Sunday, September 11, 2011

We are each other's shelter

Tribute to Light: memorial lights turned on every year on 9/11 at Ground Zero
I waited to tell her.
She was born into a post-9/11 world and I never knew quite how to tell her what had happened 18 months before I was lucky enough to become her mom. Every time she's ever been through an airport, she's had to take off her shoes, put liquids into baggies, wait through the long lines. When she was four, she had to poo in her pants even though she was potty-trained because once they put you in the high security line, you are not allowed out, no matter how badly your child cries. And you can't get anything out of your bag, not even a clean pair of pants or some baby wipes. And believe me if the others in line start to complain on your behalf, well your bag gets searched even longer.

But today, after hours of watching the footage over and over again, the very first CNN coverage when no one had any idea that people would take over planes full of other people and use them as weapons of mass, I gained empathy for the TSA agents I felt were torturing my child beyond anything they would make an adult endure. Because today I realized that as shitty as their job is, they are trying to protect a people against another attack. Not on their watch. And I have come to respect that now.

I've seen people all day bellyaching about their civil liberties that have been taken away ala the Patriot Act. I myself have reacted in outrage for 10 whole years at how our leaders cowboyed up from the very first press briefing, through years of searching deserts for non-existent weapons and hidden terrorist leaders, draining our coffers to finance a war on terror, a phrase that from the moment I heard it I thought it was a ludicrous oxymoron meant to instill fear not fight it. How can you have a war on an emotion? But my point is, I have played what many would call the "unpatriotic" tune for a decade but today watching those videos, inwardly I nodded when W called them "acts of pure evil" and inwardly I cheered when he vowed to "hunt down those responsible and anyone who harbored them." Seeing the wall of faces of first responders who lost their lives, hearing the names of parents read aloud by their still too young children, it finally hit me why and how the desire for revenge could run so deep.

I still wish we had chosen a different way to respond. I still wish, as my friend Robin said today, to "let kindness fill the breathing space of our differences." And this is the message I wish to somehow convey to my daughter. So on this day, ten years later, at 8.5 years old, I decided maybe she was old enough for me to tell her about it. I'm not certain that it was the right choice at all, now in hindsight. I started by watching the CNN footage with her, with a lot of age-appropriate narration from me. Then switched to NPR for some of the tribute footage from today at all 3 locations. Then looking at video tributes on YouTube, with and without cheesy music accompaniment. Then we played some games, went to the park, but on the way home, she wept. She told me she didn't know if she believed in God after all, if he wasn't able to stop such a thing. I explained why I think God lets us make mistakes and then allows us to learn from them, that there are some things that are definitely wrong in our world and when something like this happens, the people left behind can either live forever hurt by it, or they can chose to try to change it. I offered that maybe she and I could be part of those people who stand up and insist we stop doing the things that make other countries hate us (though all day I grappled at even being able to explain to her what those things are). I tried explaining that while we have bad things in our world like diseases and disability, it is because of those bad things that people have learned how to make medicine and wheelchairs and surgeries that heal and help people. I explained that if God swooped in and stopped all tragedy, that we would never change our world or learn to fix the broken things on our own. She said she didn't want to talk anymore and just held my hand from the backseat of the car until we got home.

Hours later, she still she needed to be rocked to sleep like she hasn't needed in years. My big eight and a half year old girl who barely fits in my lap anymore. 

That's how I spent my day and night. In between it all, I'd scan what my friends and acquaintances were sharing about 9/11 on Twitter & Facebook. Then I treated myself to a sitter after my girl was asleep and I went by myself to hear to Ray LaMontagne in concert, outside under the stars and the full moon overlooking the ocean. Ray crooned "When you came to me with your bad dreams and your fears, it was easy to see you'd been crying. Seems like everywhere you turn, catastrophe reigns. But who really profits from the dying? Now I could hold you in my arms. And I could hold on forever. And I could hold you in my arms. I could hold on forever." That song is called Shelter. While he sang it, I looked around at this sleepy coastal town that is my shelter and I counted my blessings. It's all I could think of doing. I thought of loves lost and lives lost and maybe a little too much of my daughter's innocence lost. I feel both lost and found in this town, sometimes. After the concert, I walked down the steep path to the parking lot, deeply inhaling the chaparral and sage and olive trees that grow on the hillside and I felt lucky, so lucky to be alive, to be smelling these beautiful smells here in this beautiful world, and lucky to have a sweet, small girl who depends on me to filter the heavy smoke of this story from her eyes and her lungs, so that she can breathe the sweet night air without fear. 

And I realized how every mother's child depends on all of us for this kind of protection. It's the job of each of us to do what we can to bring peace to this world. We cannot sit back in our comfortable worlds and think that this has nothing to do with us. We must never forget and we must hold on to one another and never let go until we all feel safe, until every last one of us can fall asleep finally without fear. We are each other's shelter.

Setting it free: My poem 10 years later

It's 1 am and I can't sleep.
4am on the east coast.
I walk to the kitchen to get a glass of water.
Place a finger beneath my daughter's nose to make sure she's still breathing.
Can't shake the feeling that something's not right.

4am on the east coast, 9/11/11.
Ten years ago, thousands of people still sleeping in their beds.
Deep in their peaceful REM cycles on a crisp fall morning,
Unaware that they'll leave their homes for the last time that day.
Unaware that something is just not right.

What did those people leave undone that day?
Lawns unmowed, fish unfed, dishes unwashed?
Last month's electric bill past due and fallen between the desk & the wall.
Who were they and how did they live, how did they love?
And how do the people they loved continue to go on without them?

And what, I must ask, what in their names, have WE done?
How many times has a mother in Bagdad felt every day for the past 10 years
What the mothers of this nation felt on that one terrible day?
Waiting to hear if her children have survived a battle zone.
Waiting for someone to walk thru the door who will never come home again.

And what, if anything, do we still need to do, 10 years later?
Is it even possible for us to choose peace?
Is it possible for us to rise up and say that we were wrong?
Can we ever convince our leaders that a war on fear
Is like smacking a kid to teach them that hitting is wrong.

It's 2am and I might sleep.
I might dream of the stories of my friends who have started to share
Where they were and what they saw and what they remember.
In the sharing of memories and emotions, we breathe it out, and we honor it.
We honor the dead and the grieving and the wounded by sharing and setting it free.

Monday, August 08, 2011


It all started when a friend made this her Facebook status:
"I am everything I never thought I'd be and disapproved of in others. Someone tell me that's a positive thing."
To which I replied:
"i have to say i am feeling the EXACT same way. and i think it has so much to do with what a commenter said above, caring about who you are and scrutinizing yourself harder than before. or finally being mature enough to handle facing the things you want to improve about yourself. we spend a lot of our 20's and 30's thinking the problem is the other guy. somewhere right about now, i think we start getting real and seeing we may indeed actually have bad traits we want to fix. i am trying to learn to rise above simply stopping there and being harsh on myself and trying to find my way to problem solving those things...that is the hardest part for me, not condemning myself so harshly. so maybe you're there too and we just need to keep aging and finding our way through. i think it's something akin to taking a rough gemstone and grinding, cutting, polishing it to a beautifully cut jewel. i am sure if the jewel had anything to say, it would say that the process of refining hurt like hell."
And then I realized I maybe a lot of people who are 40-ish might be feeling something similar. So this is my call for submissions. I'd like to open a conversation around this. Ladies, gentlemen...any advice? Anything similar going on for you? How do you think you might go about solving it? Anyone beyond their 40's who's "been there, done that" have any words of wisdom for us?

If so, please consider sharing your thoughts or struggles in the comments below. Maybe something good can come of sharing and witnessing with others around the world who collectively are going through it too.

blessings to you and yours!

And p.s. new visitors, please disregard my swearing post at Google below as well as the lack of any photos on this blog (refraining from swearing at Google one more time, because case in point, I really was the dodo who didn't read the fine print!).

Monday, July 11, 2011

damn you Google+

Crap. Google owns Blogger. Google came out with new social networking site, Google+ recently and I just got signed up for a Beta account yesterday. Noticed that without trying, I had some photo albums there, that Google somehow pulled thru feeds of mine that they own and decided to help me out by putting up some photo albums to me, sort of a house warming gift, I suppose, to welcome me to Google Plus. Well without reading the warning, I started deleting these albums, because I never put them there and they contained photos of my child, so I was feeling protective, when suddenly I realize that the fine print says "are you sure you want to delete these photos? doing so will delete them from all Google owned sites, including Blogger and several other sites, and will be irreversible."


So I come over here and yes indeedy, all the photos I've uploaded in the nearly 6 yrs that I've been blogging are gone. This was supposed to be a tribute to all these years of mothering my girl and poof! the photo journal aspect is vaporized. Why the heck did they need to link it all like that? Why would the action on one Google site affect the content on other sites? Who would be expecting that? Kinda scary how much Google controls and can link together like that.

Ugh. Hope I can find these sweet photos still...

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

lightening up

wow. it's been a loooooong time since I hit a stage in a dance piece. i mean a long long time. before Sophia was born in fact. Sophia and I are going to dance in a flash mob performance here in Santa Barbara in the coming weeks, and we've been rehearsing every night. i have many observations.

1. First, I am watching myself in some of the videos and I am twice the size I used to be when I danced. Not kidding, I literally wear double the size I used to wear. I realize how much more I carry around with me and how that affects my posture and the accuracy of my movements. I am slower and I look less sharp, less crisp. I look at other dancers in the video and in my mind, I think I move like them, think I look like them, but when the camera is on me, I now realize, in watching it, that I do not look or move like them. Woah. It's a major wake up call for me to get into shape. The elliptical machine has been dusted off and plugged in. I am going to start working out again. Please blog followers, help keep me honest!!

2. Teaching the moves to Sophia is hard! I already have my own personal frustrations with how hard it is for me to learn the piece. And poor thing, she has them too, her own insecurities, but then mine are layered on top and she is learning to stress about not picking it up fast enough by seeing me do it. I used to use dance as a cathartic therapy, where I faced my self-doubt demons and fought hard with my dad's voice in my head and found myself near tears at the most unexpected moments. And right now, for the first time ever, I am going thru all that with a little witness watching me, soaking it all up like a sponge. Not sure it's the best thing for her. Or for me. Maybe I need to reserve dance for it's own special medicine that it is for me and not do this together with her. Or maybe I need to suck it up and step out of myself and just do this for her. But since we both are performers in this piece, it's very hard not to go into my own process around it. Let me point out that all of this is internal, not much of it shows on the outside, but my girl, she's pretty in tune with me, so she's feeling it. Not sure if it's better to make this all about her, and then be inauthentic with myself, or to just be real and be me and maybe that's better for her.

3. Poor thing, she has a lot of stress around getting it right. She always has. I gotta learn how to support her in that...but sadly I have that too and haven't really learned how to support myself in it, let alone someone else. How do I make it fun for her, and not all about working out our neuroses?? When and why did she develop her own neurosis/es in the first place? I thought I've always tried to instill self-confidence and playfulness in her, fighting hard to not raise her with body issues, self-consciousness and perfectionism. Are those things just contagious, so she got them from me subliminally?

Well that's pretty much it. Tough stuff for what is supposed to be a lighthearted fun experience. Working on lightening up in so many different contexts here. Hopefully it will just end up being fun!!

Here's a video of our piece so far:

Pretty cool, right?