Breaking Ground

Jennifer Butler Basile

Jennifer Butler Basile

Nature, fate, the universe, the Spirit – has a way of prevailing.

While we humans fret that we may impede it,
that if we do not clear the ground and make way,
the right way will not progress –
we give ourselves too much power, too much credit.

All shall move forward on its own course.
We just need to stay that course.


I wonder if God intended our minds to race

to rush from the wonders of the universe to a bit of ham stuck in our teeth

the tick of the speedometer to the sun glinting in our eyes to the trickle of guilt in our hearts

Love, lust, and what to have for dinner

Are we to let it run roughshod over our mental terrain
or train it to a specific point?

Focus or freedom?

How much is intentional
and how much is divine inspiration?

Stream of consciousness
clogged waterway.

And how do we pull the plug?

Relearning Life

People in their right minds – or moods anyway – don’t anticipate their next inevitable bad day. The appearance of them every once in a while proves their unfortunate existence, but people in their right minds don’t dread bad days on a daily basis.

I don’t dread such days either. I live down days every day of my life.

A good day is the out of the norm experience for me.

The words, I feel good, dawn as a surprise, a foreign thought and sensation.

What should be the modus operandi of my life, with the occasional interruption of shitty days, becomes a cause for suspicion. A lightness of mood, a clarity of mind, becomes the bone of contention. That is the square peg for the round hole – rather than the overall scheme being the problem.

I feel my psyche has sucked me into a trap; luring me closer with the promise of bright light and fresh air, only to drape me in cobwebs deeper and darker than before. Instead of experiencing a ‘ lightness of being’, I drag around the weight of fear – that it won’t last, that my life will never be the way it was before the clouds.

. . . That we should all bask in the warmth of sunshine on our skin . . .

Irham Anshar

Irham Anshar

Go With the Flow

I visited a delightful yoga studio today.

So delightful that it made me wish I still had a baby so I could attend mom and baby yoga there. The wish of a woman so far removed from pregnancy and new motherhood that it only sounded slightly ridiculous as I voiced it.

I had grand dreams of doing yoga with baby. With my first pregnancy, I practiced prenatal yoga up to two weeks before delivery. How fun and rejuvenating it would be to practice postpartum.

It never happened.

Unpaid maternity leave was a practical reason, but the all-encompassing new job of mama was the overarching one. Get dressed? Leave the house? With an infant who could demand milk at any given moment? In public?!

During pregnancy number two, I didn’t even make the prenatal yoga studio. I bought a DVD set. I followed the safety guidelines at the start of the program to a T, watching the routine all the way through before practicing. That was as far as I ever made it. Usually by the end of Phase I, I would be half-asleep on the mat.

Pregnancy number three? Ha ha ha ha ha. I was lucky I could walk by the end of it – literally.

I did eventually try a postnatal DVD purchased at the same time as the prenatal one. The cover showed a picture of a radiant Shiva Rea holding her plump, beautiful baby. All the intro material showed the glowing yoginis cradling their babies while holding various poses. I looked forward to bonding with baby and regaining my strength. The flow itself was great; in fact, I still use it five years after my last to rebuild those still bent and broken places of my body. But the closest my baby got to the action was swinging beside me. There were no poses incorporating her, no touch, no bonding. It was yoga ‘while your baby sleeps or plays quietly beside you.’

There is a certain pang of regret in my solar plexus that I never got my mom and baby yoga fix. Again, not so much that I want to start that whole chain of events all over again, but enough to make my harpy hindsight crystal clear.

My advice to new mothers – don’t wait till you get your shit together to do something you really want to with baby. You never will.

Now before you bludgeon me with yoga bricks, let me explain exactly what I mean.

It took me five years after the birth of my third child to realize that all those imperfect moments for going to yoga, starting a new activity, walking to the park, visiting a relative – were all missed opportunities for fun with baby. Opportunities for me to save just a bit of my sanity. To bond with other moms in the same disheveled boat as me. To seize a fleeting moment in time.

Just when we mothers think we have our shit together, our kids shift into the next phase of development. We are in a constant cycle of up, down, back, forth – that if entered into with unrealistic expectations can leave us feeling as disconcerted as a set of sun salutations at the end of our yoga practice.

Just as there’s no right time to buy a house, switch jobs, or go back to school, there is no pinnacle of motherhood we must reach before we start living the lives we want with our babies. Such a pinnacle does not exist. Just as in yoga, we must accept our inner mother in its current state – and honor it.

Craft Time: It Giveth and It Taketh Away

I always feel a little guilty when I think how long it’s been since I’ve done a craft project with my kids. When they were small – at least numbers one and two – we’d whip recycled materials into an artistic representation of almost every season. We’d cover the dining room table with the vinyl tablecloth saved especially for catching craft gak. We’d paint and glitter to their hearts’ content and I’d pat myself on the back that I’d saved their malleable minds from another hour of dreaded TV.

Add more kids and less patience and craft times were fewer and farther between.

But Good Friday – the kids were out of school and I’d found a beautiful Easter/spring craft project online. It’d been awhile. Maybe I was feeling nostalgic. Maybe the years had dulled my memory of how harrowing the combination of wet, gelatinous substances and children can be.

So we set out to make string Easter eggs.

First I dumped a mess of embroidery floss in the middle of that glitter-spattered vinyl tablecloth, the kids thrusting their hands in and claiming their colors. Oh, but wait, we have to ‘cook’ the paste, a combination of flour and water on the stove top. Stirring that – and fighting their sisters for their turn – kept their attention for a little bit. While it cooled, we blew up the balloons. When I wasn’t about to pass out from lack of oxygen, I was dodging spit missiles as the underinflated balloons shot from their mouths. About this time, their father called, stating “Better you than me.” Thank you, dear. But even as I said this, the peals of their laughter drowned out my words. My girls and I were united in this experience, this common goal. We were gathered around that palm-tree tablecloth laughing and smiling and having fun. The separation of all time and space disappeared. It was the same feeling I’d had whenever we’d gathered at our craft table – no matter the year or house.

And then we actually started the project.

Ever tried to separate six strands of embroidery floss into two sets of three without tangling them? Ever asked an impatient seven year-old to do it? She was out by the time the first strings knotted. My other two started dipping the first string they’d unraveled in the goo right away, only to realize they had to unravel about eighty more to finish one egg since they’d blown the balloons up to dinosaur egg proportions. And the goo, oh the goo. Because I’d told her not to use too much, my oldest ran her fingers along the string to siphon some off, but started at the bowl and moved upward, splattering the slime in a wide arc over her shoulder. Even a tablecloth especially set aside for this purpose couldn’t help that. I was a thread-separating machine, draping strands over the backs of their chairs so they could wrap them around the balloons. My five year-old ran past the chairs and swept them all to the floor in a heap. It quickly became a learning experience for them in colorful language.

My oldest hung in the longest with me, the other two abandoning the project for bopping extra balloons around. But even she bailed out eventually. My husband arrived home to me, alone at the dining room table, wrist-deep in wheat paste.

I was miffed that they’d left me to do our project alone. But I was also relieved.  Definitely more relaxed. I had fun choosing the colors and winding the string around the balloons in criss-cross patterns. I made a lot less mess than the little ones.

That night, my youngest helped me hang them up to dry on a makeshift line in the bathroom, ferrying them two at a time in her little palms from the dining room. And they all came in to admire them hanging there. Easter morning they had tons of fun pricking the balloons with pins and watching them fizzle and shrink down before shimmying them out through one of the gaps.

Jennifer Butler Basile

Jennifer Butler Basile

They are gorgeous.

But there are still flakes of dried gak on every surface they touched. And I’m not quite sure if I’d do it again – at least as a kid project. When I posted a picture of the eggs on Facebook, another mother said she doesn’t have the time or patience for a such a project. I quickly replied that I didn’t either! But I forgot the winky face and I fear she thought I meant but I did it anyway. Though I shared the best shot of the stinking eggs, there was a whole lot of backstory that photo left out. The don’t-touch-that-not-yet-not-like-that-wait-no-slow-down-aaaaahhh-#$%@*$! Believe me, I am no Martha Stewart martyr.

Those were the moments craft time taketh from my patience and sanity and peace of mind. But there were moments that gave laughter, joy, and bonding. I think that’s why I periodically try such projects. I think that’s why this little batch of eggs makes a good metaphor for the greater yield of motherhood.

Just Below the Surface

The earth is still brown, the ground dull and bleak.
Leaves of brittle rust, crumpled and curled in upon themselves.
Evergreen needles even a muted hue.

But the air is different.
A hawk cries out as it soars above the seemingly dormant trees.
The deer move, the squirrels feed.

The snow looks sad in its blankets now softened around the edges.

Piles of sand seal the seams of the roads.

Nature’s energy vibrates just below the surface.
All of creation holds its breath.
Breathe deep and release it.

In my Resting, In my Rising

I chase down cures in my dreams,
seeking the open office door,
the present practicioner,
but they’re never there, never open.

Test after trial, trial after tribulation
No solution in sight.
Tablet, pill, capsule.
Needle, scale, survey.

No magic bullet.

There are symptoms, there are diagnoses,
but no cure.
No point of origin to return to and restart.

I want someone to fill this hollow inside –
but the only cure is in there as well.
It lies at the core of me,
but I am so very tired . . .
and cannot wake from this nightmare.

Driving in the rain

Drops of rain accumulate on the windshield
A beautiful bubbled constellation
Slowly covering the world in a mist
Obscuring even the fog outside
Yet letting in the light
A shimmering shield
The refreshing whoosh of air overhead.

The Yin and Yang of the Road

As disconcerting as a disruption of routine can be, it shakes us up in ways sorely needed, if not desired.

Relaxation takes a lot of preparation.

Drinking copious amounts of water cleanses the body; emptying the bladder repeatedly is a pain in the back side.

The Police made a lot of ska-infused upbeat rhythms with lyrics about a lot of messed up stuff.

The road is alluring but lonely.


Jennifer Butler Basile

Junk food satisfies the soul but not the blood sugar.

Craft superstores, while offering everything a crafter might need, can cause panic attacks.

When the radio dial spins through all other numbers unsuccessfully, a country music station will still tune in.

A handful of Twizzlers is worth a bagful of oranges.

Twenty-nine hours of time with a beloved friend is worth all the trouble and travel.

Stuff We All Get

When I got married, I inherited a staggering amount of pharmaceutical office supplies. Some women marry into wealth. Some women carry a substantial dowry; others, a hope chest full of handmade linens and needlework. I got a cardboard box full of sticky note pads and ball point pens bearing the name of brand-name drugs. A distant cousin on my husband’s paternal side, a salesman for a pharmaceutical company, had a wealth of such products himself, to which I was now a party.

Not one to turn up my nose at anything free, I welcomed this surfeit of stationery. The pen on a lanyard came in handy as I made circuits around my classroom – not only did hanging it about my neck ensure I didn’t lose it, but the big block letters emblazoned along the side. You found an Androgel pen, you say? That’s mine. Unless there was another twenty-something female teacher with stock in Androgel, there was no doubt who the pen’s rightful owner was.

However, this example also illustrates one of the disadvantages of pharmaceutical swag. Your use of said promotional product could be construed as endorsement of said drug.

This wasn’t a problem with the note cube advertising Flonase. Nasal congestion and seasonal allergies don’t carry much of a stigma with them. No one cares if your nose is running or you’re snorting floral scented mist up it. Same with the cute little calculator whose flip-top lid schilled for blood pressure medication. No one will judge me for the inner cleanliness of my arteries.

But I always thought of my audience when I wrote a note on the Wellbutrin pad.

I didn’t want anyone to think that I actually needed an antidepressant; that I was such a frequent flier, I’d earned promotional prizes; that the ‘dealer’ and I were such good buds, I got benefits.

Forget that it doesn’t work that way. It’s not like filling the card of stamps at the grocery store of yore to earn a full set of ceramic dishware. One doesn’t get a sticker for each pill ingested. But I didn’t want anyone to get the wrong idea . . . whatever that meant.

Fast-forward nine years and I’d be fighting my own internal battle with stigma as I debated whether to go on low-level sertraline while I battled postpartum depression. I did. Don’t know which side of stigma won, but I started on the meds I’m still on today.


The day irony served me a big slap in the face.

The day my physician suggested I add Wellbutrin to my prescription regimen – because sertraline doesn’t seem to be cutting it; because I need a ‘lift’ in the morning to get me going; because while I don’t have ADHD, I need help focusing, prioritizing; because all my labs came back normal and there is no organic reason for my symptoms other than plain old depression and anxiety.

Whoop-ti-do-da-freakin’ DAY.

Four to five years after I started my first antidepressant. Two to three years after I finally (or so I thought) came to terms with ‘succumbing’ to the help of an antidepressant.

Seemingly light years away from that time when I humorously pointed out the name on a sticky-sided square of paper – thinking my worst worry was that people would mistake me for a person who needed medicinal balancing of her brain chemicals.

I have so much more to worry about now.


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