Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Today my mind has been tangled up thinking about distance. Distance between people, large expanses of spaces, what proximity means for relationships, how that expectation is mitigated (or complicated) by technology, time and intention.

Distance is a funny thing.

What keeps coming to my mind is my children's martial arts training and the practice of defense blocks. Fists outstretched to arms length, knuckles practice this work, you first frame yourself in space with the other person so that you are able to give appropriate berth to the action, but also not drift too far away. If you drift too far away, you get none of the benefit of the contact. If you are too close, your movements and work get too entangled to be effective. The master reminds you, "distance!" so you know to reframe your space, correct your proximity, realize where you are and what the relating to another is about.

Sometimes the refreshing of space is good.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I don't think this image will ever be erased from my mind. A young mother leaning over the body of her small child, caressing his face as he lay there dead. The child was perfect and angelic in the stillness, the acceptance on the mother's face, her hand at her throat. I sat reading the article of 250 people dead at the end of a siege of a school in Beslan, Russia, tears streaming down my face, my own small boy in my arms. It was completely incomprehensible, this idea of losing a child in such a brutal, horrible way.

My own son was a year old at Beslan attack. My sweet boy, who I remember holding during wee hour feedings, whose sweet sleeping face reminded me so much of the dead child in the picture. In those moments I swear I could feel the presence of thousands of women across the world doing the same. In those early morning hours, you take comfort in knowing that you are part of something great, something deep in your motherhood, that there is a presence of other mothers that holds you in the newness of this child and of this experience. Of solidarity, of love, of difficulty, of care and compassion.

And in those moments, as now, it is incomprehensible that your child could be taken from you in such an act of violence, in such a horrific way.

It is also incomprehensible what it must feel like to sit and wait, knowing your child is dead, knowing his body lay not far away, wanting to see for yourself and to start to put order to the distortion. My mother described to me once what it was like to sit outside of the emergency room, knowing that my brother was dead and wanting more than anything to touch his skin just to make sure. The waiting, the longing and the disbelief were almost more than she could bear.

I don't really know how to wrap this up, honestly.  I just keep seeing that child from Beslan and the images of parents running to their children in Connecticut in my mind. And I think I need to just sit with the sadness of it all for awhile and then find some way to help untangle this vicious cycle of pain, violence and insanity that we are in.

Rob Brezsny offered some wisdom through my Facebook page this morning. It gave me a feeling of hope and ability to make change, even when feeling so helpless:
According to Jewish legend, there are in each generation 36 righteous humans who prevent the rest of us from being destroyed. Through their extraordinary good deeds and their love of the divine spark, they save the world over and over again. They're not famous saints, though. They go about their business anonymously, and no one knows how crucial they are to our well-being.

Might you be one of the 36? As a temporary experiment, act as if you are.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Beginning Again

This is dedicated to my girl, Chapman, because she kicks ass even in the middle of the storm. 

It takes about 20 sessions of practice before your body falls naturally into the pattern of the asanas, or so my yoga teacher tells me gently as I stumble through poses, remembering four moves down the road that I'd forgotten a critical counter-pose or grounding stance.

What this reminds me is that it takes time for the muscles and neurons to remember work that you did long ago, that starting again simultaneously means reaching back and stepping forward. This metaphor is not lost on me every practice that I wobble through some poses and feel strong on others. But each day I notice new strength, each day I have to push myself to dig a little deeper, each day I wonder when it's going to be easy to do this work with the grace and agility I see all around me.

There have been a number of images stewing in my mind for awhile now. One is of a plastic ball made of interwoven black loops. The ball is a mass of contradicting tensions, you try to pull one loop and the others all resist. Work, children, relationships, love, finances, health, creativity, place, home...all so tightly interwoven that one cannot meaningfully shift without affecting all the rest. A few weeks ago I withdrew from a position I had applied for a few months earlier and the ball relaxed a bit. This week I moved truckloads of stuff out of our house and the ball relaxed a bit more. The kids are getting up 15 minutes earlier to have breakfast with me before work and I feel the ball shifting more. The chain reaction caused by letting one thing go has been tremendous.

Another image is of closing loops, finishing things that started long ago and need to come to a close. Next month I make my last and final journey to New Orleans for my final phase of reconstruction surgery. I've come to realize that this is it, that after this surgery I need to be done, that the space my body will occupy at that time is what it is, that it is time to just let it freaking be. I am thankful that this is coming to a close, thankful to turn the page on that particularly shitty chapter of my life and healing. Another loop to close will be making peace with what my body has been through in the past two years. That one will take longer, no doubt. This idea of closing loops comes from my dear friend Jenn who talks about eating the elephant one bite at a time. Yes, indeed, one bite at a time.

Finally, I have the image of D as a baby flash in front of my eyes from time to time. When we would travel with D as a baby, we would marvel at the most amazing leaps in growth he would make when we were away. It was as though leaving his regular environment and engaging with new surroundings would allow his mind and body to open up in remarkable ways.

My (fantastic, oncology-focused) therapist talks a lot about post-traumatic growth and how living through major life crises like losing your mother and having cancer can trigger positive shifts, perceptions, opportunities, connections and growth. It's a time where I feel like I need to recut the puzzle of my life, to bring in new ways of looking at things, to create the life that is compelling to live, to grow and shift perspectives, to answer the question "what are you going to do with your one precious life?" And like those periods of growth for my tiny boy, this time is counterbalanced with deep emotions and the need to sort and sift and figure while others have to be patient with you as you fuss and stretch and try to consolidate in this new space. It's learning to wobble on those shaky baby legs that, in time, become strong.