I’m here

February 10th, 2016


Years and years ago when I was young and busy and my mother was alive, I would rarely call home. So when I did, it was a sign. If my father answered, he wouldn’t stay on the line for longer than a minute because he knew something was up, and my mother would have walked into the kitchen and looked at him questioningly.

“It’s Karen,” he’d say as he handed her the receiver.

Then she would get on the line and say, “Karen.”

And just like that she was there, all of her, for me, which was why I called, and I would start crying.

I called because I was going to make a C in Contemporary American Poetry. Because I’d totaled my car. Because I was going to get married. Because I was going to get a divorce. I had called because I needed her, which happened a lot more than just the times I called, but I was the one who isolated herself, the quiet one, the one who stayed away. And she always let me.

One time in my early 30s, I had to have surgery for endometriosis. This is a diagnosis that doesn’t need major surgery these days, but in those days it meant a week in the hospital and six weeks at home. When I woke up a day after surgery she was sitting in a chair opposite me and although I’m sure this was part of the plan I couldn’t imagine how she had transported herself to my side. She had a bag of books or magazines or work papers with her and she was settled in and I knew that she wouldn’t leave. She stayed a week with me in the hospital and a week at home where she brought me soup and crackers in bed like it was nothing and she asked nothing. She always knew how to ask for nothing.

Later on, older and married again, I moved to another state and I was for some time unbearably sad and afraid of what I’d done. I called that time and asked if she would come for a visit.

“I was just waiting for you to ask,” she said.


When I go to a retreat somewhere new, the group of us, mostly strangers, sit with one another in a silent room for five or six or eight hours a day, and there isn’t any conversation. We sit in the quiet, and walk around in the quiet, and follow the schedule to show up at certain times and be quiet together again. And after awhile or certainly by the end you might realize that you have been sitting in a net, and that you are actually part of the net that’s holding you and everyone else up. After all that time and right before you go home you have the chance to speak. Someone will say something like this:

This is the first time I’ve ever done this. I had no idea what I was doing. I’ve read all of your books and they’ve helped me so much and I always told myself that if I ever had the chance I would come to one of your retreats and then I saw that you’d actually be here and I couldn’t believe it and I had to come.

There are usually tears by then and not much more to say, but so much more you can’t even say, and I want them to know everything my mother wanted me to know if I ever asked.

I’m here.

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  1. What a beautiful tribute to your mother. I too, am so blessed to have a mother and father who have always been there for me and would do anything for me that I needed. The net is a beautiful; image for me to hold and realize it is what we do and are for our loved ones and the world.

    Thank you, I enjoy your writing!

    Comment by Suzan — February 10, 2016 @ 8:55 am

  2. Oh Maezen, you so were definitely there when we sat.
    It was, and remains one of the most wonderful experiences of my life.
    Words fail.
    In gassho

    Comment by Marcea — February 10, 2016 @ 9:30 am

  3. Beautiful. Thank you.

    Comment by Sumangali Morhall — February 10, 2016 @ 9:32 am

  4. I wasn’t able to be there, but I was there, am always there, in the net woven by silence and presence. I thank you for holding your end of the net so exquisitely Maezen…

    Comment by Sharon — February 10, 2016 @ 9:39 am

  5. The tears haven’t stopped. Thank you.
    Always, thank you.

    Comment by Jean B — February 10, 2016 @ 1:48 pm

  6. How can a full-sized, adult, vibrant woman fit herself so completely into just a few letters of the alphabet?

    Comment by Bill — February 10, 2016 @ 3:01 pm

  7. And here are the tears..again. That’s EXACTLY what I said and felt, but in VA, not Mass. I thought I was the only one. Your words touch me so deeply. It’s comforting to know you are here and that you see me. That’s all I need to know.

    Comment by Stephanie — February 10, 2016 @ 3:28 pm

  8. Maezen—this was such a wonderful writing—telling how much love and kindness mean and how we are so connected to those we need as we grow and move away step by step.
    And ending with the fully alive and compassionate and full of love (and exact truth): “I’m here”

    Comment by daniel — February 10, 2016 @ 5:25 pm

  9. I love your metaphor of the net: not as a place to be trapped in, but as something that holds you up and provides support. I have never thought of it that way!
    And thank you for being you. It’s so, so good to know that you are here.
    In deep gassho.

    Comment by Ben Ming — February 10, 2016 @ 11:35 pm

  10. Maezen, This was the first thing I read when I woke up this morning — through tears — here in my mom’s house, where she is taking care of me because some complication after surgery has left me unable to walk without pain. She is 79, I’m 57, and we are both moving slowly, leaning on our canes. But she is here for me. As she always has been. There’s nothing better.

    Comment by Katrina Kenison — February 11, 2016 @ 4:10 am

  11. Oh, wow. I gasped. Yes. This reminds me of s couple of years ago when my mother was in the hospital and I was the one who just a at by the bedside. I was there. And it made me realize that’s what love and devotion really is.

    Comment by Lindsey — February 11, 2016 @ 5:14 am

  12. Yes. Just like my mom, just like me, just like my first retreat. Thank you, Maezen.

    Comment by Pam — February 11, 2016 @ 6:47 am

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