The wonder, the welcome and the walls…..

It’s the walls I hate the most
as we head deeper into the tangle of briars that is this season
of lines drawn hard and stories and hearts left unpacked in the corners
where we may polarize and hide
because it doesn’t feel safe right now to show our underbellies.
As if we weren’t already lonely enough.

All the sharp biting can make it feel too dangerous to be honest online,
and that fear can spill right across the table in real time where we actually gather.
As if connection may be easily severed.
Un-knowing each other so hard only grows our sense of isolation,
and when you feel unheard,
a deep lonely can set in strong.

I love the way Brene’ Brown describes this experience:

“I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve called Steve from the road and said,
‘I’ve got the lonely feeling.’  It’s not unusual for Ellen or Charlie to say,
‘I don’t like that restaurant.  It gives me the lonely feeling,’ or ‘Can my friend spend the night here?
Her house gives me the lonely feeling.’
When the four of us tried to drill down on what the lonely feeling meant for our family,
we all agreed that we get the lonely feeling in places
that don’t feel alive with connection.

My daughter used to call it the Sunday night feeling,
and I think as a nation we’re cultivating it like a well-worked orchard.
Miles of barbed wire and disconnect grow the now-thriving acres of lonesome.
How can we be love in all this crazy?
We work and pray for systemic change in the long game, yes,
but we bring healing into the fray every opportunity we get
during those moments when we find ourselves offended.
Right before the fight or flight kicks in,
each time our soul breaks out in hives
and we feel compelled to slam a door….

…in just that hair-trigger jolt,
before up come our defenses,  our posturing,  our pride,
we can (big breath)
go
low
and instead of rising up ready to battle or bolt
we choose to maybe  e-a-s-e  open some space to listen and better know
the human, the heart
and the hope.

We could be addicted to closure,
to feeling clear and correct and certain,
and we humans can make stuff up if necessary – whatever narrative we need to hold –
so that we feel like we’ve got this thing handled
on the moral high ground
and have wrangled into our journey some sense of control
on this huge spinning dizzying ball.

I believe it’s possible to do this season from a more spacious place –
that we can hold our beliefs and opinions  strong and with courage,
examined and curious and unashamed,
and also hold also brave space for connection.
That each time we feel the prickle of offense,
instead of throwing up walls,
we
can
lean
instead
into having an awkward sit in that uncomfortable place
of listen-and-slow-your-breath-down,
holding space for: “I don’t see or  agree,
but will work to understand,  to offer acceptance,
and hold space for where you land.
I won’t judge you,  won’t fear you,
will acknowledge your value and worth.
I honor you as more than your affiliation.
You’re included,  you’re welcome,  you’re heard.

Oh God I want to not give my ego what it’s hungry for,
to un-satisfy it’s demand be large and in charge.
I want to choose an open heart,  an uncertain path,  and a big wide love lit bright.
Still baby-stepping and re-learning and willing to change
through the long of this hard day’s night.

“Cruelty is easy,  cheap and rampant.”
“You cannot shame or belittle people into
changing their behaviors.”
– Brene’ Brown

Pride assumes
Creativity wonders.”
– Stephen Roach

Congrats to Lisa Moreland – your name popped up in the giveaway this post;
I’ll be sending your print along to you – with a whole lot of love.
This week I want to give away a new handmade journal
Leave a comment and you’re in the hat!

When people get brushed off like crumbs….

I’ve been doing some deep dives into the shades of fear and dismissal
that are wrapped in the privilege that came with my skin.
I’m discovering some attitudes that I’ll be keeping
and tossing some been hiding in the basement of my thinking,
like forgotten relics
until the roof got torn off in this storm.

Mostly I’m shutting up and listening,
listening hard for what my ears weren’t tuned by my life to hear.
And I’m loving these new voices I’m feeding on
that sound to my heart like thundering waves and cicadas singing  and warm winds stirring and God.
And even though I’ve been in community with people of color for decades,
I have so much to listen and learn
and so I hush.

But I’m feeling it strong to say something
when exposed to the deep black pain that groans
every single time someone twists the knife with the words
“but all lives matter”
because the sting of having deep pain minimized,
well,  for that I have something of a grid.

~  ~  ~

I’m swept back some years into a living room lit dim as women gathered
to explore how to embrace the courage to shed our shame
to learn to process and share the hidden pain,
because shame gathers strength sitting alone in the dark.
I’d held back,  wrestling to say the thing that made my throat close down
and my lungs fold over tight.
When I finally stacked my awkward words on a ledge and pushed them off,
I held my breath as they fell into the light.

During the sharp quick moments after my words
tumbled to the ground
in that space where I longed for someone to hold them with me,
or say “oh Jen” or come alongside to help breathe just one next breath,
there came the brisk sweep of dismissal that felt like a broom
sweeping up some chips I’d just spilled.
Brushed away quick by the leader
who hopped over my share
as if I’d sneezed into a crowd.

I felt humiliated.
I packed my entrails back up
and held it all tight between my un-cried sobs until I could get to the safety of my car.
The sounds I cried in the bathtub that night
didn’t even sound human and it scared me hard
to hurt so guttural and exposed.
I felt banished in that someone had seen the soft underbelly of my experience
and showed no empathy.

And then when I called the leader on it,  privately,  and asked was this was a safe space for me
she was defensive,  dismissive,  deflective,
and minimized all the feels.
And then struck out how dare I “attack” her so vicious.
I’d never known pain like it. Or since.

~ ~  ~

Bearing a wound and carrying the pain unacknowledged,
(especially from leadership)
is a gut-wrenching and isolating place.
When the black community hears over and over
our protests – “but all lives matter”
I want to scream “stop it!”
Just. stop.
Can we sit with our brother and sister
and share the next breath they need to take
alongside of them?

Can we just squeeze their collective hand and say “I’m sorry.”
“I’m here.”
“Keep talking”
“We’re listening.”
Can we just hold some space for the hurting hearts out there?
Without rushing to dismiss
because it’s way un-comfy
and from our little white bubbles we don’t compute.

Can we please grow our repertoire of tools.
Accept our lack of empathy and focus in on learning to listen,
to becoming the humans we hope to be
– can we stop with the defensive posturing
and let black lives be heard?

If someone sobs and rages because we slam a heavy door on their hand,
can we lean in to see and serve the crushed fingers
instead of chiding them for being unruly in their pain.
We’ve crushed some things.
In sitting with this we will suffer.
Are we willing to do the work of humility
to hurt with the hurting
until a fierce tide of healing rolls in?

Oh God grow our empathy.
May we not leave a single soul alone
in their pain.

“Empathy is simply listening,  holding space,  withholding judgement,
emotionally connecting,  and communicating that incredibly healing message
of you’re not alone.
– Brene’ Brown

Congrats to Linda Mann – your name jumped up in the drawing and I’ll be sending
your package in the mail post haste.
Another art journal up for giveaway this week – leave a comment
to have your name in the hat.
And thanks – always thanks – for coming around.
I appreciate you big.

When shame and shoes come storming…..

Back when the world was a coloring book
and my box of crayons still small,
the questions to my answers began to rattle in the wind
of a storm that blew in without warning
on an ordinary morning as I sat pulling on my school shoes
so I could hurry up the hill to catch the bus.

I was however old you are when the girl of you has turned to go
but the teenager isn’t ready for the task
and you wade through sixth grade and the in between to see what even fits anymore.
It was Springtime and I was wearing shorts at last but were my legs  tan enough
and did they look fat and maybe no one see me please that hard.
I wrestled my unloveliness as  I heard my Father’s quick clip headed down the hall
toward his room at the end
when a shot of pain lurched through as something struck my inner thigh
and also thwacked my cheek and lip.
One of my after-school shoes landed hard on the floor,
the other lay like a dream  in my lap.

My shoes.
They’d been trespassing in the living room on the green rug where I had sprawled out after supper
to listen to music on the floor.
On the green rug where my father ran in place every morning,
counting,  counting his high steps fast
as the floor trembled beneath his intensity.
It was where he began his day and my shoes had been there unwelcome.
The after-school shoes that should have been in my closet before I took my bath.
That morning they landed on me hard as he threw them through my door
into the room where they belonged.

Maybe he hadn’t seen me there.
Maybe he’d meant to simply return them to me hard.
I couldn’t wonder.  Couldn’t think the questions.
Just scrambled out the door before my tongue could taste the blood.

I climbed the hill,  climbed onto the bus,  climbed the stairs to the third floor
in the busy throng of chatter as life swarmed around me boisterous
but I couldn’t climb over the tears quickly rising,
tears that threatened to expose the unlovable of me
no matter how hard I pushed my loud and happy to the front.
Don’t cry,  dammit;  my jaw burned from willing down the sob swelling fast in my chest.
I feared the storm rising wild in my emotions;
please just don’t look at me right now.

But Mrs. King did look at me, piercing,
and her eyes jabbed a question that I tried not to meet
and quickly tears betrayed and crawled over the fists I’d planted to look casual against my cheeks
I was called down the hall to the long table where more troubled eyes poked
and my brain got stuck and I couldn’t make the words talk sense like I should
but instead cried more in the heat of their gaze.
Did my father abuse me ever?  No,  and I never said he did.
But talk of shoes didn’t match my pain
and my meanings got mussed in the haze.

I returned to my classroom relieved to go free,  and to the day and then the bus
and down the hill that afternoon to change my shoes and eat a snack and watch TV and feel at home.
At the table still we were a family until a phone call ripped the seam.
I was in my room reading when the voices changed.
My mother’s cheeks were pink and demanding when she stormed in and said the things
in a tight, angry tone that trembled I had lied and what did this mean?

The world slipped sideways;
what lie had I said?

It was an un-say-able kind of lie and I had told it
and now do I even know what people could think?
I didn’t know exactly except that my father didn’t come.
He didn’t come to ask what or why or how is this thing?
The house had no more air for talking,
holding it’s breath until the morning came.

He would do what we did in our culture when shame came storming.
He erased me.

I had to sit again with the grown-ups at school who wanted to know
and I couldn’t make the words –  maybe didn’t have the crayons
or know how to blend the colors true.
I painted muddy because mud was all I felt,
wanting only to back up,  to back out of this terrible mistake and never cry ever again.
But I backed into a wall that would close in between me
and all that had felt safe and known.

We would never speak of this again.
I had broken something.
Broken it so badly that I lost my place at the table.

“Sometimes the most dangerous thing for kids is the silence that allows them
to construct their own stories – stories that almost always cast them as alone
and unworthy of love and belonging.”
– Brene’ Brown

“You are here,  and more than you know,
you  belong.  There is more in you
than you ever see,  more than the less you convince yourself of
when the dark pieces of days seem to outlast the light ones.
You are a soul alight,  the flames of stars and shadows dusted
with moonlight and pitch.
This world cannot spin without you inside it.
You are here,  and you must remain.”
– Tyler Knott Gregson

Oh please don’t climb off now;  I won’t leave you here,  I promise.
There is love enough,  and grace and
I will park us somewhere lovelier when next you come

* this post 3rd in a series *

 

Savoring shells and squirming in skin…..

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Spring 1979.
A cold Topsail wind whips my tears along the sand in the early morning dark,
where I’ve been driven by a dream that had me jumping from my sleep
to lift a crying baby I couldn’t find.
She’s several weeks gone and my heart feels sprained
by sudden stabs of fear that she’s lost in the crowd of this big wide world
and I think I’ve done the best for her but I feel only this vicious sense of coming up short,
and don’t recognize the me that’s left in the after.
As I cry my hurt along the water’s edge,  something large rolls up against my foot.
A perfect conch.  On a beach of broken pebbles.  Somehow it washes up a warm and soothing grace,
this treasure from the deep – feels like “I’ve got this” – a wink delivered on the waves.
I take it home like a token given and keep it to rest my eyes,  my hope carried through the years.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It’s hers now – I sent it along to whisper love
and finding Allison this warm September last feels like another shell to hold;
I love this window.
Like when I’d rest my head against the doorframe to breathe in the wonder
of my littles asleep in their cribs,  so full up and tender for these tiny bundles of light wrapped in skin
It feels a little like that again,  and while Autumn is our busy season
and life doesn’t slow or gentle down for me to linger,
sometimes in the night I get up and pad down the hall to have a loving look and
it’s a beautiful thing that I can.  Another gift given and I know it.

But I don’t hear back
and as the leaves begin to fall,  an old chill comes over my soul like a fog rolling in.

I’m glad she doesn’t do fake just to make nice,
glad she’s living authentic and true,
and I support her in the story that’s her own to live and tell.

But why doesn’t she want me?

There it is, the haunting pain,
and this question doesn’t stand alone
because shame comes seeping up from the floorboards of shut off places
like a backwards flush and I feel the drag on my soul…..

“What’s wrong with me?”

weeping waters
 
We’ve all felt it,  this burning kind of shame –
accusation that haggles with your worth until it talks you down,
your defects discovered – you might have been loved but this is a dealbreaker.
And if you say or show or let on or get found out
you’ll be put out in the cold where you belong
and so you hide your love away and go small and smaller still…..
It pricks me sharp but I’m fighting to show up and stay.

It’s coming on Thanksgiving and I feel it like a fever that I can’t shake
but I open to some outlaw grace and get inspired to reach out shaking anyway.
I’ll write her every  Monday – say the words I couldn’t say,
unfold the cramped legs of what I want to give her – at last I have a way.
I plunk an easy,  newsy note into her box each Monday night,
a little heartpour sent off grinning with a prayer,
something she can count on – a love that’s always there and this is joy to me,
even with the disappointment-hangover that happens in the afterdays as she doesn’t respond,
and I grab on to the beauty that I  find and let it steele me in the keeping true.

  I’m thinking that if I feel that something needs to happen
or be in order to repair what feels broken in me
then maybe it’s gain when it doesn’t go down that way,
because insecurity gets flushed out from where it festers hidden
and as twinkle lights begin to light up the December nights,
the stuff in my basement gets dragged from where it hides
and with every “have you heard?” I squirm in my skin as shame storms down on me.
My chest goes tight now when they ask.  Please look away.  Please don’t see
me standing naked in the glare of her no thanks.

I feel so much “I’m sorry” rumble up from the deep,  not for anything I’ve done
but for what I don’t know how to be.

The longing and loss are valid – I feel it an ocean,  the grief.
But something’s not true in this shadow.
It’s easier to call the bluff on lies that others believe,
but I’ve got some bleeding blind spots – needing help myself to see.
And as Christmas comes and goes with no response still,  I’m rumbling inside to get free….

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“There is no greater threat to the critics and cynics and fearmongers
than those of us who are willing to fall because we have learned how to rise.
With skinned knees and bruised hearts,  we choose owning our stories of struggle over hiding,  over hustling,
over pretending.  When we deny our stories,  they define us.
When we run from struggle,  we are never free.
So we turn toward truth and look it in the eye….”
– Brene Brown
(Manifesto of the Brave and Brokenhearted in her Rising Strong)

If you’re still along for the ride,  I’ll tell you right now – this chapter doesn’t have a fairy tale ending.
It’s a love story,  and real,  and there is beauty to unfold still
but it’s messy and raw and and soaked with pain and grace;
maybe this is just exactly the stuff of getting free
(the best is still to be)

Teardrops in the wind…..

2015-03-21 12.25.39
I post this every year….a healing,  loving ritual

because I need to somehow honor those days out loud,
especially for those who maybe still haven’t found their voices
yet.
And for all mothers everywhere,  because our hearts bear always the stretch marks
of loving and letting go.

It was March,  1979.
Breezes turned balmy and I pulled off my shoes,  letting swollen feet tramp across warming earth.
I was pregnant with my first baby,  due St. Patrick’s Day.
For weeks I had ached for time to stop,
squeezing myself shut to the coming separation,
the word “relinquish” heavy on my heart.

But today the weather had turned,  and hadn’t everything somehow changed?
Spring had come with her own dreamy wildness
and waves to ride far beyond the looming loss.

I spent the day sunsoaking,
watching the wind stir the tireswing I’d played in
not so long ago.

I was newly seventeen,
an “unwed” mother
with an unwanted chore:
to give my baby to someone she deserved.
Soon she would come apart from me,
gone before the leaves flushed out.
Their buds were fat and ready to pop.
Like me.
I went quiet with the knowing.

DSC08317

But this day was vivid lovely and it got inside me.

As the sun began to dip low,
a storm of pain rumbled and hammered down urgency
inside my belly
as grownup voices began herding me into the night.

As my frightened parents gathered my things to the car,
I lunged back inside for one last moment alone
with the gentle life that had shaken mine
with her own gentle worth.

I lowered my heavy frame onto the bed and tried to sing one last lullaby
but could do only tears.
A fragile goodbye.

Following strong contractions downstairs and into the night,
I returned home with only fierce memory
of her tiny fingers and face.
But I’m forever marked by her essence,
often swept away by her melody
as it drifts across my heartstrings.

I recognize her song.

Thirty seven Springs.
I honor each of her days.
And today I tenderly comfort the girl-in-me who carried her
before she was transplanted into the garden
that nurtured her to thriving.
And I remember those shimmery days when we were just us,
when she was still mine.

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Thanks for giving a listen.  For being a witness.  I hold it as a gift with love and thanks.

“The dark does not destroy the light;  it defines it.
It’s our fear of the dark that casts our joy into the shadows.”
– Brene’ Brown

“When you get to the place where you understand that love and belonging,
your worthiness,
are a birthright and not something you have to earn,
anything is possible.”
– Brene’ Brown

I’m celebrating life this week and want to offer up a package of goodness,  Stargirl style,
in a drawing.  Just because I can.  And it makes my heart smile.
I’ll draw a name from comments and make up a gift box
full of handmade art,  handwritten love,  and beautiful little surprises
picked especially you.
A little love bomb:)
Just plunk a comment in the box and I’ll send your name into the mix.