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Write Rite Right of Passage
I am embarking on a trip in a few days that will lead me to connect with my past in good ways, and I am in full panic mode. I’m half convinced I’m going to die, the same way I used to feel in the past when I went over bridges. I read years ago that it was likely rooted in my fear of change. My therapist told me that a lot of people fear heights because they’re afraid they’ll succumb to the urge to jump.
In this case I’m taking the leap.
So I’ve got 3586.6 miles ahead of me.
(I shouldn’t have added that up. It adds a whole new layer of dread.)
But there it is.
And I am going.
I’m going to see my mother’s sister for the first time since the 70’s. Mama is dead, but I hear her voice when I talk to my aunt.
I’m going to meet my very first born son and his parents–him for the second time, them for the first. I am very blessed to be welcomed and loved there.
And then I’m visiting my best friend from elementary school, whom I have not seen since 1976.
How does so much time slip by?
I’ll write about it as I go to keep my brain occupied with the beauty and adventure. I’m bringing my sewing machine and some fabric, which strikes me as hilarious but I’m telling you, it’s absolutely necessary.
I will be thinking of Jake, too. He traveled up in the area where I’ll be the winter before he disappeared, and I know I’ll look for him. I’ll have to.
I won’t find him.
But I’ll have his boots in my trunk.
My mantra: When you’re going through hell, keep going.
The moon is packed. http://onegirlriot.com/2017/07/pack-up-the-moon
The Book of Noticing: You Matter.
Last semester was the first time I showed Angela Maiers’ video You Matter to my students. I had them write a reflection on it, and we briefly discussed it, but it wasn’t till this semester that I tasked students with activating the ideas Angela spoke of. (It was a V8 moment. Kuh! Be the change, Stacy! lol)
I went to the Dollar Tree and bought a bunch of small notebooks and handed them out to my Thursday night class last week, and I assigned it as a month-long project. (Tomorrow my Monday class gets the assignment.) To get credit, they have to notice something every day until the due date. I do not require more than this because I believe they will go above and beyond.
I’ve assigned this because these students are going to influence the next generation of children. Because they need to know what they say and do matters. And because they matter to me.
I know if they practice noticing, this will have a ripple effect on everyone, including themselves. And I want them to practice noticing so they’ll be fluent when they have their own classrooms.
I’ve got a notebook, too. I’ve written on the cover, “Mrs. Bodus’ Book of Noticing.” I carry it with me everywhere now.
Things I’ve written down that I previously would’ve dismissed:
-a young boy held the door for me and my husband at church today.
-Emily in the coffee shop looked me in the eye and asked me how I was and really wanted to know.
-Gaynell asked me how my writing was coming because she’d been praying for me. (This rocked my world, it was so awesome.)
-a waiter was attentive and kind to my Nana, and people waited patiently for us to walk through the doors on our way out.
-my husband bought a book for me by one of my favorite authors.
-Patty Ojeda made a bunch of goodie bags for the women on her 5K team; she had a whole tent set up for us with fruit and muffins and water.
I walk in this garden every day. From now on I’ll pay attention to the flowers.
I don’t know yet how this project will evolve, but I’m looking forward to exploring the possibilities with my students. They are geniuses. I expect to be amazed and delighted.
*My son, yes, he is still missing. I know people are concerned.
I don’t have any new news to share. And I don’t know how to seamlessly include that information.
This hard thing
You walk this thin line when you’re going through an emotionally dark time. On one side you’ve got an abyss of fear, and on the other is a pit of despair. You have to let go of things that throw off your balance. If you hold on to a thing that crowds your brain with bleakness, you tip toward the pit; if your imagination does the giddyup, you totter toward the abyss.
Most of the things I’ve let go of are energy sucks. I ask myself daily, how much energy does this [fear/resentment/thought] cost?
Resentments–woo, out the window, baby. Ain’t got time to have hurt feelings. Only room enough for one car on the pain train.
Worrying about what other people think–this really took the stuffing out of me this summer. I worried that I was too emotional, not emotional enough, too preoccupied, not preoccupied enough. I worried about how spiritual, thoughtful, loving, pretty, available, etc., I was. To my brain and my heart, I say, “I’m sorry. It’s enough to be upright.” This stuff’s scattering like the fall leaves I wish we had here in the desert. My version of the fall season, I guess. heh
I’ve been aware of the tightrope, of course, all summer long. I just didn’t realize what was making my balance so precarious until I let a cool writing opportunity pass me by recently. I could have written an essay about how I teach, but I could not bring myself to do it, and when the due date passed I was disappointed in myself. No, worse than that. I shamed myself. Something so easy, and I balked because I was afraid that 1) I would find out that I do actually suck, and 2) now people would know I sucked.
It took me some noodling to get to the root of my resistance, but when I found it I also understood that this was something interfering with my skittery tightrope walk. It has to go.
At the same time I was working through this, I came across a news video about the bombing in Aleppo. A small child is pulled from the rubble and set on a seat at the back of an ambulance. His face is covered in dirt and blood, and you can tell he’s barely waking up and is not processing anything. He must feel the weight of something on his temple, because he reaches his hand up to touch his head, and when he feels the wetness he pulls his hand back and looks at it briefly. Then he sees that it’s messy and his first thought must be to wipe it clean; he rubs his hand on the seat.
No one is there with him; he sits alone because rescuers are busy digging through the rubble for more survivors. He sits quietly, and his eyes are blank.
I can walk this damn path. It may feel like a tightrope, but it really isn’t. It’s just a hard thing. And what now propels me to write is something I feel self-conscious about, but I’m sharing anyway: Writing brings income, and I want to spend it helping children like that little one in Aleppo. (I want to add qualifiers (writing potentially brings income) but I will not. Will not.)
I’ll be writing more about the writing process, but will also post any updates about my missing son when I have them. Right now, all I know is that he’s gone, and his body has not been found. I am mostly trusting that he is alive. Some days, you know….
The two videos below resonate with me today.
I gave a baby up for adoption 32 years ago. [You don’t know what I did there, so I will tell you. I first wrote that I’d given a son up for adoption. I changed it to baby because I’m ambivalent about calling him my son when I didn’t raise him.] Strange, that. Feeling like I don’t have permission to call that baby my son? I don’t even know what that is. When is a child yours?
I wrote about the adoption years ago. Distilled everything down to the two days after delivery. Love bears, is what it comes down to. Love bears all things. Bear the baby and let him go, at birth, or 27 years after.
When Jake was born, four years later, I said, out loud, “I get to keep him.”
Your kids never seem to remember what good stuff you did for them before age 10. I know I don’t remember a lot of what my mother did (but I’ve always thought it was because, you know, she didn’t do much good stuff.) (Wrong-o!)
Mine don’t remember a lot of my being present: holding Jake’s arthritic knee under warm water when he was a toddler crying from pain; playing hide and shriek in the dark; laying out on the lawn and looking at the stars; cuddling when he’d let me. Not a cuddler, that one.
Or: Swimming in mud. (Not me, thank you.)
Taking a break from mud play for a picture.
They knew they loved each other, once.
I hold these still frames tightly, the way I can’t hold my boys. I fooled myself for a while, but now, acceptance is trickling in. Or, well, resignation right now. Real acceptance’ll be later, I guess.
I am counting on this:
1 Corinthians 13:4-7 NASB
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Bears all things.
My boys: I love you.
This is me, hoping.
The blog of missing: Day 25
Yesterday started out a little cloudy, but manageable, and then I had an encounter with someone who made me cry. It was nothing monumental; he was just not as kind as he could have been, and since I’m raw these days, it doesn’t take much to undo me. It was the culmination of several unmindful things this person has said to me that was my undoing.
My friend witnessed my distress, and told me, “Just because someone hands you a bag of crap it doesn’t mean you have to keep holding it.” The word picture was perfect; I let it go. Because, y’know, gross.
One day later, we talked about the situation, and when she saw I’d taken her advice, she asked me how I was able to let things go because she was still mad at this guy, and then asked if I could just explain the process I go through.
I always think I should say, The Holy Spirit enables me, or it’s all Jesus.
But I believe it all comes down to conscious choice. I choose what I focus on.
I have the Holy Spirit, which gives me peace and guidance, but I have the choice to shut all that out.
I want to be careful here because I am not a mindless automaton, but the Holy Spirit’s power is a real thing in my life.
I guess it’s a matter of surrender and trust. When I choose the higher path, I’m trusting that I don’t need to retaliate or be bitter.
I can’t figure out how exactly God works in us so that forgiveness and grace becomes part of our regular menu, because frankly, I have forgiven some very hard things that I couldn’t have done without the Holy Spirit. But walking gracefully is a choice. (And if you’ve seen me walk, you know this is a figurative statement!)
I promised her I would blog about it, and I half-suspect she’s asked this as a means of getting my mind off my worries about my son. She wants something practical to try for herself; I don’t know if I can do that yet. This will be a process, I think.
First a disclaimer: I have not let everything go.
And my way of doing it is just that: my way of doing it.
Letting go of something is like getting undressed, only your clothes are disposable.
Off comes the shirt(s) over your head, mussing your hair. Hair shirt! Of course. Because you’re the only one suffering when you hold onto a hurt, right? Into the wastebasket.
The shoes and socks and pants–everything, into the bin.
Just like the process of getting undressed is done one thing at a time, so it goes with letting go of what hurts.
You don’t just jump out of your clothes, and it’s rare that you can just shrug a hurt off.
Not only must you take them off, you must choose where to put them. If you put the clothes into the laundry basket, then you obviously expect to put them back on. So: trash.
- Shirt: I take off the first layer by thinking: my stuff or his/hers?
If it’s mine, I own it. (To the best of my ability. Sometimes I get this wrong.)
If it’s the other person’s, I toss it, and move to step 2.
- Pants: I seriously consider the other person. What path is this person walking? What’s going on in his/her life that would prompt what s/he did or said?
- Shoes & socks: I put myself in that person’s shoes. How would I feel in similar circumstances?
- How would I want to be treated? Do I want to be forgiven when I’m a jerk? (yes, please. lol)
Dear beloved friend: if you were trying to get my mind off things, you done good. It worked. Thank you.
And I’m going to take time every day to focus on something I have control over. Thank you for that, too.
Best Year Ever. Still.
Nothing like committing to do something in public to make you see your own flaws.
My best year isn’t done, and it’s still the best I’ve ever lived, and I’ve been busy living it. Eh, but I’ve been busy procrastinating about all sorts of things. Like posting here. Seems as soon as I give myself a rule it makes me want to break it. Makes me wonder if there’s an app that’ll impose deadlines that make you unable to post after a certain time. (I do this for my students on Blackboard, and as a fellow procrastinator, I understand the value of having a deadline with consequences.)
Some of the best things right now:
- I’m rediscovering Jesus. And praying every day that it doesn’t turn me into an annoying conservative twat. I’d annoy myself. Gag me.
- I am learning a lot about my absentminded habits. Thank God my husband is so laid-back. Couple days ago he said, smiling, “Honey, do you not like bending over?” I gave him a wtf look and he said, “When you lay something down, it stays there.” I–ah–well. That explains a lot. What amuses me is that now, because of that tiny, indulgent smile of his, I catch myself when I lay something down, and I remember that my actions affect someone else. And I don’t lay it down.
- I am writing! I am noodling about scenes, I am plotting, I am creating characters I love, and I am regularly in my writing corner.
- I am actively growing as a teacher. This semester I’m implementing a couple of tools I developed last semester and the feedback I’m getting from students is helping me to make them more user-friendly. (A worksheet on thesis statements and topic sentences, and an online workshop on developing a solid thesis.) Geeky, yes, but fun for me.
From Notes from the Universe:
“The absolute, most sure-fire way
of physically moving in the direction of
your dreams, on a day-to-day basis,
without messing with the “cursed hows,”
is living them, now, to any degree that you can.
And you can.“
My dream is not only to write, but to create a space for others to explore writing, so I’m committing to starting a group for writers here where I live. Instead of waiting to move to somewhere green and cool (O! Vermont!) I’m going to do something now.
Funny. No one really cares what you can do, only what you do.
The appearance of things
The appearance of things change according to the emotions, and thus we see magic and beauty in them, while the magic and beauty are really in ourselves. ~Kahlil Gibran
Be ugly, see ugliness.
Be merciful, see mercy.
Be deceitful, see deceit.
Be joyful, see joy.
Whatever we see out there is true within us.
My husband taught me something about love today.
We had a heated argument yesterday in which we showed all our dark colors.
You always! You never!
This morning, upon awakening, he mumbled, “Prayer works.”
I thought he was referring to the fact that I had relented and cuddled up to him in the middle of the night, but that wasn’t it.
He said, “I prayed that something would happen to make me let go of my anger because I knew I was the problem.”
Note: He was not the problem. We both were.
What surprised me was that he had not prayed for God to move my heart, or to change my perspective. He hadn’t prayed that I would relent.
He’d only prayed about his own attitude.
That little act was a mirror: I could see my own culpability, my own inflexibility, my own pride.
I don’t know how all this relates, precisely.
My goal is that the humility and mercy that reside in him will be evident in me when he looks at me.
“According to Jungian Jolande Jacobi, in psychic inner reality the archetypal Shadow is a symbol for an aspect of the self (1959). When we cannot find a way to work with our shadow through our dreams or in other ways, it becomes a symptom in our outer world. ” From http://www.eupsychia.com/perspectives/defs/shadow.html
In the compilation of shadow essays called Meeting the Shadow, M. Scott Peck writes,
“If evil people cannot be defined by the illegality of their deeds or the magnitude of their sins, then how are we to define them? The answer is by the consistency of their sins. While usually subtle, their destructiveness is remarkably consistent….
A predominant characteristic, however, of the behavior of those I call evil is scapegoating. Because in their hearts they consider themselves above reproach, they must lash out at anyone who does reproach them. They sacrifice others to preserve their self-image of perfection….
Scapegoating works through a mechanism psychiatrists call projection…. Since they must deny their own badness, they must perceive others as bad….
Strangely enough, [they] are often destructive because they are attempting to destroy evil. The problem is that they misplace the locus of the evil…” (178-79). (see here for more info on the book)
I think that when we cannot accept a certain aspect of our selves, we are then on hyper-alert for that aspect in others. This is why politicians and other public figures should shut up. I’ve lost count of how many prominent figures have loudly decried sexual misconduct and then have been found guilty of that same “sin.”
We are loudest about what we hate in ourselves.
And the only way to combat this effectively is to accept those parts in our selves which cause us to be ashamed.
But we can’t if we don’t have a safe space to be vulnerable.
So not only is the accusing person hiding secret shame, he is in an environment which fosters such deceptiveness.
Where is grace?
Why is grace so difficult to give?
I’m noodling on grace because my mother was unable to receive it.
And because of that, she couldn’t give it.
I wonder if that is true across the board. If you haven’t ever received unconditional acceptance of who you are, right to your marrow, can you give that to anyone? If so, how?
I am also still formulating what my definition of grace is.
I experience it on a daily basis from my husband. I make mistakes. I get psycho/neurotic/depressed–and there he is, accepting that I am in a particular space, but I am still the beautiful girl he adores. This means, usually, that he walks with me through that valley all the way through to the other side.
Humility. That’s the key to grace.
And you can’t be truly humble if you don’t accept all parts of yourself, and you can’t accept them if you can’t see them, blinded by pride as you are.
This week I’m reflecting on all the ways I experience grace, and I’m looking for it in Mama’s life, too.
I wrote a little about Shenpa in 2012, but I didn’t have a lot to say because, while I recognized it, I didn’t really understand it. I’m not sure I do now, but I’m going to write about it anyway. I’ll share the same quotes:
Shenpa is what Pema Chodron calls the hook. We each have different hooks but we all get hooked by attachment to outcomes, expectations, or regrets. It is emotionally painful and we suffer. Whatever the hook is, I have to let it go. I must remember that 100 years from now when I am dead and gone, it truly won’t matter. It won’t be important because all my actions will be in the past. Just as they are now while I am living, from moment to moment. Why hold on to the negativity? What matters now is being kind, forgiving and loving towards myself and others. ~ Loran Hills ♥
I was just telling myself this yesterday: next year, it will not matter, these hurt feelings. I will be over them because my perspective will have changed. So why not fast-forward through the struggle and forgive NOW? Trust that my perspective will eventually have more understanding, that even if I don’t have it now, it will come, and I will not have caused more damage with resentment and hurt? Why hold on to it? Why am I attached to the hurt?
I don’t know why I’m attached to hurt feelings. I’m less so now than ever, but still. I recognize that staying in that space is a choice, and all I have to do to get out of it is to ask myself how much I want to be happy.
Here is an everyday example of shenpa. Somebody says a mean word to you and then something in you tightens— that’s the shenpa. Then it starts to spiral into low self-esteem, or blaming them, or anger at them, denigrating yourself. And maybe if you have strong addictions, you just go right for your addiction to cover over the bad feeling that arose when that person said that mean word to you. This is a mean word that gets you, hooks you. Another mean word may not affect you but we’re talking about where it touches that sore place— that’s a shenpa. Someone criticizes you—they criticize your work, they criticize your appearance, they criticize your child— and, shenpa: almost co-arising.
Trying to root out shenpa is like trying to force a paradigm shift. You know you’re in a box, but you can’t find a seam to force your hand through.
It’s an irresistible itch. You get that your partner didn’t mean to hurt your feelings, and you get that in the grand scheme of things it’s insignificant, but those hurt feelings…they’re more comfortable than happiness and peace because they’re familiar. You know what to expect, and the hurt fits the paradigm of abandonment and neglect and disillusionment.
Never mind that it’s been YEARS since you were abandoned.
I think shenpa is like the old rusted bike that got leaned against a sapling and was left there for the tree to grow around.
The only way to dislodge that bike is with an axe and chainsaw, and then you destroy the tree.
In dislodging that hooking point, it’s necessary that some part of ourselves is destroyed, but it’s only the part that doesn’t serve for the good.
I became aware of the tightening during my various attempts to quit smoking. I was trying to figure out why I smoked, and I discovered that I did it to shut my mouth. Better to inhale poison than to say what I thought. I was afraid that if I quit smoking, I would offend everyone around me when I said what I thought.
I quit smoking over a year ago, and I’ve offended people and I frequently wish I was more skilled in diplomacy, but I’ve also learned that not speaking is my choice,not something I have to force myself to do.
I’ve given myself the same permission to speak that I gave my children.
You know how in movies when a mother is hiding from the enemy and she has her child tucked tightly against her, and her hand is on his mouth to keep him from crying out? I think that when Mama silenced me when I was little, in some ways it was for my protection. This is how we do things in this family. We do not say what we think because it endangers us because the adults react. The tightening is both taught and embedded in us at an early age.
I will have to come back to this again.
I’m very interested in your thoughts about this shenpa….
Best Year Ever: Week 2
Last week I wore a bracelet to remind me to look for the good.
It was not easy. I found myself dwelling on worst-case scenarios every day, but the bracelet served its purpose: it did remind me to take my eyes off the negative for even a short time to consider what was good in the situation.
So now I have a new one. This one is also blue and gold, and it has tiny charms on it.
The area I’m focusing on this week is Acceptance. Right now, this means:
- Accepting people exactly where they’re at.
- Accepting the things I cannot change.
- Accepting change.
- Accepting responsibility.
(It may mean more by the end of the week. )
I was complaining to my fiance last night about some people I don’t want to deal with, and he said, “Honey, why don’t you pray for them?”
(my honest response)
But the suggestion is kinda like rhubarb.
Bitter at first, but really okay after you get used to it.
No, maybe it’s like chewing on aspirin.
Whatever. I got over my initial response, and have decided that the tiny charms on my bracelet will represent people who get under my skin or take up space in my head. Heck, I’m thinking of them anyway, right? Might as well pray for them.
I have since discovered that I don’t know how to pray for people I don’t like.
I am begrudgingly accepting that I don’t like them, and likewise accepting that I honestly do not want to pray for them.
So I’m starting with small steps: first I will look for change in myself that has resulted from rubbing against that sandpaper. What have I done as a result of my encounters with them?
A few months ago, I shined light on a problem of bullying in a public place. (I can’t get more specific than this, sorry.) This was not fully well-received. People really don’t want you upsetting the status- quo. (Actually, it might have been better-received than I know. I was very busy focusing on the negative. This was pre-bracelet, ok.
I had no horse in the race–I was not personally bullied by this person, but I have been told many stories since 2003 by people who HAVE been or who have dealt with the effects. I finally spoke up when I witnessed it first-hand at a major meeting. What I really wanted to do was to open a dialogue about bullying so that it could be openly discussed. This didn’t happen, and it discouraged me.
So I decided to find a way to incorporate anti-bullying into my composition class, at the very least so that I could build awareness, and again, open up the conversation. I have done this, and although I cannot know the full scope of influence this class will have had on my students, I know that I made a difference. And I did it because of that sandpaper. I wouldn’t have done it otherwise.
So I must be thankful for the sandpaper.
Ah. This is going to take some time.