Thursday, February 28, 2013

Until

One of the saddest words I think I ever learned is "until."

Last week I sat on an airplane, one row behind a father and his two sons, ages 5 and 4, and listened to their excited chatter. Neither of the boys had ever been on a plane before and they couldn't wait for this lumbering giant to reach the end of the runway and whisper up and off the ground.  Both of them squealed in tandem at the slight lift under the plane's wheels and the younger one hollered, "We're flying!" as his dad shushed him and looked around apologetically to everyone else on board.

Across the aisle from me was a young couple with a nine-month old. The baby's mother sat down, handed the little girl to her father and pulled out a giant container of disinfecting wipes. She apologized to the stranger (Bubba) sitting next to her as she swiped down every surface within reach of the baby - the armrests, seat belt buckles, backs of the seat in front of her, everyone's trays (inside and out), the wall and window next to them.  I smiled and closed my eyes, imagining the days filled with splashing in the pool, digging in the sand, slathering sunscreen on over and over and trying to keep her hat on.  I remembered those days of fighting for naps in a hotel room and falling in to bed at night, the TV too low for us to even hear it lest we wake our kids up, too tired for sex, the bathtub full of grit and wet swimsuits.

I was always waiting "until"
            my kids were old enough to modulate their own voices for the comfort of others around them
            they could bathe themselves and fall asleep without rocking or pleading
            the girls could entertain themselves on an airplane

Listening to those squeals of joy I realized how much "until" kept me from the now, stunted the joy of today, gave me hope for "until" but didn't let me revel in the moment.

"Until" is never satisfied, never still, never accepting or grateful or full of equanimity.

I can so clearly remember the myriad times I thought to myself, "I can't wait until..." as I looked at other families longingly.  I know I didn't speed up time, but I do know that I missed fully appreciating some of the moments of exploration and the dawning of new understandings as they happened for my girls because I was focused on getting past this stage (whatever it was).

Maybe after today I can hear myself thinking those words and stop.  Maybe I can breathe instead and look around - take stock of where I am and how grateful I am to be here. Now.


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Shedding Her Skin

Lola is comfortable in her own skin. Emotionally. By that, I mean to say that she is quirky, irreverent, and more than a little bit unique and she is perfectly okay with that. She has no desire to change the core of her personality to better fit anyone else's idea of how she ought to dress or what she should find funny and she generally celebrates the ways in which she sees the world differently from most people.

She is occasionally terrifically uncomfortable in her own skin physically.  She struggles with sensory perceptions in ways that I can't possibly understand but have learned to recognize. She hates the volume of sound in a movie theater. She is overwhelmed by the lights and sounds and smells and people offering her samples at Costco. She is very particular about the kinds of clothing she is willing to wear and can be a little obsessive about making things "even."

Over the years she has taught herself ways to accommodate and/or avoid the things that drive her batty and in many cases she has challenged herself to endure some very uncomfortable situations in an effort to desensitize herself.  She has come a very long way in learning to tolerate things that were once unthinkable but a few sticking points remain.

She is terribly susceptible to motion sickness (but in one shining example of her courage and willingness to not let it diminish her experiences, she went on a three-day sailing trip with her class early in the school year and had a fabulous time despite some bouts with nausea).

She also struggles with transitions.  I have written about this before, especially with respect to the transition out of the school year and into the summer and vice versa.  We generally have a few days of teeth-grinding frustration before she can settle in to the new phase she has entered and it generally takes me by surprise despite the fact that it happens every year.

And so I ought to have considered that when Bubba and I decided to spring a surprise vacation on the girls for their mid-winter break.  We planned the week in Hawaii with glee, whispering and snickering together about the major secret we were keeping.  We orchestrated everything without them getting suspicious - arranging for the dog to be boarded and someone to housesit for us and yet another friend to hamster-sit - and the night before we were to leave we told them to pack their bags. We were heading to one of their favorite places for nine days and they had better dig out shorts and tanks and swimsuits.

They were ecstatic and so were we. We had managed to pull of an enormous coup!  What fun.

And it has been, but by Day 3, Lola was a little on edge. She had spent two full days jettisoning herself between the ocean and the pool, lying in the sunshine reading and going for walks on the beach with Eve. Bubba and I were enjoying our newfound freedom now that the girls were responsible enough to go off together for a few hours at a time and we were soaking up every lazy moment.

As is their ritual, Bubba and Eve woke before sunrise and headed out for a beach walk together.  Lola and I lazily made our way into our swimsuits and promised to join them shortly.  And that's when it hit. First, Lola complained that her hair wouldn't stay down and she was clearly agitated.  I rolled my eyes, dropped the beach bag and wet a washcloth thoroughly to plaster it down.

"As soon as it dries it's going to stick up all over again!" she yelled.  I shushed her, worried that she had just woken up the neighbors.  She stomped her foot.

Then the strings on her bikini bottom made an "uncomfortable lump" underneath her shorts and she tugged and fussed and picked at it as enormous tears formed in her eyes.  I shifted from one foot to the next, shushing her again so she wouldn't bug the neighbors.

"I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE NEIGHBORS!" she shouted and I found myself at a crossroads.  Mentally cataloguing the morning's catastrophes, from itchy, sandy flip flops to hair disasters to sunburned shoulders to this, I realized what this was.  My friend Michelle's words appeared in my head:

Where there is (bad) behavior, there is pain.

Oh, yeah. This had all the earmarks of a classic SPD meltdown.  Each of these petty things would normally not phase her. She wasn't trying to be difficult. She was hurting.

I put down my bag again and joined her on the bed where she was face down, sobbing with spine-shaking gulps.

"I think that this might be what it looks like to be uncomfortable in your own skin. Do you think so?"  I kissed her on the top of her head.  She nodded emphatically.

"I-i-i don't know what to dooooo," she wailed pathetically and my heart broke open a little.  For the moment, I could completely forget about whether Eve and Bubba were getting impatient with us. I had to help her.

"I'm sorry we sprung this trip on you and I know you want to enjoy it.  I think that you are growing up a lot right now and maybe you're a little too big to be in this skin anymore.  You think?"

I asked her whether she wanted to picture herself as a snail who had outgrown its shell or a snake who needed to shed its old skin.  She chose snail.  And I had her close her eyes and breathe deeply three times.

"Picture yourself as a snail.  Your shell can be any color you want and when you look next to you, you see a different, bigger shell.  Take a minute to create that bigger shell in your mind's eye. What colors does it have? What is its shape? Is it smooth or spiky? Long and lean or tall and round?  Don't tell me. Just picture it in your mind.  Now take a moment to feel what it feels like to be in your current, small shell.  It's a little too tight and restrictive, isn't it?  I want you to take a deep breath in and when you let that breath all the way out, your old shell is just going to pop right off your back and roll to the side.  When it does, I want you to look at it and silently thank it for protecting you all this time.  Be grateful for all it was for you and let it know that it was important, but that you don't need it anymore.  Now, before you turn your attention to the new shell, I want you to focus on how great it feels to be out of the old one.  It's a little scary because you're pretty vulnerable, but you're safe for now.  Just take some deep, deep breaths and stretch your self out into this new, open space with each exhale.  When you're ready, slip into your new beautiful shell and feel the cool, smooth inside that was made just for you.  Take a moment to wiggle around in it and orient yourself.  Feel how it's not too heavy for your back and it feels expansive and comfortable.  When you are ready, thank the new shell for being there and open your eyes."

Lola sat up slowly and looked at me with a grin.  "Thanks, Mom. I just needed to stretch my spirit."

She got up, pulled a loose skirt over her bikini bottoms, slipped her feet into her flip flops and held out her hand.

Times like that are an important reminder for me that it is so much more vital to take the time and address how we feel when we're feeling it than to try and shove those uncomfortable emotions out of sight.  It took maybe three minutes to interrupt her obvious physical discomfort and turn it around and it was more than worth it.  Maybe next time she'll be able to do it herself. Maybe I'll have to help a few more times before she's got it down.  I'm just grateful to have been given the gift of being her mom for now because I'm learning just as much as she is about what it takes to be sensitive in the world.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

One Billion Rising (and One Writing)

If you haven't heard about One Billion Rising yet, here is the blurb from their website that gives you a little information about what they have planned for today.


Today, on the planet, a billion women – one of every three women on the planet – will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. That’s ONE BILLION mothers, daughters, sisters, partners, and friends violated. V-Day REFUSES to stand by as more than a billion women experience violence.
On February 14th, 2013, V-Day's 15th Anniversary, we are inviting one billion women and those who love them to walk out, DANCE, RISE UP, AND DEMAND an end to this violence. One Billion Rising is a promise that we will rise up with women and men worldwide to say, "Enough! The violence ends now."
 There are flash mobs and dance groups all over the planet joining the event to raise awareness and add their voices (and dance moves) to the growing group of people calling for an end to violence against women and girls. 

I am inspired and happy to know that, in my lifetime, the volume has been turned up. There is some heat under this skillet and the energy is fairly popping.  There are petitions being circulated to support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act in Congress. There are media outlets committed to highlighting horrific acts of violence against women as well as consistently investigating and reporting on issues such as wage disparity and discrimination against women with regard to their access to health care.  

But mostly I am encouraged by the young girls I see every day.  

I am not naive enough to believe that flash mobs and petitions will serve to change the deeply rooted, firmly held beliefs of many (men and women) that women and girls are less than. Weaker of mind and body. Deserving of fewer opportunities. There are cultures, countries, and entire religious communities that embrace the notion that women and girls are rightfully subservient to men and their desires.  

Last night I witnessed, yet again, a phenomenon that pours a bucket of ice water over that idea.  Lola's fifth grade class spent two hours presenting scientific data and original art work to a room full of family and community members.  These ten-year old girls have spent countless hours exploring the natural habitat of fresh water and marine animals in our region. They have sailed the Puget Sound taking water samples and analyzing the data, stood in the pouring rain in their rubber boots to see salmon spawning and engaged in research that culminated in the preparation of Power Point presentations that were clear, concise, engaging and humorous.  

One group of girls was charged with learning about and presenting information on the Phylum Porifera, a group of organisms most of us know as sea sponges.  These creatures have no limbs, eyes, mouths or nostrils. They have no nerves to speak of and cannot move from one place to another.  And yet, these three girls dove headfirst in to exploring how they eat and reproduce, what their body structure is composed of, how they are affected by changes in their habitat and why they are important enough that we should care about them.  This is no SpongeBob Squarepants with all his attendant quirky personality. These are, by all rights, pretty invisible and boring creatures. And yet these girls talked about them with enthusiasm and knowledge.  Their portion of the evening was just as interesting as the talk on octopi and crabs.  Each of the girls knew enough about their respective phyla to stand and answer questions from the audience with poise and confidence.  

These girls are turning the tide.  They are encouraged to take up the mantle of learning and sharing their knowledge and they do it with gusto. They work in pairs and small groups to accomplish work that is challenging and frustrating and find reward in a job well done. 

Each group of girls made a mosaic of cut glass that represented one of the species in the phylum they were charged with.  There were multiple steps to the creations of these art projects and they took weeks to complete.  And yet, when asked if it was difficult to work together, they agreed that there were some creative differences along the way, but the conversation was then re-directed to the outcome. The pride they all had in their ability to work through challenges like that and create something they all had a stake in.  

It is occasions like this that encourage me more than anything else I see going on.  It is nights like that where I am reminded that investing time and energy in young women and girls to develop their own innate talents and ideas will reap benefits beyond measure. They will not simply dance in defiance. They will refuse to be subjugated because they know that they deserve to be treated with respect and dignity. They will have been steeped in possibility and opportunity and grace and it will not occur to them that they are any less than anyone else.  While I appreciate the importance of events such as One Billion Rising, I am made most hopeful by these girls who are cultivating open minds and open hearts and who will rise to one day become the leaders of the world.  

Monday, February 11, 2013

Author Interview: Carrie Wilson Link


When it first came out, I wrote about my friend Carrie's book "Wil of God."  I have since had the distinct pleasure of devouring this lovely, luminous story of Carrie's parenting journey and wanted to follow up with her in more depth about writing and her life as Wil's mom.

The official description of the book on Amazon reads:

"Structured around the Four Noble Truths, WIL OF GOD takes you on the spiritual journey of a mother who has one idea for her life, and is handed the exact opposite. Wil comes into the world crying and doesn't stop for eighteen months, forcing her to abandon her plans for the perfect life. She must embrace the one she is handed: The mother of a boy with relentless needs, and his perfect, endless ability to love."

 Here goes:


When and why did you start writing? 

I started playing around with writing, sort of pre-blog stuff, eight years ago. I took my first memoir writing class seven years ago, and started my blog at that time.

Why publish it?

I felt compelled to write this story and share it. While writing it, my prayer was always that it would fall into the hands of those that needed to read it – for whatever reasons. I assumed it would fall into the hands of special needs moms, mostly, but you know what they say about assuming!

That being said, there are probably 1000 pages “on the cutting room floor.” A lot of what I wrote I just needed to write, but didn’t need to publish.

 Does Wil know what the book is about? How does he feel?

Wil knows all about the book and is proud of it. He calls it “our” book. He asked his Grandma recently, “Did you read our book?” He’s helped me deliver it places and in a few cases, people have wanted him to sign it for them. That tickles him. By the same token, he’s pretty nonplussed by the whole thing. One day my friend said, “Your mom is writing a book about you, Wil, and it’s going to be published soon!” His response was, “Well, I’ve got news, too! Wednesday is a Thursday schedule, and Thursday is a Wednesday schedule!”

What was the hardest part of writing this book? Any major revelations in the process?

The hardest part of writing it was making myself write it. I fought with myself throughout. I was full of doubt but knew I had to persist. Some parts of it wrote themselves, other parts I just had to force myself through. It was brutal going through old journals to get the facts, especially those early years. It triggered many a PTSD episode!

What triggers or reminds you to tap into your intuition?

Oh, good question! Sometimes I literally am just gifted with a downloaded “piece” or “scene.” I know I have to go to the keyboard immediately and just let it out. I LOVE when that happens, and those places in the book remain my favorite. They never were edited, they remain first draft. I guess to answer your question, history reminds me to tap into my intuition, I’ve always been rewarded by doing so.

Has the acknowledgment of Wil's gifts prompted you to see other people differently? Did it allow you to see your daughter's gifts more clearly? Did it change your perspective on the talented and gifted kids you used to teach?

Absolutely! I see everyone and every thing differently! I am so grateful I’m not as judgmental as I used to be, and much more patient. It has allowed me to see my daughter’s gifts more clearly, and now that she’s in college and almost nineteen, I see her gifts not just as a girl, but as the woman she’s becoming. I see her wisdom and depth that she may have always had, but which has certainly grown as a result of being Wil’s sister.

At first I thought it terribly ironic that I ever taught Talented and Gifted. Now, I see that it was great training ground for advocating for kids that are beyond the norm – whatever that is. Having taught TAG and now all my years in special ed, I’ve thrown out definitions and uses for “intelligence.” We all have gifts, we all have talents. Period.

What's next for you?

No idea! I can’t wait to find out, though, and am surprised and pleased that I’m feeling okay about not knowing, and excited to see! I am letting it be “organic.” I don’t want to push anything nor force anything, but am open to all the signs and nudges from beyond!

and now some fun questions from James Lipton's "Inside the Actor's Studio:"

What is your favorite word? Love.
What is your least favorite word? The R-word.
What is your favorite sound? The sound of silence.
What is your least favorite sound? This god-awful throaty, guttural, humming sound Wil makes when he’s un-medicated.

Thanks so much, Carrie!  

"Wil of God" is available on Amazon in paperback and electronic versions. Click through to get your copy today!  

Thursday, February 07, 2013

This S*^t Just Got Real

I received a call for submissions in my email from a fellow writer a week ago and thought, "Cha-ching! I could totally fit that bill!"  I followed the link to the submission guidelines and tucked them away for another day when I could get my thoughts together and write a proper query.

The topic (mental illness) has been kicking around in my brain a lot for the last week and I felt confident that just as soon as I got some time I would sit down and crank out a quick query, link it to past work and hit 'send.' Easy as pie.

And then I sat down to write the query and felt stiff and stilted.
I kept writing like Anne Lamott says to do even if it's crap, hoping that I would eventually find some gem to pluck out and polish off.
I abandoned it at one point to my "drafts" folder and walked away.

That afternoon I scribbled notes on scratch paper as they occurred to me; ideas for a general direction to take the essay in, going down a few mole holes chasing research ideas and interviewees before abandoning that tack as well.

Yesterday I finally admitted to myself that I am unsure about heading in any of the original directions because I don't feel like an expert in those areas. I don't feel like I know enough about the specifics and I am not sure I could interview enough people or do enough research to make it credible before the deadline.

And yet, I am familiar with the topic. Intimately familiar.

Stumped.

I decided to leave it alone for a while.

I took Lola to bouldering practice after school yesterday and decided to stay and watch.  She is a little tentative about it for reasons neither of us can figure out, and I wanted to see if I could get a little insight.  I saw fear and uncertainty on her face.  I saw the way the coach interacted with her which was supportive, but not meaningful for Lola because of who she is and how she processes things.  The support was cursory and well-intentioned but not authentic.

Fear.
Uncertainty.
Authenticity.

It wasn't a brick to the forehead; more like a soft, slow settling of Truth.  A clearing of the waters.

Write what you know.  Write from a place of authenticity. Admit your own fears and uncertainty as you write and you will reach the reader.  This is what I know.

And so this morning, I will go back to the "drafts" folder and begin again. This time I will be writing as an expert, as someone who knows enough about how mental illness instills fear in family members on so many levels and how that fear creates stigma and secrecy and stops us from seeking help.

And I am again reminded that getting real is the way to get it done.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Why Hillary Clinton is My Shero for Today

Photo from msn.com

I will admit that I supported Hillary Clinton's bid for the Democratic Presidential Nomination in 2008 tentatively. I was somewhat relieved when Obama secured the nomination and I didn't have to support her because she would have been the first female president ever. It wasn't that I didn't like her or what she said she stood for, it was, I think, that I didn't truly know enough about her. I had been watching her through the filter of the years she spent as the First Lady, through the filter of the media, through the filter of her disempowerment thanks to the painfully public mistakes of her husband.

I feel like I know her better now.  I am so pleased that she spent four years as the Secretary of State, living her ideals and making a name for herself that didn't involve her husband.  I was impressed with her calm approach to difficult, polarizing situations and her ability to vehemently defend her actions and beliefs.

I was incredibly proud of her words as she left the job yesterday:

"And that is the final lever that I want to highlight briefly. Because the jury is in, the evidence is absolutely indisputable: If women and girls everywhere were treated as equal to men in rights, dignity, and opportunity, we would see political and economic progress everywhere. So this is not only a moral issue, which, of course, it is. It is an economic issue and a security issue, and it is the unfinished business of the 21st century. It therefore must be central to U.S. foreign policy."

The entire article is here.

I will also admit that, while I passionately believe in equality for women and girls, social justice for all people regardless of gender, race, sexual identity or anything else, I sometimes worry that I live in a bubble.  I sometimes worry that, by pushing this agenda, I am somehow disenfranchising boys and men. I get a little defensive because I am afraid that it might seem as though I am being unfair to half the population of the world.

And then I take the dog for a walk and, as usual, things get a little less murky. Because what I am really hoping for, pushing for, advocating for, is equality and the understanding that women and girls are a vital part of communities all over the world.  I find the head space to remind myself that what I am doing is not taking away from anyone.  It is only when I buy into the notion that there is not enough to go around that I begin to feel guilty about adding resources to help women and girls around the world.

The first item on our "House Rules" list that hangs, laminated, in the kitchen is this:

No Scarcity. I agree to live by the knowledge that there is enough for all of us if we cooperate.
By advocating for women and girls, I am simply honoring their innate strengths - what they bring to the table - and hoping to build on them.  I am acknowledging that until women and girls are seen as important, valuable parts of each and every community, they will continue to be abused and degraded and not allowed to be part of the conversation.  They will be married off against their will, sexually assaulted and hidden away from society behind closed doors and restrictive clothing. They will be told to act and speak and dress in certain ways under threat of violence or humiliation or simply, being ignored.

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared."  Buddha

In wanting a better life for girls and women throughout the world, I am not taking advantages or resources away from men and boys.  This is not a balance sheet or a seesaw where one side must suffer if the other does well.  Our world is an ever-changing, growing, moving mass of humanity that is capable of cooperation beyond our wildest dreams and when we light one another's candles, we all end up seeing better for it.  We are all raised to higher heights when we extend a helping hand to those in need.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...