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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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a new start

I wish there were such a thing as a new start. What would it be like, to suddenly be rid of all the former challenges, to really be able to lay aside the things that hindered us, obscured our way, thwarted our progress? Instead, for me at least, a new start is just an attempt at doing it again, acknowledging my vulnerability and the need to try anew. 

I’m using some structure this time… an e-course that began today, a local women’s self-nurturing group, and on the physical side an ass-kicking dvd that I’ll be attempting with my man. Not to mention that he and I spent a good two days last week coming up with a very ambitious plan for our business for 2012. There is a LOT going on.

Meanwhile, though, I am struggling. I am throwing all of these things in my path, summoning my historical Finnish sisu, and determining that I will not always feel this way (angry, depressed, purposeless). I know – ok maybe it is that I trust (in what, anymore?) – that they will guide me, that these activities, along with the work of daily life: my beautiful boys, my family, my chosen love, our amazing family therapist, will lead me back to my Self. 

Here I am: on Day 1 of Soul*Full. 

You know what happened today that was truly beautiful? I sat in front of my son and watched him button his fleecy monkey pajama shirt. I laughed as my twins ran circles around each other, giggling and singing their way around. Our therapist Jo guided us into a deeper level on our path(s): finding that each of the three of us is searching for a home – longing to feel rooted. It was such a Truth Moment – something we all knew, but that when spoken by her took on such a deep significance that we each know it truly is our next goal, both individually and as a team. I know in myself that if she can really guide me out of this place and help me reach down and plant myself here, in this life that I have, in the beauty and pain, the questions and the searching, that I may feel rooted and secure, my life – my self – will be transformed. 

So, here we go. To trust, to try, to celebrate and fume and show up again and again and again… a new start. Image

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

Bandaids

Today was a day of oceans of words. I talked in depth with way too many practitioners and thought with intensity about my life, my beautiful family, and my health for too many hours. You’ll forgive me, I trust, for closing this day with just this simple but apt poem:

There are different wells within your heart.
Some fill with each good rain.
Others are far too deep for that.

-hafiz

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Posted by on November 7, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

daily enso: one

first enso of daily enso project

When I was setting things up here, I did a bit of research on enso circles, a Zen Buddhist tradition. It didn’t take me long to realize that the combination of action (painting) with meditation and reflection would be really good for me. If there was no other chance during the day to hold an idea or object of creation in my mind and hands, a daily enso practice would guarantee time with artistry. Time alone. Time for quieting the mind.

What I have found in the past five days is that the enso themselves provoke nice reflection. Rather than sit and try to quiet myself in those few moments, I really just focus on how I am feeling, bringing awareness to my present body and mind experience. I take the thought or the words that come and then loosen my hand with a bunch of enso on some scrap watercolor paper, feeling the paint, watching the interaction of brush, pressure, amount of ink as the color lays down on the surface. Then a clean piece of paper, and an enso. I like looking at them, teasing out symbolic meaning from the brushstroke and the state I found myself at the outset. This is my focal point.

This day, my first day, these were the words I felt to inspire my hand and heart in this new practice: “Possess a pure, kindly, and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable, and everlasting.” ~Baha’u’llah

I have no claims of being practiced or skilled at mindfulness, meditation, or even holding a brush properly, but that’s not my point. It’s just a circle. A boundary created in the light. A symbol of the heart and its journey. Perfect, even in imperfection.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2011 in Uncategorized