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.