Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Friday, September 28, 2012

I Am So Vulnerable and So Alive


          Chicago streets in February can be brutally cold with a dampness that enters your bones and stays there. Clybourne Street that afternoon was quiet, practically deserted.  As I meandered along with my head and chin close to my chest to preserve some warmth, she was suddenly standing in front of my path.  She was small framed, ghastly thin even in her oversized beaten up dirty parka with a broken toothed smile.  I had the weight of tomorrow’s journey on my mind and she, her presence and need, could not be easily ignored.  My own needs and fears made me open my heart to hers.  Her request was for $30 dollars.  Her excuse was to buy medicine for her waiting babies at home.  It did not matter that this was probably a story she told herself and others like me over and over again; I was making myself completely vulnerable in a few short hours to complete strangers.  I took it as a sign that this stranger, a fellow human being one of my species, needed something.  Even if the money would be used to buy something other than Tylenol, what mattered is that I found the presence of mind to reach into my heart first to our common humanity and then my bag to hand her $30.  Her gratitude was immense and she asked for my name and address to pay me back.  I knew that would never happen nor could it, I was shipping off, leaving the Windy City for other shores.  The payback had happened the moment we crossed paths, and I decided not to ignore her.  She reminded me that I would have needs along my path, and perhaps an absolute stranger would answer one of them and reach deeply into their heart as well.  I was only 26 at the time, having spent 5 years at graduate school and my work.  I was leaving and doing so all because of a common thread that has wound its way around my life – love.

          I find myself in my mid forties reflecting back on my life, its path, its broken path, the many offshoots and side trails, the travails, the disappointments, the suffering, the common humanity experiences that have made certain moments stand out.  I am a mother.  Sometimes a real M-O-T-H-E-R!  I mother boys and they just keep getting older and bigger and lovelier and more disobedient and more opinionated and more independent and that is lovely and painful. I hate it and I welcome it.  Tired to the inner core yet reenergized when I take precious moments out for me, my being, to tap into the core of humanity, this world, this universe, my own mind.

          At their ages of 10 and 13, they tap into life in a way I never knew was available.  Of course, what generation of parents doesn’t say that about their offspring?  I began Motherhood with an intensity and passion that was borderline addictive in its quality, if not its intent.  I began to obsessive compulsively attempt to right all the wrongs and heartache I ever felt from a very early age on.  From diaper selection, to whether or not to co-sleep with my newborn, to length of time to breastfeed, to vaccinate or not, it all became a whirlwind, full of anticipation, anxiety, trepidation, absolute terror at messing up, to unfathomable joy and longing.  I wanted to help re-create my being and do that via another being.  My children would be grounded in this world in a way I never was or more accurately was never raised to be. 

          I recall the moment I received the confirmed news of my first wanted pregnancy.  I was sitting in a doctor’s office cloth gown with my legs dangling off the exam table having just peed in a cup.  Upon entry to the office for a routine annual exam, I had a hunch and big wish that I was pregnant.  My nurse midwife came in and without having to say anything, I read her smile.  I broke down and sobbed, racking, life altering sobbing.  She examined me and told me that my uterus was already the size of a small lemon.  Just think, my baby is a tiny minute collection of cells resting and floating inside of this lemon drop of a womb.  My body had manifested life inside of it.  My egg had embraced my husband’s seed and we were to be parents.  Yikes, no way, yes way.  It was all so expansive, impossible to get my racing, disjointed thoughts that quickly turned into fears around the idea.

          As I drove up to my office, there was only one person I wanted to talk with and that was my mom.  Funny, not my husband, not the future father of my babies.  My mom.  One and only. 

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