Category Archives: family

After You Left

Shortly after we dropped our daughter off at her new college dorm she asked if I missed her. In response I sent her the 14 poems I had written to help me cope with her leaving. Later these poems became the seed that grew into my book Letting Go and New Beginnings: A Mother’s Poetic Journey.I also included the poems from when her older brother went off to college and photographs I took of the campus. I realized that when one phase of life ends, another begins and those poems are part of the story as well.

I thought it was finished in 2006, but more poems came when our two children returned home like many of their generation. All of us were adjusted to our separate lives and had to adjust to living together. And then, once again, the leaving.

It is a mystery why certain poems pop into my head years later, but this one has been quite insistent lately. Perhaps it is the opening lines…

For you, here is this poem from Letting Go and New Beginnings:

2/24/08

After You Left

Constantly
I am watching out for you.
Even when I am not watching,
I am watching.

I cannot say why this is true
or when it began,
it feels like forever
my love.

So do me a great favor
and become…not less carefree
nor less careless,
nor even more careful,

for being full of care
is not it exactly.
Be more aware of your choices,
more in tune with your inner wisdom.

For you are wise
dear one.

And if I am selfish
and want you to stay with me
when it is clearly time to go,
forgive…

and go.
Call me when you arrive.
I will be waiting.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
Copyright 2008

Inspired by Tom Prasada-Rao

Heading Back Home by Margaret Dubay Mikus, Copyright 2015

For me, the past year has been a “Twilight Zone” of one medical crisis after another—a new “surprise” before I’d even healed from the last one. From heart problems, possibly related to cancer treatment 23 years ago (with talk of a pacemaker) to 6 excision biopsies and 4 subsequent surgeries for melanoma, with an extreme allergy to the hypoallergenic tape, which caused blistering of my skin. Extended vertigo. I was hit by a motorcycle (no serious injury). A kidney stone (not my first, not the usual composition) led to a sudden jump in blood pressure. The procedure blasting the stone, went awry due to an equipment malfunction, which led to a whole array of ongoing problems including, bizarrely, a strained knee, which months later, is still debilitating. Interspersed with a sprinkling of other “issues” just for spice.

Not to whine or complain, but really? As it turns out, I’m doing ok. One moment at a time, remembering to breathe. Remembering I have healing tools and support. Remembering to ask for help.

Over and over again help has come to dig me out of the depths. My loving husband stepped up big time. Very few days have we both lost our “cool” in all this mess. Family and friends and my support team kept me going. Doctors who listen. Nature to rebalance. Books to escape with. Music to uplift. And the moving stories of others going through their own big-time challenges.

Tom Prasada-Rao is a gifted musician with a healing story. He is a lovely singer/songwriter who went through major cancer surgery this past winter. He wrote about it on Facebook, showing a photo of his long scar. Normally I don’t really care for post-surgery photos, but his story and attitude about his “bad ass scar” “increasing his street cred” was potent healing medicine for me as I headed into more of my own surgeries.

These are the 3 poems inspired by Tom and his music and courageous, loving, healing presence. My heartfelt thanks, Tom Prasada-Rao!

2/4/19

“Badass Scar”

Thank you Tom Prasada-Rao
for changing my anxious mind
in one heartfelt line
about your long surgery
and re-emergence into the light

As I face another visible scar
another 2 surgeries, not nearly
as complex or dangerous as yours
my troubles lightened and lifted
a smile appeared, no lie

Each scar—of the many—
a badge of survival
And the pain that comes still
even after months of healing
is nothing to what could have been

if cancer had won.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

2/13/19

Wounded Healer

of T P-R

Sometimes
stay very still
in one place
quietly breathing
and listen.
It is hard and
it is your job
to receive.
Not at some point
to restore or resume
or even to refresh
but to find
the new threads to weave
and then follow them out
of persistent darkness.
Tell your honest story
invite in those needing comfort
not to rebuild what was, but
to create who you are becoming.
To trust more
to be patient more than ever before.
To befriend darkness
to release and reveal.
To fully inhabit
this body with scars
measured in miles
in tears, in fears.
To go away, to dive deep
and come back
deeper still
loving.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

2/23/19

Doing Healing Work

from Tom and Eric and Karla
who have never met as far as I know

The hardest
when traveling
through and past
abject darkness
it to not become
dark
soaked in it
through and through
no matter how
it may damage you
and then spraying dark all around you
unaware, even unwilling.
No
I tell you true
do not choose to
go behind that door
in this life game show
we are creating.
Even if a dark dip
choose love
choose light.
Begin with you
let dark slide off you
“like water off a duck’s back”
as my mother used to say
to her sensitive daughter.
Or let dark overtake
temporarily, feel fully
and remember to release.
Or find your own metaphor
your own goal to aim for.
No matter what has happened
is happening
let go of fear
let go of mindlessness
remember you are a wondrous healer
think of all the scrapes and bruises
you no longer have, inside and out.
You are headed somewhere.
And if this is it
this black bottomless pit
where no light escapes or enters
remember
this is not who you are
only where you are.
Find a bird singing somewhere
or a leaf falling in the flowing river.
Find a cloud of any shape or color
or a clear cloudless depth of azure sky.
Find a song that uplifts
already written or write your own
maybe from your re-formation.
Look anywhere, there is a thread
or beginning of an idea of a thread
that can be woven into
a rope to shape into a ladder
to climb back out on.
Not avoiding the rich loam of life
the shell or armor of protection
as if nothing harsh or fatal
will get out or in
but consider
allowing the possibility of
transformation and transcendence.
Without change there is no growth
without growth there is no life.
Why else did you come?

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2019

One more bit of inspiration by Tom:
Although I’ve often read my poems to groups of people, it took years for me to record my first poem-video—just after my birthday in 2014. I was painfully shy about it. My willingness to make that first recording was inspired in part by Tom Prasada-Rao and his deeply heartfelt songs that he posted on Facebook. (I now have almost 70 poem-videos on my YouTube channel.)
Here is the blog post with my reading of that first poem, “I Know That.”

Or is you prefer, you can go directly to YouTube:
“I Know That”—on YouTube

Photos of the Children

6/10/18

Photos of the Children

from many stories posted on Facebook

I refuse to be sad and helpless
as my only human choice
I refuse to be angry
burning to impotent cinders
when I see the children
lined up in orange rows
stripped of mothers, protectors
young innocents in cages
When I see freight cars
mentioned in titles
clearly to remind
I refuse to be hopeless
Every day, something…
some kindness, some donation
a call, a signature, a conversation
some antidote to poison
even to remember who I am
who we are
I have lived this long
and refuse the comfort of
numbness or amnesia
What is being cruelly done
to dismantle, to diminish,
to disturb, to disrupt
to lead to apocalypse, I refuse
to go along with that narrative
a story whose ending is yet unwritten
I cannot undo what is being done. I am one
I cannot re-weave what is deliberately torn
but we can, everyone
bring to this pot luck what gifts we can
We can keep each other
from cliff’s edge of despair
not soak in hatred and fear
We can transform the energy
we are immersed in into love
that unconditional endless food
undiminished by grasping greed
true power to heal…
yes, even this.

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2018

I responded viscerally to the photos of children, some quite young, taken from their parents who were trying to come into this country, many seeking asylum. Some children were in cages or lined up in orange prison garb or held inside a dark building. They had no legal representation, no one to speak for them. I had to write something or explode.

Let the Truth Be Known

IL Route 22, Sept. 2017, copyright MDMikus

I’m normally a pretty high energy person, an optimist. For a while I’ve not posted new poems (maybe one), nor written much. My energy’s been very low and I was mostly on hold. Every day I would try to do something. Maybe bike 10 minutes or get a load of wash done. Maybe just take my medications on time, eat healthy meals. Hang out with my husband. Breathe, drink enough water. This was not depression, which I recognize.

Because I am who I am, I tried to figure this out, made a list of fatigue factors. Tried to find what I could do about any of them. Slowly I am edging back to what feels like normal for me. Today was a good day.

I’m not saying any of this to get suggestions, and I appreciate your concern, truly. There are some things in life I can’t do anything about and I hate that (as Anne Lamott says). My youngest sister, Dorothy, is dealing with stage 4 aggressive breast cancer and has for almost 5 years. She is ten years younger than me. I was kind of a second mother and we are still close. Over the years I’ve done a lot of writing to help both of us. And I can support her in some ways, but I cannot fix this and the stress of it affects all of us.

I believe in healing. I have experienced profound body, mind, spirit healing for myself…more than once. And I also know there is much mystery in what happens, to whom, and why.

Dorothy has helped a lot of people in these 5 years. As she goes through the medical world, she spreads around what she learned from me about guided imagery, homeopathy, energy work (like acupuncture and reiki) etc. Her current oncologist encourages her to get massage and reiki etc. because it helps her feel better and thus do better. She’s shared my poems with her support group and taught me a lot. (She really likes “cupping” for pain–do you remember the Olympic athletes who used it?) She hugs everyone (a family trait).

One way I’ve learned to deal with anxiety of all types is to be grounded and in the present moment. “Right here. Right now” I say, even aloud sometimes.

Writing is coming back which feels wonderful, like I am coming back into myself. Here is a recent poem prompted by a video of an interview of Patti Smith. The poem reminded me there is always a context to what goes on all around me–the big picture, the cycles, the mystery of it all.

9/21/17

Let the Truth Be Known

After an Interview with Patti Smith
Posted on Facebook by Jan Krist

If I could tell you
truthfully
knowing what I know
the facts, the narrative arcs…

if I could say to you
eye to eye
unblinking
no fingers crossed—
however unlikely it seems
now
looking around
reading as much as I can bear
and stay sane
and still sleep at night

I would say:
It all works out
Not as some Pollyanna
apple-cheeked naivete but
I trust—on some level—
all is well and all shall be well

I do not know the details
I barely, barely know my place in it
on a single day
but I know that in this
pervasive dark
under the most abhorrent rocks
as truth is revealed
as what was wounded
in need of healing
comes to light
at first shocking but
as with many things
light and air and revelation
heals
and hope keeps breaking through
as others find answers
to the insoluble problems

I do not have to know it all
I do have to hold a space
for transformation to take place
encouraging, welcoming, embracing, accepting
the whole becoming
what it could be—

you and me…
we…

Margaret Dubay Mikus
© 2017

58–“This Is the Moment I Have” from “As Easy As Breathing”

Granada, Spain at Night by M D Mikus, Copyright 2005

“This Is the Moment I Have

not tomorrow
with its joy or sorrow….”

From the poem, “This Is the Moment I Have,” in my book, As Easy As Breathing: Reclaiming Power for Healing and Transformation. Listen here: https://youtu.be/DAdusMHbQ2Y

I wrote this in 1997 shortly after cancer treatment (surgery, chemo, radiation), thus the reference to “face topped by hair.” And following the healing from multiple sclerosis refers to “standing on two strong legs.” Though it was prompted by specific circumstances, I think of this poem often in my life now: “How often am I actually here…in this only moment I have?”

For more poem videos in the series

Track 25 on Full Blooming CD