Category Archives: parenthood

When You Can’t Shake a Feeling

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This is the last week of summer vacation for me and my team. Next week, routines resume and bedtimes will be argued.

Today, I took them all to get their hairs cut.

My youngest really didn’t want to do it; he was fearful because the last time I took him to a barber, the woman used scissors around his ears and cut his little ear.

But the older boys insisted on a barber; and so it was going to happen.

After about five minutes of telling my youngest, who is 11, that it was going to happen or that he’d lose screens for the rest of the break, he finally complied.

The barbershop doesn’t take plastic. Checks or cash only.

After my youngest was in the barber chair, in the care of possibly the kindest man I’ve ever encountered other than my now late father-in-law, I told the three of them I was off to visit the the bank in the grocery chain next door to get cash to pay the stylists.

While I was withdrawing cash, I asked the tellers to break a twenty so I could leave a tip for the barbers. I saw a man at the Western Union counter. He was short, a little younger than I am, and he weighed about as much as I do. He was wearing a summer-weight ecru suit, and one of those pork-pie hats, tilted to cover a bit of his face. As is natural for me, I told the teller I needed to break the cash so I could tip the barber next door. As I walked by the gentleman in the pork-pie hat, he zeroed in on me as I was leaving the store.

Up went my radar. I thought he might’ve heard everything I said.

I get to the barber and sit down nearest my kids. My middle son was up front near the door.

In walked the man in the pork-pie hat.

My oldest was directly in front of me, seated next to my youngest.

The pork-pie hat man sat facing me. His hat now removed. His face was hard, like its lines were a map to a forgotten place.

His eyes were intense. They blazed mint green, but were also bloodshot red… and his stare was fixed.

He asked for a #1 blade. All over. Which is basically what I like to refer to as the white supremacist cut.

My radar got sharper.

My oldest was released from his seat and sat next to me.

Immediately, I took out my phone. I started to text my son. Who was sitting right next to me.

He said, as he checked his phone, “Rats. My battery is dead.” But he saw that I was texting him.

He read as I typed:

That dude makes me nervous. Just saw him at Safeway. At Western Union counter. I feel like he followed me in here.

My son asked me to hand him my phone; he wanted to look something up.

He typed back:

He’s been looking at us up and down. He’s also had a moderately detailed cut, like a nice haircut, and now he’s getting it all buzzed. Definitely keep an eye on him.

We exchanged a couple more times and we both concluded that we were both feeling ill at ease and that it wasn’t just me.

My youngest was finished with his haircut, his ears were fine. He blushed and thanked the kindest barber ever.

My heart was racing. I just wanted to get out of there. The fact that the man got the simplest haircut of all made me more nervous.

I read the newspaper. People just shoot people for no reason now. Or things go down in a way, that a “wrong” look is interpreted as a stand-off. I don’t operate that way, but I also don’t back down so easily either.

I texted to my son, that if he were to follow us, that I would drive to the fire station just down the road and wait it out there.

So we walked up to the counter, I tipped the barbers and we walked out the door.

My middle son said, “Mom, that dude in the barbershop… He gave me the chills. I saw him watch you. It made me really nervous. And who would get a haircut like that? And…”

I hate that I still can’t shake that feeling. I wish I could trust people. I wish I could be more at ease.

The fact that my two sons felt something too, was oddly relieving. And also a bummer. The fact that my youngest felt nothing but taken care of and heard, is great.

What if we were all wrong? What if the man was just in from a foreign place and spoke perfect English asking for a #1 and …

I’m an imperfect being in an imperfect world. In yoga, we call it discernment (well, in all life it’s called ‘discernment’ but as a yoga teacher, there’s this thought or social concept that we are all like Jesus: super nice and open and giving of ourselves and that we have no boundaries and trust all…let me tell you: we aren’t like Jesus) and it’s an important gift to use.

Just in case, in the vein of discernment, we took the long way home.

Thank you.

Soccer Mom — red card…

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I am not sure how to start this. I debated whether titling this post “one for the eulogy” or “red card.” I dabbled over the former, not because I’m macabre and depressing, but because I’m quite aware of the fact that we all die one day.

Yesterday started out gloriously. I was sitting in the sun, awaiting one of my sons’ games. They lost soundly, it was a 5-0 defeat.  At halftime, my son was crushed and was asking for advice. I had none other than to say that when he’s off the field, watch the other team’s players and see what they do and then try to do it too.

This particular son is more of a hair-twirler and bouncy runner. He’s young, emotionally, still soft, without that “killer” instinct for the sport, but he LOVES being part of a team and putting on a uniform, cleats and shin guards, arriving on time and doing his best. When he’s focused, he’s a good little defender. My shouts from the sidelines to remind him to “win it, Thing 3! DEEEEEFENNNNNSSSE!” seem to perk him up. I don’t do it very often, so I think that’s why it tends to win out over his dedicated coach’s tips and directions which start to sound like a droning after a while. He woke up in the second half, being more of a gnat to the other team’s approach for our goal, thwarting a couple advances and that made him feel better. As we walked to the car, he said, “Did you see when I stopped that big kid from his drive? I was afraid, because he is huge, but I kicked the ball off track to one of our guys…” and he did. He cleared it a good 20 or 30 feet, with some help from the patch grass bumps in the field, from the goal.

My other son’s game was happening at the same time. I could not attend that one, for obvious reasons, but they lost as well, 8-2. I learned from my husband that our Thing 2 (who is now 14) played quite well and he made a gorgeous penalty kick which he fired with such ferocity that the goalie simply couldn’t stop it. Despite the loss, my son was proud that he had played his best. That’s all we can ask for, isn’t it? That they feel proud of their efforts that they did their best.

Several hours, a spin on the ergometer, a meditation session and 40 minutes in our hot tub later, was the first game of our oldest son’s team. These guys are what’s called “U19” and they comprise all ages from 16-19 in a defined window of available athletes who didn’t make or can’t afford the high school teams and are possibly attending college locally but don’t play on those teams either. These guys are competitive, aggressive and some of them are wildly talented and a pure pleasure to watch. You can see how they’ve acquired thunderous legs and powerful chests, fearlessly advancing the field with a passion you read about. They are not nincompoops. They know the sport, they try to get away with a little here and there, but by and large, these athletes have been playing since they could walk. I imagine some of them slept with a soccer ball as they were children, or young men. It’s as though the ball is an appendage of their form. They are thugs who play like gentlemen… (read on.)

My oldest used to be awkward, afraid, timid. He’s got a coach now who reminds me of the sheriff in “O Brother Where Art Thou?” (I wouldn’t be surprised to learn this coach intentionally plays up his image a little, creating a pastiche of the character for the amusement of the spectators and the team.)

credit: the owners of this image, a massive movie studio owned by a global conglomerate somewhere on our planet.

credit: the owners of this image, a massive movie studio owned by a global conglomerate somewhere on our planet.

He has those sunglasses. He wears a sport jacket to games after 6:00pm. Last season when “we” went to all-region, he wore a dark fedora and a long black wool coat to the games. He’s pretty quiet on the sidelines. He’s intense and he saves his commentary for when the players come off the field or for half-time pep talks. I recall him quoting a German philosopher or naval officer at the end of one of their early games last season in which they were simply outplayed in every possibly fashion and lost by a score of 11-2 or something. He started to play my son less and less as the season went on.

We don’t engage, as parents. My husband and I have a tacit understanding that interceding on our children’s behalf for their supposed betterment or advancement says more about us and simply hinders any growth in our kids. If it’s the kids’ coach, teacher, friend, parent of friend, mentor, counselor … we just don’t really get involved. They have to learn to navigate these waters. (I’m not saying it’s EASY… sometimes I have to literally bite my tongue, step away and close my eyes… read on…) So my son was understandably frustrated by the continual lessening of his play time. We encouraged him to talk to the coach. To be upfront, sincere, mature and above all diplomatic about his plight. He was and the response he got back was some of the best advice — the same thing his father and I have whispered to one another in the stands — he could have received, but he ASKED to hear it: “You’ve got to be fearless. Get physical. Play some rugby in the off season. Don’t take anyone out, but really, get in there. I’ve said many times, ‘It’s a gentlemen’s game played by thugs.’ Be a thug, but play like a gentleman.”

So Thing 1 came away grateful, a little intimidated, but very clear about what the coach wanted. You can count on Thing 1 for that: he will absolutely follow direction, and he’s a reliable self-starter, but this U19 team was all new to him, he’d never played against and alongside MEN. I knew this coach was going to help turn my son into a man. He’s tough though… and regardless of our scrap-up yesterday (read on…), I still respect the hell out of him.

So this third game was at scheduled for 6pm on a turf field at a park. The center ref is an old man. He reminded me of the “old timer” in the Brady Bunch’s Jesse James episode:

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credit: the Brady Bunch. I shit you not – they are twins. All that’s missing is the black ref’s cap.

I’m not an ageist. I saw this ref and I thought, They might be really lucky, they’ve got a guy who really knows his game.

No. (read on.)

This ref wanted to start the game early, shorten the halves to 40 minutes each and gave up without any pressure his utter lack of knowledge of the rules. He’s usually a linesman, my husband tells me.

My husband, who is a very patient man (you really don’t know how patient he is…) sighed when our coach shared this information. Apparently we agreed to start five minutes early at 5:55 but keep the halves at 45 minutes (which is the COACH’s discretion).

My son’s team was playing beautifully. They were winning, elegantly. My son scored a nice shot, his first of the season, in the first game, in the first half. He was really proud of himself. I was excited for him. The other team was good, but they seem disorganized and loose. They were out-skilled, but not by much. Due to the low number of available teams in the area, I’m certain we will play them again later on and it will be good to see how they’ve improved. At the half it was 2-1, we were in the lead.

But it was the ref. His calls were inconsistent and beginning to favor the other team, blindly. Clearly legal plays, a slide tackle where the ball was touched first (something I recently understood as the linchpin for that maneuver) was ruled “dangerous” and one of our guys got a yellow card. Even the opposing coach was beginning to be surprised by his team’s inexplicable good fortune.

In the midst, my son’s team managed to get a nice shot in, making it 3-1. My son’s team has increased its chatter on the field and it’s paying off. The other team seemed again to be a little demoralized by “our” fluidity.

Nonetheless, everyone trudges on. Keep playing keep playing keep playing. The un-choreographed dance of 20 or so young athletes was hard for me to keep track of. Plus it was cold, about 55˚ now and the sun was going down. I began to feel sorry for the ref. The spectator heckling was apparent. He likely couldn’t hear it. A couple times, he got hit by the ball with such intensity many of us in the stands were impressed he was still standing. I think those hits started to do something to his brain… he made calls from one end of the field about actions happening 40 yards away. His line refs were exasperated by the randomness of it all. Our team made another shot on their goal, 4-1, which everyone agreed was legal, but from the other end of the field, this ref must’ve used his bionic vision and Big Blue processing chips to recall the goal.

No matter, we were still ahead. Back to 3-1. Then somehow the whistle. No one understood. The other team made a successful penalty kick on our goal, 3-2. We were still ahead though, so … you know, just keep on…

Then the other team made a gorgeous goal during the second half, tying the game. It was hard to ignore the majesty in the drive which began all the way at the opposite end of the field. The ball was passed without much interruption from one player to another in an advance to the goal and then one player just went for it. Without hesitation, and he nailed it. It was a pleasure to witness even though it was now 3-3.

Somewhere in the next few moments, we made an answering goal, 4-3. We were all running out of time, it was close to 7:25. The game, by all rights, due to the -5 minute start time should have been over. Competitive players that they are, our team started to hog the ball, take its time retrieving it, kick it off the field. That got a corner kick which was unsuccessful.

It was 7:27 now… you know, the time in the universe when all in-progress U19 soccer games are supposed to go pear-shaped and the refs are programmed to go batshit crazy. People are starting to question how much time.

All along the course of the game, this ref never explained his calls. He never answered requests for the charges. I know there’s something in the US Constitution about the absolute requirement by an arresting officer to name the charge against a suspect… Doesn’t that commute to FIFA or US Soccer or whatever the governing body is of this sport? My husband says, “Sort of. The ref is supposed to explain each charge, especially if questioned…”

Well apparently we were now playing “kick the ball, run around, and blow the whistle just because” not soccer. This ref allowed player subs at all the wrong times, disallowing subs when they were legal… it was crazy. When you have a six-year-old player still in his uniform from another game putting his head in his hands and running his fingers through his dried, sweaty hair because the calls don’t make any sense, you’re witnessing a travesty of justice.

He gave the other team two inexplicable successive penalty kicks. This one was a free kick. He mumbled something to our players and they lined up, placing their hands in front of the family jewels and waiting for the shot, which went over everyone’s heads and was denied. Still 4-3.

The next penalty, which even I questioned (and that means a lot because I don’t understand this game at all, so I keep my trap shut) because the whistle was blown during a throw-in from the sidelines (on a ball my son had let go…) deep into our territory. While the ball was still airborne, heading toward the goal. Nothing had happened … the ball hadn’t even made contact on the ground. I thought, Did one of the feet come up during the throw? Was it the wrong KIND of throw, not evenly over the head? Was it slung from the hips? But I knew enough, after 11 years, that a bad throw necessitates a re-THROW. And that was not happening. This was a line up for a penalty kick — no interference from other players, just the kicker and the goalie. I questioned the validity by thrice shouting, CLEARLY, from the stands because he’s ancient, it’s windy and cold and the game should’ve been over by then anyway, “WHAT? IS? THE? CALL?” (which our own coach didn’t even demand the answer).

The ref heard me. He looked up at me and waved me off. I’m sure it was the old “he threw the ball too hard” call we hear so little about. Turns out when the throw-in was made, one of the other team’s taller players leaped up to head the ball (legal) but our player who was shorter, yet quite powerful, but right beneath / behind him (on the other player’s descent), crossed his arms upon his chest like a pharaoh in his sarcophagus and that was considered pushing when the other player inevitably, because gravity always wins, landed on him.

The other team’s coach was astonished. His own player ran up to him and said, “you know that’s not a penalty, right?” and the coach nodded and said, “Yeah! …”

Nonetheless, the whistle and ignorant, half-present octogenarians reign.

It was 7:33 now. Eight minutes PLUS the end of the game’s official time. The player placed the ball and took the shot. In the corner. Done. 4-4.

IMMEDIATELY UPON THAT BALL’S SLING INTO THE NET, HE BLEW. THE. WHISTLE.

Not ten seconds later, not another play later, not even when the ball was … stopped from the thrust.

That’s when I lost my mind. I’m not proud of this. I am embarrassed and I immediately sent an apology to our coach when I got home. (read on…).

I stepped down from my seat in the stands and shouted, with my hands cupping either side of my mouth, directly aimed at the ref clearly, emphatically, passionately and intentionally:

YOU SUCK!

.pause. is he looking at me? no.

YOU SUCK!

.pause. has he followed the voice? can he see me? no.

YOU SUCK!

.pause. can he find me yet? no.

YOU SUCK!

.pause. is he looking at me? yes. one more for clarity…

YOU SUCK!

I waited each time I said it, a nanosecond to some, but a lifetime to me, to see if he had made the connection. That he had disgusted a yoga teacher who usually just sits in the stands and cheers everyone — no matter how humiliating the loss — if I see a great play, I’m gonna clap.

My son’s coach, the Sheriff, whipped around like the snake in “Beetlejuice”:

credit Beetlejuice and a big fancy movie studio.

credit Beetlejuice and a big fancy movie studio.

He tried to shut me down. “THAT’S ENOUGH!” — to me, I was just getting started.

Woe, the little man who tries to shut me down.

“NO IT’S NOT!” I growled back. “THIS IS BULLSHIT. HE DIDN’T EXPLAIN EITHER OF THOSE CALLS….” and I hadn’t said, “The game was eight minutes over time! That call was for spite. He’s teaching these kids that rules, decorum and tradition don’t matter and personal pettiness does. AND YOU DIDN’T QUESTION ANY OF IT!”

“YES IT IS. DO YOU WANT ME TO GET A RED CARD FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON???”

>oh. time to stop.<

“NO! I DON’T! BUT THIS IS CRAZY, FUCKED UP…” and I grabbed my bag, told my other son who was ashen and enraged (NO ONE YELLS AT MY MOM LIKE THAT!) that I was leaving and he needed to ride home with his dad, and I stomped away. I’m sure I left a haze of brown smoke behind me.

I didn’t look back. I’m sure all the grandparents were just … “Well, I never” -ing, patting off their sweat with their doilies and reaching for their smelling salts.

I was still seeing red. I put even more of an ugly face on my face intentionally. The face that said, “If you think you’re going to make an impact on me, if you think you’re going to change my attitude, think twice because while I’m unhinged and disgusted, I’m about to get into an SUV and I need to calm my shit down and I don’t need a lecture from you… ” because the shame was starting to sink in. The embarrassment… and oh… the gut-churning shame.

A proud woman in a crimson WISCONSIN hoodie looked at me. She stood up in the space between her open driver’s door of her blue Prius as I was advancing toward my gas guzzling Earth destroyer.

“I agree with you,” she said.

I cooled to a simmer.

“Thanks.” I said and started to continue my retreat.

I stopped and turned back. She was almost in her car. I was defeated and exasperated and so ashamed.

“I’m just so sad.” I said. “That ref didn’t know what he was doing. He started the game early. He wanted to shorten the halves. He knew he was ignorant of the rules, he told both the coaches. He ruined a really good experience and he showed everyone, not just the spectators, but the players and the other refs, that bad calls and not adhering to the rules is just fine and that playing hard and honestly doesn’t count…”

She nodded as she said “He tore apart the integrity of the game right there…”

I thanked her for her kindness. I apologized for my rant. She said, “Nope. You were right. You just said what a lot of us are afraid to say…”

I rage for the many, I thought to myself, sighing and walking to my car, feeling the benefits of my earlier meditation, hot tub soak, writing, and grueling 6k workout on our rowing machine sift through my consciousness. I had negated all that good.

I got home. Didn’t kill anyone on the road, I checked the front of my car later to make sure.

My oldest son called me from his father’s car. I answered. I wanted to hide.

“Hey honey…” I said, faking cheerfulness.

“You ok? I am calling to check on you. I know that took a lot out of you,” he said.

“I’m as good as can be expected. This isn’t your job to fix me, hon…” I said. “I’m so sorry… It’s not at all like me…”

“I’m not trying to fix you, Mom. I apologized to everyone for you. They told me not to bother. They think you rock, Mom. They said they were amazed by you. You said everything they couldn’t say. That our coaches couldn’t say. You let it all rip. No one thinks you suck, Mom.”

My heart softened, toward myself, a little. I brightened. My ego stepped in… “They did? What did they say?” I cringed.

“Just that. That you were the voice for us all.”

I shared with him my points of my argument; that my rage was not personal, and that I was afraid of my rapture. But I also maintained that my reaction is about the principle and the integrity of the game and that no matter HOW HARD ONE WORKS TO TOE THE LINE, there’s always gonna be some asshole who thinks it should be the other way around. I told him that the blowing of the whistle, eight minutes over, as the ball slammed into the net, before it even hit the tensile apex of the net, smacked to me of self-righteousness. That he got to have the last word.

Well, I wasn’t about to let that happen. When it comes to kids, we need to be on our best, most sterling behavior. That includes the ref. I blew it. I sank to his level of stupidity.

I am not a horrible person. I am not a mean-spirited person. But I am a passionate person. I sent an apology immediately to the coaches when I got home:

Coaches Sheriff and Deputy,

I want to express my sincere apology for my outburst on the referee at the end of today’s game versus Saturn. It was a pleasure to see everyone play so well.

I am a passionate person, yes, but one not normally driven to such excess. I exhibited poor behavior and I regret that. I was not a good role model for spectatorship. Next time I’ll spare everyone the drama, leave the game in disbelief, and offer up a silent prayer for my own tolerance.

Please know that the last thing I would want to do is injure the team by causing your absence on the sidelines. The boys are lucky to have you.

Sincerely,

Molly

PS — you’d never know from today that I’m a yoga teacher…

My husband said it was the perfect apology. I owned my side and I didn’t blame it on anyone else. My son told me his friends on Twitter said I was awesome. (I still don’t know how to feel about that…)

Later that night, after I started to calm down, I turned on my Kindle and started reading Steven Pressfield again. He wrote about “our last days” or the attitude changes which occur (for good or for bad) in patients diagnosed with terminal illness. He said many of them shed the trivialities, and turn toward their passions, fearlessly. They discern, within minutes of the pronouncement of their illness, what matters most and they act upon it. Some people do crazy stuff, others do good.

Earlier in the day, I had picked up random pieces of an episode of The Simpsons my son was watching. It was the one when Homer was told he had 22 hours to live; it would have been 24, but the having to sit in the waiting room took up two hours… Homer did lots of things to make amends for his behavior to his kids, father and others in his life.

Earlier this week, I had read Oliver Sacks’ powerful op-ed in the NY Times disclosing his final days of his life due to terminal brain cancer. He wrote that he was going to stop watching and reading the news; that he was not going to worry about the Middle East as much as he had (he clarified that he was going still care, but that worry served him no purpose) and a change a few other things in his life to bring more meaning to it. The comments on that pre-obit were extraordinary. Treat yourself to them and read them. Not coincidentally, I’ve begun listening to his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat while I “row” on our ergometer. It’s a great book. Sacks has a way of deeply humanizing the misfortunes of his patients and reminding us that our right hemisphere, the one so often discounted by Freud et al., is really the one which gives our lives meaning; the one which matters most.

I reflected on all that data I’d consumed — those pieces of reminders that our days are limited here. I reflected on lots of things, and I determined last night, before I ended my day, that I was not going to feel ashamed for my outburst: I had apologized to the coaches, to my sons, and to the brave and compassionate woman who spoke with me and I asked for forgiveness from God. My shame was pointless, what good did it serve me to hang on to it?

If it were my last day on this earth, and I did know it, I wouldn’t have done anything less. I would have gone to his game, I would have been as passionate about the travesties and I would have had no regrets. I may have been shot out of a canon last night, but I cried out most of all for the all kids. To me, their coach had let too much slide.

Carl Jung writes famously something along the lines of what irritates us about others gives us a better understanding of ourselves. I used to take this to mean that what irks us about Bipsy means we suck too. Well, that can be the case, but I’ve decided to really lean into the words, “a better understanding” — it doesn’t mean we suck; it’s an insight into ourselves. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes it shows us what matters to us … sometimes it shows us we need to change, or that we have a set of principles about things that we weren’t quite sure were really there, and that thanks to the engagement of another person or series of events with other people, we come to see what matters to us. Kids matter to me. Ethics matter to me. If that game were played by adults, I really wouldn’t have freaked out. I might’ve been incredulous, it would’ve ended there. But it was about kids. 

So I say this to you, if you’re still here… Live passionately and fully, and own it when you screw up because we all make mistakes. It’s ok.

Thank you.

Catching up, Dream-State Messages, Childhood Angels

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It has been so long since I’ve written anything. I’m in a bit of a revolt, I think. My father said he doesn’t necessarily relate to my style, “stream of consciousness,” he called it. I will admit that threw me off a little; made me more self-conscious. It’s not that I don’t believe in my skills, but when we ask for opinions, we will assuredly get them.

True to form, since I’ve last written, I’ve had headaches, so I think that means I’ve been holding things in. Not expressing myself, feeling unconfident. I’ve also been very busy and I’m not really honoring the “creative pact” one has to make with one’s self if one is serious about creating anything. Instead, I’ve been reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching videos about how other people commit to creating.

A lot has happened in the past few weeks. Nothing earth shattering, but enough to keep my attention elsewhere, wandering, unsettled.

I’ve woken with two messages, or statements — one on 3/10/15 and another on 3/18/15 — which I consider to be very empowering and encouraging. I’m reluctant to share them because people will think I’m nuts. But I have decided that I will share them, because we’re all a little crazy. Besides, there’s only two of you reading.

The first message was “You have been written a blank check by God.”

That was a lot to take in. I “heard” the statement in a voice of sorts, just as I was waking. It was sort of part of a dream, but it was also not. I have been deep in thought of late about the concept of shame and guilt and blame and how to sort through those feelings. As much as I felt liberated by the dream I had a few weeks before about a female presence which I believe to be my mother’s “energy” but the visage was of several different women of influence — good or bad — in my life, occasionally something will happen which will trip the trigger on a feeling and we can be “found” skirting the boundary of it all, hence my thoughts on shame and guilt, et. al.

In the words I heard, I received my peace of mind. I am a Catholic on paper and I dig this current pope immensely. I haven’t consistently been to Mass in years and my brother is a pastor in another state and I have a cousin who is a priest across the country. They both left the Catholic faith. I absolutely have trouble with the whole trinity thing, to which my mother often said, “that’s the mystery of faith” which I apparently recited allegiance to for years in one of the creeds I would recite at rote during Mass. All that aside, I believe in God and I always have. Don’t ask me to qualify it or talk about Jesus. It’s not going to happen. I dig Mary, Jesus’ mother like you wouldn’t believe, and so that’s enough for me. The other aspect to me about God is the heavens — the sky and stars and moon and all the galaxies — that to me is proof of God. I suspect my leanings don’t align with the Tea Party (thank you) and other people who think Earth is only as old as the Old Testament guesses, and that’s okay with me.

But this statement, “You have been written a blank check by God” is about Grace and God’s limitless forgiveness. It tells me (whether I believe it or not is really the issue) that I am going to be alright and that the ruminating about shame and guilt regarding my relationship with my now 18-months gone mother (which is now a futile concept, time to get on that bus) is folly. That no matter what I do to myself, God is going to keep that blank check coming to me (and you).

The second message was “For every shame there is a star.”

Clearly, this is more direct. I had not given up on the concept of assigning myself shame and guilt. I had not let go of my dear friend victimhood which keeps me separate from love and acceptance. I also felt I am supposed to share this phrase as well. These messages are not for me only. I am not some prophet and I don’t plan to build an ark anytime soon or start a church or run off to a mountaintop, but I believe that these are concepts that are coming to me because I am seeking counsel, I am seeking relief from a really crappy pattern I’ve nursed about not being “enough” of a person and that in that crappy self-regard, I’m not alone. Hence the decision to share them here. With both of you.

The point of this, like the blank check, is that there is nothing God or the universe can not handle nor predict; all bets are off. There are billions upon billions of stars. I believe that my sense of shame is really more of one of regret for behavior and that it’s something I’m going to have to get over, this sense of failure or perfectionism which I apparently try to pursue and achieve yet never talk about. I honestly thought I was beyond seeking perfection, but I guess my subconscious (and my hamstrings and shoulders and the fact that I don’t feel confident to write these days) would disagree.

. . . . .

I have always taken to seeing coincidences as more than two things that dovetail at the same time. On Wednesday last week, 3/25, we needed to write a check for a field trip for our son. The fee was $44 to cover a charter bus. I hadn’t had my coffee yet and I just wrote the check. My son, noticed immediately that the check number was also 4400. Now, if it were April 4th and it was 4:44 in the afternoon I would have really been freaked out, but I think that was pretty cool on its own.

Later that morning, I had to prepare for a procedure I was having the next day. Even though I wasn’t supposed to have milk in my coffee, I decided, “Fuck that.” And I put the milk in my coffee. The instructions for preparing the preparation for the procedure allowed a tea bag for flavor. I decided to take a lemon ginger tea bag and place it in the container for use several hours later.

Here is what the tea bag tag (Yogi Teas) said, and I am totally and dead serious about this, I did NOT go through a box of tea bags to find this particular missive:

“Empty yourself and let the universe fill you.”

Proof:

How do you not think twice about this?

How do you not think twice about this?

Of course I was going to have to empty myself. Sweet mother of God, have you ever done a prep for a colonoscopy?

I will not go into details (you’re welcome) about this experience, suffice it to say that it was my third time. I go every three years because of family history and it’s the most humbling experience of my life. When I think of people to whom I feel inferior, I remember that they will experience this. When I think of people to whom I feel superior, I remember that I must experience this.

They say that poverty is a great equalizer. I would add that spending several moments in the bathroom to the point of thigh numbness, delirium, exhaustion and dehydration — INTENTIONALLY, peeps — comes in a very close second. What makes it all worthwhile, I decided, is the injection of the milky propofol 18 hours later and trying to communicate the sensation that overcomes your brain, your actual brain, when the drug makes it light-speed ascent to your noggin.

Anesthesiologist [as she is lining up the injection with the port on my IV]: You’re going to notice a strange taste in your mouth.

Me: Really? Like strange how? [Watching the ports line up and hearing the click.]

Anesthesiologist: Um, just strange. Like metallic. [Pressing the plunger…]

Me [watching the fluid push into my line and thinking, ‘that wasn’t very descriptive for an anesthesiologist…’]: Woah. No taste. My brain. Yikes.

Anesthesiologist: What? Tingling?

Me: Ye … [It was tingling. Like spiders crawling all over it, but in a nice way. Nice pretty spiders.]

OUT. Procedure commences.

Apparently I dreamt about my oldest becoming a soccer player for Ireland’s celtic football club. He was very good and I was very proud. Apparently I told everyone about it.

The good news: I’m fine. The bad news: I do this again in three years. I have got to turn this frown upside-down. I have got to determine that I’m lucky to be here to hear the good news and get the milky propofol again.

. . . . .

Last weekend my family and I went to brunch at a cousin’s house. My dad came along and in the car I asked him about a housekeeper / domestic helper we had when I was a child. Her name was Betty Sortino and I believe she was one of The Most Stable forces in my young years in what was a fairly unpredictable home. Betty was short. I believe I would tower over her today with my massive 5’5″ frame. She was a proud Italian American. She had a boyfriend, Al, who would pick her up from her shifts at our home. She had shoulder-length black hair, veined with an occasional silver strand. She smoked a lot. She loved Hershey’s chocolate bars with almonds and she would share them with me, even though I wouldn’t want the almond. I would take it. That she shared her chocolate with me was huge. I didn’t get that from my mother; there was no sharing of her chocolate. Betty drank cold coffee or water. I would drink milk with my share of her Hershey’s. She would come over almost every day and often stay until my bedtime. She would sit at the foot of my bed and jiggle her leg, to let me know she was there and that I wasn’t alone. She would do this until I fell asleep. She would sing to me, “I Shot The Sheriff” in her rough smoker’s voice and I remember the heavy acidic, yet sweetness of her smoker’s breath lingering as she sang.

About that song, I remember asking Betty, “What does ‘dignity’ mean?”

She corrected me, “‘Dignity’? That’s not in the song…” I remember her contorting her face, searching her memory for the word in the song.

“Yes it is. ‘But I did not shoot the dignity…'” I recited back.

“DEP-u-ty… I did not shoot the dep-u-ty…” she said back to me. “The deputy sheriff. He didn’t shoot the deputy sheriff, but he did shoot the sheriff.”

“Oh. But what does ‘dignity’ mean?” I asked.

She blushed and looked down. I remember this as clear as day. She blushed and said, “It means your virtue. Your parts of you that make you special. Who you are and how people know you… You protect that.” She indicated my heart and my body, using her hands to float around and surround my physical space.

I was confused. But I remembered it.

My father said Betty was several years older than my mother. I don’t remember her that way. I remember her as youthful and vibrant. Present and current. She knew Eric Clapton songs for Pete’s sake. My mother would’ve thought Eric Clapton was perhaps an obscure 14th century playwright.

Betty stopped working for us, probably when I turned 11 or 12. There was no issue or rift. I just remember her not being there any more. I missed her. Then about two years later we moved.

My grand father died several years later, in 1989 I believe. We traveled back to Buffalo for the funeral. It was a hard season for my mother as she had lost her aunt, her mother and her father all within 18 months or so of each other. I heard from a relative that Betty came to the funeral. She asked for me and my family. I didn’t know she was there and so I didn’t see her. I would have loved to have seen her that day, or I would like to think that I would have loved to have seen her. At 21 – 22, I was a pretty bitter person. I was focused on my studies and hell bent on getting on with my life. I’d taken what amounted to a couple years off from college (although I took classes part-time to keep me in the system) and I was very anti-my parents at that point. I do remember someone telling me she asked for me and I do remember feeling regret I missed her. Whether I would have connected all the dots as to her huge contribution to my life, I don’t know. I connect them now though. Betty Sortino was an angel. She was sent from somewhere to show me how to share, that adults can be calm and that simple constancy does matter.

In summary, I’m going to write more, not care about what anyone thinks (even though the opinion was innocuous) and just keep at it. Life is too short to get caught up in stupid thinking and there are more than enough stars to handle any crap I end up putting out there.

Thank you.

 

Super Fast: Projection is Like Barfing

Standard

My youngest son came to me this morning, complaining about a disagreement he had with his older brother. He was upset about it because the things his older brother said to him about him were mean and hurtful.

It bothered me also to hear that one son could be like that toward another son, but I also know that in my household that my boys hold this mentality about their siblings, regardless of birth order or pecking order: “No one kicks my brother but me.” I smile at that sentiment a little because it’s funny and it’s true.

Nevertheless, my youngest was injured emotionally and I have to agree that the things his brother said were ugly.

So I set my youngest down and talked to him about projection.

“I have said some really unkind things about other people. I have believed them. I have even said those things to the people. Sometimes, I’ve hid behind a symbol or an event to say those things and yet try to blame it on the context, the ‘where I was’ or the ‘what I was doing’ or my state of mind. Like if I had a headache or was busy, but the reality is that I was like a stereo speaker, or a movie projector of that thought, image, opinion, sentiment or belief that I HAD ABOUT MYSELF that I hurled on to that other person, my target.” I said to my youngest, who was doing his best to pay attention. It was a lot of words.

He rubbed his eyes and sighed.

“Because I felt that way about myself first.” I added.

Then it started to make sense.

“You know when I say, ‘you can’t give what you don’t have?'” I asked.

He nodded.

“It’s the same with projection. If you don’t have love or kindness, then you can’t project, like a speaker projects sound, that love or kindness.”

I started to lose him again.

“How’s this? When you feel good about yourself or what you’re experiencing, you share nice thoughts. You share thoughts or behaviors that are like copies, or the song in the speaker with a person…”

He brightened.

“So, when you feel bad about yourself or what you’re experiencing, you share not-nice thoughts. You share the copies of your bad feelings in the form of bad behaviors or a bad song coming out of the speakers, or bad pictures coming out of the movie projector. It’s like you blame your bad behavior on that person when you’re the one with the bad mood… the bad feelings are inside to begin with…”

He nodded and stared a little blankly and said, “So when you’re tired and you say mean things or are super fast and not nice about things, it’s not at me, even though it feels like it, but it’s because you don’t feel nice inside?”

“YES!” I shouted and surprised him. “Yes. Let’s stay on the idea that it’s me, because sometimes it is. It’s because I don’t feel nice inside. Sometimes you can be with me and I’m tired, or stressed, or sick, or that I feel really angry about something else … What I sometimes don’t do, when I project, is separate my feelings inside — whatever they are — from the person I project onto, in this example, you.”

“So projecting is like vomiting. That’s where ‘projectile vomiting’ comes from?”

“Yes. Projecting is like vomiting. Great analogy. It’s like the feelings are so bad inside that person, your brother in this case, that he vomited his emotions all over you.”

“Yup. It is. So … then what?”

I liked where this was going.

“Well, if you’re a target of projection, like if you were barfed on, you can stay there and get stinky, cold and crusty and feel bad, probably worse that the person who barfed on you, because …”

“Because when you barf, you always feel better…” he said. “But it can get other people sick, because it’s contagious… and I usually feel really empty inside after I barf, like I hurt in a different way…”

My son’s a genius.

“Right! You likely feel worse than the barfer, and are stinky. You can stay there and be angry at the person who barfed on you, and like you said, spread the barf and be mean to another person, or… you can get up and change your clothes and feel a bit sorry for the person who’s feeling so bad, they had to project their bad feelings on to you. Or you don’t have to feel sorry. And that new pain? That’s because after barfing, or projecting, that person is still sick or weak. The “yuck” is still there. But, if you feel sorry for them, chances are you might end up feeling bad with them, which is their point usually. It’s like they feel so ugly, they want you to feel ugly too, so they’re not alone…”

I started to lose him again.

“But they don’t want you around … why would they want you around? You said ‘so they’re not alone?‘ So when my brother does this to me again, I can get up and walk away…”

“That ‘so they’re not alone’ is a figure of speech and it’s confusing. Yes. You can get up and walk away. But will you? Sometimes people want to get back and do something nasty to the person who made them feel bad. That’s a natural feeling, revenge, and it reminds me of the different pain we have after we barf, but … one of the things I like to say to myself, when I’m feeling very vengeful, is that I’m lucky I’m not her… the person who barfed on me…”

And that’s the truth.

He didn’t answer me, about whether he’d get back at his brother, or take the high road. He’s eleven. I don’t have huge aspirations for him in that vein, but I hope to plant a seed.

Eleven?! It can be hard to practice this level of self-awareness at 47!

So much of our pain and its projections comes from a place very deep inside, very old, very real so much so that one confrontation with Truth (a rejection, a situation where you perceive a comment as a threat because maybe it’s close to Truth…?) can feel like an actual threat; as though everything is riding on our survival (read: fight to the death) of that moment.

Viktor Frankl said,

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Man’s Search for Meaning

I like to call that space, a breath. A breath that slows things down and lets us come to a place of calm and acceptance that things ARE NOT life and death. Rather that breath can mean the difference between having a life and living a life.

I’ve used my blog as a platform to have my say about things that bug me, and I will absolutely submit that I’ve projected my pain on it. It’s my catharsis. In those instances, my use of my blog is emblematic of the fact that I feel I’ve run into a brick wall, that I’m just at a point where I feel as though my message has run into a cognitive dissonance machine and that I need to process it. The funny part (to me) is that there is SO MUCH I don’t share here. However, I will also submit that I can meditate more on the point of my blog, that it needn’t be a platform because I feel unheard or worse, voiceless. If people think what I write is about them, or they don’t like what I’ve shared, that’s … well, their ego; it’s tickled a notion in them and…that’s not my problem. My dad has a saying, “If people react to what you’ve said, that means you got to them. Either way, it’s about them.” My distant relative, a priest, had a saying for that, “You’re not mad at what you’re mad at.” 

So my son turned to me and he said, “You’re a great mom. I think I get it. It’s like now, I feel good inside for talking about this and I want to share it with you. Will you be my date to Starbucks today? I would like to buy you a coffee and a scone with my birthday money.”

How to refuse that?!

So we went. Here’s our “us-ie” from the date:

one of the best dates i've ever had.

one of the best dates i’ve ever had. we talked about minecraft and Christmas and legos and Little Big Planet and sugar cookies.

So try to not see your moments of hurt and frustrations as things or places where you have no choice but to fire an invective at someone OR a thing where you have to wear the stinky wet barfy clothes.

Try to see them as lessons, teachers, messengers from your deeper, inner self to address a feeling of __________ from long ago. And then, try to “listen” to it; try to hear its lesson. Try to be OK with it. Feelings are just sensations. There is no threat.

Thank you.