Amazing Parents

Sometimes it\’s AMAZING. Sometimes it\’s just A MAZE.

Leaving my line to define my plane

I was lying in bed last night, thinking.  Just random thoughts coming in and flying out even quicker.  I was thinking of my friends and of my  books and places I’d like to go and how I’m going to fix my house.  Randomly, I remembered that day at the coffee shop, in the little town where I grew up.   Our table was wiggly and we spilled our coffee.  I asked him, “Why do tables have four legs anyway?”

He said, “Huh?”

“Well, three points define a plane,” I said.

He just looked at me funny.  Sometimes he says I’m crazy.  Sometimes I think he’s crazy.  Finally he simply said, “Yes.”

So here’s why that’s important: because I was lying in bed last night thinking…..about everything.  About this past year and everything I’ve been through.  I’ve been lied to.  I’ve been left.  I have seriously been hurt like I’ve never been hurt before.  And I hate writing that.  I hate even thinking that.  Because somewhere in me I don’t really believe that.  Because right now I feel fine.  In fact, better than fine.  I am happier now than I have been in 3 decades.  So it’s hard to remember the nights I spent curled up in a ball, crying into the covers, asking “why???”.  That memory seems so vague all of a sudden.

And I guess the thought I had last night is that perspective is strange.  It’s so crazy…so undefinable…so whimsical.  One minute it’s one thing, the next minute it’s another.  It depends on who you are, on where we are.  It depends on every experience we’ve had so far in our lives.  And it depends on where we are in the moment.

So it was dark and there were shadows on the wall.  I was lying in bed, down comforter crisp and cold.  I lay motionless, staring at these two chairs up against the wall.  And I thought to myself that if I had never seen a chair before, I would think that you either get this one or that one.  That there were only two types of chairs in the world.   Only two choices.  And I thought, “Hmm, if there was even one more chair, I would realize that it wasn’t just this one or that one….and I might wonder if there were more out there…more choices…Hmm….”  And then I fell asleep.

Three points define a plane.  The thing is, they cannot all exist on the same line.  Very interesting….

You cannot define your plane without leaving the path you are on.  It takes that other point somewhere else in space in order to gain perspective on where you really are.  It takes that third point in space to say, “Yes, I am right here.”  And I am fine.

So my point here is only this: Things aren’t just one way or another.  There is always another point to be found, in fact, an infinite amount of them.  Maybe you can’t see it.  Maybe you don’t believe it’s out there somewhere.  But science doesn’t lie.  That point is there somewhere.  And when you find it, you will have a table — sturdy, steady, where coffee doesn’t spill.  That third point will give you perspective on where you’ve been before, and better yet, on where you are right now….and where you’d like to go from here.

Just know that when your table is wobbly, look for your third point in space.  Reach out for it.  Don’t just stay stuck on the same path you’ve always been on.  You might believe in symmetry, but you have to believe in trigonometry, too.  Your third point will be there and it will save you.  Because you will suddenly realize it’s not just this way or that.  You will have a new perspective and for the first time you’ll see a million opportunities ahead.  Your third point will define your plane, and that’s what will make you steady and strong.  And it really will all be ok in the end.

(And yes, those really are the kinds of thoughts I have before I go to sleep.)

January 1, 2009 Posted by | A New Paradigm, Just me | 4 Comments

The Void That Never Gets Filled

I grew up in a small town in the heart of the Willamette Valley.  Although it’s history is deeply rooted in the logging industry, that little town has now become the icon for art and tolerance and hippies-turned-yuppy.  It is clean and prosperous and to be a kid in a town like that was very unique.  It was a nice mix of cultures to be seeped in.  To be part of a shift in a community that sheds its history to uncover it’s potential.  I like that and I am proud to have been a part of that, even in such an insignificant way.

My little town was very small while I grew up.  I would ride my bike up and down the streets at night, knowing who lived in every single house.  And not only that, but I could have named their dogs and their cousins and tell you what their fathers did for work.  And nobody ever kidnapped me, even though sometimes I wished they would.  And I swam in the creek with no adult supervision, everyday of every summer.  And I survived.  I would walk back slowly from the creek, down the long gravel road to my house, picking blackberries and eating them along the way.  I knew my brother would be there waiting for me or at least I knew where I could find him.

That’s just the world I knew.  Me and my cats and my brother and my creek and my gravel road.  For sixteen years.  I was born in that hospital and I lived in that same house until my freshman year of high school.  I could describe every sliver of wood in the paneling and every tree and where it was and what it grew.  I loved that house.  It was all I ever knew.

Last month I had an old friend come back to town to visit his family for the holidays.  I met him downtown for coffee.  In a shop that I knew oh-so-well.  Across the street from the Palace Theater, where I spent every single Friday night of my entire life, we sat at a table by the window.  And he said, “If we sit here long enough, we’ll find at least 50 people we know.”  And every time a car would pass, we would laugh and say, “Oh, I think I know that guy!”  Just then the mayor walked in, up to the counter and ordered a drink.  We recognized him.  He spoke to us briefly.  He was the same guy who walked up and down the aisles of the movie place with a flashlight, telling us to “keep it down or get out”.  He still had a bike.

Would you believe I left that town almost 20 years ago and have literally never gone back until now?  It really has been that long.  17 years to be exact.  And every day I’ve been away I think of that little town.  And all my friends there, and how I knew who I was there.  I knew the way to the drug store and I knew my way home in the dark.  It was safe there.  Predictable.  It was home.  And I miss that.

I have been avoiding that town for so long, for way too long.  I just couldn’t figure out how to go back there without feeling overwhelmed with a sense of unfairness.  Because it just seems so unfair that that was ripped away from me, without my feelings considered whatsoever.  And on top of which, I was just expected to “be fine”.  So all these years I’ve worried about going back and running into people I know and have them ask me how I’m doing.  I would have to smile and just say, “fine”, because that is what they expect.  And I guess I am fine.  I am.  But there is always a hole in me, too, a void, that has never been filled.  It’s that sense of having been ripped out of the womb I needed to survive.  Like seeds that are scattered in the wind, only to fall on rocks and wait.  Wait until the wind comes and blows them back onto fertile soil.  That’s how I have felt.  And in many ways, I feel like I have always been waiting.  To go back.  To fill that void.  To have a place to call my home.  To know who I am and to be able to find my way back in the dark.  Because it’s not fair to take that away from someone.

My friend and I drank our coffee, spilled some, too….and then we had to go.  We walked out of the shop and onto the sidewalk outside.  We came to a crossing where he had to go one way and I had to go another.  He gave me a big, big hug and I just soaked that up.  As he was walking away I looked back at him, with what was probably the saddest face I’ve made in a long time.  He called out, “What is that for?  We’ll still talk!”  But it wasn’t that.  I knew we’d still talk.  It was just that I didn’t want to go.  Not yet.  I wasn’t ready to leave that sidewalk.  I wanted him to stay with me there.  I needed to stand there for a little bit longer, taking in all the sights and smells.  I wanted to look inside every window of every shop and look deeply into the eyes of everybody that walked by me.  I just wanted to stay in that moment for a long, long time.  There is a void in me where those things belong.

I got to my car, where my dog was waiting patiently for me.  I put the keys in the ignition and my hands on the steering wheel.  I turned back and looked at the elementary school where I learned to read, where I met my first best friend, where I chased a boy at recess…and something just came over me.  I just cried.  And I cried and I cried.  It was so cold in my car and my breath was fogging up the glass.  So I just wiped my face and drove away, completely “disorganized” in every way.

I am so fortunate that the Captain took me there.  And that he stayed with me for as long as he possibly could.  I didn’t tell him I cried my way home that evening.  I don’t know if he would understand that.  But it makes sense to me.  And I need to do that again.  I need some more time to be on that street, looking in the windows of the shops and recognizing people that I keep in my bottom drawer.  Because that is what made me, me.  And I need to go back and remember that.  To open up that drawer and remember that it isn’t all bad.  Sometimes it’s good in there.  It is.  I’m lucky that way.  That I have goodness inside of me to fall back on, to remember.  I am lucky that I even have a void, let alone to have the circumstances to even try to fill it.

December 9, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm | 2 Comments

The Blueprints We Need For Love

What’s funny to me about the house I live is this: it’s currently falling apart.  The hardwood floors need refinishing.  I need a couple of new vinyl windows for better insulation.  The bathroom needs to be re-tiled.  The yard needs to be better landscaped so it looks pretty again.  But that’s because this house is over 60 years old.  It’s older than my own mother, gasp!  (and that’s really, really old, huh Grandma?)  So after all the years of wear and tear, you’d expect that by now it would need some work.  That’s just life.  Without maintenance, things don’t stay perfect forever.

But what about when the house was first built?  Can you imagine the architect standing on the plot, looking around, with a vision in his mind of what he was about to create.  He works hours and hours and hours to design his vision with precision.  He rolls out the blueprints on the table and with his pencil and eraser, he sketches and erases, and then sketches again and again.  He has to get the house “square”, he has to place the doors and windows just so, and the support beams need to be in exactly the right places.  And even beyond the mechanics of it, there is a certain feel, an ambiance, that he is striving to create.  So he continues to work…and work…taking that feeling from a 2-D idea all the way to a 3-dimensional realistic structure.  He buries himself in the task of creating a place where a family can live.  Forever if they take good care of it.

How much more complicated are human relationships than one dumb stick-built house?  How much harder is it to get our relationships “square”?  Putting all the support beams in just the right place, creating a “feeling” and a structure that is safe and secure?

The thing is, building a house is similar to building a relationship.  Much more complicated, but still the the same.  Relationships, like houses, require the right “blueprint”.  A foundation upon which to begin laying the stones.  The blueprints we have for these relationships come from our experiences in our lives.  Did we have a mother that held us a lot and took our feelings into account?  Was our dad supportive and gentle, or was he stoic and strict?  These are the foundations upon which we begin to lay our parenting stones with our own children.  Think back to your past relationships.  What kind of “blueprints” have you been given?  What kind of foundation did they lay for you to build on?

For many of us, looking back at our blueprints is confusing.  It’s confusing to be asked to build something that you don’t have the blueprints for.  What do we need when our own blueprints are not ideal?  We need support.  We need to find a person or a group that can “reparent” us.  We need them to teach us what it feels like to be heard and cared for.  We need to have an experience of unconditional acceptance and the safety to express ourselves.  It is only when we have these blueprints, that we are finally able to pass that on to our own kids.

Sometimes I work with parents who have been torturing themselves, trying to parent their children in this love-based parenting model.  But after years of trying, they still aren’t getting very far.  The relationship continues to collapse and crumble all around them.  Sometimes they paint the outside, but underneath that paint, it’s still that same old, deteriorating relationship.

To these parents, my heart goes out.  I feel their struggle.  I have lived it.

There are many places out there where we can go to acquire the blueprint we need to parent these children.  There are instructors and therapists that know exactly what support beams you need and where to put them in your life.  So reach out to one of the support groups listed in the side bar.  Post to the Consciously Parenting forums or to the Daily Parenting Reflections group and allow the other parents there to hear your voice and to tell you they love you.  Allow them to support you, right where you are.  Stay in it, soak it all up.  Put your fears to the side and just take in that support.  Because each time you experience that, you build a little more of the blueprints your kids need from you.

Because that’s just what they need too.  They need to be heard and made to feel safe enough to express those big, big feelings.  They need to be unconditionally supported.  They need to be loved.  And so do we.  I have to say, I’m only alive today because somebody loved me.  And not because they had to.  But just because they chose to.  Thank you for that.

(This one is for Rebecca, for finally giving me the blueprints I have needed for so long.  I’ll “pay it forward”.  You know I will.)

November 27, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm, RAD Education | Leave a comment

I Want To Hold Your Hand and The Mind/Body Connection

There is one.  A connection, between the mind and the body.

We’ve already talked about how memory is stored.  It isn’t stored just in the cognitive brain.  It is stored much, much lower inside our bodies.  All the way down to the cellular level.  Trauma, especially so.

I have talked to so many people who understand this.  Yet more that don’t….sadly.  And the ones who don’t just keep trying to “talk it out” in traditional therapy or with traditional parenting.  They don’t understand that just talking does not reach deeper than the cognitive level.  But the fact is, not everything is something we can “talk out”.  We must also rewire our entire neurological system at the same time.

So how do we do that?  There are many options: massage therapy, neurological “reorganization”, psychosomatic experiential therapy, etc.  But the first step is simply education.  Do the research.  Read the books.  One excellent book on this is written by Candice Pert and is entitled Molecules of Emotion.  Dr. Pert also recently appeared on the Larry King Live show and talked about how this connection is not just figurative.  But literal.  What happens to the body also happens in the mind.  And what happens in the mind also happens to our bodies.  Much of this wiring occurs within the first three years of life.  But we also know that the human brain is plastic, meaning that it continues to change and grow forever.  Nothing is ever etched in stone.

When we experience something, our bodies literally wire itself to fit into that experience.  If it was a positive experience, our cells literally remember that and will seek it out again.  An example of this is human touch.  If we had positive experiences with our mother holding us, we will find pleasure in it throughout life.  Our brains have learned that being held was satisfying.  Hormones were created, pleasure was felt.  We want it again.  And we will attempt to replicate that throughout life.

The same thing happens with negative experiences.  If we have negative or traumatic experiences, our cells will remember that and could lead us to avoid that experience again.  For instance, if we lacked human contact in those first three years, our brains have not been wired to appreciate the closeness of another human being.  When someone does hold us now, we feel much less satisfaction than the baby that was held a lot.  We haven’t yet learned that human touch feels good.  This is the case of many fostered/adopted children.  They fight us when we pick them up.  They dig their chin into our shoulder.  They cry and cannot be soothed with a back rub or a hug.  They do not quite feel the same sensation as mom does in this moment.

But it’s not all lost.  Because the brain is amazingly malleable.  We can change it.  Just like when a person devotes themselves to learning an instrument.  At first they struggle.  There is far less pleasure in it.  It is uncomfortable and hard.  You force yourself to practice.  Every day.  Day after day.  But as you do this, the brain begins to literally change.  Connections between neurons form that were not there before.  Synapses fire that have never fired before.  Eventually, the more you practice, the more pleasure you find in playing.  Every part of your body craves it.  You have learned that it is, in fact, something desirable.  You will continue to seek it out and recognize it through out the rest of your life.

When we have a child with a trauma history, it can be hard to parent them.  They don’t find pleasure in us.  Not at first.  But we can teach them to.  But it depends on us.  We must reach out to them everyday.  Offer affection, smiles, eye contact, soft touching and lots of physical contact.  It is through this repetition that the brain will change.  The entire neurological system will change.  Over time, this child will begin seeking it out.  More and more.  And each time, they will find a little bit more pleasure in it.  Pretty soon, you will be their drug of choice.  Oxytocin and all of that.

So keep “practicing”.  Keep touching each other.  They might not “get it” at first.  Maybe you won’t either.  But eventually you both will.  You just need to breathe and just be in the present moment.  Regulated and safe for them.  And it will change.  I promise.  Science promises.  So do John and Paul.  Now THAT’S a pretty good reference!  🙂

November 8, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm, RAD Education | Leave a comment

Slowing down to connect in the present moment

A lot has happened to me in the past several weeks.  The roller coaster that I’ve been on has stopped and then started again.  It’s moving slower this time, which is good.  Because I don’t feel like throwing up anymore.  I just want it over.  I want the ride to be over.  I want to get off now.

But…

I have come to realize that things happen sequencially.  In an order that cannot be sped up, nor slowed down.  We have no control over what has happened, nor what is yet to come.  We cannot fit our lives into pretty little boxes that make perfect sense.  We do not have that kind of power.

I also realize that most of us wish we did.

Because when we are on a ride, a crazy loop-de-loo ride, controlled by someone else, it’s very scary.  You move along at someone else’s pace and the curves just come without you knowing.  Suddenly you’re just in it.  In a fight to keep yourself together.  To not throw up.  And I’m sorry that is what some of you have been through.  I am sorry that it’s sometimes a ride like that.  You have no idea how much I feel your pain.

But I can’t change that for you.  It’s not in my power to stop the ride.  If I could, I would.  You all know that.  Because I want off too.  They say that in car accidents, people who saw the other car coming are worse off than those who didn’t.  Because when you see it, you tense up.  And when every muscle inside your body is flexed like that, the impact causes much more damage.  I think that is what it’s like in life.  A lot.

If we could just learn to relax and enjoy the ride we’d suffer much less damage.  It wouldn’t hurt so bad on impact.  We could recover sooner, stronger.  If we could just learn to breathe and to slow down our bodies and our minds….oh if we could.  Why is that sometimes so hard?

So what I’m going to do right now is commit myself to slowing down.  To stop existing in the past and in the future.  I am just going to exist in the present.  Right here.  Right now.  I’m going to take deep breaths and I’m going to feel my feet on the floor beneath me.  Because it’s there.  I just need to take my shoes off and actually feel it and recognize it’s solid.  Maybe I’ll even rub mud all over my body to remind me I’m alive, with skin that is healthy and growing around me, to protect me from my environment.  Yes, my body has everything it needs.  I just need to let it do it’s job.  And I want it to do it’s job.  Because I can’t do it any other way.

I am going to learn to love myself and my body and my life.  No matter what happens along the ride.  That is going to be this year’s love for me.  I just hope that it lasts.  It better last this time.

November 3, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm | Leave a comment

It’s Raining

Today I got paid.  That was cool.

I also saw my dad.  He brought back something he had borrowed.  And instead of just bringing it back, he had to “fix it” for me.  A normal human would have been appreciative, but for some reason I was not.  I found it degrading on so many levels.  I realized this has everything to do with me and where I am right now — that feeling of just wanting to break out of every box I’ve ever been put in — and so I said nothing except, “Thanks, Dad.  That was nice.”  He felt good.  I felt good that I stopped a fight.

But hours after he is gone, I secretly think to myself how sometimes the fight is just so. worth. it.

Smelly J’nelly knows what I mean.  She has been living with The Guiltinator for 8 days straight.  Do you know the kind of inner resolve it takes to survive 8 days of that????  Seriously. It’s so intense.

The difference between me and Nelly is that I usually start the fight.  Because I need to say what I need to say and that’s just all I know in the moment.  But what I realized today was that part of breaking out of the boxes I’m in means breaking out of the ones I’ve made for myself.  Like I don’t always need to start the fight.  I don’t.  Just because that’s what I’ve always done and today I want to do something differently.  So today I just enjoyed saying nothing at all.  I’ve been doing more of that lately.  And now I can see why Nelly has always done it too.  The silent suffering.  Because in a way, it’s just so much cleaner.  So much cleaner to break away from.

I don’t know what I’m talking about anymore.  There is no point to be made.  Just an observation that means nothing in the end.  Except that maybe I’m allowed to experiment with who I am and that’s ok.  I don’t have to always be the one that thinks the fight is worth it.  Sometimes I can be the silent one too.  And that doesn’t make me “fake”.  It just makes me quiet.  And that feels really good.  Because when I’m quiet I can hear the rain.

October 4, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm, Soap Box | 3 Comments

It’s Not Socks…or rubberbands…or old papers…it’s you.

The human brain is a complicated place.  It is estimated that there are over 100 billion neurons inside that lump of clay.  Each neuron has an estimated 7,000 synapses which connects it to other neurons.  I’m no mathematician, but I can guess that that’s a whole heck of a lot of stuff going on at any given moment in one tiny place.  And all of it happening out of our ability to physically see it.  It just zings and snaps and connects and ……ahhhh!  It makes me dizzy thinking about it (even though I totally dig it too).

To simplify how the brain behaves, we can break it down into one issue: how the brain stores memory.  Think of it like this — there is a four drawer filing cabinet.  Each drawer is a deeper and deeper level of memory.  So the further down you go inside the cabinet, the more and more subconscious exist the files.

The first drawer is the cognitive drawer.  This is where your brain holds data, including names of people, important dates.  This is the drawer you are in when you are solving a math problem or trying to figure out your schedule for next week.  You problem solve from here.  Information in this drawer is normally at your disposal relatively quickly.

The second drawer is your emotional drawer.  This drawer contains all the emotions connected to your cognitive memories.  For instance, you might run into an old friend and find yourself flooded with feelings, either positive or negative.  But for your life, you cannot remember their last name.  That is because the last name is in the cognitive drawer and right now, you are in the second drawer.  You have accessed a stored emotion connected to that friend.

The third drawer is the motor drawer.  Here is where you are when you are literally writing the letters in the words on the page.  Or when you are riding a bicycle or driving a car.  These memories are subconscious.  You do not have to concentrate on making the letter “b” when you write the word “baby”, because your body has remembered it and stored it away.  You just write it, without any thought.  It’s like what they say about riding a bike — once you learn how, you never forget.  To a large extent, that is scientifically true.

The fourth drawer is what we call the state drawer.  The state drawer is the deepest level of memory inside your body.  It is 100% subconscious.  Our state drawer can contain many positive memories.  Such as being held as a baby and nursed and all those pre-verbal needs being met.  What’s in our state drawer dictates our personality.  The positive memories in this drawer make us a trusting person.  Or a funny person.  Maybe open and emotionally available.

And it is also here that all of our traumas are stored.  When we are yelling or screaming or even shut down, we are in our state drawer.  We are coming from a deep place inside ourselves that we have little control over, and in fact, sometimes are absolutely unaware of.  This is where our children are when they are tantruming or stealing or arguing.  They are trying to survive in the moment and they are doing the best that they can to make it happen.  A lot of people are afraid of the state drawer.  But I’m not.  Instead, I honor it.  It is here that my deepest personality traits spring from and it is here that I have become the person I am today.  And that is ok.  With all my flaws and all my goodness.  It’s just ok.

So why am I talking about this?

The thing is, I woke up this morning and had a class to teach at 10.  I was working hard to get a presentation together.  I quickly reviewed the material.  I was working so hard to concentrate.  But it wasn’t working and I was confused.  I felt slightly dysregulated.  I literally sat in this chair in front of my computer and It was then that I realized I was walking around in my second drawer.  I was being flooded by emotions.  As hard as I tried, I could not get into my top drawer, into my cognitive drawer.  I was just too caught up in a memory of something from a long time ago.   Something about walking home from school with a cute boy who didn’t even know he was my boyfriend.  And a song I used to play over and over again.  Like I was free falling out into nothing.

And that’s fine.  And eventually I had my class and I believe I taught it from my emotional drawer and it went well.  It had passion and that is sometimes missing in life, so that’s ok.

But it just reminded me that we need to sometimes reconsider the expectations we have for ourselves, and also for our children.  When our children are in their bottom drawer, they are not in a cognitive place.  That is why consequences in the moment of misbehavior do not work.  That is why when you use time-out once, you have to keep using it for years and years.  Because in the moment it does not work.  Because in the moment of the flood of emotions, and in the moment of resurfacing trauma in their little lives, they are not in a place to understand cause and effect.  They are not able to problem solve.  The consequence is chaotic and does not make any sense.  That cognitive drawer is just not open.  In those moments its state drawer time.

And this is not some goofy parenting model speaking here.  This is nueroscience.  Plain and simple.  It’s fact.  It shows up on MRIs and CT Scans all day long.

So what do our kids need in those moments instead of consequences?  Well, think back to the last time you melted down.  Or to the last time you were flooded with an emotional memory of someone from a long time ago.  What did you need?  What would have helped you process it and move forward?

Most likely you just needed someone beside you, fully present.  Someone who can hear you and say, “wow”.  Well, that’s just what your child needs too.

Because without someone who understands you and someone who can validate you, everything just seems like you’re free falling out into nothing.  And sometimes that can feel really good.  But you know, it can also be really overwhelming.  I guess it just depends on what you keep in all those drawers.

October 1, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm, RAD Education | Leave a comment

That Darned old Pucker Brush again

Like I’ve said before, there is an old saying in the south about being confused.  It’s called “wandering around in the pucker brush.”  And to my understanding, the pucker brush is pretty nasty.  Prickly.  Painful.  Just bad to get lost in.

That is how it feels when you are trying to parent a child with a trauma history and can’t seem to find any help.  (Believe me.  I’ve been there!)

So to help you find your way out of the maze and into healing, you now have access to BCI-trained therapy right here in Oregon!

Check out this link:

Life Strategies in McMinnville, Oregon

And get yourself out of the pucker brush.  It’s never too late.

Peace in the home.

Peace in the community.

Peace in the world.

September 13, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm, RAD Education, Soap Box, Support Groups | Leave a comment

I Will Hold Your Hair Back When the World Gets Overwhelming…Whether Or Not You Hold Mine

What happened next wasn’t very interesting, so I felt no need to keep that story going. But if you must know, I will tell you. All the sordid details of every pathetically complicated interaction.

He laughed at me. He said he knows. He said, “Yes, for 10 years. I felt it too. But that doesn’t change today.”

Then my brother got me Conor Oberst tickets and now I’m fine.

And how, exactly does this become about parenting? And especially about parenting a child with trauma? Well, everything. In every way it feels the same. Because my son, and all the stories he could keep telling, about wanting so badly to be loved and to be noticed and to be validated by someone he looks up to. That is what I was doing. That is just what I thought I needed in that moment. And I believe I did. I needed someone to wrap their arms around me and say, “I hear you and you’re safe with me and I love you anyway.” And he did and it’s all good.

But what if he hadn’t? What if he just laughed?

I would have been so humiliated, so hurt, that I couldn’t have left that space with a smile on my face. I would have been in tears.  But worse than that, I would have been in so much emotional pain that I don’t know how I could have recovered.  I would have continued to throw up and stay awake in bed, curled up in the fetal position without a thought in my brain.  I would have chalked it up to every negative thing inside of my head being right, once and for all. They are all right. That I’m that terrible. That I’m fat. That I’m way out of my league here with trying to find love.

That is what foster care is like for our children.  And placements and orphanages and disrupted adoptions.  To be so terrified of sharing yourself with someone.  Yet to go against everything inside of you and actually say what you want.  Then only to be shut down, to be laughed at, again….and again….and again.   To be devastated by someone who you thought was supposed to love you.

I think a lot of times, the traditional parenting paradigm that we operate out of is just like that. Our kids whine and they cry and we say, “Oh that child! He is just doing that for attention!” As if that was a bad thing. What if we stop thinking of it like that and we just give them what they think they need? What if we just meet them exactly where they are? Validate their feelings?   Hold them?  Show them how much we care about what matters to them?  Tell them that we, “hear you and love you anyway” or that “all your feelings are safe with me”?  Isn’t that exactly what they need?  Isn’t that just what you have needed at times, someone to just unconditionally support you no matter what?  Or someone just to hold you?

Because that’s all I needed someone to do. I just wanted to be held.  And that’s not wrong. It’s right. And true connection creates safety to have those needs met. That is unconditional love. And that is what parenting should be all about.

How did we get so far removed from that? When did we start saying “full-time mom”? Like Nelly asked, “When did a child become a full time or part time deal?” Isn’t the very nature of parenting a full-time job? To bring a life into this world, whether by our body or our hearts and be responsible for them in every way?  To be there with someone, for someone. Someone who maybe just “needs” you when they need you. Someone who you are just there for.  You know, just to hold thier hair back when the world gets overwhelming.  Because it’s not our children’s job to hold ours.

And that’s it.  That’s all that happened.  From the beginning until now.  I had an experience of unconditional support from somebody that I needed it from.  Finally, he was present with me and he heard everything I said.  The best part is that he is taking responsibility for his part of the relationship and that makes him a big, strong man.   And that means the story isn’t over yet.  (Wink, wink.)

To be continued in about 1000 years…..

September 11, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm, Soap Box | Leave a comment

Every Possible Mistake

A few days ago I wrote about rising above the fog line in my life, to a place where there is clarity and peace and joy. And not the mediocre kind, but the real kind. The pinnacle kind. But as I attempt to move myself forward along that road, I find myself slipping back down the mountain. And it’s frustrating and I hate it.

I cried a lot yesterday. I am still sad. I keep hitting “emotional landmines”, as Valerie’s husband recently described them to me. To which he added…..”and usually when we least expect it”. I had to think about that for a while before I understood what he meant that day — emotional landmines. What are those?

After much contemplation I realize that what he meant was that it isn’t as easy as just saying “I’m going to move forward now” and everything suddenly turns peachy and life is perfect. Yes, the journey begins there. Just that simply. By recognizing the goal and committing to make a change. But when you get down and dirty with it, the words alone are just not enough. It also takes action.

For instance, I can tell myself that I will no longer let folded laundry sit in baskets all over the house. From now on I will put it in the drawer immediately. I realize this is what I need to do. I tell myself I will do it. But two days after opening up the drawer, the laundry still sits in the basket at my feet.

And this is so not about the laundry.

What I realized is that as strongly as I want to make it change, I also, just as quickly and as strongly, get stuck. I go along the new path and from out of nowhere I hit an emotional landmine and get blown to bits all over again. When that happens it can be really paralyzing, very scary, very messy. Sometimes you even have to start all over again, right in the fog, putting all your limbs back on your body.

My friend Yael says that “trust and love is not always easy to make”. I wish she had sat me down ten years ago and told me that. But then again, would I have understood what she meant? That it isn’t that easy to just say I’m going to marry this man and stay with him forever? Or I’m going to adopt this baby and show him what real love is?

Of course not. Because love is complicated. Relationships are even more so. Connection takes two people. We don’t have control over every little thing. What we have to do is do our very best and hope that it all works out in the end. And through that we will inevitably make mistakes. We’ll say things we didn’t mean or do things that we can’t take back. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Because it is only through those mistakes that we understand where we should go next. It’s only by looking where our foot stumbled that we can even recognize where we landed as we fell. It is only by coming face to face with trials that we have the chance to build endurance and integrity and hope. Otherwise there is no need. And who of us would want to exist in a world without integrity and hope?

I guess what I’m saying is that I am more aware now of my personality, my dreams, my fears, my insecurities, my secrets….than I have ever been before. I have made every possible mistake in almost every single relationship I have ever had. I realize that now. I look back on some of the things I could have done differently in my life and I am almost totally consumed with regret and yes, even shame. First of all, marrying a man that was not a good match for me is something that I will never understand. How that all worked. How I allowed myself to justify it. I just don’t know. How bad did I need to make it seem right? How insecure/scared/blindly optimistic could I possibly be? Looking back I feel nothing but confusion. I simply cannot wrap my brain around the entire ordeal.

And it seems like every single conversation I have now brings it all right up into my face. Happy people excited to see me curiously ask, So how are you? And I don’t know what to say. Do they want me to say fine? Because that is not really true. Do they want the truth, the way it really is? Because if so, my response would be, “confused” or maybe “overwhelmed”. Sometimes I just want to scream, “Insecure!” with a big, fake smile on my freaked-out face. Or “self-defeating”, “dangerous to myself and others”, “blindly optimistic”, or just plain old “ugly”. But I don’t think they really want the truth.

Because the truth is, not everything is always peachy keen. Life isn’t always “fine”. Life is about making mistakes. And if you are really aware of them, you are able to learn something about yourself through those moments. And that is amazing. That is when you can really move forward.

So the next time you make a mistake….even when you make every possible mistake, like I have done in this life….choose to view those mistakes as opportunities, even gifts, as Rebecca calls them. Choose to become a new soul and begin your life again. Ask yourself what does love look like today? And then allow the day to lead you where you need to go.

August 9, 2008 Posted by | A New Paradigm | 5 Comments