These are the things you need to know

July 23, 2015 Candace Morris 1 Comments

Saint Theresa newly adorns my green room. I'm in love with a new muscle T-shirt I found second-hand.

I showed them to her last week when she stopped by in between appointments. She was excited, as always, about these things. She showed me a new essential oil she purchased (called "moon goddess" or something like that. Something I would have scoffed at not long ago. Something I still scoff at, because it's funny). And as she scrambled out the door, endearingly a few minutes late to her next gig, she said, "Because these are the things you need to know."

These things. These everyday things we share and know about each other.

I fingered a tiny silver necklace I was wearing as I watched her leave. This thought, these "things" lingering in the air like the essential oils body spray she showed me. The necklace, one she made me, is the shape of a small pelvis with the sweetest fleck of gold. It sits ever so delicately in the crevasse connecting my collarbones. She made it for me entirety unprovoked and pro-bono.

This necklace is my source of power.
I'll tell you why.

But first you need some backstory. Some vulnerable, embarrassing, she-doesn't-even-know-the-extent-of-it backstory.

She is one of my soul connections. An easy and deeply necessary friendship - for us both. She is an artist, finally making a real living after years of trying. We hit it off one night at a party. I asked her what she does. Her husband, close by her, reminded her that what she does isn't who she is! For some reason, we all three teared up. We've been soul bound ever since - but in the best way possible.

I both love and hate being close to a popular artist. I will tell you why.

In 2007, when we first met, I didn't have to share her very much. She had a small following on her blog and Etsy and would sell things often, but her income from these sales wasn't sustainable. She and her husband worked full-time as apartment managers in their building, and she was painting at her studio in Pioneer Square every chance she got. She was showing at galleries and making textiles. She was teaching me how to paint with watercolors and introduced me to blogging. She was starting to take photos and stomped around Capitol Hill like it was her catwalk. (It was.)

She wanted to grow her online business, but hadn't yet pinpointed exactly how. Her business was in gestation. I knew just about all of her fans, and most of her online friends were connections we shared or had found together.

But a few days after her 30th birthday, she found out she had breast cancer. I was living in LA with my sister for a few months at that time, and by the time I had returned, she had moved back to California. She got better there.

But then she moved back.
And then the cancer returned.

At the same time (and because of her time in California) she was making new Internet connections rapidly, opening care packages with gifts and amazing words from women I never met. She taught herself how to silversmith and was selling goods like hotcakes. She was exploring something she called "journey work" and tarot cards became a part of our ladies' gatherings, much to my confusion.

It became harder to keep track of her new life. I began to feel rejected by it. Her actions never changed toward me, but some small seed of fear inside of me was planted. She'd made thousands of new Facebook friends whom I didn't know, her Etsy sales skyrocketed, and suddenly, she was conjuring forth her dream, and it was beginning to appear. The dream of making a livable wage from selling art.

I secretly housed resentment and panic, scared our time together was coming to an end. Scared I could easily be replaced. Scared that she was finally fed up with my skepticism and found my darkness unhealthy for her - at a time she needed light.

Disgusted with myself, I had thoughts that "a good friend would always, always be supportive." Chiding never actually changes anything, but I sure felt like shit - and that was the goal, most likely. After that second cancer scare, I began to withdraw. It was good timing because I could hide my retreat under the guise of being busy with a baby and going back to work full time.

In short, I sensed I was loosing her and ran away.

This schism filled my journals with angst  - entries examining my frustrations, beating us both up, all the while wussing out on actually talking to her. Instead, I did what I counsel people NOT to do. I relied on blind attempts to decipher how she really felt, made assumptions (which were never flattering for either party) and read too much into every little thing she said and did. She doesn't know this, but I even had to unfriend her business Facebook page at the time. Who the eff were all these women appearing on her feed?!

It was like every success and new connection of hers suddenly stabbed me, every new friend an elbow shove to the corner. My irritations came up in therapy all the time. Many months of work revealed something simple. My inner child, the one screaming after my father's car as he left, was begging for a voice. A voice I long denied her. She wanted to know the answer to a most basic human question.

"Am I necessary?"

Was their room for me in her new life? I knew every relationship has these junctures. Would we find a way to continue walking the same path? Or was this the fork in the road that eventually separates two souls?

Needing people, in any capacity, feels deeply shameful to me. It's part of my life work - to allow places to grow where I rely on people deeply. In over eight years of friendship, I had never once doubted my place in her life. Not.Once. I am so proud of that in myself, too proud.

What was happening now that I was so lost in my feelings of rejection? Feelings I could usually love myself right out of. Was my power diminishing?

While the confusion nearly drowned me, one thing was clear. I needed to confess my feelings of neglect, take a risk and admit,"I need you."

But how? I couldn't just come right out and say it - not with her. That's not what she and I do. We don't really talk about 'us.' With other friendships, maybe. I didn't want either of us to lose face. I wish I could describe how scared I was, how anxiety wound me up at the thought of initiating such a conversation, how deeply I wanted to preserve our sacred space, how fiercely I fought with myself, afraid of relinquishing my power, annoyed that she would later think of me as a desperate, clingy friend.

Maybe you can't relate. Maybe confronting people is easy for you. But maybe you are like me, and you would rather never be in another relationship again than make people feel that their love isn't good enough. That you need more than they are giving.

And truly, I'm unpracticed at this kind of vulnerability. I don't often have to ask this of my friendships because  I intuitively know, and I trust that intuition. But also because it's humiliating. Not to mention unattractive, desperate, and off-putting. It just is. It's the dynamic of human attraction. In fact, the sure-fire way to get me running from any relationship is to cage me in a conversation wherein I must assure the other party of my affection. I can't help it. It's the bird medicine inside of me.

Trap me, and I will flee. Free me, and I might stay.

So I didn't want to do that to her. I had lost the deep knowledge of her love, but I knew our friendship was going to perish if I didn't ask her. And that would be on me. Totally on me.

Before long, my courage and need outgrew my fear and after nearly one year of housing this angst, I finally invited her to get a drink.


Adrienne Rich said of Marie Curie that "her wounds came from the same source as her power." These wounds being, of course, radiation poisoning. Curie was working to cure something that ultimately killed her. Her power, that which she created, gave her these wounds. Yet, she didn't know it; she carried test tubes containing radioactive isotopes in her pocket, not then knowing the negative affects of prolonged exposure.

I study women artists who push deeply into their pain, on purpose. Tap into it, see it as their muse. They find the most grotesque, detestable flashbacks and write them into the present, thereby purging those memories of shame. What remains is only truth and gold.

I tried it once. Several times, actually.
It's the scariest, most nauseating thing I've ever done.

To need her was to lose power.
To need her was to gain power.

Both can be true at once.

She says that all the time.

Once I finally stopped babbling and back-peddling my way from the outright asking,"Where do I fit into your new life?" she grabbed my hand from across the table. I was painfully embarrassed, avoiding eye-contact. She told me what I wanted to hear, but it still stung that I needed to hear it. I couldn't forgive myself for being human.

As it was. I barely told her a fraction of all I'd felt. But it was enough to let out some pressure.

She teared up, assuring me that I was needed, and better yet, that I was wanted.

Her words both deeply pierced and healed me. But they were the "things" I needed to know. Instead of our normal  "things" like every day shopping purchases, the health of a strawberry plant, where you got that tarot deck or what color you painted the kitchen walls, the "things" were assurances of friendship.

Since then, the feelings have assuaged significantly, but will never go away. I've stopped judging myself for needing her. Stopped berating myself for doubting our connection. Stopped being irritated for getting hurt. Stopped trying to squelch the feelings of jealousy when they arise. I let myself feel the feelings because, if nothing else, they indicate how much I desperately need her to stay alive.

The shadow surrounding our connection, where the jealousy hides, is love. Every time I feel it now, I read it like a love letter. I let it soak into my bones like a prayer. Jealousy reminds me that we are connected and that I don't want to loose that connection.

I still don't like sharing her. I don't get a say in how she relates to anyone else, if she is being her "real" self (whatever that means), or how she represents herself online. But it's up to me to love myself enough, not her.

This is the pain and privilege of any relationship.
But especially of being close to a popular artist.


If wounds hold power, I couldn't see it in myself. For others, yes. For those who had been through real battles.

Locating my wounds, that's never been a struggle. I am a bloodhound, sniffing out pain like it's my only life-force, knowing that wounds can reveal versions of myself I've never met and lead to more self-awareness. But seeing those wounds as a source of strength? I couldn't wrap my mind around it - for me.

Turns out, I didn't have to.
She did for me. She found a source of power and bottled it up into a necklace for me.

When the second cancer came back. It broke her bones. Lots of bones.The symbolism of bones and skeletal structure, the idea of what lies beneath, examining what holds us up that we can't see, has always permeated her art. Even more so now.

 How can we survive walking on broken bones? How can plenty come from scarcity? Power from wounds?

I never put myself in the same category as she was in. The brave born from the broken. Maybe emotionally, even psychologically - sure. Never physically.

Until one day, she showed up with the tiniest necklace adorning her long neck. A necklace she made for herself, a necklace of bones and blood and truth and gold.

(photo used by permission from )

Then she told me that she was making me one.

"Me?! But I've never broken any bones!"
She looked at me sideways. "Um, your tailbone?"
"Oh right. I forgot about that."

Images of my birthing experience flooded my mind. I had pushed for over five hours, rocking back and forth on my tailbone every 1 minute or so. I couldn't sit on it for weeks, but figured it was all part of the netherly healing happening slowly. But when I was still in immense pain eight months later, it dawned on me that I had probably fractured my coccyx.

My bones, as she pointed out, had sustained a birthing wound.

I immediately felt ashamed that I hadn't seen it. That I had so undervalued my body. This vessel who carried life, who bore down with strength and brought forth a baby star.

She crafted my broken bones into a talisman of power. This necklace reminds me daily of my physical capability, but also unlocks the shame that I couldn't at first see how my broken tailbone made me a force to be reckoned with. Me, a seer! I couldn't see how my wound was a deep wellspring of power, a bow in my quiver for battles I would come to face.

I was blinded.
But she saw it.

She saw power in me that I never recognized.
And THIS, this is why we need people.

What if all our self-care, awareness, anagnorisis
Doesn't have to rely 100% on our own self-care, awareness, and anagnorisis?

What if the very space where my resilience and imagination fails,
Is where people come in to fill in the gaps for me?

What if needing her has made me more powerful?

What if my power isn't my power alone but the collective power of those surrounding me in love? What if I can use her skeletal structure to reach out and look farther.

What if, like she always does, I can go forth and trust my motherfucking bones.

These are the things I need to know.


Please, help us fight the 3rd round of cancer. Donate here:


Musings of a Mum: A letter to Bowie upon completion of her 3rd year of life

July 15, 2015 Candace Morris 0 Comments

Dear Bowie,

Your 3rd birthday last week also marks for me the 3rd anniversary of motherhood. So much of that time was spent keeping you physically alive and thriving, and now we are shifting to more behavioral education. It's fascinating, confusing, satisfying, exhausting.

Still what continues to keep my attention is the back and forth feelings of motherhood. Some moments I am seriously killing it. Other moments, it feels wrong everywhere I can feel anything.

Listen, kid. 3 year olds are jerks. Seriously, they are selfish and rude and illogical and bipolar. They yell so loud about the stupidest stuff that you have no recourse but to laugh or run. But they are also unabashedly adoring, delightfully surprised at life, oddly kind to their friends, and wildly funny. You have those moments, both. But there is a strong undercurrent of compliance and desire for peace - an undercurrent I do not possess, not really. As I've always said about you, either you haven't yet grown into your "fight," or, like your father, your default setting is general compliance. 

I think of your older self a lot, Bowie. I watch the 7 year old girl across the street sometimes when I am working, and I think how interesting it will be to have a 7 year old, and yet - also unimaginable. I imagine you as a teenager, as a college student, as a young woman. Almost inexorable from those thoughts exists a question, "What will you think of me?" That question is perhaps my most powerful motivator for the following:
  • Take care of myself, my own needs, my own soul, my own body, my own career, my own marriage, my own political beliefs, my own relationships, my own spiritual practices. For when you don't need me to mother you anymore, you will need an example of how to thrive as a woman in the golden years of her life.
  • Dig into parenting with all I have - my intellect, my emotions (both hidden and present), my id and ego- and not with the intention of mastery, but with the intention of learning.
  • Continue the struggle to define the blurry line separating me from you. As you get older, it gets somewhat easier, but the question will always fascinate me. We are to be connected for the duration of this human life, but the boundary between a healthy and an unhealthy attachment is precarious. I commit to walking it with you, always.
  • Not define you. To hold all the yous you've ever been and will be as true and present. This is so difficult for logical troubleshooters such as your father and myself. We want to pinpoint the needs so we can meet them and move on. You do not work this way. 
  • Walk in your shoes. I find sympathy to be a large wellspring in parenting, a way to tap into patience and kindness. I find it easy now, relating to your daily struggles and wondering what it must be like to have so many people telling you what and how to do things all day.
  • Be honest with you. To incorporate both the happiness, sadness, and ever-present ambivalence of life into your childhood without shame or stigma.
  • Continue to teach myself how to play.
  • Stay rad. 

As is my usual practice, I've sat with my journals and highlighted any time I spoke of you. This are my thoughts from this year.  I will let them speak for me today.


A Letter of Journal Entries

27 July 2014

We took Bowie to Golden Gardens and because it was overcast, it was perfect beach weather. She is a great independent lady at the beach now, a far cry from when we visited Southern California in February. She wouldn't even put her feet in the sand, and now she's all in. She walks around collecting rocks and she sat, leaning on a big log of driftwood, noticing how much more we are enjoying parenting because she requires so much less intervention. I felt a deep inner peace, such that usually alludes me.

August 10, 2014

There may be no better feeling these days than seeing my friends adore B. They dote on her, but also set up clear boundaries and instructions. Last night, she only wanted BC to put on her shoes, not me. I revel in this, actually. She's finding her way into her own volition these days.

She pooped in the potty!

Just today she said, "Hold it!" to a bad of dried apples we were sharing. I gave her more apples and she again demanded, "Hold it!" I knew what she meant, but for some reason still didn't give her the bag. She assumed I didn't understand, so she clear as day said, "Hold the bag!" It took me aback..the maturity of it.

Later she was standing in the evening air and look at the sky, "It's nice out here."

August 20, 2014

Being a mother feels antithetical to self preservation. As I approach the deadline of Bowie going to preschool all day at age 2, I realize that it's not the transition or her well being I'm most concerned with. Not exactly. I've lived through both - as had she. I am afraid of being hurt, of my own hurt. I want to avoid the heartache of leaving her or looking back at her crying/calling for me and me not being there, not answering her. In the real scenario, she will comfort herself or use her resources (teachers, etc). In my imagination, she's alone crying for me and stays that way forever until I can get back to her. Must use imagination to build more healthy scenarios. But as motherhood is antithetical to a heart's survival thusly; one senses grief, heartache, loss, and inevitable separation, but persists in the very self-destruction they know they should (and would, in other relationships) avoid. That's what motherhood feels like, wearing skin inside out somehow. Suffering under perpetual, beautiful, tender heartache.

September 27, 2014

I wish I could convey the nightmare that has been preschool. I spoke to the school today, and felt better, but after a weekend of seeing Bowie cry similarly (even when leaving her with Joel), I began to realize a thicker skin about separation. I see she's upset, but not because she's doesn't want school, but that she just wants me right now.

It's odd, all this versioning of her. Such a mild, go-to-anyone baby transforms to a sensitive, noise-averse toddler transforms to an outspoken, wildly attached 2 year old. She's such a joy right now, but school has been rough. And aside from her, there is the observation of myself in crisis and panic at how to make a decision for your kid. You trust your gut, but also know that guts can be untrustworthy. (For instance, my gut says to rescue her, but that's not what's best for her always).

I want to get out of her way. and have enough where-with-all to handle my own discomfort and worry, but I feel unpracticed at it. The worry is so painful and dis-empowering. One must be very self-strong to contain it so it doesn't become toxic to their child. We are grieving each other, missing knowing what's going on with her every minute, but we are also learning to let go, and that does feel good. The learning. But if I can manage a good routine of self-care and adequate time for reflection, I think I can work through these sufferings without negatively affecting our codependency. She is her own person with her own life. So many things I am feeling are emotions I've heard people talk about before, that children are terrifying, that the worry never stops. But it's so real, the actual terror I feel at leaving her if I imagine she's scared. To actually LET her grieve and not try to make her happy - to remember that this is her life I am preparing her for - not mine. It's massively scary.

October 22, 2014

Bowie is such a mixed bag right now. Either that or I am just not adjusting to the cadence of toddlers quickly. Sometimes, and often, she is so sweet and cuddly, so curious, so expressive, so easy to talk to and be around. Other times, she's asking for the impossible and pushing every hidden button I never knew I had. But honestly, I wish she'd stay this age forever. I want her here with me, not out there.

December 25, 2014

Twice today (once from each mother), I've been told to memorize the moments. No doubt they were both referring to Bowie's childhood. I try, I really do try. But I'm enjoying the moments with her so much that I almost forget to notice. Me. Forget.To.Notice. A feat I would have thought impossible only a few short years ago. Bowie is so sweet with us. She loves to cuddle and be held, she's sick again. But so far, even in her bratty moments, there's a disbelief of her own mischief residing behind her eyes. It's a piercing goodness, much like that of her father's.


(In January, I began to spend 5 min per night recording something B had done or said that day)

B was balancing precariously on the settee and I told her, "Be careful Bowie! That makes mommy nervous." And then, as an aside, "But I guess that's not your problem, that's my problem." To which she quickly retorted with a lot of sass, "No! It's MY PROBLEM."


B was playing in the car and climbed into the front seat. Joel and I stood outside talking and when it came time to collect B, she said, "Close the door, please. I'm driving to Grandma's."


Bowie said "just kidding" for the first time today. I challenged her with the choice of either moving now or being carried. When I got up to pick her up, she balked and said, "just kidding!" It made me laugh. She now begins each story with "once upon a time." I have no idea where she's getting this stuff.


Tonight, B put on new pj's she hadn't seen yet. They are black and white with planets and rocket ships all over. As we put them on after her bath, I told her she needed to find Daddy and say, "Daddy, let's go to space." She ran out of the bathroom and performed her line just as we'd rehearsed, much to Joel's delight. He replied in the affirmative so she grabbed his hand and pulled him toward the door. "Daddy, let's go! We have to get our coats on."


We went to the grocery story today. A friendly checker talked to Bowie. Bowie said she went to the airport yesterday (we had just returned from CA). "Oh! Where did you go?" asked the checker. Bowie replied, "I was poopy." Indeed, she was recounting the story of how I changed her rather disgusting diaper during a turbulent landing. A remarkable memory indeed.


Today we drove to Leavenworth on a whim. She got a Gatorade in a soda cup w/ lid and straw while we got beers. As we sat in the beer garden, she began to lose it. The final straw was when she dropped her Gatorade and loudly yelled, "MY BEER!!!!" We laughed and left.


Bowie and Joel were cooking tonight. Joel had just scolded her for not listening. She asked him, "Daddy, you not happy?!" And he said was frustrated, but would be okay later. She said, "Daddy, I love you sooooo much," in exactly the same manner Joel says it to her at bedtime. And then asked again, "Now you happy?!" He melted, "Yes. Now I'm happy."


On the drive home today, I locked eyes with Bowie and we had a moment. I said, "I like you, Bowie." She very tenderly said, " I don't like you, Mommy."


Apparently everything pink is "pinky." And we now say "por favor."


Joel was doing the dishes and playing music. Bowie and I were getting her ready for bed. She heard the music and said so softly, "Momma. I just need to dance a yittle bit." Yup. Total trump card. We went out and danced.


Today during a getting dressed cuddle, Bowie said, "You're my Candace."


Tonight, Bowie came up to me and said she had to leave, that she had an appointment. She would walk into the other room and then walk back, "I'm back!" But she was apparently disappointed in my reaction because she said, "You need to cry when I leave!" So I did. She looked back on her way out of the room and said, "It's okay. I'm just going to work. I'll be back."


We are totally potty trained! Yay for school.

Bowie drove for the second time tonight. It's becoming a ritual for her to drive the car on Gma's driveway every Sunday night as we head home. She loves it!


Bowie's memory is remarkable. She woke up today and repeated to Uncle Tim (who is visiting) all of the nothings we spoke about yesterday. Chatting about robots and her backpack. Later, we went to a restaurant and she exclaimed to the server, "Uncle Brian is coming!" The server was not excited, but Bowie sure was. I had told her about Brian coming two days prior and didn't mention it again.

Later, she dropped her sidewalk chalk and said, "Oh I'm so sorry chalk!" picked it up, and cuddled it, saying  "it's okay, it's okay."


Bowie and Greta escaped today. We were all chatting and suddenly it got silent. It was Joel's turn to investigate the girls, and he couldn't find them. We all began to look and someone found them in the front yard, half way down the steps to the street. Greta was naked and Bowie had no shoes on. I had no idea they could even open doors on their own.

Bowie slept over at Greta's house tonight for the first time. They had a blast!


Bowie has a book that's a parody of "Goodnight Moon" called "Goodnight Goon." She's fascinated by one part in particular where a skull sits on a table, separated from its body. So we've discussed several times how a skull is under your skin, holding you up. This morning she surprised me by telling me that she has a skull "but we can't take it off, no no!"And then she tried, just like the skeleton in the book who misplaced his skull and left it on the nightstand.

May 2015

Joel and I sat on the back porch, sipping wine while trying to muster up the energy to make dinner. Bowie played contentedly in the garden, probably drowning my basil in too much water. I had told Joel a few days ago that I feel the most content when we are all three at home together. I never understood how mothers could feel so happy at Xmas time "just being all together!" but now I get it. When Bowie's not here, I feel like someone took an artery out of my arm and stretched it out as far as Bowie wanders. Will it always feel this way?

Joel told me today that he remembered when I had said I was happiest when we were together. He nodded, "Me too."


I had a stomach ache and was laying next to Bowie on the couch. She put a blanket on me and began to pat my back. She gave me her rabbit and dolls to cuddle and instructions, "No yelling. Close your eyes. Keep your body calm." Good nap instructions, I say.


Today, for the first time, Bowie asked me how my day was. I told her I went to the dentist. She told me all about her latest dentist trip.


Kelly's cancer has returned and I was sad all day. Bowie noticed and we talked frankly about Aunt Keyee. She grabbed my face and said something I say to her all the time, "It's okay to be sad, Momma."

I stubbed my toe and Bowie was very concerned. She said, "Are you okay, sweetie?!" And then bent down and kissed it for me. "There, s'okay now?"

June 2015
Bowie sings ALL the time now. Her very first song was "Twinkle, Twinkle" but she's got a remarkable memory for songs and damn good pitch. She loves a song I made up where I spell her name out to her. We teach her a new song daily and the very next morning, she's singing that same song perfectly. Among her favorite requests this year:

  • "Let Down" Radiohead
  • "Wish I was the Moon" Neko Case
  • "Perfect Day" Lou Reed
  • "Yellow Submarine" The Beatles
  • "Twinkle Twinkle" 
  • "The Wheels on the Bus" (much to my dismay)
  • "Jingle Bells"
  • "Happy Birthday"
  • "Say Say, Oh Playmate"
  • "Sing a song of Sixpence"
  • "Sunday Kind of Love" Etta James

Always your Mum.