Love’s Mutations

No, not mutants… mutations.

“You understand that you can never own love, right? No matter how much someone adores you today, no matter how much you adore someone, you can’t force that unique state of grace to keep its shape forever. It will inevitably evolve or mutate, perhaps into a different version of tender caring, but maybe not. From there it will continue to change, into either yet another version of interesting affection, or who knows what else?” Rob Brezsny

I love this gem from Brezsny. It challenges us to accept that we cannot control the metamorphosis of love in our relationships and it reminds us that we are sometimes infected by the frenzy of a desperate shapeshifter, wrestling and kicking against what cannot be controlled.

We want reliability. We want what we experienced in the beginning. We want the rush. We want the comfort. We want not to have to adjust to what is, well, mutating.

The mutations of love in a marriage immediately come to mind ‘though mine ended years ago. I still love the man who made it possible for me to grow without fear, the father of my children. But that love morphed into something no longer capable of sustaining a growing marital bond. We’re both able to live with that truth, apart from each other, but together in parenting. The whole “’til death do us part” thing doesn’t always honor what love becomes, in spite of our best intentions. But commitment is a beautiful cauldron for love’s mutations, keeping us standing in love regardless of the shifting nature of those bonds we thought we had all figured out.

And then there is parenting and the mutations surreal, the growth witnessed on levels incomprehensible at times. We fall in love with newborn, newborn begins to crawl, our love expands, deepens; toddler calls to the sweetest memories and hopes and sometimes the worst pain too. Our love shifts, taking on hues far fiercer than we imagined possible. And on it goes. We turn around and there is this mini-adult who doesn’t agree and laughs and scoffs and well, challenges what we had known of the sweet lil creature in the beginning. But the truth is, as much as that infant was the future mini-adult, the difference is akin to welcoming a new person. Yes, these changes are gradual but can evoke an unnameable grief. We cannot go back to the 16 month old and cuddle, hold the essence so unique to babies. Or the 5 year old with the inquisitive wonder. I have come to believe that many parenting woes originate in the inability of the parent to accept that the cutie pie was always going to be someone to stand shoulder to shoulder with, to concede in argument with and look up to many times. We aren’t prepared for the changes, the introduction of so many phases of one person’s development evoking such a confusing variety of response. And we feel the quality of that love shift, taking on new shapes, subsiding in some ways, expanding in others.

Then there are the downright ugly moments.

Love bears the marks of teeth-gnashing agony at times. Resistance to these precious and sometimes wildly dramatic shifts threatens the best of love’s growth and is such a common reaction. The inner seize siege for damage control begins: “Brace yourself, close up, close off, resist, run. Turn away.” But. What we need is a willingness to nurture a vibrant resilience and receptivity, a tender kind of toughness in the face of the more daunting roundy rounds of relating, knowing we’re giving room for the mystery of love to unfold in some of the most unbelievably demanding ways.

But sometimes, we just have to walk away,

sometimes for a season, sometimes for always.

And how beautiful it all is, made more precious by the challenge and more rewarding by the tenacity.

Happy Father’s Day

Our scars and the resilient, willful, relentless quirks of soulfulness shape the sculpture that is the great unfolding of person, carving impressions on those we’re responsible for, turning us out into the streets and hills of life and back again to know – in the ebb and flow – whatever we can of the love we can be, the love we can share. We are, when determined to be shaped by love, ultimately grounded in a great steadfastness. We have the opportunity to embody that steadfastness as we stand in love with those we choose.
I am so thankful for the love then and now.

j. ruth kelly, 2013
j. ruth kelly, 2013

Serenade Special

There are memories and happenings you know will continue to sing to you long past the actual moments. They are usually down-to-earth, simple happenings and not always typical of the daily grind.

I’m privileged to experience something special-not-typical every now and then. Since my ex and I alternate weeks with our children, I’m picking them up at least twice a month and carting them to the home they’ve always known. (That doesn’t include the perpetual taxi service I am.) And, thankfully, since I work from the home, I see them every afternoon regardless of whose week it is. On the short ride to my house, car fully loaded with everything from xbox games to instruments, my sons sometimes hold their guitars and play as we make the less than 5 minute trip. I don’t know why it makes me grin every inch of the way or why the sound of enclosed guitar jams feeds my soul as richly as it does. It’s one of those things you know you’ll never lose. Sweet serenades…

j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013
j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013

Yes. It’s a slow driver at the wheel on these occasions. (With big sis taking pics!)

j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013
j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013

And it’s a song particularly perfect for accompanying the falling rain…

j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013
j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013


Radiohead’s Polyethylene (I like my sons’ acoustic, lyric-less, no frills rendition of it best, of course.)


Tiger Mom Nonsense

Warning: Rant alert. I can be ruthlessly honest and somewhat brutal.

Apparently, the word on Tiger moms is that it’s actually debatable as to whether or not the “tiger” approach is destructive. We seem to be regressing on so many levels this past year and a half I shouldn’t be surprised. But this one pulls my anger daemon out of the box with a tiger snarl.

So, I had to have my say and I’m having it here too, copied from a comment on a “news source.”

The issue this doesn’t address is the one of the forming/shaping of the will and the development of authenticity.

When your parents’ will is the only allowed willful reality or the mainly dominating reality, you lose the caliber of awareness of what your own will is uniquely moved by, motivated towards and put here on this earth to accomplish. Your ability to know your own bull vs. your true vision and personal truths is smashed “for your own good.” Instead you have the insertion of a dominating fear-based (posing as this thought process: life is tough, the only way to succeed is through Borg-like “dedication” because you could fail otherwise.) ruthless drive-not-your-own. What do you learn? You learn that you can endure and you learn a strength that is created not of yourself as much as in reaction to the possible consequences (all unpleasant) should you not comply. And it sure looks good to the world in terms of regimental basic “success” if you pull it off. (And hey! That’s all that matters! Soul? Soulfulness? Alive and authentically YOU? Pssshhhh. Who cares?! It’s about how you make your parents look and whether or not they will have to worry about you being fed and clothed.) So you’re now doctor, lawyer, teacher, scientist. But who are you, really? The most formative years were spent with a controlling, dominating set of caregivers and from that you were shaped. Authenticity? Good luck with that.

Who you are outside of a fear of failure, recriminations and status-loss? You’ll have to create that anew WHILE you’re embracing responsibilities that RESTRICT your ability to create because you truly don’t have as many choices as you did in childhood, you get to unearth what was buried by “tiger” nonsense while the world asks you to be an adult. While I’m not Asian or Asian-American, I too was raised by tiger parents. It’s not a great thing. If you think you can be raised with tiger fear and not be changed in ways devastating, then your mind has been pretty thoroughly hijacked from a young age. And you believe your chronological age gives you some expertise on it when you’re really just frozen in time, complying and loyal. Tiger shmiger. It’s all fear. Show me the real tiger women and men who are raising their kids fiercely in love, snarling at b.s. and conjuring up the authenticity goodies and creative outbursts while training with consequences married to compassion and fearless faith in the goodness of humanity AS WELL as a healthy awareness of the sometimes wicked slipperiness of the human experience. That’s no small feat. Deluding yourself and posing tyranny as “tiger” is insulting to tigers. Wake up.

We don’t facilitate the emergence of a person by putting on the tyrant’s cloak. Instead, we facilitate the assembly of a robot (with suppressed gold and rubies and beautiful dirt and grime and grit and roar) who has to learn her brain, his brain and all the wonders of the soul while healing the damage (and sometimes just facing some things that can’t be repaired very well). The nonsense in the concept of this style of parenting as anything other than fearful, insecure, bullying is an insult to whatever image, animal or icon we cling to in order to dress it up.

My inner tiger would happily bag this predator and move on with a snarl and bloody teeth.

Mother’s Day Breakfast

…it’s the same every year and my once-a-year transgression a la eggs benedict. (Not that it’s the only transgression. It’s the only one of this variety!)

I’m so proud of my daughter’s success this year, I had to post the inevitable food image… YUM!

Happy Mama’s Day to all you moms and moms-at-heart …

j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013
j. ruth kelly, all rights reserved, 2013
child of life, visiting grace on me for a season

Universe Twirl

Yesterday turned out to be one of the longer dances with life and universal rumbling tango twirls as I focused mainly on staying steady on my toes. It was beautiful, something I would not have predicted. Exhausting. Just life, mainly. But there was this girl…

almost 18…

she was in the backseat behind me, quiet. Rolling with the latest spin in the dance of our day. Her guitar teacher hadn’t been there. Door locked. Next? We’re taking my niece somewhere. Been an emergency kind of day…

quiet. Her silence was palpable.

And then BAM, crash, slam. “Mom! You have to stop. We have to help! Call the police…” She tends to command scenes when they qualify as such, without thinking or calculation. It just happens and this half-smile grows on my face every time.

The small pickup truck in front of us went from humming a straight trail along the path ahead to quietly careening off the road with no provocation, straight for the telephone pole. Full frontal impact and resulting crunching smash. I pull into the doctor’s office parking lot adjacent to the wreck, scanning for risk of fire, seeing none. The girl in the backseat is out of the car and running towards the truck. That’s my kid. Slow down girl. Life’s dangerous. Gulp. I’m calling emergency response and she’s helping the 86 year old grandma out of the car. Someone’s grandma. Not hers. But might as well be.

They’re talking. She’s holding her hand. Then she’s taking her cell phone and calling family for her. “Hello…first off, your Grandma’s ok, ok? Everything’s fine. But…” But the truck’s not going anywhere ever again. And I’m watching the universe spin a story of instant care. Passers by have stopped and are directing traffic. My daughter is bent over, inspecting for injuries and the police, emts and firemen haven’t arrived.

I’m not needed. Except as guardian of the girl on scene and as an observer privileged to witness love unfolding. This girl wasn’t aware of the world around her. She was focused, disinterested in any attention. Behaving like someone born to respond. And I’m in awe, now the quiet one.

The official responders arrive. And they’re appreciative, not shooing the girl away, making their way around her ministrations and determining the grandma’s not injured beyond the tear-inducing shock and pain from airbags deploying.

She’s “the girl” here because I’m watching her become all she is apart from me and yet not apart from me. I’m in no hurry to say “my daughter” because this is a person the world receives apart from any realization of me and she’s a wonder I like to witness and acknowledge apart from the blinders motherhood can be. All I could do in the aftermath was sit with tears of appreciation. She’s going to be just fine, Mama.

I had to leave her there on scene. That girl. Willful. She refused to leave before the grandma’s family arrived. So, knowing her to be cell phone armed and surrounded by emergency care workers, I finished my rescue of my niece, shaking my head as I drove off. She would be where I told her to be and all would be well.

But she wasn’t. She was ok. But across the street at a radio station sitting quietly with the woman and another passerby. And that passerby sat marveling to me about that girl. She’d left to call the family again, making sure they knew where to find their grandma. I just smiled and acknowledged the wonder of a girl, fearless, instantly concerned and eager to provide comfort.

And I waited in the car. Later the girl supreme told me the grandma said she had restored her faith in young people. Youth. Girls.

But she didn’t tell me until I had nudged her, mentioned the wonder of her unfolding response myself, suggesting maybe she should consider emergency response work (gulp). She had little to say. Mostly quiet again. Except to let me know that one thing about restoring faith.

Sometimes the universe puts us into these amazing twirling dance days of happenings orchestrated for the sole purpose of that one thing…to slam us into an appointment with faith.

Imagine that. And a girl. She makes my heart sing.

child of life, visiting grace on me for a season
the girl of a universe twirl…

Life Full

Three soulful creatures make my life sing through the tough, tender, confusing, infuriating, billowing, humming, shining, screeching, affirming, birthing, loving roil that is now

(and then)… I love their unique ways of expressing vitality…

j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j. ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved

For John P. K.


j ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved
j ruth kelly, 2013, all rights reserved

pondering existence and all we grasp to assure us of the meaningfulness of a life, my phone rang. it’s true. i was exhausted. had finished my morning round of work, resting before the next wave, feeling the frustration of loss the past month had become and realizing how many times i’ve had to remind myself that measuring my worth solely by some evidence of obvious success is a nowhere game. so, i was pondering, sensing, feeling the pull of the very fact of existence itself and all the possibility held in one life. in mine. in my children. sighing. hoping.

my phone rang.

the father of my children in the middle of the day. this can’t be good. “hey, what’s up?” i answer. “my dad died this morning.”

his dad. 80+++ years. i’d known him from the age of 3. of all there is to know of him, the thing that remained was his capacity to accept and love people in the moment, to so seldom speak harshly to anyone that i cannot recall ever witnessing such. a rare individual who often bubbled up a little dance i took to calling the barney dance back when i was sure he couldn’t cut loose, convinced it was a major dysfunction, picking over all that i thought contributed to all that is wrong in a religion. so little i knew for all my knowing…

now i just want to see that dance again.

this is what life does to us, if we open our hearts. it cuts away all that we judge to be flawed, all the measuring sticks we cling to for proof of value. it teaches us that some blossoms come and go fast, never to return again ’til the next season of blooming. others bloom at the most unlikely times and then turn around and bloom again. and again.

this was true of a man i think of as my other dad. (not just because i married into the family. but because he exuded nurturing concern. and he radiated a nourishing color of love unique to his own expression of life. he called me ruthie. and he said it with such love and pleasure. he oftentimes prayed over me throughout my childhood, here and there when life had ripped at my confidence. he was so sure of my value. so full of confidence.) he kept blooming. one more expression. and another. and a new one there. and he encouraged the same in whomever bothered to open up to him.

i got off the phone after spilling involuntary anguish and concern, then the dam broke. and broke.

and broke. and i went to the school to pick up my sons with my daughter by my side, urging me to not reveal anything until we were outside the school, knowing i was barely holding it in.

we made it out into the sunlight before they had had enough of being deflected. then we all just stood there in a huddle, hugging, a tribute to a man who made it possible for me to know love by way of knowing his son and bringing three amazing children into this world. divorce doesn’t change that gratitude or diminish the meaning, the purpose of our knowing each other. it reminds us that there are limitations. we are not super-human, able to fix all problems. but we can do the best with what we have to care for, to cherish.

we drove up to my house and found him waiting in his car. wanting to see his children. and another huddle in sunlight. all of us.

there’s no preparation for death, not truly. we are so busy with our blooming. in all my awareness of existence and the fleetingness of life, i wasn’t even slightly prepared to hear this cherished father had gone on to the next expression, beyond our sight or ability to witness his adventure.

up to the last, he held out in love. only until his wife of many decades spoke the words “I release him…” did he actually let go and fade. within minutes, he was beyond our grasp. but our lives unfold and blossom in ways uniquely influenced by his presence. he lives on. and we gather our stories, grateful to include his best in our words, in our actions.

here’s to meaning we cannot fathom, achievement we can never measure and the love that holds us all together when those we cherish move on…

Diplomatic Immunity?

The wisdom of Anais Nin keeps tossing itself into my line of vision these days without my soliciting it.

“Respect for the vulnerability of human beings is a necessary part of telling the truth, because no truth will be wrested from a callous vision or callous handling.” — Anais Nin

How do we provide access to the truth in a given situation, not necessarily THE truth? How do we do that simply and with grace without alienating those who don’t want to hear it but need to in order for things to progress? As it turns out, some folks just don’t want to hear it. They possess a sort of diplomatic immunity from being held accountable and sit with arms crossed and legs crossed and chin high. And their poses hum the tune of insecurity and over-compensation for vulnerability. It’s quite a tangle, working through the layers, discovering “who’s most vulnerable here?” And asking “how do I respect every person involved when so much opposition exists in one room?”

I’m amazed when someone has volunteered their involvement or their time and then assume because they have done so, they are not to be called out even if they’ve stomped on another in their line of charitable work. This is what brings to mind a twisted daily reality of “diplomatic immunity.” Their generosity or help becomes a sort of embassy in their minds where they take refuge against accountability in the land of heartful relating. “But…all these hours, all this work!” Right, but you smashed someone. Why?

Some folks will run howling from the room if you simply say “This really hurt.” Why? Because they’ve never been asked to see beyond their own sphere. Or. Because they’ve been trying so hard to prevent any disasters they’ve forgotten they’re attempts may create disaster. Why? Because control or fear-based actions tend to do that after a while. And so this business of deciding what is “callous” in a situation can appear to be subjective. But it’s safe to say a callous vision is one that doesn’t regard the needs, concerns or desires of another. (And there are vital pre-requisites to being able to even do that.)

It eventually boils down to this main question: Who, in this room of opposing views, am I most responsible for, besides myself? Loyalties, relationships, kindred souls in agreement with furthering a vision. Sometimes you have to storm the gates because there are so many gates around so many insecure sequestered “embassies” of fear any movement would be exactly that, a storm of collisions swirling. But I like this too…

“Equally, we may cast the spells of appreciation, gratitude and love – with every breath and word we utter, poetically.” Jim Fry

It’s something to aim for, anyway.

Vulnerable and Powerful

This is feeding my soul today…

“We are powerful beyond measure, and so deeply vulnerable at the same time. This may seem like a dichotomy, but it isn’t. We have misunderstood real power. It has been something assertive, non-surrendering, pushing on through. This is not real power. This is simply willfulness. Real power is something else- receptivity, openness, the courage to keep your heart open on the darkest of days, the strength to feel it all even when the odds are stacked against you. Real power is showing up with your heart on your sleeve and absolutely refusing to waste one moment of your life hidden behind edginess and armor. The art of enheartened presence. Now that’s power.” Jeff Brown

Yesterday was a messy day with attempts for unity and adults sitting around a big proper table trying hard to be grown-ups. Two teenagers looked on. And one wept. Quietly and courageously. She could see the landscape behind us all and just ahead. And all she could do was wipe tears, speaking through the flow, sharing her concerns. A river. We grown-ups, some of us were wiping tears. Some sat rigid, trying not to explode. Others apologized profusely, while one just sat like nothing mattered. Another sat opposite me, speaking when he could, trying not to step on egos. I spoke, trying to put my heart in my words without losing sight of the issue that needed to be resolved. I was told I did well with that. But my heart wanted happy endings and without that it felt like I had failed. Not that it was all on me…

There are times when heart and mind and strength collide with truth and unhealthy situations. And someone leaves the room yelling and stomping and the teens marvel that the adults are still growing in some areas. It’s all such a mish mash of humanity beautiful. Every bit of it is. I see the stomping, retreating figure as one who has every reason to stomp and yell but it’s misplaced and unfortunate in that scenario. And nothing is resolved.

So, I greet my day with this wonderful Jeff Brown gem and appreciate the heart I see in those who’ve been allowed to be human. I wish for us all that beautiful freedom…