The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Transforming Tragedy December 16, 2012

It is unthinkable. It cannot fully be comprehended. And the families of those who died in Connecticut this Friday have only just begun a lifelong process of intense grieving. Hopefully, there will be healing one day. Heartbreakingly though, that day is still a long way off.

Media everywhere is full of the images. Facebook posts are almost exclusively about the story. But I refuse to give it my attention, my energy. Why? Because what is done is done, it is out of my power, and in my opinion the most constructive, helpful thing I can do is to send my love to the survivors. I will not succumb to rubber-necking at such a tragedy. I do not need the immense heartbreak in my own life, but rather I need to cultivate love and understanding in the most personal ways possible (as do we all, I might guess.) I need to help the world move away from events like this, and I don’t believe watching the videos of horrified parents in real time will contribute to that. I strongly believe that “where your attention goes, energy flows”. So I’ll continue to remember the survivors and send them my thoughts of strength, support and love (aka prayers and good energy).

There may be those who would not agree with me, but I don’t worry for one second about the people who have just died, as I believe they’re in a far better situation right now than we are. We, who have been left behind to finish our lives in this dense, love-hungry world have the short end of the stick, plus a lot on our plate. If we mean to elevate this world from its darker aspects, we need to live in our world responsibly, courageously and peacefully, and do all of that under the patient guidance of love. The more we live in love, the more we’ll live in understanding – and forgiveness. And truly, we all aint free until we’s all taken care of.  So we all have a tiny bit of personal homework to do each day. All you can do is all you can do – but still, you do gotta do it.

We who are still here need to take this event – and other tragedies as well, minute or massive – and transform them into opportunities  for change and improvement, whether that may be in our own hearts and minds, or out in the world working for gun control or access to mental health services… Change of course, starts within, and as a ripple in a pond starts small then grows…

My own thoughts are turning to action now too… I have several people in my own immediate family who live with untreated mental illness because of the great stigma and embarrassment that still, in 2012, accompanies these diseases. Frankly, under the right mix of anger, resentment and booze, if armed, my brother could kill me. I’ve seen it in his eyes – the eyes of a person deeply entrenched in the distortions of mental illness. Yet no agency will come to his (our) aid until he does something violent (ya know, until after he shoots his sister.) Apparently, they need hard evidence before they can intervene. So the pot simmers, and we hope it never blows. All cuz the laws keep our hands tied from helping my brother to help himself.

There’s a lot to be done. Myself, I’m going to keep my work personal, focusing on keeping my own attitude positive and loving, living in forgiveness as I’m able. But there’s some big-time, real action that needs to me done too. And I hope that the conversations that have started up won’t die down too soon – not before they’ve inspired some folks to take up the charges of gun control and mental health care.

 

Election Addendum November 10, 2012

Seems an ancient topic only three days after the event, but some thoughts linger in my mind which I’ll express here now, before life swiftly sweeps us into the future and these musings hardly warrant a read-though…

On election night I’d gone to bed shortly after Elihu. I know that the only time I have to myself is after he’s asleep – but I can never last that long to enjoy the window. And that particular night I had a heavy, waiting heart, so going to bed seemed the gentlest and best thing to do. However, I awoke with a start at 11:36 and realized that we’d probably chosen a new president by now, that the waiting was likely over – so I turned on the TV. It had already been on the comedy channel – and so it was through a characteristically heavy-handed bit by my beloved Mr. Colbert that I learned the breaking news. What a lovely way to awaken from my nap… I was relieved, quietly thrilled, and I was laughing. Thank you, Stephen.

While I might have gone directly back to bed to enjoy a sound sleep, I simply could not. I had to stick around and hear from the men themselves. So I did the dishes, I tidied the kitchen, arranged things for the next morning’s breakfast and packed lunches to pass the final hours. I heard Mitt speak first. And was I thrown – for the first time, I could hear the humanity in his voice. Relieved of the campaign, he was, I believe, finally able to represent himself as a person. As he thanked his family, friends and team members I heard genuine gratitude. I was riveted; who was this guy? First I’d seen of him! It wouldn’t have changed my vote – fundamental principals remained – yet it warmed my heart to see him let down a little. I actually liked him in that moment. He was behaving like a real person. ! At the risk of appearing a bit naive and sentimental here, I believe that when he thanked his family, he was speaking from a place of real love, and that is always transformative; it is inherently honest. So now he can go spend some quality time with his five sons and their families (it’s Mrs. R who’s the unsung hero here, I think). Good. Let’s move on.

The following day I heard a few passive-aggressive comments from people whom I took to be Romney supporters. Only long after the moments were gone did I think that maybe it might have been a more powerful choice to call out the elephant in the room – and maybe even have a short, civil chat about the beast. I understand that there’s some steam to be let off from the folks whose candidate lost, but do I need to pretend that I didn’t hear the almost, but not quite under-their-breath remarks on the subject? Am I supposed to – as I did several times – merely chuckle politely and just sort of ‘oh well’ it away? Won’t do so if another such situation arises, but I doubt that it will. It hardly seems there was an election. From a churning ocean to a still pond. Crazy.

Reiterating my sentiment from the previous post, I say again that as humans we all share a few basic goals in life, regardless of race, economic status or gender. I hope that this simple reality might one day bring a certain peace – and balance of representation – between all political parties (and I do mean all; the ballot shows us we have more options than an appetizer menu, but it’s still for all intents and purposes a two-party show). I’d hoped that in the meantime we could treat each other with respect and civility, but it doesn’t look likely. While it’s certainly human to feel anger and disappointment – the way in which you express that is governed by your personal self-control and sense of decency. So far, I’ve only seen rage expressed by Mitt fans. I’ve heard a lot about Obama signs being defaced or stolen (both through the media and in my own neighborhood) – but I have not once heard the same about a Romney sign. I’ve been mulling over this phenomenon, trying to get at the root of the reason, and I’ve arrived at this thought: I feel that this is symptomatic of a larger issue that seems to belong to the Republican mindset: fear. Anger may be the symptom, but fear is its first form. Fear and anger bear some nasty fruit. But where does this fear come from? It grows in an environment absent of love (as well as the tolerance that love engenders). Taking someone’s Obama sign off their front lawn is not an act born of love, ya know? You gotta be pretty angry to go and make that happen. Please understand that I by no means think that all Republicans are fear-based vandalizers – (some of my oldest and dearest friends are Republicans!) however I have never heard of equally hate-inspired acts attributed to Democrats.

To many it may seem simplistic, but I believe that the last vestiges of fear (control, hoard, distrust of others, keep to self, save self and those like me) are living under the wing of the Republican party. I also believe the party represents a mindset that will one day in the not-too-distant future become obsolete. This world cannot thrive and grow into a healthy future with fear-based groups controlling her populations. We see this changing in dramatic ways all over the globe, and while it’s perhaps not as overtly apparent here in the US, we too are morhping slowly into a new culture of love and understanding. Our interconnectedness, our diversity, our shared economically-challenged realities – and our brotherly love for each other as fellow citizens of one planet – these things have finally gotten their foothold in our modern world, and we have begun our journey up and out of the mess we’ve made.

 

Inventory December 31, 2011

This has been an amazing year for me. Didn’t really hit me until I printed out all my 115 blog posts and created a dated table of contents. I was able to see in one fell swoop the passage of my year. It was actually rather stunning. One year ago this very night I had no blog. No stories had been told. The only voice I had was the damnable monkey mind which swung along from tangent to tangent, me following maddeningly behind it. Writing calmed the chatter somewhat; it gave it a destination, a goal, a form. And so I found my true voice, and with it I discovered a sense of connection, of peace.

So I got that goin for me. Which is nice. (Yes, reference intended. And btw – how cool is it that my kid shares a name with Ted Knight’s character in Caddyshack? ‘Elihu, will you loofah my stretch marks?... sorry, monkey mind). But today I feel especially hopeful for my future as I step back and admire the fruits of my vision and labor (as well as the labor of an old friend) as made manifest in my new, not-so-sketchy basement. Elihu has long been afraid to venture there, yet it’s where his drums are, it’s where my office is. It’s also been where EVERYTHING else was. You know, the crap that just kind of finds you. So this week I set out to tame the crap. I won! The result – sore arms and back, tired body – but the beginnings of a basement in which Elihu and I will make many hours of joyful noise along with students and friends. I’ve already spent a good bit of time downstairs just looking at it. Cuz it’s so beautiful. And it’s just the beginning.

While my life is improving, I do have friends going through some truly difficult things. Some far worse than what I’ve endured. So I’m hesitant to simply say that this new year will be brilliant. For me, I believe it will be. And for our planet, I do think things will begin to get better. But this is indeed a world of duality – where darkness and light coexist. All I can do for those still facing personal challenges is give them my love. And that I’ll do so freely. For I now remember what it is to feel good, to feel hopeful –  something that’s taken a lot of time and work to achieve – and I mean to share it when I can. My heart truly goes out to those who have difficult personal journeys yet before them.

Whatever the future may bring, we have finally arrived at the last day of 2011.  So much talk about the changes to come. So much importance given to the year 2012. Regardless of the high profile Mayan calendar predictions, regardless of people’s varying interpretations of what this year represents, I believe it will indeed be yet another year of speedy change, upheaval and great transformation of we humans here on Earth.

In keeping with the frankness I’ve written with on this blog, I feel I must admit I’ve gone through a great deal of study over the past few years on the immediate future and how it might unfold. I’ve read hundreds of articles, visited countless websites and begun to pay better attention to the small voice of discernment inside of me in order to filter out what simply didn’t ring true for me. At first, when the messages of impending doom began to reach me, I admit I followed their leads, and often found myself investing a lot of time and energy into thinking all manner of horrific scenarios through to their gruesome conclusions. As time passed and my heart slowly began to heal, I began to pay less attention to the prophets of doom and gloom. For me it seemed that the healthier I got, the more attention I gave to the brighter promises for our shared future. In the wake of the huge change in my life and the depression that followed, I’d become familiar with the more metaphysical and spiritual approaches to mental and emotional health. Having spent a year working with a holistic counselor here in my new town, I found myself putting into practice ideas that had intrigued me for years. I learned the experience of timelessness through meditation, the toxic power of ignorance, guilt and regret, the ultimate power of love and forgiveness. The work I’d begun in order to heal myself became a foundation upon which I then began my search for answers and ideas about the upcoming earth changes that so many talk about. My new attitude brought me the possibility of a bright and beautiful future for us all.

It’s hard for us humans to understand whether we are victims of our environment or if we indeed create our realities as many insist. I do know that where we put our attention and energy helps pull in more of the same. It’s a crazy double-bind; you’re poor, so you worry about being poor, and more of that reality comes to you. I’ve wrestled with it for the past three years. (Whenever I say that I wish I had money – Elihu corrects me and says ‘mommy, you have that money now, and doesn’t it feel good? Little Buddha…). I find it’s not entirely accurate to say that we simply ‘choose’ how we feel about things, that we can simply ‘choose’ our realities. Ultimately, it’s true, but it’s not done in a minute. It’s much, much easier said than done. But I do believe that we can slowly turn the boat around, our intention going out before us, slowly pulling us closer to our goals, even while we’re throwing temper tantrums and crying in pain and just plain not feeling good. Thankfully, I do believe I’ve finally managed to turn my little boat around in spite of some pretty big waves.

So where is my little boat going? Where is this great ship Earth headed? I believe that it’s headed for a logarithmic explosion of connectedness and love. I do. I am stunned at the speed of inventions, the change of attitudes, the genuine collective desire for transparency and the good of all. When I moved here to New York three years ago, I didn’t know about Facebook yet. In spite of its frustrations and hiccups, it’s expanded my personal world in ways I am ever grateful for. In many ways my own life has grown exponentially because of my ability to connect with virtually (and virtually connect!) any bit of information I might be curious to investigate. I get so excited when I think of all the possibilities… I almost get panicked wondering if there’s enough time to learn it all…

Thank you, all you hundreds of people I do and do not know, all of you who’ve said hello and offered your support. I haven’t responded to many of you, and I feel pretty crappy about it. I want you to know that I’ve read everything you’ve written to me. I often feel conflicted when I hear from you; do I deserve this support, this attention? I’m moved to tears by so many of you, and I want to apologize for not responding with my most heartfelt thanks and love; it’s in great part because of you that I’ve been able to transform and grow. In this new year I promise to write everyone back. Because that’s the one thing missing from my inventory of this past year.

My heart is full. Thank you, dearest friends.

 

Saturday Starts December 10, 2011

The roosters are crowing, the goose is honking, the crows are cawing, the blue jays are scolding. Their voices are so loud, I almost feel like I’m in a tent. I hope the noise doesn’t wake Elihu, as this is my morning alone-time. It’s Saturday, and thankfully, there is no place we need to be. I let the birds out for the day a good hour ago, then quickly got back into bed to finish a book. I don’t get very far reading at night – I’m asleep before I can take much in. But the mornings are quite different. Rested and clear-minded – it’s a perfect time to read. I’ve just now finished my book, wasted some time on Facebook, and have begun to ponder a cup of tea on the couch before he calls to me.

I reflect on our early morning moments. They are a tender time, something I know will not last too much longer. As a preteen I don’t think he’ll care so much for his mommy crawling into bed with him and crooning in soft tones. But these days, it’s what he still wants. And truthfully, it’s what I still want. These are moments that sustain me. “I need some mommy love” he’ll say to me, putting his thin arms around my neck. And I’ll kiss his forehead, trace his hair with my fingers and listen as he tries to recall his dreams for me. We give ourselves a good five minutes like this each morning before the hustle of breakfast-making and backpack-assembling begins.

No matter how sweet the moments that may follow, all mothers know that sinking feeling inside when the tiny voice first cries “mommy….” interrupting a project, a chore, a moment of thought. It wasn’t until this past year that his call no longer bothered me in the same way it had for the past seven years. I think it’s because these days he doesn’t truly need me in the way he did when he was smaller. When he calls to me now, chances are he can wait a minute. Don’t get me wrong – I love my son above all else and always rise to the occasion – no matter what I’m doing or where my mental focus is, I always bring my attention to my child when he needs me. And I always respond when he calls to me. But thankfully, we’re over the hump. It’s not as it used to be. There’s a lot of need in those first years. It’s exhausting. I simply cannot fathom having more than one child – much less being a single mother with more than one charge. I have all I can manage with integrity, I believe.

Just as I’m beginning to listen for Elihu’s voice calling softly out to me, I am startled – to the point of leaping from my chair – at a sudden, loud noise. A piece of furniture has fallen over. “Elihu?” I shout – “are you ok??”. Nothing. I wait, I listen. Not a sound. I go to his door, open it and look to his bed. He’s not in it. Or is he – sometimes he hides under the covers – I bend in to look more closely…. “BOO!” he laughs, standing behind me in the hallway. It’s official, my kid does not need mommy time this morning. He cracks up at my surprise, then whizzes off through our small house on full-awake mode. Seeing that he is clearly doing just fine without me, I retire to my room and go back to the computer.

A few minutes pass. The house becomes quiet. I’m beginning to wrap up my post – I hadn’t intended it to be but a brief musing on the morning, and it seems I may have gotten a bit off track. “Mama?” he calls softly, as I continue to type, “can you please come see me?” I save my work, and go to join him in his bed. We enjoy our time again. Our window hasn’t closed yet. Thankfully he is still somewhere between little boy and young man. It’s a great combination. No longer does he need me to get him dressed. He can even get his own breakfast. He does pretty well without me for the most part.

Still, there’s no substitute for a warm embrace to start a Saturday.