Friday, November 30, 2007

Corn Starch



Last night, after our daughter was asleep for an hour, after we had eaten a fine meal, while we were tired and full and thinking perhaps of the intimacy that we miss...my husband and I played with a mixture of corn starch and water. It all started when I (in my 11pm giddiness and almost stoner-like curiosity((yes new parenthood has given me many of the side effects of a pot-smoker, minus the pot smoking)) said, "Isn't matter weird" and my husband said, "Hey, I noticed you bought cornstarch, do you need it all?" I said, "Only a TBSP" and he said, "No way, check this out." He proceeded to mix cornstarch and water together in a glass measuring cup and then he poured it on a plate. He directed me to "feel it" which I did and was confused, intrigued, a little grossed out but equally engaged. We both had our hands in the cornstarch/water mixture, feeling its properties, laughing (almost nervously) about the strangeness of this fourth grade science experiment. The texture of the mixture felt dry and wet at the same time. You could grab it and then it would slip away. The cornstarch shapeshifted. Neither liquid or solid and certainly not gas it had its own way of being and it was cool. We delighted in this for about 26 minutes. Then I said, "This would be a really cool effect for a scary movie. If this cornstarch was dyed red it could be blood." (somehow I thought this was a unique idea) And he said, "Scary red blood!" We then cleaned up the cornstarch (although it left white streaks all over the countertops) and went to bed in each other's arms.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bye Bye Meltdowns

It has been one week since I've had a complete 3am meltdown. Last Sunday was the last of them. These meltdowns i blame on new parenthood, mainly the hormones, but also the existential reality of being completely responsible for another person. Their happening at 3am I blame mostly on lack of sleep and the fact that I have lower resources at that time of the morning and want my husband to save me from my dilemma (and he can't, although he does a lot to help me.) But anyway, last week on Monday (the day after the last meltdown) my husband shared a chapter with me from Dr. Schnarch's book Passionate Marriage. The chapter was on anxiety and self-soothing. He also pointed out some material from Be Here Now by Ram Daas. The part in Schnarch's book made me wonder about my own ability to self-soothe and got me to thinking that it wasn't very fair of me to expect my husband or my daughter to have to help me self-soothe, or to be witness to what happens when I don't. I started wondering about what I learned about self-soothing from my childhood, which, I had to do a lot of because I had a lot of responsibility at a young age and didn't quite know how to handle it. I think I repressed a lot and became more anxious than I needed to be. My husband told me the other day that he thinks my core is very relaxed and that the anxiety I feel in the world is learned, it's a veil, perhaps a persona, perhaps a way of being that relieved others of anxiety and responsibility. Whatever it is, I tend to believe him. Because when I'm feeling/acting really anxious/wound-up there is the smallest voice that says, "you don't really buy this do you?" and then another little voice of awareness that says, "no...I don't, but what are my other choices." Then I realize I could drop the whole project and I'd feel a whole lot better, but sometimes I hang on. This hanging on has gotten my attention. I'm going to start investigating what it is that I'm hanging on too and why. I have a feeling about it, but can't articulate it yet.

Ram Daas' book illuminated the "vibration" that a person sends out when they are in different states of mind and also pointed out that babies and animals and well, sensitive beings are particularly affected by negative vibrations. This made me feel particularly accountable for my moods and actions. I don't want to directly/indirectly/emotionally/spiritually or otherwise, pass on negativity to my daughter, my husband or our dog.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Parent's Tao Te Ching


You do not know the true origin of your children
You call them yours
but they belong to a greater Mystery
You do not know the name of this Mystery
but it is the true Mother and Father of your children.

It is 11am on Thanksgiving day and my daughter is sleeping soundly in her bed. She is wearing snowflake pajamas that make her look like a michievious little elf, escaped from Santa's lab, when she moves her body around. And she's been moving her body like a wildfire. Rolling, rolling, up on all fours, hopping forward trying to crawl. Her efforts are noble and purposeful. Each motion she makes seems to be strengthening her little body for her next developmental milestone. It's unbelievable to witness. She woke at 7:30 this morning and got right to business. Moving on the bed. Moving on the floor. Moving in her little exersaucer. and then, exhausted, she cried out what sounded like, "save me from myself". i took her to the darkened bedroom and nursed her to sleep. and now she's still there, in her dreamland of milk and goodness.
Her eyes are closed and yet underneath those silky lids they're on fire. She's full of curiousity and wonderment. And she's mysterious. Her sly little grin takes me aback, makes me wonder what she knows of that I know nothing of. I presume there's a lot. I look forward to sharing with her.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Monday, November 19, 2007

Inheritance

Over the weekend my daughter and I attended a modified blessing way ceremony for my aunt in Chicago. A Blessing Way is a traditional Navajo ceremony given by women for another woman late in her pregnancy. It offers strength and support for the upcoming labor. There are a series of rituals associated with a blessing way and all are aimed at focussing the mother-to-be on the sacredness of the birth of her child and her movement into motherhood. It is particularly significant in our consumer culture because it focusses on gifts from the heart, stories of motherhood and blessings that feed the spirit rather than the nursery. The ceremony I attended was officiated by two of my aunts for their sister (the mother to be.) It was obvious that they spent a great deal of time preparing for the ceremony. Choosing songs, printing out little pieces of paper with chants on them, bringing beeswax candles to light and requesting that each woman bring a bead a blessing to create a birthing necklace. The blessing began at six on Saturday. There were fourteen women present including the mother. As I sat in the cirlce with these women who represented three American generations I was struck with sadness. And this sadness surprised me. The women in this circle appeared insecure and awkward in their female forms. While most of them had the Oprah inspired "you go girl" attitude, few of them exuded an earthy confidence and pride in being a woman. It wasn't until my sister began some of her traditional mother-based chants that I felt a sense of unity in the circle. I thought, how is this possible. How can fourteen women gather and feel so disconnected with one another?

One of the first songs we sang was The Circle Game by Joni Mitchell and while most of the women were children of the 60s very few of them knew the words. My mother wept toward the end of the song and she wiped away her tears and apologized to another woman for her sentiments by saying, "I don't know why this song makes me cry?" This made my heart ache. My mother's ability to weep and sing are some of her greatest qualities and there she was wiping them away, rendering them insignificant. Is it not okay for women to be intimate with one another? Was this blessing simply another new trend? Where was the heart?

When it came time to give my aunt her blessings I was again disheartened. Most of the women stated that they had "looked on the internet for blessings", some of them said they couldn't come up with anything or ran out of time. These are my aunts closest friends and family...why did they have to look on a computer for a heartfelt blessing. Is this a metaphor of our times? FIND HEARTFELT WISHES ON THE INTERNET....$4.99 Does this point to a lack of trust in our personal experience? A lack of confidence surrounding intimacy? Why wouldn't it be okay to simply tell my aunt what our personal wishes were for her? And then the beads...everyone wanted to get it just right. The mineral that they were giving, the significance of the mineral according to Blah Blah Blah Book on Minerals and Rocks. And I thought...just make some cool story up about the bead that you want her to remember when she's birthing...she's not going to be thinking about how rose quartz helps digestion when she's in labor. What is it with having to get things perfect and factual and well, frankly, boring? Where is the passion and risk-taking and myth and magick? It was pretty much absent and then I wondered if it was simply absent for me? Am I expecting too much from these women? It's true that we live radically different lives, but I like to think that we have things in common. I like to think that when we gather together in honor of one of our sisters that we leave our personas and egos and shoulds at the door. That we just show up fully as we are. I guess that takes practice. And it's strange that it takes practice. It says a lot about our society that being authentic takes practice.

The truth is...I wanted more for my aunt. I wanted something richer and deeper and more heartfelt. I wanted her unborn baby to look forward to joining the circle. And I know that there was love present, but I also got the sense that people's minds were elsewhere. On to the next meeting or gathering that they won't be present for. I'm becoming more cynical. Or perhaps more realistic and it's sad to me. I guess I also wanted more for myself. I traveled from Georgia to be there with my aunts, sisters, mother and friends and I wanted to feel connection. Instead I felt that my daughter was burdening the ceremony with her cooing and squealing. I actually had to leave at one point because she was making too much noise. And this hurt me.

I don't want to give my daughter an electronic and superficial version of intimacy and womanhood. I want her to have all the passion and intimacy and drama and messiness and laughter and mistakes. I don't want her to have to get anything right, but for her to enjoy being who she is. For her to make mistakes and know that mistakes mean that you're living. She deserves to inherit these opportunities.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007



Ode to Eleanor

Each day when i wake up

or come home from work

or remember that i'm a mother

there you are.

a present,

a shining light,

other.

thoughts on neobuddhist motherhood

Five years ago I began a Psychology Program based on Buddhist Teachings. It was a three year program and over those 1095 days I learned a lot about ego anihilation. I got a lot of practice sitting with my mind, exposing my mind to tantric practices of space awareness and using my intellect to understand what it means to be free from attachment. There were moments during meditation retreats when something different happened in my normal internal landscape of memories, thoughts, ruminations, nuerosis and daydreaming. I can't say whether this was the cessation of confusion (luminous emptiness, satori) or that I was simply relaxed. I noticed over those years that my ego is strong and beguiling. A cunning trickster. Charismatic. Always has the right answer. The perfect way to justify my habits. And it seems ominiscient. My ego, like one of my professors stated, "wants to attend its own funeral". In other words, I have a hard time letting go.

Since I graduated from that program and moved to a completely different geographical and demographical landscape I've noticed that my relationship to these teachings has changed dramatically. Instead of intellectualizing them I've come closer and closer to experiencing them (which is where the real juice is). This has happened because I've become more intimate with my life. I've taken several new births that have catapulted me into the undeniable and vivid present moment. I've shed my maiden skin and have become wife and mother. I've birthed a baby in my home with my husband encouraging me to "find my song" to push our baby out. And out she came. And out she's come. At five months her personality is blossoming and she is finding her own song in the world. She and my husband continually help me to arrive in the present moment and relax. He says, "Things are real simple. Feed the baby. Keep the baby safe." She says, "Be with me. Watch the leaves fall. Listen to the birds. It's easy." And it is easy. It is simple. And yet, I watch my mind make things much more complicated than necessary. Ego grasps and reaches, ego wants to drive. And so, this idea of ego anihilation has never been more salient. Ego can't exist in the present moment, because the present moment is too full (of everything non-ego). And my life is begging me to take things moment by moment. And my ego whines and moans, because now that things are real (experiential rather than intellectual) it knows its time is coming. And so I sing to my ego (even though its not real) and I make its passing more gentle, and still there are moments (usually at 3am) when ego takes over with reckless abandon "this isn't how things should be...this isn't how you should be", and sometimes I can drink tea and passify this force. But I'm new at this.