A Moment of Truth

This is a momentous night for our nation. A full moon. Unsettled thoughts after tonight’s shocking action by the President. Firing the Director of the FBI! Unprecedented! And Unpresidential.  What revelations will the new day bring?

Tonight our Democracy is fighting for her life. If she survives this crisis, there are fundamental changes that will need to be made. This meddling by the Russians and probable collusion by one or more members of the current administration is a grievous insult right to our core. It strikes at our fundamental values of life, liberty equality, and justice for all. 

If she doesn’t survive, it will be because the elegant system of checks and balances that has worked for 228 years will have finally succumbed, collapsed under the weight of partisanship. (A weight the structure was never built to support – there is no mention of political parties in the Constitution)

I have felt this peculiar tension before, sitting between the isolettes of my twins in the NICU before they were big enough for me to hold. As if by my watching and waiting, through sheer force of will I can prevent anything worse from happening. 

Bad news: I can’t. Not then and not now. 

And I know I need to go to bed and make an attempt at sleep soon. 

But first let me unravel a bit more of this. 

He said he wanted to make America “Great Again.” That may well come to pass, but probably not the way his followers envision. Instead, if he does succeed at this slogan it will be after the fact and accidental. Also much more like the way Anakin Skywalker brought “balance to the Force” than any return to some mythical great American past. 

So. 

Leave off the again. Let’s listen. What would a truly great America look and sound like?

An America, a United States that rose to the challenge of those who have called to her greatness over the years, an America that lives out the fulfillment of her creed. And expands upon it.

An America that recognizes that ALL people are created equal. Where one person equals one vote. And an America that recognizes that no one’s achievements are theirs alone. We all stand on the shoulders of those who have come before. An America that can honor and learn from the past but also not be condemned to repeat it. 

An America that fosters community, compassion and courage.  

An America that honors the sanctity of the land and our obligation to protect and preserve it. Not to plunder it for our own economic gains. 

An America where we recognize the state as having an active role to play in protecting and fostering the full implementation of the inalienable rights we all are born with. Whether it is healthcare for all, education policy, a universal minimum income or consistent treatment across state lines, some things cannot be left to the invisible hand of the market     

No. 

For America to become truly great, we need to learn how to reach out to one another with our real flawed human hands, across the issues that divide us. 

A Modern Midas

I take seriously the injunctions of my faith traditions to love your enemies, and “pray for those who would spitefully use you.”

It is often hard work. I have to dig deep to get beneath my own fear and anger and outrage, to try to find some thread of humanity that I am willing to join common cause with. 


I see confusion and suspicion in the expression here.   

Looking at this picture, I see both confusion and suspicion in the narrowed but foggy gaze. Perhaps the suspicion covers a layer of sadness or fear?

I don’t know. This man is in many ways a modern day embodiment of the archetype of King Midas. That ancient King had all the money and all the power that went with it, but it ended up costing him love and all of the valuable human experiences that money cannot buy. 

Midas’s story did not end happily. 

I cannot speak to this man’s personal experiences, but certainly having him as leader of our country, as “leader of the free world” has led to a greater emphasis on winning at all costs and on permitting hate in the public sphere.  The rest of the world holds its breath while he and the leader of North Korea trade barbed insults more typical of schoolyard bullies than world leaders, threatening the entire planet with destruction by nuclear weapons.

In many ways he embodies America’s shadow — he is the American Dream taken to its obscene extreme.

Perhaps at some point in the future we will look back on this time as one where we finally got real and let go of the old consciousness, the often violent beliefs that have held our species back.  

We may come to view this time as a collective chemicalization, and once we have bubbled it all up and out, we will finally have room to begin to remember the truth that what unites us really is stronger than what divides us. 

But for now we are here in this moment, peering into an unknown future. Tensions on the geopolitical scene are higher than they have been since I was in college in the early 1980s. 

I pray we and all our leaders find a way to see our differences with a new understanding. I pray we may look upon one another with eyes of love and compassion, rather than suspicion or fear. 

I pray. 

A Goddess’s Lament

By Amy D. Marchand (c) 1996

In the blueness of a watery tomb
I searched for you and found you not. 

For though your body was there, it was but a cast-aside expression,

An empty suit of clothes. 

Oh my Beloved, where have you gone? 

My tears fall in echoing anguish to the storms that rage both without my dwelling 

And within my soul.

WHY hast thou forsaken me?!

I rage and scream and cry until one morn, my anger spent,

I behold a sunrise with new eyes. 

With a heart humbled from my search, 

I am gently led

To the one door

I kept locked and sealed. 

I touch the knob of this door and it opens

Onto the inmost reaches of my own heart. 

The warmth and light that greets me stuns me to new tears.

For while I searched and raged,

Here you were

Waiting for me the entire time. 

And here I know I am safe, protected from the buffeting storms I have wandered through. 

Here, in the heart of God,

I am at home

With my Beloved. 
This poem is one of those gems that dropped into my notebook fully formed, twenty-one years ago this month.

About me …

If I’m going to get called names, let it be because I stood for something rather than let my silence imply my assent.

I am someone who deeply loves this country. I was raised in NH, educated in DC and have made my home in Virginia, Kansas and now Rhode Island, not far from the land where my mother’s ancestors farmed since 1639.

I care deeply about the environment and the changes humankind has wrought upon it. I can remember as a child noticing the maple tree next to the road that always turned red a month earlier than the others not as close to the damaging road salts. It’s probably starting to turn right now.

I have family members who have served our nation honorably in military service. My nephews are about to join that proud tradition, one in the US Navy, one as a US Marine.

I have family members who are disabled. Hearing loss, cerebral palsy, Autism – these are part of my daily life.

I have family members who are transgendered.

I have people I consider family who are gay, lesbian, black, Latino, young, old, poor, and maybe even a few who might be considered rich.

I have walked in the halls of power both in DC and abroad. I have met with generals at home and in Europe and listened to our troops tell us what they need in places from Fort Irwin, CA to Fort Polk, LA, to Hohenfels, Germany.

I have stood in the snow at Dachau, feeling my feet burning with cold, adding my promise to the vow of “Never Again.”

I have climbed mountains and a volcano. And swum in oceans wherever I could.

I have danced in the woods by fire and moonlight offering my dance as a prayer for peace on the planet.

I have held my friends while they grieved their children’s deaths.

I have sat night after night between two incubators, my own babies too tiny for me even to hold.

By education and avocation I am more than just an interested bystander in our political system.

I have watched the growing polarization in Washington over the past fifteen or so years with deepening despair. Last year or maybe it was two years ago? I cried on the Fourth of July. We have moved so far away from the ideals our country represents.

I was thrilled with Bernie Sanders’ candidacy. Here finally was someone who put together many of the issues that are not just important to me but have to be tackled as one interconnected whole.  But he is not on the ballot this November.

I sat and watched and knit through the incredibly difficult summer of 2016.  Knitting is my way to make, not sense, but connections, and ultimately beauty of the experiences of my life.  The picture at the top of my blog is of the shawl I knit that fateful summer.  Through the shootings of unarmed black men.  Through peaceful protests turned into massacres of police in Dallas.  Through both political conventions.  Through the Olympics.  Through learning about Black Lives Matter and White Privilege and so much more.

Through my own challenges closer to home Botox injections for the kids, lots of turnover in the community of helpers that makes our lives run smoothly, and through good times, too – hours spent in peaceful contemplation of nature, looking for birds, watching the kids at therapeutic horseback riding, enjoying the nearly imperceptible passage of the seasons.

Take a long-term perspective.
As the great Martin Luther King, Jr. said “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

May it be so.

It is always worth asking, especially when a headline or a post gets you riled up – who benefits from my upset? And is this the best use of my energy?

Let’s go higher.

 

The Darkest Night 

In response to something I shared on my timeline, a friend had the following response:

“Ya know what would be even better? If people would get over it and become united again like we were 8 years ago…….”

It sparked a lot of thought and great conversation, that deserves a wider audience than being hidden in our comment thread.

You may not know, but I moved back east from KS one month after September 11. It took us the better part of a week, between weather and my then-husband driving a U-Haul, while I had the animals in my car with me. But everywhere along the way we saw the best of our grieving nation. Flags everywhere. At rest areas and motels we found professional truck drivers willing to help guide us into parking spaces. I even experienced the serendipity of tuning to a new radio station somewhere in Illinois and hearing an interview with our own minister from the church home we had just left behind!

So yes, I agree with you that being united is wonderful. It’s our nature to turn toward one another in times of great grief and great joy.

Here’s the thing though:

It cannot be forced.

I shared a post from a friend the other day who wrote of her utter despair and fear.  She is one of literally millions of our fellow citizens who is frightened to her core by what has already been unleashed in the utter nastiness and divisiveness of the campaign.

To meet her fear and that of the millions like her with “get over it” is to add the insult of gross misunderstanding on top of systemic injustice.

I’m not saying that you or anyone is “to blame.”

What I am saying is we as a nation, like it or not, are in a dark night of the soul. We might as well do the work that this time demands of us, both individually and collectively, so that perhaps someday we can heal our divisions enough to remember that what unites us is far stronger than what divides us.

My cousin then posted this incredible video by an Emerson student that helps explain it for us white women who may not understand fully why people can’t just “get over it already.”

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=i7Diu5CjvqU
Seems appropriate for Solstice, the longest darkness of the year.

We have skills and tools to navigate the darkness, if we remember to reach out for each other with compassion and openness.

Daily Prompt: Fragile

via Daily Prompt: Fragile

 

Six hundred ten grams

Twenty-four weeks gestation

Miracle babies

A haiku seems appropriate for how tiny and fragile my miracle twins were.  Born at 24 weeks gestation “on the dot,” their survival was by no means assured.  The day before they were born I had turned the page in my pregnancy book to 24 weeks, and read “Welcome to the window of viability.” Of course we knew it was serious.  But the medical team wasn’t panicking, so I decided I wouldn’t panic either.

Amazing how, with all the technology and medical smarts we have, sometimes it all comes down to the will to live in a tiny scrap of human flesh weighing barely more than five sticks of butter.

Months after they were born, a member of their medical team confessed to me they worried the entire first month of their lives that they would lose one or both of them.  But 13 years later, they are still here! And although they have lifelong challenges as a result of prematurity, today our lives are  no longer oriented around the fact of their premature birth the way it was when they were babies.  They are middle schoolers, teenagers (!) with distinct personalities and interests.

A Defining Experience

Yet their premature birth remains one of the defining experiences of my life.

The NICU is a place no one intends to experience or wishes on anyone.  But having done so, it is a bonding experience like few others.  I have many times been in awe and gratitude at the amazing people who have come into my life as a result of my children’s premature birth.

Four years after my children’s birth at Women & Infants Hospital, I returned to the hospital, this time as the first Parent Consultant for the Neonatal Follow-Up Clinic.  In my six years in that role I met many families similar to mine, giving them support, suggestions of resources, and mostly hope that someday life could be something like normal again.

A Book? Yes, A Book!

One of the first projects I was handed was a thick folder of papers and pictures that it turned out were left over from the calendar project they had done the year before.  Neonatal Follow-Up Clinic Director Dr. Betty Vohr said to me, “Wouldn’t it be nice to put these stories in a book?”

It took five years and a whole team of people from all over our tiny state to bring to fruition, but in 2012, Precious Premies: The Post NICU Years was published!  (It is available on Amazon at the link above.)  It features 31 first-person “Inspiring Stories of Hope and Survival from the Littlest Babies in the Littlest State.”  These are all babies who were born at Women & Infants Hospital and followed by the Neonatal Follow-Up Clinic.

If you, like me, enjoy being inspired by the paradox of how something so tiny and fragile can prove to be so strong, I invite you to check it out.

 

5 Awful Mistakes Bloggers Make

Good thoughts here. I for one am one of those rare birds who actually DO enjoy the process of editing. However, I cannot disagree with anything in her list!

Alexis Chateau

Blogging isn’t rocket science, but it can certainly start to feel like it, as you struggle to find the magic formula that takes you from a handful of subscribers to hundreds of thousands. The truth is: there is no magic formula. Building a blog takes a lot of time, effort, creativity, and even capital investment. It doesn’t just become a success overnight.

Even so, there are some awful mistakes many new bloggers make that can turn attracting and keeping followers into an ordeal. If you’re not guilty of these, then you’re likely already on the right track. If not, it might just be time for a change.

Disrespecting Readers

There will always be a handful of readers – or more – who disagree with the opinions you put forward on your blog. There will also be trolls who come along looking for anything to disagree with, just for the hell of it.

While…

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Compassion, not condemnation 

NBC News published an article recently about an effort at East Carolina University to meet the needs of its students by offering them an “Adulting” course – to teach them what they need to know in order to be self-sufficient adults. See the original article here.

One idea immediately jumped out at me.  The university’s counseling center said in the past they used to see a lot more depression.  For the past few years they have noticed a sharp uptick in the numbers of students seeking help for anxiety.

A lightbulb went on in my head as I read.  I remembered a lecture I heard a few years ago by renowned trauma specialist Bessel van der Kolk.  He told the story about a family that underwent a traumatic incident.  There were several children in the family, including a nine-month old baby in the other room.  Years later, it was that baby who was most impacted still with symptoms of trauma, completely undermining our assumption that children aren’t affected by what they are too young to understand.

Today’s college freshman were two- or three-year-olds that their parents scooped up and held close on that day fifteen years ago.  Whether or not they were exposed to the images on TV, they were surely exposed to their parents’ fear and horror.  Such strong emotions in their caregivers cannot help but have an impact on their developing brains.

Is is any wonder then, that they are experiencing anxiety in record numbers?  Or that their parents, faced with their own unconscious anxiety from that day should earn the term ‘helicopter parents’?  A parent’s one basic job is to keep their child safe.  That day every parent watching learned how impossible that job really is.

So what can we do now with this understanding?  Be a lot more compassionate, for one.  If you read the comments to the article, many are filled with scorn for the students for being wimps, for their parents for not preparing them better and even for the school for attempting to address that lack of preparation in a proactive way.

Instead, what if we, collectively could remember how scared we were that day fifteen years ago?  Could we have compassion for these kids who were too little to understand but absorbed the energy of the day anyway?  How about for their terrified parents who understood all too well?  Could we look on their later choices in light of this realization and instead of seeing spoiled entitlement, could we see with soft eyes and realize they were doing the best they knew to do the impossible?

I think we could.

#trauma

 

We belong to each other

A friend used to have a poster in her office:  A simple black circle inscribed with the words Every wound is an opening if we but let it be.

Every wound is  an opening if we but let it be.

I’m not so sure whether that is true.  What I do know at this moment, is that We the People are grievously wounded.

I have friends posting on Facebook that they can’t stop crying.

Too much violence in too short a period of time.  The preternatural calm of traumatized voices describing the indescribable horror.

Seven dead.

Two black men in separate incidents Louisiana and Minnesota; five police officers in Dallas at the hands of a sniper at the end of a peaceful protest.

In many spiritual traditions around the world, seven is a number of completion.

Can we be done with killing each other now?  Please?

“All things are connected like the blood that unites us.  We did not weave the web of life, we are merely a strand in it.  Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

Today is a time for grieving, for holding one another, for taking the first step toward healing.

That step ties in perfectly with the automatic female stress response:  Tend and Befriend. 

Oxytocin is sometimes called the “love hormone” partly because it is  released by couples when they are in love.  It is also produced in enormous amounts in women who have given birth.  In studies done at Harvard University, researchers have discovered that everyone, both men and women, releases the hormone oxytocin as part of the “cocktail” of hormones we produce when under stress or trauma.  However, the effects of  testosterone blunt the effects of the hormone.  So men are more likely to engage in the classic “fight or flight” response.”  Women’s response, hardwired into our neurochemistry, is to tend and befriend – to take care of the children and one another.

So I feel my friends’ pain, nearly as keenly as if it were my own.  Yet because I am at a bit of a remove, I am more able to shift into holding space, bearing witness to her pain and the collective rage and grief we all feel.

I have no answers.  To suggest there are easy answers is to insult the depth of pain and grief and outrage.

Tonight I pray and sing,  I drum and cry and I send my love and light from my home in Rhode Island to Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas, as well as to the hurting hearts of my fellow Americans.