Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Home and Away

It's been a very busy Spring. I'm continually amazed at how being a Domestic Goddess takes up so much time!

I've been working on a couple of business ideas, some with real promise, and helping a friend start one up. If he makes any money I might get a job out of it, sweeping floors or something. (grin)

I also have a screenplay I'm taking on, with a colleague. This let's me tackle writing in a way I haven't tried before - scenes and characters who (should) pop off the page.

The best part this week is spending Spring Break with my two oldest kids - wow do they still have the teenage affliction of being mouthy, sullen, insensitive and self-centered. BUT they are also great, caring kids, A students, and stubborn like their Dad, persistent like their Mom. It's fascinating to watch them gather strength to launch into the world, even if that means "slaying" the parental units.

If you've done any Freudian studies at all you know that it's a crucial stage in a child's development to cut those domestic ties, to rip themselves away from the shelter and love and safety (boring boring boring) of home and find their way.

I used to be plenty confused and offended to find that the Mother almost always dies in the fairy tale. But of course I was young and could not see how I should be dispensable in their lives, these progeny of mine, my heart, my life. What a terrible life, those poor children with no mother!

But indeed it is the force of my devotion that creates the need - no, the dire necessity - of their killing me off in every lovely fairy tale worth its salt. I have to be wise and giving, unselfish and dead.

No way around it. If Mom hangs around too long, how can the kid ever find out if they can make their way? If they can't test themselves against (choose one or more) the Witch, the Devil, the Evil Step Mother, the Deadly Trial with lots o' dark powerful characters, then how can they really grow up?

Please note that it is the Father - who often outlives the Mother and then falls into the arms of the next wicked woman he meets, perhaps out of survivor guilt - who then neglects the child woefully. So the devoted Mother dies, Dad gets all into his work and the kids, again, are left to fend for themselves.

But from somewhere there is always help. There is the Witch (probably actually a Midwife, something like Baba Yaga, who is said to help us thru both birth and death) who gives wise advice and instruction. In fact, if the Mother doesn't do the giving of some talisman (see Vassalisa) to keep the child safe, or some secret, then almost always another wise creature does. Of course could be a Wizard.

Speaking of which, Iron John is a personal favorite, and one of the best descriptions of this journey for boys who would become men.

Home and hearth then, in these stories, also represents the care and concern of family, and the confining space of walls that keep us in and bad stuff out. The Garden of Eden is a similar story. Heck, if Eve hadn't eaten the fruit, then Adam would have been a spoiled "mama's boy" all his life would have never left "home" to go build a house!

My question is this : if we have to leave home to find our way in the world, and parents are so intent on making a safe, inviting haven for the family, and kids have to fight to get out of it (the beginning of their true rite of initiation) then why do we anguish so much on where to raise kids?

Does it really matter if there is no extended family around? Do we have to stay in the same place their entire lives? Does the family hurt or help our efforts to raise strong healthy offspring?

I'm betting there isn't one right answer.

The matter of "Home" has been rattling around in my head since 2006 - well before I began to consciously consider moving back to Atlanta.

There was no doubt that this was where my roots lie - went to grade school here, high school in the suburbs, and then college up the road in Athens. Summers were often spent kicking around in the sands of south Georgia; Florida was my Mom and Dads' home state, with ancestral homes in Georgia and Tennessee.

The question of what role those "outlying" states of Florida and Tennessee would play in my life is very relevant to me right now. You see I have moved my children from Charlotte to St. Louis and now to Atlanta and Nashville.

Will 3-4 years in high school in Tennessee give my teenagers a very rooted sense of themselves there? I would guess if they go to college there, that would make sense. Does this bother me? Some.

If they choose Georgia Tech (oy vey!) or even University of Georgia (one of the great loves of my life) then Georgia would become more prominent to them, and Tennessee would fade to a satellite home, like Missouri, and North Carolina.

(sigh) Truth is there is no telling where they will go next. For now I just pace and notice that they seem not to listen to me AT ALL, and they are "older now", "things are different now" and they are pushing me into the role I saw my mother take many years ago: back seat.

LOL - and this serves me right. I made my parents sit down and let me figure it out for myself and by G-d my kids are not going to let me tell them what to do with their lives!

The funny thing, now that I'm on this side of the kitchen table, is I see that my parents never wanted to control me or even, egad "hold me back". I felt like I had to rebel, against the most reasonable parents in the world, because that's what we teenagers do!!

Um, those teenagers.

Now I can see that working two jobs in high school and college, while a badge of honor, also doesn't really define who I am. It's just who I was - it's what I did to get by. I floundered through adolescence and college like most everyone else.

And it isn't what I want for my kids. But they will have to flounder and learn to swim for themselves.

(I hope they go to the Grandparents for lessons, some wisdom and money to fund their great adventures :D )

Like them, I always thought my friends would last forever, and that well-off friends had it made. Great clothes, nice houses, and beautiful cars. They had tuition paid for and money for groceries.

Now I know that my two closest friends in high school had alcoholism and incest in their "safe" family homes. They just put a pretty face on it all.

My kids didn't get every thing I wanted for them - a white picket fence, farm chores, horses, parents who stayed married, a home town they could always come back to. But neither did I, except the horses. And they have choices I never had.

But they got fresh baked bread - a lot. And chickens and fresh eggs for a few years. There was a horse next door once, great for petting.

Now they get a Mom fighting them for control. They think the sword I bear is to slay them, while I know I'm going to have to let them sever a different umbilical cord.

It isn't worth much if it isn't hard won, this independence. But secretly I cheer them with gladiator whoops and yells when they aren't looking, and don't worry so much about where Home is or will be. It's where we all gather together.

Friday, March 7, 2008


Finally made them - came out great! I'd post a pic, but my camera is toast (lol)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Space, the final frontier

This morning I've been thinking about trauma, sparked by reading Reb Michael Lerner. He posits that the Jewish people must be treated as victims of extreme trauma in dealing with the Palestinian crisis. In order to have peace the entire world should acknowledge the reason Israel was created (world guilt at allowing the Holocaust) and how her people react still today is deeply influenced by the Holocaust. He goes on to say that the Palestinians must completely denounce violence as a means to their goals, and then peace is possible. (Here is a link to his writings - I think you may have to scroll down to find this specific topic.)

I told a friend the other day that hording things is from trauma. How many of us know someone from the Depression who suffers from this affliction? I have it myself to some degree. There was the chaos of growing up in tenous times, with uncertainty. There are also the simple losses that come with moving alot, things getting away from us. There is the iron fist of financial crisis that begets hording. Then there was the depression that floated around... a curious link to my Grandmother's past.

Anyway, I'm continuing to clear out the clutter in my life - going deliberately through boxes, letting go of all sorts of things. Letting myself keep things I don't need, but can't yet release. There are even boxes that just overwhelm me. What to do with the nicknack things that have no real value but a few tendrils of memory?

I am proud of myself for making progress. Each morning I do a little cleaning, a little sorting and unpacking, and some writing if possible. All this is creating a lovely space.

Usually I plan what is most pressing to get done, and look at my progress on the big stuff - business, connecting.... then I forge ahead. But making space for my head first helps.

Today I started thinking about spaces. About space in general and specifically. Here are the dots I connected ... and the sitting in just 5 minutes of mediation helped. Getting up early also allowed me more space in my morning.

Relationships are about space - the space between us... and how we handle coming together and pulling apart, being apart. If we keep a clean space between us, then resentments don't tear down the connection. And if we allow things to come between us, work, money, family, children, hobbies, we are cluttering up that space. But if we tend that space, like a garden, then we get beautiful things out of it. We thrive, individually, but so does the garden, a sacred space.

In physics there is a lot of speculation about what is between atoms, molecules, neutrons, nutrinos... etc. In fact the theory that a ball can be bounced through a wall is all about the space between lining up, those atoms could just be in the right place (probability says) so that a solid object could pass through another solid object. Because in fact no thing is solid. We are made up - everything is made up of mostly space.

We all know that neurons fire in our brains, triggering stuff. We make connections to remember things, and if a massive brain injury impedes our ability to make connections, our lovely mysterious internal systems work together to re-route functions through other parts of our brains....

We need brain space.

We need space.

My need for these varies from day to day, but certainly dreams are a cool space to play around in. Not quite reality, but not quite fiction.... hmmm...

In learning a specific writing technique years ago we were taught to ask a simple question. I won't call it by it's "technical" name (probably copyrighted) but will tell you the question (and most of the method).

As you were writing, meditatively, if an interesting word came up, you would follow that sentence with the question, "What do I mean by _____?" and then proceed to answer the question. For instance, if I used the word "space" and it caught my interest, I'd finish that sentence, and then write: "What do I mean by space?"

This would often lead to deeper understanding of the surface material - in other words you can find information just below the surface of your conscious mind if you give yourself a small pause in your "normal" writing. Write write write, pause, then go there, go go go, submerged for a bit, maybe for a while, then write write write.... pause, go, go go....

I should rename it the Manatee Method :)

But the point is that there is value in the small space created. That is the entire point of asking a seemingly mundane question, "What do I mean by?"

Finally, there is a practice I follow that encourages us to "wait for your second thought". What this means, when applied in our daily lives, is simply give yourself a small beat to notice yourself.

If someone cuts you off in traffic, your first thought could be pissed off, adrenal, and perhaps strike back! But if you let that second thought rise up, you might remember that it's more important to be safe, that it isn't about you (it is their problem if they can't drive like a civilized human, are begging for a heart attack or are just dazed and confused) and you don't have to take it personally.

Again, we are back to the space having value.

I thought my last example would be the above, because I use those pauses all the time and find it enormously helpful to keep silent rather than react. (Responding is good. Reacting is bad, unless you're bleeding.)

But I thought of one more cool place where space matters. In baking, the holes that are created in a loaf are very important for the bread to be light and delicious. That over all texture, of bread and space or holes, is called the "crumb". I've delighted in examining the crumb of my loaves for years, but didn't know what to call it until just a few years ago. Without the holes, you get dense, heavy bread. (This is fine, as long as that is what you were shooting for. I can make bread like that, the kind that got our forbearers through long road trips.)But it's nice to be able to do light too.

Now I'm off to launch into space, my body and energy and new thoughts.
ps. Anyone seen the movie, Holes? Cool flick

I have to admit to trying the Oprah class last night. Partly I had to see if the technology would work (yes, the geek factor kicked in) and partly because I was interested in the topic, evolution.

The book is "A New Earth". I haven't read it - have to take this sort of stuff in small doses, or my cynical side will squash any and all value for me, before I give it a chance to rise, bread-metaphorically. However I did start it. I did look at the worksheet, and got to the webinar early, etc.

All of this left me feeling a bit suckered when the video stream stalled then failed. Truly it was a remarkable attempt to webinar that size audience. As an email from Oprah at 3:20 this morning reminded us, they are proud to be on the technical cutting edge. That they are.
When I was in the IT enclave, we called it the bleeding edge. Shrug. So it didn't work. At least they tried. It's all about progress :D