What Darkness Does

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By Amy Marchand Collins

What darkness does is bring us close, closer together, closer to the Light.

So it has always been, since first we left the trees and congregated around fires to tell the stories that make us who we are.

The woman sitting and knitting in the back of meetings and council halls going back thousands of years, has been oft-overlooked. But she hears more than you realize. And when she speaks, all in earshot would do well to listen to her wisdom. She is speaking now, reminding us of who we are, who we have been, and who we yet can be.
What darkness does is draw us close, seeking Light and warmth and the comfort of togetherness. May we in our togetherness remember to welcome and even celebrate the stranger in our midst. For we all have been strangers too. Besides. It’s just the right thing to do.

What darkness does is call forth our instincts to nurture and protect what is precious and most sacred. In the dark, seedling ideas can gestate, protected from harsh criticisms until they grow past the point of vulnerability.
Those who bring the darkness want us
Separate

And small

And voiceless

And frightened

And forgetful of who we are
But instead, here we stand.

Not against, but FOR:

For Peace,

For Justice,

For Science,

For Hope,

For the Environment,

For Fairness,

For Inclusivity,

For Kindness.

Anchored in Love

Shining our Lights

Over and over, saying to our friends on our left and on our right, “I see you. I love you. I am so glad you are here.”
—————–

Handcrafted pussyhats, the color of the sunset sky. As my hands form each stitch, I imbue them with my love and prayers, which join with the wearer’s intentions when she wears it for the March.

As we head into the long dark ahead of us, the friends, connections and memories made now must sustain us through the dark times ahead. Would that it were dawn already and these pink hats were instead harbingers of a new day!

Not all who enter this night will live to see the dawn.
But let these hats be reminders of all that we stand FOR.

We hoped to make history by inaugurating one woman to occupy the seat of power.

Instead, we who are alive today bear witness to the last gasp of a system that no longer works. For anyone. And more importantly, to the galvanizing of all of us, as we awaken to how much work remains to be done – by us – to make the changes needed, both in our systems and in our hearts to create a world that works for everyone.
What darkness does in its arrogance is revel in its power.
And that WILL prove its undoing.
Because in its power-drunk madness it forgets:

There have always been those with the ability to see right through it.

And this is why

what darkness does best

is give strength and clarity to the Light.

What the NICU (and NICU parents) can teach the Resistance

Each new headline hits like a wave — each one strong enough to knock me off my feet, leave me gasping and sputtering in the sand and salt, struggling to regain my footing.  Each one bringing a new and different level of pain, yet this combination of exhaustion mingled with fear and grief feels strangely familiar.  I scan back and quickly find the corresponding memories — of course! The NICU.  (That’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for the uninitiated.) It’s where my twins spent their first four months of life, where I began my journey as a mother, fifteen years ago.

It occurs to me that different as the events of the twenty-four hour news cycle may seem from the world of tiny babies struggling to survive, NICU moms (and Dads) and all special needs parents may have much to teach the rest of us about learning to survive and even thrive under a Trump presidency.  Strengthening our resilience without becoming hardened.  That is the balancing act called for in these challenging times.

So here are some “Lessons from the NICU” translated for a wider audience.

 1.  Look at the baby, not the monitors. Go to the Source

If you’ve never visited one before, you may be unprepared for what a noisy place a NICU can be. In the NICU, babies are constantly monitored for various vital signs. Each measure has its specific range, and alarms go off if the readings go above or below that predefined range. Preemie parents quickly learn to interpret and rely on the feedback from the dazzling amount of information on the monitors, to the point that some not so jokingly request to bring a set home at discharge.

Which is why almost from the beginning, NICU nurses train parents to look first at their BABY when an alarm goes off.

In a time when the free press is under continual attack from the president as “fake news,” where Russian bots are actively working to sow chaos and division, while it seems every day brings new revelations of how the companies we entrusted with our information have abused that trust. It’s no wonder people throw up their hands and say they don’t know what to believe.

But critical thinking is not dead. And it is a teachable skill. It starts with going to the source (or as close to it as you can get) for information on the issues most important to you.

We can train ourselves to do a few simple checks to find out where information comes from and whether it is credible.

Who is publishing the information? What is the agenda behind releasing this particular information and the timing of the release. Speaking of timing, when was the article published? Is this new information? Or is this old news repackaged with a click- sit headline to look new? Does it fit with our real-life experience of what is happening?

2.  Watch her, wait.  See what she does.  Watchful vigilance

This one frustrated me immensely when my own children were in the NICU.  I would be in conversation with the doctors about some condition or other that they had and I would ask, “What do you do for that?”  The response would come back, “Watch her, wait.  See what she does.”

I’ve since come to realize what good advice this is, not only in the NICU, but in almost any fast-moving situation where multiple factors are at play.  Rather than introducing yet more variables into the mix, it takes a fierce combination of patience and vigilance to just stay the course.  Treatments take time.  Allow what you have done already a chance to work.

The thing about this watching and waiting is that it is active.  This is not passive acceptance.  This is staying alert, ready to press the record button or take other direct action at a moment’s notice.

3.  Go get some rest Self-Care is Vital

As new parents of a critically ill infant it is tempting to stay at your baby’s bedside 24/7.  And today’s NICU, with private rooms encourages that. But while a parent’s presence is important, parents need care, too.  As more than one nurse put it “you’ll never have better babysitters than you have right now.”

It’s important to remember in any crisis situation that goes on for more than a couple days that life goes on. If you have other children, they need to get to school, and do homework and have regular meals and bedtimes. Providing that structure for them is helpful for you, too. As we remind each other in most of the resistance groups I participate in on Facebook, be aware of your needs. Tag out when you need to. Then return when you are rested and rejuvenated.

4. Keep to your “normal” routines as much as Possible

Routines provide structure and help us to move forward in our lives. This was especially important for my friends with older children at home who needed their parents and were too young to be expected to understand why their parents weren’t as available as usual while their new sibling was in the NICU.

Routines help us as adults too. While we may keenly feel the chaos of the administration, most of us have jobs or families that need us to be fully present to our own lives.

On Faith

I remember as a teenager having real battles with my father on this issue. Ours was a religiously split household, and to profess a faith in his Roman Catholic God or my mother’s Protestant God of Love was to reject beloved family members on the other “side”. As the oldest child I bore the brunt of their disagreements. These got worse when I reached Confirmation age. I refused. I refused to reject any of my family or their religion. I also refused to just go through the motions to please an aging and dominant grandmother. I insisted that was MY choice to make as an adult. I tried to explain to him that I wasn’t sure how much of the Bible I believed, but I had Faith in … Faith itself was the best I could articulate it at 17. I used to pray daily, directing my attention to whatever Force ‘out there’ might be listening. “show me the path you would have me walk.”

In my mid twenties life brought me to KS, and one day as I perused the Kansas City Star, my eye landed on the talk title for that Sunday: “Integrity” at a place called Unity Church of Overland Park. where was that? And the next morning I got up early and drove the 42 miles from Leavenworth to UCOP for the first time. Hearing the music and Rev. Mary Omwake speak, I knew my heart had found its home. ❤️

That was many years ago now. Today I am unchurched again, living in RI, near (but not too near) my parents, far from the spiritual communities that nourished me so. I have lived through betrayals and griefs, seen much more of the world’s darkness. Life has been harder than I ever imagined it would be. Yet somehow I still find the sweetness, the Good, wherever and whenever I choose to look for it. 

And whether I identify myself with any religion or like the Dalai Lama simply say, my religion is kindness, I wholeheartedly embrace the definition of Faith given in Hebrews 11:11 “Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the certainty of things not seen.”

Faith to me now is the calm certainty that there is Good to be found or made in any situation, and if I am not seeing it, then perhaps it is mine to BE it.

Swish

By Amy Marchand Collins

Swish. Swish.

A swirl of blackness, gone already before you realize she is here.

Wounded.

Leviathan.

In the deepest depths.

Lashing out.

Angry.

Betrayed!

Well, yes.

She was.

And she scarcely knows which she wants more: to howl with grief and rage and pain or lash out in anger.

And I allow her none of it.

Instead, I push her down.

Confine her to this small, dark space.

Where she cannot be heard.

And I will not listen.

And instead she has to witness while I “smile”

And react “professionally”

Like an adult.

But inside

A grievously wounded dragon is gathering her wings beneath her.

When she takes the sky

Take cover.

You who deserve her wrath may yet feel it.

She is kind

But even kindness has its limits

And she is reaching hers.

So I will go and sit with her just as Innanna went eventually to sit by the grieving, laboring body of her sister, Ereshkigal.

And I will let her know how sorry I am that she was hurt. And worse, that her gorgeous, wrathful Beauty is not welcome in this world.

She belongs to the Elder time

When Goddesses walked and dragons roamed freely.

But St. George killed all the dragons

And Patrick drove the snakes from Ireland

They built a religion and a worldview that revered death rather than life.

Instead of the soul-renewing cycles of the Mother’s Wheel, we have boxes and boxes

Swords and guns (Phalluses all)

To exact the land’s tribute in blood.

What women give freely each month with no discernible wound, man takes instead through death, destruction, rape and pillage.

But driven underground though they may be, the pulses of a thousand thousand turns of the wheel echo down through the centuries.

And we women find ourselves at turns parched by the desert heat

Or drowning in the astronomical spring flood.

Longing for the wisdom from before the time of boxes.

When we all knew enough to listen to the wise women.

And there was space for dragons to fly in the open air.

The flood washes the fertile soil down from the frozen places and deposits it on the fields, renewing them.

Our grandmother’s grandmothers learned quickly enough that seeds planted in that thick, black soil would sprout quickly. And that when they returned to that place they could harvest the fruits of what they had planted.

Soon they ventured shorter and shorter distances, for the land itself yielded abundance to support them.

And this was the beginning of leaving behind our nomadic wandering ways.

The cyclic floods, so like the predictable rhythms of women’s bodies brought life and greenery to the desert.

And gave birth to civilization.

Swish.