As you know, because I have said it before, but let it be said again, the trifecta of holidays that is just round the bend has a certain concoction of pleasure, guilt and shame that really can put us through the wringer emotionally (who here has agreed with everything you hear coming out of your mouth while standing in the kitchen, still in your jammies, when the guests call to ask if they can come over early? Or who has paid for something with your credit card that you know you will regret later but it is easier to put that off by chirping, “Charge it!”), physically (staying up til all hours pouring over Pinterest to find the right craft idea for the gift that you haven’t made yet, but you are sure you can find something and whip it up-best work done is always after midnight, isn’t it,*bleary* counts?), spiritually (Oh please just know that I haven’t figured out how to navigate the holiday season without a ton of conflicting thoughts about what I believe. Boiling it all down to “gratitude” is helpful, but it does not stop the flow of tears when certain Christmas carols catch me off guard at the gas pump.)
To say that we need to apply gargantuan doses of self-care this season will only make some of us feel more overwhelmed. Who, really, can swim through these days without feeling compelled to overdo, overbuy, overcommit, over-invite, over-plan, overeat, overoverover? Women are so often the ones who make the holiday hoopla happen, while we partner with our mates, if we have one, to help pay for it all. Parents especially, feel taxed to do it all, and do it so our kids-know what?-what it looks like to over extend to provide an experience that will be so charged with grief that any goodness is wiped off the slate?
I just have a head full of steam this year to dial it back.
Make of your life a beautiful offering and live like you mean it. Like you are the gift. Not the overwrought gifts we make in the wee hours when really, we could be asleep, dreaming of sugarplums.
People who make stuff, creative people, people who are all reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s fantastic new book, are especially succumbing to the “I’ve got ten pair of hand warmers to knit in five weeks while finishing the first shitty draft of my book and with my left foot I will be stirring the quince jam” syndrome.
It is the syndrome of making everything for everyone and not making any time for myself.
Making stuff for other people is great.
We are all not my friend Benita who makes it in July.
She is the exception to this rule. I wager she has stuff wrapped already.
But for the rest of us, I wonder how we can dial back our doing and let ourselves find a few simple ways to stay present and well and real this holiday season?
How do I know when I am able to stay “present, well and real?”
When I get enough sleep, especially when I am in bed by 10 PM.
When my stomach is relaxed, excited is great, but not jammed up against my diaphragm making it difficult for me to take long slow deep breathes.
When I eat lunch at the table with a napkin. Not over the sink. Or in the car. Or at my desk browsing Amazon. Or not at all.
When I am looking in to other people’s eyes. This alone will be the source of so much more fun and connection than any picture you post on Instagram.
Make of your life a beautiful thing.
Then, if you want, share it.
But share it with the people who are right in front of you. Sometimes I wonder if we said to actual people what we say on Facebook or Twitter, what sort of shift would come about? Would your kids know more of you? Would your partner see what you appreciate better, and thus, know more of you? Would your sister see a side of you she hasn’t met in person? Would your pet see more than your iPhone camera pointing at them?
More eye and I. Less i.
I see you. Thank you. Yes.
This is my tiny prayer for this coming week of Thanksgiving and holiday artisan fairs and farmer’s markets and me boohooing over being a Thanksgiving orphan. We are making a meal here at my house for whomever shows up and the fun we have will rise up from that concoction.
If what happens is we take our plates out to the picnic table out back and watch the twilight fall by candlelight, eating with our gloves on, that would be deluxe. But whatever it is, it will be real.
I see you.
I am breathing easier already.
I hope you can find a way to do so also.
Thank you for showing up here on Laundry Line Divine.
a few more thoughts:
If you are curious about what to cook, go here.
For a really clear post about the difference between being “kind” and “nice,” go here.
If you are interested in fine-tuning your business life and upgrading your approach to making business art, please check out the Quest2016 here.
If you want start meditating this season, this is a good place to start.
Lastly, please share this post with your sister or your friend or someone you know who is starting to hyperventilate about the holidays. And then, go out for a walk. I will meet you there. xoS
What I started to write a few days ago but have not returned to because of Halloween and because of a large bodied young man loping around the house, is that Benjamin is feeling much better. (He is that loping guy.) Thank you for your prayers.
What I wanted to say a few days ago, but have been too timid to write it, is that I get so very worried about my kids I pray the paint off the walls, and though it makes me feel better, makes me feel that I am not the only one keeping the wheels on the car, all those random elements like drivers in correct lanes, flu viruses and recreational activities, blood composition and cranial vaults, hormones and integrity, will behave as they behave. Whether my prayers influence any of these things, I hardly really care frankly. My prayers help me, and so I pray.
But what do we do when, again, our community suffers the loss of another kid? This one a college freshman, walking home with two buddies back to campus, struck by a drunk driver. The kids were walking. The driver was drunk. And of the three young men, one is dead and two are seriously injured.
*Pause here to do what you do, light candles, kneel, look at a tree, fold your hands over your heart…for his sweet life ended, for his family. I don’t know them at all, but believe me, loss does not need proximity to be shared.*
Every single community in this nation wrangles with loss; tragic, mundane, daily loss. The varying levels of loss, the extreme violence that is generated by all the -isms at play in our society, and the school incidents we weep over, yet cannot find a way to curtail-all of these realities get run through the washing machines of our hearts. We take them in, all the details we can fit. We wash them with tears and ministrations, and we set them out again to dry. How howhow do we carry on?
This was the topic of our dinner conversation last night. My daughter, a high school senior, has philosophic leanings, just like her brother, and by virtue of proximity, my husband and me, too. We were considering something of the question of “what gets you out of bed in the morning, knowing, as you do because you are human, that you will die, if not today, some day, maybe sooner, maybe later. Why get up?” While this may sound morose, it digs pretty efficiently to the heart of the matter of what we makes each of us tick. And since my kids are old enough now to get them selves out of bed and in to their respective days, the answers become more and more interesting.
For me, it is a question of faith in goodness.
I grew up thinking it was God with a capital G, with a white beard and pearly gates and the Bible is a record of fact. I have come to believe a wider truth today. And because I am human and because I believe we are here for a reason and because I know the healing that comes to broken hearts because of the power of love, I get out of bed intent on loving bigger than I did yesterday. And praying to a power greater than myself helps me know how to do that.
I came upon this in Mirabai Starr’s book about Teresa of Avila:
if you want to make progress
on the path
and ascend to the places
you have longed for,
the important thing
is not to think much
but to love much,
and so to do
best awakens you to love.”
What best awakens you to love?
I trust that readers of Laundry Line Divine might answer this question in a myriad of ways. Yesterday, my she-ro Anne Lamott batted the question of faith and fear around in an excellent post, in which she concluded that in the face of all these odds, she would, “…flirt with every old lonely person I see,” along with a few other things to which I would add, “…go hang my wash out on the line in the sun and plant a few rows of garlic.”
I return to this question of faith over and over again. My Lutheran minister Grandfather seems to have a hand in this inner debate because he modeled for me a man of faith and consequence, an imperfect man doing what he believed to be God’s work, who left a lot of unfinished business in his wake, who, among other things, raised pigeons for lab research and grew lots of gladioli to sell (I guess), but who, towards the end of his ministry started to participate in Baptist services. The man was a seeker, a blustering red-faced pulpit speaker who just did not settle on one way of seeing things. I was too young to know more about him before he died. Much of what I know I learned by asking my mother and her siblings, but even they are not forthcoming with stories. I don’t think life with my Grandfather was easy.
But, this yearning to “love much” leads me to a theme I learned long ago in Al-Anon, the 12 Step program for families and friends of alcoholics. In those rooms filled with people of so many different faiths and religions, atheists and anarchists, the one common cup we could all drink from is gratitude. And it is through gratitude that I have found my way in to a prayer practice that connects me to spirit, that presence which comforts and preserves me outside of radiology rooms where my kid is being scanned or at my mother’s bedside where her breath slows to her very last. I can say thank you to every single human being, no matter what our language, religion or belief.
“If the only prayer you ever say in your whole life is “thank you,” that would suffice.”
I want to get to this because “thank you” is what leads me to loving much. Like Anne Lamott smiling at all the old people she sees while out walking her dogs in Marin County, I find that offering thanks in real time, in letters and cards, in phone calls, in person at the drug store, at the Doctor’s office, in the ER, saying thank you seems to be the connection point between humans. It is where smiles spring up.
So today, on this Monday, a cool but warm-in-the-sunshine fall day, I am so very grateful for Benjamin feeling better and an acupuncturist who could see him on a Sunday. I am grateful for each and every kid who showed up on our porch for tricks and treats on Saturday evening, especially the tiny ones who my son would kneel down to meet and treat instead of them encountering our scary-as-shit table prank that my Halloween collaborators and I cooked up. (see below) I am grateful for my husband being patient with me when I am not the most loving I could ever be. And I am grateful for him in the moments when he is doing his best, though not what I would have planned had it all been up to me.
I guess the point of this writing is this: The goodness and grace of daily life exists in all cases. When I tune my attention towards it, my ability to keep going is fueled, motivated-this force is generative and a certain salvation.
People get hurt. As William Stafford says in his luminous poem, The Way It Is:
“Things happen. People get hurt
or die, you suffer and get old,
Nothing you do can stop times unfolding.”
But, we get to wake up again on the next day and decide how to use our time, no matter what the prevailing conditions or our marital status or the laundry outlook,
we carry on.
How we carry on, in what state our hearts are, how connected we are to what is true and real and beautiful and whether or not we get to have our say about that, let alone perhaps make art in response to that, is exactly why I get out of bed in the morning.
I wake up curious.
Usually have to pee.
But once done, I am deeply attentive to the first signs of light.
We have entered the season of lists.
If you have had your fill of ten bests, three worst, or all the things I dream about condensed into seven bullet points, then this post is for you.
I will not be telling you any secrets to surviving the holidays.
I will not divulge just how it is that I already have an Advent wreath on my kitchen table, except to say, please don’t call it an Advent wreath until November 30. Until that date, it is a joyful Thanksgiving table decoration.
This post links to 16 days of action you can take about a very important topic. I move beyond Thanksgiving here. Forewarned is forearmed.
I cannot help but look back at Thanksgiving.
Mostly because it was in 1990 that I was guided by the angels, by my Al-Anon sponsor, by the hands of fate and maybe my long dead grandmother, to sit next to a very nice man who has since become my husband. But on that day, and ever since, JNB is one of the best conversationalists I’ve ever encountered, generous and curious, and he is also fervent dish-doer. Our friend Ted, husband of my sponsor, considers it is his doing that we are coupled these 24 years now, all due to a dearth of clean dishes after Ted’s preparation of a meal for many Thanksgiving orphans, like me. We stood, Ted, JNB and I, in a postage stamp kitchen, three-part-harmony, doing all those dishes. I dried.
This year on Laundry Line Divine has had many highlights.
Here are links and highlights because while you are digesting pumpkin pie and packing in your courage for the later part of this post, a little dip in to the Laundry Basket might be fun.
The New Year began with these.
Sol LeWitt at MASS MoCA
At Out of the Mouths of Babes 2014
The writers of Out of the Mouths of Babes
I met Gloria Steinem this year!
in this group of vivid women and one equally vivid man, Anni Crofut is there between me and Michel Gill. Thanks to WAM Theatre for this group photo.
Me and my girl
Karen and I at the ArtLab 2o14!
Collaging my personal myth with Cat and Catherine
by my dear Carol LeBlanc
Betty J. Burkes on the right, Jan Phillips in the center and me. These two women inspire me to be my fullest self, daily.
Powder Keg Sessions!
Lucy Pearce of The Rainbow Way writes a review of the Anthology in this issue of Juno!
Last time at pediatrican for this kid
The river the river the river
Here is the Slow Time Salon on Superior workshop women. We took a lovely walk to the Big Bay Point Lighthouse after lunch.
My family. Someone always has eyes closed
After our talk at the Escanaba Public Library.
Nancy Moon and I had fun photographing in Stockbridge
The Permission Slip in it’s early stages
captured by Lynnette Lucy Najimy of Beansprout Productions
Ben’s first game at Bard
Emily gave me a bracelet
The tree on the Williams
Molly is a Sea Captain and a very able bodied mate in a row boat.
they let you take a rowboat out on the lake here and you know I love to row
My German exchange daughter was describing places in Munich where she has seen yarn coverings like this. Have you ever come across this kind of woolly fun?
One single drop
Each one is unique, hand embellished!
Winter is coming.
Catherine plays Eduardo
This much, this whole, this filled with wonder
• the Giving Motherhood a Voice Book tour to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with my brave Anthology authors, three generous host organizations and my husband and me on a 17 hour drive in a car laden with bikes, books and art supplies. We did return with a few rocks. What a great trip it was!
• Making paste papers journals with my friends in Holliston, MA and the adventure Karen, Sarah and I had on the way
• The week I spent at Penland School of Craft in North Carolina making more paste paper, working with clay and dancing with my mentor Paulus Berensohn.
• Out of the Mouths of Babes: An Evening of Mothers Reading to Others the event, the blog series and the way this lives today? Mark your calendar for March 7, 2015!
• FeMail Art and IS183’s ArtLab event featuring To Spring From the Hand, a documentary about Paulus and the beauty of the craft arts
• teaching Writing Motherhood at Edith Wharton’s Mount as part of the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers
• Reading aloud my piece, A Minor Miracle at Mohonk as part of the Your Brave New Story retreat with Jeffrey Davis
• The long weekend conference Women’s Voices, Women’s Visions that meets next June at Skidmore College. Teaching Rampant Sisterhood was a blast.
• During the rousing, inspiring, captivating, humbling month of Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, I got to meet and present Gloria Steinem with my book and a gift. What a joy.
• Seeing Sarah Ruhl in a reading of her collection, 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write. Sarah is one of the 20 topmost produced playwrights in the USA not counting Shakespeare.
• Slow Time Salon on Superior, making art and exploring our awareness of what happens when we slow down with 10 brave women on the shores of Lake Superior in August.
• My girl Catherine and all the work she has done in her junior year already, but mostly her maṇḍala project.
• My boy Benjamin, spending the first part of the year playing lacrosse, then working in Munich, then heading to college. He will be home in a few hours.
• Being in Milwaukee with my sister and niece and my Geri.
• Being on the Cape with my sisters and our families.
• Paper dress show at the PRESS gallery in North Adams, MA. Exploring themes of permission, freedom and constriction with paper and words.
• The day my pal Nancy Moon came up for a day in the Berkshires.
• Exploring myth during late winter with Elizabeth Duvivier of Squam Workshops and another weekend retreat with Catherine Anderson and Cat Caracelo exploring our personal myths. The day I spent alone with Catherine after that was pregnant with ideas and inspiration.
• The steady pulse of posting here on Laundry Line Divine. My more sporadic posting on Berkshire Family Focus. And all the people I have connected with online, especially Lucy Pearce, Pippa Best, Mandy Thompson, Tania Pryputniewicz, and Jennifer Louden.
• The Powder Keg Sessions, both the Sunday Sessions and the Ramsdell Sessions: what a varying group of amazing women who are willing to show up and write together. You can come hear them read on February 22, 2015 in West Stockbridge, MA at No. 6 Depot. 2 PM.
There are many more things that happened this year. This list is neither complete or in order, but if you follow the links, you will get a sense of how things roll out on the Laundry Line. There have been moments with friends, meeting new ones like Emily McKhann at the Social Good Summit or Holly Wren Spaulding at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, that have touched me deeply. By far, the most gratifying experience for me here is your comments. I have developed online relationships with some amazing bloggers, some of whom I know now and am close friends with, but I must say thank you to Elizabeth, Jennifer, Julie, Marisa, Nancy, Joanne, Laurie, Lori, Lorrin, Kitty, Mandy, Jenni, Amanda, Collen, Janet and Tara and so many more- your words mean so much to me. Those of you who don’t comment, but send me emails or speak to me in person-this back and forth gives me courage. I thank you for this.
I cannot leave this gratitude shower without some attention to the fact that today,
International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The linked post offers you suggestions of things you can do over the next 16 days.
Last night, after a busy day, I sat at the kitchen table reading the new issue of Rolling Stone that had arrived in the mail. It was late. I had tea and a slice of gingerbread cake. I could have picked up an Athleta catalog. But I read the Rolling Stone coverage by Sabrina Rubin Eberly, of an alleged campus rape at the University of Virginia and the culture around sexual assault and date rape on campuses across the US.
If I’d read the catalog, I would have slept better.
Since I read the article, dreamed the dreams I had, I woke thinking of my son on a campus, playing lacrosse and studying to be an EMT, about my daughter, soon to head to college and all the kids I know who have set off to institutions of higher learning in the past few years…. all of them, each of them, fresh thinkers, inspired young people eager to engage in a bigger way.
What if one of them experienced what many girls and boys are experiencing on campuses?
Do you realize that in a college cafeteria, students are warned not to leave their meal trays with open drinks on them alone? The concern is that someone might slip a date rape drug in to his or her iced tea. Does that surprise you? Ask the nearest college kid about this practice.
My son is about to arrive home from school within a few hours. I really want to talk this over with him without stirring his concern that I am worried about his behavior. I have no desire to instruct him, but I want to ask him this and since I am here with you on Laundry Line Divine, I must ask you too:
What is missing in the lives of our children today that they escape to college for unlimited partying and wild social lives? Why the need to be so inebriated? What are they seeking to escape or create? If one person’s fun injures another, then how can that still be fun? How do we help our kids understand limits and tolerance? How do we as parents instruct our children when they are still young and attentive to our teaching that social lives that denigrate one person or another, members of either sex, cannot but lead to dangerous activity?
What is a mother to do?
Finding my way in to the arena of conversation with my kids is what I can do today. The facts make it imperative. The Rolling Stone article states
“One in five women is sexually assaulted in college, though only about 12 percent report it to police.”
So while you are managing the pumpkin pies and who is sleeping where in your full house this week, take a look at the crowd of girls at your kitchen table. Are there five of them there?
Conversation with our children is the best tool I know today to deal with the worries that plague mothers. Having the courage to open a difficult topic within the safety of our own homes is one way to draw common ground and explore scary realities. We cannot stop the reality, but we can find ways to build resilience, compassion and tools for self-care with our children.
I am about to write, “Hate to be a bummer.”
But it is true. Motherhood puts you in direct line for a shitload of worry and concerns your whole life. Just ask the mothers of military personnel or parents and teachers in New Orléans.
We cannot gather round tables laden with food and love, without also too acknowledging our blessings and the power that compassion can work in the world.
My friend Peggy just sent this quote in her Thanksgiving message. It is more perfect to me than pie.
English novelist Dinah Maria Mulock Craik said:
“Oh, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out…knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with the breath of kindness, blow the rest away.”
I urge you to find ways in to gratitude this week. Talk about gratitude, express your gratitude, take action in gratitude. (click that link to Tweet if you please. xo)
I urge you to find the courage to talk about the hard stuff…maybe not over the Thanksgiving table, but sometime, find a way to invite conversation with your kids. No matter how old they are, there is an appropriate way to speak about social behavior, kindness, integrity and truth. Topics about alcohol and drug use, topics about how to ask for and find help or how to help a friend in need.
Our children rely on us to lead, no matter how old they are.
Thank you for staying with me this long.
I am grateful, so purely grateful for the community of Laundry Line Divine.
Many thanks to you and much love,
PS If you need more information or want to look at a website designed to support conversations about gender equality, see He For She.
If you are stumped about jumpstarting your energy for 2014, try a gratitude list.
This morning, one of the commenters on this thread made me cry. Read here for more and leave a comment, I’d love to hear from you.
And for our Friday Dance Break-
Just like that.
Thank you for the nearness of you, over all these miles.