Straddle this place

Straddle this place, where we look at history again and again, admit horror and mistakes and cruelty, and work together to build a future.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: straddle.

where you can’t find me

Poem: where you can’t find me

It is easy with you
All the places you’ve been offended
Where you haven’t been treated right
A bike shop
Food co-op
Coffee shops
Restaurants

It’s easy to hide my physical body
Where you can’t find me

But what of my mind and heart

You always feel it when I go

I go to the Beloved
I give up
I cast myself into the abyss
Grief, denial, loss, bargaining, abandonment, hopeless grief
I throw myself over the cliff
Over and over
I resist
And then let go

It’s not wings
Because the cliff is a waterfall
I don’t want wings
And the Beloved laughs

Wings form
I refuse to fly
I won’t I won’t I won’t
I fall towards the water

Each time I wonder
If this time the Beloved will not shift
I hit the water

Safe again
Scales and tail
And I can breathe

And swim free
To the sea

Sea of Love

Poem: Sea of Love

I go in the sea
of dreams
open the chest
the trunk
the saddlebags
Empty the dirty laundry
Of emotion
On the floor
Grief and joy
Fear and hope
Mine
All mine

There is a place
Beyond words
I see you in that place
It is very old
And very young
It is so frightening to go there
Lose words
The first time
It is haunted and hunted


Are you aware
Of that place
Do you go there
Of your own volition?
Or do you struggle
Fight and suffer in the
Choppy boundary between air and water
Fear drowning
Water surrounds you
Above you too
You are in the wordless place
Over your head
Are you too deep?

Open your eyes
In the green water light
A mermaid waits to lead you
To a rope to a raft
And me

But first you must open your eyes

kitten in a bag

I have two new kittens, named after rivers. They have been here two weeks and two days.

They were only about 7 weeks when I got them, boy and girl, just fixed and groggy from anesthesia on the ride home. They had been fostered a little, and are well trained for catbox and for not using claws on hands.

The first favored toy is a cardboard box, the right size to hold one of them. They spend a lot of time with one inside the box and one outside. Sometimes with a toy mouse on the inside too.

This am before I got up, one of them went into a bag. However, it was a small gift bag with the handles. Apparently he got caught in the handles, panicked and tore around the room and then down the stairs. That was the tiger. I lay in bed laughing.

The black one just did the same thing. She got her neck through the handle and then tore through the kitchen and living room. She got out before I got to her so I couldn’t help laughing at her. Nine weeks or not, she stomped away with her ears in the embarrassed cat position.

Good that I didn’t leave the bag out the first week they were here. I was supposed to “keep them quiet” since they were post-operative. You can guess how well that went. One jumped over the back of the couch from the floor and landed on me when I was half asleep and then tore off the couch. They seem fine.

I am leaving the bag out to see if they investigate further.

vast

Sometimes emotions are vast. I do not think our culture deals with grief very easily. Grief then becomes a vast pit, stuffed inside us. I sent the Falling Angels poems to friends and family. One older friend said that the poems were too sad and was I that sad all the time?

I replied, no, I am not sad all the time. The sadness is in the poems because there are very few people that I know that are comfortable with sadness and grief. So I put it in to poetry, because I do not want to stuff it. We need to let grief come out and let the tears flow and let it go.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: vast.

Painting angels

You were an artist
You are an artist
You said that you’d have to live to 120 to finish all your projects
And died at 61
I keep wondering
what the art supplies are like
and if you work on sunsets
or mountains
or lakes

Trey, 9
made a clay fish last summer that I admire
He said grumpily “It’s too bad Grandma Helen died before I could do clay with her.”
He tells me he’s ready to make raku pots to fire in your ashes as you wished
I ask what he’d make
He considers and says, “What was Grandma Helen’s favorite food?”
I can’t think and say that she liked lots of foods
At the same time wondering squeamishly if maybe
he should make a vase and then being surprised
that I am squeamish and thinking of blood and wine,
too, I wonder if my dad would know. “Maybe guacamole.”
I need to find a potter to apprentice him to.

Camille, 4.
asks how old Grandma Helen was when she died.
I explain that she died at 61 but her mother died at 92.
Camille asks how old I am.
40.
When are you going to die?
I say I don’t know, none of us do, but I hope it’s more towards 90.

Camille studies me and is satisfied for now.
She goes off.
I think of you.

I perpetuate
the Christmas cards you did with us
upon my children.
They each draw a card.
We photocopy them and hand paint with watercolors.
Camille wants to draw an angel
and says she can’t.
I draw a simple angel
and have her trace it.
She has your fierce concentration
bent over tracing through the thick paper
She wants it right.
The angel is transformed.

My kids resist the painting after a few cards as I did too.
Each time I paint the angel
to send to someone I love
I think of Camille
and you
and genes
and Heaven
I see you everywhere


January 19, 2002

published in Mama Stew: An Anthology: Reflections and Observations on Mothering, edited by Elisabeth Rotchford Haight and Sylvia Platt c. 2002

For the RDP: another day.

Adverse Childhood Experiences 12: welcome to the dark

Welcome to the dark, everyone.

When you think about it, all the children in the world are adding at least one Adverse Childhood Experience score and possibly more, because of Covid-19. Some will add more than one: domestic violence is up with stress, addiction is up, behavioral health problems are up, some parents get sick and die, and then some children are starving.

From the CDC Ace website:

“Overview:Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are potentially traumatic events that occur in childhood. ACEs can include violence, abuse, and growing
up in a family with mental health or substance use problems. Toxic stress from ACEs can change brain development and affect how the body responds to
stress. ACEs are linked to chronic health problems, mental illness, and substance misuse in adulthood. However, ACEs can be prevented.”

Well, can they be prevented? Could Covid-19 be prevented? I question that one.

I have a slightly different viewpoint. I have an ACE Score of 5 and am not dead and don’t have heart disease. I spent quite a bit of time thinking about ACE scores and that it’s framed as kids’ brains are damaged.

I would argue that this is survival wiring. When I have a patient where I suspect a high ACE score, I bring it up, show them the CDC web site and say that I think of it as “crisis wiring” not “damaged”. I say, “You survived your childhood. Good job! The low ACE score people do not understand us and I may be able to help you let go of some of the automatic survival reactions and fit in with the people who had a nice childhood more easily.”

It doesn’t seem useful to me to say “We have to prevent ACE scores.” Um. Tsunamis, hurricanes, Covid-19, wars… it seems to me that the ACE score wiring is adaptive. If your country is at war and you are a kid and your family sets out to sea to escape, well, you need to survive. If that means you are guarded, untrusting, suspicious and wary of everyone, yeah, ok. You need to survive. One of my high ACE Score veterans said that the military loved him because he could go from zero to 60 in one minute. Yeah, me too. I’ve worked on my temper since I was a child. Now it appears that my initial ACE insult was my mother having tuberculosis, so in the womb. Attacked by antibodies, while the tuberculosis bacillus cannot cross the placenta, luckily for me. And luckily for me she coughed blood at 8 months pregnant and then thought she had lung cancer and was going to die at age 22. Hmmm, think of what those hormones did to my wiring.

So if we can’t prevent all ACE Scores, what do we do? We change the focus. We need to understand crisis wiring, support it and help people to let go of the hair trigger that got them through whatever horrid things they grew up with. 16% of Americans have a score of 4 or more BEFORE Covid-19. We now have a 20 or 25 year cohort that will have higher scores. Let’s not label them doomed or damaged. Let’s talk about it and help people to understand.

I read a definition of misery memoirs today. I don’t scorn them. I don’t like the fake ones. I don’t read them, though I did read Angela’s Ashes. What I thought was amazing about Angela’s Ashes is that for me he captures the child attitude of accepting what is happening: when his sibling is dying and they see a dog get killed and he associates the two. And when he writes about moving and how their father would not carry anything, because it was shameful for a man to do that. He takes it all for granted when he is little because that is what he knows. One book that I know of that makes a really difficult childhood quite amazing is Precious Bane, by Mary Webb. Here is a visible disability that marks her negatively and yet she thrives.

A friend met at a conference is working with traumatic brain injury folks. They were starting a study to measure ACE scores and watch them heal, because they were noticing the high ACE score people seem to recover faster. I can see that: I would just say, another miserable thing and how am I going to work through it. Meanwhile a friend tells me on the phone that it’s “not fair” that her son’s senior year of college is spoiled by Covid-19. I think to myself, uh, yes but he’s not in a war zone nor starving nor hit by a tsunami and everyone is affected by this and he’s been vaccinated. I think he is very lucky. What percentage of the world has gotten vaccinated? He isn’t on a ventilator. Right now, that falls under doing well and also lucky in my book. And maybe that is what the high ACE score people have to teach the low ACE score people: really, things could be a lot worse. No, I don’t trust easily and I am no longer feeling sorry about it. I have had a successful career in spite of my ACE score, I ran a clinic in the way that felt ethical to me, I have friends who stick with me even through PANDAS and my children are doing well. And I am not addicted to anything except I’d get a caffeine headache for a day if I had none.

For the people with the good childhood, the traumatic brain injury could be their first terrible experience. They go through the stages of grief. The high ACE score people do too, but we’ve done it before, we are familiar with it, it’s old territory, yeah ok jungle again, get the machete out and move on. As the world gets through Covid-19, with me still thinking that this winter looks pretty dark, maybe we can all learn about ACE scores and support each other and try to be kind, even to the scary looking veteran.

Take care.

nap

I am posting this for today’s Ragtag Daily Prompt: action.

Well, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, right? Which could be a nap. This is taken with my phone zoomed from an upstairs window, right in my back yard. Voyeur, yep, that’s me, spying on my Giant Long Earred Yard Rats, also sometimes called Deer.

All of my 911 memories are still swirling around. I think everyone is exhausted and grieving. Please take care of yourselves today and I hope you have a safe place to take a nap, like my Giant Yard Rats.

even if

even if

I never see you again
you never speak to me again
you never love your bearish parts
you never let yourself get angry
you never let yourself get sad
you never let yourself feel
you tell yourself you are happy
you tell yourself everything is the way it should be

even if

I never see you again

I still love you
I still forgive you

I still love you

I hope that you truly do

find happiness