toxicity, part III: legacy

my sister’s lake

You know how when someone pisses you off, like really bad, and suddenly, everyone else around you appears that much sweeter… and you find yourself immersed in a new found appreciation for the people you took for granted…

That’s where our family was a week ago after an unexpected, but predictable, and yet no less painful, drama, enacted by an extended family member with our oldest son.

In the brunt of this storm, we held on tightly to each other, and buoyed ourselves with compassion and connection and alliance.

Later that evening, my youngest came into my office, and draped himself over my shoulders. “Thank you,” he said.

“For what?” I asked, as I wrapped my arms around his.

“For you and dad,” he said.  “For not bringing the pain of your childhoods into our family.”

I sighed, and suggested that he might feel differently by the time he’s an adult, and then I stood up to meet him in a full embrace.

Hours later, when his older brother came to my bedside and kissed my forehead goodnight, he echoed the same appreciation.

“Well done.” he said.

I looked up quizzically.

“You raised me without all that crap.”

Wait until you’re thirty and in therapy, I almost said, but then I paused, and took in his recognition, and said, Thank you, and then announced, as much to myself:  “It was hard work!”

I went on to catalogue all the ways in which I’d cultivated consciousness from the time I was his age… Al-Anon, therapy, reading, writing, yoga, meditation. “It never ends,” I said. “Pass it on.”

He smiled and nodded, familiar with my expectations on this account.

As a family we hadn’t made it through this night alone. At the height of the pain at our kitchen table, I hit the pause button. I asked, “Can I call for a lifeline?” My son reluctantly agreed.

A half-hour later, he hung up the phone, at ease. He didn’t send that second email. We all breathed a sigh of relief. (I sent my sister a quick thank you.)

Robin lives on a private lake. It’s become a family refuge over the years. A place for gatherings and heart to hearts and silent communes with nature, and the occasional family meltdown at a holiday or reunion.

Before she bought the property, however, it had been an abandoned and young people gathered there to party. (Even some of our friends back in the day.) Robin still lets the fishermen come, but she’s long since turned away the four-wheelers and the campfires and the broken beer bottles. Even so, the lake and the beaches and the woods continued to unearth old pieces of trash or broken glass despite the seasons attending to what was left behind.

Which brings me to our parents.
And their legacy.

It was my father’s admonition that I choose a career based on the best contribution I could make–which led me to the pursuit of consciousness above all else.

And it was my mother’s devotion to consciousness–in daily practice–alongside her sobriety–which showed me how.

And it was their combined unconsciousness, and that of their parents before them, that taught me the consequence of forgoing it.

What I now find so absolutely amazing–beyond how the patterns of toxicity and pain perpetuate themselves into the next generation–is choice.

My sister might have decided against building beside that neglected lake. Instead she took trash bags on her walks, and we’ve reaped the benefit of her attention and perseverance.

On the morning after our family realized just how much we appreciated who we were together (and who were weren’t), I remember feeling stunned that I felt so crappy.

“What happened to all the love and clarity,” I moaned, as I dragged myself through the day–agitated with residue.

The answer came in the recollection of a title from a favorite read a few years back:

After the Ecstasy, the Laundry

So I grabbed a bag, and got started.
86b272bc_original

(See posts I & II: Loved Ones: a meditation on toxicity;
and A meditation on toxicity, Part II.)

An advance resource for toxicity:
This came in my inbox just as I hit save on this post!
How to clear your sinuses and your emotional baggage.

a meditation on toxicity, part II

lion-face
Embroidery and graphite on fabric by Ana Teresa Barboza

Over the weekend, I wrote–Loved Ones: a meditation on toxicity–and was surprised to see so many readers drawn in, particularly on a Saturday night.

I wrote about the sluggishness that came in the aftermath of my son’s initiation… into the family… tragedy. But I didn’t explain that I was equally weighed down by the residue of a respiratory infection. Loitering congestion. In my ears and throat and lymph nodes.

I realize now that this led me to the provocative image that I chose for the piece–or that chose me. After the piece was published, the image continued to play with my consciousness as I found myself responding to a request on Facebook:

Ok, Saturday-night-stay-in’s – if you post a picture i will write a poem about it. Just say, “Hi dug- pic poem, please.”

Kelly Salasin’s Kill Strategy
a pic poem by dug Nap
(For Kelly)

Anytime she’s
not so sure
kelly always goes
for the jugular

I was stunned by the violence of this tiny piece. Had the artist read my article? Was he judging me? Why hadn’t he taken a scientific angle on this anatomic study–which could have been on the kitchen table, on any given morning, of my childhood, before my father left for the operating room.

When I went in to see the doctor last week, she put me on the table, and massaged down my throat, coaxing toxins from my lymph nodes.

I hadn’t realized that I was so filled.
With rage.
Until my son read a single line from the email he received.
(He refused to let me here more.)

I grabbed his laptop. I pleaded:

“Please don’t respond again. She’ll only be more venomous. She can’t handle boundaries.”

My son was amused by my passion. He insisted that I didn’t need to worry.

I shared the spontaneous visions that were occurring in my mind’s eye on his behalf:

Tearing flesh with fanged teeth.

Ripping jugular veins as a three-headed beast.

Becoming a thousand insects, devouring her brain.

Faced with the mythical proportions of his mother’s protective instinct, he turned toward his father:

“Where are your feelings,” he demanded.

“I am so used to this,” my husband explained.

“But she cc-ed you on the Goddamn email,” he said. “She fucking invited you to watch as she kicked your son in the face.”

My husband remained silent.

I was quieted by my inability to help.

We went to bed numb.

As I settled under the covers, it occurred to me that my vision could potentially injure the Other, so I mustered metta to send to the One who had attacked my child.

A week has past, but the meditation on toxicity continues to force itself into another day. This morning, a Mary Oliver line comes to mind:

Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this too, was a gift.

My gift is knowing that a boundary was crossed. Long ago. In my own family of origin. And I failed to defend it.

benzank-400x391My husband’s gift is the understanding that he never learned that boundaries were possible–among loved ones–from whom he must claim where he begins… and they end.

Our son wasn’t angry with either of us.
He was simply sad.
He wanted to understand:

How had we lived our entire lives without ever saying:

No.

~

(The previous post: Loved Ones: a meditation on toxicity.
(The post after this one: toxicity, part III: legacy.)

Loved Ones~a meditation on toxicity


If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.
.
~from the film, Spotlight

tumblr_inline_nj63utBL1v1t1jx1j

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field.
I’ll meet you there.

~Rumi

This month I’ve been forced into a meditation on toxicity. That which surrounds me, and that inside me.

For most of my life, I’ve been graceful, or silently resentful, or a septic combination of both.

Boundaries blurred. Feelings compromised. Self enmeshed.

This week my son showed me something distinctly different.

An elder dumped on him–wrote hurtful things–and he owned what needed owning; and then, he put up his hand. He said:  “No.”

He knew where he ended and she began.

I was amazed.

“Look at that,” I said to my husband, “That’s something.”

Despite his clear boundaries, he wasn’t unfazed. “My room seems cold and bare tonight,” he told us. We patted our bed to offer him space, but he’s 20. He went to sleep alone.

The next morning, he moved on with his life, while I slogged through the day with residue. The night before I had been surprisingly calm. I listened intently–leaving ample room for his feelings. There were visions while he spoke however. But they came of their own accord…

Tearing flesh with fanged teeth.

Ripping jugular veins as a three-headed beast.

Becoming a thousand insects, devouring her brain.

Grace.

He was going to write her off. I encouraged pause.

“I’m not used to toxic people in my life,” he said, “I don’t need them.”

I was amazed.

“Listen to that,” I said to my husband, “That’s something.”

When we were his age, we took it all in. Harbored others pain and hurt. As if it was ours.

Our son knows the taste of pure water, and he knew this wasn’t it.

We were proud.

We had a lot to learn.

From him.
~

click here for: a meditation on toxicity, part II

resources for toxicity:

of discerning between grace and boundaries:
Everything is a Mirror (until it’s Not)

of owning feelings & needs without projecting thoughts:
Collaborative Communication (NVC)

beware hiding places for toxicity:
media, films, politicians, food

when the end is near…

There was the afternoon
when i slid down the wall
in the hallway
in front of the bookshelf
and dozed there
with a lap full of journals;
until voices lifted my gaze
out the window
toward the hill,
where Aidan,
tall and lanky,
like a teenager,
used a plastic bat
to hit snowballs to his friend.

Unlike his older brother,
Aidan has lulled me,
with his child-like ways,
into the fantasy
that “we”
will always
be.

(Emily was right…
How softly summer shuts, without the creaking of a door.)

Money Troubles

klimt-mother-and-childI’m having money trouble. On the inside.

I thought the pain in my stomach tracked back to summer’s surrender to fall (when my mid-life chocolate consumption spiked from a bar a month to a desperate nibble every shrinking hour of the day); but after some in-depth chakra exploration this afternoon, I realize that the pain came on last spring–as my self-employment income plummeted.

I’ve since restructured the budget, and found a greater place of ease; but my stomach is still talking.

I listen in more closely.

It flashes back… to a young mother, sitting at the top of the stairs, after a long day home alone, with an infant.

I’m weeping.
Or I want to weep.

“I don’t remember my last paycheck,” I say.

Twenty years later this seems a silly thing.
And a curious one.

It’s hard to remember a time when I was defined by a paycheck. I’ve spent so many years now prioritizing home and family that income has grown comfortable in the back seat.

In fact, when I sit down to shape my goals for 2016, I find that my visions flow easily, until I get to the category entitled: finances.

I try, but I can’t even begin to wish for more. I don’t know how. I feel wrong.

Apparently I’ve exchanged fear of not having enough to fear of having too much.

This is further complicated by my long established role in the home. Instead of bread winner, I’ve been budget maker, deal finder, abundance-shaper.

I keep thinking there will come a time when my role is no longer necessary, but as the kids come of age, it seems just as relevant, in new and different ways.

Over the years as a parent, I’ve chosen to have less, so that we can have more.

Can I have both?
More income and more…
What is the other more?

More me. More family. More connection. More values. More alignment. More passion. More contribution.

With this insight, comes release.
A big exhale.
A softening of the belly.

Whining for Christmas

I wonder what Mary had to say to God.

I think about her son. Reluctant to help out at a large family gathering, even with the smallest of miracles, distracted by his own purpose, like my boys.

Kelly & Lila

Kelly Salasin, 2013, all rights reserved Kelly Salasin, 2013, all rights reserved

“I can’t wait for Christmas!” my 15 year old says.  “How about you, Mom?”

I pause to consider.

“I can wait,” I say. “Christmas is as much the preparations for me.”

Then I laugh at myself. If this is true, why do I agonize over the preparations, and take joy on Christmas Day?

Labor and birth come to mind, and pregnancy. Perhaps suffering the preparation, even if its treasured, isn’t so absurd.

How then might I be gentler with myself in this knowing? (And how about others, do they deserve less of my griping too?)

My mind flashes to a classic birth scene–a screaming woman, a tightly gripped hand, the accusation: “You did this to me!”

I wonder what Mary had to say to God.

I think about her son. Reluctant to help out at a large family gathering, even with the smallest of…

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in the garden

The fear of leaving my children motherless…
Did you have it too?

Kelly & Lila

I found these words scribbled on the front of a magazine from 1999.
I was a new mother. Full of fear. In the garden. With the rain.

Poetry Notes, 1999 Poetry Notes, 1999

Sunday evening
When the sky was still filled with light,
And the rain had softened to a mist,
I went out to the garden to weed.

At first tentative,
With spade and trowel,
Bending and squatting:
There was the garden–And
there was Me.

But through the hours
Of sweat and fatigue, and the fear
Of leaving children motherless,
I entered the Garden.

I knelt in the soil,
Cupped dirt with my hands,
Shaped mounds
Around each
New plant.

The puddles, christened
Me, with mud, until
I surrendered
My separation.

Dirty
I became the Dirt
And the dirt became Me
And in this Homecoming,
the fear of death drained from my bones.

I was the joy of the Universe
Expanding, Alive

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