Truly, Madly, Deeply

October 14th will mark the 10 year anniversary of my dad’s death. So around this time of year I began to think of him even more often than usual. And I may be even more apt to cry than usual.

I remember that shortly after he died, it was the moments of stillness, the moments of quiet that were the most difficult. When everyone left. When the kids were sleeping. When I was alone in my car. When I didn’t have distractions. So I avoided those moments and I looked for distractions.

A couple of weeks ago I was out to breakfast with friends and we began talking about death. I of course began to think about my father. And I, of course, began to cry just a little. Teary eyed and snotty nosed, I grabbed a napkin and continued the conversation. And it passed, as it does.

When we were leaving one of my friends said he was sorry that the conversation made me sad.  And I found myself saying, “No! Don’t apologize. It’s not sad at all. It’s good that I cry. It’s actually quite lovely. It reminds me that I still miss him so much.”   And I do miss him so much. And that is both sad and wonderful.

The other day I was on the phone with a dear old friend of mine. He called to talk about about some terrific and tragic childhood events, spurred on by a blog post I had written. He said that sometimes, it was so overwhelmingly awful that he could just sit and cry. I realized in that moment that it was not awful at all.

I said,“The ability to feel things deeply means that we are not dead inside.”  We are alive and well.  They didn’t win. They didn’t get us. We have such empathy for those children that we once were that we can cry for them. And we can also rejoice in the fact that we made it through.

We made it through because we kept ourselves distracted. We found ways to keep ourselves from falling apart. We kept our minds occupied with other things, albeit not all good things. There were books and music and movies and lots of poetry. There were also addictions and risk taking behaviors. Thankfully, we had each other.

But as we grow older we are shedding our addictions and letting go of some of our distractions. As we grow older, there are more quiet moments.

He recently became an empty-nester.  The moments of stillness are upon him once again. Older and wiser(?), as scary as it may be, he can now choose to sit with these moments instead of running away from them. If he chooses to sit, I can sit with him. I’ve been practicing.

It takes a lot of practice, because sitting in stillness is not easy. I can do it now, but it used to be impossible. Forget the stillness. I couldn’t even move slowly. I wanted to run! I couldn’t stop my monkey mind for one second. I hated the silence. I didn’t want it. It’s why I thought that I would hate yoga. Because I knew that it was in those moments that I would really feel things. In those moments, I would no longer be keeping it together. In those moments I would fall apart.

It is true that in the moments of stillness we completely shut our minds and feel nothing. But in those same moments we also completely open our hearts, and feel everything. And everything is a whole lot of things. It is all of the feels. It is everything, and nothing.

We have to realize though, that it is neither good nor bad. Pema Chodron says that “nothing in its essence is one way or the other.” Nothing is either good or bad on its own. It doesn’t become good or bad until we judge it. So I can choose to judge things that arise as neither good nor bad. They simply are. And as for events in the past, they simply were. And now they aren’t any more.

Even though they are no longer, they do still live inside of me. Like my father does. The love that I have for him still grows every day. As I think of him while I raise my own kids, that love still changes. It grows and changes. It is still a living thing. Every time he comes to mind he is alive again in a sad and wonderful way. I want to nurture his memory, so the love can keep growing.  Sometimes, when I think of him, I will cry.

The bad things that happened to us when we were young are still inside of us too. Our relationship with them keeps growing and changing every time they rise up. The thoughts are still alive inside of us. They don’t have to be buried by distractions. They can be dug up in those moments of silence so we can nurture them and let them grow into what they will be. So we can grow into what we will be. And sometimes, when we dig these things up, we will cry.

We will cry because of sadness. We will cry because of joy.   They are they same.  We don’t have to say we are feeling sad, or we are feeling joyful.  Just…

We are feeling.  And we should feel it all.

Truly. Madly. Deeply.

 

 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Posted in It's All Yoga | Leave a comment

Teach Your Children Well

September was back to school time. And back to school time means that campus rape stories and statistics have been all over the news again. Every article I read stirs up a lot of emotions for me. Because I have two daughters. Because I was once a young girl. Because I was raped.

This is the first time I’ve ever written those specific words in a non-poetic and matter of fact way. And just moments before I published this blogpost I spoke to my mom about it for the very first time.  I had never told her before.

I’ve only ever spoken about it to a few close friends. It’s something that is in my very distant past, and I don’t ever want to give it too much weight. It is simply one of the pages of my long life story. A page that made me strong, built some serious character, a page which continues to reward me in positive ways.  It has given me the ability to feel deep empathy, and to truly forgive.

Throughout my life I have worked through the experience on different levels. I can clearly remember a day when John and I were driving up the Parkway and I started to cry. I don’t want to have kids. I can’t have kids. What if I have a girl? I can’t do it!
I was so afraid to have a daughter because I was so afraid that someone would hurt her. Like I was hurt. And I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be able to protect her.

And here I am now, with two daughters. Daughters that I worry about every day. Daughters who are getting older and who are spending more and more time out of my direct line of vision. Sending them off to pre-school was the beginning of the end! I knew that one day I wouldn’t be able to protect them. I could no longer be there every second of the day like the neurotic crazy person inside of my head wants to be. So I let them go a little more each day. They are slowly on their way to becoming strong independent women of the world. Sigh.

I continue to work through my experiences on different levels as my girls grow and change. Just as we all do. Parenting through our own experiences, no matter what the experiences were.

I’ve read a lot of articles lately about campus rape, and date rape, and sexual assault in general. It’s out there in the news and it has been in my mind to write my own story. Then one day recently my high school freshman told me in casual conversation that she had heard a rumor about a boy who “pressured a girl” into having sex with him. A rumor. It may or may not be true. But I immediately thought about that girl and I thought, if it were true, she probably wouldn’t report it. She will keep it to herself and not tell her parents or her counselors or the authorities.

I never did. I never told my parents, or counselors or authorities. But I was only ten.
And I had already been systematically abused by my grandfather at a very young age. My ideas of attention and love and intimacy had already been severely distorted by the time I was four years old.  I had already been conditioned not to say a word (perhaps a story for another day).   So when I was ten and I was raped by a boy who was 15 or 16, I didn’t tell anyone.

There are so many reasons not to tell. Girls are pressured into sex all of the time and they don’t tell. And yes, they all have their own reasons not to tell; shame, fear, living in a victim-blaming world.

I decided to use this rumor as a teachable moment, just one more in a lifetime of teachable moments. We have talked about this before, but now that my girls are getting older and spending more time out in the world our conversations will become more frequent and more specific.

We have always talked about trusting their instincts and leaving any situation that they find uncomfortable in any way. We’ve discussed not being alone with anyone behind closed doors, and sticking with a trusted friend at all times. They know that as they start to go to parties, they should never drink anything they don’t pour for themselves. They know that there is a possibility that someone may try to do something bad to them at some point in their life.

I have also explained to them that
any unwanted physical contact at all
under any circumstances at all
while wearing any type of clothing at all,
in any location at all,
in any state of mind of at all,
is sexual assault.

I am almost ashamed to say I have even gone so far as to tell them not to wear clothing that shows too much skin. Basically, I am teaching them how not to be victims. Which makes hardly any sense. It’s like teaching black boys that they have to walk around with their hands up. It sends them a message of guilt and blame before anything ever happens. But this is the world we live in and I have to protect my daughters.

I only have daughters.

I would like to think that if I had sons, I would teach them how to treat other people,
how unwanted contact of any kind is assault,
how no means no, even if it comes after a string of enthusiastic yeses.

I hope that people who have boys are teaching them how to treat girls, because the scary statistics tell us that 1 in 4 girls is sexually assaulted in her lifetime. And every time it happens there is a boy involved! A boy who is using charm, pressure, coercion, alcohol, date rape drugs, accomplices, force. A boy who is someone’s son.

Parenting is not easy. I know, no one ever said it would be. And I knew that it would be a huge undertaking when I finally decided to have my kids. But I have never doubted that decision for one crazy neurotic second.  I just hope that I am teaching them well.

Every page of the story builds more character.

****************************************

If you or anyone you know needs information about sexual abuse and/or assault visit: RAINN.

Teach your Children Well  by Crosby, Stills Nash and Young

 

******************************************

 

Posted in It's All Yoga | Tagged , , , | 11 Comments

Losing My Religion (this is blasphemy)

Most of my life I’ve been wrestling with gods and with demons. I’ve spent just as much time on prayerful knees as I have shaking my fist at the heavens. It has taken me a long time to get to the place where I am today, at complete peace with my belief system.

That being said, I think it’s time. I’m starting a new religion! I’m not sure what to call it, though. Maybe I’ll just call it FLUGGism, after FLUGG, the main deity.

In order to be a member you have to have a personal relationship with FLUGG. You must put your trust in FLUGG and know that all will be just as it should be. Be still and know that FLUGG is.

Who and what is FLUGG? Look inside yourself and you will see. FLUGG is whatever you choose to believe in: Fate, Luck, the science of the Universe, God or Goddess.

Here’s how it works, the Golden Rule of FLUGG:  You choose to believe whatever you want to believe. I will choose to believe whatever I want to believe.

That’s it.

For clarification you can refer to the following commandments.

1. Don’t be a dick. Just be nice. Ideally, all of the time. Ideally, to everyone you come in contact with. Even the assholes.
2. If you find yourself trying to change someone else’s mind, change yours instead. And by the way, stop doing that. Stop trying to change people’s minds. You don’t get extra points for conversions.
3. If you think you’re right and someone else is wrong, then you are definitely wrong. Because you are both right. Because FLUGG.
4. Stop judging. Everyone already has a judge. Their FLUGG is their judge. You have your own FLUGG to deal with.
5. There is one road to salvation, and that road is called “your life”.  Search for salvation while you are alive and you will find it. You will find a little bit of it every day in the things that make you happy, the things that you love. Find it in music, in relationships, in church, in exercise, in relaxation, in books, in service, in nature, in food, in non-attachment, in meditation, in material possessions. Find it wherever the FLUGG you can. But remember, just be nice about it.

If you’re interested in joining me, maybe we can get together some time and not talk about what we believe. Have a FLUGGing meeting.  Share a little bit of salvation over a beer. Or not. Whatever. Do what you want.

 

Posted in It's All Yoga | Leave a comment

Charlie Says…

Sometimes I think the world is a mess.  It’s falling apart.   People are mean. And intolerant.

I try to have faith in humanity, and remain positive, but once in a while I think it just isn’t get any better.  Watch the news.  Read the papers. Does anyone read the newspapers any more?

I know Charlie does. (Pronounce this as Cholley. With attitude. Like in The Pope of Greenwich Village.)

Charlie is my 93 year old father-in-law.  He is also a guru. When he speaks, I hear history.  I hear a very different point of view.  We don’t always agree. Especially when it comes to politics. But I respect his wisdom and his experience.  He has lived a long time, and seen a lot of things.

He came from a much different time and place.  Hell’s Kitchen.  The Great Depression. Cold Water Flats. CCC Camps. The stuff of gritty black and white movies. Where people say things like “He was a freakin’ mutt, dat guy.”

I’m happy to have him here visiting for a few days. Happy to debate about politics and to listen to all of his stories.

Today he told us a fantastical tale about a friend of his.

Tommy Fitz was a fellow steamfitter (in the steam, as Charlie says),  and godfather to one of Charlie’s 12 children.  One night Fitz was at an uptown bar (a tavrin as Charlie calls it).  Fitz bet someone $100 that he could land a plane on the street right outside.  There was $200 sitting on the bar as Fitz walked out. Within the hour, a plane was on the street outside.

Of course I had to google it to see if it was true.  He is, after all 93 years old. He could make up all sorts of stories and I might believe them.  This is a real one.  Read about it.

Somehow, along the way the conversation turned to kids these days. As it often does.  We were talking about how Maggie went to a GSA (Gay Straight Alliance)  meeting yesterday, and about how kids openly talk about being gay or straight nowadays.

“Everything is out there. It’s all out right out in the open.” Charlie says. “Nothing is hidden. Like it used to be.”

By the look on his face I wasn’t quite sure where the conversation was going. Was I going to have to debate about this?

“You know”, Charlie says, “when I was a little kid there was this family.  They lived up the block.  They had a son. He was born all white. With really pale skin. and pure white hair and pink eyes. What d’ya call that there….?”

“An albino?”

“Yeah. He was an albino.  And they kept him locked in the house.  They didn’t let him out. He couldn’t go nowhere or do nothin’.  Just locked in the house his whole life because of the way he was born. Was that right?  We didn’t know.  We didn’t even wonder if it was right or wrong. It was just the way it was back then.
But that wouldn’t happen now. Because people realized it was wrong.   People are still realizin’ what’s wrong. But kids today already know what was wrong.  Things change.  Things are still changin’. Things are gettin’ better.”

Charlie says things are getting better.

Maybe we’re not such a mess.  Maybe change is just coming a little slower than I would like.   Ask me again when I’m 93.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

facecharlie

Pop’s first experience with Face Time.  “Holy cow. Wouldya look at dat. Hiya!”

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

 

Posted in It's All Yoga | Leave a comment

Tintinnabulation

(for Jayne who inspired me after being inspired by Mr. Cohen)

There is a crack in everything.
There are certainly some cracks in me.

The broken bits, the chinks, the lines,
the marks of failing miserably.
Cracks in my heart, scars on my knees,
the holes left by an absent friend.
The road rash from the falling down
and getting up to try again.

Scars from assaults and accidents
I managed to survive somehow.
Remnants of the lessons learned.

Lines from furrowing my brow,
squinting in the too bright sun
and smiling when I see your face.
They get deeper. Let them deepen.

They need no fillers, only grace.
The souvenirs that I’ve collected,
reminders of this life of ours.

Why would I spackle up the cracks?
Why would I cover up the scars?
Each crack lets in a bit more light.
(That is what Leonard says they’re for.)

So I won’t waste time filling cracks.
I need that time to make some more.

I’ll toll the bells that still can toll.
I will not envy you your bells.
I’ll gather rosebuds where I can
before I lose my sense of smell.

I’ll ring the bells that still can ring,
turn up the radio and sing,
no matter what this world may bring,
I’ll let the light get in.

Wrinkling and cracking again and again.
I’ll break another hundred times,
seek out each bell that might be rung,
and make that music mine.

I’ll sound the bells I still can sound,
and f#ck all of those broken bells!
I’ll still put on my combat boots
and dance like holy hell.

These are my cracks, my lines, my scars
Point, laugh, and judge them if you must.

But I will crack into a million bits,
before I crumble into dust.

So this,
my perfect offering.
I’ll ring the bells that still can ring,
embrace the cracks in everything.
I’ll let the light get in,
day after day, year after year.
And the only thing that I will fear
Is that one last bell.
Which I won’t hear.
So this…

 

**************************************

Hear Leonard Cohen’s “Anthem”

 

Posted in It's All Yoga, Poetic License | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Achieving Nirvana

There is a rock band forming in my house. For two days in a row my music loving daughter has had other kids here. All down in my basement. Making a ton of noise.

But I don’t mind it at all.

Let this be the house where they make that awful noise. Let this be the place where they turn that noise into actual music. Where they change and grow and learn, and write the perfect lyric. Strike the perfect chord. Find the perfect beat.

Let this be the place where they experiment wildly and hone their craft precisely. Where they evolve into what they might become.

They have brought an energy into the house. An electrically charged hint of the future. A future where anything can happen. The whole world lies ahead of them and anything is possible. Anything good. Anything amazing.

These kids don’t know a world before Nirvana. Anyone who tries to start a band in the basement can grow up to be the next Dave Grohl. There is nothing stopping them. Nothing holding them back. Nothing telling them that their biggest and wildest dreams can’t come true.

The absolute positivity is palpable.  It takes my breath away. My heart grows fuller with every sound.  Every guitar riff is potential. Every crash of the cymbal is possibility. Every burst of laughter is hope.

Hope for all of the possible futures they can imagine. Every single one of them.

And hope that perhaps someday I’ll be on one of those VH1 Behind the Music Shows.
“Yes, that’s right. I am Maggie’s mom. I used to make them snacks.”

Anything is possible.

 

 

Posted in It's All Yoga | Leave a comment

Ice Cream Cake

(for my dad, who’s not here)

It’s your birthday,
and you’re not here.

I’m still right here.
Moving through my days
in the same house, the same place.

Okay,
some things have changed.
I mean,
it has been ten years
since I saw you.

A lot of time has passed and now,

I don’t miss you
any more.

I hardly ever think of you
the very moment I wake up.

You’re not on my mind
a thousand times a day.

I don’t see your face
everywhere I look.

I no longer have the urge to call you
sixty times a week.

I don’t cry at the mention of your name
every single time.

I do not feel the overpowering all-encompassing gut wrenching emptiness in my heart
every second of every hour.

No. I don’t. I don’t miss you
any more.

But it might be different
as I move through this day,
in this place where you once were,
in this house that you once knew.

Because I’m still here. Right here.
And you, you are not.
And it’s your birthday.

IMG_3015.JPG

Posted in Poetic License | Leave a comment