Posted in Fragile Life, Takes a Village

Get Thee to Therapy

Many years ago, an extended family member challenged my passion for therapy, saying that he had no interest in digging up stuff from the past and miring himself in it.

I understood. Therapy was heavy lifting. Men especially seemed afraid of the effort and fierce vulnerability required which is why I introduced my sons to therapy young so that they would have it as part of their toolkit–for health care and wellbeing–like yoga and dentistry, chiropractic and energy work, dance and art and nature, diet and bloodwork.

At the time, I offered the reluctant relative a car metaphor, explaining that therapy was how I kept my windshield clean–so that I could move forward–with a less obstructed view.

“Rather than weighing me down,” I said, “Dealing with the pain of the past frees up space for more joy in the present.”

He nodded, taking this in, but I suspect his past was too weighty and his present not light filled enough to warrant the risk, particularly if he was only considering the benefit to himself.

It’s tricky this living, nourishing both the present and the past, not to mention the future–our own and that of the next generations.

For women, the consideration of the next generation is embodied; they literally live inside us, affected by our minds, moods, emotions and consumption.

I first went to therapy in my mid-twenties after I became a parent for a sibling in crisis. Around the same time, I got involved in Al-Anon, wanting to offer the family I hoped to have, a lighter load than the one I’d received, which was doused in alcoholism, cruelty and neglect.

We all see the same therapist now, myself, my husband and our boys. It’s a bit awkward, today for instance, knowing that my son is (hopefully) talking about the grief I gave him last night and this morning to the woman who has been my most trusted ally since he was born.

Friends, especially couples, doubtful of this therapeutic relationship will ask, “But whose side is she on? Whose story does she believe?”

Alas, I’m not looking for a referee, or someone to point toward who is right and who is wrong, though I would like to amend the adage:

“Do you want to be right or in relationship?”

Because what I most desire for myself (and my loved ones) is to be in “right relationship” with self.

Rather than acting as judge, our therapist bears witness, creating more space between us, as we navigate our shared and individual paths.

When I feel particularly sensitive to the load my sons inherited from me, I sing the song other women passed along as I became a mother:

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Posted in Insight, Mother to Crone, Takes a Village

For the children

See the line.

How do we trust a man who capriciously oggles, touches, kisses, grabs, rapes women; a man who has had a string of wives with whom he has been unfaithful; who sexualizes his own children, speaks of his baby daughter’s legs and breasts, says to others–Isn’t she “hot,”–agrees with the radio host that his daughter “is a piece of ass,” claims that he would “date” her if she wasn’t his, and boasts that if his third wife wants another child, it’s fine, because he won’t have anything to do with it anyway, that’s a wife’s job.

How do we trust such a man with children, let alone a country?

How do we have faith in an administration who hides children in windowless warehouses and defends the absence of sleeping accommodations, toothbrushes, toothpaste, showers, soap, towels and dry clothes?

“I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, okay? It’s like incredible,” he says of himself.

Meanwhile, he threatened, demonized & exploited 5 teenage boys, citizens of color, for decades, for a Central Park rape they didn’t commit, writing: BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY–a sentiment echoed by Pat Buchanan who called for the eldest of the five, a 16-year-old, to be “hanged in Central Park,” while the other boys should be “stripped, horsewhipped, and sent to prison.”

And yet, when another woman, #22, comes forth with allegations of rape–against Trump–in a dressing room instead of the park, the bar is already so low (and his privilege so high), that it barely registers.

Psychologists say of infidelity, which I suspect is true of all offense, that once you get close to the line, it’s easier to cross because it’s harder to see.

See the line.

Posted in Adult Offspring, College, Fragile Life, Insight, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, Nuts & Bolts, Takes a Village, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

No Guarantees


There’s something about a college graduation.

I can’t put my finger on it.

Last weekend, at the farmers market, I came across another college graduate and she told me about her plans to return west to start her career, and I walked away weeping.

I’m grateful for sunny days. For sunglasses.

I think it’s time. Maybe it’s time. Time passing.

Teens becoming grownups. Everything changing, reshaping.

I had come to the Farmer’s Market from yoga so maybe I was especially tender. I feel awfully proud of my son’s graduation, but I’m not sure why. What did I have to do with it?

I actually felt called out when the commencement speaker said: “Thank your parents,” especially as I looked around at all the richer parents or harder working ones or more sacrificing ones–those who put their kids through school while ours did it on his own.

And then I remembered all the trips I made to be close by when he was going through something that I couldn’t quite figure and then all the times I helped him navigate through alternate routes and detours and segues. I remembered all the encouragement and returns and goodbyes and trips to the airport. The fights. The pillow talk. The persistence. So much persistence.

Maybe I feel used up.

Maybe that’s just right.

I gave it my all, I did.

He seemed so happy on his graduation day and that made me happy. It still does. He was so full of himself in the way that every one of us should be at such a moment. Inflated. Buoyant. Light. The whole point of me was to be ballast. Weight. Homecoming. Backboard. Less and less relevant.

I always feel better when I write into something that I don’t quite understand even if I don’t understand it much better afterward.

Just showing up for myself is something.

Like I showed up for him.

Like we’ve been showing up for this nation.
For women.
For immigrants.
For Muslims and Jews and POC.
For the underpaid. The uninsured.

No guarantees.

Posted in College, Insight, Round Two, Takes a Village, Teens, What's Next? (18 & beyond), Wisdom of Youth

Children as teachers


Turns out that we no longer have paints at home, yet another casualty of grown children. And so I’ve made my very first rally signs with marker and crayon. Seems like I’ve been to lots of rallies in the past few years after barely any before and I’ve always been too shy to bring my own sign.

While I’m not on the frontline when it comes to the plight of LGBTQ folks, I do know what it is to be marginalized, dehumanized and physically threatened so I’m showing up to listen and learn in the hope that others feel less alone.

~

It was 2013 when I noticed a non-gendered bathroom at my first born’s college. I ducked into it because I was intrigued and because it was closer than the women’s bathroom and mostly because it was private and I’m an introvert and bathrooms are sometimes the quickest place to regroup.

At some point, around the age of 50, or was it 40, the world started moving too fast, and I couldn’t keep up, and didn’t want to try. (My youngest talks a lot about Mars.)

When it comes to human rights, however, I have to try. My best. I know what it is to be invisible. To be marginalized. To be targeted. To be excluded.

Today I looked up the term: Gender Queer.

My youngest has long accused me of binary thinking when it comes to my use of feminine and masculine to describe what I insist are non-gendered qualities. I remind him that he’s ahead of me and that I’m still learning.

This summer when asked by older friend what I thought of parents allowing their children to be trans (she was furious), I answered that I was doing a lot of listening these days, instead of judging.

On the contrary, I do my best to ignore #45’s antics when I can. This is a survival strategy that I developed as a young woman when faced with the outrageous behavior of men addicted to substances, rage, power and privilege.

But sometimes attention is due, particularly when what He says further marginalizes those who are vulnerable, even if he’s saying it to galvanize fear in order to bend the arc of history further away from justice.

So to those who are marginalized by gender expression or identification, I may not understand everything and I may say some things wrong, but I’m with you. I want to be with you. I’m willing to be with you.

Keep speaking.

I’ll keep listening.

You matter. Just as you are.

#Transrightsarehumanrights #VOTE

 

Posted in Fathers, Fragile Life, Insight, Legacy, Milestone Moments, Mother to Crone, Nuts & Bolts, Round Two, Takes a Village, Teens, Twenty-something, What's Next? (18 & beyond)

“Someday” has arrived


Our community came together one day in June to raise the frame of our home–along with 3-year-old Aidan who spent the day hammering nails into the floorboards of what would be our kitchen; and 8-year-old Lloyd who knelt beside his preschool & primary teachers laying down the floor to what would become his bedroom; and Casey, age 38, who lifted beams with friends & family (and even strangers) to realize a dream come true; and me, age 40, who never had the chance to live in one place very long and who climbed the frame at the end of the day and tapped an evergreen branch to its peak while everyone cheered below.

14 years have passed.
14 Christmases.
14 wedding anniversaries.
14 winters & springs.
14 summers.
14 autumns.

Over the years, Casey spoke of needing an addition—the living room was always too small; but I countered that the boys would be gone someday and the house was already too large for two.

“Someday” has somehow arrived.

What was “raised” to be a home for 4, becomes a home for 2 at the end of summer—which is almost as unfathomable as building this home for ur family once was.

Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Legacy, Takes a Village, Violence in the home

the fruit of pain


Having had too much to drink, I once openly grieved the separation of young children from their mother and siblings, adding to that my heartache about the emotionally abusive treatment they were receiving in their new residence.

For this admission of vulnerability and empathy, I was mocked, publicly, at a table in a cocktail lounge at the restaurant I managed during my summer breaks from school.

“If you really cared about them, you would skip your semester abroad,” he said.

I considered legal proceedings. I considered dropping out of school and getting a job so that I could afford a house that would fit us all. But these thoughts, like my voice, were futile. I wasn’t in a democracy. I was in a family.

All over Facebook, friends are sharing their stories of separation–the lasting impact–from the Holocaust to asylum-seeking to summer camp.

Feeling our own pain, however large or small, is a radical act. It allows us to feel the pain of another, without making it our own, which only serves to immobilize us.

Self-connection is necessary. Self-connection allows us to stay attuned to the needs of others while remembering our response-ability to the life we inhabit, right in the moment.

Self-connection might look like a walk, or a nap, a therapist chair, a bodyworkers table, a cup of tea in the garden, a meditation on a hummingbird’s flight, a weekend retreat, anything that reminds us of our distinctness so that the connection we offer is whole.

We have each experienced the pain of separation.

May it bear fruit.

 

Posted in Fragile Life, Insight, Mother to Crone, Takes a Village, Teens

Sleep entitlement

One of the things I most look forward to in my time apart from family is the opportunity to rediscover my own rhythms… with food and work and most of all (and particularly in the throes of this final hormonal coup) SLEEP.

Ahhh, to sleep through the night!
Without the torment of teenagers traipsing and a snoring bedfellow (with an aging prostate.)

But alas, 5 nights & counting, and it wasn’t meant to be.

There are many factors to blame for this injustice.

But there is also something else.

Curiosity.

How is it that I have come to expect that my sleep be insulated from the world around me—from the weather, from fellow human beings, from four-legged ones, from neighborhood celebrations, from worrying about the news and from the sounds of sudden middle of the night emergencies…

Who I am to deserve such isolation from the life we share?

When I was a young mother faced with friends & relatives who had schooled their infants into sleeping through the night (while my toddler was still woke to nurse), I read something that stuck with me:

“Parents and doctors aren’t entitled to sleep. Waking comes with the job.”

To be awakened.
Not a bad thing.

And so the same might be true of the homeless people who disturb my walks downtown, and the immigrants who disturb my sense of belonging, and the strangers who disturb my sense of community.

We are infinitely among.
How might we better abide this?

How might this abiding lend itself to a softer surrender into all that is and into a fiercer voice for that which truly shouldn’t be so–for anyone.