MAYD to Birth: At Your Doorstep

Promoting gentle, empowering mother journies…

Reading Jean Vanier’s ‘Becoming Human’…

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“To live well is to observe in today’s apparent order the tiny anomalies that are the seeds of change, the harbingers of the order of tomorrow.  This means living in a state of a certain insecurity, in anguish and loneliness, which, at its best, can push us towards the new.  Too much security and the refusal to evolve, to embrace change, leads to a kind of death.  Too much insecurity, however, can also mean death.  To be human is to create sufficient order so that we can move on into insecurity and seeming disorder.  In this way, we discover the new.”
I found this passage both timely and relevant to my time spent “sitting in the dark” and embracing the paradox that grieving IS living…don’t ask me to explain that remark just yet but some of you will have an immediate, intuitive grasp of what I mean.  In going deeper, in moving beyond my fear of actually feeling the cumulative losses and grief of recent years, I’m finding that I feel more alive, more connected to all that life is, and can be.  There’s a beautiful, steady hum of vitality and energy in each day that I’m recognizing, or owning, as mine.  I’ve been experiencing steady relief from the sense of the day ahead being something that must be “faced” and more as an abundant, verdant sea of possibilities.  It’s truly wonderful to not wake up in the morning with the mantra “What cannot be cured, must be endured” attached to my view of life!  
Jean Vanier is a French, Roman Catholic layman and founder of L’arche, an international network of communities for people with intellectual disabilities.  He’s done more than anyone I can think of to articulate a vision of humanity that has, at it’s center, a concern for the common good that radically alters the way we do community, relationships…life.  He believes that it is in embracing those who are “different”, those regarded as weak, inferior or “other” that leads to a true personal and societal freedom; I agree!   I’ve been reading this new revised edition of his 1998 book ‘Becoming Human’ and it’s an absolute treasure!  I’m also whetting my appetite to read the latest ‘Number One Ladies Detective Agency’ book by Alexander McColl Smith which I purchased some weeks ago and now have packed away in my book bag to take on vacation in three weeks; these are splendid little reads with a wonderful female protaganist named Precious Ramotswe, a “traditionally built” Botswana lady who became a Private Detective after her beloved Father’s death because she “wanted to help people with their problems”.  The books were recently adapted to a new HBO special by the same name which is not to be missed!  I’ve been reading the series since the late 1990′s when they were first published and I look forward to each new installment; terrifically fun reads for women, in particular.
Beyond that, the Corn is now about a foot high, my Romaine is at the “baby lettuce” eating stage, the Pea vines are thickening with tiny blossoms making themselves ready and the garden looks green and lush after a couple of days of coolish temperatures and some very nice rain.  I’ve been seeing and talking with good friends, transplanting herb and vegetable seedlings and staying still.  It’s a lovely endeavor, staying still ~ I highly recommend it!  
And that’s the update!
Enjoy!
Michelle.

Spring Fling~ All the Things I love about this Time of Year

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Howsabout all of it!  I love the weather–a little cool, a bit warm, hot, rainy, balmy then cold.  I love the smell of things growing outside.  I love that I can BE outside, often, wandering in the yard.  Popping my seedlings into the garden.  Checking on the Trilliums to see if they’re still hanging around ( they  are, by a thread, but still there and still pretty ) and Mary and I get to take our “wheelchair walks” around the neighborhood and into town, which she loves doing and longs for during the winter months; wheelchairs are not so good on snow!  I keep thinking that someone ought to invent “snow tires” for wheelchairs ( my greatest regret in this life is my utter lack of mechanical ability or sense, for that matter.  I can’t even close up one of those gift boxes with tab A into slot B…I’m not kidding…ask my kids ) especially for young children with disabilities.  It’s hard on her being the only kid who can’t just fly out the door and tumble into the snow.  We find ways to make it work for her, though.  A ready favorite every year is setting her up on the wooden sled while she helps Hugh build the big snowman we try to have every year at least once.  Hugh is a snowman artist, let me tell you…these are not ordinary snowmen!

I love the dawning promise, for me, of the month of May.  I know that my several trips to the UP are upon me as well as the trip out West during July to see Mary’s Doc’s there.  I have come to love Hannibal Missouri.  The home of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer?  Yeah, you remember.  Mark Twain was born and raised there and it’s the most delightful little town, nestled on the banks of the Mississippi, tucked down in the bluff, the perfect American town to celebrate the 4th of July in; just perfect!  They have a big fireworks display over the the great River itself and the town, even filled to the brim, doesn’t “feel” full.  You can easily find a place to drop your blanket and sit down and watch and there’s a great view from anywhere!  I even spent some time walking around town and still caught every gorgeous explosion over the water.  Just a great place!
I love Spring and the new life all around; I just do.  Through all the changes of my life, through this rather challenging midlife passage, I still find that my essence, my true self, remains unchanged in the way I respond to the blessings, beauty and preciousness of this life. 
I’m heading back to the UP today to pick up our boys!  They’ve been working hard and I had the most poetic, lovely post from my friend at the Resort this morning, telling me how well they had both worked, and how delightful all of it has been for him.  That just made my heart sing; in fact, it made my day (thank you Jay).   So, onwards and upwards.  
Be a blessing to someone else today.  Find the beauty in your life and let it spill over onto someone else who needs it.  Encourage someone who is down and troubled.  Try to see the good in everyone you meet.  The time is short…we all need the shelter of each other.
Your Kneelingwoman.

Sitting in the Dark~ Learning to Live with Paradox

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During my Retreat over this last weekend, one of my fellow interns described this last year as one of “contradictions and paradox” and I found myself nodding in agreement and feeling a sense of relief that someone else had been able to so succinctly summarize my experience through their own.  It’s been a year of deep, abiding change.  There are areas of my life that I’ve had to face and deal with. There are relationships that I have tried to hang onto, in spite of feeling for long stretches, that they weren’t growing, or healthy.  I’ve been on a very fast track academically, spiritually and emotionally; I’ve read more books, and written more papers and done more “stretching” in these areas than at any other time in my life that I can recall.   The only “slow track” has been physical–my exercise routine took a real beating but I’ve rebounded there and in truth, the long break from hard work-outs and long runs was needed rest.   The Retreat and time “Up North” were both relaxing, revitalizing and perplexing yet I found myself, by Tuesday afternoon, landing in a very dark place; dark for me, anyway.  I was doing a lot of journaling and reflecting on the realization that I just don’t have the energy I used to have for so many things.   Primarily in the area of my relationships with others, I’ve noticed that I’m having to streamline; to prioritize those people and connections that are balanced and equally valued by both parties ( and if you’re reading this, assume you are one of those; if you read my blog, you are a “contributor” so, rest easy as you read the rest of this ).   I’ve learned so much through this internship about how to pay attention to the deepest desires and feelings in my own heart ( the better to help others hear them in theirs ) and how to really know when something is good for me, and helps make the world a better place, and when something is just draining away life energy and leaving me less available for other things that are more life affirming and productive in the sense of creating more love, joy, peace and hope. 

 A couple of times, during the last few days, someone would say something– a comment would be made that was loaded to the brim with the kind of passive-aggressive side-swiping that I’ve learned to immediately mistrust and move away from, and I had to really notice my pulling away, and how that felt.  In another instance, I had discovered that someone had lied to me, or misled me, about something important and then I had to face the fact that something had to be confronted, and changes had to occur in how I lived into that relationship, and that person.   Learning to listen with the heart, and to listen deeply, means having to take responsibility for the decisions made in the wake of such findings.  The paradox and contradiction, for me, lies in knowing that there are people and situations that are never going to be amenable to growth or change; some relationships have to be surrendered AND, sometimes, we have to surrender in the sense of letting go of whatever a relationship was in the past; the place where presumably, we think the relationship was “better” or “closer” and stay open to the possibilities in the future with that same person.  Closing out, letting go, of what we thought we knew can lead to an expansion in that relationship.  Sometimes it’s our clinging, or theirs, to our shared history and way of being in relationship that prevents growth and healthy change.  Endings are sometimes beginnings in disguise!   And sometimes, they are just endings, but only by sitting in the dark, with the pain and uncertainty, without “doing” anything, can we hope to discern which, and then know how to proceed and that kind of patient waiting is hard work and an acquired skill because our culture teaches us to act, to do, to “make it happen” and to avoid quiet stillness and contemplation of events.  We have to learn the art of sitting in the dark.
When we make the decision to just sit in the presence of our pain, or confusion, we spend a lot of time just staring at the immoveable object in front of us, contemplating only it’s reality, it’s presence, and not thinking about how maybe we really CAN move it; can make it go away.  If we continue our sitting, we soon discover that isn’t going anywhere and those feelings we all have of fear, sadness and darkness, have to be faced and lived with.  I no longer have the ability to run away from things, to bury myself in busyness and the lack of contemplation.  Once we know something, we no longer have the ability to NOT know.  I have learned to sit with reality, to pray with it, to, as my Spiritual Director says “Name it, Claim it, Own it and Re-Aim it”…I have no desire to live otherwise but I am very aware that everything has a cost, and the cost of deep self-awareness is taking  responsibility and owning the reality I’ve come to face.  I want, and need, relationships that are truly loving, passionate, real, creative and life-affirming.  I have many such, and I treasure each and every one.  I feel the difference in my body and soul when I’m with these people and I never find myself wondering what else I could be doing with my time ( a pretty good barometer of being in a relationship that needs some looking into ) or looking past them into later that day, or week, when I’ll be doing something else, with someone else.  Who needs that? What’s the purpose of staying in relationship with anyone you can’t be fully present for?
I think we all know people who have friendships, or relationships, or even marriages, where there is no life, no energy.  They plod along, complaining all the way about how the other person doesn’t pull their weight, or about how disappointed they are in who the other person turned out to be.  They say terrible things about people they claim to love and care for, or they subject these same people to petty, small minded criticisms about nonissues because they won’t speak to the real problems, concerns or fears that they have.  No one will take ownership of the relationship in the sense that they will step up to the plate and say “you know, this isn’t really working for me”.  People live in fear that letting go of what they think they have, facing being alone, or having to start over, or of having to sit in the dark for awhile and they choose, instead, a half-life or relationships that are devoid of any genuine love, honesty, good will, and intentionality and lacking these, any integrity.  There is beauty in truth.  There is a profound peace that comes from telling the truth to ourselves and those we care about, and in making clear decisions about how, or if, we can be in relationship with them.  There is also pain, yes, but nothing compared to the slow erosion, the nagging, aching pain that can consume us when we live for too long outside our truth.
So, that was my weekend!  The Retreat was wonderful and full of light and insight.  My time in the UP was equally infused with clarity and truth and of course, that special and always longed-for beauty that is the place itself.  I’ll be sitting in the dark for awhile; these things don’t move along with any real speed~but I’ll be thinking and writing as I go and hopefully, as the sun moves into it’s upcoming Solstice position, the light will shine and the darkness will lift and there will be more to say.  ’Til next time…
Your Kneelingwoman