Narrative War

My imagination was captured by Bryan Stevenson’s work and ideas once I read his book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption.  I was thrilled when HBO developed a documentary following his story.  Fortunately, I was able to view it free of charge on their website (limited time, of course).  I stayed up till the wee hours the other night, watching it once the kids were finally in bed, sobbing in silence on the couch.  The stories Stevenson tells of his people, of the people wronged by this nation are so raw and real and ones, as he says, that must be told if any sort of healing and progress is to be made in our country and society.

Two quotes that hit me over the head:

In many ways, you can say that the North won the Civil War, but the South won the narrative war.  If the urgent narrative that we’re trying to deal with in this country is a narrative of racial difference, the narrative that we have to overcome is a narrative of white supremacy – the South prevailed.

 

The Civil Rights community won the legal battle, but the narrative battle was won by people who were allowed to hold onto this view that there are differences between people who are black and people who are white.

 

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Click here to watch the trailer:

Blossoming

Our task is not to learn how to be loving; the love within us is already full and alive.  Our practice is to melt the fear and armor that imprisons our hearts.  Then our impulses to love and our inclinations to be generous and kind blossom easily and surely within us.

from Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood

by Wayne Muller

Expectations

How many gentle moments do we poison each day when we cling to our expectations?  When we are imagining breakfast while we rock the baby, we miss the joy of rocking, we lose a precious moment with the baby – and we still miss breakfast.  When we simply rock when we are rocking, and then eat while we are eating, we become more open to the blessings available in the moment.

 Some expectations are extremely difficult to relinquish.  Some of us still expect our parents, friends, or spouses to finally become the loving people we always wanted them to be.  We think of how it might have been if only the right person or career had come along.  Some of us are still so attached to these hopes that we have not yet really begun our lives in earnest.  We are still patiently waiting for the world to match our perfect picture before we start.  How much longer can we wait?

 

from Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood

by Wayne Muller

Belonging

We may begin to feel our belonging in the breath – here we may take sanctuary, here we begin to feel our place in creation.  Taking refuge in each breath of our life, in each beat of our heart, we find a quiet place of belonging.  This refuge, this sanctuary, is neither given nor taken away by the chaotic demands of an unpredictable world.  This place belongs to us, and we to it.  It is where we make our home.

Wayne Muller in
Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood

Driving Force

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Before you report me to the local vehicular authorities, let me explain myself.

I have a problem with control.

As in, I strive for it far too much.

Dickens called Scrooge “a squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner.”  It’s not coins I’m clamoring for . . . but control?  Color me an addict.

The closer I look at this penchant for control, the deeper the reasons for it I find.  Abject terror of forgetting some important task that needs to be done.  Absolute overwhelm at the number of moving parts in any given day, week, month.  Stringent perfectionism for every task my mind or hands touch.

And yet, for all this toil and torment, I’m no closer to controlling the ins and outs of my days than I am to the bigger picture of my life.  If anything, these machinations cause me more grief.  In the drudgery of them, of course, but also in the false sense of security they provide.  Such a system is bound to implode, always on the edge of doing so, and when it does, of course, I blame myself for not keeping a handle on everything.

I’ve been working on that.

Controlling the minutiae of my day is not only tedious; it translates to an inability to trust in the direction God is leading me.  And while I am the one pulling the strings on the to-do list, I’ve lost an overarching belief in myself to craft a grand plan.

So instead of being entirely methodical (old habits die hard, right?), I’m going to try to get a little loosey goosey.  Try to dream faster than my Type A personality can plot.  Drift around the corners before my ass end can catch up.  Which is why this quote from Stirling Moss spoke to me.

You could argue that it is the perfect metaphor for the exact opposite of what I’m proposing.  To run away, get ahead of, keep a breakneck pace – and as someone with an internal tachometer often in the red, I certainly don’t need that sort of encouragement.  No, what I propose is acting on instinct, on the thrill of the moment, outdriving all the self-doubt and micromanaging – leaving the bottleneck of control behind and riding free and fierce into something I’d never allow myself if I stopped to measure the possible outcomes and fallout.

Now that’s something worth losing control over.

Maternal Mental Health Week 2018

Starting yesterday, April 30 through Friday, May 4 the maternal mental health community celebrates and spreads awareness of the various illnesses affecting more women than most of us realize.

Did you know?

  • The mother-child bond begins with mom’s mental health and wellbeing.

  • 1 in 5 women suffer from maternal mental health disorders like postpartum depression.

  • Postpartum depression is more than depression. Women suffer from a range of symptoms and disorders, including anxiety, panic, rage, PTSD and more.

  • Postpartum depression doesn’t just happen after the baby is born, pregnant women can suffer from “prenatal” depression..

  • Motherhood doesn’t always feel like a greeting card.

  • #Askher how she’s really feeling. #Askher how she’s really doing? #Askher how she’s sleeping. #Askher how she’s eating?

  • Maternal Mental Health. Learn about it. Talk about it. Because mothers and babies matter.

  • More than 600,000 women will suffer every year from a maternal mental health disorder like postpartum depression.

  • Maternal Mental health disorders impact more women than breast cancer does.

  • Only 15% of women will receive treatment for a maternal mental health disorder like postpartum depression.

  • Don’t let a new mom you know suffer in silence. #Askher how she’s feeling.

Not All Accolades

To all the parents subject to end of the year festivities this week . . .

Maybe, amidst the pride for your child, there are other emotions.

Maybe the reminder that your child is another year older, another year closer to leaving your nest brings a sadness to the celebration.

Maybe all the social connections your child is making reminds you that her web is ever widening and you can’t climb each ring with her.

Maybe the fact that your child is not traveling in social circles makes you mourn the life you thought he should have had.

Maybe you’re dreading a long stretch of uninterrupted time with your child – not because you don’t love him, but because there are countless hours you are expected to fill and that’s an emotional burden your psyche is not prepared to bear.

Maybe you’ve done the math and know this is the year your child would’ve reached that big milestone – if he or she were still here.  

Maybe you’re just barely making it through the day and the thought of one more ceremony to attend is exhausting.

It’s okay for ambivalence, wistfulness, sadness, and annoyance to mix with the pride.

Parenting never asks just one thing of us.

I see it, I see you all.

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Old School Soul Hole

Last week I learned via a post from Reggae Steady Ska that May 29, 2019 was dubbed (see what I did there?) The Specials Day in Los Angeles, California.  Now I was a little confused as to why LA would honor a band who hails from the UK, but then again, I am a white woman in RI who listens to reggae, rock steady, and ska.  The idea that The Specials themselves and the themes of their music exemplify and encourage diversity is what drew a Los Angeles councilwoman to hold them up for the city to see.  It drew me to my CD rack (yes, I still own those) and The Specials album I hadn’t listened to in far too long.

As the bright beats of trumpet danced above the driving guitar, the music swelling from the speakers and spilling into the corners of this room and the next, I realized the deep hole that is left inside me when music doesn’t play.

I have four children.  My house, my life, my mind is very loud.  The last few years I’ve taken to not turning the radio on at all in the car because, there is enough noise in there already.  The power button on the radio is one level of sound on which I can hit the kill switch.  About a year or so ago, on a return drive from ‘the city’, about an hour away from home, I got through more than two thirds of the trip before I realized I hadn’t even turned the radio on then, when I was by myself.  The cacophony in my head was complete if I couldn’t even partake of music when I could listen uninterruptedly to what I chose.

And that’s so sad.

Most of my memory has an overlay of obsession with music.  So many genres and artists.  So many generations and styles.  I’ve imagined the soundtrack of certain parts of my life and relive other parts of my life through song.

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In August 2017, 95.5 WBRU, the local modern rock radio station I had cut my anti-establishment musical teeth on, closed up shop.  (Well, they were sold to a Christian rock outfit.)  I still had the CDs, I still had internet access, I still had the memories – if I dare be so dramatic – but I mourned the loss of that running record of new and individualistic music as if someone close to me had died.  Still, nearly two years later, I wax nostalgic if I happen to catch the low-power signal they sometimes broadcast on.  I still post from time to time about how much I miss the station when I find a song they used to play on YouTube.  I was getting to the point where even I was wondering what was wrong with me.  Why was I so attached to a freaking radio station?

The obvious answer is because its going off the air was a death of part of my youth.  BRU’s Retro Lunch was the soundtrack to the lunch we all had at my house before Junior Prom.  Their Screamer of the Week was something I talked about with the guy I’d just started dating.  Their Friday Night Countdown was what I recorded onto a cassette and mailed him when he went away to Boot Camp and we were still dating.  So many pivotal moments of my coming of age were backed up by the beats of WBRU.

And research shows that songs elicit the same emotions we experienced when we first heard or listened to them most frequently.  If I loved that part of my life and its soundtrack was now going away, it was almost as if that part of my life was dying.  A leap, yes.  And yes, I can cue up any of those songs on a streaming service or ‘go down the YouTube rabbit hole’ as I say my husband does of an evening every so often (He likes to relive the days I made him all those mixed tapes – yes, we married), but the spontaneity of what would appear next, the destiny of your song coming on at just the right moment, the discovery of something new you’ve never heard before, or hearing it at the moment of its release – that magic of the broadcasting universe is gone.

That radio station represented my teenage self thumbing my nose at the world.  It signified my independence, culling my own style, my own voice, my own philosophy.  I started listening to it when I was first heading out into the world.  Its closing reminds me that I’ve been out here some time now.  Not hearing it makes me suddenly wake up from the melodious trance and notice all the things I wanted to do, but haven’t yet.  I don’t know really any much more than I did then; I am really no happier than I was then.  The teenage angst has been switched out for that of the existential sort.  Only now I can’t blare the radio and rage.

I think the closing of BRU was also the death knell of something bigger in my life.  The joy of music I once had.  The carefree release of a rollicking rhythm.  Now I think too much about heavier things.  I have too much to do.  I don’t have time to pop in the CD or turn on the radio before I rush on to the next thing.  I really feel adrift when the only two stations that play anything remotely my style of music either are out of range or on commercial.  There’s probably a part of me that figures it’s so different, so lesser, then why bother trying to find the music at all.

It’s no secret that I hate change.  I dig my heels in and get drug along unwillingly more often than not.  I’m trying to open my heart to grace, allowing the full potential of situations, my life unfold.  I know reopening my heart and soul to music would only make the journey that much richer.  It’s just sad when you’d found your canon and reveled in it – and now it’s gone.  But I can always use signs from the universe – like FB posts read in RI of UK bands being honored in LA – to signal it’s time to break out those old albums.  And there’s always Pandora.  But if it’s not painfully apparent already – I’ll always be hopelessly old school.

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LA Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez with Horace Panter and Terry Hall of The Specials

“Where My Books Go”

W.B. Yeats speaks to the greatest wish of all writers – and eloquently so.

All the words I gather,

And all the words that I write,

Must spread out their wings untiring,

And never rest in their flight,

Till they come where your sad, sad heart is,

And sing to you in the night,

Beyond where the waters are moving,

Storm darkened or starry bright

W.B. Yeats
London, January 1892

Behind the Mist

“What’s depression?” I asked my father.

“It’s all about the power of the mind,” he said.  “The only thing that will make it go away is your own determination.”  He ran his hand over the window ledge and frowned at the smudge on his fingers.

When Rosa was happy our house was filled with music.  I could never imagine the silences returning.  The light in her studio burned through the night.  One summer she painted Corry Head.  The gorse blazed like a fireball.  Purple heather covered the rocks.  She painted it with the mist falling down and hiding all of the color.  I wondered if that was what her life was like.  Always trying to escape from behind the mist.

–from “To Dream of White Horses” by June Considine

 

There is so much about his passage that speaks to me.  The father’s misinterpretation of how it is to live with depression.  The son’s seeming lack of information, yet more complete understanding.  The descriptive pall the illness brings – both literally in the dust that builds up and metaphorically in the mist that envelops the person suffering.

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