Writer’s Un-Block

  
Something short of the precise opposite of writer’s block is happening to me. I was originally going at a manageable pace that I could bang out one of these pieces between one to three times a week, but now I’m just inundated with mental word piles. It’s a little like racing home when you’ve really got to go to the potty. 

Yeah. I just wrote that. 

So now, while I try and figure out which the heck gasket is leaking in my brain, I’ve been just making notes in my phone instead. I don’t want to lose a thought, but these are not quite ready yet. They still need to sit in a bowl in the fridge with a towel over them.

I have about fifteen towel covered bowls in my brain fridge right now. 

I didn’t even know I had a brain fridge. 

This morning I did my daughter’s hair for the first time since Christmas morning.

Alright calm down. I bathe her. Ok. Her hair gets brushed. I just leave before dawn and my hubby has learned to do the low pony tail and I don’t get to really do it anymore. 

And I missed it. And I miss her. I now work the longest day I’ve ever worked since she was born. I had it really, really easy there for a good long while. 

But now we smell each other when I get home. I’m sure this is fine. It’s biology. It’s motherhood. Or something. But we do. I drop my keys and sit down on the floor in basically the garage, and we just hug.

And then she takes off across the house to the kitchen, and loudly submits her application for something in the fridge that daddy has already repeatedly told her “no” about. 

The (brain?) fridge is like an endless list of options but with vaguely defined rules. 

Some kind of dough is rising in there. 

But for now I’m just gonna turn out the light and go to bed.

The Boys do all the Pooping. And you know it.

1). I have the worst cut near the underside of my pinkie toe from stepping on a cookie cutter that was on the floor in the kitchen.

2). Kindergarten registration is a week from tonight and whenever I begin to mentally formulate any word that begins with “ki,” I let out a convulsive gasp followed by hair trigger weepiness. It happens so fast and takes me a good fifteen to twenty seconds to recover.

3). For efficiency, I’ve been trying to run through that entire process while I’m taking a potty break at work. The only part that still needs hammering out is how to make the tears on the front of my shirt dry by the time my hand is back on the door handle. 

4). Damnit air.

5). Today I found an unexpectedly comfortable seat on a spot of soft grass on a tiny hill on the playground and I felt so guilty about enjoying it that I kept calling kids over to talk to me so I could still “do the teaching.”

6). Today while changing diapers I said to a coworker- oh my gosh- I just realized I always expect the boys to have pooped, and never the girls. I feel so bad. 

7). When, in ten to fifteen years, this generation of boys is angry at us for accusing them of doing all the pooping, you’ll be able to trace it back to this post.

Above All Do No Harm

I was ten years old, standing on my cousin’s bed in New Jersey. For the record we were only standing so that we could see our slouch socks in her mirror, carefully layering them to make sure they were perfectly fluffed. The pink on top and yellow on the bottom on the right foot, and then the yellow on bottom and pink one on top on the left. We wobbled a bit, balancing on the twin sized bed. The sun was setting behind us in the window, casting a shadow across the bedroom that forced her to turn on the light. There was still time. 

We looked up. Ran a quick check on our bangs, and we were good.  “I’m going to be a doctor or a scientist or a mathematician,” she said to me with confidence, “What do you want to be when we grow up.”

I plopped back down onto her bed, “I’m going to be a psychologist,” I told her. I imagined myself brooding over textbooks and autobiographies of famous psychologists. She leaned back on the pillow and probably envisioned drawing complex math problems on a university wall.

We looked at one another and nodded in agreement. It was a plan. 

Before I go forward; the funny thing, the funniest thing of all- is that it turned out we were exactly right. 

I dragged my dad to old bookstores and begged him to buy me books on psychology. He showed me names I had never heard of, who created theories I would soon rattle off of my tongue for the rest of my life. I read as we walked out of the store. I read on the car ride home. I read with the rain pouring down the window in my own room, and I felt the stirrings of something good. Something real. Important. Admirable. Brilliant. Dusty worn out pages do that to a young kid. It had been decided. I was going to spend my life thinking about thinking. But really- thinking about people. And my heart soared.

I could spend pages talking about heartbreak. But I don’t need pages. I only need one.

Psychology was my first love. And it broke my heart. What began as a beautiful thing got so quickly watered down. Now, ok, hang on. Everyone who has ever wanted to help others knows that their heart is true. It’s why you’re there to begin with. But as the years rolled by and the pages turned and my coursework piled up, it didn’t become stronger, it became looser. By the time I got to college my love had strayed so far from its original roots. And my heart ached for the loss. Do I think Freud had it right at go? Ha. No. Not even. He just took a stance and helped us get the ball rolling. I wrote papers upon papers agreeing and disagreeing with every God given theory I had ever come across. That was the journey, it was the process. It was to make inroads in my mind until I found the place where it all made sense for me. And it was beautiful.

But we shredded it. We watered it down. We supplied no money for the field to grow to accommodate the changing times the way we needed it to. And now, I’m not proud of it anymore. Now I hear myself saying condescending things, I hear myself echoing vacant comments when loved ones are going through the worst times of their lives. I find myself using the verbiage and the theory to shield myself from the real time pain others are feeling. 

A grief counselor told my husband last week, “Now just remember…!!! You need to be modeling how to grieve, for your daughter!!!” 

In medicine they say, “Above all, do no harm.” 

Now that statement up there two sentences ago, no matter how well-intentioned; did harm. 

We talk about taking care of our bodies, but our minds deserve to be taken care of with equally careful measure. 

I stepped away from this work because it had been my first love, and it had broken my heart. I didn’t grow the way my clients deserved. I didn’t feel that I was doing justice to this work in the paperwork high, insurancely motivated world we live in now. And I stepped away. 

But we know the truth- our hearts and our minds ACHE. And our hearts and our minds impact our bodies. We know this. And we have got to do better. Because this work isn’t just for the early traumatized child anymore, it’s for every damn one of us. 

Good Grief

The things I’ve learned about grief. Not an exhaustive list. Just a few things.

1). When you bring food: it’s not just about getting us fat, or taking something off the plate of the mourners. It’s about something even deeper. When you bring a meal to a grieving family, it gives them a space to come and sit down together at the table. If you give a grieving wife a meal, she’ll share it with her kids and her grandkids. The kids and the grandkids may come to the table. Sitting together, they’ll talk. And cry. And laugh together.

2). When you send cards or well wishes: it helps fill a bowl of comfort near those mourning. Maybe you don’t know what to say. Do we ever know what to say? But when you say something, anything, it’s heard. It’s felt. It gets added to the refilling of the heart pile. You know and they know it replaces nothing and no one. But what it does do is spread love, and holds space.

3). Mourners are scary to the outside world. They are a walking reminder of the thing we all live in fear of. And for a moment in time, they are living it. Their homes become places we used to love to visit, now are maybe doors we find ourselves shaking while knocking upon. The tasks they have to do, the phone calls they have to make all remind the outside world what we know; it’s inevitable. And someday that pain will be mine. And someday after that, that pain will belong to my loved ones. But if they let you in; go. If they want to share pictures and stories and empty spaces in closets; go. Grieving exposes a gaping wound; take a deep breath, and join them.

4). Grieving makes you miss everyone and everything you have ever lost. It’s cumulative. I believe that’s why the wave it brings roars only louder and louder as the days pass. It reminds you of all that loss, of all the unexpected change you’ve had to face. I guess that’s just part of the process of it all, and there’s no use fighting it (there’s no use fighting anything, really). You lean in. And you hang on. And you cry.

5). And also; don’t try to stop the mourner from crying. Crying is a bizarre gift. When I was a kid I was somehow put under the impression that it was bad. That it was holding onto pain. But my gosh, crying releases pain. It’s just so hard to watch sometimes. So keep an eye on each other. Comfort the loved ones of the ones who can’t stop crying. Comfort the ones who can’t seem to start crying. Whatever goes. Not being able to soothe your next of kin is the hardest thing I’ve ever faced in this life so far. So take care of the mourner and also take care of those taking care of them.

6). And finally- grief is surprisingly stupid silly in the moment when you realize sometimes it includes a crap load of laughter. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed so hard before. Or cried so hard. Or felt more loved. Or felt more sad. It’s just, all of it. It’s all of it. Just make sure no one you know is having to do it alone.

Your Legacy

Today we lost my father in law. He had been battling cancer for such a long time now that I truly mean it when I say that I am so glad his pain is gone. To quote my mother in law this afternoon, “I’m not sad for him. I’m sad for us.”

He left behind a family, extended family, god family, and lifelong friends who will forever love him so dearly.

When I first met him, he asked me what I did for a living. I said proudly, “Infant/Toddler Mental Health!” and he just looked at me. And I looked at him. 

And he looked at me. And I looked at him.

And then he smiled. And I shrugged.

We never talked about our differences. Our viewpoints, our distinctions. And why? Because quite frankly, it never mattered. Without words, he solidified for me the one thing I think I’ve always known; it doesn’t matter. Because when miss Lily was born, he took to her like sprinkles on an ice cream cone. They laughed together, played together, caused trouble together, and napped together. He loved her with so much sweetness that I finally surmised that there were in fact no differences between us at all. It was all about family. And always about love.

He bragged about all four of his grandkids endlessly, even and especially behind their backs. He poured his heart and soul into teaching them everything he could; whether it be building or gardening or fixing something up like the visual genius that he was. 

He raised two of the most loving, honest, and loyal children of his own. He held to the standard of till death do us part, and he lived two lifetimes of all this before I ever got to meet him. 

My deepest personal sadness is for Lily, that she will not have a thousand more memories of him smiling at her, hanging her upside down while she shrieked, or holding her tightly in his arms until she finally succumbed to naptime. 

Thank you for living your life with such zest and honor that it makes it so hard to say goodbye. Thank you for raising my husband to be such a good man, and for showering our baby girl with the sweetest and most genuine love.

Please go on over and meet my grandparents. Tell them I miss them so much.

The way you loved and nurtured your family is your legacy. And I’m honored to have witnessed it. 

Reading Rainbow Ninja 

In all my professional life, nothing has given me more joy than the moment I had yesterday; reading a book aloud to a room of 4 and 5 year olds. 

I had no idea the hidden magic behind the story-reading process. It’s one thing to read to Lily but to an entire class of eyeballs and half open mouths, it brought me a feeling I’ve literally never had before. 

And speaking of being present in the moment, I felt SO present. It was as if time slowed down and any nerves I had settled.

I think there should be like reading aloud therapy for when people could use a pick me up. Like how we have pet therapy and laughter therapy; now reading therapy.
Of course, you’ve got to have a great book in your hands too. In this case, it was Ninja Red Riding Hood by Corey Rosen Schwartz. Not having read it before and having no idea what was going to go down gave me the chance to be open and innocent along with them. 

SPOILER: The Big Bad Wolf gets the lesson of a lifetime and finds inner peace. I’m not kidding. It’s hilarious. 

Namaste’. 

And name me some more great children’s books I need to wrap my hands around. 

Party of Three

#parenting: We talk more about Jesus during hair brushing than any other part of the day. We also talk about, “for the love of God.”

#talkingaboutschool: “Tell me about this work you did.” “It says hundreds, tens, and ones. And look, what’s this little squiggly over here? (she giggles).” “It’s a EYEBALL!! Hahahaha!”

#teachinghardthings: “Lily, Daddy has been feeling extra grouchy lately.” “Why?” “Because sadness is at his console.” “How come sadness is at Daddy’s console?” “Because Grandpa’s body is really tired and that makes Daddy feel sad. We need to give Daddy extra hugs and kisses okay.” “Okay Mommy.”

#marriage: “Hey.” “Hi.” “How are you.” “Tired. How are you.” “Exhausted.” *PAUSE* “Okay, so today-” “No wait, I need to get it out first-can I go first this time.” “Okay but I have so much to talk about also. Alright go first. I’ll write my stuff down real quick so I don’t forget. You ready?” “Yeah go ahead. Wait! I just need to pee. And finish this muffin. Can you hear me from in here?”

#spirituality: Walking through the bookstore, “Hey Mommy! (she hushes and points) Who’s that?” I look over, “You know who that is.” “Yeah,” she replies with confidence, “It’s the Buddha!!” (Three nearby moms look over at me). I smile.