Thirty-one years ago
in some momentary blessing
an unexpected quiet fell
impeccably potent
just behind our chairs
sheltering us from
the common cacophony of busy
machine-gun hammers
screeching saws and

laughing, lusty men.
While that gift of silence
merged with golden September sun
Giles whispered words about
a sorrowing sense we shared
of precious little goodness.
He in his tender blonde Mormon beauty
me in my summery pulsing brown heat
we opened heart to soul
murmuring together our wistfulness.
I heard a woman’s oboe voice.
I saw her arms splashed with cherries.
I admired his father’s enduring integrity.
Shielding three children, maybe four,
a singing and dancing wife
that gentle poet lived precariously
puzzled by human contradictions.
Later, three poems, folded and shy
slipped into my Les Fleurs du Mal
waiting to soothe me again
on this cloudy Sunday afternoon.

© Jeanne Treadway, 2014


Getting Close

Sank Into

Today, the sun massaged my shoulders
until my whole spine sank into my pelvis.
Then I understood.

My sister didn’t want to talk with me
about her continued choices for coping
with breast cancer or
about anything
you know.
No thanks, I don’t need any help, she said.
Mom offered too.
I’ve got my family here.
Just keep it simple. Okay?

Mother’s claptrap about this
having nothing to do with me
is completely true
and utterly false.
It’s about more than health.
It’s about relationships and
naming those included or excluded and
being fearful, vulnerable and
getting close
too close.

You see,
my sister and I share an hereditary disease,
a societal malaise,
a mean-weird upbringing and
other stuff beyond DNA.
But she had this malignant hideousness and
she pulled away because she
could not tolerate hearing one gasp,
one sharp silence, one more loving story,
dreading always a poignant moment
when mother stirred the emotional soup or
I made everyone cranky with logic.

I can’t fault her for understanding
who the hell I am
and conserving her energy to deal with
ninety-five commands and demands
endless suggestions and
gee whiz I saw on Oprah last week
yadda yadda and
fifteen articles in the mail and on the Internet
so many someones know would make her feel better
when a nap would do the trick and
all those looks of screwed-up compassion and
the pauses in conversation when
she rounded a corner in her office and
the weariness she felt
just living moment to moment
with a teenager learning about personal power and
two nearly-thirty kids a husband a job
a mother who’s going blind, is mentally ill and
can be vicious
a sister who is damn intense and
cannot does not will not work well with mother and
oh shit did she remember to take that new medicine and
why is her left armpit aching and
is that scar tissue from the surgery or a new lump and
is the kid’s toilet stopped up again and
doesn’t the dog have a vet appointment today.

I thought we had weathered the worst,
we who survived our rage-scarred childhood,
individually naïve sexual revolutions,
death, divorce, meaningless jobs, poverty,
loss of hope, endless lies, fearsome surgeries,
chronic illness, and damaged dreams.
Yesterday, she told me
she’d chosen to hide herself from me
for forty years or
was it fifty years?
This solidifies that which I’ve suspected:
we haven’t lived in overlapping realities
for a very long time and
we have devolved into intimate strangers.
Well-scripted greeting-card moments,
instead of tender and real conversation,
shall serve as our communication.
She’s relieved and I grieve
knowing this is simply the way it is.

I never wanted to learn these vaunted truths:
great grief becomes tedious,
loss is all there is after a point,
we never really know another person and
freedom comes with high costs.

Good for her.
Ouch for me.
Good for me,
I guess.

© 2014, Jeanne Treadway

An Awakening


…accepting all I’ve done and said—Peter Gabriel

My oldest written horoscope reading dates from 1975; astrology is important and meaningful to me, long a part of my spiritual life. During the past two years Planet Waves and other astrological sources repeatedly indicated it was time for me to rekindle sexual desire, renew my dedication to what brings me joy, and heal my relationships, with myself, this Earth, and those beings in my life. I slogged through most of 2012, sleeping the first five months and wondering how the hell to awaken any aspect of myself. I intuitively knew the advice was correct, that I faced an imperative yes or no choice—come alive or rot. 

I’m an intense old soul, a 12th house triple-Leo Plutonian manic depressive alcoholic who usually swims alone in dark waters teeming with beauty and abundance, fierce illness, and disability sharks. I’ve been utterly exhausted since 1997 and these pronouncements of upcoming regeneration enticed me to dream of true health. In late June 2012, universal juju jumpstarted my will. I sniffed out a warm salt water pool nearby and began swimming daily, for perhaps only ten minutes. Ancient pain unlocked in that soothing womb. Hips, knees, shoulders, elbows, and ankles flexed easily. Courage returned. Healing began.

Though I am deeply sensual and joyously sexual, the political dynamics of sex and gender soured my willingness to be in a relationship with anyone. In 1990, utterly befuddled by what love meant or didn’t and deeply brokenhearted, I thoughtfully commenced a monogamous affair with myself. When our star-gazing guidance counselors chimed the end of that long experiment in aloneness, my body lusted at the prospect of sex with another person. I prepared, practiced, and lured. I brazenly arranged a sleep-over with a potential lover in July 2013 and, though we didn’t suit each other in any way, I pushed through that scary sexual maidenhood experience for the second time in my life. And, it’s okay it didn’t work out; I saw sweet, delicious, mischievous Male wink at me just last week. Oh, I rejoice for that wondrous hot and juicy!

Going from untouched solitary to an alive sexual being requires some patience and a bunch of diligence. Socially clumsy and reclusive because of mental illness and shy by nature, I surprise myself with the myriad subtle ways I’ve designed to keep potential friends and lovers away. Not taking one moment to make eye contact with friendly someones in a room or staring right through them with unfriendly eyes. Wearing haughtiness like a perfume, donning armor, pretending busyness, and other chilly little iceberg stay-aways. Being afraid and pulsing that aroma through the café. Not-interested signals I used when popular and attached unwittingly became routine body language, postures that shielded and separated me, something I didn’t understand until I chose to dive into life’s crazy ocean again. If I want to be in any face-to-face relationship I must consciously push open that steel-plated door protecting my heart and peer round the edge with curiosity and possibility playing on my face. I forget this easily but am making progress.

I was paying attention to the portents of the swirling cosmos and still I missed what was about to dance onstage. When Queen Sol ascended into Leo this past August, She scorched through a shroud I’ve worn for decades and delivered me from my home in the shadow-realm. That two-night stand in July portended this jolt and probably set the stage for it but on my birthday a month later, whap! I’m 63 and I am startled awake. 

I want you to comprehend that I didn’t “find” myself or “discover my path.” I didn’t “go back to being Jeannie.” I’d been grayed out and dull but I was never lost. I know where and what my talents are. I did not return to old personality traits, characteristics or roles. My interior bonfire received blessings of fuel; I am nurtured and warm; I am present and I belong. Simple. And, oh so complexly far-reaching. 

Belonging is the finest mood-altering drug I know. The tender regard I feel for myself surprises and pleases me, opening me to reciprocation. I’ve deeply longed to be part of a community and yet missed the signals that I already am a citizen of several lovingly cohesive groups. I didn’t recognize inclusion and, fearing exclusion, kept myself aloof. Then when unresolved ancient shame mixed with a recent fear of lively compromise, I became chameleon-like, shifting my attitudes to hopefully end the loneliness. The recent ingress of cosmic watery influences helped me realign my willingness and ability to participate in this pugnacious, shape-shifting era and I’m eager to enfold myself into larger communities of friends and kindred artists. In my own unrepeatable fashion, I have valuable contributions to give and am worthy of the affection streaming into my life. That healing rescue of my self-esteem buoys me sufficiently that I am able to take on the hard work of this incredible metamorphosis.

This isn’t to say that I haven’t been refused, isolated, deemed unworthy. That desperate lifetime wasn’t fabricated. Now I reprise Jeanne Treadway’s tragic drama canon as a fast-paced educational tool in the process of becoming well. Familiar voices cue scenes crafted during the past 60 years. If I don my assigned mask, I faithfully recite the hitherto indelible lines, react with prescribed emotions, and stride away villain or hero. Today I alertly discard angry fearfulness and modulate judgmental tones, condescending accents, and strident pitches. I rewrite wounding and wounded scripts, smooth dialogue, calm entrances and exits, signal different actors, and craft sweeter discourses. It’s not about becoming someone else, it’s about being fearless to change. Each time I modify one reaction, I step nearer to being bravely authentically me. and further into life.

While I struggled through brain-fogged years of chronic mental and physical illness, I often reigned as petty tyrant, inveigling adherence to picayune rules of behavior and conversation. Cycling sharply from bad-tempered and brusque to avid friend and engrossed listener, I created cesspools of caution through which few people dared slog. Who knew where today’s shit-piles might be? Friendships were friable those days; some still are. I understand. I shake my head at the rigidity hidden behind my flexibility and my softness disguised as hardness. I no longer hoard lists of transgressions, mine or theirs, though some need me to witness how I hurt and alienated them. I’ll accommodate their exploration for a time but rehashing pain and guilt already bores me. I have far more nourishing gifts to recover, uncover, and explore.

An unexpected benefit of this transformation is I don’t rely on prescription drugs as I did. Back in May, I forgot to take most of my meds while on a brief vacation. My body chemistry rearranged to such an extent that when I went back on schedule I rocketed into unholy mania. A month’s supply of medical marijuana helped me balance and eliminate two types of medicine. I’ve reduced the others to small maintenance levels and have forgiven myself for needing anything. Gradually I’ll eliminate my reliance. A gift within a gift! 

I normally dither about balance in all forms of relationship. Appearing forthright, confident, sometimes brash and cocky, internally I struggle deeply with what is fair and whether I’ve given enough in compromise, attention, and compassion. Since my recent awakening I haven’t been able to stick with any decision about my feelings. I was evaluating the panorama of emotions coloring my world and each seemed weighted equally, each ultimately evoking longing and need. Then the environment shifted and slowly, ponderously almost, I realized I don’t really need to be better, stronger, smarter, kinder, friendlier, or any of the thousands of things I’ve thought might make me a better human being. Be still. Be disciplined. Stand within this energy. Let it support me as I revitalize; let its fiery strength sear away extraneous nonsense. If I observe instead of fret or react I have the stamina to change, to be renewed, to emerge as I wish.

Nuances of emotion regularly shift into view so that I may focus on the detail, winnow my feelings from expectations and clarify how I wish to respond. I see how I subtly sabotage happiness. I recognize the various levels of my trust for individual and collective human beings. I identify the source of edginess in my relationships. I recognize joy in my daily life. These revelations encourage me to remain focused and honest. I choose to change. I choose to accept myself—all of me. I don’t rethink decisions I made nor do I ponder what might have been. I move forward with an abiding devotion I uncovered for this fragile, brilliant, deeply loving person I am and for the manner in which I express that beautiful caring to those with whom I share love and this Gloriously Holy Earth.

© 2014, Jeanne Treadway (This article in another form appeared at earlier this year.)