Category Archives: parenting and personhood

a still place, containing everything

 

moon“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy. ”
~Pema Chodron

 

 

I woke this morning in a dreamy fugue, not quite able to pull myself from the world of sleep into the bright one of legos and breakfast-making that awaited me.  In the kitchen, I danced with my son to this song while I cooked eggs and tried to push away a growing sense of nostalgia for a life that wasn’t mine.

There is something about this music that reminds me of the time I spent in New England, working on an organic flower farm that also offered yoga and sacred circle dance.  It was a long time ago, and the friendships I made there still bear fruit, but this nostalgia is not about that place.  It’s about something deeper than that.  It’s about a life built around the deeper spirit of things.  It’s about a life built around seeking, and mystery, and an overarching pattern that I fit within but can never encompass.

I’ve written about nostalgia before—here and here—but today wrapped its arms around me and reminded me that however often I come to this understanding, it will both elude and find me again. There is no endpoint to life.  It goes on and on, with its immense joys and unbearable losses. Things come together and they fall apart again. We never ‘arrive’ at happiness.

And yet–there is, always available to us, this deeper place of relating to life, this ever-present and invisible river of other lives, other experiences, those who came before and are yet to come.  There have been long stretches in my life when I lived more in that world than in this one. Lately, with the tasks there are to do, with time stretched thin between studies and work and children and projects and plans, I have mostly forgotten that there is more than today’s to-do list.

I danced with my son in the kitchen, and I cooked breakfast, and we walked to Meeting, pausing to look at the striated colors the rain had painted onto the path.  It was a beautiful morning, bright and warm, and my heart was full and ebullient as I readied myself for the silence.  Yet the moment I sat down, tears began to fill my eyes and drip onto my chest.  I played it cool and kept my breathing even, surreptitiously swiping at my eyes from time to time, unsure of the origins of this sorrow.

yvar3My youngest son looked up at me, puzzled, and asked why my eyes were crying.  I told him  I did not know.

The moment I spoke these words, I began to concoct theories.  I’m crying because I won’t see the boys for seven days.  I’m crying because I’m overwhelmed.  I’m crying because my grandmother is in pain and dying.  But I wasn’t listening to the reasons.  My heart knew.  It was bigger than that.

The tears kept falling, steadily, for over an hour.  People rose and spoke out of the silence of Meeting, sharing messages of loss, of the connection of community, of the beauty to be found in stillness.  I spoke too, worried my voice would quaver but unable to silence myself.  I spoke of the world of linear time and the world of presence just alongside us, always, infinite and containing everything.  I spoke of the sense that sometimes the boundaries between self and world blur, and I fall in love with the rise and fall of everything, the transience and beauty and impermanence of lives that have brushed mine and passed on.  I spoke of the gratitude I feel in these moments of supreme joy, walking in the sunlight with my children, even as I know they are growing and changing, as beautiful children are born, beloved elders die.

The sorrow ended as abruptly as it began, and we walked home laughing, but I’ve been tender all day.  I want to hold everything close and bathe it in my attention.  I want to understand why that song tugs at my heartstrings, I want to wrap my mind around the scope of all that I’ve lost and all the treasures I’ve experienced. I find myself wondering whether I will still be here in thirty years, wondering and wise, whether I will be strong enough on this path to put my hand on another’s shoulder and say ‘this is how it is, the daily struggles and losses, the small joys, and this is how it will be always, and that’s the beauty of it’.

I think about the ones who have done this for me, the ones who have really seen and opened my heart to seeing:  Rilke, and Teilhard de Chardin, and Hildegard von Bingen, all the ones whose names I don’t know who have felt this same shuddering beauty.  Where are they now?  When I think of this, I am not afraid of dying.  I love life so much, and yet I cannot fear to walk a path that these have walked before me.

The days go on, full of floors that need to be swept and dish drainers that need to be emptied; applications that must be filled out and nails that must be clipped; tires to inflate and battles to fight.  Each day marches forward from the last, bearing pain and ugliness and boredom and beauty and delight.

 And beneath all of it, always there:  this still place, containing everything.

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7 Comments

March 16, 2015 · 3:23 am

living the question

2014-12-05 12.21.43I have spent most of the past year gradually falling in love with one of the most patient and observant men I have ever known.    He is attentive, generous, creative, and wise.  One of the many gifts he has given me is a copy of Rilke’s Letters to a Young Poet (other gifts include earrings shaped like the dopamine molecule, a hand-hammered ring he crafted out of a quarter, numerous bouquets of flowers, and some of the most heartfelt and lovely works of poetry and art I’ve ever been privileged to look upon. I mention this to give you an inkling of the quality of man we are talking about here.  And also to preen a little.  Preen, preen.)

Right.  Anyway, one of the most famous passages of that beautiful book of Rilke’s is this one:

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

I cannot tell you how many times I have read this passage. So many times that, gradually, it has lost its power.  It has lost its power because I look at this quote and think “ah, Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet. Seen that.”  And the experience of these words gets filed away.  I already know.  So I deny myself the experience.

I have fallen in love before.  I have attended school before, participated in art therapy before, cooked stew before, celebrated my birthday before, taken trips overseas before.  Over time, it grows easier and easier to believe that I can never experience the delight and vibrance of this world in the way I did the first time.  It grows easier and easier to slot new experiences into pre-existing categories; easier and easier to take for granted things, people, and experiences  that once lit me up with gratitude.

It’s insidious, this having-of-answers.  I used to live on a tiny street in Culver City, near a school that had planted its borders with mexican marigold and lavender.  Every morning, walking to my bus stop, I’d crush a leaf or two in my fingers and sniff the sweet, heady scent all the way across Venice Boulevard. Sometimes I’d tuck a sprig into my pocket or behind my ear, where I could lift it to my nose throughout the day.  And then one morning, in a hurry, headed to an appointment with a person I loathed, I found myself at the bus stop with a fistful of crushed and withered leaves that I could not remember plucking or smelling.  This ritual of delight had become just another bullet point on my to-do list. I “knew” what lavender and mexican marigold could do for me, so I’d plucked them.  But I’d forgotten to have the experience.

I write this now because, as I entered into love this year, I had so many answers.  I’d been in love.  I knew what worked and what didn’t.  I knew what I wanted and whether I could realistically get it or not.

But this love has taken my answers from me one by one.  Slowly, begrudgingly, I have learned that I cannot apply the tricks and techniques and shortcuts that I learned in other relationships to this one. I have learned that  a) I know nothing about this love and b) that is a wonderful thing.  Sometimes it is very ugly, being me.  Sometimes it is the hardest, most awful, paralyzing-pulpy thing to admit that I have been wrong, that I do not know, that this experience I face is different than anything that has come before.  It takes extraordinary energy and raw nerve to live questions instead of answers.  It takes almost unimaginable courage to allow myself to be fully seen.

On the other side, though!  When I do take the deep breath and do the courageous thing, when I welcome this man into my life each day as a surprise and as an enigma, when I allow myself to stumble and show ineptitude and admit that I do not know, life grows so exquisitely vibrant.  There is a spectrum of experience, and when I narrow it to keep myself from experiencing the most intense suffering, I am also denied the most transformative joy. Slowly, I am relearning how to welcome all of life.

The dust accumulates in such subtle ways: the retelling of a story until all the feeling is worn out of it, the frustration at having to re-experience something I did not like the first time, the assumption that I already know how an apple tastes and that this apple can hold nothing new.  I think this is the way that we can wake up, eventually, and feel as though we are no longer alive.

Sometimes it is easier to keep my head down and deaden myself to experience—sometimes there is so much to do that tasting the apple feels like one task too much.  But when I am walking down the hall after tucking my children into bed and they call after me “we love you the MOST!”  I want to hear it every time.  It is no less beautiful for having been said several hundred times before. I don’t want to deaden myself to it.  I don’t want to stop hearing it when the man I love says I love you.

This man that I love, loves me.  That is the newest, most surprising, most fantastically beautiful feeling I have ever experienced.  I don’t ever want to teach myself to take it for granted.  I don’t ever want to teach myself that I know this already. I don’t want any answers.

I know I will forget, again, to read the words Rilke wrote instead of saying, “oh yeah, Rilke.” I know there will be nights that I stride down the hall preoccupied with all there is to accomplish, not hearing the “We love you the MOST!” that follows me from the boys’ room.  And I want to welcome this, too—-gently welcome this mistake-making, this not-hearing—as part of the question I live every day.

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Evening

Slowly the evening puts on the garments
held for it by a rim of ancient trees;
you watch: and the lands divide from you,
one going heavenward, one that falls;

and leave you, to neither quite belonging,
not quite so dark as the house sunk in silence,
not quite so surely pledging the eternal
as that which grows star each night and climbs-

and leave you (inexpressibly to untangle)
your life afraid and huge and ripening,
so that it, now bound in and now embracing,
grows alternately stone in you and star.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke ~

11 Comments

Filed under masculine & feminine, parenting and personhood, poetry, Uncategorized

talking to people

imageRecently my son and I attended a week of surf camp.  We had an incredible time swimming all day, gathering seashells, meeting with old friends and new, and yes, even catching some waves. In the afternoons we learned about the wider ecosystem of the beach we were surfing on, attending talks by the Cape Fear Riverkeeper and the founder of the Plastic Oceans Project and participating in rain garden maintenance with the Coastal Federation.

The Plastic Ocean Project slideshow affected my son profoundly.  After showing us some of the damaging effects plastics have on the turtles, fish, mammals, and birds of the ocean, and reminding us that the ocean is ‘downhill from everywhere’, Bonnie explained that one simple way to take action is to refuse a plastic straw at restaurants.

My son became an anti-straw zealot on the spot. And since we’ve been on the road visiting family for the past week, he’s had plenty of restaurants to practice his policy on. At first I was pleased and proud of his new social conscience, though I know that straws are quite literally the tip of the iceberg-sized plastics problem, but lately I’ve been noticing something disturbing. Every time we enter a restaurant he not only refuses a straw, but then proceeds to judge everyone who DOES use one. “Look at that man”, he’ll whisper. “He used TWO straws, one for his water and one for his tea.  He doesn’t care about the sea turtles at ALL.”

And it struck me that this is the same subtle ‘othering’ that can lead one population to kill another simply because it has unfamiliar values, or an unintelligible language, or a different skin tone.  It’s the same ‘othering’ that can make us view the children of ‘others’ not as laughing, vivid, crazy-making-straw-refusing humans, but as collateral damage.

Bonnie’s work with the Plastic Ocean Project is all about collaboration:  building bridges between the soft and hard sciences, between academics and puppeteers, between chemistry and biology students, in the name of rethinking our concept of garbage. I was especially struck by the tone of positivity and enthusiasm she brought into the room, the excitement engendered by this collaborative solution-building.

Which made it all the more glaring when my son took this message of inclusiveness and turned it into divisiveness. Most painful of all, however, was awakening to a pervasive tendency of divisiveness in myself. This family-visiting road trip has been incredibly instructive for me. Extended family members who had dwindled to nothing more than a few political sound bites and snapshots on Facebook have become flesh-and-blood humans again. I’ve been forced to step away from my comfortable little tribe of like-mindeds and associate with ‘others’.  And I’ve been reminded of something very important. Fear and hatred are powerful motivators, to be sure. When I see stats on what my country’s policies are doing to oceans and children, I am galvanized into action. But the actions I am galvanized into doing tend to promote the same kind of ‘othering’ that allows us to deport children and destroy entire species without compunction. I get fanned into a furor of me vs. them. ‘Them’ being anyone whose sound bites do not match my own.

This is why I tend not to post political articles or opinions on Facebook–I’ve learned that if my little sound bite is going to change someone’s opinion, then the next sound bite that comes along is just as likely to change it back. All I’m doing is preaching to the choir or being inflammatory, and the last thing I want to be doing is engendering more divisiveness.  But I have noticed that I judge other people by their sound bites. I make snap judgments, I dismiss whole humans or assign them into ‘my’ or ‘their’ camp, based on a skimming of my newsfeed.

I’ve been reading a book called mindwise by Nicholas Epley, a psychologist who studies the way we read people.  Turns out, when we try to take the perspective of others, we are often wrong. Turns out, if you want to know what someone is thinking or feeling, the most accurate way to find out is to ask them. Which requires us to talk to people.  It’s a lot harder to dismiss someone you’re eating dinner with than it is to dismiss them over Facebook from several hundred miles away

Last month I learned that during the deadly 1854 cholera outbreak in London, when the disease kept spreading and people kept dying and no one could figure out why people were getting sick, one man, Dr. John Snow, thought to interview the sick families to discover what they had in common. He discovered, through talking to people, that all of the sick people were drinking water from a single pump on Broad Street. And then he performed an elegantly simple behavioral intervention: he broke off the pump handle. And thus ended the deadly cholera outbreak of 1854.

So I’ve been thinking about John Snow and political sound bites and plastic straws and extended family. And it seems to me that any lasting, effective change any of us hope to make will have to be rooted in a different paradigm than the reigning one of us vs. them. The kind of change we need is planetary, because the mistakes we’ve made are planetary in scope. We can’t afford to be divisive anymore. We need to talk to people. We need to figure out where they’re coming from, what needs and hopes and desires their actions rise from. We’re going to have to see even the most inflammatory of the ‘others’ as human, and we’re going to have to be smart enough to come up with ideas that make it easy, even desirable, to change.

Another collaborative solution Bonnie mentioned besides foregoing straws was incentivizing the return of plastics for upcycling into fuel. Apparently, there remain a few companies whose patents haven’t been bought out by big oil (see the othering I did there? Betcha there are families in ‘big oil’ that love to surf and care about sea turtles too, whose employment choices were the complicated result of circumstances I can’t even begin to fathom) who recycle used plastic into usable fuel. Imagine if there were plastic-return centers where anyone could bring waste plastics in for conversion to fuel and be paid by the pound for their efforts–if waste plastic were worth something I doubt there’d be so much of it lying around waiting to float out to sea. That’s a pretty great breaking-the-pump-handle intervention right there–making it easy to do the ‘right’ thing.

It reminds me of desire lines in Permaculture design. We have a species-wide instinct-driven inclination to take the easy route.  Parks the world over have bare patches worn into the grass where hordes of people have ignored the visually appealing, curving pathways to take the shortest distance between points. If the pump handle is broken, you’ll get your water elsewhere. But we won’t know what the desire lines are, which pump handle to target, why the behaviors exist, until we talk to people.

I heard an interview with the amazing Israeli musician Idan Raichel recently. He spoke about the heartbreaking situation in the Middle East in terms I’d never heard before. He spoke about exposing Israelis to the music and theater and art of the Palestinian people. To paraphrase: ‘If everyone is clamoring to open the borders so that they can hear their favorite musician perform, if art-lovers petition for checkpoints to open so the artists they’ve been hearing so much about can come through from Lebanon and Jordan and Palestine and Syria, the rigid lines of politics will soften and we’ll all just be humans, making change on a human scale.’  In other words, if we learn to see the people we fear and hate as people, if we learn by interacting and listening and talking with them that they are similar to, even valuable to us, our behavior toward them will change.

Which is is why we can’t afford fear- and anger-based interventions. If we want to build change on the level that change is required, we need to talk to people–the way that Bonnie does, the way Dr. Snow did, the way Idan Raichel proposes.  We simply can’t afford to ‘other’ each other any more.

 

6 Comments

July 27, 2014 · 2:34 pm

dandelion drift

2014-05-01 10.44.23I am drinking locust-blossom elixir.  I’ve been drinking it all morning, and contrary to the assertions of the marvelous Doug Elliott (from whom I learned to make the stuff) it is QUITE intoxicating.

Though, to be fair, the giddiness started the moment I walked the boys to school through groves of blooming locust trees this morning, and was fairly advanced before I ever took a sip of the blossom-infused water.  I had not expected the locusts to be in bloom yet—I spent last week in Boone, where the trees are only in the precontemplative phase of leafing out (sorry, counseling joke)—so I used my travel mug to carry home handfuls of the blossoms. Carrying a coffee mug filled with frothy flowers is like holding the poetic precursor to a latte.  I got a lot of smiles. (Smiles were a theme—the smilacina racemosa has come out, lining the path through the forest, and the boys were nibbling new sprouts of smilax on their way to school.)

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It was too beautiful to go straight home. I stopped at my friend’s house first, to talk with her about an expressive arts workshop she is putting on this weekend, and then it seemed to me Randall Jarrell would appreciate the scent of locust flowers, so I visited him too.

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And eventually, as I always do, I ended up in the meadow.  I love this meadow.  Last week, I even found myself sitting in its tall grasses near midnight with a lit candelabra (I was walking home from joy circle, so naturally I had a candelabra), looking at stars. Life is good in a meadow at midnight with a candelabra.

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This time of year, the meadow is brimful of dandelions, and I had just signed up to bring four dozen cookies to my son’s end-of-kindergarten picnic, so I improvised a pouch and started collecting petals for dandelion cookies.  My hands are already stained turmeric-yellow from gathering gallons of dandelion blooms in Boone yesterday; those will become infused oil and medicinal tincture, but today’s dandelions are for pure delight.

 

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This whole morning was for pure delight.  The scent of locust in bloom, slow time to gather dandelions, watching my children chase geese and pick up tulip poplar flowers and discover lily-of-the-valley for the first time. Conversations with friends and dead poets, fields of nodding flowers, sipping blossom elixir, the scent of baking cookies.  My inspiring friend Briana just wrote a beautiful blog about drifting for pleasure, and that is what this morning was, a long slow drift of delight. (Even the cookies drifted over the edges of their pan a little bit!)

What a wonderful gift, time simply to absorb any pleasure, any inclination for delight, that might be blossoming at the edges of consciousness.

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2014-05-01 11.23.07(Another incredibly creative and inspiring friend, Laura, taught me to document these moments–her feedback is always along the lines of “hmm, great story, WHERE ARE THE PICTURES?” Thank you Laura. This blog’s for you, baby.)

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Dandelion Drift Cookies2014-05-01 12.47.09

2 egg whites

1/4 tsp. cream of tartar

1/2 tsp vanilla

1 c. raw sugar

1 c. shredded coconut

1 c. dandelion petals, calyx removed

Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and vanilla until they froth.  Add the sugar a tablespoon at a time and continue beating until the whites are stiff, but not dry.  Fold in the coconut and dandelion (you can use all dandelion instead, but it takes a looooooong time to gather 2 cups of petals, and then what are you going to make oil and wine and tincture and vinegar with??) and drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets.  Bake at 300 for 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

(Note on gathering: make sure the area you are gathering in has not been sprayed and is not near a roadside or a frequent pitstop for pets.  Leave a few open flowers for the bees. After you’ve gathered the dandelions, let them sit in a basket outside for a while so the critters can jump ship.)

Now go visit Doug to learn how to make locust blossom elixir, and Briana to giggle with unfolding joy, and Laura for complete creative inspiration!

 

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5 Comments

May 1, 2014 · 6:44 pm

keep the old

old friends

I have known Zoe and Sarah since I was thirteen years old. On my first day of boarding school, sitting high on the third floor of that ancient brick building and trying very hard not to cry, I saw someone turning cartwheels on the lawn.  It took every shred of my bravery to go out and introduce myself to that free spirit, but it turned out to be Sarah.  She made me laugh right away. She’s inspired infinite bravery and laughter since.

Zoe was a sophomore, impossibly beautiful in glittery ska pants and plastic butterfly rings. It took me longer to acquire the courage necessary to speak with Zoe (she was a SOPHOMORE) but soon we were writing poetry back and forth, dancing in cornfields and trying to reach each other in dreams from across the hall.

The three of us wrote letters, real ones, all the way through college and after.  Sarah’s letter to me from a farm she was working on in France saved my skin once when, hitchhiking through Scotland, I ran out of money and had no place to stay. I called my mother, as one does, and she told me there was a letter waiting for me from Sarah.  I asked her to read it to me over the phone, and soon I was herding goats with Sarah in France.

Another time Zoe, back in Pennsylvania from the life she’d found in Australia, walked with me through cow pastures and balanced on trees over the Brandywine.  I’d just returned from the Middle East and was brimful of self-righteous politics.  Zoe was sitting on a fence post as we watched the sun set over a field near her mother’s home.  She stretched languidly and said “Lissa, for a pacifist you sure fight yourself a lot.”

I held on to that beautiful bit of insight for a long, long time.  Old friends, the real ones who know you through and through—they say hard things some times.  At times it feels easier not to be around them.  When I was barely holding on in California, when my marriage was falling apart and my life felt so constricted that it was hard even to draw breath, I cut off my family and friends.  I stopped returning Sarah’s calls and Zoe’s letters.  But they never stopped calling and writing.  They each found ways to show up at my door, all the way across the country.  And they continued to hold a mirror up to my life, much as I did not want to look.

Four years ago we decided–I forget how, it must have been divine inspiration!–to gather at Sarah’s family property in upstate New York.  We built wood-fired saunas and cooked elaborate feasts and swam in the lakes and sunned along the rivers, drank wine and laughed and wrote and reunited.  I remembered how large life is.  We all wrote about that experience on Sarah’s wonderful blog The Perspective Project.

We’ve met each year since. Each year felt different–one year, we were hosted by a dear friend on Nantucket in a palatial guest house, taken for ornate dinners and given free run of a jaw-droppingly well-supplied art studio.  We were all knee-deep in our own painful crises that year. To be so well taken care of felt like a drink of cool water in the midst of a punishing marathon.

Another time we gathered at Zoe’s place in Boston.  We made paper and kombucha and body butter and lip balm. We sang karaoke in a tiny Japanese bar.  And we laughed.  There is always so much laughter.

This year, Sarah and Zoe came to Boone. We had all reached a place of relative equilibrium.  The arc of this friendship covers so much–at first you do not notice the changes, but then suddenly here is Zoe, the freespirited poet and world traveler, opening her own acupuncture and shiatsu practice.  And Sarah, artist/writer/wit/cartwheel turner, a college professor.  Both here, in my world, thickening the thin places, weaving the loose ends back in.

oldfriends

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We have all changed.  But when we are together, the thirteen-year-olds are here too.  And the seventeen-year-olds. And, I think, the seventy-year-olds.  The past overflows into the present, and the present feels velvety with depth.

We sat on my sunny porch and did Johari Windows together, and enneagram tests.  One of the questions was this: does your life feel permeated by a sense of longing?  Unequivocally yes, we answered.  And thinking about this, it became clear to me:  this life has been so full.  Each of us has traveled so far, been so many things to so many people, tried on so many roles and languages and ways of being.  No one place can hold us anymore.  No matter where we are, there will be a longing for some aspect of our Self that cannot be held by that moment.

And yet, when we three are together, there is a broadness greater than the sum of our individual selves. When we are together, there is no part of me that is not fed.  We are big enough to hold it all.

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I look at my changing friends—the laughter lines (so much laughter!), the odd gray hairs, the incremental and transcendently lovely beginnings of self-acceptance—and I see myself.  That mirror is held up yet again and, seeing my friends, I see myself.  I see how brokenness heals, how some things remain immutable and some shift endlessly.  I see how age brings rare joy and wisdom as well as heartbreak.  I see how large this life is.

Being loved like this, by old friends, there is nothing like it.  Sometimes I wish they did not know me so well, it’s true, sometimes I feel called onto the carpet by issues I thought I’d resolved with puberty.  But until I am surrounded by old friends I forget how much energy I spend each day trying to be acceptable, trying to be liked.  With Sarah and Zoe, there is no question of being acceptable or liked–that question was settled long ago.  All of that energy is released outward, sizzling into art, and dance, and life, and laughter. Dear friends.  New friends teach me how much I can expand, the beautiful and haunting potential held by this life.  But the old ones—ahh, the old ones remember what I AM.  What WE ARE. What we have always been.  And that is big enough to hold everything.

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this is a poem i wrote after the visit of another old friend (rob, your time is coming!!)–but it seems to fit here.

an old friend’s visit

continuing: remaining seen

there was a thread undone,

now woven in

and there is freedom here,

in being known

a freedom anonymity can’t own

continuing a thing!

o it is strange

that there is one who calls me by my name

.

7 Comments

November 20, 2013 · 2:37 am

mastery

Raking Leaves

I have had so many chances to observe myself lately.  Perhaps the most obvious was an assignment, recently completed for a counseling techniques class, in which I  ‘counseled’ a fellow student for a half-hour, videotaping the whole time. I was to use the session to demonstrate the skills I’ve been learning, making a certain number of responses from each of several prescribed categories.

Watching the video later, I was struck by how quickly I’d forgotten the prescribed responses, how immediately I’d been absorbed in my friend’s story.  The first few moments there’d been a struggle in my head between attentive listening and careful attention to the assignment.  Listening won, hands down.  I could not hold that tension in my mind between complete presence and detached focus. Continue reading

8 Comments

October 29, 2013 · 2:34 am

a rant.

"Reserved for Parents with Screaming Kids...

In class today, one of my professors related a story:  he was attending a psychological conference with a counselor from another country.  While there, she attended a forum on motherhood and was struck by its negative tone.

“Tell me,” she asked him over dinner, “why do American women hate motherhood so much?”

Please understand before you read the following rant why exactly this question hit me so hard.  I am living a double life, attending graduate school three days a week and returning home to my children for four.  I am trying to make all of it work: job, studies, motherhood, selfhood.  I am drowning in every area and yet I know—with every way I have of knowing!— that I am on the right path. I know that the worst possible thing I could do to my children would be to abandon myself.  And yet I have been accused of abandoning them.  It is an impossible, constant tightrope walk. Continue reading

16 Comments

September 25, 2013 · 4:07 am