{Nightmares and Day Dreams: For Our Children}

bad dreams
we free fall together.

an enormous wall, grows looming.
the waves rise and fall

the pull
of the tide, a wall

in the distance threatens drowning.
i grab for her,

shouting
“raise your head.”

and still, it comes.

8462158314_6dd9b2ae32“Childhood: that happy period when nightmares occur only during sleep.” (Unknown)

I have always believed that a parent’s job is to protect. 

Our children come squalling into the world, bloody and innocent, at risk.  As we push them out of our body we are committing to make their world safe.  We make a promise that we will provide every opportunity for them to thrive.

I have always believed; I was wrong.

We cannot protect our children fully.  At a certain point this safety net we so carefully construct around them hurts them. As they flail, or run away from us, as they pull and long to soar, our net of safety, it constrains them.

On the other hand, I always understood that scrapes on the knees were important.  The physical scars that come from running hard, playing insane and wild in the backyard, from jumping off the swings as

just for a minute, they imagine

they can fly!

These experiences toughen up a child and teach them about life.

In real life, you cannot fly.

My youngest wears a tiny, centimeters long scar on his chin which has lasted when other scars have faded.  He was running through, round and round in an utterly maddening and charming way, in my parents Colorado kitchen.  As a toddler, he was curious and strong. unafraid. Chubby, teetering, always about to fall, he loved to run the circuit of their kitchen, dining area, living room and back to kitchen driving my father mad!

But there was a rug and it tripped him.  Down he went. Down, with blood spurting from his beautiful chubby chin.

No stitches only a scar, which sits on his chin today to remind me that I cannot keep him safe even when I know the dangers.

I’ve walked the path of life; I know well certain things that are sure to trip them up.  That tiny, sliver of a scar reminds me, though I want to ignore it, that

children need to fall down.

It is Elizabeth Stone who said the truest of words, “Making a decision to have a child is momentous – it is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

When your heart is hurting because children will get hurt, there isn’t much you can do.  I mean, these hard times of adolescence come quickly. 

I blinked and the wonderful days of stinky diapers and toddler-hood, learning first words, proud scribbling on paper and walls, putting blocks in the right shapes; those days of innocence are so quickly gone.

Overnight. They become small adults, a scrawny teen wearing pants the long length of a man and I wonder at it.  How did we get here?  I’m still holding on so tightly, trying to keep that net of safety around.

It constrains.

Our children need to run, to let go of the sweaty grip of our hand, to fly away from us little by little.

We cannot hold them, at a certain point.  We cannot choose for them.  We cannot do the hard work of homework, and friendship, and the heart searching for God in a big and wide universe, or for young love, and we cannot even do the work of mental and physical health.  We cannot do it for them.  In many ways, we must step aside and

let them fly;

Up and out the door of our hearts, taking our heart with them.

I feel the time slipping.

: I learn to be open-handed,

I must teach them to look up and out, not fearfully down.

To lean forward, toward life, hopeful.  To be filled, fully taking life in, not afraid.

And only then, we become – ears to hear them, when the troubles of life overcome. Eyes to see them when the world seems to not value how unique and incredible they are,

And then,

Less and less, we use our

Mouth to shape, advise and teach but from time to time, still we are doing the hard work of instilling day dreams.

Being a parent is difficult. What was once intuitive and charming becomes jagged and painful, a tidal-wave, the stuff of bad dreams.

Even as I dreampt of drowning, of not being able to pull my daughter from the waves

I woke, and knew that I cannot save my own children.

I have done the work of preparing imperfectly, of praying much less than I should, and now in many ways I must begin

again, by letting go.  And getting on

with day dreaming of my own.

{The Black Dog is Chasing Me}

I struggle with periodic depression.  I’ve written a lot about it here on the blog.  See above link for more. 

This, this is today.

'Run!' photo (c) 2012, Steve Garner - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

I feel myself withdrawing.  I am slowly closing in on myself, retreating …
Avoiding the very thing that heals,
I do the thing that I most hate:  run.

I cannot stop.
For days I have run and run and
that Black Dog laps at my heals.  Chasing
me, mocking. But on and on I run

believing I can run fast enough, far enough.
Away.
I have never outrun the Dog.

I am filled with sadness, a despair
that’s sweetly familiar while so sour.
I hate
that old dog. I hate myself. I hate my
cycles.

This too I hate
about myself for I am a piss poor friend.
There it is
the Demon of Lies, legions there flying about the room — named.

Long ago, before I was even born
this legacy grew into an inheritance, and I cannot break the cycle.
It, this would take a miracle.
Where do I find a miracle because I’m all out of them.

Break the cycle.
Break the pain.
Kill the demon that
whispers,
chants,
sings,
sighs,
plays with me,
plays an opus of loathing.
Someone please help before it crushes me.

For I am just a little girl not good enough for a friend.

{a midstream update on “ch-ch-ch-changing”} part 2 of “I Hate Being Fat”

Sometime in May I admitted to myself and “the world”  in a post that I hated being fat.

It’s now late June and I want you to know that I’ve been busy.  More importantly, I faced something about myself that I don’t like, I can even admit that I hate about myself, my weight.  I wrote about it, which was cathartic just in itself, and it was a kick in the pants for Tom and for me to do something! 

There’s something about our culture that has your average person (I am including myself here) convinced that we can’t do anything about our appearance.  And if you’re not already thin, or already beautiful, or already in shape, stay out of the fitness clubs.

I had myself so talked into a pathetic corner of apathy, that I thought I shouldn’t even be seen on the streets exercising because I was such a joke.

I had my head so full of excuses that I felt hopeless, and worthless, and hated the sight of myself.

I’m here to tell you that I started exercising!  I read a book and stopped eating wheat.  I no longer have acid reflux.  I have lost (since March) thirteen pounds. More importantly I decided that I want to be around when my grandchildren get here. (No, this is not an announcement.)

I get out there and walk or walk/jog with my Couch Potato to 5K phone app cheering me along.  I do it five or six times a week, and have now going into my third week.  More than anything I decided that it was possible to change.

Do you believe you can change things about yourself?  There comes a point in “middle age” when we must either give in and give up OR do something.  I don’t think very many people believe they can change.  The stories of successful exercise or weigh loss or even giving up something like alchohol are too dramatic, too flashy, too much turn-your-life-upside-down unbelievable.

But this is a story mid stream — to tell you that if you want to you can change anything!

In March of this year I was the heaviest I have ever been — I was 179 pounds fat.  I felt horrible.  In May I decided perhaps I could do something about it.  I’m 166 pounds now and I won’t tell you my goal because I don’t want to jinx myself.  I am changing habits.  Changing lifestyle.  Changing the way I look at myself.  I am changing my future — likely extending my life, certainly I have more energy and optimism and hope for the future.  There is a power that comes from doing.

But I just want you to know that if you decide to, you can do anything.  What I have learned (at least about myself) is that it is a lot like being an alcoholic, in this way…

All I need to think about is today.  

All I know that I can change is today.  

Will I choose to go and walk/jog in 90 degree heat today, because this is what I decided to do? Yes, I will.  Yes I did.

What will you choose?  What will you decide to change today?

EATING ANIMALS by Jonathan Safran Foer

For the last two weeks I have been enjoying life meat free.  I never thought that was possible.  Here’s why I no longer eat animals from America’s factory farms.

This review originally appeared on The Englewood Review of Books website.

 

“99% of the meat sold in the United States today comes from a factory farm.”

In the 1970s, my missionary parents uprooted us from the barefoot paradise of Papua New Guinea and planted us in Southern California.  My mother, suffering a bizarre set of health issues, began looking for answers in healthy eating practices.  While other kids ate Twinkies and Ding Dongs, Mother read Adelle Davis books on nutrition and force-fed us cod liver oil.

Perhaps because of this, my need to fit in urged me to become a steak-loving “normal” person. Food, for me, was always more than mere sustenance; it was a visceral, beautiful, even creative thing. But as far being a political statement or a critical health issue, well that was strictly for the weirdoes.

Reading Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals was the first time that I seriously considered that the Chicken Parmesan in front of me or the meat neatly stacked in my refrigerator was once a living thing.  And confronted by the horrors of modern animal farming, as recounted in shocking detail by Foer, I had to face certain facts: factory farms are disgusting and dangerous for our health.

Foer made a three-year investigation into the sickening story that is American meat, describing with ghastly precision the disease, deformity and eventual mutilation of animals that defines factory farming today. I was filled with revulsion as Foer chronicled his grisly experience and quickly came to understand why Ellen DeGeneres has called Eating Animals “one of the most important books [she’s] ever read.”

The story is heart-wrenching, repulsive and barbaric.  One learns that the idyllic family farms we picture in our minds (think Charlotte‘s Web) have been transformed into secretive, highly secured factories lined with rows of “confinement pens” where animals languish, never seeing real daylight.  Foer admits to clandestinely breaking into a turkey farm to discover locked pen doors, gas masks on the walls, chicks with blackened beaks, and both dead and living birds matted with blood and covered in sores.  He details dozens of eerily similar stories indicting the farming of pigs, chickens, cows and even fish:

“The power brokers of factory farming know that their business model depends on consumers not being able to see (or hear about) what they do.”

In a riveting (if also occasionally, rambling) narrative, Foer contends the meat industry is corrupt, with structures supporting the consumer-driven “need” for cheap meat.  Foer notes that prices haven’t substantially increased since the mid-fifties, and that the “efficiencies” of the factory system are the source of this “benefit.”  I was stunned to learn that only 1% of the meat we consume comes from family-run old-fashioned farms.  The rest is from factories where biodiversity is replaced by genetic uniformity, and the antibiotic-laced animals may be contributing to strange flu like symptoms ravaging millions of Americans.

With gritty specifics, allowing for many perspectives, Foer draws personal conclusions, while making it clear that our collective actions can change these practices.  But only by agreeing individually to stop purchasing factory farmed meat.

In this philosophical horror story, I was confronted with my “need” and realized I can no longer be a part of supporting this corrupt system.  A “normal” evangelical Mom, I am choosing to no longer eat animals unless they come locally and humanely from a farm.

We the collective consumer must make conscious choices, even sacrifices.   Foer says it well, “We are defined not just by what we do. We are defined by what we are willing to do without.”  We need to put meat in the middle of the plate of our public discourse.

Melody

Choosing. (A Poem about Change)

[Being wounded] came effortlessly,

like an comfortable sweater

she put it on easily, too often.

Frayed and worn,

pain became her fate.

[Being changed]is hard, and only

comes by choosing.  An old woman or a toddling child,

each must take

a step.  It’s faith in the making.

Being wounded or being changed

comes in the choosing.

In the Space of Days I Grew Up

In the space of days I grew up.  Not wise in years or experience, but still inevitably I became an adult this week.  

I am not ready for this next stage of life but then, that’s how life works doesn’t it?  Was it John Lennon who quipped that “Life happens while we are making other plans?” Seriously true.

When I was a child, I was often hiding — afraid.  More often than not habitually worried and anxious about my father and mother, each for different reasons.  It was the fights — the yelling, the meanness, and then Dad’s long absences which even as we savored them I feared what they meant.

And when he returned, I hid.  I was attempting to be invisible.  I think I was underdeveloped emotionally, for as I went numb to life I lost many, many years of my life that I cannot remember.  Try as I might, and I do try so very hard, I cannot recall the early years in Papua New Guinea, then California, most of high school in Texas, and only a small amount of college years.  All those years I lived with my parents. And in the years post college what I remember is still all intertwined with my parents dysfunctional marriage and relationships.  My life was so tangled up with my parent’s happiness and my father’s happiness and success that even as they travelled all over the world doing “God’s work” I returned back home to them over and over again.

I worked for my father.  I attached myself to his coat strings of always striving and never being satisfied.  I had no way of knowing at the time, but all I wanted was to know him.  To gain his impossible approval would have been a cherry on top of the Sundae of simply knowing my father and finally understanding why he was so angry.

But I never learned why he raged.  He died without really telling me, except to say that his anger was “righteous” and to the end he justified it.  Even as I told him the day before his brain surgery that he had hurt me, that he had wrecked me.  I told him, out loud to his face that I was damaged and he said he always thought his was a righteous anger.  For most of my life I doubted God’s existence because he didn’t heal my father – not  to heal the brain tumors which I never asked for and never expected, but I prayed for my father to be healed of his raging anger that he took out on my mother for forty+ years and on his four daughters all of our lives, as well as on many of his employees and other innocent people.

Oh, for most of my life I was asleep, numb, and afraid to breathe.  Stomach aches of stress we remembered this week as we recounted how each of us daughters live with various ailments from having ulcerous stomachs, frequent headaches, addictions including alcohol,  the raging, and for me at least, I have ongoing anxiety, cataclysmic fear and depression.

In the space of days, this week I grew up as I realized that my father is gone these nine years and my mother is old.  There is no one else to take care of her and she has no plan.  How could he have left her with no plan? Because he didn’t ever believe he would die — stupid man.  And so, we the daughters who are still fraught with the consequences (of him) will become the adults who care for her.  This is right.  This can be done.

But in some ways I am angry.  Just as I have begun to wake up, to see that my life was half-lived, full of fear and frequently put on hold pain, even as this is so, I must once again become the care giver, in the space of days.  I must grow up and forget the past which I cannot remember and step bravely into the future.

I must grow up.