Sharing a beautiful prose poem: Finally

This piece was just shared by a colleague and really encapsulates for me the essence of the first steps on the journey home to self…

Finally
By Lisa A. McCrohan
What would you finally have to feel
if
one evening
after a long day
you decided
to slow down
let the dirty dishes sit there
in the sink or even on the counter
stopped busying yourself with
perfecting things that really don’t matter
turned off the TV
put down your smart phone
put down the fork or glass
stopped numbing yourself
with your addiction of choice
and you paused for a moment –
came into stillness
listening to your breath
allowing its rhythm to carry you
into your heart?
What would you finally have to feel?
the anger
the sadness
the grief, regret or rage
that has been pushed down
denied, buried
for too long now?
Maybe it’s the longing –
the longing to belong
the longing to know
you are enough
the longing to be held
the longing to say
what’s been on your heart
for decades.
Maybe you’d finally have to feel
that one tender wound
still fresh, still raw,
still too easily opened
that happened long ago.
What armors your heart, dear one?
What fear keeps you from fully living,
fully feeling,
fully loving?
What would you finally have to feel
if
you
took off
the armor
and held whatever it is
with kindness and compassion
with spaciousness and light –
yes, finally,
in the soft light
with air to breathe?
What would you finally have to see
be with
tend to
and hold,
dear one?
What would you finally have to feel?
What would you finally have to feel
against your chest
inside your belly
under your ribs?
The cries?
The moans
that you didn’t believe
any human being
could make?
Your body shaking?
Your legs kicking?
Your fists pounding?
The emptiness?
The raw rage
and utter sadness?
Maybe it’s time.
Maybe it’s finally time
to heal.
Time to feel.
Time to let your body do
what it knows it needs to do.
Time to sit
come into stillness
feel the rhythm of your breath
carrying you into your heart
to befriend
and reclaim
Yourself
again.

First Steps

First Steps on the Journey to Conscious Parenting

What I haven’t yet related in this blog is that, initially, I didn’t set out on a journey to change my parenting, rather I set out on the pre-requisite journey – that of healing and learning to love myself…

Five years ago, I was a person crippled by anxiety and fear, by self-doubt, self-loathing and despair.  My relationship with my children was poor, guilt-ridden, exhausting – I yelled at my kids a lot.  I remember my eldest daughter telling me she wished her best friend’s Mom was her Mom because there was never any screaming at her house.  Over the course of a couple of years, as I healed and learned to forgive and to love myself, I was growing in myself a state of inner resourcefulness.  And, it was from this place of inner resourcefulness (self-compassion, self-love), that I was able to take a good, honest look at my parenting behaviours and my relationship with my children.

I mention this, not only to demonstrate the distance it’s possible to travel in a few years, but mainly because if we don’t address our own pain, our own woundedness, we will be sure to unintentionally inflict those same wounds on our children – despite our best intentions to the contrary.  I also mention this because the human spirit is extremely resilient and I’m amazed, humbled and grateful for the manner in which, as I’ve healed, I have been able to create the loving space within myself and within our home for my children’s healing to occur as well.

I think the deepest, most basic wound from which most of us suffer is that of never having been truly ‘seen’ [psychologists call this ‘proximal’ abandonment] and so, having been rejected on the most basic of soul levels, we repress and even attempt to outright murder our own true and authentic self.  This is the disease of disconnect of which I’ve been speaking.  We have lost or murdered our true self because it was never welcomed, it was never honoured, it was never seen [on the contrary, it was overtly suppressed] – by our parents, by our teachers, by our community and THIS is the wound that we inflict again upon our children.  And we do it in so many ways:

  • by cribbing children instead of carrying them or sleeping with them, ignoring their deep need for psycho-emotional bonding and attachment [a need that actually takes precedence over and above the satiation of basic physical needs like the need for food or sleep]
  • by letting our children ‘cry it out’ when studies are now showing children, even up to the ages of four and five, are unable to regulate their own psycho-emotional state and require soothing from a calm adult in order to learn how to properly self-soothe
  • by shaming them for exhibiting the same violent behaviour we unconsciously perpetrate on them on a daily basis
  • by being so busy doing that there is no space for simply being present with oneself, let alone with our children
  • by keeping our children so busy doing there is no space for them to simply be present with themselves
  • by violating our children’s inherent rights to self-ownership and self-expression, leaving no space for the unfolding of their own uniqueness
  • by attempting to control and mold them according to our own idea of what a ‘good’ child is
  • and so, consequently, by continuously violating them physically, emotionally and psychologically.

And we do it because we are so shell-shocked ourselves, because we are so disconnected from the vulnerable inner self that was so violated and shamed when we were children that it went into the deepest of hiding places.  The disconnection is so extreme and it is so ‘normalized’, most of us don’t even realize there is even a healing journey to begin.

And so, of course, I encourage you to begin the journey ‘home’.  It takes immense courage, immense resolve and immense humility.   Give yourself the necessary permission to hold yourself, to dare to be seen, to slow down, breathe out, and take those necessary first steps towards healing…

This is how a better world is birthed.

Resources:

Women Who Run with the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype – Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D

Warming the Stone Child: Myths and Stories about Abandonment and the Unmothered Child – Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Ph.D {Audio Work}

Hold Me Tight: Seven Conversations for a Lifetime of Love – Dr. Sue Johnson

http://www.kindredcommunity.com

Wheels of Life: The Classic Guide to the Chakra System – Anodea Judith, Ph.D

EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique) Tapping Manual Download (acupressure/tapping to aid in the freeing-up and release of repressed emotions and trauma)

Peter Levine’s Work and Healing Methodologies: http://www.somaticexperiencing.com  and http://www.traumahealing.com/somatic-experiencing/peter-levine.html

Survivors and Partners: healing the relationships of sexual abuse survivors – Paul A. Hansen

Belleruth Nazpartek’s guided imagery for healing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

More Musings on Racism

How is it that many North Americans can listen to the most horrific news, briefly think “what a shame” or “how awful”, then shrug  their shoulders and move on?  Why is it that we can so easily turn an unseeing eye to the atrocities perpetrated by our institutions of power against brown and black folk, both at home and around the world?  And what is it about our pale-coloured skin that makes us believe these same institutions of oppression, persecution, inhumanity and violence won’t be turned against us?  Earlier, I would have  pinned it solely on what I’ve come to see as a deeply imbedded but unacknowledged racism.  Lately I’ve come to realize that, of course, it is far more complicated than this.

So why is it that we remain unmoved by the violence around us?  For the entirety of my adult life I had been aware, on an intellectual level, of the many crises facing humanity: war, violence, oppression, poverty, pollution, environmental degradation – essentially the abuse of all things human and non-human, living and non-living – yet I remained, on the whole, unmoved.  Perhaps the sheer enormity and extent of this abuse is so psychologically crippling as to render one immobile, unable to act?  Perhaps, overwhelmed, there is a forceful, subconscious denial of the connection between our action (or inaction) and such matters.  Could it be the tranquilizing effect of the ‘sanitized’ language of war: “shock and awe”, “collateral damage”,  “healthy day of bombing”, “servicing a target”?  If the language of war was real, a language of hatred and blood, violence and death, pain and despair, would we then be moved?

We North Americans are a distracted and busy bunch of people; disconnected from our own humanity, we pursue hedonism and materialism to the point of self-oblivion.  This frenetic busy-ness, this empty hedonism, I think masks a very deep and unacknowledged pain.  I’ve come to believe that, despite all our privileges, we are a wounded people, disconnected and deeply wounded: disconnected from our life-giving mother, the earth; disconnected from our families, and others; disconnected from our heart, our very selves; disconnected from our deepest knowing.  This disconnect manifests as a terrifying, gaping, internal abyss – an emptiness vast and frightening.   We maintain a frantic pace to our lives so that only on the rare occasion do we catch a glimpse of this terrifying emptiness and a whiff of the scent of our own fear.

I’ve come to believe that only after this psychological, this spiritual hurt has been healed will we be able to feel the pain of the living creatures with whom we share the earth, our mother.   When we are once again able to feel deeply, emotionally, spiritually, we will be wrenched to our very core by the violence perpetrated against brown folks, against the poor, against our children, against the earth itself; we will grieve deeply and, unable to sit by, we will be moved to action.

So How did I Get Here?

A friend asked me – after reading my post about a child’s inherent right to self-determination – how on earth I had arrived at this way of thinking.   The simple answer: long periods of navel gazing punctuated by several illuminating “ah-ha!” moments.  I share a few key milestones from my journey below:

Like most parents in my immediate social circle, I never subscribed to the idea of ‘hitting’ children as a means of discipline.  I was acutely aware of the double standard it represented: hitting my children but admonishing them when they hit others?  I’m not saying the desire to hit my children was never present but I recognized that hitting a child would be my own loss of control rather than something my children ‘deserved’ or ‘needed’.

My next step was to recognize the violence inherent in anger in general.  Even though I never physically struck my children, I began to see the emotional and spiritual injury of my anger, how it hurt and diminished my children.  As a family we now label shouting or yelling, ‘hitting with words’.

Another key milestone? Realizing my children’s poor behaviour was simply a reflection of my own.  Despite admonishments and disapproval, my children continued to speak disrespectfully to their friends, to each other, to me.  They rudely interrupted conversations and, oh, the horror, they delighted in ordering other children around!  I can remember saying to Jasmine – on more than one occasion, “How dare you speak to me that way!”  A wry moment of awakening came when, one day, Jasmine threw those words right back at me!  I was far enough along my new path to have a little chuckle at myself over this.  Generally, however, we don’t see our own behaviour as unacceptable because our society entitles parents to behave disrespectfully towards children; this blinds us to what should be another, obvious double-standard.  Thank you, Jasmine, for enlightening me!  I have, since, dramatically changed my behaviour.  One tool I use to ensure my interactions with children are respectful is to picture how I would work through an issue or problem with a good friend or colleague.  How would I approach them? What tone of voice would I use?  Would I expect them to do something simply because I asked?  Would I ‘force’ them (overtly or covertly) to comply with my demands if they chose not to heed my words?

This fall, I made a brief foray into the Occupy movement; though somewhat disappointed (a story for another time), I did admire the Wall Street organizers’ vision to embody a model of inclusive, non-hierarchical decision-making.   It got me thinking about how hierarchies permeate the fabric of western society, from private to public institutions, from profit to non-profit.  As someone interested in social change, I was uncomfortable with the idea that I was perpetuating this same hierarchy in my own family.  How could I possibly nurture in my children the wisdom necessary to enact social change if I continued to raise them within a paradigm of hierarchical power and control?

Around the same time, I began reading an illuminating book about Australian aboriginal society, “Treading Lightly: The Hidden Wisdom of the World’s Oldest People”.  Several aspects of this estimated 40-60,000 year-old society resonated deeply with me.   One was the non-hierarchical nature of aboriginal society, but also was their notion of what it means to “respect” another.  ‘Respect’, in the Australian aboriginal sense, means to allow people to see “what you mean; who you really are”.  Integral to this concept of respect was the requirement to lead or guide without imposing one’s will on another person; in imposing one’s will on another, one failed to truly ‘see’ (respect) the other.  Children were accorded respect in the same manner as the adults.  As I reflected on this new perspective, I began to understand our society’s hierarchical system as the imposition of a person’s will on others, from top manager down to ‘lowliest’ worker –  a deeply abusive, disrespectful and dehumanizing system.  I also reflected on the myriad ways I imposed my will on my children; how it dehumanized all of us, and how it prohibited me from truly ‘seeing’ them.

So, here I am.  To not impose my will on my children is to see them, love them and accept them for who they truly are, not what I desire them to ‘be’ or ‘become’.  I accept, as a fundamental truth, my children’s inherent right to autonomy and self-determination.

The Dynamics of Power and Children’s Right to Self-Determination

This has been a very challenging week for our family. It began when I finally admitted to myself  that, despite our best intentions, despite using consensus for big decisions, ours was still not an equal family in terms of  power and control:  we, the adults, had all the power and the children had none.  I explained to my husband that the children were very aware of this power imbalance (as all oppressed people are) and that this explained their continued resistance to certain things (namely, said oppression!)  I explained that we needed to honour our children and return to them their right to self-determination, their right to make their own decisions, good or bad.  No more rules.  No more imposing our will overtly or subtly.

I started the ball rolling with a simple question for Jasmine. I asked her if she knew the meaning of the word “power”.  Sure enough, she had a very clear understanding of its meaning: “You mean like when you tell me it’s bedtime and I have to go to bed?  And like when you expect me to do chores and I can’t say ‘no’ even if I don’t feel like doing them?”  We discussed things a little further, then I asked Jasmine how she would feel if we were to ‘level’ the balance of power.  To clarify, Jasmine asked me, “So I get to decide what I want to do about everything?”  I tried then to get in a few words about the responsibility that goes along with autonomy, and the need to think about the impact of one’s decisions on other people. This, of course, fell on deaf ears. I had already lost her to ecstatic contemplation of a delightful future of saying “NO” to her evil oppressors, Mom & Dad.

Needless to say, the week was an interesting one.  Jasmine stayed up to 10:00 p.m. reading in bed the first three nights and absolutely NO chores were done as she enjoyed exercising her right to self-determination.  We rarely went outside and when we did, Jasmine went out in summer dresses underneath her snowsuit.  Jasmine also reprimanded me a couple of times when I fell back into old habits and tried to offer her ‘limited choice’. In her words: “Mom, you just offered me choices!” (She knew there hadn’t been an option to ‘opt out’).

Don’t think this was an easy time for the adults; it wasn’t. Even though Jasmine reacted as I had expected, I still found her behaviour very difficult to handle graciously.  I had to be careful not to use my anger at her self-absorption to manipulate her into doing things she didn’t want to do.  I tried to carefully and neutrally let her know the impact of her decisions on the people around her and the importance of balancing her needs and desires with the needs and desires of the people in her life.  Some days I was more successful than others.

But we made it through the week and things are beginning to normalize.  Jasmine certainly knows she can say “no” to anything but she is also discovering the joy of saying “yes”.  Prior to thinking about power dynamics, I didn’t realize that, in unbendingly expecting things of my children, I was also robbing them of the joy that comes with making a “good” decision on their own, and the self-worth that goes hand-in-hand with this.  I know we have rough days ahead as I stumble and struggle through learning how to parent in a manner that is counter to both how I was raised and to parenting norms in our society.  In my gut, however, I know that I am on the right path, that our societal norms are skewed, and that we must honour our children’s right to self-determination.  It is the pathway to wisdom, at least for myself and my partner, and hopefully also for my children.