Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Clean Your Side of the Street

I woke up this morning thinking on this and knowing-- it's time. I've put this off for nearly an entire month now but my Higher Power is no longer interested in excuses, it's time for honesty. It is time to clean my side of the street. For the past few years I have developed the ritual of using the New Year as a time to do some inner housekeeping. It is my time to look back on the previous year and take an inventory of my contributions both good and bad to the disasters and successes of that year. I have learned it is especially important for me to find my part in the areas where I was hurt by others.

As readers of my blog know, my Higher Power is God, and I find lots of simple and valuable instruction in the Bible to help me with this process. Psalm 51, verses 1-3 say, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin. For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me." For all other recovering Baptists, Methodists, or Catholics who feel an inner wall of defense rise at any Bible verse with the word SIN, allow me the space to translate into palatable terms. What this verse is saying to me: "God, I am willing to get honest and KNOW my mistakes. Here they are for you. It's been littering my side of the street and the job of cleaning it is just too much for me! I've been told you make this powerful cleaning solution that takes out any stain and that you've done some great work on other street corners, so would you mind stopping by today for a little cleaning session with me? Thanks!"

It is really that simple! Well, not really. The easy part is that God does the cleaning, the hard part is getting honest about each and every piece of junk lying out there on my sidewalk. This is my springboard for honesty and please do not be alarmed if this seems a bit much for the Honesty Beginners. I think of the instances when I was most hurt and angered by other people in the last year. Generally, I have already listed a lengthy and detailed inventory of every piece of garbage on THEIR side of the street. Now I take an honest look at my own part in that situation. How did I contribute? How might I have been particularly vulnerable to that type of situation happening to me? Did I make it worse? Was I quick to judge and slow to offer solution or personal change? Do I harbor resentment for what he/she did? Did I retaliate and make things worse? How did I enable that person to continue that kind of behavior toward me? How is my failing to take responsibiliy maintaining an unhealthy pattern? Ouch, ouch, and ouch.

There are several reasons why this arduous process is necessary. First of all, completing this makes me happy. Psalm 51 goes on to say, "wash me and I will be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones you have crushed rejoice." Having a clean conscience feels so good. Secondly, cleaning my side of the street renews my energy to begin other important tasks, "Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me."

"THEN I will teach transgressors your ways and sinners will turn back to you," explains Psalm 51:13. Translation: "after you get honest about yourself and ask God to clean you up, you will become a happy, peaceable person. You will become productive and willing to participate daily in honesty." When you live this way, other people in your life almost have no choice but to change with you. They are not put on the defensive by your assaults or criticisms, because you are keeping the focus on yourself. They see you happy and productive and begin to want that for themselves.

For anyone trying to figure out a way to bypass this process, let me save you some time, you just can't do it. Trust me, if anybody could have solved her own problems on her own with the right books, the right friends, and taking the class-- it would have been me. Your Higher Power alone is able to do for you what you cannot do for yourself and that is heal you of your own weaknesses. "You do not delight in sacrfice, or I would bring it: you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:16,17

So, I have a little time set aside today to go through the junk on my street. I am prepared that it is probably even worse than it looks from up here in my ivory tower, but I am not overwhelmed. I have a Higher Power who has been just waiting for the day when I would ask for some help in cleaning this. I've been told He has some great plans for what we can do with my little street corner.

Photo found here:

Thursday, January 22, 2009

January 20, 2009

We love you
Sweet Beautiful Brown Man
Our President
with cheeks smooth and strong
as sliced maple
eyes kind as
the baby seal's first
loving glance at Mama,
we love you.
You are Ours
Our Pride and
Joy, Our American Son,
Beloved Child of God.
Bless you today, simple
fallible man,
nothing more than another pedestrian
on the street, nothing
less than a legacy received
in two open palms.

So, dance, dance,
dance tonight with your wife, receive
her arms around you, her words inside
you. Dance
for us until first morning light creeps
across Pennsylvania Avenue
till the last forks tinkle into
bus pans, till the last stars fade
softly one by one into infinite night.
Dance tonight
for us
Our President.

Eulogy for the Martyred Children - Martin Luther King, Jr. - 1963

Now I say to you in conclusion,
life is hard,
at times as hard as crucible steel.
It has its bleak and difficult moments.
Like the ever-flowing waters of the river,
life has its moments of drought and its moments of flood.
Like the ever-changing cycle of the seasons,
life has the soothing warmth of its summers
and the piercing chill of its winters.
But if one will hold on,
he will discover that God walks with him,
and that God is able to lift you from the fatigue of despair
to the buoyancy of hope
and transform dark and desolate valleys
into sunlit paths of inner peace.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Pray for Peace

by Ellen Bass

Pray to whoever you kneel down to:
Jesus nailed to his wooden or marble or plastic cross,
his suffering face bent to kiss you,
Buddha still under the Bo tree in scorching heat,
Adonai, Allah, raise your arms to Mary
that she may lay her palm on our brows,
to Shekinhah, Queen of Heaven and Earth,
to Inanna in her stripped descent.

Hawk or Wolf, or the Great Whale, Record Keeper
of time before, time now, time ahead, pray. Bow down
to terriers and shepherds and siamese cats.
Fields of artichokes and elegant strawberries.

Pray to the bus driver who takes you to work,
pray on the bus, pray for everyone riding that bus
and for everyone riding buses all over the world.
If you haven't been on a bus in a long time,
climb the few steps, drop some silver, and pray.
Waiting in line for the movies, for the ATM,
for your latté and croissant, offer your plea.
Make your eating and drinking a supplication.
Make your slicing of carrots a holy act,
each translucent layer of the onion, a deeper prayer.

Make the brushing of your hair
a prayer, every strand its own voice,
singing in the choir on your head.
As you wash your face, the water slipping
through your fingers, a prayer: Water,
softest thing on earth, gentleness
that wears away rock.

Making love, of course, is already a prayer.
Skin and open mouths worshipping that skin,
the fragile case we are poured into,
each caress a season of peace.

If you're hungry, pray. If you're tired.
Pray to Gandhi and Dorothy Day.
Shakespeare. Sappho. Sojourner Truth.
Pray to the angels and the ghost of your grandfather.
When you walk to your car, to the mailbox,
to the video store, let each step
be a prayer that we all keep our legs,
that we do not blow off anyone else's legs.
Or crush their skulls.
And if you are riding on a bicycle
or a skateboard, in a wheel chair, each revolution
of the wheels a prayer that as the earth revolves
we will do less harm, less harm, less harm.

And as you work, typing with a new manicure,
a tiny palm tree painted on one pearlescent nail
or delivering soda or drawing good blood
into rubber-capped vials, writing on a blackboard
with yellow chalk, twirling pizzas, pray for peace.
With each breath in, take in the faith of those
who have believed when belief seemed foolish,
who persevered. With each breath out, cherish.
Pull weeds for peace, turn over in your sleep for peace,
feed the birds for peace, each shiny seed
that spills onto the earth, another second of peace.
Wash your dishes, call your mother, drink wine.

Shovel leaves or snow or trash from your sidewalk.
Make a path. Fold a photo of a dead child
around your VISA card. Gnaw your crust
of prayer, scoop your prayer water from the gutter.
Mumble along like a crazy person, stumbling
your prayer through the streets.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Happy New Day

The beginning of a new year always feels so fresh and clean. I'm glad that God understands we need that feeling every 24 hours. I commemorated the beginning of my new day this morning by the water in the 25 degree weather. Although I was freezing, it was a beautiful morning, crsip and clear. Happy New Day.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Hold Me Steady

Amid the rotting carpet, the dust seeped into pores
of the floor where boys have passed out
after nights of drinking cheap beer, the floor where
a mother paced back and forth
carrying the firewood
her flannel gown twisting around her young calves
crying without restraint.
Fire pops in the woodstove, so
now lonely always smells like flame
to me, feels hot in my chest and the soles
of my feet.
I walked two miles after school in the rain
in the cold
wishing Mom could drive me home
my feet frozen solid when I made it through the door
called her on the phone
for what it’s worth.
The hot belly of the stove burned through
my wooly socks, lying there
along the body of a floor that has known prayers and
dancing, stretched
against the solid girth of what
will not move
this hard earth
a floor
that never shifts.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

How to Love a Girl, Part 3
So I suppose by this time some of you are wondering, "Ok, well, how DO you love a girl?" I'm actually going to try my best to answer that with all the specifics you will need.
First of all, I am going to assume that you are trying to love a girl who has a Daddy Hole, as I believe the majority of women do, whether they want to admit it or not. Let me say this to you plainly, and listen close, "YOU CANNOT EVER GIVE A GIRL WITH A DADDY HOLE ALL THE LOVE SHE NEEDS." You will give, give, and give until your giver is give out and she still will not be satisfied. The emptiness within her was never meant to be filled by you. A basic developmental need and milestone did not get met, and, at this point, can only be healed through her Higher Power. You can also forget trying to explain this to her, as it will not be received (unless she is already aware of her own emptiness and dependency on you).
If you are committed to loving her nonetheless, bravo to you. If you married her and only later realized she has a Daddy Hole, well, hang in there. Here is how I propose you love her. Just be patient, first and foremost. Do not take abuse from her, but also behave toward her from a stance of compassion-- understanding the pain of the wounded girl on the inside. Refuse to give in to her tantrums and childish demands. Yes, you will anger her, but you are teaching her to take responsibility for her own needs. If you continue to jump at her every demand, she maintains the dependency of a child and hinges her happiness on you and what you can do for her. Set limits with love. This means when you have to tell her "no," that you communicate it in a way that lets her know your no is a good for you both. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and don't say it mean.
You may do all these things and find that the woman you are trying to love has such relational defecits, she is incapable of true intimacy. You may begin to realize she is not aware of her own Daddy Hole nor is she interested in learning about all the baggage she brings to the relationship. This should be a red flag. Hang in there as long as you can or as long as you are willing, and do not feel guilty should the time come when you have to detach from her to save yourself-- this, too, is how to love a girl.

Friday, January 9, 2009

How to Love a Girl, Part 2

by Beyonce Knowles

If I were a boy
Even just for a day
I’d roll outta bed in the morning
And throw on what I wanted then go
Drink beer with the guys
And chase after girls
I’d kick it with who I wanted
And I’d never get confronted for it.
Cause they’d stick up for me

If I were a boy
I think I could understand
How it feels to love a girl
I swear I’d be a better man.
I’d listen to her
Cause I know how it hurts
When you lose the one you wanted
Cause he’s taken you for granted
And everything you had got destroyed

If I were a boy
I would turn off my phone
Tell everyone it’s broken
So they’d think that I was sleepin’ alone
I’d put myself first
And make the rules as I go
Cause I know that she’d be faithful
Waitin’ for me to come home

If I were a boy
I think I could understand
How it feels to love a girl
I swear I’d be a better man.
I’d listen to her
Cause I know how it hurts
When you lose the one you wanted
Cause he’s taken you for granted
And everything you had got destroyed

It’s a little too late for you to come back
Say its just a mistake
Think I’d forgive you like that
If you thought I would wait for you
You thought wrong

But you’re just a boy
You don’t understand
How it feels to love a girl someday
You wish you were a better man
You don’t listen to her
You don’t care how it hurts
Until you lose the one you wanted
Cause you’ve taken her for granted
And everything you had got destroyed
But you’re just a boy

How To Love a Girl, Part 1
As a therapist, one thing for me that is interesting and sometimes difficult to observe is the development of lonely people. Because I work with both adolescents and adults, I get to see the formative years of a lonely, love-craving child and the end result-- the lonely, love-craving adult. The kids I work with help to keep me young and fresh. They remind me of those painful and adventurous years of adolescence. There is a song I really love by Beyonce, If I Were a Boy. I believe this song poignantly pens the difficulty of growing up and acceptance.

I'll begin with some basic definitions. The first term I want to define is Daddy Hole.

Daddy Hole: the giant empty space inside a girl or woman created by the absence of a father's love, presence, nurturing, and unconditional acceptance. This hole is painful enough to often drive the girl/woman to persistent and irrational acts in an attempt to fill the hole and end its aching.

Here is the second important term you need to know: Just a Boy

Just a Boy: a boy or man who has yet to learn how to love outside of himself; a boy/man who unknowingly and unintentionally hurts others due to his inability to consider other people besides himself.

You may see where this is going, dear readers. Allow me to make formal introductions here. Daddy Hole, meet Just a Boy... and this is how the romance begins. I see it so many times and have had the unfortunate experience of meeting a few boys myself! The Daddy Hole is so large, never-ending, and painful. Any girl who carries this can do nothing else but seek to fill it or at least put enough in it to stop the incessant crying and howling of the hole. This type of hunger and desperation often magnetically connects with Just a Boy characters. Just a Boy wants to do his own thing and feel good. Life for him is all about the pleasure it brings to him. He wants to enjoy himself 24/7 and though he may be an intelligent and kind person, he cannot live above his own true nature-- self-service. This is not to say he is heartless, and often Just a Boy feels a bit grieved when he knows he has hurt someone. This grief, however, is usually short-lived and quickly forgotten as he moves on into the fun that is his life. Only girls who carry a Daddy Hole will try to make things work with Just a Boy.

One day, however, when the planets are aligned and the molecules of faith are buzzing at the right pitch, the girl who carries a Daddy Hole is illuminated. Within the light of this illumination she is given a brief glimpse of her Daddy Hole, her desperate behavior, and the end result of her own life should the behavior continue. I have to believe Beyonce wrote her song while in this illumination. It is from here where a girl reaches painful acceptance-- you, Just a Boy, will never make this pain go away, you will never get it. She is forced by what bit of self-respect remains to let a loser go and begin walking the walk.

I live for the moments when I have watched a girl or an adult woman really begin to grow up. I had such a moment yesterday when my client told me she finally dumped a selfish, abusive boyfriend. After another tirade of abuse from him, he concluded his verbal assault with, "... and you know you're always gonna be my girl." Her heartfelt, genuine reply to him, after years of this BS was, "I'm NOT your girl. Hello, I'm done with you! You just keep running your mouth and you're about to find out what's really behind this pretty face."

Although these moments are triumphant and empowering, this girl still goes home alone. Sometimes the life of self-respect and living with dignity is a hard row to hoe. There are nights you will be alone. There are nights you will cry for Just a Boy, slipping into the old fantasy world of "maybe this time things will be different." When you've grown up, Sister Girl, you don't go back, because now you're a woman and he's, well, Just a Boy.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Autism: Who are you?

I have two young children with Autism, ages 8 and 4 years old. Needless to say, life is pretty interesting around here most days. My husband and I have begun to settle into the life of Autism, as much as settling is possible, I suppose. It has been a difficult journey and I am well aware we are only beginning. Like many fellow parents of children with Autism, I have read nearly every book on the subject, been to every seminar, and tried every treatment. We often surprise ourselves with the things we are willing to try in an effort to eradicate this inexplicable monster, Autism. Many statistics today now say that 1 in every 150 children being born will develop Autism. This is clearly an epidemic we're facing and I am sick of it!!! Autism, who are you and what do you want?!

While at the bookstore the other day, I made my usual perusal through the section on developmental disorders. I always like to see if there are any new "cures" being touted or if there are any new social stories that might appeal to my 8 year-old, who loves being taught how to better navigate the social arena. I cannot fathom what life must be like for parents who never have to go through that particular aisle of the bookstore and gaze with pity and horror on us parents who stand in that section for hours. I am not ashamed to admit, I often feel very jealous of parents of "typically-developing" children. The books were well-stocked on this fine day until I came to the shelf on Autism. The books were sparse in this section and I thought to myself, "Another happy hopeful parent has been given the news, 'Your child has Autism.' " This parent then made a quick trek to Barnes and Noble to get better acquainted with the monster. Even as our children grow older, I believe the desire remains for many of us to see this mysterious disorder resolved and understood. I began to feel very angry, not just for my own children, but for all the children that very day whose parents were sifting desperately through the many books.

Later that afternoon, I had a co-worker approach me. She explained that she had been babysitting for a 2 year-old boy and was beginning to have concerns about his development. Given my experience with Autism, it is not uncommon for friends, parents, or teachers to ask me about the disorder. She began to rattle off a list of concerns that sounded like classic Autism. Some of these early indicators would be apparent around age 2 0r 3 and include: failure to begin speaking or significantly delayed speech, resistance to eye contact, often does not respond when name is called, tends to line up or stack toys repetitively, issues with food or clothing texture, hyperactivity or extreme lethargy, resistant to social contact, and fascination with small parts of toys rather than the true function of the toy. The child my co-worker discussed had nearly all of these early signs. I confirmed her suspicion and we discussed the best approaches to having a parent get their child assessed. This is a touchy subject for us parents, and we tend to not take kindly to friends and/or family gently telling us something seems out of sorts with our babies. After this conversation, I was reminded of some of my own early grief and anger. It began to resurface and I wished that Autism was standing in the room with me so I could stomp it ferociously into the ground.

Just a few days after that incident I volunteered at my daughter's school as a chaperon for their Christmas party. I was chatting with another mother and discovered that she too has a younger son with Autism. She expressed to me, "I know Autism is a horrible thing, but I really love my son just the way he is, quirks and all. I wouldn't change a thing about him even if I had the chance." I've heard other parents of children with Autism express this same sentiment and I smile and hold my tongue. I, too, love my children just as they are. They are intelligent and funny. They have oddities that are endearing. They are blossoming in school and amazing us everyday with the things they learn and accomplish. My husband and I anticipate great progress for our children. Nonetheless, if I were ever given the chance to have Autism removed from our lives, I would do it and not think twice. I hate Autism. I hate it intensely. It is a monster, a terrifying puzzle, and a kidnapper of children's lives. I have a fantasy that brings me peace and always puts a smile on my face-- I know that one day my children will have glorified bodies in heaven, where there will be no Autism. I truly believe this and I pray at night to God that He will not deny me the joy of watching the demon named Autism burn eternally in hell.

Autism, if I could speak directly to you, I would like to tell you this, "We have yet to understand you, and likely you are feeling very smug at your ability to destroy many lives. You can take my children's speech and their God-given understanding of human interaction. You can hold them back and pour on the anxiety, but you can never extinguish the unique spirit of the child. You can take no child that is loved. There are sparks within my children you have never touched and never will. I don't understand you, but I trust my God to deal with you... and your day is coming."