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Category Archives: relationship

markers

Often finding meaning is not about doing things differently; it is about seeing familiar things in new ways.

~Rachel Naomi Remen

Tonight the three of us sat down to talk about how to tell our twin boys about the death of their uncle, our brother. It has been five months, and we have not spoken the words to them that he is no longer living. Simon is a real presence. We see him in photos, we talk about him in conversation. We tell stories about his childhood at the dinner table. My sister and I are also still stumbling through this boggy terrain of grief, completely new in our life experience. Our shock at his death is renewed every time a photo of his countenance pops up on Facebook or our photo steam, unexpected, true to life.

In just a few days, t and I will fly the 3,000 miles to my parents’ house. We haven’t been there since the summer. How has it changed by their son’s death? Are there new pictures of him? Will their grief be palpable to more than just me?

The question tonight was: do we need to tell the boys about their uncle before going back east?

We talked about this in some depth, the pros, the risks, what the boys might say to my parents or grandparents, what questions they might ask with the direct, tactless innocence that three-year olds summon so easily. But what was most interesting, most beautiful and unexpected, was that our conversation turned to remembrance. How will we guide these precious, tender children to connection and remembrance, to a gentle experience of the truths of this life (which includes death) where Simon’s passing is not a traumatic memory of something they couldn’t grasp as children, but a knowledge of him and of our perspective on life that was deepened over the years.

This led us to talking about ceremony, developing frameworks for rituals to hold us when we pass through traumatic and confusing times, practices that allow for growth and depth and creativity. It occurred to me as we spoke that this is one of Williams we will put down strong and enduring roots: developing practices that we all love and nurture and turn to for meaning, comfort, and identity.

We have bedtime rituals now, and they will change as our sons grow and mature. We have a little seedling of a ritual of saying a mealtime blessing that came out of the boys memorization of the blessing their teacher recites before lunch at school. This ritual sprang to mind, and I was quickly inspired to think of new variations on blessing our meal, our unity, our shared lives. What about putting a photo of someone we love as the centerpiece, focusing our stories and love on that special person during our meal? Or beginning with a love note for each family member? What about blessing our meal by showing photos or another artistic representation the leaves, blossoms, and fruit of one of the plants that added to our meal, and sharing in the beauty of that plant? So many ideas for the simple opening of our daily family meal.

My sister and I were raised in a home in transition away from their Christian roots, and we find ourselves without many customs or rituals from childhood to turn to in remembrance of our brother. We experience our love for him under the sky, amongst trees, in the wind and the air of nature. Remembering him with the boys in a practiced form will give us scaffolding, though, that we will be able to turn to when others we love depart from this life. Learning how to honor his spirit together will teach the boys reverence, depth of love, the sacredness of family and sibling relationships. More personally still, it will give me a safe way to express in front of my children a little of the sadness this loss evokes in me.

What rituals do you observe, religious or otherwise? Which ones have you carried from your childhood into adulthood, which have evolved, and which have you created to fit your life experience? I would love to learn about this idea from a larger pool as we contemplate this new structure for our children and ourselves.

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strain

Three years old. So emotional for the children and the parents. I’m sitting outside the bedroom while T does bedtime, listening to one tearful reaction after another. His voice is tense, wanting to guide the child through, showing him the straightest path, offering the solution he perceives to be best… The boy, though, just wants to work with things as he sees them, to try it his way. The adult who doesn’t want to spill medicine or clean up a mess is beside the little one who is making sense out of the whole thing, his instincts pushing him to do it himself.

All day long we have these encounters: parent to parent, parent with children, children with each other. The screaming anger from M, the tears from S. Slamming doors, walking away in anger, pushing, grabbing, shouting… the parents struggle to slow down, to let go, to allow them space to work out their frustration, satisfy curiosity. Our voices strain, our hands grab things away from them when we tire of guiding. We end up acting in ways we discourage sternly in the children. It’s a constant paradox of wanting a certain kind of home culture and experience of peace for the children, but churning in our own dissatisfaction, impatience, exhaustion, and really, sometimes boredom.

Each adult (there are three, with me, my sister, and my fiancé) has their own experience. Right now, I sit outside the door, my child cries for me, wails that he wants time with his mama. The door won’t be opened, though… We have all agreed that he needs to learn to be comforted by each of us. Except that I am not comforted, the child isn’t appeased, and the other parent is stressed. We feel the pull, my child and I. I feel his longing, and even though I know that he might be just as tearful and whiny with me in the room, I want to answer. I sit, I wait, my stomach in knots, my shoulders tight, my breath shallow and fast. I am resisting the urge to protect my child from the frustration that may or may not be bubbling in my partner. Then the parent begins to read, the tears somehow subside. The child is quiet, leaning his stressed, tired body on the solid body of his new father… a chord emerges from the dissonance between them, without me.

This is our path, to push, to question, to wait through our discomfort, to go through the thorny underbrush and persist in our determination to serve our children for where they are. We give each other space to grow, both through their childhoods and through our parenting. Sometimes the way is clear, and other times we all come through bruised and hurting. The gift is, that either way, we seem to find our way back to each other, embracing and finding delight through fault and perfection, through chaos and ease.

 

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course correction

tenderness

tonight, after a particular moment in which my constant frustration over our messy house was not at all concealed, s lay down in bed, and said to me in the very saddest three-year old voice: “Mama, I feel sad when you, when you, when you… when you are sad of me.”

needless to say, i scooped that sweet, vulnerable, tender boy up into my arms and looked him in the eye and told him that i was sorry – that i wasn’t sad of him, and that he always brings me happiness. i told him i always love him, no matter what is happening.

it was a lesson i hope to really internalize, though. of course we all have a whole range of emotions, and i believe that it’s ok to process most of those with the boys.the problem is, we just don’t know how they are interpreting our outbursts and expressions of feeling, and that right there is the caution. to speak more mildly, to react with more measure, to choose words carefully and express myself with kindness and patience, even of things that are happening not from them directly, but simply around them. because even though we hugged and laughed, and snuggled, i know that fear is there… and no one planted that doubt of love except me, and that is indeed really sad.

 

 
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Posted by on November 6, 2011 in balance, learning, parenting, relationship, spirit

 

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saturday

wall of tattoo designs

today was about a lot of things, but mostly about family. about the family we are, the family we celebrate. it was about being here and now – having two small children leaves little choice but to allow life to flow over and around me, even when i feel like a stone, sunken to the bottom of a swiftly-moving river. it was moments of pause. moments of remembering.

two of three

touching down for a second with my sister, and feeling the cellular changes happening to us without our brother. tears, and pain, and honor, and love.

thinking about my children, and how very tiny and fragile they were, and how amazing, and shining, and wonderful they are now. and how lucky i am to be their mama. every day. every breath.

today

 
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Posted by on November 5, 2011 in family, loss, relationship, spirit, twins

 

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vascillation

when m was a wee thing

There are times in life when you’ve got plenty of time for indecisiveness, but here I am, about to turn 39, after a long history of infertility and pregnancy loss, and I am on the fence about whether or not to pursue trying to conceive another child.

When Ted and I met last spring, I had just pretty much come to terms with not trying again. I have more sperm from the same donor I used to conceive my twins, but single parenting (even in the context of parenting with my sister) had been much harder than I had predicted, and I haven’t gotten my financial life/ career life on any sort of track since becoming pregnant almost four years ago. I was broke, depressed, withdrawn from my friends, and constantly overwhelmed by the demands of twin toddlers and home life in general. It was clear that adding a baby was not going to be good for anyone. But then came Ted, and with him came this amazing certainty – this perspective on everything that just shifted it all. It felt clear that this family I’d been nurturing was meant to include him – it even felt (feels) like M&S were conceived to be his children – before I knew him, and before he ever knew he wanted to be a father. That’s still how it all is – even the challenges we face in creating our unique little three-parent family (including my sister as the third parent) all seem meaningful, and indeed necessary for all five of us.

Right away, Ted and I started talking about another child – which since we both have fertility issues, would be conceived from the boys’ donor. I wanted to re-experience pregnancy (particularly desirous of a singleton pregnancy!), and I know it will be a source of deep joy for him to have that arc of the growth of a baby. In September, I started calling fertility groups in our city to get pricing and make an appointment for a consultation. Even though entering into that land of hope/ grief/ potentially great outcome or terrible loss/ constant mental and emotional strain really daunted me, I knew that there were really only two cycles, and then that would be it – either I’d have gotten pregnant, or not.  It wasn’t going to be years long like the 15 before my boys came into the world. I could do it; I was getting ready.

But then came October. Weeks spent touching life and the possibility of death. Lots of perspective. Lots of praying and thinking. In the midst of all that, Ted and I had a late-night, whispered conversation about baby. About why it should be important to create a new life for us, when we both already and for long, long years have recognized the great need of parentless children for loving families. It’s not like either of us is attached to genetics – and here we were, losing my brother because of a genetic disease I also have. So in those charged moments, that late and dark night, thinking of my brother, of tragedy, of love, and family, we basically said no, we didn’t need to have the pregnancy experience and all of the stress and risk involved in creating and living that for me – that adoption of a baby as our next step, and not a future post-conceiving and birthing a baby myself/ourselves, was the course of most “rightness” for our family.

That took a lot of pressure off. No more worrying about the impending doom of FOURTY YEARS OLD and the surrounding reality of further-diminished fertility. Knowing that I’d never again have to start down the barrel of the gonalF needle, the trans-vag untrasound, and best of all, the home pregnancy test. I wouldn’t have to worry about preterm labor, of what would happen this time with my ability of nurse exclusively, no worries about how I would care for my boys and care for myself and a new baby…. that was just all gone.

And then yesterday. I was looking at newborn pictures of M & S, and later my sister brought home photos of a wee 11-day old baby… and it all came back. The irrational willingness to put it all back on the table. The longing for the whole scope of it – the first ultrasound, feeling the baby move within my own body, the swell of the belly, the magic of sharing that with my sons, with my partner, with my whole family and community. The potential of having a natural childbirth. Nurse another baby, even if it was again complicated. It all pulled me very strongly back to the table.

There’s nothing to do but sit with it. To be here with this deep desire, knowing that either path is fine. I feel certain that we will adopt, but it would probably take several years to arrive at a point of enough stability to make that happen. Will we try to conceive? I really don’t know. I don’t even know if the risks are acceptable, thinking about me being pregnant again. There’s enough attachment to wanting, though, to be clear that this is not a closed subject.

 
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Posted by on November 2, 2011 in relationship

 

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Passed

Simon died 9 days ago. My little brother, whom I admire(d) and adore(d), is somehow no longer here. I was there – with him for the long days of expectation and determined hope for healing, for the meetings with surgeons and neurologists, for the pronouncement that he would not survive. Along with many others, and as far as I was permitted, I accompanied him on the journey of last breaths, and watched as his body was left behind – as we were all left behind.

Here I am, though, ten days later, and I am lost. I get up, manage the morning with my boys and get them to school (thank god for school), come home and return to pajamas and bed. I knit, watch Netflix, and keep this ocean of sadness at bay with the repetitive motion of yarn around needle, up, down. Rote doing and mechanical being.

I didn’t take a picture of it, but in the hotel room we lived in for nearly three weeks as we kept vigil with simon, there was a lousy corporate “art” thing framed in the bedroom. I noticed it the first night: an enso, open at the top, its inner contents pouring out into the sloppily-rendered sky. I hated that painting, for it’s spirit-less, mass-produced essence, and for it’s symbolism of death, seemingly unseen by the slouch in whatever cubicle who decided it was appropriate for thousands of rooms around the world. I hated ending my days by looking death in the face.

Somehow this blog about certitude got wrapped up in my (so far failed) attempt at developing a daily practice, but really, I migrated here from my last blog because my orientation had shifted and I wanted a new place. So here I am, showing up as-is.

20111025-092641.jpg

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2011 in daily enso, family, loss, relationship

 

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daily enso: two

black enso circle

protection

Day two. Learning the brush, feeling the beginning of the stroke the lower right, the lift of the brush to completion. I love this!

These days, one of my protections is my love, Ted, who steps into his recognition of himself as the bringer of love to the world hour after hour of the day. His presence helps me feel my borders more keenly, and recognize the stillness within. For him, then, this enso, and this poem.

 

It is love that brings happiness to people.
It is love that gives joy to happiness.
My mother didn’t give birth to me, that love did.
A hundred blessings and praises to that love.

~Rumi

 

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