Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A woman making love to a TREE?

By Claudia Ricci

Oh please. Not this. Not this woman standing here, her body plastered against a tree.

Picture her, in her pale green running shorts, a sky blue tank top hugging, hands stroking the bark...

My God, is she really trying to make love to a TREE?

Crazy, crazy. Pathetic even. Except it's a helluva lot safer than sexing that Latin guitarist named Jesus.

Or that blonde pony-tailed house painter she saw the day she...

Oh forget it. Just let yourself enjoy the damn tree for heavens' sake. What's the big deal?

The big deal is that it should be necessary.

I guess it's time to explain.

My anxiety disorder gets off the wall coo coo sometimes. There are reasons enough: I have three grown children, the latest of whom has now fled the coop for college. I love my husband, and he loves me, but his job is exceedingly demanding right now, and he's out of town two or three days a week, and...

OK, OK, so there's more to that story, but let's leave it at this: my anxiety gets boiling so hot sometimes that it feels like I could single-handedly light and heat all of New York City. I have tried anti-depressants. They work, except they leave me, shall I say, rather sexually-frustrated.

Sometimes I feel like Mt. Saint Helens. Sometimes I just feel like hell.

And no, I would reallly rather not feel this way.

Last week, I went to a writing conference in the Rocky Mountains. The first workshop, held in a park under the snowy peaks, had each of us writers, "Meeting a Tree." The naturalist writer who ran the workshop stressed that trees are living creatures with strong energetic fields. "The tree is breathing: we are breathing. Fluids are flowing within the tree: fluids are flowing within us."
Our assignment was to venture out into the park and approach a tree "thoughtfully" and respectfully. She wanted us, as she put it, to develop a "relationship" with a tree.

Some of you are probably laughing at this. Go ahead. Laugh. Laugh at me. Laugh at her. But today I went running and found myself in an intimate relationship with a tree. Keep reading please, even if you think I'm crazy.

Before I left the house, my anxiety was wild high. I wanted to swallow a dozen ativan. I cannot tell you how painful (and pitiful) it feels to have energy flooding your arms and legs and chest and the rest of your body. It's gut awful bad.
But I told myself, just go running and hold off on the ativan until after the run (and only swallow one.)

I went on the jog, and as I was coming up the familiar hill, I was, quite unexpectedly, drawn to a slender maple about half my girth. A tiny sapling was growing from her base. I felt the impulse to touch the tree. Without thinking much about it, I stopped and set my bare chest (in the tank T) squarely against the rough grey bark. I held on for dear life. Oddly enough, I felt a kind of surge go through me. Call it my imagination. Call me crazy (many have, especially when it comes to maples trees.) But I swear I stood there for several minutes with the tree energy passing in waves through me, through my hands, my arms, my shoulders, my heart, my chest, the rest of me. I kept holding on, feeling more and more serene. I looked up into the foliage, and I just stood there, and then it occurred to me that so much of my anxiety is just plain physical: I don't have the touch and feel of my children's bodies around me anymore. I don't have my husband's body to wrap myself around two or three nights a week anymore.

An end to the active phase of mothering is a time of great transition, and I wasn't at all ready for the blow. Foolishly, I thought because I had an active writing and teaching career that I was exempt from the feeling of deep loss that hit me. Foolishly, and rather arrogantly, I figured all that empty nest stuff was the terrains of stay-at-home moms.

Call me dumb and clueless. Clearly.

In many ways, the empty nest is a great opportunity for women to find themselves anew. But I'm having a hell of a time doing that. It's a time to redirect one's energy and passions towards new pursuits. But I'm stuck, not sure what to pursue. It's a time to find more freedom and pleasure with your mate, and we have. We've been traveling and getting out on dates and plotting, even, a temporary relocation to Washington, D.C. next spring to promote both our careers.

Here are other advantages of being actively de-mothered: not having basket after basket of laundry, and grocery carts heaped with food, and day after day of cooking. Oh yes, and I don't miss the endless driving of kids to soccer and basketball and piano lessons and the houses of their friends.

But still, I'm a mess. And in the end, I've decided that the empty nest is really an end to so much physical comfort. Pure living presence surrounding me. There are no more young people upstairs, listening to music. No more kids lying on the couch in the den, watching TV. This summer there is no one to snuggle with while reading a novel on a blanket in the lawn. No one to swing back and forth with in the hammock beneath the maple. There are no children splashing and playing out there in that beautiful and perfectly still green mirrored pond.

Gone forever are those lazy afternoons when the kids rode horses, or fingerpainted, or put on funny plays in weird little homemade costumes. Gone are the days when somebody, or some bodies, were upstairs, doing homework, or gabbing on the phone, or outside playing hoops, or...

I better not write anymore or I'll just start to cry.

"You have to face the fact that they are never coming home again, not in the way that they used to be there," announced my therapist, her voice kind but firm, her eyes fixed on me.

I am still a mother. And a wife. But my body aches like crazy with this wrenching grief. The loss of a life. The loss of the loved ones who used to people my day-to-day life. I have work, and plenty of friends, but still, I don't have something that fills in for that missing life. I know it's time, I've got to switch my energy, substituting other activities for the time I spent so diligently caring for my children. But the problem is, nothing yet comes close to giving me the satisfaction that the kids brought me. And so I sit here, right now, writing, and crying my eyes out. And missing the feel of them. The smell and touch of their hair. The joy of their smiles. The pure reassurance of their eyes, sparkling, and the comfort of their flesh.

I keep walking through the second floor of the house and it is completely neat, and completely


I will be OK. I am getting better, I think, slowly. Day by day. But meanwhile, I need to turn to other living creatures for some sense of surety. Some feeling of security. (I know what some of you are thinking: Lady, just get yourself a dog. We had one, our dear dear Bear, and he died at age ten, I'm not sure I'm ready for another.)

So, for now, I will, instead, touch, hug and if necessary, be that ridiculously promiscuous lover of trees.

This post appeared first in The Huffington Post, at http://www.huffingtonpost.com.

1 comment:

CoCo said...

Dear Claudia,
Reading your words about your empty nest hit home. I suffer from it prematurely with this new divorce situation and the joint custody that my ex and I agreed to. Every time they leave, I walk into Empty rooms and it is quite painful. Especially when I know they won't be back home for many weeks. On this day that I was supposed to have my set of websites completed and totally up & running, I am behind on this and will need some more days. But why? Because I watched my kids swim with the dolphins today on the warm coastal GA beach. They have been home for less than a week and I am fighting to write, work (my day consulting job-from home), and work on my sites, but I am also day by day enjoying soooo many of the moments that you described so well in your list. Reading your blog reminds me that even these short stints will be over some day for yet another layer of Empty Nest...
CoCo Harris
Telling the Stories of Our Lives
PO Box 22033
St Simons Island, GA 31522