The Only Way Out is Through

Reverend Michael Bernard Beckwith of the Agape International Spiritual Center often tells the story of a chick inside an egg. He says at first it’s pretty comfy in there. It has everything it needs. Enough to eat. Lots of room. As the chick grows, it becomes less and less comfortable. Resources begin to dwindle. It starts to fester in its own stench. It becomes toxic. 

The chick has to get out. 

The chick does not know what’s on the other side. But instinctively it cannot stay in the egg. It begins to peck. It begins to break free. It can’t know what is to come, but it will die if it doesn’t take action. And taking action is difficult. It can make your beak sore. It can take everything you’ve got. 

But once free, a whole new world opens up. A whole new life. 

How often do we stay in situations that do not serve us, because we are afraid of the unknown? Because we have no faith in what cannot yet be seen?  

The chick cannot become what it is meant to become within the confines of the egg. 

So it does the only thing it can do, it gets to work. 

Be it little ‘ole you, or an entire country, “The only way out is through.” *

Keep going. 

 

*Robert Frost

 

 

 

 

 

Blatant Suffering

I went to a Yin Yoga workshop recently with a Buddhist teacher named Sarah Powers. She explained that in Buddhist philosophy, it is a given that suffering happens in life. No one gets out unscathed.

So, there is suffering. But then there is something she described as “making the suffering worse,” or blatant suffering.

Suffering is an unavoidable aspect of being alive, but then we pour gasoline on the fire of our suffering, and really run with it.

Easy example: Someone cuts me off in traffic, I suffer. Maybe it was a close call. Maybe it scared me. But then what do I do to hold onto that suffering? What do I make someone cutting me off in traffic mean? What is at the core?

-He didn’t wait his turn.

-That’s not fair.

-I’ve been disrespected.

-I don’t matter (how far back does that go)?

-Fury.

How long do I suffer over this incident? Am I still suffering ten miles down the road? Do I need to be?

~

My child has a problem at school. I suffer. I don’t like to see my child in pain. Putting wind in the sails of my suffering, I look too far ahead. Off I go, predicting all kinds of future suffering for my child (and thus for me). Berating myself as a parent. Did I not do enough of this, or too much of that? Berating the other players involved. Lamenting why the world is the way it is.

Do I need to go there? Can I just be in this difficult moment with my sorrow? Do I need to heap onto it and make it worse?

Can I make room for my own suffering, rather than run from it?

Can I meet my own suffering with humility, rather than chesting up to it screaming, “NO!”

Can I just say, “Oh…there you are,” and offer it compassion, acknowledging every other person on the planet suffers too, at some point. Even if they put on a show, pretending they are immune.

The first step is to recognize suffering for what it is. In a moment of angst, can I be present enough to pause and name it:

I am suffering. 

This would be a good time to take some breaths.

And then might I ask, How am I making it worse?

More breaths.

~

Pain in my shoulder roused me from sleep this morning. It’s chronic, off and on, but mostly on. In those moments between sleep and awake I noted it as suffering. 

Lying there in bed, in the dark, eyes closed, I didn’t resist. Silently, I whispered to my shoulder pain, “There is room for you.”

Breathing,

breathing,

lifting into consciousness.

By the time I was fully awake,

it was gone.

Is Your Kid the Welcoming Kind?

Cleveland Circle of Friends (2009)

One day when Riley was in third grade, I met her on the playground after school and she fell into my arms, sobbing.

“Why doesn’t anyone like me?”

No one had made fun of her. No one had shoved her down.

But no one had included her. Lots of playdates happened every day after school. No one ever invited her.

Soon after, we started a monthly “circle of friends” group in our home. Initially, we talked about Asperger’s, and how it affected Riley; her gifts and challenges. We talked about how those girls could support her as friends, and they did. They were awesome once they were given the tools to know what to do. We usually did one activity, and then had free time and occasionally I’d lead them in a guided meditation.

You’ve probably given your kids the “don’t you ever bully” speech.” Or even, the “stand up for someone if you see them being bullied,” speech or maybe the “get help if you see someone being bullied” speech. But have you taught them how to include someone who might be struggling socially? Because excluding someone is bullying’s cousin. If done deliberately I would go so far to say it is bullying. But like the girls in our circle of friends group, I think many good-hearted kids simply don’t know how to include someone that doesn’t easily jump right in.

It isn’t just autism. It could be shyness. It could be anxiety. I have a friend whose sweet daughter (who happens to be chubby) was the only girl in her class not invited to a birthday party…in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.

Even as an adult, excluding someone from a community has serious emotional consequences on the person being shunned. I’m not sure the popular people, people “social” comes easily to, truly get the long term ramifications of shutting out another human being. If it’s never happened to them, they might not understand just how crushing it is.

I know when a group of kids ignores the presence of a quiet kid, they’re not plotting, “I’m going to scar this person for life.”

But it can.

It also scars their mother.

Teach your kids to be gracious and welcoming. To look out for the one who is struggling. Teach them to be kind and to have the common courtesy to acknowledge every person in the room. Offer them guidance on what they might say to welcome someone who is shy or holding back. It can be as simple as a smile, a hello to acknowledge their existence. A stepping back and widening the circle to include them in a group conversation. Lead by example. Compliment others that are gracious with new people, (in front of your kids). Let it be known that you value this welcoming quality in a person.

My child has worked all her life on developing social skills and it still doesn’t come easy. She is so brave.

If your child were on a group hike, and sprained their ankle, and no provisions had been made for the injury..no choice but to soldier on, would it be reasonable to expect one or two kids to slow down, to maybe walk with that child? Might they even see some rich and beautiful scenery that would have been a blur had they kept pace with the rest of their classmates?

Would it be reasonable for those classmates to trade off? They of course don’t want to spend all their time at someone else’s pace, but could they go a little more mindfully for 20 minutes, and then let someone else walk with that classmate? Might they recognize and honor the one that is working harder than any of them, just attempting to keep up?

Would it be okay with you, if your kid was part of the group that ran ahead and left that child to limp for miles, alone?

A Text at Butterfly World

Yesterday I was with the kids at Butterfly World when a text from HT came through, asking if we were anywhere near Ft. Lauderdale.

No. Why? 

A shooting at the airport. 

Jesus. 

As details pour in we find this shooter is a mentally ill veteran. He asked for help. He turned himself in to the FBI. He “heard voices,” telling him to view terrorist material on the internet. Statistics say 22 veterans a day commit suicide and that likely is an underestimate. Our country doesn’t give a rip about our soldiers. Don’t even try telling me we do. We don’t take care of them. Patriotism at the top is lip service.

My husband, sickened, asks why we have to register our dog, but not a gun? Our car, but not a lethal weapon?

Florida Governor Rick Scott says, “now is not the time to talk about gun laws.”

Vice Pres. Elect Pence calls the shooting in Ft. Lauderdale “heartbreaking.”

Both men are loved by the NRA.

Our country is so very unwell.

Our children have become desensitized to mass shootings. I tell them it’s not like this in other countries. This isn’t NORMAL.

They want to believe me, but can’t really imagine it.

 

Puppies for Trump?

Yesterday, I barged into the teen girl’s room, pried the phone from her hands, set it aside and snuggled her. I told her she is an angel here on earth, and that God loves her and that she is doing just fine. Soon the dogs piled on and it was a mommy/daughter/canine heap love fest. She said, “This is what everyone who is sad needs. A mom to say nice things to them, and puppies.” I asked if she was sad, and she said no, not today. After lots of belly rubs and behind the ear scratches and many a “Who’s a good girl?/Who’s a chubby Chihuahua,?” there was a long pause, and she said,

“I wonder what would happen if we swarmed Donald Trump with puppies?”

~

Surprising Uber riders with puppies. 

* Surprising drunk young women with puppies.

* Surprising a little girl with a puppy for Christmas.

Christmas puppy surprise compilation.

 

She Shed Dreams

One of the hardest things for me about living in an apartment is that I don’t have my own space. In Cleveland, I had a whole attic. True it was cold in the winter, space heaters required, but it was mine. I could go up there, close the door and be alone. Alone with my books. Alone with my thoughts. Alone to meditate. To write. Sometimes, if I could swing it, I’d even take a nap. We had an extra twin bed up there. That no-frills attic was heaven.

When I was growing up, there was no quiet, peaceful space for me in the house. The TV was on every waking hour. I shared a room with my sister. Our brother had to walk through our room to get to his. It was a small house.

But we had a dilapidated detached garage, kind of like a barn. It had barn type doors. The back of the garage had a little shed-like room. I made it mine. The windows were covered with years of grime. I wiped them as best I could. There were shelves, made of cheap panel. The floor was uneven concrete, with deep cracks running through it. It had the greasy feel of an old mechanic’s supply shed. Once I got it “fixed up” I referred to this back room of the garage as my fort. I had a cot. And a plaid wool blanket & a pillow. I would go out there with a good book, and a snack. A bologna & American cheese sandwich with mayo, on a Roma’s Italian bread roll, (and a glass of Coke, if I was lucky).

My own little space.

A notebook.

A book.

A snack.

A beverage.

That’s all I’ve ever needed.

In my shed, I could stare at the grimy window and notice the sun glinting through, and go somewhere else. I could follow single drops of rain on the window, watching them make their way down, over and over. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was meditating.

A visceral letting down of the angst of everyday life happens as soon as I am quietly alone. It’s like taking off a bra, or tight shoes at the end of a long work day. Nothing is needed from me, for a moment. Without some sort of quiet time, without meditation time, I am not my best. Too long without it and everything/everyone gets on my last nerve. I need to write. I need to meditate. I need some quiet. I used to feel kind of prissy to need these things. Not anymore. I accept it as part of who I am. I come back to my loved ones better for it.

I thought it would be okay living in an apartment, because there is a conference room I can go to, to get writing done. But the conference room has air fresheners that spout off every so often and they feel toxic to me. I get a headache sitting too long in that.

I thought I could go to the rooftop terrace, but (poor me) it is so sunny and bright here in Florida. Often, I can’t even see my computer screen if I want to write. And it is too windy some days, and too hot others.

Yesterday I snuck off to the library for solitude and procured a study room. Two doors down it was mommies and small kids, making a ruckus. No peace & quiet at the library.

My children are on winter break. Presently, my son is in his room, headphones on, “rapping” loudly, thinking no one can hear him. My daughter is singing her chorus songs in the bathroom as she prepares for her day.

Our bedroom is out, because HT needs it during the day.

Where there is a will there is a way, and I can’t entirely blame lack of my own space for not coming up with a plan for writing, but it isn’t easy. Right now I’m at the kitchen table. Kids and dogs are in and out, interruptions are constant.

When I hit “publish” on the first post I did recently, after not writing on my personal blog for two years, I felt a huge sigh of relief. That feeling of letting down, after being constricted.

It sounds kind of corny, but in my own head I actually heard the words, “There she is.”

We thought about buying a house this year, but realistically we are not there yet. (Thank you Big Banks for the housing crisis. It was swell selling at the bottom of the bubble in Cleveland).

If we do ever buy a house again, it will likely be a small one. But a space just for me is a must. Even if I have to get a she-shed. Actually, a she-shed would be a dream come true.

I guess you could say, I kind of invented it.