Sunday, October 24, 2010


Time alone. I dressed for my workout.

My lower back twanged as I pulled the sports bra over my head. I felt it with my hand, rubbed a little, and my back asked me to bend. So I carefully bent forward, fingers splayed on the ground, and nudged my hips back and forth until I could feel the stretch gently tug whatever was tight in there loose. I held that for awhile, core muscles pinch-hitting to let the hamstrings and glutes relax into the pose.

Of their own accord, my hands began crabbing forward, biceps and triceps called into action and ready for service. My core muscles guided me into a Downward Dog, but I was fidgety. Lots of little things felt out of place. I shifted in place, engaging hidden muscles I didn't realize I could engage, relaxing others I hadn't known were holding tight. It felt as though an army of tiny mechanics roamed my body, finding imperfect alignments and musculature, making subtle shifts to correct them. I held the pose as my arms started to ache, observing my body rock a little this way, twist a little that way, shift and shake into position.

I felt a faint rope of warmth from the base of my skull, down my neck, behind my spine, into my pelvic floor, and with each shift my body took, the rope felt more tangible. Everything hung from it. As my arms tired, I moved forward on my hands, ending in a Plank pose that soon modified to Cobra. Slowly, I sank to the ground, my arms and legs stretched away from my torso, my face (unfortunately) in the carpet. I felt invisible hands pulling my fingers and heels, lightly shaking my arms and legs and then pulling again, until my spine had space to breath and relaxed its grip on itself. A wave shook down my spine, and it settled into gravity.

Gently, the invisible hands picked up my right arm and left leg. My core muscles jumped forward, anxious to do their part. First, however, they had to shift around a little, figure out which ones should engage. The little guys wanted some action, so I tried to let the side muscles shift their position so that the lower and mid pelvic muscles could play a bigger role. Under-used muscles in my arms and shoulders proudly stepped forward to assist the invisible hands in lifting, holding, and achingly slowly lowering my arm/leg opposites. Like very restrained swimming, my arms and legs hardly left the ground. Muscles so long overlooked had grown weak and lazy. It felt good, and also painfully difficult, to keep them in action.

I felt my neck pinch. Oh, boy. Do I have time to deal with my neck? I wanted to work out. Okay, I thought, I'd better or it will haunt me.

Still lying face down, I reached around behind my neck. Using one hand to stabilize the right side, my fingers began exploring my left neck for the source of the pinch. I closed my eyes and let my body take over. Sure enough, my hand started finding places to rub, press, stretch, hold, rock, and even knuckle. I lay on my side, my eyes closed, groaning and whimpering in response to my own neck massage, and it felt like freedom. My hands were radiating. My cats circled.

I sat up, and shook myself into sitting alignment. My head ached a little. The unappreciated masses of facial muscles that keep me in check all day, every day, were demanding some time to play. I started stretching my face into hideous configurations. I opened my mouth as wide as it would go, stretched it sideways and crossways. I pursed my lips up against my nose. I sucked in my cheeks. I rolled my eyes into my head, stretched the skin across my forehead and jiggled it up and down. I rolled my cheekbones backward and forward. How my face loved to play! It rewarded me with a laugh that rose from my belly and echoed in the room for my ears to enjoy.

But as I was stretching my face, new problems arose. That jaw again! Which of my thousand ticks is it that keeps putting my jaw out of alignment? Irritated, I realized I would have to work inside the mouth. My left hand propped open my teeth with my thumb and index finger acting like a car jack. With my right index finger, I reached to the back of the gumline, and massaged inward into the inner chin behind the jaw. Slowly, I centimetered my way along until I hit a tender spot. Ah, there it is. I pressed gently, and used my thumb on my cheek to ease the jaw just subtly, slightly left. It barely moved, but it was enough. I held it there, and rearranged the muscles in my lower face, neck, and upper chest around it. I relaxed the muscles in place, and let go. The jaw seemed better.

From Lotus, which I had assumed without noticing, I shook out my shoulders, reaching to knead out the crunchy muscles across my back. I leaned my head against the cradle of my bent-back arm, and held myself tenderly while I rubbed. It felt so good. I moaned a little.

Oh, no, I thought, I'm not getting into shoulders. I simply do not have time! I raised my head.

Time. Right.  

Well, body, are you happy? There's no time for a workout now. 

I check in with my body. Yes, she's happy. We're good.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Nature of Truth (a humble beginning)

We want truth to be...
broken into bite-sized chunks

We want to own truth. We want to give truth, or at least share it. We want to tell truth, receive truth, believe truth. We try to find it like it's lost. 

Truth does not belong to anyone.
Truth does not lend itself out.
Truth does not hold its shape to be passed around.

If anyone promises you the truth, they are already a liar, by accident or design. 

Truth may be glimpsed in moments, pieces, through lenses. It shimmers and moves, surrounds and encompasses, abandons and crushes, soothes and burns. Like a phantom, truth dissipates out of our senses as soon as we notice it.

Touching on truth is like tapping your finger on still water - it disrupts the illusion of solidity. Claiming truth is like predicting the weather without instruments. Naming truth names only our experience of its wake. 

Truth evades capture. It belongs to no one. We belong to it. 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A call from the darkness I saw coming as it begins to pass

What can I say that you don't already know?

What can I offer of my heart that is not already in your heart?

Does recognition help?

I lose my way. I let myself down. I become overwhelmed with disappointment in my nature. I've entered the fray and opened my mind and heart as far as I'm able. The wicked wind buffets me, whipping my vulnerability with shards. I shake my head and try to see more clearly while the sludge creeps through my synapses, obscuring and dragging. That moment of clarity, so dearly bought and so easily ridiculed. That moment of peace shown for wishful thinking in a world of impossibility. My meager achievements and points of pride, slid away down the chute on a roll of a die I cast with my own hand. Again and again.

These cycles, they bring me here sooner and sooner. And so far, they bring me out each time when I'm ready. I see their colours coming, I feel their subtle probes, and try to ready myself for creative destruction that precedes restoration (each time, I grasp for hope that this is so). As I learn to observe what I feel and how I feel about what I feel, I come closer to accepting myself with love. Again and again.

So often, she sings me back. Musical Accompaniment from Queen Kate.
Kate Bush Sat in Your Lap

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Aftermath (if you're interested)

This post is a postscript to tonight's earlier muddling-out-loud Bad Mom post so you might want to read that first. Also, this is likely only interesting to people who are also dealing with 4 year old masterminds.

So tonight, after he got back from swimming (and I'd had a chance to stew my own juices out) ...

I tried to give him a hug, but he was squirmy. I asked him what was going on, and he was mad because I'd said no to a third bagel and suggested nuts instead. We had a pretty good conversation about the body, its needs, nutritious mix, and he reluctantly settled back into my arms.

Then the following conversation, which I am transcribing as closely as I can.

I said: I'm worried.

He said: Why?

I said: Because at school this week, you hit other kids and stole a toy. And you lied to me.

He said: Oh.

We sat for awhile.

I said: What could we do?

He said: Maybe, don't tell lies?

I said: Yes, that would really help. If you only tell me true things, I can believe you. That's one thing.

He said: Number two - don't hit!

I said: That's harder. Sometimes it's hard not to hit when you're mad.

He said: Yeah.

I said: What will you do when you want to hit?

He said: Um, stomp my feet?

I said: Good! You might want to tell your teacher that's what you're doing. Do you need help with that?

He said: No, I can tell her.

I said: Is there anything else?

He said: Don't steal.

I said: Yes, stealing isn't fair. How do you think that boy felt when you took his toy?

He said: I don't know. Sad?

I said: How would you feel if he took your toy?

He said: I would be so mad!

I said: Was he mad?

He said: No. I don't know.

I said: Do you think maybe you could tell him you're sorry to took his toy?

He said: Yeah. But I'm shy.

I said: Yes, it's hard to say you're sorry. It's up to you, but it would be a good thing to do.

He said: I'll try.

I said: So what are the three things?

He said: Only say what's true. Um...I forget number two

I prompted: No...

He said: Hitting! No hitting!

I said:  And number 3?

He said: No stealing.

I said: You'll have to work hard to remember.

He said: If I forget, will you hate me?

I said: I will never hate you.

He said: Okay. (he settled more comfortably in my arms)

I said: I will always love you. Even if I'm mad I will never hate you. I love you no matter what.

He said: Thanks, mom. Maybe I'll have some nuts now.

So, we'll see.

Bad Mom (again, still)

My son started junior kindergarten a few weeks ago. I had vague concerns about this particular child in the public school system, but he'd adapted pretty well to daycare, so I told myself it would just be an extension of that.

It's not.

He's floundering. He's getting aggressive with other kids and the teacher. He's lying to me and to the teacher, often insisting in the face of contrary evidence. Yesterday he stole another child's toy and brought it home, claiming it was a gift. Today I sent it back with him. Tonight he admitted the theft without any provocation from me, and without any apparent remorse. In fact, he told me that he was telling me so that I would know that he wanted this toy so badly he had to steal it. It was, in fact, my fault, and I should buy it for him so he wouldn't have to steal. All with tears and whiny, expectant tone. Oh, yes, my boy is clever in averting responsibility.

These are all new behaviours. He's always had a temper and we've been working on explosive responses his whole life, so he's actually got some skill in dealing with them (at least at home). But stealing, lying - these are not explosive behaviours. These are selected behaviours in a rational state of mind. These are the behaviours of a powerless person attempting to take power or gain notice, enacted throughout history by powerless people, everywhere.

So I jump first to feeling guilty. I haven't been available to him. I've been incredibly busy with work, in and out, allowing other family to take most of the day-to-day with the kids for the past two weeks, just as he was working through this transition. I left him to deal with his powerlessness on his own, possibly even feeling abandoned by me. Right. You know by now how I work on myself.

See, what's really bothering me is this: one thing public school does is teach kids just how little power they have as people. Which is why I don't want him there. But.

But I took this job in non-profit. As a result, my salary is not more than half of what it was, which means we can't afford the bilingual school. For free, our choices are either public school or French public school. So it's 20 four-year old kids to one teacher, instead of 14:2. It's full French curriculum, instead of learning in both languages. And for him, it's being institutionalized in a rigid system designed for the most common denominator. instead of an individualized learning program. Every week-day for pretty much his entire childhood, since I work and summers will just be more day programs run out of schools.

I know that my child does not stand his best chance in this system designed and engineered for efficient processing of mediocrity. It's my choice for myself that has made it our only real option. Understanding the ramifications of that choice, now that more than a year has gone by and he's actually starting school, opens a well of sorry.

So I can lament it, and I do. More than I care to say.

And I also need to figure out how to help him feel like a human being, deserving of respect and love, even as he must relinquish a lot of his power to the system that controls his days. Oh, and convince him not to hit, lie and steal.

This feels very hard.  I think I need a hug.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hiding in the woods (just the beginning)

When I was in grade 4, our class went to Bronte Creek forest for an "eco-adventure." Each child was given an animal persona and a bracelet of "lives." There were herbivores (5 lives), carnivores (3 lives), and the teacher was "man." Most of us would be herbivores, and I desperately hoped I would not. But what other assignment would a teacher think to give someone like me, who seemed so quiet? I was a rabbit.

Herbivores were sent out into the forest with a 10 minute head start. The idea was for us to run around, find the "food" stations and gather up tokens for our bracelets through the course of the exercise. Carnivores, who came next, could take our lives by tagging us.

Desperately, we vulnerable herbivores ran around for 10 minutes trying to gather food and find a place to hide. Suddenly, we heard them crashing through the woods, whooping - the carnivores were coming! Panicked, we scattered. I was chased by a rather large boy (wolf), tripped over a root, and he landed on top of me. He grabbed one of my lives and took off. As I nursed my ankle, another carnivore ran up and took my life. I only had 3 left.

I hobbled to hide behind a pile of sticks, and I heard something inside. I was afraid, but I snuck around and found 3 other herbivores holed up, hiding inside what was clearly the abandoned living space of a larger animal than we were meant to be. They reluctantly let me in.

We listened to the terrifying sounds of our fellow herbivores being chased and losing their lives to the exuberant carnivores. We realized that we didn't have enough food tokens, but we were all too afraid to leave our "safe place." We piled what we had and split it evenly. One boy offered to take the first turn in getting more - when he didn't come back, we were all too afraid to be next. We spent most of the exercise there, wide-eyed with fear, not collecting food tokens, waiting out the game knowing we'd already lost. When the carnivores found us, we each lost two lives, and we realized that we weren't safe after all.

With my last life, I wandered deeper through the woods where the sounds of the others grew faded. I didn't collect food tokens. I hid from anyone I heard - I didn't take a chance on finding out if they were actually carnivores. The woods were dark and damp; I noticed the noises of the other kids and all I thought was, I hope they don't find me.

I heard shouting on a megaphone. Assuming the game was finished, I headed towards it, only to discover that the megaphone was Man. Man didn't need to tag us to take our lives - Man just had to name us. I handed over my last life, and I'll tell you, it was a relief.

Sometimes I wonder - am I living my life holed up in a pile of sticks that was never meant for me, waiting out the game knowing I've lost, afraid to venture forth in a world stacked against me? Is the alternative wandering alone, hiding myself from strangers, hoping I won't be caught? Or walking towards my ultimate demise thinking it's the path to safety, no longer caring if I'm out of the game?

I don't even know where to go with this line of thought.

(I've borrowed the photo from Vanilve)