“If you trade your authenticity for safety, you may experience the following: anxiety, depression, eating disorders, addiction, rage, blame, resentment, and inexplicable grief.”
―Brene Brown

Keeping Up With The Joneses

by Carmen H Gray

In the realm of lost things:

“Social status”




Things are an illusion

Manufactured in the Department of Counterfeit Happiness

Brought to you by The E & E (Envy and Ego) Corporation

Circumscribed by False Security

Farewell Things

You were a heavy burden to bear


Mariposa Monarca

Mariposa Monarca

by Carmen H Gray

Monarch larva go through five instars between molting.  Each time, after molting, the new skin is vulnerable, with little protection, eventually hardening until the caterpillar again becomes too large for its skin and it molts again.  This is the period of greatest growth in its lifetime.  After the fifth instar, the pupal stage begins, changing at this time into its mature state. At this final state of being, a monarch butterfly will only live 2-5 weeks, with the exception of the 4th generation adults, which will start in Canada and migrate over 2,000 miles south to Mexico.  The survivors of this specific group will live the longest: 8-9 months.

These facts from my lesson in my classroom recently were the thoughts swimming in my mind today at the courthouse.  I had spent a few days in summer at the law library, where I had drawn together the paperwork for the next chapter in my life. Free advice from attorneys and thousands of law books were there to help guide me through the litigious verbage.

I looked around the courtroom this fall morning. There were a the handful of people present: an elegant African woman with her thick hair piled atop her head, a humble woman in jeans and a tee-shirt, and a couple.  The African woman’s case was called first. She was from Ghana and had been living as a single mother since 2011 with her daughter. The husband had left and was living back in Ghana.  She was at last being granted her divorce from him. Her attorney helped her understand the convoluted language.  Off she went after the hearing, a proud and strong single woman.

Next, the jeans and tee-shirt woman was called forward.  She was respresenting her case, like I would be doing.  The judge granted her the divorce and off she went, a new woman with a new name.

I had conferred with the volunteer attorney when I first arrived to ensure my documents were in proper order and signatures were in place.  It had been a painful process.  The leaver and the left both grieve in their own ways the ending of a relationship.  Most people take a side with one or the other, depending on their own personal experiences.  It is a human thing to do.  No one sees everything, no one knows everything, yet people naturally take sides.  Among the myriad lessons learned during this past year, practicing non-judgement is probably the one which will stay with me the longest.

I watched as the wife of the couple teared up, I handed her some kleenex and said a little prayer in my head for her-that she would find comfort and release in her situation, however and whatever it was.  As they walked off to consult with the same attorney who had looked over my paperwork, the judge called me forward.  She had kind eyes.  I was sworn in and she asked me the same questions as the women before me.  When she said the names of my children, my heart lept and a smile opened up on my face. Just hearing their names lit me up and the judge smiled at that reaction.  After all, this was an official place of endings, tears, heartache, failures, letting go.  She wished me, my children and my ex-husband the best of luck.

What is failure?  Failure is disentegration, breakdown.  It is an essential aspect of living, molting, changing, evolving.  And off she went.




by Carmen H Gray

Last night I decided to go back to revisit the wound and give thanks to those underappreciated people who stand guard over the children who suffer, fight, overcome or do not and the families who echo all of those actions of their children.

I drove up to the familiar building and walked in to the smell of chemicals and surgery.  The warmth of the wooden floors, an attempt to grant the victims of life’s bewilderments a sense of sanctuary.  I passed by the surgery check in, where memories flooded my whole being.

I found the elevators, not where I remembered them being, already the lay out of a once familiar place not so familiar anymore.  I walked into Four North, and looked for the usual faces.  I remember the face of a mother whose eyes I would meet with the same look of fear of being in an uncontrollable situation we were both faced with, but to my irrational surprise, she was no longer there.  In fact, there were not many familiar faces at all, only one nurse on duty who I remembered and who recalled me.

I handed her the picture I had chosen of my survivor child and of me, the survivor mother, some stickers for the children, a note of gratitude and some chocolate croissants for the nursing staff.  The night staff was always especially patient and I knew that job was probably the hardest.  It was always night when I would ride out the chemotherapy with her, in between gracious spells of rest.  The best nurses would be the ones who tried their best to be like quiet ninjas, moving in and out of the room to check her vitals and administer the seemingly unending medications to counter the negative effects. I left after a brief conversation, walking past the newest troop of young patients donning the masks to protect their immune systems.

What did I feel?  I felt…..relief.  Appreciation.  Closure.  I recognized all of the changes that had synthesized inside me over the past year.  Thank you hospital, for housing her.  Thank you meditation garden, thank you pharmacists, doctors, nurses, assistants, cleaning staff, warm blankets, therapy dogs, music therapists, volunteers, families, life and death and everything in between.

I drove home in the Ordinary World.  Traffic, a homeless man begging change at the light, an irritated driver, the cool relief of just another evening in October.  The beauty in the mundane.



“To belittle, you have to be little.”
―Kahlil Gibran


by Carmen H Gray

I have been jilted

By love (?)

My heart misshapen and stilted

My anger fueled

Slander, curses, vilification

I was fooled

Only it is your ego

The hurt child that resides

Feeding  your false credo

Holding you captive

From the truth

From the real wound

Keeping your soul aloof



"There are three conditions which often look alike
Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow:
Attachment to self and to things and to persons, detachment
From self and from things and from persons; and, growing between them, 
Which resembles the others as death resembles life,
Being between two lives—unflowering, between
The live and the dead nettle.
 This is the use of memory:
For liberation—not less of love but expanding
Of love beyond desire, and so liberation
From the future as well as the past."-T.S. Eliot

by Carmen H Gray

Things and people and all of the tangible world
Faces, bodies, experiences that have unfurled
And have sculpted what we think we know 
And who we think we are
From birth until the last light of the dying star
The narrative of our lives
Becomes the sum, the whole of us
The guiding dictate, the ruling compass
Until we break free 


Solongs and, Ashes

into the strenuous briefness
by e. e. cummings

into the strenuous briefness
handorgans and April
darkness, friends

i charge laughing.
Into the hair-thin tints
of yellow dawn,
into the women-coloured twilight

i smilingly glide. I
into the big vermilion departure
swim, sayingly;

(Do you think?) the
i do, world
is probably made
of roses & hello:

(of solongs and, ashes)

Solongs and, Ashes

by Carmen H Gray

In between the blush of life

Lie the ties we make

The tangled fibers of love

And imprints that leave our hearts

Permanently rearranged

In between the blush of life

Lie the ties we break

The endless procession of leave-takings

And wistful good-byes that leave our hearts

Empty again

An open space

For more laughter and song

For more solongs and, ashes


Feeling Yourself Disintegrate


by Carmen H Gray

Whispers, sideway looks, blank stares

Backs turned on me

I recognize the repudiation

When you reach for magnitude

And your brightness expands

Some are blinded

Some are scattered

Some are reduced to small specks

The torrent of stardust 

That trails behind you

The bitter is never without the sweet



A strange beauty lies in disintegration



“Tell me not in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream!
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal;
Dust thou are, to dust thou returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way;
But to act, that each tomorrow
Find us farther than today.”

-From A Psalm of Life by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In our society there is so much pressure to be “successful”, to “win”, to be “perfect” and to expect the same of our children.  Cancer has taught me to let go of these quixotic fallacies because they only lead to a lifetime of disappointment and stress. I am returning to my true nature of intuition, instinct, acceptance.  Acceptance is not defeat.  It is moving where the current takes you.  It is becoming one with that energy.



“No experience has been too unimportant, and the smallest event unfolds like a fate, and fate itself is like a wonderful, wide fabric in which every thread is guided by an infinitely tender hand and laid alongside another thread and is held and supported by a hundred others.” -Rainer Maria Rilke

Returning to the Ordinary world feels surreal.  So many lessons learned.  So many lessons yet still to learn.