…check its records let’s begin. Party on party people let me hear some noise! DC’s in the house jump jump rejoice!!! There’s a party over here, a party over there…
I am excited to tell you about an event coming up in Seattle that Shauna is administrating as Alumni Outreach Coordinator at The Seattle School and where I will be speaking. It’s called Symposium: An Intersection of Conversation and Innovation.
Symposium were forums in ancient Greece for conversations between philosophers, poets, musicians, and leaders that would fuel innovation and imagination.
At the inaugural Symposia last year, Shauna spoke about “How Coding Trauma Into Language Impacts the Healing Process.” You can watch the video of her message here. And this year, I will be addressing “Metaphor in Psychotherapy: A Bridge Between Thinking & Feeling.”
To learn more about this event, including a list of the presenters and their topics, and how you can buy tickets to attend, please visit: http://theseattleschool.edu/event/symposia2016/?instance_id=29185
This event will also be webcast. So, stay tuned to our Facebook page for how you can participate from afar.
I am excited to be a part of this event hosted by my beloved graduate school, as well as tickled that Shauna and I get to participate in an event together. It’s been a long time since our shared youth group endeavors. Tag Team, it’s so good to be back again!
Some of you may recall that several weeks ago I had the privilege of speaking (for the first time in a long time – hence, the nervous reading of much of my talk) at The Seattle School’s first ever Alumni Symposia. The talk, titled The Healing Art of Making Meaning was primarily about the use of writing as a means to processing trauma and (of course) it was a shameless plug for this very blog of ours. I’m posting the talk here in the hope that it inspires a few more of you to write (and share) more of your stories too!
Moving to a new town has left me feeling a bit like a foreigner in these beginning months of transition. I’m the newbie overwhelmed by the slight cultural differences I pick up on every single day from what people wear to how people engage or don’t engage around here. I’m the annoyingly slow driver trying to figure out where I’m going and how to get there because these streets are not the ones I’ve known most of my life. I’m the mama who has to ask a hundred questions about a hundred different things going on at the kids’ schools because we haven’t been a part of this community for years. It’s exhausting for this gal right here (yes, my two thumbs were just pointing toward my cheesy self).
The truth is, trying new things and putting myself out there has always been a struggle. That may sound shocking to some who know of my family adventures to Uganda and my seeker-tendencies that have led to varying vocational paths requiring substantial risk and change. The only explanation I can offer is that when there is a clear and undeniable intuitive sense that a calling is connected to some kind of divine energy, I know well enough to follow that curiosity even if I think it may lead to an anxiety-induced heart attack and do me in for good. Somehow that sense of the Divine compels me enough to move in spite of my own fears and discomforts.
The anxiety that has accompanied this new adventure hasn’t been the paralyzing kind I have known with previous out-of-my-small-comfort-zone experiences. It’s more of a gut-punching every morning reminder that each day continues to require courage. It takes courage to take up space in this world with billions of human beings walking around all over the place. It takes courage to decide that I can make this town, this neighborhood, and this community the place I belong. It takes courage to determine that you can make spaces or places or relationships in this world your home simply because your story has led you there. It takes courage…but it also takes hope. Why muster up the courage to show up day after day if there isn’t first the hope that it even matters?
I am banking on lots of hope these days. I hope that this move wasn’t just a random and unnecessary re-routing. I hope that the lessons we are all learning in this experience mark us for good. I hope that if I keep showing up every day, mustering the courage to face new things and new faces, that my showing up isn’t just for me – that it’s also for the ways I will mark the world around me. I hope that is true for all of us – that our stories matter in this world – that what the world needs is simply for everyone to really just show up every darn day.
“OK. So what’s a blow job?” She forced herself to ask as soon as she opened the car door and slid into the passenger seat without even so much as a glance in the direction of my face. The question didn’t particularly alarm me considering my adolescent clients keep me well informed on the milieu of current middle school culture. Oral sex is certainly a popular enough category for me to have estimated this type of conversation at some point.
“Well, I’m happy to unpack that with you, but can you first help me understand the context and why you’re asking?” I responded and watched her entire body sink into her seat as though she had been waiting for permission to wave her white flag and surrender all that she had been containing throughout the day.
She proceeded to share the details of a narrative involving a new friend being propositioned to perform oral sex on a male classmate in exchange for money, a school suspension, and perhaps even an expulsion. I could see her initially fighting back tears and then with another exhalation she let go of any remaining composure. The tears began to stream down her cheeks and eventually found their way into her lap.
I imagine those tears tasted of confusion, of the experience of indirect shame as she bore and divulged this narrative, of grief at the sense of her childhood innocence dissipating. These are often the most painful conversations I have with my girls. How can I explain sexual exploitation in a way that doesn’t frighten them? How do I name the horror of a world that has a long history of sexualizing and objectifying women and girls while buttressing their own capacity for agency and empowerment? How do I talk about the ways our culture has deprived boys and men from believing that they were made for so much more while keeping hope alive that there are boys and men who understand what it means to honor themselves and the women they know and love?
With courage. That’s what I’ve come to rely on heavily in these recent years of navigating the terrain of mothering adolescents. I have transitioned from being a mother of strictly little girls into a mother of little women rising. So with each step, with each conversation, I grab hold of the courage to just show up, to open up, to talk about the things no one ever talked about with me. We sit in the messiness of it all together so at the very least, these little women rising are not left to sort it all out on their own.
Gratitude begins in our hearts and then dovetails into behavior. It almost always makes you willing to be of service, which is where the joy resides. It means that you are willing to stop being such a jerk. When you are aware of all that has been given to you, in your lifetime and the past few days, it is hard not to be humbled, and pleased to give back.~Anne Lamott in Help Thanks Wow
I think about death a lot. That is probably not the way you expected an after-Thanksgiving post to begin. But it’s the truth. Though it’s difficult to recall my mindframe pre-near-death-exeperience, I’m pretty certain I did not think about death as much back then. Perhaps these more frequent thoughts are related to some residual post-traumatic stress. But maybe not. Perhaps it’s because every which way I look there is something reminding me of our mortality as human beings. From recent public conversations about the young woman who opted to end her own life rather than allow her inoperable brain tumor to run its own course of cruelty, to an episode on Grey’s Anatomy, there are reminders of death every single day. Maybe the increase in thoughts is simply a reflection of aging. After all, the older we grow the more loss we are likely to encounter.
About six weeks into my recovery from Briella’s birth, I drove to work for the first time. I was initially surprised by how natural it felt to be heading back to work, driving the vehicle I’ve spent much of my life maneuvering around. Just as I was about to turn onto the off-ramp from the highway, I was assaulted by an imaginary image of the car in front of me being flung into my windshield. My brain registerred the possiblity of another car being struck and sky-rocketing into my direction and apparently thought it was something I needed to be prepared to handle. The imagined and envisioned scenario jolted my heartrate and left me breathless, but it was not the first indication of my post-traumatic stress. Up until that point, I had also been experiencing dreams almost every night where I was unexplainably draining fluid out of every pore of my body. The dreams felt so real that I would wake up and ask Brian to check to see if there was anything dripping down my back. Considering the amount of blood I lost in both surgeries, the retention of nearly 50 pounds of fluid that my body shed over the course of the two weeks following, and the tubes I had coming out of my body to drain urine while both my bladder and my ureters continued to heal, it wasn’t that difficult to discern what my brain was trying to process in the late hours of those restless nights. But this new fear of cars flying through my windshield was not as easy to explain away.
Thoughts of flying cars have morphed into far more horrific scenarios of which my children or husband are the primary victims. It’s as if living through trauma, an experience where I came face to face with my potential finality in this bodily form, caused a breach in the protective armor many of us live encased within throughout much of life. I think the armor is constructed by equal parts of denial and hope. Denial keeps the inevitable reality of our end and the end of those we love the most at a safe enough distance to function relatively unfazed. Sure, we all know that we will dies someday, but knowing by way of an idea is a very different thing from knowing by way of experience. Hope sustains our life as it compels us to travel further and further down a road we trust will lead us to joy even in the midst of potential tragedy and sorrow. Denial and hope, the two are very different things…or so I’ve learned over the past couple of years.
In my case, denial took the greatest blow in the aftermath of my trauma experience. I’m not sure I will ever be able to live in bliss with that psychological defense mechanism again. I now have an intimate knowledge of how quickly and unexpectedly my own life or anyone’s can come to an end. So how do I function in the midst of this new knowing? My capacity to function now directly correlates to my capacity to live in gratitude. It was gratitude for my life that sustained me during the months of painful recovery. It is gratitude that comes upon me like a wave knocking me off my feet when I’m sitting in the theater watching the production of Once next to the love of my life. It is gratitude that welcomes the tears shed after hard conversations with my oldest daughters about life and love and sex and beauty and shame and struggle. This gratitude thing isn’t about just feeling lucky. It’s about feeling like EVERYTHING is a gift. EVERYTHING. Every day. Every moment. Everything. I am not always able to live out of this place of gratitude – hence the days I don’t function as well. But learning how to practice saying thank you to the source of life daily has been my saving grace. Thanksgiving has moved its way up towards the top of my favorite holiday list over the past couple of years because it’s a day that simply invites us into the practice of gratitude. Let’s hope the spirit of Thanksgiving carries us all through the rest of this holiday season.
Check out our pinterest page for gratitude practices.