Tag Archives: mindfulness

Forever Gold. . . in memory of a memory

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“Do not look sad. We shall meet soon again.” “Please, Aslan”, said Lucy,”what do you call soon?”
“I call all times soon” said Aslan; and instantly he was vanished away.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

For the first four months of the pandemic, I could not read.

I mean, I could technically read. But I could not sit and enjoy a book. This was somewhat concerning to me, but I took it to be symptomatic of my anxiety, overwhelm, and general distraction. It wasn’t terribly concerning and anyway, I had other things to which to attend.

Recently, I happened to pick up Villette, Charlotte Bronte’s last and often most acclaimed novel. To my delight, I’ve been not only able to read, but to enjoy the lush and complex Victorian prose.

I’ve read Jane Eyre over 20 times. It’s my favorite novel of all time. Each time I’ve poured over her pages, I’ve found new meaning, new truth, and deeper love for the gothic romance. I still have the copy I used my senior year in college, when I was taking a class called “Justice in Literature.” I’d taken the class because the professor teaching it had grown quite beloved to me. It was because of her I developed a passion for Victorian literature.

Dr. Gold (not her real name), was a diminutive woman in her 50s who had a voice like a tittering fairy. She had a shock of red hair and sparkling eyes. Her face was blessed with the loveliest laugh lines. It was like her entire body would crinkle with delight when she giggled about something. Despite her enchanting outward appearance, there was a fire in her for truth, mercy, and compassion. She adored children’s literature, especially the Chronicle’s of Narnia which she quoted often and from which she drew great comfort.

She walked with a lopsided gait from a number of incredibly severe health issues, an autoimmune disorder among them. But her thrill for life and her ability to love entirely whatever she was doing at that particular moment, would never have given away her disabilities.

When I think of the humans who have shown me truest compassion in my life, Professor Gold is at the top of the list.

To say I fawned over her a bit is not far from the truth. In fact, it is probably more truthful to say I absolutely idolized her. I spent as much time around her as humanly possible, learning not only about literature, but about her life and her gift for love.

When I tried to end my life in my early 20s, it was June Gold I called from the emergency room. It was a horrible thing for me to do, an imposition, a boundary violation, but I needed her support and she was there for me. The memory of that time fills me with deep shame to this day. June was stern with me and she made it clear she could not be my therapist, that she would continue to support me as long as I got proper help, which I did and which she did.

Several years later, after I graduated college and was floundering in the “real world,” I sheepishly called June and asked if she’d write me a letter of recommendation to get into grad school for my MSW.

“Let’s talk about this,” she said. “Tell me more.” Instant terror flooded me at the thought she’d think I was too damaged and wild to ever make a good social worker.

I explained I’d been working with kids with autism and I wanted to go back and become more professionalized so I could make a life for myself. She not only wrote a letter to the graduate program, but also sent me a copy.

When I read the letter, I wept. She told my graduate program-to-be that their greatest regret in admitting me to their program would be that they could not have me as a student forever, and that they would long to have me in every class for my enthusiasm and a bunch of other nice stuff.

I remember reading her letter and feeling deep disbelief anyone could feel that way about me, knowing what they knew about how tragic and flawed I could be.

Turns out understanding flaws and tragedy make me a decent therapist.

I think that was my last interaction with June. I might have sent her a thank you card, but we are going back about 20 years now, and I don’t really remember.

Over the years I’ve certainly thought of her from time to time. I’ve attempted to channel her belief in me, and as I’ve grown out of a bunch of my 20 year old dysfunctions, I’ve wondered if she’d be proud of the little pod of humans I’ve managed to assemble and call a family of my own.

Picking up Villette brought June back to the front of my mind with a sudden and visceral reality. It occurred to me I might write her a letter or send her a card and let her know how she’s shaped my life. It seemed like good timing, being the pandemic has us all connecting or reconnecting with friends, family, and significant people from our past.

Google churned up her obituary front and center, dead first in my search results.

June Gold died a year and a half ago after developing a rare cancer on top of her other dire health concerns.

After an hour and a half diving through dusty boxes in the 90 degree summer heat of my attic, I could not find the letter she wrote me for grad school.

I did find my senior thesis for her on which I’d gotten an A. In her tiny, delicate script, she’d written “This is very fine!. . .” The topic of the paper was Themes of Injustice Toward Women in Jane Eyre and the Tenant of Wildfell Hall. In her comments, she went on to praise an oral presentation I’d done as “splendid!” although in all fairness I have zero recollection of that.

No matter.

It’s a weird thing, discovering someone you loved so deeply once upon a time has slipped beyond the veil and you didn’t even know about it.

Why do we grow so far from people? I think part of me was still ashamed of my younger self and didn’t know how to go back and face June, was scared that after so many years maybe she’d see me differently or with colder eyes. It’s entirely doubtful that would have been true, and yet it kept me from connecting with someone who meant a great deal to me, who shaped a huge part of my life.

Part of me wants to cry. But another part of me hears June’s favorite literary character, the lion Aslan from the Chronicles of Narnia, roaring, “Courage, Dear Heart!”

It’s a weird thing, discovering you know exactly what someone you loved dearly would say to comfort you 20 years after your last interaction with them.

What Are You Grieving?

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92423AB4-92CD-46BA-BC35-F29338DB7AC7In the midst of the general death and destruction wrought by Covid-19, a grown woman took the time to complain on social media that she would not have a birthday party this year. She was devastated there would be no restaurant, no margaritas, no tapas, no cake, no friends to make her feel special and celebrated.

My first thought? What a selfish brat! 

This is a grown up we are talking about, not an eight year old who already picked out unicorn party favors. Has she not read the posts written by traumatized, sweaty ICU staff who are actually risking life and limb to care for victims of this pandemic?

I was angry, but not just with Birthday Girl. I was angry with our country and all the interlocking systems that have failed in keeping us safe, in working cooperatively, and in providing resources to treat us humanely. The more I thought about it, the more depressed I felt. Then, like many have already observed, I realized I was bouncing around in the cycle of grief.

We are all grieving different things right now.

Some of us are grieving celebrations in which we cannot partake. Others are grieving loss of employment, or income needed to stay afloat. Some bear the palpable loss of a loved one to this pernicious disease, while others suffer isolation, and the grief of loneliness.

It made me stop and realize what a judgey twat I was being.

It also made me question what I was grieving.

I’m certainly wandering around in a haze of sad uncertainty that feels a lot like grief. I miss simple structure, routine, consistency. I’ve lost all the ways I typically “do” life. I’ve lost being able to see and embrace my friends and family. I bear witness to my children’s pain at separation from their grandparents (who they typically see daily), their friends, and routines of school and activities.

I definitely miss leaving the house and listening to music really loud in the car on my way to work. Who’d have thunk it? And I miss sitting with my clients, face to face. I miss the things you see on people’s face that you can’t experience in their disembodied voices, or in pics, or in ticktoc vids.

So, maybe it’s a bunch of things? Maybe I really just miss being able to race out to the market to fetch that one thing I’ve forgotten without it being a big HAZMAT issue that puts all our lives at risk?

Maybe I miss when life wasn’t such a hyperbole and I could use hyperboles in fun and actual hyperbolic ways?

Yeah, I guess, I’m not grieving anything greater than a birthday party either. We all know the horrors that are right outside our doors (or at least the ones of us choosing to stay in and socially distance do).

I’d like to tell you that the nice thing about this grief is that it will be impermanent. A vaccine will be developed, treatment will come, and we will be free to roam about the world again. Things will get better. Those are all facts.

But will we go back to normal?

If I’ve learned one thing about grief, it is that grief, when traumatic enough, has the potential to change us, to alter us right down at our DNA level. Don’t believe me? Google the epigenetics of trauma. I swear to you it is an actual thing.

So, the good news is if we stay kind, supportive, and connected, we have a far better chance of surviving and getting back to our baselines. If this situation has taught us anything, it is how much we need one another, how essential the embrace of humanity is to our health and existence.

I’m so sorry I forgot that, even for a moment.

What are you grieving? Please feel free to share in the comments below. I try to respond to any and all who take the time to share their time and thoughts with me. Thank you for being here. 

Sweet Spot

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It really was a good week.

I’m contemplating that it really had been just a great week.  I was happy.  I felt genuine, uncomplicated, happiness.

Both of the kids had been relaxed and pleasant.  There was a random, late-winter snow storm and we all got stuck at home.  But instead of contracting cabin fever, we lounged blissfully in our jammies, snuggled, and watched TV.  I even snoozed.  We baked muffins. We ate muffins.  It was a day of cozy comfort.

Then Jack found out a piece of his art had been chosen to be in the district art show.  It was a totally unexpected accomplishment, and we were absolutely thrilled to celebrate it with him.  He was proud and humble as he reluctantly posed in front of his drawing at the local library where the exhibit was held.

The very next day, Emily picked up a book and started reading it to me.  She is having a pretty great year in kindergarten, and all of a sudden, a switch has been turned on in her brain and all she wants to do is read.  She tenaciously sounded out words and struggled through page after page of Dr. Seuss as I cheered her on.

It felt almost too good to be true.

Things almost never go this smoothly.

We were getting out of the house in the morning in one piece without any drama, on time, and with cheerful attitudes. The kids were not bickering with each other as much.  I made a French Toast Bake that Jack (my super picky eater) declared was so good it should be on a cooking show.  Emily slept through each night without coming up to our bed and waking us up.  They said “thank you” for random things that they normally overlook as crap that I just do on the daily because I’m their mom.

Part of me was tempted to break into song and dance, because surely this sort of delightful existence only happened in musicals.

Honestly, I just felt like I was nailing it.  I was totally rocking the working mom gig.  I wasn’t even doing anything different or extraordinary.

I didn’t post about it on any social media for fear of seeming braggy, although I did put up pictures of Jack’s art and a video of Emily reading.  But the larger, greater sense of the motherhood machine running just right- I did not post about that.

It isn’t often that I feel this way; like all is well, and all will be well.

Much more often I am beating myself up for letting the kids watch too much TV, not serving as much veggie as I should, and forgetting to check if Emily has remembered to change her underpants.

I so easily fill with self loathing because I lack energy to force my kids to write thank you notes.  I convince myself I am a failure because my kids’ rooms are pits of despair and I’d rather not deal with them.

And then there are all the times I wonder what the hell I am doing wrong when I can’t seem to get places on time, or when I burn dinner, or when I forget to sign a field trip permission slip.

Even worse are the times when Jack is having a sensory meltdown because his anxiety has gotten the best of him and I am completely helpless to assist him in regulating his emotional state.  Or when Emily is annoyed and frustrated and she tells me she hates me.

This stuff is so hard.  I had no clue that the hard stuff would be so hard, nor that by contrast, that the amazing stuff would be so amazing.

I also had no clue that motherhood would frequently and chronically consist of so much more of the hard stuff.

So, that’s why I’m writing about the little sweet spot we shared that nice week.

It’s important to acknowledge and remember what it feels like to nail it in this gig.  It’s good to write it all down so when times are tough we can remind ourselves what it feels like to know and hold happiness, to do it right.  It’s important to remember that we are doing so, so great, even when we think we aren’t, or when we feel like we are struggling to even put milk in our coffee.

There are good moments if we look for them.  We create them, like we create life, like we create last-minute, haphazard recipes from the last four random things in our fridge at the end of the week.  It doesn’t have to be anything earth shattering.  There can be joy.

And that’s the other important thing to remember in this parenting game:  that there will be joy again.  Even when it feels like the rough patch is going to go on forever, there is still a potential for change.

When was your last parenting sweet spot?  How did you nail it as a mom?  Are you going through a rough patch now?  Talk to me in the comments!  

Find Something Small

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Find something small.
Stay with it.
Give it your heart.
Ache.
Resonate with it.
Tell it your secrets.
Feel the urge to leave.
Stay longer.
Trace its grooves with your fingertip.
Find its secret scent of earth and salt.
Allow your tear to drip onto its surface.
Laugh, but do not leave, not just yet.
Realize the terror in adoring something tiny and tender.
Whisper to it that which you know is certain.
Pull your hand back and continue to find the energy pulsating.
Find something small.
Give it your heart.
Stay there.
Ache.
Stay.
Do it again.
Do it over.
And over.
Again.

……..

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/restart/