Enter Spring

Seedlings, which I nurture with joy and expectation. A relationship? Harder to do.

Today I went to the second half of my seed-sowing class, where I learned all about “pricking out” seedlings and replanting them in a larger pot, where they will get stronger and larger until the final threat of frost is behind us and I can put them into my garden.

Yes, spring will finally make its appearance, after a long, and really cold winter.

Enter spring.

I’m a bit in an “enter spring” state of mind myself, not just from all the good energy from running (although, sadly, right now I’m injured and not getting my daily juice). I have stumbled, nay, bumbled, into a relationship.

Gah, I hate even saying it out loud. And, in fact, I’ve been intentionally keeping it a secret. I’m struggling to understand the psychology at play behind it all. But in the end, I think it’s pretty basic: I don’t actually want to be in a relationship. I’m afraid. I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t want to grow expectations. I don’t want to drift out of this fun part — the delight of falling into someone, discovering him bit by bit, being so pleased with our many matches and entertained by our differences — and hit the heavy shoals of reality.

Isn’t that telling? That I assume the “reality” part will be hard and disappointing, filled with regret and pain? I feel so totally naked and vulnerable, I can’t bear it.

We keep affirming to each other that we are merely “following the vibe” (which is a very, very good vibe), and that that completely makes sense. We keep affirming that the fact that we do not live in the same town, or even the same state, makes this connection so good for where we are in our lives right now (he, coming out of a divorce; me, coming out of a tornado of unfun instability and change; both of us with children we want to devote the lion’s share of our attention to).

And yet…

I have never before felt like I was wounded. That was my choice, my coping device, my legacy of dealing with the anger, grief and instability in my childhood home. I became a warrior, and locked up all the fear and sadness I would otherwise have felt—I put it far away (inside me, of course), somewhere that it couldn’t touch me, and then I could do the all-consuming work of surviving.

But now I live and feel it all, the terrible truth that we can and do hurt those we love the most, with no ill intent. And so putting myself back in a place where I can be disappointed, or disappoint; where I can wound, and be wounded feels terrible, terrible, terrible.

Even though I’m attracted to him like a moth to light, enjoying the play and the intimacy, the reveals and the laughter, and the ways in which he is strong and brave, vulnerable and open…

But I don’t want anyone to know… I don’t want me to know. I don’t want to know that I am once again in a place where I can be so terribly hurt.

But the old way I used to trick myself into not quite being present is gone. And now I have nowhere to hide.

He says he can accept my wounds, and understand my conflicts, that he is of course totally prepared to accept my mere humanity. 

But the question remains: Am I?

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Hitting My Stride

A switch has flipped, and I am lighter. I feel like I’m stepping out of clay shoes and starting to re-sprout my wings.

I feel the familiar burble of passion and ideas and wonder and curiosity thrumming within me in a way that has been gone.

I have strapped on my running shoes every morning for the last four days. I’m getting there, finding my rhythm. It will be awhile before I hit my stride in the running, but in my life, I feel I’m getting close.

I feel like I might be amazing, in the way I always thought I was.

I feel like crying when I type that, but from relief not sadness.

Today I walked all the way across NYC in four-inch heels, and my feet don’t hurt.

Now, that could be a truly ridiculous way to signify that I’m back to a me-ness I recognize, but… it could also be as good a marker as any. Why not?

I spoke to a class of NYU journalism students this morning, a passionate, all-over-the-place conversation; I’m meeting a woman who’s launched an organization I really admire for lunch, and we will exchange ideas about partnership and lifting women up and the energy of collaboration. And then I’m heading to my office to do work I enjoy with a team of people I truly love.

And my head is awhirl with ideas. For work, for home, for me, for writing, for living.

A thousand little steps led to this big, wide open space. Maybe a million steps, because I started out in the wilderness, thrown to the ground, with so many things I counted on being pulled from my grasp.

And every time I find my way back to this big, open space I am always amazed by the same thing: time expands when I am whole and well; what I can handle and take on grows, and grows, because I am operating from clarity, and safety, enough safety to take amazing risks.

A dear, new friend told me the other day that I “crackle with creativity,” and I beamed like a child with the compliment. That’s the me I earned my way back to, that person he sees.

So yes, here I am. Here I am. And it feels so good.


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Getting To Clear

Imagine brushing hair from your eyes. Or going through a dense jungle, and pushing aside vines and hanging moss. Or swimming through the thick and salty ocean, reaching your hands forward to clear a way through a bank of seaweed. Or walking from room to room to room, pushing through curtains, some heavy and tenebrous, like dank velvet, others shredded and fluttering, light as air, but still, obscuring what’s ahead.

Some days that is my experience of being, living my life but straining, or wandering, pushing forward, trying to get a better look, trying to see the whole view, or as my friend Lindsey would say, trying to see A Design So Vast.

I do feel that I have been lost in the woods the past four years. There was something so dreadfully definite about being pushed off my roost into a cataclysmic storm of change. I often feel this strange, haunting guilt about the fact that I still feel so tender. I still feel confused, like I’m blinking into a strange new sun.

But bit by little bit, I am getting to clear. I know that is a Scientology term, but I am no Scientologist. Where dianetics is about learning to master and disconnect from painful and other reactive experiences, so you can live wholly in the now and in the rational (and, I suppose, then garner the prize of believing you are an ubermensch, and thus all the fame, fortune and etc. that supposedly comes with mastering the universe), I am about deeply connecting with those experiences, so I can become ever more tragically, romantically, misguidedly human.

And so see more clearly.

The more clearly I see, the more deeply I love, and forgive, and experience, and connect. No stories to be told, no histories to shed, no anxieties to burrow away from.

Seeing that photo of myself so “untouched” and alive threw me for a loop last week. I had a reaction that that woman in the photo was gone. But through some great, wise comments from my excellent friends and readers, I was able to synthesize, to “integrate,” as my therapist would call it, and recognize her as me, in a hundred different ways. What is gone, however, is the fantasy woman that photo represented for me: That if I could get successful enough, get sparkly enough, get smart enough, that I would be able to find my safe place, and be untouched by the heartaches of life. That is why my reaction was so extreme, because I was facing the end, the final, definitive end, of that dream and that fantasy, that had held me up and supported me through thirty-odd years of my life.

But truly, now, more than ever, I see that there is love and support all around me, all the time. And I am starting to trust that my wounds do not keep me from love—they lead me to it. The spots where I am tender and soft are like open mouths, trying to drink in the nectar of uncertainty, to fuel themselves with magic and mystery and grace, when the pathways I was building before were meant to create a fortress, a fortress that would never be able to stand up to the forces that life threw my way.

More and more I know there is nothing to see past those curtains I’ve been trying to clear, that I am in the clearing already. I am at home in myself in a way I never was before, and those moments that I am lured by my old constructions of safety are, in fact, the occlusions.

I am getting to clear, and it feels transcendent. It is not a feeling I can dwell in all day, as there are more wordly and earthbound matters to be tended to, and the mundane often carries more weight in our daily considerations.

But to know that my heart has always been the same means that I have always been home, even if  I spent years, decades, believing I had to earn the right to deserve it.



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Where Did She Go?

I just saw a photo of myself on Facebook, from about four years ago, and I had two very intense reactions when I saw it: “Wow, I looked amazing!” And “Wow, I looked amazing.”

Where did she go? I know that woman is me, and yet, that woman is gone.

And it’s not just about being thin, it’s the gorgeous, the totally unselfconscious ease. The way I felt capable, and yes, a little bit untouchable.

I dunno. I look at a photo like that and it makes all the hard work I’ve done on healing, grieving, letting go, and moving forward look like I’ve done nothing at all.

If I were more WordPress savvy, I’d close comments, because I don’t really want reassurances that I’m doing well and fine, and all the “But you look great”s and so forth. I know they’d come from a good place (because all of you, you are the good place), but what’s lost, what I see in that photo that’s gone forever… I just think there’s nothing to say to that except to bow my head in a moment of silence, shed a few tears, and then move on.

Consider it done.

Photo by Andrea Atkins, March 10, 2010. 


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Just…. Wow

I started running again.

I knew that eventually the trigger would switch and I would want to do it again, even though it’s going to hurt, feel bad, hurt some more, feel really bad some more, and then hurt until it gets back to being the magic thing that running has always been for me.

But, man…. It is like inhaling heaven. (Hot, burny, oh-boy-can-I-keep-going? heaven for now.)

I worried I would never get back here. That I would never feel able to lug around the body that has so, so, so much extra weight on it. (Not lying, not hyperbolizing. Those of you who know me know I don’t care about my weight per se, except as a can-I-wear-the-clothes-I-want issue.) That I would never be able to find that inner discipline and desire to carry my bones through the hard part.

And here I am. And it doesn’t even feel hard. Even though — I’m telling you — it is really not pretty.

But I take my steps under a canopy of trees. I run to and from a house I’ve been building a path toward my whole life. I run with my silly, lovable dog beside me.

And I feel everything I’ve ever known about myself in my legs: strong, beautiful, resilient.

But what I also feel, in my heart, is what is the most humbling: Yes, you can forgive yourself for being in so much pain for so long. Yes, you can forgive yourself for not coming out of it sooner. Yes, you can forgive yourself for being human. You, can, you can, you can.

Run, Stacy, run.


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Shooting for Truth

I have been an advocate for domestic violence/sexual violence/child abuse awareness for more than 18 years now, and it’s work that stirs me deeply. I didn’t quite figure out the connection to my own sense of being afraid of my father in my own home until, oh, 15 years into the work. It’s amazing how one’s mind can keep thoughts apart, to keep us from knowing what we can’t possibly know until we’re ready.

And with Dylan Farrow’s stepping back into the (terrifying) fray of telling the truth about Woody Allen’s molestation of her (read the facts here), and Woody’s continued denial (to which I will not link, because: why), it brings to the forefront how much we are afraid to talk about the frailty of humans, and the possibility — nay, the probabilty — that we will abuse and hurt each other, even without bad intentions.

Deb Rox wrote a beautiful, stirring piece about why we must face this, and how, maybe, just maybe, we are shifting the conversation, even with so many haters and deniers and people unable to tarnish their vision of Woody, for reasons deeply personal (I’m side-eyeing YOU, Barbara Walters). We change the conversation one story at a time. Hers. Mine. Maybe yours. And I’m linking to that piece, because it’s just perfection. GO, READ, NOW.

And thank you, Deb. It’s an honor to be in the trenches with you, fighting the good fight for the vulnerable, and for ourselves.


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Pyramidian by Mark de Suvero, Storm King Art Center

I’ve decided that the main trajectory of life is not ever-forward, but a pendulum, swinging between blindness and wonder.

So much is coming alive in me right now. How is it possible there is still so much I put away, shoved into the back of drawers, strew into closets and slammed the door?

Today I am listening to music, and it is making me alive and happy and joyful and walk down many different roads of my life, for which each song was a soundtrack. The Pixies “Bone Machine” is both my raucous 20s and the beginning and end of my love affair with my ex-husband. Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, second movement, something I listened to over and over and over again when I was writing my book and falling in love, the swells in the music making me cry with its beauty and magic, because I was at last again so open and new. I’ve caught myself dancing around my house or throwing a mean air guitar and I stop and think to myself, “Who is this? Is this the me?” I stop and pat myself, as if there will be a note tucked into a pocket that shows me the itinerary of where I’ve been all these last few years.

I don’t think I understood — or even yet understand — how far gone away I was.

My writing is alive in me, though it’s moving slowly. And poetry has started to sing in me again, my mind plowing through the books I own, the poets I love, and searching out new ones into whose embrace I can tumble. My own stanzas and rhythm starting to play in my head, strands of scenes the be woven into a whole, or pieces of old poems I’ve written coming to visit.

How do we get so far from this? Yes, I had years of grief and loss after loss, but I suspect I was already gone even before that.

Look at that sculpture at the top of this post, a gargantuan meditation in iron. It’s installed at Storm King Art Center in New York, truly one of my favorite places on earth, as it’s littered with major sculptures and land art spread across 500 acres of Hudson Valley ground.

I stood under that sculpture this summer for probably the fourth or fifth time, and every time I visit it I experience something new. This year was the first time I really understood that two of the beams at the top are suspended, and that they move ever so slightly. And walking in and out of the plane created by the sculpture was powerful, a shifting of here and there, within and without, the piece reaching so powerfully toward to sky, sizing up the landscape and easily dwarfing humans. Or majestifying us.

The point — if there is a point — is that just being around that piece of art made me feel wonder and made me feel an opening in my chest to the whole experience of life. It made the mystery of life more extant, without answering anything.

Music does that. Poetry does that. Trees do that. Feeling that you are the person you are meant to be does that.

It’s fleeting, that feeling. It comes and goes. But the days it comes to visit are filled with juxtaposed forces: the knowledge that the wonder doesn’t stay, but that its presence in my mind for however many moments steel me to keep doing the hard and beautiful work of being whom I’m meant to be.

And so let the pendulum swing, let the heavy iron bar make its imperceptible movements as we move between blindness and wonder. Let us forget what it is we were looking for, and be reminded again, and again, and again, that every day is a marvel and a miracle and that all around us we are making monuments to the power of not knowing what, exactly, it is that moves us.



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In The Company of Men

We shared stories of parenting… and Jello shots.

I love men. I have always loved men. But I didn’t start loving men first because of my father. It was because of my brothers, and my friends.

I never trusted girls the way I trusted boys. With boys, all their words were right up front—they weren’t crafted to both reveal and hide painful intentions and hidden messages. If a boy wanted to punish me for some adolescent offense—whether making fun of his parachute pants or questioning his taste in ‘80s pop—he’d punch me in the arm, right then and there, instead of crafting an underground campaign and drafting four of my closest friends to shut me out of some event that didn’t even matter but suddenly did, so much, when I wasn’t asked to be there.

No, boys I got intuitively and completely. They wanted to have fun. They wanted to laugh. They wanted to laugh until boogers came out of their nose or farts out of their butts and then punch someone in the arm because they loved them, the throbbing ache in the punched arm not too, too different from the beat of your heart.

This weekend I was reunited with my intense love and trust of boys, the boys who are now men, as I, apparently, am now not a girl, but a grown-up woman. We all converged in New Orleans, that town made for fun and riotous happenings, for the Dad 2.0 Summit. The point was to discuss the brotherhood of fatherhood, as it relates to blogging and making room, more room – MORE ROOM – for complexity and variety and dimensionality and other important –ies in how we think of men who are fathers. What we expect of them. But more important, to understand how very, very much they expect of themselves.

And after the panels, filled with such depth and vulnerability and truth-telling, there was the company of these men, that warm, familiar feeling to me, of being surrounded by straightforward affection and camaraderie, and the willingness for an adventure at any moment.

Last night I found myself on Bourbon Street surrounded by 20 or so really good men, and I felt so at home in their laughter and their trash talk, their easy conversation, their brotherly attention. I don’t think I’ve ever realized how safe my two brothers make me feel (because there were parts of our shared and different childhoods that didn’t feel so safe, perhaps), but last night I was in an army of brothers, and I wanted to stay there forever.

Thank you, Dad 2.0. And thank you, all of you, the dozens of really warm, funny, interesting, passionate, hilarious, adorable, lovable men who were there. Thank you for letting me hang in your tribe, a place I feel so very much at home.

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I Miss Her So Much

Part of surviving my mother meant withdrawing from her, so her painful comments had to fly farther to reach me.

Starting the work of writing the book this weekend (unfortunately, what I am doing could not yet be called ‘writing’) has brought her so close to me that I can once again smell her skin, see the way she draws circles with her toes absentmindedly when she reads, feel her laughter tickle the back of my neck.

She was magnificent. And I miss her so much.

I can’t believe I will decorate this house without her. And how is it possible that I continue to make birthday cakes for my son, without her good counsel? How dare I dream to write this book instead of having her with me?

I don’t know how any of us survive the ache of those we loved now gone. And yet, we do.

I turned 45 this weekend, and she wasn’t here to see it. She missed 44 and 43 and 42 as well. And when I turned 41 she was already in the hospital. The day the doctor said “tumor” for the first time was my birthday, and my son and I were in the hospital room with my father when he said it. She would celebrate her 70th birthday 13 days later, allowed home before the surgery, a store-bought cake instead of the elaborate dinner my father had planned. He told the restaurant to keep the deposit, his act of faith, and ignorance, in the face of so much to fear.

I always knew I would write about her, that much is clear. Now, whether that idea came from her or me, I can’t say. So much of what passed between us was hopelessly confused, hers and mine becoming the glorious “ours”—she and me against the world, just as Paul Williams sang to her when she sat in the living room in the dark, tears in her eyes, the record turning slowly on the turntable.

I love you, Mom. And I still can’t believe you’re gone.


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In the Deep

I had really engrossing and deep conversations with each of my brothers in the last two days. I don’t speak with them often, though I feel indeed very close to them. We have a deep trust and understanding and love that we don’t tend to with chitchat.

That’s not how we do things as Morrisons.

Do you feel what I just felt, when you type your last name? Do you feel the echo of all the people that name embraces and defines? Do you find yourself suddenly running through a shuffling deck of memories? I do, in the best way. I’m so glad I never changed my name: I have never been, and never will be, anything but a Morrison.

Which means the following: stubborn, arrogant in varying degrees, intelligent, and cursed with intelligence, possessing a low threshold for bullshit, clever, outgoing, a cutting sense of humor, generous in spirit, and connected to worldly pain in ways deep and private (though, ahem, perhaps less private in my case).

My two brothers imagine themselves at opposite ends of wide spectrum, and in some ways that’s true, I suppose. But to me they will always be more linear, like bookends: they are my older and my younger, both big and solid and true. I love being the sandwich cream between them, the blonde to their brunette, the girl to their boy, the January to their Julys. (We are born, in descending order, on the 27th, 17th and 7th of the month—me in winter, them in summer.)

I appreciate them so deeply, yes for what we share, but especially for being unlike me. I have learned so much from them through our differences, and they both lead me to very interesting places. I love our conversations, cherish them.

I talked about the dream I had with both my brothers, which led, of course, to revisiting those terrible months when our parents were dying. I get angry now when I think about how truly terribly they died—sudden, confused, all wrong, everything upside down. No clarity, no real goodbyes, no thank yous or I love yous. Nothing but a terrifying mess. It leaves a scar behind, that kind of tumultuous passing, and all three of us carry it. Thank goodness we carry it together.

Discussing our parents leads to me talking about my book, which leads to mixed feelings from my brothers, which I fully respect and don’t fully understand, but listening to how we experienced our childhoods and our parents differently is always a bracing tonic. But there are some samenesses, too.

My little brother (who is in no way little, but I guess that’s why I still call him that : ) said something in our conversation that I immediately wrote down as he said it, because it struck me as clarion:

“I would rather live my life feeling pain than feeling loneliness. Because pain I know.”

When he said it I felt such a deep, wide YES in my soul that I was just dumbstruck. (For the record, he is speaking of himself historically. Yay, him!) I have always said I had a pain divining rod, that the way I walk into a room is to step in and close my eyes and just feel, until I can find the people who are in their struggle, because it is those people with whom I feel the most safe. I don’t want to be with the confident crowd. I don’t want to be with the willful deniers. I want to be with the questioners and the confused, the half-crazed and the weeping, with the people who are filled with uncertainty and looking for answers and yet still carry with them an openness that says, “Please, yes, let’s meet, right there, where it hurts.”

Pain I know. Pain, I do know. It’s seductive and comforting, and it lures you into choosing to hold onto it, even when its cables are cutting rough and bloody channels in your tender palms.

And this strange and wondrous floating I’ve been doing for the past few days, I realize, is floating free of pain, and just being—not solving, not fighting, not welcoming. Breathe in, breathe out. And all of a sudden, peace is right there, in front of me.

Hello, stranger.


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