How the rainbow chakras are making me less freaked out about turning 40. (Warning: hippy-dippy alert)

Chakras“I’m turning forty

And I’m freaking out,”

I’ve been telling

Anyone who will listen,

And some who won’t.

Most people smile and

Cock their heads,


And say something like,


I never would’ve thought


Would let it bother you.”

A few who have already

Lurched past this


Nod and smirk,


Instead of the trope of

Buying a sports car

(Do people really do that?)

I quit my job and

Am going to MBA school.

“A reinvention,”

I say.

So there,


Fixing on my


All of the worst of me

Bubbles to the surface.

My vanity about my looks.

My ambition to make money.

My drive for some ego-feeding recognition.

But underneath it all

Is this:

I don’t want to die,

And I’m recently aware that

That’s actually going to happen to me.

I love life.

The complexity of the

Human experience,

Making sense of


You’re utterly fascinating.

You animal,

Dressed up in the

Costume of civilization.

Everyday new

Dawning realizations about the

Human condition.

Some sad.

Some tender.

Some so kind and selfless it

Brings tears.

Somehow it hadn’t

Truly sunk in

Until the last year or so

That I ever really

Would die.

People who get old,

People who get sick,

People who die,

They’re a different species,

Like a platypus or a

Tree sloth,




And me,

I like to plan.

I have

Cardboard boxes of

Schedules in my skull,

Neatly labelled with

Time increments.

Usually hour by

Breathless hour,

With all the activities of

Daily living

Placed in each box,

And the tops neatly closed.

Now on my fortieth birthday,

I’m taking the macro view,

And I’m dividing my schedule into

Decades and


Each time increment

Labelled with an

Ascending color of the rainbow.

Now stay with me

For a minute,

‘Cause I’m about to

Get all

Hippy-dippy here,

A symptom of my dotage.

I have a vision of

Each of the

Segments of my life

Corresponding with one of the


The whirling energy

Centers that

Ladder up your spinal column

In some Buddhist traditions.

Root chakraAge zero to five.

Red chakra.

The root at the coccyx.

Related to instinct, security, survival, potential

Like a child

New to this human form and this earth.

Sacral chakraAge five to fifteen.

Orange chakra.

Sacrum level.

Related to relationships, emotional needs, creativity, addiction,

Which all grew in me during my childhood years.

Solar plexus chakraAge fifteen to thirty.

Yellow chakra.

Solar plexus chakra.

Related to personal power, fear, anxiety, transition to complex emotions.

Anxiety, addiction, defiance and adventure typify this period of my life.

Heart chakraAge thirty to forty.

Green chakra.

Heart chakra.

Related to unconditional love, equilibrium, well-being, compassion for self and others.

My thirties were about recovery from addiction,

Starting a family,

Creative and career focus.

Throat chakraAge forty to fifty-five.

Turquoise chakra.

Throat chakra.

Related to communication and growth through expression, independence, security.

I envision this time of life as

Cultivating my voice and

Building what will leave my tiny little mark on this world.

Third eye chakraAge fifty-five to seventy.

Blue chakra.

Third-eye chakra

In the forehead.

Related to intuition, visual consciousness, trusting inner guidance.

After building and growing,

Now taking my activities to a level of

Wisdom about this

Life and this world.

Crown chakraAge seventy to ninety.

Purple chakra.

Crown of the head.

A time of teaching and wisdom,

Preparing for the death of the body,

Inner wisdom.

Second crown chakraBonus life stage:

Age ninety to one hundred.

Pink chakra.

A point above the head.

A time for love

And only love.

I do this planning with a

Wink and a nudge to the

Powers of the universe,


I’m aware,

Could make me

Light and stardust at

Any blessed moment.

But somehow

It makes me feel better to

Envision the span of my life

In this way,

And see that I’m

Past the middle of the


Into the blues.

Blues are

Sky and

Water and


I’ll take all those things.


A kind Mother’s Day, after many difficult ones

IMG_0206I’m not


I’ve been

Blessed with

Four children,

Miracles, all.

And my mother was


Steady and unconditional.

And yet,

Mother’s Day has always been

One of my

Least favorite days of the year.

When I was younger,

Mother’s Day

Felt like a commentary on

How far I fell short

As a daughter,

As a teenager and

Young adult

I scoffed at the

Notion of Mother’s Day–

In front of my mother,

No less.

“It’s manufactured by the

Greeting card and

Floral industries

To prey on our guilt,”

I would declare in my

16-year-old attempt at

Worldly cynicism.

“Oh, honey,”

My mom would sigh.

In college, I’d usually remember to

Get her a card,

And I’d take a deep breath and

Give her a hug–

I was not

A hugger.

I’d relent and

Attend church with her on

Mother’s Day,

Squeamish as I sat in the pew

At the dogma I didn’t

Buy into,

Keeping silent during during the

Chanting of creeds and the

Singing of hymns,

Judging her raptness and joy.

I don’t want to

Self-flagellate here.

I think–

I know–

My mother loved

Being a mom to me.

There were parts of me

She treasured and was even

In awe of.

But Mother’s Day was a

Reminder of how

Unwilling I was to

Meet her emotional needs

Except at the most

Cursory level.

I don’t think of the universe or

God as punishing,

But later in my life,

When I became a mother myself,

Mother’s Day turned hard against me

And I did imagine some

Karmic justice for how I’d

Rolled my eyes through

So many Mother’s Days.

After my divorce,

My little boy spent

January to June with his dad


And I spent

Four Mother’s Days,

2008, 2009, 2010, 2011,

Separated from him by

Eight time zones

And an ocean.

This was also the time when

My mother was

Fading with Alzheimer’s.

So I spent those Mother’s Days

Skyping in the morning with my son,

His little face


And me drinking in

Every little facial expression,

Every little movement

Of the small body that

I couldn’t touch

Over the ether.

And then I would

Hang up with him

And sit with my

Confused, dying mother.

Those Mother’s Days were


By the time I started getting my boy

For the school year–

And therefore,

For Mother’s Day–

And had myself

Another joyful little


And connected more deeply

With my stepkids,

My mom was


So for me,

Mother’s Day has been about


Which doesn’t mean I’m not

Grateful for my

Children and for my


Gratitude is a practice that

Likes to nestle under the wing of

Other emotions,

Even and sometimes especially


This year was lovely and

Soft and


The weather mirrored my emotions:

Peeks of sunshine between

Torrents of rain.

There was a morning romp in

Bed with my boys,

And then a visit to my mom’s

Grave on a

Windy slope at

Fort Snelling where

I laid down a

Bouquet of pink and purple flowers and

My first boy and

My baby boy

Raced each other down

Rows of uniform

Marble headstones.

I had brought a small,

Metal heart charm

I found in my jewelry box,

Pocked and battered-looking,

A little misshapen,

And I pulled the

Thick green grass

Away from the

Base of Mom’s headstone,

And we slid the heart down the

Base of it,

Into the earth

And left it there,


Safely protected from the


My little white boy in an all-black program

Pixelation14There’s almost nothing

I’d rather

Not write about

Than this:


And the honest truth about how I

Respond to racial difference.

But here goes.

After searching online,

I found a new after-school program

For my 9-year-old:

One that’s affordable and


That his school will bus him to,

And that had an opening.

I went over to

Sign him up and

As I was standing there

Waiting for the director to

Get some paperwork,

I read a brochure about the program

That I hadn’t seen online.

I learned that this program is

Intended to demonstrate and teach

African-American heritage to its students

Through different art forms.

And then I looked around and realized that

All the staff and kids

Were black.

I had two nearly simultaneous reactions:



Let’s just call it what it is:


Of putting my little white

Finnish boy in an all-black environment.

And then,


Shame for feeling that way.

For the next couple days before

He started there,

I thought about my son.

At nine, he was too old now to

Not notice race,

But not old enough to have

Too many culturally prescribed

Notions about it.

It was going to be something

New for him,

Something I’ve never experienced

In my life


For the first few weeks

Everything went great.

Everyone was friendly and welcoming,

The kids calling out,

“Bye Victor!” when I’d come to pick him up,

The staff giving me an

Indulgent play-by-play of his activities.

In the car,

I’d ask him how it went,

And he said his usual:


And then one day,

When I came to pick him up,

He was sitting on a bench

In the playground

Instead of playing with the

Other kids.

In the car

When I asked how things had gone that day,

He said,

“I dunno.”

I tried to probe a little, and he finally said,

“I don’t wanna go back there.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I feel embarrassed.”

“Why do you feel embarrassed?”

“Because I’m the only white.”


Here we go.

At that moment,

There was a part of me that wanted to

Yank him out of that program

To protect him from ever having to feel

Unsure of himself,

Or wary,

Or out of place.

But I knew that wasn’t

The answer.

He was going to stay in that program.

And we were going to talk about this.

“You know, buddy,” I heard myself say.

“A lot of black kids in Minnesota

Experience it all the time,

Being the only black kid in the room.”

I named a boy in his class at school

Who is one of a couple black kids

In his class.

And I told him about the

Handful of black kids at my

White suburban high school.

And I told him about how

I wish I’d had an experience

Like his

When I was his age.

What became clear as I

Stumbled my way through this


Watching him through the rear view mirror

As he gazed out the car window,

Screwing up his nose to push his glasses up

The way he does,

Was that I had



For him.

Just a handful of experiences

And a freaked out

Willingness to


If he wanted to discuss.

Now when I come to pick him up

I find him out of the playground with the

Other kids,

And he went back to saying,


When I ask him in the car

How it went.

It’s no big deal to him again.


I feel unsure even writing about this.

I brought up Victor’s situation

To a black girlfriend of mine,

Seeking some input on how to talk about


With kids


And honestly.

She was utterly gracious.

We laughed about how Victor used to call

Black people

Brown people,



Their skin is brown,

Not black.

And I confessed that once,

At the height of Victor’s struggles in school

When the district changed its busing policy

So that he might have to go to

Our neighborhood school,

I vowed not to send him there.

“He’ll be the only white kid in his class.

I won’t put him in that situation,”

I’d said then.

“I just won’t.

I’ll take him on the city bus myself

To a different school

If I have to.”

This is my liberalism:

Words, ideas, good intentions.

But when it comes to my family,

I stay where I’m comfortable.

I’m dismayed to think that

I don’t even know how to

Talk about this,

Or write about it,

That it feels like there’s no language

That strikes just the right tone.

I want to

Bear witness to the

Differences between

My experience and


To acknowledge past and present


And beauty,

And the commonality of daily living we all share:

The sleeping,

The eating,

The breathing,

The raising kids.

To just see you

And acknowledge you

And say,

“Yes, I see you.

I see you.

I don’t know what to say

And I don’t know what to do,

But I see you.

We see you.

My boy and I,

We see you.”

It seems like a start to

Me, who has

Lived long in

Shame and


Who doesn’t want the same

For her boy.