Posted in Legacy, Nuts & Bolts, Takes a Village

Democracy & the library

(written just after the 2016 Presidential election)

When the kids were little (and before the internet), we spent hours in the library each week. Dashed out to the car with coins, not once, but twice, even though we all promised: “Only an hour on the meter this time!” Filled growing arms with piles of books even though we brought the beefy canvas tote and committed, ahead of time: “10 books each is plenty!”

Inside the library, there are still places, long neglected by my feet, which are so familiar to me. Stacks and rows, like old friends… 100s, 200s, 300s, 600s. Places where I opened my world, narrowed my world, explored my world, defined it as a new mother, as a mother beginning to reclaim herself, as a woman stepping forward.

There is the table in the mezzanine where I sat working while my kids were at school. There is a view of the town. Of cars passing. Of leaves falling. Of first flurries.

And inside–readers & writers & viewers & nappers, of all ages, and race.

There are those who always vote. Those who never vote. Those who voted democratic for the first time. Republican for the first time.

We all remain quiet.
(Most of the time.)

We share tables and chairs and computers and books.

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Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Takes a Village, Teens, Tweens, Wisdom of Youth

On hating our young

While our 17-year-old set out to march, my husband and I opted for our regular Saturday morning practice on the mat, surprised and touched to find our longtime teacher speaking to the day’s events, not just at the opening of class but into the practice, naming the young voices he admired so much–Emma Gonzales and David Hogg–and choking up as he talked about the Stoneman Douglass Ice Hockey team, so that I when I found myself, supine, in Baddha Konasana–hips and heart wide open–tears slid down & around my cheeks, and into my hair, and onto my mat, without thought, without attachment or emotion, and continued as I came into a twist, and later, off the mat, and into the day, I was struck again, as I was on Valentines Day, at how precious the sight of each and every teenager, and I understood that it is not only our relationship with masculinity and guns that will be transformed but our hatred of our young as they come of age.

 

Posted in Borrowed Voices, Fragile Life, Mother to Crone, Takes a Village

guns & the mouth of babes

I wake in the night thinking about 17 lives, and I say to myself:

This is good, this waking.

My heart has not grown numb or too defeated.

It will continue to voice:

NO.

NO MORE!

I wake in the morning, my heart aching, but I can’t remember why.

Am I sad about something? Worried? Is it something I ate?

Later, I come across my sister’s post about her pillow talk with my 5-year-old nephew…

…How did a guy with a gun even get in a school?

…When I go in in the morning, the door is just open, would a guy come in the morning?

…What are the new rules?

Posted in School, Takes a Village

Orange, Chocolate-Chip Scones~the preservation of democracy

School budgets–at the heart–of community…

This Vermont Life

Wednesday mornings at the old Sweeties Market Wednesday mornings at the old Sweeties Market

A rainy Wednesday in March brings to mind the memory of orange, chocolate-chip scones.

This would be just the day to sit a spell at the counter at Sweeties on Route 9 in Marlboro–sipping a latte, taking in the aroma of bacon, the morning conversations, the ebb and flow of townspeople and tourists beginning their day

Sweeties has been closed now for a handful of years and we’ve all grown accustomed to having to leave town for gas or a six-pack, but the absence lingers like a loved one, and sometimes rises like an ache, particularly in wintry months or on rainy days like today.

“After the General Store, comes the Post Office,” says a neighbor. “Then the school.”

Marlboro School was at the center of last week’s Pre-Town Meeting  in response to Act 46 which seeks to consolidate school governance.

“Forced, short-sighted…

View original post 311 more words

Posted in Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Takes a Village, Twenty-something

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 with 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 onto each other tightly, 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 childhood 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 him as 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, I hit the pause button and 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 message.)

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 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 of 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 thus, 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.
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(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.

Posted in Insight, Mid-Life Mama, Milestone Moments, Takes a Village, Twenty-something, Uncategorized, Wisdom of Youth

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 and 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  from the relative.
(He refused to let me hear more.)
He was writing back.

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. That he would be okay.

So 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, and calmly challenged his aloofness:

“Where are your feelings,” he asked.

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

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

My husband remained silent.

I was quieted too 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 since passed, 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.)

Posted in Insight, Takes a Village, Twenty-something

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