Friday, April 29, 2016

Love Fear (poem in progress)

Love is a fearful fabric, a shredded woven
Needle and thread know it all.
Love is meant to be a force, but not always.

Love sometimes needs to be a whisper, a quiet color from the basket..
I love in high pitch between the joinings, in lucid passion, in interstitial spaces
I am my own broken thing and mend nothing
I shatter rose colors, piece together pink muslin scraps
I cause running, I make escapes happen, I wake up to terrific unravelings

In balance, two fabrics do not make a right
In mending things, extremes are not the way to go.
It is a mistake to love so boldly sometimes
It is better to mete out love without demands, without expectations
It is better to be pierced with your own needle and thread

I take on fearful lovers, too tightly woven, too loosely mended
I fill them with my own hungry grief
I craft illusions and needle tiny bits of stupid dreamings.

Love is powerless. That love has power is a lie, for more often, stitches have power
stitches bind, snuff out, smother
these: the same stitches that bind you to yourself
I whisper my sorrow
for I am an insensitive coverlet

love is a comforter rejected by many
love is a torture that causes them to hide, behind quilts
love is the chosen covering, the sheets of resistance
I, too, fashion caves of my own sewing
I seek liaisons with shadowed threads
cover me, my love, for I have stitched

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

into the grieving

 Well, a few months ago a journey opened up for me...a journey into grief. For some time, years even. I have held back and distracted myself from this work, yet at just the right time the phrase, "grief as a spiritual path" took hold of me and shook me into Googling. I found  this article:

In my last marriage, I spent a good solid two years crying every day. This was not grieving, this was not spiritual work; this happened out of deep distress and despair. It was pure white-hot pain. Friends and family witnessed this pain, and I'm sure they felt completely helpless. Four years divorced, and despite ongoing turmoil, I am not distressed any more. Instead, I am just sad, and deeply disappointed in so many things that have transpired.
 So, inspired by the article, I  have committed to the path of grief as a way to spirit. I'm sure if I tell people I am committed to Everyday Grieving, they will  look at me like I'm delusional. Why would you WANT to grieve every day?
I will tell you why: healing. Denying my pain and feelings does not work any more. In a fabulous case of "what you resist, persists" grief comes marching in, no longer willing to be ignored, and the great thing is I can hold it now without the distress. As Terry Real says, "Depression freezes, but sadness flows and has an end." This I embrace as truth.
I am holding on to the belief that feeling these feelings and moving through them will grow me, open me, make me solidly compassionate. I hold losses of loves, losses of family, losses of dreams, deep disappointments,places where I am targeted and oppressed. I feel the pain of those who cannot connect or grieve. I feel the pain of what fellow human beings do to each other.  I feel the pain of separation from lovers, family,or friends. I feel the weight of my own failures.

I am a maverick...alone, and this is how it must  be. No one can do this for me.

Grief as a spiritual path...I'll let you know how it goes.

A Different Kind of Fatherlessness

I intimately know a woman who has been divorced for four years, whose ex still uses the family courts to act out his anger towards her, who is not interested in paying child support, who freely avails himself of thousands and thousands of dollars of his family's money to carry out his legal bullying, who completely ignores his ex's pleas to stop and use more peaceful, alternative methods for problem-solving and collaboration. Unfortunately, she is not the only one in this situation, for it is a sad consequence of our judicial structure that this kind of abuse is absolutely legal.
I speak out about the grandiose man today, not the good fathers, the sincere fathers. Not the men who abhor demeaning behavior and do not abide by systemic disrespect of a woman. Not the non-sexist men (like good men project or NOMAS types of men) No, I am calling out the bullies...the irresponsible...the overly superior. I am calling out the ones who use the court system to bully, the ones who refuse to pay child support or be a co-parent, the ones who treat the mother of their children as an less than human.
Terry Real says that grandiosity will impair a man's judgment . When a man is addicted to his own sense of superiority, he is going to make decisions that adversely affect others, and in reality, are destructive to that man as well.
When,and where, did fathering get conflated with oppression of mothers in the minds of some?
This is the heart of fatherlessness because the man is not giving his children the kind of father they deserve: one who models more than superficial respect for their mother, one who has no interest in bullying, one who moves heaven and earth to give his children a good life everywhere they live. It is fatherlessness because it is conspicuous in its absence of the moral principles of mutuality, support, kindness, respect, coherence between words and actions, and in the end, love. Love, too is absent, and even though he might profess to love his children, his love is all too often replaced by a compulsion to control...a tainted judgment...impaired by superiority. This is no way to keep the hearts and experiences of his children as his top priority. This is a worse kind of abandonment than actual physical abandonment. This is an abandonment of soul, the erection of an impenetrable wall, the shutting out of another's humanity while staying in open proximity.
This ultimately creates an atmosphere of oppression of the mother, and that is an injury that is far-reaching for a child. A man engrossed in his own superiority teaches, by example, that women are objects subject to paternalistic control. Women are not allowed to have a voice. The contribution of mothers is inconsequential. The life in the home of the mother is not important. In the extreme, the mother is made to be unnecessary. Father knows best, women know nothing. The children's take-away from their father: women don't count.
When did fathering get conflated with oppression of mothers?
Sons learn they are superior, and that their value is only found in a one-or-more-up position over women. Or really, over anyone who dares to defy innate white male authority. They learn that women are their domain, that mothers are unimportant, that you must deny your own vulnerability and need, deny building morality and self-worth, deny the circumstances of your own heart, and tie engagement in the world with those male paths to relational unhappiness: competition and dominance. Daughters learn that you'd better watch too might be oppressed if you don't shut up and put up. They learn that their role as a woman is not important. Or that it is only important to the degree they comply and agree with him.
This is not just fatherlessness, this is also patriarchy, and to me, it is the same thing. It is injurious to women and men. This oppression of the mother is all too often supported by bystanders who tend to believe the good father act he puts on. They believe the superficial over reality. Just like a recent article described Trump: Appearance: caring leader. Reality: unempathetic bully.
When did good fathering get conflated with oppression of mothers in the minds of anyone?
You see, patriarchy...fatherlessness...places a man so high that he cannot be reached, cannot be touched, and certainly wouldn't dare to dirty his hands with woman-think, woman-speak, or woman-need. Someone who has put themselves in a grandiose position has taken themselves out of the relationship, any relationship. It is impossible to be grandiose/superior and in rightful relationship at the same time since one person is subjugated and has no rights/voice in the relationship. This is not true relationship. It is dominance.
And how can any man build real esteem for himself if he gets ahead through bullying? This only makes him a bully, not a man. It is not manhood or fatherhood at all; it is grade-school pettiness.
The sad state of family court is that this nonsense is perpetuated. It is sad that families are allowed to use their resources not for the children, but to serve the interests of a bully, who benefits from wearing down the targeted party. This is not the kind of man who invests himself in peacemaking, repairing bridges, personal responsibility, mutual respect, or thinking about the children's highest regard. Children are not immune to the severe contempt hurled toward their mother. They sense it and feel it. They don't need words or overt action. They see how she is shunned. They experience it in the tension and anger that hangs between parents. They even innately sense that one person is responsible for the conflict, and that one person could change but chooses not to.
Can the heart-ears-mind of a man practicing this kind of fatherlessness be reached? My experience is a hopeless no, they are unreachable. Family, judicial, and social constructs all too often enable a man to carry out his grandiosity. And he would never admit his true motivations, as he is deeply in love with his own fakery. As long as we do not acknowledge the problem this covert association of fathering with oppression of mothers, we will continue to enable it. In a divorce, it continues to be male against female, winner against loser, oppressor against oppressed, and abuser against abused. And it's all so forgetful of the children.
Making peace with fathers and fatherhood in our culture means that we deal with this covert fatherlessness head-on, and recognize that a man who is practicing superiority and grandiosity is not being a good person, much less a good father. Giving fatherhood its rightful place means we do not allow it to be tainted by the act of oppressing mothers.
When did good fathering get conflated with oppressing mothers, anyway?
It is time for a sea change.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The baby book haunting

My mom kept my baby book around, and as soon as I could read I absorbed it. It was part of the belongings that stayed in our home...a fixture, like the old poetry book we had. But something shifted and one thing I had read over the years washed over me differently  It was seemingly innocuous:
What mom said: "It's a girl!"
What dad said: "that's ok, honey, we'll have a boy next year"
I mean, after all, lots of dads in the late 60's wanted boys first. Lots of dads were wrapped up in the sex of the baby.
Yet these words threaded into my heart, in and out a million times, I got it, I knew it, I still live it: my dad was a gaping void and an aching need in my life. I could never have been good enough to earn his love (and still am not) and yet I tried so very hard to do so. That sentence from him encapsulated the subsequent history of his complete disdain and rejecting judgment of me. Those words, for me, were the root of my shame: unwanted. unworthy, unlovable, rejected. Those messages have hung around me, cold,wispy ghosts...convincing me they are perceptible and attractive to cold, wispy men. With my father, I was  always orbiting his distant sun, trying to warm myself . Magnetic forces, an unseen wall, kept me from quite arching near him. And so "dad" became a cold, lifeless concept, one that caused deep deep fiery hunger in my bones for far too many years, fire that left the ash of grief, despair, and complacency. My dad, the smiling cold force, the grinning grim wall, wielding the stunning violence of absence.
He didn't want me. Not really. I was a disappointing girl.
In my relationships with men, this has been everything. I have made myself a small, distant planet far too often, and I have blamed myself for being too small or too...too...something. Too expressive. Too emotional. Too needy. Too much, too little, too fat, too grumpy, too lively, too loud, too slow, too inadequate, too stupid. Needs not allowed.
And of course, there are many that would have me believe that needs are not ok. No, needs are fine. Hungers...greedy hungers that take over your soul and invade the space of another...these are not needs. I have had such hungers and they have indeed separated me from others and myself. But needs..needs are human. Everyone has needs.
 If there is a guy in the room who is going to reject me in some way, I can smell him within ten miles and I am instantly drawn to him. And so I get sucked in.  Sometimes the cycle takes years, sometimes weeks, sometimes days, sometimes months.
The psychological terms for it are: repetition compulsion and re-enactment. Trauma bonding. Love addiction. Whatever. I gather these terms to help me cope. I dive furiously into theory, get way into my head, over-intellectualize the whole affair, but do nothing to soothe my heart or help me grieve.
Waves of grief come anyway. Disappointment in my lack of a father. Disappointment in men who also behave like that. Disappointment in myself for my own alarmingly injurious absences, for others and self. Overwhelming sadness for so many losses and separations.
I sob in the morning, touching the heart of being unwanted. I sob in the evening, feeling the impact of the never-listening walls I've loved. I sob before bed, holding my inner child and telling her *I* want her. I sob in the bathtub, feeling every cell in my body swell with the pain of rejection and then release it. I sob in the bathroom, at the cutting board, behind my eyes when talking to my children from the next room, when vacuuming. I sob while reading a story to my son...I am glad I am a girl. I embrace every single moment of grief and open my spirit a little, things were not the way they should have been.Yes, I have been rejected. Yes, I have been abandoned in every way possible. And yes, there is grace here to rescue me. Grace and gratitude for recent and ancient rejections course through me.Waves of compassion for my self and everyone in pain. Huge gratitude for the awakening to healing.
It is in grieving that healing happens. I close with a passage where Terry Real describes how this happened with his own therapist:
"Depression freezes, but sadness flows. It has an end. The thing I had spent so much time avoiding had just swept through me- and I was fine. In the healing safety of Paolito's company, my covert depression had become overt. My overt depression had transmuted into grief. And grief, I would come to understand, is depression's cure. By empathizing with the wounded part of me, bolstering the adult part of me, and adroitly sidestepping even the slightest alliance with my internalized hatred, Paolito modeled for me the healing of the empathic reversal that lay at the heart of my covert depression. He taught me, through his example,to cherish my own vulnerability, and to quietly disregard internalized messages of self-contempt. I know that I owe him my life, just as many of the men I work with let me know that they owe me theirs. The chain of toxic injury can be matched by a chain of grace and restoration." ("I Don't Want To Talk About It",Terrence Real,p. 285)
May we all find our way to graceful healing.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

awakening hungers

We were painting on a large piece of paper meant for oils...he said just play...don't think about it...and so I took brushes and paint globs (really nice Sennelier paint globs) and palette knives and pushed some paint around  on paper. It was really nice to talk and laugh and listen to good music (David Bowie, Randy Newman, Feist, Todd Rundgren, the Kinks) over wine and pulling paint. There was something very childlike about being freed to play an have no limits.
Childhood takes me to sadness, so we talked about that too...about how he enjoyed sadness as a child. Enjoyed sadness! I thought, a little surprised and brightly curious. Enjoy sadness? Of course...there is a certain pleasure in knowing you are alive and human. He said poetic sadness...aesthetic sadness.
Aesthetic sadness....your aesthetic is how you curate your life...your people, your food, your vocation, your activity in the world. What is your aesthetic? How does it nurture and complete you? And aesthetic sadness surely comes from longing for an aesthetic you have yet to successfully cultivate.
Such longings have found a home in me, have recently sprung up as a major awakening of deep hungers. Like a hungry child, a screaming, hungry child, my hungers took over and tried so hard to be filled. Hunger for family, hunger for partner, hunger for touch, hunger for so much more of life...more music, more movies...more aesthetic. I forgot that hunger is a hollow that can be overwhelming and cause others to recoil at the strength of its ache...for they know it is not theirs to soothe. I forgot the hunger is the force that compels the child and not the wise patience of the adult.
I forgot the hunger had to do with not being wanted, literally not being wanted. And I wonder how some children can wriggle off uncaring about whether they were wanted or not and yet how I have held on to this grief, have believed a lie that somehow if I corrected my innate flaws I could earn back the wanting...I could be wanted and accepted and safe. But I forgot myself.
And so play is the answer...for in wandering creative paths one can heal the sad children inside and feed them well. Playful art is a re-membering.