended experience. We went to see Brooklyn, and even if there hadn’t been alcohol, greasy food, and the plushest of seats, the film would have still stayed with me long after I left the theater.

It’s the love story of an Irish immigrant named Eilis and an Italian-American boy named Tony, and it’s a simple, beautiful ode to the immigrants who built new lives in this country and, in doing so, helped build this country.

A few weeks after I saw the film, I binged the first season of Master of None, Aziz Ansari’s humorous but often dismal show centering on life as a millennial in New York. Watching the two of them side by side was like a comparative cultural study on young romance.

The first striking difference that caught my attention was how the leads meet in each. In Brooklyn, Eilis and Tony meet at a dance for the young Irish community–an event that is a means of providing a wholesome way for young men and women to foster friendships and courtships. There’s a good-natured priest chaperoning and the whole thing is completely devoid of drama. Afterwards, an innocently smitten Tony walks Eilis home and the scene is marked by their sweet conversation as they begin to get to know one another. In Anna Keating’s review over at The Catholic Catalogue, she notes how refreshing it is to witness a relationship unfolding unhampered by charmless technology there to complicate things.

The very first scene of Master of None depicts Ansari’s character, Dev, and a girl named Rachel in the midst of a hookup after having met at a bar earlier that evening. After the condom rips, they both panic and awkwardly sit in silence in the dark on their phones trying to find an Uber to take them to a convenience store where they can buy plan b for Rachel. When Dev insists on paying for the plan b pills, there’s a strange, inverted chivalry that stands in stark contrast to the aforementioned scene in Brooklyn. There’s more awkward silence in the cab and any dialogue they share painfully underscores how little they know or truly want to know one another.

Most excellently portrayed in both Brooklyn and in Master of None is the dilemma of commitment. Rachel reappears in Dev’s life several months after that first night. They eventually do date, have a long-term relationship, move in together, and talk about marriage. However, they’re both deeply fearful of marriage and have many inhibiting assumptions about it: that happy marriages are built on an easy love free of hesitation or fear and that saying yes to marriage means saying yes to a life of predictability and boredom. Ultimately, they are too scared to say no to other life possibilities, and so they are unable to say yes to one another.

In Brooklyn, when tragedy strikes Eilis’ family and she plans to return to Ireland for a short trip, Tony convinces her that they should get married. Despite her hesitations, Eilis happily agrees. When Eilis goes back to Ireland where nobody knows of her American marriage, she discovers that this place which previously didn’t offer her a hopeful future now does. She is forced like Dev and Rachel and all of us to choose between different possible lives. Unlike the characters in Master of None, however, Eilis has the courage to commit. And unlike in Master of None, there’s a lovely quiet implication that a good marriage is not boring and that people have a limitless depth to their being that makes committing yourself to one person an adventure in itself.

I think this excerpt from Carolyn Pirtle’s review of Brooklyn over at Notre Dame’s Church Life Journal sums up well the tensions of having to make these life choices:

“What Brooklyn shows us is that, while it is possible to imagine a plethora of life scenarios in which one might be equally happy, it is also possible to choose—and not just possible, but necessary. For if you never say no to anything, you never really say yes to anything either. Saying yes to the one thing may mean saying no to all of the other things, but ultimately, it gives you the freedom to pour your entire self into prolonging that initial yes over the course of a life by affirming it over and over again.

And one more quote that I find apt and would like to share:

“Nearly all marriages, even happy ones, are mistakes: in the sense that almost certainly (in a more perfect world, or even with a little more care in this very imperfect one) both partners might be found more suitable mates. But the real soul-mate is the one you are actually married to.”
-J.R.R. Tolkien

If I had to pick just one, I would whole-heartedly recommend Brooklyn as my movie night pick, but if you’re like me and enjoy thinking about cultural issues and social trends over a bowl of popcorn, I’d recommend both. Happy Monday!

Review: Brooklyn and Master of None