The year of Light.

2016 was like ripping off a giant, stinking bandage and exposing the raw, festering wound that lie underneath. Both personally, politically and globally.

Now we are all just gathered around, aghast, mouths gaping, wondering what the fuck to do and how could this be. When the air hits it burns. When the nasty, ugly and shocking truth arrives into the light we turn away from it . We let our head fall into our hands, we reach out to try and steady one another.

But it will be there when we turn back. We can’t un-see it. Between denial and grief, shock and rage, no one knows quite what to do yet. Some us will disown it. Others will know the magnitude of the work that lies ahead. Some will know that they’ve been preparing for this. They will know, at times, even when they don’t want to know.

We’ve been exposed.

The devastation is real.

There is no more hiding.

But in that, comes liberation.

Because we didn’t realize until now how much energy and effort it was taking to keep pretending. Pretending individuals were the problem or individual problems were the problem. Pretending our own personal dramas were not inseparable from or even symptoms of a disease from which no one living in this country is safe. Pretending good intentions and positive vibes were enough. Pretending that even the self-help industry isn’t a careful construct to keep you preoccupied with your own vision board instead of looking outside your window, or talking to your therapist instead of talking to your neighbor. Pretending we could change the world without really changing our choices or by fighting battles on social media with opponents whose stories we’ve never heard and lives we don’t understand. Or those who’ve shouted themselves hoarse at ears that cannot hear and will not move out from behind their screens to hear the drum beat of the war song building beneath their feet.

Now we stand face to face with a Truth we’ve created. Not you alone but all of us together. You cannot extricate yourself anymore.

Many will try. Many will cling to indignation.

“I have been wronged,” they will cry, “This is not my world, I didn’t choose this. This is not my fight.”

But we’ve all been wronged. We’ve all been party to hidden agendas and travesties we’ll never fully comprehend. Products of convenience, our own and others’. Sacrificial lambs to the gods of capitalism. Generations of well-fed but malnourished, over-stimulated but soul-numbed, brain dead pop psych spouters.

We are all each the victim, the perpetrator and the enabler.

And there is no where to go.

No one is coming to fix this.

She wasn’t the Answer. She wouldn’t have saved us.

There is no one coming to save us.

No matter who you decide to blame, no one is going to get what they are owed.

The jury we stand before is ourselves, our neighbors, our loved ones living and deceased, our children.

To forgive you, I have to forgive myself.

To forgive myself is to forgive you.

And I don’t know if I am ready.

I am still reeling. I am still angry.

So I keep looking. I keep turning around to look again. I look and look and look until my breath catches in my throat and my stomach turns and I hear my voice from somewhere else shouting “No, no, no, no, nooooooooo…”

Yes. Look. You must look.

We’ve been set up to participate in systematic genocide. They left us no other choice. The Light has been turned on and we are all stained with each other’s blood.

And yet.

And yet.

And yet.

This is not a sentence. This is where we begin to see.

There is no one coming to save us. No one to give back what rightfully should have been yours. Mine. Ours.

Not for the child who was abused.

Not for the family whose home has been destroyed

Not for the tribes whose sacred sites have been pillaged and robbed

Not for the mother who mourns her children

Not for the community who lost yet another innocent Black son

Not for the women raped and left for dead

Not for the daughter who was never protected

Not for the boy forced to endure systematic violence for an imperialist agenda that left him broken and abandoned him when he was no longer useful

Not for the man who can’t go to sleep without battling images of torture and death

Not for the trees that once covered this Earth

Not for the oceans once teeming with vibrant life

Not for the Falklands Wolf nor the New Zealand grayling

Not for the Rocky Mountain locust or the North African elephant

Not for the tropical rainforests of Papau New Guinea or Costa Rica

Or for the victims of the nuclear holocausts of Chernobyl and Fukushima

Not for the refugee who will never return home again

Nor for the exploited immigrant worker separated from his family

Not for the land and water destroyed by fracking across our country

Not for the home and the family I imagined for myself, for the ending of the story that began with such fierce unbreakable love. Not for the other children. Not for how many times my heart has broken.

None of it can be righted. Not of it can be returned.

All we have is this unrelenting Light that now shines upon all. Sometimes this is what mercy feels like. Didn’t you pray for the Light to come? Didn’t you call upon it? I did.

Didn’t you know that when you call upon the Light it will come? Didn’t you remember that what the Light does is reveal the deepest darkness?

Yes, there are those who have been calling in the Light for years.

And it is come. Don’t be fooled. 2016 was not a year of darkness but of Light.

 

We’ve been exposed.

The devastation is real.

But there is no more hiding.

And in that, comes liberation.

 

And possibilities of a new way. For what only what is in the Light can heal. And only we can save us.

On parenting in the dark.

For the next four days I am alone. I am completely alone in my house for the next four days. 

Ok well, there is a dog and a cat here but for the next 96 hours there are no other beings in this household that require my attention.  I haven’t been alone in my house for this length of time in over four years. My son’s father came and picked him up this morning, headed to see family 400 miles away. For all my initial anxiety about the upcoming trip, by the time the moment arrived to see them off I was awash with a mixture of unexpected feelings. This week has been one of the darkest and most intense weeks of parenting that I can remember.

The world at large right now feels heavy, hurting and angry.

My heart is heavy, hurting and angry.

And my son, three and a half, seems to have tapped into the collective wellspring or is otherwise coming up against his own pain and rage over the current state of things on the micro-level of his family and immediate environment.

And I am his target for all of this, of course. And target in every sense of the word. I am bruised, battered and raw from the battles of this week. Where has my sweet little companion, full of smiles and affection gone? And what phenomenon is he currently processing to cause such a disturbance in our normal balance of daily life??

I know all the “things”: It will pass, it’s normal. It’s not about me. All I can do is give him a safe place to feel and process. Stay connected. Stay neutral. Stay present. Don’t take things personally. The caregiver he’s closest to gets the worst of it. Practice self-care. Model healthy boundaries. Model healthy ways to work through strong feelings. Give him words and tools to identify what he is feeling and what he needs. Remember the relationship comes first. 

But all of these truisms don’t help me right now. Because even with trying to do my best to remember all of these things, deep in the moment parenting just feels shitty and terrible and awful and unfair. And because I am just empty. That’s it. I’ve just got nothing left to give this kid right now.

And so suddenly this trip feels like grace for both of us.

He is ecstatic to see his papa. He runs screeching and laughing into his arms. He waves goodbye and doesn’t look back. And I am grateful. For their bond and the relationship they have cultivated, which is much closer and more loving than either of us had with our own fathers. Grateful he is not fearful about leaving me. And grateful because honestly – I just don’t think I could have stood another hour of being beat up, being bullied, and of battling it out.  Grateful because honestly – I don’t even like my child right now. And I don’t feel capable of being his mother.

And closing the door behind them, this truth makes me cry and cry.

Last night I heard him tossing around in his bed, calling out softly in sleep. It woke me and I lay there for a moment, waiting to see if the he would settle himself and drift off on his own. He probably would have after another moment or so but I got up anyway and opened the door to his room and crossed the carpet to kneel at his bed. He mumbled incoherently in a half-wakened state. Tentatively, I reached out to stroke his forehead and he allowed me to comfort him. Then slowly, inch by inch, I moved onto the bed next to him and curled my body around his. For the first time in weeks he didn’t resist but relaxed and nestled against me.  I held him close and rubbed his back. In the darkness he reached out his little hand to press it against my face and I saw his brief, small sleepy smile in the glow of the nightlight. I lay there for an hour or more relishing this rare moment of closeness, not daring to move a muscle lest the spell be broken and the feral animal awake. My arm fell asleep and my back started to ache but I couldn’t bear to move. For a short time I felt again our sweet bond. I needed to remember.

nightlight1

 

I know it will pass. I know we each have to process in our own ways what it means to not be an intact family living under one roof anymore, and who we each are as we grow into the people we are becoming.  And as we test the limits of what we think we know and are capable of and explore our own spectrum of experience, we come to understand the safety and strength of the container of this relationship. We trust that it can hold our process, that it can honor both the darkness and the light. But it is only in the darkness where true resilience is revealed, when we find it is stronger and more spacious than we thought, that it can allow and recover, heal and adapt. That it can both nurture and even be strengthened in times when the light is scarce. That it is both steadfast and constant and that it is also ready to change as we change.

Tiptoeing back to my room and back to my own bed, I feel thankful for this tiny bit of reprieve. In the morning I ask him and he doesn’t remember anything. But I know it wasn’t for him. It was for me.

As I watch the car pull out of the driveway this morning it occurs to me that there may come a day when he wants to go and live with his dad full time. The thought hits me a little like a sock to the stomach. As I stand in the middle of the empty living room I am gutted by the realization that ultimately all of this effort, the intense marathon of parenthood, the unwavering commitment to every small teachable moment, the anguish over whether or not we are doing things right, whether we are giving them the right tools, laying the right foundation for healthy relationship with themselves, with others and the world — all of it — every single worry that keeps us up or on the phone for advice or nose deep in books, all of the ceaseless energy we put into giving our children the best possible start guarantees absolutely nothing.

We do all of this with the acceptance that all possibilities exist and one being that there could come a day when our child says goodbye and walks away without looking back. We have great hopes. We cultivate hope against odds at every turn that our kids will emerge from childhood undamaged, happy, vital and devoted to us. But in the end we are all forced to relinquish every expectation and investment in the outcome. We do this parenting thing in every moment out of some mysterious compelling place of unadulterated selflessness. Its the biggest most profound lifelong investment we ever make and yet there are no guarantees of anything. And still, as a species we have decided it worth doing over and over and over again.  It makes no sense.

They won’t remember all of the tiny moments you sweated and grasped for answers, fumbling for the right tools, the right words, the right thing to do. They will just be left with this broad, colorful landscape, full of feelings they felt. And they get to interpret it however they choose. The only certain thing is that we won’t see it the same way.

bed1

I read somewhere that parenting is the a lifelong exercise in unfailing optimism. That sounds about right.

And I have the next four days to find my bootstraps.