containment in ceremony

This is for Taleweaver #147 – What brings you joy?

My minister talks about containment in ceremony.

That the ceremony can be a container for us to handle our worst selves and our best selves safely.

The Catholic mass is an example, particularly when it was in Latin. That it takes us through horror and suffering and death and then resurrection. This past weekend we performed the Mozart Requiem, from grief through joy.

My minister says that Western Civilization has lost the container for spirituality in the churches and instead holds the sacred in a love relationship. He says that the projection of one’s best self on the loved one can then flip into the projection of one’s worst, if we are not careful. We are attracted to people who have some of the aspects that we hide in our unconscious, so these are activated and projected. We magnify the talents and the beauty and wisdom of the love object. They are not real. True love is when we can slowly withdraw the projection and see the actual person who is there and then really love them.

I am taking a class where we are reading The Maiden Tsar. I am thinking of the chicken feet that Baba Yaga’s house stands on. We say that a person is chicken when they are afraid and won’t go forward, a coward. So Baba Yaga’s house on chicken feet: it is a house of fear, fear alive, terrifying. And what do we find in this most frightening place? We find that that our culture has most devalued: an old woman, not beautiful, not fertile. And she cares nothing for logic. In order to meet her challenge and not be destroyed, we must use our intuition, not our logic. No linear thinking, but a respect for magic and for humor.

I am thinking of the grandmother theory, that women have a dramatic menopause because they are the tribal memory. They have to survive the famine, raise the grandchildren, remember where there might be food, remember tricks and things forgotten. A useful man may remain fertile for the tribe, but a useful woman loses hers, because she is now a walking repository of knowledge. And western civilization has denigrated and ignored her: so she lives in the house with chicken feet.

My children are now adults but they do not have children yet. I am a practicing grandmother though. I am living alone for the first time in 28 years. I practice on other people’s children. A two year old loves my house: there is a stick dragon in the closet that roars if you press his throat. There are toys that he can’t take home. “That is mine. You may play with it while you are visiting.” I put a towel on the floor and get the espresso set out. I have never made espresso. He sits on the towel and pours water from the coffee pot until the cup overflows, the saucer overflows, the towel is soaked. He looks up at me, holding the coffee pot. “More?” I say. He hands it to me and I fill it with water again. His mother is surprised that he is wet from head to toe when she picks him up. By then the towel is cleared, the coffee set is drying, and he and I share a glance, our secrets safe. Until the next visit.

gratitude!

I took this in the early morning at the Northwest Maritime Center.

For the Daily Prompt: gratitude.

I am full of gratitude this morning, for friends, for love, for living near the water and the boats. My daughter was home for college this summer teaching sailing at the NW Maritime Center to children who were here visiting and to children who live here. She says that some of them had hardly been in a boat before. If one child got scared in the pair out in sailboats, they might get others scared and crying. Still, she felt that they had enough staff and good training and were very safety conscious in this cold water.

One week half the kids said that their favorite thing the whole week was when one of the instructors went overboard. Honestly, he was pretty cold after that but learned to bring extra clothing.

My daughter took the Level One Sailing Instructor Course in Seattle before she started teaching. The instructors here at the Maritime Center got to know each other and work as a team.

The small land pirate ship is on the water side of the Northwest Maritime Center and is popular all summer, during the Wooden Boat Festival and for the younger Messing Around in Boats program in the summer. Small pirates ho! Gratitude for imagination and cameras and play and the sunrise and sunset.

 

Make a difference

In medical school I made a difference.

I was with two women and two men from class. We’d had a lecture on rape that day. One of the guys piped up, “If I were a woman and I was raped, I’d never tell anyone.”

“Man, I don’t feel that way.” I said, “I would have the legal evidence done, have the police on his ass so fast his head would spin and I would nail his hide to the wall.”

He looked at me in surprise. “Um, wow. Why?”

I took a deep breath and decided to answer. “You are assuming that you would be ashamed and that as a woman, it is somehow your fault if you were raped. I was abused by a neighbor at age 7. At age 7 I thought it was my fault. I thought I might be pregnant, because I was a bit clueless about puberty. I made it stop and tried to keep my sister away from the guy. When I went to the pediatrician the next time with my mother, I decided that since he didn’t say I was pregnant, I probably wasn’t. When I started school that year, second grade, I thought sadly that I was probably the only girl on the bus who wasn’t a virgin.

In college, I heard a radio show about rape victims, how they blame themselves, often think they did something to cause it, are often treated badly by the police or the emergency room, and feel guilty. All of the feelings that I had at age 7. I realized that I was 7, for Christ’s sake, I wasn’t an adult. It was NOT my fault.

If I walk down the street naked, I’m ok with being arrested for indecency, but rape is violence against me and no one has that right no matter WHAT is happening.

And child sexual abuse is one in four women.”

The two guys looked at the three of us. After a long pause, one of the other women shook her head no, and the other nodded yes.

The guy shook his head. “I never believed it. I didn’t think women could be okay after that.”

“Oh, we can survive and we can heal and thrive.”

We had the lecture on child sexual abuse a few months later. My fellow student talked to me later. “I thought about you and — during the lecture. I thought about it completely differently than before you talked about it. I would deal with a patient in a completely different way than I would have before. Thank you.”

 

previously posted on everything2.com in 2009

for the Daily Prompt: release

small mother

I was already a mother when I became a mother. Long before I had my son. I just didn’t know it.

I became a mother at three. My mother had tuberculosis when I was born. Luckily she coughed blood a month before, otherwise I would not be here. I was born in a tuberculosis sanatorium, the first baby there in 25 years. My mother said that the staff was hugely excited about a baby. She was drugged to the gills while reading about the French Revolution and hallucinated Marie-Antonette’s head on a pole and the guillotine. She joked that she could never read about the French Revolution again. I was born, she kissed me, and I was swept away so that I would not get tuberculosis.

I was with my father and father’s family and then with my maternal grandparents. I came home to my parents at nine months. Adults kept handing me to other adults. I concluded that they were loving but stupid and couldn’t be trusted for a moment.

My sister was born five days before I turned three. My mother said that I met guests at the door and said, “Come see my baby.” Mine, because these adults don’t understand the needs of a baby, and I want her to feel loved and safe. No one will give my baby away!

Later my mother would tell a story about my sister worrying about Kindergarten. My mother could not reassure her. Neither could my father. I spoke up: “All you learn is colors, numbers and ABC and you already know those. I taught you.” My mother claimed that my sister was instantly reassured. I don’t remember: these are my mother’s stories and she is gone. But I have collected mother daughter pictures and small statues, just a few, all my life. And I wanted to have children. I liked surgery and obstetrics, but I chose family medicine, because I want to have children and to see them and be a mother too.

Health and joy and safety and comfort to all mothers and fathers and children everywhere.

 

birth

Reading about drugs

LSD
and that people re-experience the terrible trauma of birth

but wait: terrible trauma…

I had the grace and delight and sometimes terror
of catching babies, new and slippery and surprised
for nineteen years

they do not arrive traumatized

an older obstetrician
always gentle
when I would ask for help
deep calm and sometimes
he would wait for the newborn
and not rush us to the operating room

and if the child emerged
he would say “girl ears”
or “boy ears”
he always guessed
frequently wrong
his small tickle of humor
and the mother too busy at that moment
to notice at all
except that his voice was calm

I think of the one forming
in the womb
the sounds of mother’s heart and guts
dark and sounds
of father brother sister other

the first time I see
the new baby in clinic
I imitate the sound of the doppler
swish swish swish
and the newborn alerts, and knows my voice too

I think of the one forming
in the womb
and my daughter
who tried to come early
confining me to bed for three months
and adrenaline-like terbutaline
continuously
my hands tremble
my heart rate at one hundred
I knit to channel the figdets
six sweaters
and my daughter is worth it

I think of the one forming
in the womb
out of room
the space is too tight
can no longer stretch or kick
head down
ready

I think of the one forming
in the womb
saying now
I need more room
now and the cascade starts

we don’t know what starts labor
the baby or the mother
or both

now
I need more room
and the infant pushes towards the door
towards more room

and I have had
the grace and delight and sometimes terror
of catching them
slick and messy and bloody
as they emerge
into the light

open their eyes
and breathe
startled
at light and room and air

The introverted thinker walks away

We go to our first parent teacher conference for our daughter. Kindergarten.

“Your daughter is unusual.” says the teacher.

“Mmmm.” I say.

“She is unusual on the playground. At recess. She will play with the other girls. But not if they are mean to someone. Not if they start ganging up. And it doesn’t matter who it is. She will walk away and play by herself.”

“Good.” I say.

“The other kids are realizing that she won’t tolerate any mean talk or ganging up.”

We make appropriate appreciative parental noises.

“She is influencing them. She doesn’t argue, she doesn’t say anything, she just walks away.”