Juno

moon

Today her coat was torn apart. Her coverings blown away. Her mask was destroyed with a fury only the greatest of storms can achieve.

I asked her if it hurt…I had seen her shaking. I watched as things had been torn away. I saw her stand there and let the blows come.

“This is what we all must do,” she said. And I noticed the look upon her face. A small smile curling on her lips. A look of satisfaction. Through the tatters of her coverings I noticed her body, relaxed, soft, vibrantly alive. The slow sap of blood making its way, heart to limb, heart to limb.

The storm, it plays around her. It plays within her. It is a true reflection of her mind. The deepest darkest thoughts. The peeling away, lifting, the bringing home, the alchemy.

“I just want to know how you withstand it,” I asked. I just need to know that I’ll withstand it.

All she did was gesture down to her feet, bare on the snowy earth. Roots. She tilted her face to the low hanging moon beyond the storm clouds. She spread her arms to the sky.

She does not resist, she welcomes.

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Handling and Healing Conflict in Human Relationships

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The hard part of human relationship. We all know it! This post focuses on partnerships, but is equally applicable to the wide range of relationships that we find ourselves in throughout life. Parent/child, friend, sibling, extended family, etc. Often conflict arises with those we are closest to in our lives, because (hopefully) we feel safe enough to say the hard stuff (ie: we know “this person will still love me even though I do not agree,” or “this person will not leave if we argue,” etc…).

Navigating waters that are murky with the past, and all our hurts and memories new and old can be incredibly frustrating because so much more can come into play than the issue at hand. The challenge is not to become wrapped up in the other person’s problems and at the same time being cogniscent of the triggers within us that cause us to become defensive, distant, judgemental, and so on.

In partnerships, how can we be healthily involved in the other person’s life and support them as they deal with their problems? What do we do when those problems inevitably knock on our own doors?

As families mesh (or don’t), as children are born, as people die, divorce, move in, move out, move away, life can become a fertile ground for “family problems” and will become a garden of overgrown weeds if we are not careful to tend to it. As a family of four we have had a crash course in imperfect boundary setting over the last two years with our first and second child born within 13 months of each other. Here are some ideas that I find to be helpful when Shit. Gets. Hard.

#1 See yourself, first. 

Try to understand your own reaction before you go criticizing the other. I am often amazed at how humans unconsciously seek out the relationships and situations they need to heal their own issues. One of our biggest jobs as partners and as parents is to realize that our relationship is an incredibly opportunity to see ourselves, to open up and be vulnerable, to name and heal the things that hold us back, and to grow- separately and together.

#2 Take a time out.

Gather yourself. Calm yourself. People in close relationship learn each other’s triggers, fast. As you react to something the other person says or does, step away and take a few minutes to ask yourself what you are really feeling. Are you reacting from a place within yourself that is carrying an old hurt, fear, or anger? Notice it if you can. Name it if you can. Ask yourself, “why?” Think of this as…an opportunity (A stretch? Maybe. But only because it will never feel like an opportunity at the time).

#3 Come back!

This is so important and it can be so easy to just let an argument or an uncomfortable situation fizzle out. It WILL lay under the surface and gather strength, so don’t let the sleeping beast lie. Talk about it. Take turns. Cry. Laugh. Listen. Let the person know that you are always there for them even if you don’t agree with them.

While these steps are helpful in handling and healing conflict in our relationships, I want to leave you with this: The most important step you can take is to work on yourself. The inner work you do, and there are many ways to do it, will yield positive results in all areas of your life. Your well-being or lack thereof isn’t any one else’s job, any one else’s fault, any one else’s responsibility!

Why I Can’t, Why I Can. An Exercise for the Stuck.

 

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I did this exercise on New Year’s Eve by accident. I was feeling stuck, angry with myself for not just SITTING DOWN TO WRITE, my mind whirring with excuses and self-doubt.

Rather then griping, I sat down and ended up writing fourteen pages or so, and I felt great when I was finished. This will work for you no matter what it is that you “can’t” do. It can be “Why I can’t sing,” “Why I can’t make my art,” “Why I can’t go to school,” etc. Simply sit down and write all the reasons why you can’t. If you’re anything like me, this will feel great! Then go on back through and re-write it in a positive- “Why I can,” or whatever suits your fancy.

I am all for gratitude and affirmations, but in this case I find it extremely helpful to write out all my excuses. As if putting them onto pages gives them the voice they need, helps me to see a little more clearly, and clears the mental space that they were occupying. I also found that the further I got into writing why “I can’t,” the more the real reasons revealed themselves.

Writing the positives really gave me a boost, and I have looked back on them many times already to give myself some motivation. I have posted both below, just so you can get an idea of how to do it. There are no rules, just clear that brain-space out, no matter what is in it!


 

Why I can’t sit down to write.

I can’t sit down to write- because I don’t have the right notebook, I don’t have the right pens. Because I have to do it a certain way, with a certain penmanship, at a certain time of day that is always unavailable. I can’t write because I don’t have a writing studio, or the perfect office, or because the office isn’t heated. I can’t write because I must clean and organize first, because I must do things by the moon, because I am too tired.

I can’t write because I must make dinner, or think about dinner, or look up a recipe. I can’t write because I haven’t read my horoscope, because I never made that phone call. You know, the one I don’t intend to make.

I can’t write because I must make a list of things “to-do” and on that list I will write that I must write. I can’t though, because the baby might wake up and he’ll want to eat, and I can’t write while he eats. I can’t write because there are crumbs on the floor, and because I need to paint the baby’s room, and because the laundry will rear its ugly head if I don’t beat it down again.

I can’t write because I have nothing to say. Because I am not interesting enough or wise enough or funny enough. I can’t write because I don’t know how to be myself, because my own voice is not good enough. I can’t write because my hands hurt. THIS IS WHY MY HANDS HURT. I can’t write because I have bad posture, because my head hurts (again, THAT IS WHY) and because my coffee has gone cold.

I can’t write because no one will read it. I can’t write because someone might read it. I can’t write because I didn’t write enough before and because that person is a writer now so who am I to call myself one? I can’t write because I won’t make money doing it- at least not right away, so why start?

I can’t write because I need to go back to school, because I need a master’s degree, no, wait- a PhD. I can’t write because I still live here. I can’t write because life is not perfect. I can’t write because there aren’t enough followers and not enough comments and because all of that shit makes me uncomfortable anyways.

I can’t write because I need to take a walk. I need to do yoga. I can’t write because I should meditate instead. I can’t write because my mind is a mess, because clarity is fleeting, because of what I might find out if I do.

I can’t write because I’ll fail, though the only failure would be not writing. I can’t write because I’ll regret it if I don’t write and so I can’t start in case I stop.

I can’t write because life gets in the way. Because I don’t want to offend anyone. Because I want to offend EVERYONE. Because I don’t want my family TO SEE ME. Because they might see something other than what they thought was there.

Because I am not the achiever.

I have no perfection.

Because some of my opinions are stronger than I ever let on.

Because I know if I write my voice will get stronger and my words will be clearer.

I can’t write because I will become a working mother, a writing lover, an exposed woman. I can’t write because you will know my insecurities, you will know that my demons and doubts are as strong as yours and beating them down doesn’t necessarily work. I can’t write because then I must face them. I can’t write because my words are naked. I can’t write because I’ll say things about sex and drugs and I’ll reveal the power of my righteous anger.

I can’t write because then I will be responsible for what words I choose, and in what order. I can’t write because not everyone will agree and then I’ll shed the peacekeeper persona (Thank God).

I can’t write because I don’t want you to analyze me and see that I have flaws. I can’t write because it makes me feel whole, because it brings me joy EVERY TIME I do it.

Because I feel it in my bones, and who am I to question bones?

I can’t write because then I must realize my own strength and resilience, and that I am not broken- just broken open.

And so I can’t do it, because who will love me then? Because who will I become? Because who will I leave behind?

I can’t write because then I must call myself ‘writer’ and ‘poet,’ which is what I’ve always wanted to call myself. So instead I’ll look on Craigslist and apply for a job as a proofreader because I know I’m good and that will be easier than facing all this “I can’t” bullshit.

I can’t write because there will always be someone better than me. My name won’t go down in history. I can’t because the steps to get there are overwhelming, even though to see my words in print is a great joy.

I can’t write because then I must edit/cut/paste. Because who am I to say it’s good? Because I know that many times, it is. And I can’t do it because I judge myself when it isn’t. And so I’ve written all the reasons why I can’t write, and now there are no more excuses.


 

Why I Sit Down To Write.

I sit down to write no matter the paper or pens, and I do it in no certain way. I sit down to write in any place, leaving all the mess and ‘to-do’ lists to wait for me, OK that they may even grow in my absence.

I sit down to write by the sun or the moon, with a mind tired or fresh, with or without the inspiration that is made available to me on a daily basis. I write to let go of the gnawing thoughts, the sharp doubts that deflate my best ideas like balloons that would have soared up high beyond the clouds had they not been pierced to the heart with those blades of doom. I write to understand. Myself, the world around me. I write to leave behind the cotidiana, even though there is glory in the mundane.

I write to name the glory.

I write because I have so much to say and this is my way to say it. I write because I am interesting and bold and wise and funny, and because it is OK if I am none of those things sometimes. I write to know myself, to develop my strong and clear voice, to relieve my body of its pain. I write and in the process of being swept away by the beauty of words, I care not that my coffee has gone cold.

I write no matter who might read it, and I write even if no one ever will. I write because even when I can’t, I am still a writer. And even though there are lapses, that is the cycle, and the cycle always moves.

I am motivated by the sheer love of the written word, not the promise of money- thought I know that I can use this beautiful craft as a lucrative means to support myself and my family financially. I write, grateful for my education and knowing that more learning is available to me. I write no matter where I live and what my life looks like. I write whether I am recognized or not.

I write even if I am distracted by other things, and I know that filling my cup by walking, reading, meditating, playing, making love, sleeping, eating, doing yoga, will give me fuel to live a full life in which I have the space to write.

I write when the mental chatter won’t stop, and it helps me to get clarity.

I write even though I may fail, knowing the truth is that as long as I am writing I am not failing.

I write to speak my truth, To be seen, To be Me.

I write because it is a part of who I am, because along with mother, lover, woman I am writer, creator.

I write to expose my own insecurities, demons, doubts. I write to face myself. I write when I am FEELING, no matter what that is.

I write and I am responsible for my words, and I reserve the right to change my mind, always. I write no matter the opinion of someone else. I write to shake it up, rather than keep the peace.

I write even if you can analyze me and see through to my core. I write because when I do it I am made whole, because to write brings the joy all the way deep into my bones.

I write because I am strong and resilient and broken, open.

Because I know I am love and am always evolving. I write because I am a writer and a poet. Because, simply, I can.

I write even though someone else is better at it- this means there is always more to learn. I write when it is good and when it is bad, and because a true craft must be practiced.


 

What about you? What is it that you can or cannot do? Why? Get to the heart of it, clear the space and you will feel more freedom.

My Grandmother’s Socks

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I want to keep my grandmother’s socks. They are worn-out, tinged and tattered. Her name, “D. Addison,” is written on each one in a black marker by the nursing staff, permanent so it wouldn’t come out in the wash. This is why I want to keep them, and sometimes why I wear them even though they do nothing for my feet.

This is, in fact, why we hold onto so much, and why sometimes it is OK to hold on, just a little longer. The socks serve as a reminder of her, a small thing that makes me smile. One day I’ll throw them in the bin with the rest of the stuff I give away, almost religiously- for my home is my sanctuary and my sanctuary is simple, clear, functional space.

I clear space for life to happen. Shed the material mess that can accumulate so we have more room to laugh and cry and BE.

My grandmother was a woman trapped within herself. In the hours before she died all night I read to her, I said her name again and again. “Dorothy Louise, I am taking to you,” I said, appealing to that fundamental core I knew existed beneath all the layers of hurt and shame and protection from the world that had been cruel to her. Beneath the mess she had been unable to clear.

She never regained consciousness but I held her as she died in the late morning and I felt her move through me. I saw her eyes open wide one final time as she stared into something not of this realm.

I knew that part of her became part of me that day, so perhaps I do not need these tattered socks as reminders, for I also see her when I look into my daughter’s face, I feel her spirit when I smell cardamom, and a share her love of a specific shade of the colour blue.

My son has eyes that sometimes look like hers. His name, though the usual story I tell is without all of the underlying significance, was born of longing and fulfilment, of sadness, hope and home.

Amadeo.

It seems strange that I might include sadness and longing in the story, for he is just a little baby who smiles at his mama at every chance he gets. But in his name is truth, is God, is human resilience. And the truth is that he will experience, as we all do, beauty and pain, hope and suffering, over and over again within this short life.

It is important not to hold onto the regrets and the failures and the anger and disappointments, but to remember it all. Our memories contain us and all the ones we love within them. Truly, I do not need these socks. I keep them because “…as the old go walking into the night, we lose our sense of time’s extension, we lose our witnesses, our living memories. We lose them and we lose the farthest reaches of ourselves.” (p 186 The Blue Jay’s Dance, Erdrich)

And maybe sometimes we must hold on to socks as we learn to let go, once again.