Saturday, December 14, 2013

Looking up, out.

Sitting on the subway yesterday going to work, I noticed two kids.  Sitting, facing the window perched on their knees, watching.  Staring intently for long, uninterrupted minutes.  They were entranced almost, watching the fast-moving, slight colors of metal and pavement whiz by.  I stood there watching them watching.  Thinking, they exuded a sense of anticipation, hope.  They were waiting.  About to joyfully pounce, arms outstretched into the first sign of life.  

Standing on the subway, the sense of disconnectedness I felt deepened, while literally touching, with my shoulders, the edges of my hands while holding the rail or my feet through my shoes.  I looked to those two children, not yet even seven, and felt hope.  They saw the same old pavement and metal and ground that we all see in the subway but they kept their eyes open.  They kept reaching towards life, toward connection.  They wanted to see the next station.  They wanted to watch the people walking, moving in and out of their reality.  They were excited to see what was coming.  Who was coming.  What and who was being left behind.  They watched, eyes bright, in hopeful anticipation.  

I thought about this while walking out of the subway on to State street. Which is in the financial district of Boston, so super ritzy, lots of tall stone or cement buildings and busy traffic.  Looking out, I saw walls.  Lots of walls.  Everywhere.  Corner walls, side walls, everything was compartmentalized, shut off.  Separate.  The only shared space was outside and it was narrow and linear and fuddled up.  Streets curved and intersected and spread out not at all according to organization or simplicity.  And as a result, the shared space felt confined, boxy.  

I thought about the kids.  Looking at the cement.  The dirt.  The metal.  And I looked up.  And this is what I saw.  This picture.  Up there.  It was open. It was bright.  And it was expansive.  I felt hope.  I felt opportunity for bigger connection, bigger understanding because there were no walls up there.  There was just sky.  And blue.  

I love kids.  Just by being kids, they teach me.  We are all teachers and we are all students.  If we could just get past the skepticism and judgement that tells us that we can't learn from someone.  Because when you learn from someone, you are connected to them in a way that you aren't otherwise.  You see part of them and they show you a part of yourself that neither of you knew was there.  

I hope you look up, look out and reach towards others.  Reach toward yourself first to learn but remember that no one lives on an island completely alone, ever.  And we are all apart of this world, this life, this society.  We are walking, standing, riding alongside one another and that's how we need it to be.  

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Finding healing in loss

I am sitting here, recovering.  Something I can't yet really explain just happened.  I just now went through an experience that has shifted me so violently that I have yet to stop from the momentum.  My spirit has has been....touched.  Absolutely touched.  In such a painfully intimate way that I couldn't help but cry.  And so I did.  I cried like I've never cried before.  Ever. 

Earlier this week I had some things happen emotionally.  Had a falling out with a friend (kind of), having some roommate issues that are difficult and felt that familiar pang of loss when I think about how far away and how little I get to see my son.  As many of you know, I've been through some tough stuff emotionally!  As have most if not all of you reading this right now.  Life is rough.  Beautiful and such a gift, but tough. 

I'd like to share with you the sequence of events.  I think it's....interesting and comforting. 

Last week I was having a hard time both missing and going to see my son.  I know this is going to be a four day visit with eight hours of that time on the road to and from the airport.  Short visits are tough. There is so much emotion in such a short amount of time.  It used to be hard to go to Texas because the divorce between Kyle and I was fresh.  And I love my in-laws.  I really do, my ex mother-in-law is one of the most amazingly kind and good hearted women I know.  I am a better person because I was honored to have been close to her and learn from her.  But it was still difficult on some levels, in large part because I wasn't as close to everyone else as I was to my ex mother-in-law.  Some family members resented me (or so it seemed).  But to all I was "the ex wife."  And that used to be a lot tougher but now, now I am "Wes' mom."  And that feels better!  (Wes is Una's English name, I prefer to call him Una because of spiritual reasons.)

But, as excited as I am to see my son, there are some emotional things I am going to have to move through.  So I was a bit sad.  Had also been having issues with a roommate.  Just feeling like any interaction with him was kind of insulting.  Kind of jarring.  And when I'd try to bring it up I wouldn't feel like my words were heard and more jabs insued. 

I disappeared over the weekend up to NH/VT for a late Halloween Party on Friday and visiting friends Sat/Sun which was fun.  But by midday Saturday, I had this horrible pain through my chest and where my heart is.  It extended into my spine, as if there was a rod jammed in between my chest and my spine.  I also had this horrible knot in my throat/discomfort in the back of my throat/neck.  They all persisted until I finally fell asleep, exhausted from the pain, at like 11:30 pm right outside Burlington, VT at a friends.

What happened at that friends was like an emotional heartbreak, which is kind of what I was feeling right before I went to Burlington in my chest.  I knew, going to visit this friend that it probably wouldn't go well.  I had a sneaking suspicion.  Anyway, details aside, I ended up in a way, parting ways with this very good friend of mine was the healthy thing to do.  For both of us. 

I woke up Sunday feeling the chest pain some but not nearly as intense and just grateful for the lessening of pain I rejoiced smiling.  I left my friend early, not feeling very comfortable anymore.  I met up with someone I'd met and connected with at the Halloween Party Friday who happened to live in Burlington.  By midday Sunday I found myself deeply involved in conversation with him looking in, through what felt like the hinting of our souls, in each others eyes.  He is a man who was truly rare in a wonderful way.  But then, I got into my car and drove back down to Boston, four hours South. 

Got back home and I start crying.  Just crying.  Little crying.  No sobbing.  Just letting sadness out. Loss.  But I felt that I could burst into tears at any moment.  I was crying over my friend, my son, even a little over how intense it felt to feel for someone like I did Sunday, again.  Monday passed with little activity involved.  It was mostly spent sleeping.  I was, without realizing it, prolonging the beginning of what was to come out by keeping myself unconscious.  What needed to come up. 

While teaching class on Tuesday morning I found myself feeling really nauseated.  Out of no where.  Had the same thing I have for breakfast 350+ days out of the year: yogurt and granola.  But I started throwing up and didn't stop.  Over and over again.  There was nothing to puke but I kept going.  I had to leave to go home and home I fell into a deep sleep for five hours.  When I woke up I felt groggy and slightly disoriented.  I couldn't stay awake.  I was exhausted and immobile or so it felt at the time. So I went back to sleep.

Wednesday seemed fine.  Back to normal-ish.  But I was weary, still alert.  Still cautious.  After work I come home and before my coat is even off and my bedroom door shut I just start balling.  I can't remember why.  I just remember tears start streaming.  I didn't like the silence so I put on music and begin what felt like hours and hours of intense and deep crying. 

It was like I was talking to myself.  All of a sudden the part of me that had been trying to surface.  Decided to put itself right in front of my face, my vision.  And something my subconscious knows well is that if you put something that needs attention and will hurt me if I don't give it attention in my eyesight...I can't push it away.   I have to deal with it. 

So up it comes.  And I find myself crying it all up.  Fear. Sadness. Loss. Feeling the bottom of empty.  Out of no where it seemed.  But I let it come up. And it came up in a way I can't really explain.  I wasn't entirely present.  By the end of the experience, I find myself flopped over my knees with my forehead to one side literally unable to flinch even feeling so immobolized.  My arms lay limp beside me. 

I think about my roommates coming in seeing me like this.  I try to move.  It takes litearlly, like 10 minutes to lift my head off the floor.  I feel dizzy.  I feel disorientated.  I feel light and fluffy.  I feel like I need a few really really deep breaths. 

I gingerly (or so I tried) get up off my knees and scootch over to my bed.  I dive under the covers as I find out that I am absolutely frigid.  Bone cold.  I turn on the space heater that I'm really not supposed to be turning on because it uses so much electricity but I need it right now. 

I sit lay there frozen inside and out and think...what just happened?  Is it over?  Am I done?  I began to feel fear.  Not toward a particular person or thing.  Just general fear.  I began to think about the things I was supposed to do - go to a therapy appointment.  I think about diving and think if I get behind a wheel right now.  Feeling this disconnected, lightheated and scared I will crash.  I start to feel really confined.  I start to feel really stuck.  I feel like I can't go but I can't stay.  I feel fear.  Lurking fear.  It's like the hairs on my neck are on guard, holding their ground searching for signs of commotion. 

After my therapy session I was going to have another kind of therapy session.  It's a kind of therapy that looks at how spiritual trauma is stored in the body.  And it's been really powerful for me.  I was supposed to have a session today.  But I was scared.  The idea of letting anyone into my space or near me seemed like a very dangerous idea.  I was triggered.  I knew it in my adult brain but it wasn't my adult body reacting. 

After talking with my practitioner and myself, I realized that it was important for me to take this step in my healing process now.  I realized that it was ok to be scared but part of the healing process is trusting in others.  I needed to trust that the man who I had come to know as my practitioner was a safe, good-hearted man that wanted nothing else but to help me.  To re-traumatized ptsd Aaluk this was not an easy message to get through.

After a bit of coaxing it was as if the healer in me held the hand of the terrified little girl and said, "It's ok sweetheart.  You are safe now.  I am here with you.  Trust me and know that I love you."  And so I allowed my practitioner to come into my space. 

And the work that followed was life changing.  Period.  No way around it.  I am still absorbing.

It all centered around loss.  During the session I had memories surface of the abuse I endured as a child.  And it was about loss.  Loss of voice in one instance (very important memory to uncover).  Loss of mobility in another.  And loss of trust.  I felt these traumas in my body.  Literally felt my throat choked up days before and now realizing that the admittance of that memory of being chocked back into my mind allowed the knot to dissipate.  I felt my legs held down in another.  It was through feeling for the trauma in my body that I was able to access the memory in my psyche.
The chest pain was interesting because it was right where the heart chakra is.  Which is known for many things I think but one of them loss.  I thought about why I might just start to puke out of no where (not sick, not pregnant, no food poisoning).  I began to realize that I was throwing up not because I was physically sick but because I just couldn't keep "it" down anymore. 

I felt like I was responding to messages from my body.  It knew better than I did. 

And when I listened my body rested, was able to let go.

I am still resting.  Still letting go.  Finding ways to rejuvenate.  Listen more gently and more compassionately to myself.

That's all I can write right now.  I wanted to share it because, well after it happened I felt so new, so much closer to whole that I just wanted to write about it.

I will remember this day though.  I took a really big step toward healing today.  And I am smiling a smile full of gratitude and hope.  Full of and surrounded by light.  I love light.   I need light.  We are light. 

*I wrote half of this yesterday, the day this actually happened and the other half today, November 14, 2013.  I was too exhausted yesterday to finish it!  But I wrote it first person to keep it simple. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Open Channel

At this point in my experience, I'm working on peeling back layers of fear and doubt that often cloud the way I see myself and the world around me. When I feel each layer rise, I feel more space open up inside me. I feel less bound, more free.

I'm finding that it's through listening, creating a space from which to hear more fully to more and more of what's happening inside me, that I am best able to recognize fear or doubt coloring the way I see things.

I don't think you can ever listen to yourself too much.  You can listen to your desires, your pain, your fear, or even your happiness too much, but if you are truly listening to yourself, the base from which those emotions flow from, you will always have something that if you truly listen to it, will help you grow.  It is through listening, not talking, that wisdom flows.  Wisdom is timeless and exists within the foundation of all life but you can only speak from a place of wisdom if you can hear it in the first place.

Listening to yourself is like growing a fruit-bearing tree.  Knowing comes from understanding, Sometimes we place too much emphasis on what we know with our minds.  Sometimes we do this with our hearts.  Wisdom comes from listening from a place of balance.  This happens when what you understand through the capacities in which you have to experience the life within and around you (e.g. what you hear, see and feel) are in sync with your experience at the fundamental level of your existence.  Your fundamental self, or as a mentor of mine likes to say, and now, as I like to say, your essential self, is not what you hear, see and feel.

How you experience what's going on inside your and what's happening in the world around you inform you but do not create you.  

"Who am I" is one of the biggest and most difficult questions for
many of us to answer.  I think it's so difficult, because whatever we say, changes.  We cannot put a stick in the ground ans say this is who I am, now and forever.  Experience continually shapes who we are, and because of this, a fixed identity is impossible.  Our faces, the very thing most of us first identify another with, is constantly changing.  As infants, we grow into our bodies, to only, at the first moment past the height of our physical primacy, start to deteriorate. We can enjoy the same things for our whole lives, but even how we enjoy things changes.  For many of us, even our names change throughout our lives.

The self is a moving target.  It doesn't exist in a way that is resolutely definable except in this present moment, which just passed.

This is one of the reasons why you can never listen to yourself too much, and which is why listening is like a fruit-bearing tree.  If you listen, you find seeds that carry in them truths about your experience - your basic experience before any lens of fear, doubt or anything else tries to cloud it.  If you nurture these seeds through an open mind and an open heart, they can grow into wisdom, which is one way you can cultivate experience to grow wisdom.

Even though there really is no self, we live in a world where it's easy to judge, criticize and beat ourselves up because of what we think, say or do.  We are scared.  Of ourselves and each other.  We want to have an answer, we want to know, something to cling on to amid the fear and pain within us and around us.

But, many of the ways in which many of us are trying to know are only taking us farther away from truly knowing and discovering the wisdom we seek to calm our fears.  Instead of trying to find balance in what we see, hear and feel - which requires that we face our fears - we stand, closing our spiritual selves to experience, trying to push our physical selves forward as our dominant selves. Placing our identity in how we think, see or feel.  Instead of our essential selves, which isn't based in the human experience, only informed by it.

If we give our head too much power, we plow through life not easily able to hear other peoples perspective. Believing ours is the right one, not seeing that the reason we are so headstrong in being right is because we need to hear it most ourselves.  If we give our heart too much power, we shy away from reason, fearing it will imprison our spirits, causing immense emotional pain.  In both situations, we are terribly polarized and entirely unbalanced.

A few weekends ago, I recognized a part of my heart that was doing this.  It had been frozen in pain for so long that I hid it away and never let any experience get close to touching it.  I was only able to see and feel it now because I've been working on facing pain in my heart for a while now, since the birth of my son who helped me to love and be loved in ways I'd forgotten I could.

It took me five years since opening my heart in that way to fully admit that I was molested as a child by more than one person.  It took some time to really see, really hear, really feel and not dissociate or lost myself in pain.   And that hurt.  It still does.  But to get through pain, you have to feel it.  And you don't get to decide for how long.  If we did, we'd never be heartbroken.

It's been a process and now, I'm deeper.  I'm better.  But, I'm not "all healed." I'm not sure we fully heal from anything, if fully healed means it's all gone.  Just like when someone you love dies, you never return to how you felt before they died.  You "move on" and in some ways, I've moved deeper from that initial urge to disassociate and face it.  It was really hard at first and sometimes still is.  I have been scared that I'd lost myself.  But in facing the different parts of what happened, I never have truly lost myself.  I only lost myself, when I ran away.  Now, I see myself.  I hear myself.  I listen to myself.

It's like an open channel.  It's freeing.  Like open arms, sometimes.  Light.  And sometimes darkness. But they are not pitted against one another like they used to be in my head.  Where there is light, there are shadows.  But in a beautiful way the light creates the shadow and the shadow defines the light.  They work together to exist and in understanding my experiences through this channel, I can practice balancing the information I gain from my eyes, my ears and my heart to learn from the light and the darkness.

And that's the thing, like fruit, wisdom doesn't just grow in the light.  It is in the cycle of life experienced in both day and night that fruit, wisdom and life grows.

In darkness, we face fear.  And through choosing to listen to the fear from a place of balance, we are given the opportunity to grow.  In light.  In darkness.  In listening.  We are learning.  To grow.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Into Something Light

I woke up sad.  Angry.  Hurt and frustrated.  I received some upsetting news from home a few days ago involving the abuse of a child, a relative, and was not only upset by the abuse, but by the actions of those around her while she was being abused.

Sometimes I feel so far away. The emotions were exacerbated thinking about what I could (or couldn't) do even if I was back home in Alaska.  I wouldn’t have known about it and things were kept so hidden that it wasn’t likely I, or anyone else, could have done much more than what had already been done to try to protect and help the little girl.   Sometimes, abuse of one child ignites a fire of pain in me that feels like I’m feeling the abuse of thousands.  Even worse, I know the numbers of the abused overtime stretches well into the millions, if not deeper.   It’s like a storm, a storm I can’t deny or make smaller. So, I stood in it, trying not to let the deep feelings of pain, sadness and loss overcome me by letting them coarse through me.

I tried to soothe myself but found I just wasn't ready to be soothed yet.  I still needed to feel.  So I felt.  I cried.  I talked.  I wrote.  I meditated.  I let the torrent of emotion take me over. I stood with it while it raged.  

By mid-afternoon I was exhausted.  I was depleted.  I took a shower.  I felt clean and fresh.  I folded laundry.  I felt productive.  I felt organized.  I felt in control of my little space.

I listened to music based in faith.  I was reminded of the delicate nature of love and hope.  I allowed my mind to nestle itself in between gentle sounds and powerful words that blanketed my soul, with a life-sustaining embrace.

As I let the music seep into my body, I hadn't realized how much I was holding on to the emotion in my body.  How much I was holding myself back, from even breathing to my full capacity. Fear is almost always the root of anger so when we are angry, we are often guarded. Taut.  I took a deep inhalation and as I let go, let my chest deepen.  I encouraged my eyes to soften, which they did so easily it surprised me.  It was almost as if they were just waiting for my mind to give them permission to relax.  My jaw followed suit, releasing my teeth from a slight clench I hand’t noticed was happening.  With another deep inhale, I felt the muscles attached to my vertebra release their grip on my spine, creating more space.

All of a sudden, I was quite hungry and looking around my small apartment, cooped up.  I wanted to see the space I’d created in my body reflected in the world around me.  I walked outside, looking to explore a new area, someplace I’d never been.  I found this small traditional Peruvian restaurant.  I wanted to try something new from a part of the world I didn't know.  

I sat in a booth by the window.  I had spiced popped corn kernels with tzatziki sause while I was looking over the menu.  What an interesting combination of flavors, I thought. Warm, creamy, slightly spicy and crunchy. The placemats were made of a deep, earthy colored fabric. The water glass looked more like a goblet. The servers smiled genuinely and with a hint of curiosity in my direction. Almost as if they knew this dinner was a little bit of a secret moment, just for me.  Maybe it was because I was looking for it, or maybe it was because it just was; either way, the restaurant was warm and had a rhythm to it, like a beating heart.  I took it in, feeling each moment as it pumped fresh perspective into my body.  Looking, listening, breathing, eating.  

Noticing the way my innerself was reconnecting to the outside world, after being so emotionally depleted, I wrote this poem:

Sitting alone I ponder
Entirely public, I think
Nestled in my own understanding
of what it's like

to be.

Reaching in I write
to observe and reflect

I am not alone

but connecting

to the part of me
and the part of you
we most protect.

in this moment there are people
I didn't see at first

settling into myself
I can better hear their experience
better try to understand life through their lens

I sit and rest my lips
not pursed or waiting

in a smile, I breathe
and release the joy therein

all there is
all I’ve held
I let go.

Simply to relax.

I release my muscles
into something light

something soft
and supportive.

something strong, something sweet.
the joy of being connected
through the pain of life.

Really, you just can't break.

will your soul cease.

never will you expire.

You are you
in blood, in truth
in fire.

My muscles into something light.

When things become easier, progress

Something AWESOME just happened.

So many of you know that I had a really rough, somewhat nasty divorce and custody battle. It was pretty brutal and super long (4 years total in court/hearings/etc). When my ex-husband and I first split it was so heated, so intense. I remember for the first 2.5-3 years whenever I got an email from him I took a sharp intake of breath and all my muscles tensed. We were just not able to communicate and we were fighting tooth and nail over our son - the person we both most care for, yearn for and love.

He's a good person, a good dad but when we first divorced we couldn't find any middle ground, at all. It always felt like we were trying to etch a space in rock that just wouldn't break open. But the one thing we held on to each was that we knew the reason why this was so difficult was because we each loved our son so much. And that created a light at the end of this proverbial tunnel of difficulty that made the work bearable.

We've been divorced now well over 6 years and the custody stuff ended close to three years ago. We've worked really, really hard. We've learned how to listen better, how to say things more gently. I remember when he was talking to me on the phone about Una, something to do with school or his health or something - and made a half-joke, something that broke the tense, business like communication we'd had for so long. I was shocked for a second, like jolted. Then, I smiled so big and thought oh My God, we're breaking new ground! It's becoming less hard!

I got a email yesterday about something to do with my son's health. He had to move forward on one of our son's health situations (nothing big at all, super minor) and was informing me. He said some things that caught my eye - the Dr's last name was my ex-husbands, and that the doctor would perform the treatment at no cost but he'd accept donations. And I was like, oh - ok. I can do that. No problem I can send a donation!

I get an email back immediately that said it was a joke and they were able to find at home remedies that worked just as well. He said he was Dr. Kennedy and the donations thing was a joke. I was so shocked at first, I'm sure my face turned beet red and I had this huge smile on my face. We had never gone so far as to pull a prank on the other person. Ever. I was so thrilled that we'd finally gotten this far! I feel like we are now engaging on a level of respect and trust and even humor! We are finally letting our shoulders slack and saying, hey - we are in this together, right? Let's be friends. We aren't besties, but hey, it's a start!
— feeling great.

Divorce is hard, especially with children.  But the best thing you can do for your child is work as hard as you can on developing and maintaining a strong and healthy relationship with his other parent.  Step by step. 

Friday, July 26, 2013

This moment. Begonias.

All day I have had a stress headache from thinking and analyzing.  I have been trying to stop but those of you who know what it's like to have your brain really run know that sometimes you can't just think, "Stop! Calm down."  I was at work all day and tried to find moments of stillness.  Moments where I could try to give my brain space to relax. I tried some mindfulness meditation.  I tried looking up calming landscapes.  I tried reading about calming the mind.  By 5pm my head was aching, spinning and oh so congested.

What do I do the moment I get out of work? I call someone.  My sister, Bel, one of my best friends.  We talk and its great but when she says I have to go its ok because my head still hurts.  The moment she hangs up I realize that I am totally and completely alone in this moment.  For the first time in a long, long time.

I've had my son for the summer and when I didn't have him I was working.  I was never just with myself. I wasn't texting with anyone or waiting on texts, I wasn't chatting with someone through Facebook or gmail, I wasn't reading something, I wasn't trying to be "productive" or "healthy." There was no agenda for the moment I was experiencing.  It didn't have a name and was staring me straight in the face.

What I wanted to do was throw something at it.  Write! Clean! Yoga! Run! SLEEP! But I caught myself.  I said, wait.

What if I just stared at this moment and breathed it in, as may Acting 1 professor, James Rice, would say.

What if I just looked at it straight in the face, in this moment, and said, I see you.

I let my eyes fall on the potted begonia plant in front of me.  I took it in.

Not with any kind of message or purpose or thought.
Just breathing it in. Begonia. Pink. Leaves.
Breathing out.

After a few moments, I felt a shift. My soul, not my body, not my brain, released. Just a little.  A little tension, a little bunched up stress that was being held in my soul, released.  In that moment of alone-ness and just-me-ness, I let go.

It was like easing into cold water.

Like, "Here we go. Yep. It's cold. It's water. Cold - water."

I wanted to stay in this present moment but watch it move.  So I decided to draw.  I took out my sketchpad and a pencil.

I breathed into each stroke. When I wanted to erase something, I cleared away more tension. I felt like I was sketching and stroking away my anxiety, my fear and my sadness onto the page before me.  Sketching it out and turning into something...for me.

Because it's for me, it becomes something beautiful, out of nowhere.  It doesn't matter what it looks like anymore.

As I start to look at the drawing it doesn't become a representative of what doesn't work or what looks "bad" but what it meant to me - emotionally, spiritually and physically - to create it.

Expression doesn't have to be public. Expression, of art, of thought, of struggle, can just be for you, too.  I'm making this public to encourage the personal, the individual, the private pursuit of expression. Of connection. To yourself. Through art. Through expression. Through experience.

We are here to connect. To ourselves first and foremost because we live in a world where connection to the self, by and large, is not encouraged.  But also, to the world around us. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Kid in You

By many standards, I've been an "adult" for quite some time.  I have a seven year old child and have been financially dependent for myself since I moved out of my parent's house at 17.  I'm a college graduate and have been in the workforce since I was 12, first as a babysitter.  By 14, I held two jobs, by 16 I held three.  But, do any of these things really make me an "adult?"

Most societies designate a time, that is tied to an experience. to acknowledge a person's passing from childhood into adulthood.  In ancient Sparta, both boys and girls were separated from their homes at age 7 to begin their long journeys into adulthood, alone.   Young Lakota boys, often in their teenage years, were encouraged to leave their villages alone and venture off into the wilderness, returning after days of fasting and meditation as men. Thirteen year-old Apache girls can undergo a four-day ceremony meant to encapsulate the Apache creation story that ends in an all-night dancing ceremony. Canadian Inuit boys from Baffin Island as young as 11 years old are taken on a coming-of-age hunting trip with their fathers, also   In the United States and many other countries today, turning 18 marks the moment a person changes from child to adult.

But, is this transition so stark?

As I mentioned, I have a seven year old and God forbid he be called a baby.  Yet, he wants to fall asleep next to me and doesn't trust himself to modulate the hot water in the shower on his own because he's afraid it'll get hot too fast. And, at the same time,  he wants so badly to be big. To make his own decisions on what to eat and when to sleep.  To be an adult.  He groans at the thought of being childish.  Being childish is disadvantageous.  It's annoying.

In movies, at school, from the mouths of other adults, many children hear society, by and large, saying they should be seen and not heard (presumably because they don't have anything important to say).  Many children learn that being a child is something they should escape.  Yet, children are most often used as scapegoats in embarassing or frustrating situations.  "You know how children are." Or, "it was probably that kid."  For many kids, childhood is seeing mostly as something that holds you back.

Adora, a very adult-sounding child, talks about what she thinks childish means.  She talks about how we need to change this narrative because in actuality, children all over the world and throughout time have changed the world with their intelligence, courage, wisdom and strength.  Children like Anne Frank.  Or, Malala Yousafzai.

This causes me to question.  How do we look at ourselves as adults? As once-were kids?

As an adult, we are encouraged to be as kid-less as possible.  In the work place, in higher-education, in the grocery store.  But, what does it mean to be kid-less?  What does it mean to be an adult?

Does it meant to be impeccably responsible?  Does it mean to manage our time with an acute sense of precision?  Does it mean to not show weakness?  Which then begs the questions...what is responsible?  What is a good use of time?  And what is weakness?

Is responsible showing up to work everyday, even if you hate it?  Does managing your time mean putting your needs last, after everything else is accomplished?  Is weakness crying in front of your kid?  Or your boss?

What do these things mean, to a kid?  Or, not just any kid, but the kid in you?  Because, the foundations of what it means to be an adult, is laid in childhood and those foundations are not lost in whatever rite of passage your cross to enter into your world as an adult.

As a teacher, what moves me the most is how children first listen through their hearts.  Not their ears. And not their eyes.  They feel first, think later.  For some reason, as we grow older, we are conditioned to do just the opposite.  As a matter of survival, because feeling is unpredictable and therefore, its a vulnerable place from which to act.

But that's just the thing.  The way kids respond is unadultrated: fresh, spontaneous and new. Impulsive, in a way.  Which is a bad thing to be as an adult.  As an adult, I hear that we should always "think first."  Yet, we are brought into this world first learning how to feel.  I think there is something magical in firsts, not primitive.  Not backward.  Not ignorant.  We first feel.

Yet, from many places in society, we are ridiculed because of how we feel, so we learn to curb it.  We learn to hide it.  We learn not to trust it.  We cater to the responses of those around us. If our parents laugh at our ideas, we change them.  If our friends put us down for our beliefs, we hide them.  If a teacher says we can't do it, we stop trying.

But what if we didn't do that.  What if we reached down into the kid in each of us, whether we are kids now or adults, and stood by our understandings of the world.  Our feelings first.  We conditioned our thoughts to protect our silliness.  Our curiosity.  What if we worked with what responsible meant to each of us and tried not to adhere to a generalized standard of behaviors and instead, embraced a unified understanding of morality.  What if we didn't judge each other for how we spent our time, as long as it was in ways that evolved us each as individuals forward?  And if one among us wasn't embracing morality or evolution, we embraced them as most children do when they see someone in pain - with an open heart.  Because they feel, first.

Curious about how you can tap into your kid-self? Especially if that's a part of you you thought you'd shut away forever? Treat yourself as you would your child if you have one.  With as much love, patience and understanding as you can muster.  If you don't have a child, how about your best friend's baby? With respect, with love, without judgement.  With encouragement.  Too many of us treat ourselves and our impulses with repudiation, judgement and negative criticism.  And that's not from us. We learn that.

Maybe that's why so many people are unhappy as adults...we are telling ourselves, as adults, who used to be kids, that our ideas are stupid, that we aren't enough.

Perhaps if we loved each other first as children, we'd be less judgmental, less insecure and less angry.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

At Knife Point

For years, a little girl lived naked
bunched down in hiding
and exposed

Something happened a long time ago
She doesn't talk so no one knows

stuck in fear
in memory
she didn't grow

Hiding her body
only behind what she could create
her arms wrapped around her knees

She sat there, in the open
not behind a wall
or even the crumbling fa├žade
of anything
that once was

On the ground
covered in dirt

After years and years of silence
she didn't want for anything

not for food
not for water

she'd forgotten

how to speak

what she once was, erased
after years of nothing
except darkness and fear


Something happened a long time ago
She doesn't talk so no one knows

stuck in fear
in memory
she didn't grow

she never looked up, she never looked back
staring at the ground
in dirt and silence
shadows of the outside world
crossed over

Seeing the shadows,
she sometimes remembered
as it flickered away

She had been hiding
for so long
wrapping her arms
around her little knees

did she know how, to let go?

She was tucked away, lost to me
lost to the world
alone and forgotten

Something happened a long time ago
She doesn't talk so no one knows

Locked away
in a room
that was always dark

It started as protection
so long ago

because she was so hurt,
so violated

I didn't know
how to heal her

the more I tried
the more I cried

I felt alone

no one understood

we were both so little
she felt so much

I tried to be her mom
but I was just a girl little myself
trying to move forward
and life is fast

I tried to hold her
but I didn't know how to hold such pain
how to not let it consume
all I was

I didn't know how to let her feel

so I locked her away

too little to know


Time passed


Something happened a long time ago
She doesn't talk so no one knows


part of me kept growing

learning how to be

without her

she was stuck.

time stood stale

shadows passing by

But in a moment
something happened

after years of nothing

I saw her
on the ground

in the dirt

her nakedness
- how small she was
- how scared
- how empty
- how sad

I fell to my knees, crying

Touching the ground
I saw her

knees bunched up
knees to the ground

dirty and still

after 20 years

Something happened a long time ago
She doesn't talk so no one knows

There she was

the first me
the littlest me

Hiding in fear.
Stuck and alone.

all of a sudden, I saw

and she wasn't alone
I was with her

but not just me

I saw her surrounded
by angry people

They weren't touching her

but someone had

a long time ago
they touched her
in places connected
to her deepest self
her deepest part

the source of all that is

Something happened a long time ago
She doesn't talk so no one knows

stuck in fear
in memory
she didn't grow

I saw the people around her, angry
with pitchforks and knives
and sharp things

angry, so angry at her
little her,
dirty and still

They wanted to hurt her
kill her
see her blood
- this was her life
surrounded in pain, in fear
not moving
dirty and still

My 25 year old heart - dropped

like my knees to the ground
in pain
in loss
in sadness

Something happened a long time ago.
She doesn't talk so no one knows.

stuck in fear
in memory
she didn't grow

I came to her through someone else

I had forgotten

she was even there.

A message from a woman
I hadn't heard from
in decades
a woman who was once a girl

who I had known

The woman was struggling
and writing to connect

a childhood friend from long ago

She was honest and open
sad and angry
feeling lost and alone

Reading her words, I fell to my knees

I felt her sadness
her anger
I felt her loss

my heart stirred
taking me back

to the locked room
and my naked girl

stuck in fear and silence

Seeing her, my little me
for the first time in so long

bones and muscles, ancient

something stirred from deep down
from connecting with my childhood friend

the me locked away,
scared and naked in the dirt
remembered movement
that began in my heart

it spread to my body

a reminder that although hurt, I had once moved

that I had felt things

not so sad

not so dark

not so scary

In a flash I saw everything and knew everything from before

In a flash, it came back

the pain, the sadness, the loss and the fear

Knees to the ground, I wept

Something happened a long time ago
But now she talks and people know

a long time ago
someone touched her

in places connected
to her deepest self

Looking up, I was surrounded by pitchforks and knives and daggers

And I moved.

for the first time
in 20 years.

I saw my history and my present, all in one moment.

Something happened a long time ago.
I never talked, so no one knew.

stuck in fear
in memory

I didn't grow

But on that day, I moved.

seeing them
the people around me
the pitchforks
and the daggers

I saw her see them
screaming and angry

from my heart, I spoke

in a language of strength and sorrow.

I had been carrying her, all along
her sadness
her fear
her loss

dirty and still
and now, I saw her

dirty and still

I moved

dirty and still
I was reminded

that we were always one.

Through her cries, she opened
Through my cries, I embraced her.

our cries
washing away the dirt.
washing away the still
to make room

for the light
to blast away the shadows

to move.

to open.

I offered my heart in my hand

amid the chaos
amid the fear
amid the pain
amid the loss

and she took it.

Walking away, hand in heart, heart in hand
we haven't let go.

remembering the years she was locked away
never again will she be alone.

she is me.
and I am her.

we were always one.

And this is how it began
the beginning of the journey
in finding our way back.

to each other.

to embracing the parts of ourselves in pain
in sadness
in fear
in loss

heart in hand, we walk, each day
growing deeper
step in step

toward an understanding of wholeness

that started through facing
and fear
in the heart.