Jean Marie Gunner

Jean Marie Gunner
We are all basically good.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Reflection: For My Mother




THE POEM


“Reflection: For My Mother”
October 6, 2006

All the memories exist somewhere between the busy days, packed schedules, children’s lives, school, and work
The love and laughter of my own now distant childhood reside in the stolen moments of reflection
I close my eyes, turn down the hyper-speed of my mind and reflect
It is to the long, slow, easy days of summer I return
I am a teenage girl sitting with my mother on our front porch
I see us huddled together in waves of conversation and laughter on warm summer evenings
Engaged in talks of my heart’s wishes on love and life’s possibility
My constant wondering and questioning if my heart would be fulfilled, if it would remain unbroken
I can hear even now my mother’s wise countenance and certain reassurances that life will always work out
She just knew that
I sometimes doubted her, resisted her insight but wanted to believe her
I reflect now that she just knew
Not necessarily that life turned out
But that we do survive intact, better, wiser, happier
And that laughter is the best healer
That it takes a thousand muscles to frown
And just one to smile
The wishes of the heart may need to grow up
Still her counsel that life works its way out was true
It has
Witness the love and the connection and coming together
To celebrate and cherish the ones we love
To cherish the Mother we love
I’m attached to the reflections of those summer evenings
As I am attached to her, my mother
And to those sacred memories shared with my mother many years ago as a hopeful young woman
When she had the wisdom to emulate resilience and innocence
This wonderful world of memories forms me, molds me, and shapes me
As a woman who has, too, become a mother
And the best that I can wish for and dream of now
Is to offer to my children
The same wise words that life will indeed always work out
That it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown
And trust that someday they, too, can share a similar reflection

Thank you mom for it all!

My Mother: Poem and Essay

My Mother: Poem and Essay

THE POEM


“Reflection: For My Mother”
October 6, 2006

All the memories exist somewhere between the busy days, packed schedules, children’s lives, school, and work
The love and laughter of my own now distant childhood reside in the stolen moments of reflection
I close my eyes, turn down the hyper-speed of my mind and reflect
It is to the long, slow, easy days of summer I return
I am a teenage girl sitting with my mother on our front porch
I see us huddled together in waves of conversation and laughter on warm summer evenings
Engaged in talks of my heart’s wishes on love and life’s possibility
My constant wondering and questioning if my heart would be fulfilled, if it would remain unbroken
I can hear even now my mother’s wise countenance and certain reassurances that life will always work out
She just knew that
I sometimes doubted her, resisted her insight but wanted to believe her
I reflect now that she just knew
Not necessarily that life turned out
But that we do survive intact, better, wiser, happier
And that laughter is the best healer
That it takes a thousand muscles to frown
And just one to smile
The wishes of the heart may need to grown up
Still her counsel that life works its way out was true
It has
Witness the love and the connection and coming together
To celebrate and cherish the ones we love
To cherish the Mother we love
I’m attached to the reflections of those summer evenings
As I am attached to her, my mother
And to those sacred memories shared with my mother many years ago as a hopeful young woman
When she had the wisdom to emulate resilience and innocence
This wonderful world of memories forms me, molds me, and shapes me
As a woman who has, too, become a mother
And the best that I can wish for and dream of now
Is to offer to my children
The same wise words that life will indeed always work out
That it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown
And trust that someday they, too, can share a similar reflection
Thank you mom for it all!


THE ESSAY

      This is the story as I know it, as it was transmitted in words and otherwise.

I struggle with the beginning.  I am not quite sure when it began or if it was always with us.  My mother is the connector of my family.  She is our glue.  I can be quite sure that without her, without her making it through her dark times and touching just this side of death, we would have been scattered in all directions, lost maybe forever.
         
My brothers and I were merely babies when our mother was expecting her last baby.  She told me that she planned on nursing this baby.  She felt particularly close to him resting inside of her, nuzzling in her deep insides.  Our brother John was to be born in February 1969. 
         
When I was just three, our mother was taken to the hospital for observation and mandated bed rest.  This pregnancy was particularly difficult for her.  He was a large baby and her placenta’s placement was dubious.  Just after Christmas of 1968 on December 30th, the day before the New Year’s Eve, our mom was transported away from us and placed in Mercy Hospital.  We did not see her again for a very long time. 
         
It has always felt to me that we lost our mother and our father and my little baby brother that year after Christmas right before the start of another year.  We lost so much, so much of our innocence and trust and so much of our mother’s spirit. 
         
          Many relatives and friends stepped in to assist with the care of three young children under the age of six.  Our father was on the road much of the time.  His job as a Greyhound bus driver required that he be away from us and our mother. 
         
          My mom spent long days in the hospital from December very pregnant and uncomfortable and missing her young children.  Her baby lay transverse inside of her uterus a position absolutely regarded as not conducive for a safe delivery.  I imagine my mother back then trying to pass time watching a black and white television with episodes of Leave it to Beaver and the 6 o’clock new reel.  I imagine her staring for hours on end out the glass window panes and the snow blowing cold against her hospital window.  I imagine her running her fingers along the sill and trying to conjure up the smell and feel of her little ones at home.  I imagine her fearing leaving us alone with others even if they were family.  I imagine her worry over the baby she was carrying inside of her.  The baby that feels her every beat of his small baby’s heart, hears the silence between each one and moves in rhythm with her fluid motion and movement.  I think she remembers this with him more so than with any of us. 
         
          She has told me that she felt closer to John and a special bond with him during this last pregnancy of hers.  She really looked forward to breastfeeding him and slowing down with him.  Perhaps she knew she’d never be pregnant again.  Or maybe she knew somehow that the only physical relationship she’d ever have with him would be that of absolute oneness and complete dependence in a state of pregnant union and bliss.
         
          My mother was and still is to this day a very worried and protective mother.  I have thought of her as overly controlling, not wanting us to leave her or grow up.  Now I see why this is.  I also see that I am in so many ways, subtle and not so subtle, just like her.  I incessantly concern myself with imaginings of my children’s untimely deaths, or my untimely death or some other horrible thing happening like abduction, accident, or illness.  Thoughts and anxieties like these haunt me. 
         
          The last baby leaves the last mark on our psychic wombs.  It imprints us and we keep dreaming of this last time.  Just how the baby danced and turned inside of our bodies.  How he hiccoughed and poked and elbow in our side or kicked our ribs or bladder with his feet.  We remember the fullness of our ripe and ready to feed breasts.  They are so full with milk, poised to spray with force the nourishment that has been building in them through a chemical mixture of prolactin, oxytocin and other lactating hormones.  Sometimes I dream of rock hard breasts that point like torpedoes outward.  They stand on attention ready and able to feed the most hungry and malnourished of babies.  Just last night I dreamt of these same breasts and practically begged my seven year old to nuzzle up and suckle.  He began to drink and as my left breast emptied its contents into his body, I felt relief and satisfaction and joy.  He left my breast drained and relieved of its weight.  It dangled from my body and I felt sheer satisfaction for a job well done.   My breast was emptied, my child fed.  What more could a mother want?
         
          As a young child I would cling with real fear to my mother during trips to the doctor’s office.  Sometimes my fear would manifest itself in full body rash with hives covering my entire trunk.  My heart would race and I would become extremely cold or hot.  I swore to myself that if my mother ever died I, too, would die.  I did not want to be without her again.  I felt so left alone, so frightened of being left alone once more. 
         
          They took our mom to a cold and sterile hospital between Christmas and New Year’s Eve Day 1969, and did not return her to us until many long months later.  She came back to us hooked up to a large machine, a portable device that drained her kidney and collected her urine.  She lay on the couch in pain enshrouded in a cloud of suffering.  It hung like a broken, fractured soul over her.  We had her back physically only.  We had lost our mother to her own loss of her baby.  She had lost parts of her body, a kidney, a ureter, a uterus; she had lost her soul – her newborn son.  Her soul was forever changed.  We were all forever changed.
         
          On the seventh day of February 1969, my mother felt an excruciating pain tear through her.  It ripped her from the inside out.  She writhed and called out for mercy.  The insides of her, the safe haven for her baby was tearing open, ripping apart. Months before, her doctor had placed her in the hospital to take her off her feet away from her young ones so she could rest.  This decision took her out of her home, her safe haven away from her family.  Her baby was positioned inside of her across her womb, an unsafe position in which to deliver.  To make matters more complicated, her placenta had grown near the opening of her cervix, a serious medical condition known as placenta previa.  My mother was also a smoker.  Smoking was a risk factor known to increase the odds of uterine rupture.  My mother had always expressed to me that smoking actually was helpful in her case as it kept the weight of her newborns to a manageable size.  John, her last baby was her largest baby weighing in at nearly ten pounds, an extremely large baby for my mother to deliver vaginally. 
         
          In the weeks preceding, her doctor tried to attempt a turn of her baby and then bound her with towels so her baby could not again move back into his transverse lie.  I can only imagine the stress this must have placed on her laying there bound in that hospital bed, feeling her baby’s agitation grow inside of her.  How could she possibly stand this indecency, this mindless barbarian procedure?  How could her baby be forced into this position with the cord tightening around his little neck?  As was uncovered later during that fateful day of my youngest brother’s delivery, the cord was wound tightly around his neck. When the time came for John to make his way to his mother’s arms, he did so under very stressful and difficult conditions.  His mother was worn out by the procedures and treatments and separation from her children and husband.  I can only imagine that John was already drained from being forced to stay in a position the doctor deemed correct placement.  He began his journey to meet his mother, to suckle at her breast, to feel her warmth and meet his brothers and sister.  He initiated his descent.  Only the placenta blocked his entranceway to this world and he was being strangled by the cord that had been his lifeline.  He began to struggle and his heart raced as he was all tangled up inside of his mother.  He panicked and became distressed.  His breathing was shallow and his oxygen was being cut off.  The cord and placenta were not able to deliver enough oxygen for him to safely breathe.  In this stressful situation, he pushed head first his way out, his mother’s body contracting trying to assist him with his entrance to this world, to her world, his mother’s world, my mother’s world.  In the tangle of confusion, there was a small rip, it grew larger and larger and suddenly the struggle for life, and breath and mother was all that either baby or mother could feel.  My mother was caught up in the race of her life.  She shrieked and screamed to the nurse, to the staff, to anyone who would or could hear her cries, her desperate pleas of help.  As her placenta was tearing away from its anchor, blood began to pour into the womb where John struggled to free himself of his prison.  The place that had been safe and warm and filled with the resounding and comforting heart beat of his mother became his death chamber.  On his one shot left to live, he and her body worked in unison to free him resulting in a fissure, a ruptured uterus.  My mother screamed out for God to take her with her baby, blood poured out of her vagina on the operating room.  Death awaited both her and her baby.  Soon three other small children would be motherless.
         
          My mother had started labor the three days prior.  Earlier in the day on February 7th, when my mother’s contractions began, she felt discomfort such that she had not felt during her three previous deliveries.  The unease and sense of discomfort only worsened throughout the morning.  My mother told the nurse, Sister Jean-Baptiste that something was definitely different this time, it felt wrong.  Birthing mothers know when something is wrong, particularly veteran mothers.  Sister Jean phoned the doctor pleading with him to arrive otherwise he would be faced with a dire outcome, two dead.  He didn’t make it on time.  My mother lay begging for help with a tragic end imminent and only Sister Jean was there for spiritual comfort, no medical team head up by a surgeon to free my mother of her pain and our tiny brother John of his suffocation.         
         
          From the view of a mother of two healthy boys, and my mother’s only daughter, I feel the need to know the details; the questions pop into my mind about what happened to my mom that fatal day, what led up to it, how she felt, the minutia of moment by moment of that time that slows down taking on a rhythm and life all its own.
         
          My mom is aging and she is as frail and ravaged by years of smoking and lack of real movement and exercise due to emotional and physical suffering of thirty years of crippling rheumatoid arthritis.  I remember back to my early teenage years a span of nights where my mother lay on the couch in our home in agony.  Her body began to attack itself as is the case with autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis.  My younger brother was there for her, rubbing her and meeting her emotional needs as she struggled with her pain much the same way Sister Jean-Baptiste comforted my mom all those many years ago as she labored in duress with John. 

          Sister Jean held my mother while she lay bleeding to death.  My grandfather said to my mom, pleading, ‘you must live Sissy Girl you have three babies at home waiting for you. ‘

          My mom can only hold a short conversation about this tragedy even with over 40 years between her and that event. I imagine that the emotional damage was extensive, cellular in nature impacting her everywhere in her body and mind.  The damage and tragic events of that time and day even extend beyond my mom.  They impacted her other three living children then and in some ways still now do.  It is not as if we ever really discussed it, or embraced it, or grieved it as a family unit.  This sort of communication doesn’t flow easily in our family.  It is the sort of thing we had to grieve or deal with individually.  We all sought ways to assuage our pain.

I medicated in a number of ways, mostly in the relationship arena, always looking outside of myself for my personal security to another person.  Falling in and building a wall of love was my escape. 
         
          Now as we all are in our forties, some of the terrifying feelings of abandonment and loneliness and the anger are dissipating for me.  I am forgiving myself, my mother, my family for their reactions and fears.  I especially see my mom in a different light as she nears the end of her days on this earth.  The realization of her body’s frailty has negated my tendency to so harshly judge her, such as her decision to continue smoking.  Yet, I am the one still making a choice to judge just as I could instead make a choice to express compassion.  It is okay to love someone without reservation even if we don’t agree with their choices or if they engage in unhealthy lifestyles?  I just have learned that it is also okay to make sure that the other’s choices don’t impact me or children.  Still it does impact me because I watch her wither away before my eyes.
         
          I reflect back on her as mother, life giver and nurturer.  She really enjoyed having her babies.  She cuddled with us and tickled us while we lay in bed with her.  We talked and laughed and to a lesser extent cried and shared the real hard stuff of life.  That just wasn’t possible for her or didn’t come quite so easy for her.  It doesn’t come easily for me either.          
         
          Recently we dined and saw a movie together, Mama Mia.  Before entering the movie theatre, my mom brought up her funeral and burial requests.  I wasn’t prepared for her to bring the subject up as it was always subject matter that I inquired about.  Usually, she didn’t wish to discuss sickness or death, particularly her own.  Time for me stopped in that instant and I felt an authenticity and emotion in that moment that I don’t often witness or feel with my mom.  She said she’d like to be cremated and buried with her son, with my little brother John, dead before ever joining us in this world.  Here was my mom actually telling me something, a profound moment and an expression of missing the little one that she never even had a chance to hold or touch or see or smell.  She wasn’t asking to be buried with her husband of nearly 50 years but with the baby she never held, never nursed, never touched in living flesh.  Her voice didn’t crack when she stated this, but I could tell that she had been thinking about it and this was her choice to be joined with John if not in life than in death.  I embraced that moment as truly sacred for me and my mom.  An intimate moment passed between us and I saw her raw and naked humanity next to me.  That is when I knew that this loss had stayed with her for the rest of her life.  It mattered even if she never talked about it. 


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Tuesday -- Snow Day

We can look at life from a deficit point of view, or from one of abundance, of basic goodness. I choose to lead this essay with that fundamental view because there are many people in my life who inspire this mindset of abundant goodness and one in particular, my kind and good humored boyfriend, Joe, just a regular and extraordinary guy. 

We are in the middle of a very large weather event, the snowstorm of the century, of indeed my lifetime.  I have lived nearly half a century and I have never experienced this much snow fall in such a short duration of time.  I am sure everyone in this lake effect snow band are all experiencing many similar feelings.  The constant shaking of snowflakes from what seemed to be a gigantic flour mill above our heads for miles and miles unearthed a lot of feelings within me.  Even though, I could only feel my own feelings and think my own thoughts, somehow I felt connected to a mind stream that ran many miles in every direction from my little point in this world, my mind, my home, my family, my tiny spot in this village of Hamburg neighborhood. 

Yesterday morning around 9 a.m., my teenage sons and I began clearing out three feet of heavy snow which consisted of one foot at the base of hard-packed and frozen snow.  My eldest son gallantly maneuvered and heaved the snow blower with the sheer will and force of his young muscles through this hard and wet snow up and down the length of an over hundred foot driveway.  My younger son and I shoveled methodically to assist, cutting and picking up large chunks of snow to heave into an already snow-filled back yard.  I knew we needed additional assistance so I called their dad who thankfully lives just a few blocks away.  We spent the entire morning as a family clearing the snow, with me taking an hour break to prepare a hearty breakfast for the guys. 

Yesterday, during the second round of snow clearing late in the afternoon, I began to feel very stuck, my stomach was tightening and my heart was racing.   I was wondering if I was capable of handling all this stuckness, this feeling of being trapped in all this snow around me.  I became curious about this feeling since I have always loved winter and the snow and the sense of being blanketed by the snow cover.  But with a driving ban and the continuous nature of the flour mill at work above our heads as the storm just kept shaking fine powdered snow on our world, I began to resist the conditions I was finding myself in.  I felt panic and separation and I wanted there to be another reality.  I missed being able to just get in my car and go somewhere, anywhere. 

All it took was one phone conversation with my boyfriend to clear my mind of doubt and to look at the situation from another perspective.  Joe and I kept in touch all day and this made the situation we were in feel much more workable, even fun and joyful.  I appreciate the way my boyfriend looks at winter and snowfall and snow clearing.  He has a potently, positive view and it is infectious to hear him speak in this way. In a sense, he is just so straight forward and does not make a big deal of anything.  It was an extraordinary weather event to be sure, and exciting and incredible, and he approaches it with an ordinary view point and an attitude of simply what needs to be done. Refreshingly, I never hear him complain and he actually enjoys the experience.  He is entirely immersed and engaged in the present situation of the moment.  He relates to snow removal with an attitude of pride and duty peppered with a sense of challenge and a mindset of accomplishment.  I realized I was missing and longing for being near him, experiencing this big thing with him, close to him. Since we were not in the same location, I could either resist the present set of conditions and circumstances (our physical separateness) and indulge in my longing to being with him and resulting sadness, or I could experience this big weather event where I was and with whom I was.  The latter brought me more happiness, so that is what I chose.  Joe helped me and I felt joy in my present situation as it was.

After the uplifting phone call with Joe, I returned outside with my youngest son, Aidan.  It was early evening and we ditched the shovels and he said to me, ‘C’mon mom, let’s play!’ Not often does my 14 year old choose to hang with mom over skyping friends online.  This was my chance to let go of my feelings of entrapment which were causing me so much anxiety, and instead fall into to enjoying the four feet of white stuff surrounding our home and comprising our world in that moment.  We both laid down on the the cushion of pure white soft coldness and looked up at the gray evening sky, and I immediately  noticed the few golden-brown leaves left on the Norway Maple silhouetted by the last vestiges of evening light, right in front of us.  We breathed and let our hearts be there lying next to one another.  We then trekked out in the village to explore and witness the storm’s impact on the neighborhood.  We met some neighbors trying to dig out along our winter wonderland walk.  

We tried to make it to our wooden playground but the thigh high snow did not allow for easy passage.  We gave up and turned around to visit Aidan’s dad.  When a front loader was barreling down the street, we ran for cover on the side so we didn’t get run down.  We had fun running down the snow covered streets and slipping on ice beneath the tracks that the machine had left for us in its wake.  We then arrived home and peeled off snowy frozen winter outerwear, left strewn about, which I promptly placed upon our floor heating vents in our 1928 old home, another thing for which I offer thanks and feel the goodness that is. 

On we went all day, although I found time to bake some homemade treats of pumpkin cookies and chocolate banana bread.  All told we spent, with four of us clearing snow that just kept shaking from the sky and piling up in the driveway, eleven hours between us.  It was not easy, my muscles in my back and shoulders and arms today are reminders of the hard work from yesterday.  By the day’s end, I knew I would appreciate some strong medicine that would calm down my aching muscles, so I mixed up a medicinal Whiskey Sour, chilled and shaken.  Between exercise and a walk and a Whiskey Sour, I slept well.

Upon awakening at 5:00 a.m. this morning, I looked through a clearing on the snow matted screened bathroom window to see a sliver of a moon, a bright silver crescent like a beacon in a dark early morning sky.  The sky was quiet and serene, my heart feeling the same.   When I awoke again, the clouds from the day before were gone, the massive powerful lake effect system had shifted and the sun was just rising on a magical world, quiet and just waking up.  I feel as if I were seeing the sun in a new way, with such precision, for the first time in my life.  I feel awakened and touched with the promise of a new day, another chance to be alive.   I feel the good and genuine love that has touched my life this year through the beginning of a new relationship.  I feel a sense of coming home to my own heart while touching the heart of another.  I feel the gratitude of having witnessed the maturity and wisdom of my teenage sons as they grow up and out into the world and take care of things.  I feel a sense of forgiveness for the hurts caused by and toward me.  I feel that no moment is too small to pay attention to and that all moments add up to a day in my life that adds up to a lifetime.  I feel and realize that chances are handed to us over and over to really engage in our lives and to reach out to the world and others in it with open hearts.  I truly feel appreciation for everything and one in my life, including minor and major annoyances, since they all remind me of my aliveness.

Returning to the way I began this essay, with a choice between a mindset of deficit versus abundance, I realize that I have the ability to pick up the phone and call someone, or text, and share experiences, that there is really no separation, it is only how we choose to think of our particular situation in the moment.  Also, I am surrounded by others, friends, family and neighbors, even strangers, and we are all in this together.  And, I feel gratitude for the abundance in my life, my children, my wonderful boyfriend with such a genuinely good and positive outlook, my friends and neighbors and family, my snow blower, gasoline, shovels, a kind and generous ex-husband, heat and electric, food in the refrigerator, my sense of humor, Facebook.  There is so much in our world when we notice the abundant goodness.


Tuesday, the snow day, helped me reflect on how very appreciative I am for my situation.  I have a very good life, and I am grateful.  When the panic set in yesterday, I was reminded by so many in my life and the natural world around me to stay present, to relax into the moment, to surrender and to keep moving forward.  And the sun today reminded me that that the storm will end and the sun will keep on rising and shining.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

THE MOON OVER MANHATTAN

The moon over Manhattan
This is your reality
I just require a road map
An emotional picture
A sense of direction
For what's happening to me
Explain to me that chemical reaction 
When we connect with another human being
When we Fall in love
We take ourselves up to the top of the mountain
Then, knowingly, hurdle ourselves off
Trusting the free fall
The sensation of floating downward
All the while plummeting to the bottom
The rock solid ground below
Here in this busy city of movement
Frenetic energy unleashed
The pace is hyper-speed
All I can do is think of you
And continue this fall


Written October 8, 2002
Dedicated to Maureen

Saturday, October 5, 2013

On The Spot



 

All of life, every single moment offers a choice to be fully present and on the spot.  Each breath is a leap of faith.  Every moment and every breath of our life have two things intimately in common; they are all beginnings and endings, births and deaths.  Each moment we continue on, we are counting on a world to embrace us to hold us to support us to hold us, and the expression, “Place the fearful mind in the cradle of loving kindness,” may seem like an easy thing to say or something that makes no sense because the world may feel too aggressive and on fire and testy and speedy.  How can we rely on this? Why do we so resist this?  However, taking just a single moment.  To pause.  To stop.  To take a breath.  To feel the in breath as the ever present supply of oxygen nourishes all of our insides moving out to our limbs and feeding each and every last cell in our bodies. 

Each summer my sons and I give ourselves a gift of eight days full of moments to simply be.  We travel to northeastern Vermont to a retreat center, Karma Choling, and experience with 220 others adults and children what it feels to live in an enlightened way.  Society or community begins with two people.  And when each person is relatively aware of their own mind and heart and being, the relationship can be rich and supportive and open. 

This is what the family camp experience is built upon.  Some camp in tents, some stay in the lodge, some of the teens stay together each night in what they call the “Pav.”  This was our third summer camp experience and the first year my eldest son did not stay in our family tent pitched in the upper meadow on the mountainside.  I am not sure I ever even thought to miss him.  I knew he was doing exactly his own thing.  Being his own self and having his own camp experience. 

And this gave me and my younger son, who is twelve and a half, open space to just be together.  Just a sentence or two about the condition of my heart this past summer.  I had just experienced an ending of a relationship.  I felt like a bird with a broken wing.  Beginning the camp experience crying my eyes out, I was clinging to an idea or wish that the other person would do what I thought he needed to do to make himself available to me.  This was a view that was simply creating more internal suffering for me.  So after about three days of intense suffering, I let my camp friends know that I was hurting, and I let the love in the meditation room, in the camp and in the teachings hold me like a newborn babe as I cried my heart whole again. 

By day four, with eyes red and swollen, and a heart broken but still beating, I was ready to be at camp, to open my heart no matter how broken and battered it felt.

On this same day, five parents and more than ten teenage and tween age kids carpooled over to the notorious train bridge jumping spot. It was a quintessential snapshot moment of Americana, a placid lazy Vermont river, an old last century train bridge, and ten teens and tweens standing on the edge of the train trestle poised but not quite ready to jump. 

Six girls and four boys stood on the precipice taking their time before their leap to the cool water below on an early August summer camp afternoon.  The parents waited on the river’s shore gazing up at our children aware of their tentativeness as they considered their jump.  And at some point, one of us, or perhaps collectively, we heard a train’s distinct whistle as it chugged its engine and cars down the track straight toward our children on the very bridge it would be traversing in less than a minute.  We awoke to the sound and snapped to paying attention to the reality of the present moment.  Our children stood, ostensibly oblivious, on the edge of the bridge’s train track in the path of this approaching train.  The moms were the first to react shouting up in our higher pitch voices “Jump.” “Jump.” Jump!”  Finally one of the dads, in his deep baritone voice, hollered the definitive “JUMP!” followed by a resounding chorus and urgent appeal of all the parental voices, “JUMP!!!” 

There was no mistaking the on the spot urgency of the adults below, and, as if on cue, the children began to throw their young bodies from the bridge.  It could not have been choreographed more elegantly.  As if a scene from the 1980s coming of age film, “Stand by Me,” first one, then two, then all plummeting into the river below.  Not one remained atop that bridge as the train chugged over that same bridge our children had just been standing only moments before.  One by one they swam over to the shore.  Reflecting back, not one of our youth froze and panicked.  They were all ready to react as the situation called for, being “on the spot” so to speak.  That “Stand by Me Moment” is indelibly inscribed I am certain on all the moms and dads standing on that river’s edge in the warmth and light of that sweet August afternoon.  What can that moment offer us in the way of a life teaching, of being poised and ready in our day to day lives of taking an authentic, on the spot leap of faith?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

IT IS TRUE


 
It is true

There’s no need of convincing

A heart is true

When it is given away

It is true

My heart’s a home

In your embrace

Tight and spacious

I realize

It is true

That with love

It is how I feel

Not what I know

It is true

When you die

My heart will break

Into a million pieces

And little seeds

Will disperse over the whole world

It is true

That this love will spread vastly

To every corner

And the light of love

Will sprout watered by you

It is true

It is good

Not too good to be true

Rather good because it is true

Leap of Faith


September brings crisp definition to life.  Even as life begins its transformation, its descent into and toward death, the sun continues to warm the inhabitants of this northern hemisphere of earth.  I ride along the same route, with my eldest son, who is now a go-pro photographer with his own You Tube channel, and posting with the appropriate hash tag to get his work noticed.

We ride, he shoots video, and I steadily quiet inside myself.  My good calm mind watches the clouds pass, the leaves come away from their branches which they have hung onto all summer long, and my thoughts and feelings and emotions are as effervescent and fleeting as everything in this preciously and reliably impermanent world of ours.  There is relief in that realization.  There is also a mix of sadness and joy. 

Just as in love, which is as dependably impermanent as all of it, there is the resonant pain and pleasure.  This year brought so much to light for me, and uncovered a groundless strength inside of me that is ageless and reliable.  I have come to realize the profound truth of living in the impermanence of the moment -- even if love turns to pain, remember it started out as love.  And when it comes to love, there is small mind love and there is vast love, true love.  That is the love that remains, the love that always was, and the infinite goodness that connects us to the All.  That reminds us of our universal connection, that our separateness is only a perception. And that perception can be mighty convincing for sure at times.   

When we decide to love another, when all the stars align to bring two humans together, and they find there is chemistry, as well as a karmic connection, the sparks fly and the only thing for certain is that it will continue on until it is over.  

Loving is for certain about taking a leap of faith.  I like to think of the many loves in my life and how they have enriched my existence.  There are small loves and big loves, and they are all pearls on the bracelet of my life.  In love we experience both joy and pain.  Whether intentional or not, when someone hurts us, we experience so many emotions.  Some of these emotions seem to happen simultaneously, but actually what is happening is a firing of reactions within our mind.  I know what goes on for me is this.  I start to fixate on dates and sequence of events when things are beginning to fall apart in a relationship.  The memories of the relationship and time spent together start jumping back in to my mind. I sequence the events together trying to make sense of the pain I am feeling by remembering exact dates and days and hours even.  I am not sure if this is a coping mechanism or just a part of the way my logic or proclivity to make sense of the world mathematically manifests itself as I go through the struggle to unhook emotionally from someone.  Observing, noticing, becoming aware can help me make sense of the difficulty I am encountering, and actually move through the pain.  I have learned that leaning in to the difficult emotions actually speeds up the healing process, and this is good.

Here is what I know. I have experienced a few big heartbreaks in my life.  There were some smaller ones, some moments or time periods of panic thinking that I couldn’t make it alone, that I was being abandoned.  Thankfully somewhere along the line, in space, in my life, I realized I was on a good path, and that working with my mind was not only an option but a necessity. 

This summer which I have cleverly labeled the “summer of my discontent,” I ended a relationship.  It was a big heartbreak.  A hunch I had, a suspicion I carried and was expressed in the way my body felt, was confirmed and I felt broken when the truth was revealed about the deception within the relationship.  I felt like a damaged bird.  In fact my broken wing was not only symbolic and emotional, it manifested physically.  My body has been healing from an injury of my left shoulder blade and neck and back.  My story offers a quality of redemption and resilience, since this is not a story of a victim, but of an alive warrior in this world. I know now that when we experience moments of profound pain, that if we can meet these moments with an openness, even one that feels as if it might break us, then unconditional confidence and gentleness and boundless compassion for ourselves is available and will help us move through any heartbreak.  Just consider for a moment the human stories that have moved you the most in your life.  These great struggles of human suffering that, when met with grace and truth and complete honesty, are the stories of human resilience and true bravery of the heart. 

True bravery is when we feel suffering and we are in pain, and are able to meet it, feel it in our body and do not try to either run away or repress it or lash back.  It is when we stand resolute in our human moment of whatever we are experiencing, having a trust in the knowing that the storm will blow over eventually.  The awareness that just like every cloud that has ever formed in the sky above has for time immemorial dissolved into open blue sky and that we can rely on that and let it hold and comfort us.  We are all living in space and time, and the passage of a stream of moments will bring relief and the sun is still shining even behind the storm clouds.

When my heart broke this summer, I cried, the tears flowed and flowed and I did not try to stop them.  I let the dam break and the water crest over some emotional levy.  And remembering past heartbreaks that I had weathered, I knew and trusted that the deep achy dry pain would pass if I really allowed myself to feel, to feel and not be awkward or embarrassed about any of it.  This was the kindest thing I could offer myself.

In love and the decision to love again, we must take a leap of faith full well knowing that pain and heartbreak are a component in the love equation.  True love lasts though even when the relationship is over.  It is the love we offered and put out into the world.  The opening of our heart and offering of love to another, to the world, is healing.  It heals the deep brokenness that has defined our world for millennia.  But there is a slow and steady growing awareness that the world is changing, the world and the people in it are waking up.  And awakened beings have a responsibility to stay awake, and just by being awake make a difference as a noticeable radiance is emitted into the world.  We don’t need to talk too much about it, just be this radiant open goodness.  Trust and follow in this openness, just like a flower is first a seed then growing to a beautiful fragrant lovely colorful being, it moves the world and the heart just by being what it is at its core. 

I realized as I rode these country roads through the end of summer crisp evening air with my lovely teenage son, that we are all called to be part of a team.  I see us as a team of humanity at this moment on earth.  And I realize that loving and being open to loving again is who I am.  It is my essence, it is the way I impact and change my world.  I love. That’s what I offer, love.  And that it is not so much as what we know about another as it is about how we feel with another.  Loving others and finding out more about me is just the way I interact and experience my world.  I may be more aware after this experience of my last heartbreak, I may be more patient and pay more attention and listen more acutely and spaciously to myself, but I will open myself and heart again since I know no other way to deeply experience this good world of ours.