Saturday, March 25, 2017

Derek Walcott: Pulitzer Prize Winner &/or Monster



 I heard on the BBC today that the poet Derek Walcott died & a poem he had written, 'Love After Love', was read on air. I was intriguing enough to look for a copy on-line, but as I scrolled down the page, I felt deflated by charges of sexual harassment brought against him by several previous students enrolled in his college courses. As a woman with an MA, it brought me right back to those professors, in each of the colleges attended, who I was told 'to watch out for', or were easily recognized as predators without any warning needed. As an attractive, intelligent woman out in the real world, I fell in love with & had an affair with my own Naturapath Doctor, who was 12 years my senior. Although he was in the position of power, we were both single & frankly I pursued him & was the one who later moved on to another relationship. I heard years later that he was sued for sexual harassment by another patient & rightly so in whatever the victim's circumstance was.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

That Final Flight!




 It's interesting to me how the soft underbelly of those we love comes forth most profoundly in their birth & then in their passing.

Another chapter in a whole lifetime seemed crammed in to that last month my dad & I had together. At home he rustled the pages of his last presentation paper for his 'Wranglers' group about the brain, while asking me if flowers had a memory because they repeated the life cycle. I told him, no, that was simply genetic coding & so we went round & round as usual & then I went home & actually tried to find out on the internet if flowers DO have tiny brains. 

I stood by my father's hospital bed after our last real meal together of salmon, baked potato & fruit crisp, which he had gobbled down with gusto. On my way out, he motioned for me to lean down closer & closer until he could peck me on the cheek with that sly smile & then I kissed him on his head & he thanked me, as he had thanked Moe, the big guy who had turned him & the nurses who shifted his pillows or brought him ice. Chivalry until the end.

A week later, for all intents & purposes, my dad mostly laid in twilight between two worlds. I was wishing he didn't have to experience the shutting down of time & space & organs & thought somehow a head on collision would be more humane. I was dreading the drive over again to witness his disappearance, although at the same time I wished I was there holding his hand so he was not braving this journey alone.

I took solace that his soul was slowly arching away from the constraints of an earthly plane. How strange though it seemed that one so wearily encased could rally for that final flight!

Those days are so precious to me; perhaps more so then all the years we had leading up to them. The aching wait, the man child, the long rest into the sweet sleep of peace.

I believe you are truly in your element now.  God Speed, Daddy Dear xo

Friday, January 27, 2017

From What I Want To What Is





Yep, this is a real photo. This is me with a rope around my waist & my sister standing ominously off to the side, looking like she's ready to hurl a huge snowball at me. It's disturbing, but not quite what it seems. In New Jersey, where this was taken, the snow drifts were often over my head; thus to avoid losing me, I was put on a rope long enough to play in the shoveled part, but not to do a face plant in a snowbank.

I was listening to a woman yesterday who was talking about her addiction to pain killers as if she was sitting in front of a window watching big snowflakes beautifully swirling down, but totally blocking out the real view outside. I feel like in terms of family dynamics, I've been a slow study, but the snowflakes are at least starting to slow down & changing to rain. It may always look somewhat skewed out there, because hey, who doesn't want to idealize the family that never was; 'The Brady Bunch' into something more palatable?

One thing that is happening for me is the walking towards the fork in the road where my sisters are on one path, which is the path they need to be on & me on my path, the one I need to be on. Since my dad died & as my mother continues to fade into her distant memories, I've been on the strained side with my sisters. I have a brother, but that relationship stays the same as it always was, due to an eight year age difference.

Yes, I know; there already IS an unusual silence & there will continue to be; but it is AMAZING the lift off of MY shoulders from the letting go I have accomplished, which for now, is about the best Birthday present I can give myself.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

WELCOME TO THE PRESIDENT


Many folks suffer with PTSD from traumatic experiences in their past that evolve from not feeling safe &/or abandoned: authoritarian abuse, war, rape, neglect, a bad relationship or car accident. One learns the coping mechanisms & healing needed to go on to live 'normal' lives, while also recognizing the triggers that may again bring them to their knees. We learn to recognize & avoid situations or people who are crazy makers & return to touchstones that provide equilibrium & bring strength anew. A trigger may come when someone in our lives, (whether we want them them there or not),  is in an ultimate position of power.

Which brings us directly to Donald Trump. 

Adjectives being used to raise the internal & group alarm are: scared, sad, angry, helpless, frustrated, ect. ect. & the symptoms include, anxiety, depression, panic, disorientation, & a myriad of  'go to' coping mechanisms when feeling threatened. Over two million folks gathered together around the world to peacefully express their feelings of discontent & are empowered. The individual becomes part of the tribe that refuses to be intimidated. And yet, predictably, the person who remains in a position of power ignores the obvious & can't see "what the big deal is ",  & relies on the bubble of 'alternative facts." Today, I read he wants a recount for 'voter fraud' because although he won the electoral college, he believes he also won the popular vote. Nothing less makes 'sense' to him in his own version of reality. None of it makes sense to us.

These are the decisions I have make for myself, born out of past experience with crazy makers & my current need for self preservation:
   
1) Hypervigilance is not my friend when it comes from a place of fear. Checking the news frequently to see what craziness has happened in the last five minutes does not prevent it from happening. What DOES happen are physiological panic symptoms that alert ME I am not in control of what Trump does or doesn't do. Somehow believing that if I stay alert, I can personally control the national outcome sounds silly even as I write it. 

Posting the craziness & spending too much time on social media as part of the hypervigilant cycle is a life draining combination at best. It's just another way we try making sense of the nonsense & it becomes overwhelming for everyone. Sometimes there is nothing to be done besides backing away from the phone, i-pad, laptop or whatever else that is keeping us from ourselves. Take a walk. Breathe normal breathes. Read a book. Do art. It feels good to know we can survive & thrive in the silence.
Jennifer James once said, 'If you need to read it, grieve it, or feel it, set the timer. Don't allow yourself to do anything else for that time period; sort of like a concentrated meditation. When the timer rings, go do your life.'

"People with narcissistic personality disorder are characterized by persistent grandiosity, excessive need for admiration, & a disdain & lack of empathy for others. These individuals often display arrogance, a sense of superiority, & power seeking behaviors. People with NPD typically value themselves over others to the extent that they disregard the feelings and wishes of others & expect to be treated better than others. In addition, people amp; with NPD may exhibit fragile egos, an inability to tolerate criticism, and a tendency to belittle others in an attempt to validate their own superiority." DSM-5

Sound familiar? Speak your mind, join in the protests, write letters, push for what you want as an individual or group, but know that a crazy maker & narcissist is in the White House & there is not a damn thing you can do to CHANGE HIM. Whoever put him there will have to take him out & we have no idea when or if that will happen. Set the alarm. Then go do YOUR life. 



Friday, December 16, 2016

AHA

When I was around 4, I did not experience the ability to make choices in many areas of my young life, but I do remember experiencing the power & freedom of moving my body. As I grew, a regimented Ballet teacher scared the young crap out of me, but on bikes without training wheels, in gymnastics, ice skating & free form dance, I felt empowered. Those fast & freeing laps around the ice rink, pushing forward, up & out with strong legs & arms, propelled me towards my own choices & ways of being in my body.

When I was 15, I walked into a special education classroom to work as a teacher’s aide & my teenage angst was taken down a few notches. A group of children in various stages of disarray were seated at desks filling out worksheets; some rapidly churning out numbers, while others stared into space. I sat down next to a small boy with a blond bowl cut named Anders & attempted to assist. I noticed he worked for a few moments, then looked up & his eyes clouded over. I gently touched his arm & he shook his head, then looked down at the paper again. Pencil lead smeared across the math page, yet all the answers were correct.

Teacher Sheila glided around the room, speaking softly, encouraging, picking up dropped supplies & adjusting feeding tubes. I asked about Anders & she explained he was experiencing rapidly firing petit mal seizures, until brain exhaustion took over & he fell into a deep sleep, head in arms on the desktop, then woke about 10 minutes later for the next round.

When I was 26 & working as a teacher with Head Start, my back gave way in a grocery store over a too heavy hand basket. Traditional doctors suggested traction & back surgery, while gentle manipulations, massage & Chinese tinctures were offered instead by a Naturopath. From there, I found a natural progression into Therapeutic Movement, where one learns to lean into & learn from psychosomatic issues, instead of turning away from them.

When I was 30, I returned to college after many years of work with special needs & high risk kids & went in to Somatic Psychology studies; BA & MA degrees, doing movement & teaching college courses in psychology. It was a deeply satisfying & well loved rhythm & flow.

When I was 41, I gave birth to Gabriel. He was endearing & happy, with oversized glasses, yet as time moved on, there was the gradual discovery of mental retardation, seizures & mental health issues including, Bipolar Disorder, OCD & Tourette’s. What were the chances, I thought, while why would it not be so, at the same time? The tables were turned on his mama & there have been the highs & lows between true joy & heartbreak. I love that boy completely.

When I was 50, I fell into a dark clinical depression.The college teaching career I loved was lost in a devastating way. Jabs at returning to once familiar work failed, which left me confused, depressed & languishing, without much interest or connection to anything except Gabriel. I stopped moving, except as if through mud, gained weight & set about the intellectual study of religion & other diversions, which only moved me further away from myself. Both of my parents & some close friends died during this time & I was a lost orphan, floundering around without reserves & ending up in the hospital with a dangerous infection & a breast cancer scare. I decided to return to my much loved New Mexico for some reprieve, yet mostly found myself driving around aimlessly & sitting at the ancient altar of the El Santuario de Chimayo Church, sobbing until spent. A bright spot was attending a conference at Ghost Ranch on ‘The Creative Brain’ & attending an indigenous Deer Dance at a closed pueblo.

When I was 57, I went back to the beginning. I circled back into a new Movement post graduate training program with my previous mentor. I also started subbing in special ed. classrooms again for extra income. Although still moving at a snails pace, things started making some sense again. Along with returning to Authentic Movement, I am currently practicing Feldenkrais in private & public sessions & meeting with a body centered therapist. (Ironically, I now have the means to afford these things with an inheritance from my parents.)

A few weeks ago, I dragged myself into yet another classroom where I was put in charge of “babysitting”, (yes, someone actually said that to me), a 9 year old boy who I had seen around at Gabe’s summer camp & in school. He uses screams & moans to communicate; his head & body folded over to one side with twisted arms that reach back under his chin. I’m sure as I approached he could sense I was not thrilled & he certainly was not either. (I was replacing his regular aide while she was out sick.) Colorful sensory toys were spread out on a table in front of him, plus an iPad, that when touched, displayed undulating colors & shapes on the screen.

I sat down, said, ‘Hello’, & he proceeded to twist his body completely away from me so I could not see his face & screamed at the top of his lungs. With years of practice in this field & with Gabe, I kept sitting there, acting uninterested in his behavior & playing with the toys to divert his attention. It soon became evident that he could outlast me & 4 miserable hours of care loomed in front of me.

Suddenly, I remembered Mary Whitehouse, & Joan Chodorow, (founder & student of Authentic Movement), talking about 'meeting clients where they are’ as a witness; reflecting back their soundings & movement as acknowledgement of who they are in the moment. I began doing my own turning away with my limbs locked, but in a softer voice, followed along with his 'AH AH AH' screams. Soon his voice softened to meet my volume & I could hear his body gradually turning in his chair & shifting towards me. I also slowly turned back towards him as he looked up & we locked eyes. Leaning in further still, he awkwardly turned & laid his head on my shoulder. Through instant tears, I started poking at the I-Pad screen with my finger & bright bursts of color followed. He soon tentatively unfolded one arm, reached out & did the same. Over 40 years of special education & movement collided & all that previously felt like a long paralleled mass of experience finally merged together. AHA.

Our time together flew by as we did laps on the outdoor track with his tricycle, his feet strapped on to peddles as they turned & him screaming, this time with delight. At the end of the school day, we waited out in front of the school to catch the bus. When it arrived, he broke free from my total grip on his wobbling body & walked, still bent forward, but under his own power to the steps, climbed up & sat down in his seat. I strapped him in, we smiled at each other & away he went.

I recently watched the Sundance documentary, ‘ALIVE INSIDE’, which chronicles the  experiences of seniors & the disabled who have turned completely inward with the combination of institutionalization & medication, & then literally ‘come alive’ through the simple experience of listening to familiar music on headphones. http://www.aliveinside.us/#about

It reminded me of another boy in a special ed. classroom who, in his free time, goes directly to You Tube & Adele videos; rocking back & forth in his chair, smiling & singing a few words here & there, loud & strong. Piecing together my own meaningful movement & special needs experiences is opening up ways of integrating my past, present & future in ways that are only beginning. I too am feeling ALIVE again, inside & out. 


 “There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them.” 
Joseph Brodsky Jewish Poet

'A Russian newspaper declared that his poetry was “pornographic and anti-Soviet.” The authorities were worried because he was becoming so popular and his readings were attracting large, enthusiastic crowds. He was interrogated, he was put in a mental institution, and then he was arrested. His trial was in secret, but the transcript was smuggled out, and his defense of the right to be a poet made him a hero, especially in the United States and Europe. He was sentenced to five years in a labor camp in Siberia, but there was so much protest that his sentence was commuted after a year and a half. For the next few years he continued to write, but he was harassed and finally expelled from the Soviet Union in 1972. Brodsky was awarded the 1987 Nobel Prize in Literature "for an all-embracing authorship, imbued with clarity of thought and poetic intensity".He was appointed United States Poet Laureate in 1991.

I was only that which
you touched with your palm
over which, in the deaf, raven-black
night, you bent your head...
I was practically blind.
You, appearing, then hiding,
taught me to see.[8]