I woke to thoughts of Nationalism, of all things, musing in particular on Trump’s first visit to the United Nations at the beginning of the school year, and specifically of his address to the peace-making body (born out of the atrocities of two World Wars) saying:
As President of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries, will always—and should always—put your countries first.
But this time my mind didn’t linger on his contradictions, say with regard to the sovereignty of N. Korea or Cuba or Venezuela or Iran; Instead I thought about the ways his vision contradicted even the most basic unit of human belonging: the family.
Mothers easily put young children’s needs ahead of their own; while community members consider what will benefit the whole; and citizens address the needs of those who currently have less means available…
I’m trying my best to stay focused, but this election cycle is so compelling.
I allow myself a 20 minute Bernie break, and then I shut my laptop and walk away.
But the world is conspiring.
SHE is conspiring.
To give birth.
To something new.
My Pandora shuffle of classical music is interrupted by a commercial. About daycare. How it hurts Vermont businesses when parents can’t work.
I woke with thoughts like this. About how the system is rigged.
I hate that expression of Bernie’s. The implication of victimhood.
Empowerment is my preference. (I’m a woman.)
The commercial thrusts me back to the blue arm chair in the small farm house where I nursed my first baby. Daycare so costly. Work barely profitable. His chubby hand twisting my hair. The thought of leaving him, unbearable.
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.
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.
We sent our very independent and surly 18 year old off to college last August, and he returned this past May, thrilled to be home.
We were taken aback by this deep appreciation for our small world given his desperation to escape it a year earlier, and we mistook this as a leap in maturity rather than a deep disappointment in his experience at college and in himself there.
His new plan is to take a semester’s leave and to volunteer in his field (International and Community Development) to help bring the excrutiating static classroom experience to life; and to shed light on how to move through with passion and meaning and integrity.
With this aim, he has been working with a non-profit organization in Central America to find a good fit. They have decided on a women’s artisan cooperative in Costa Rica in the same town that he visited with his Junior High class in what seems like another lifetime ago.
He leaves in two weeks. He leaves. He.
As parents, we’re not sure about our role; which has been increasingly true for a least a couple of years now.
I’m beginning to understanding that parenting, all of it, is not so much a nest as it is a reverse toll booth or a turnstile or one of those revolving doors through which others move from the outside to the inside to the outside again.
In this analogy, I find it important to distinguish the role from myself. This distinction seems to have growing relevance as our children become adults.
I want to communicate support and encouragement without robbing initiative and autonomy, and that is a tall order.
Breath has become one of my greatest tools. And silence. And listening.