change · culture · poetry · writing

Prevailing Might

The world, I’d say,
is struggling to endure –
upheaval the new norm
old protocols redundant –
insane the political thrum.
Surely hope has remained,
a constant flickering might.

culture · poetry · spirituality · women's issues

It’s Time, Women

It’s time to resurrect
our confidence,
recapture the sensitivity
of intuitive knowing,
acknowledge the power
of our resiliency;
we are women
merciful companions
healers attending
Divinity’s passage,
peace-seekers
directing life’s journey.

Too long have we equated
self-esteem with
patriarchal agendas,
disappointed with
our inability to meet
media standards,
blamed ourselves
for divorce,
disease,
staying home
to raise the children.

It’s time to honour
our strength, restore
feminine worth,
align our resources,
we are iron grace,
mindful caregivers,
mate with intention,
our vulnerability,
our sensuality,
aspects of intrinsic
wisdom, we are
keepers of the dream
beings steeped
in mystery:
it is time.
(Image artist: Shikha Agnihotri Pandey )

 

 

Uncategorized

Day 218 “Rule Your Life”

My five-year-old feet twisted and slipped in the dusty soil of the farmer’s plowed field, making my journey a challenge. Normally, I would take the long way, through the neighbourhood backyards, but today the hazy humidity was too thick for even the slightest breeze, and the sun beat down relentlessly, a I just wanted to get home. Inside it would be cool, and I could play with my toys. My hair clung to my head, a tangle of sweat and dirt from the morning’s adventure. Reaching the back gate, I jiggled the catch impatiently, my tummy grumbling with hunger and an urgent need to relieve myself. With one last burst of energy, I sprinted across the silent yard and stumbled into the back door.

Our back door was actually two doors: the first a screen door with a stubborn latch that you had to hit to open. For me, this meant balancing precariously on the top step while reaching up and slamming my palm against it, all the while hoping I wouldn’t lose my balance and fall off. This feat accomplished, I reached for the knob of the inner wooden door. It was locked. Again.

I pounded my little fist against the door, yelling for someone to come quickly. It was my sister Lorraine who answered the door.

“Shush!” she said, blocking my way.

“Move out of the way! I have to go pee!”

“She can’t come in here!” I caught sight of my oldest sister, Lily, in the kitchen feeding the baby. “Keep her out.”

“She has to use the toilet.” Lorraine was soft-hearted. I was sure she would give in.

“Alright. But make it quick! And not a sound, you mind!”

Lorraine held the door for me and ushered me into the small two piece bathroom just inside.

“I’m hungry too!” I told her. “I want to come inside.”

“Take these and get out!” Lily shoved a sleeve of crackers at me.

“But it’s hot outside, I need to cool off!”

“Look,” she said, leaning over so her face was right in mine. “Mom is suicidal, and the last thing she needs is you around!”

“What? Then I should go to her.” I tried to push past, but Lily was too strong.

“You want her to kill herself? Then you better get out now!”

Lily pushed me out the door and I heard the lock slide into place. Slumping onto the back step, I stuffed two crackers in my mouth and gobbled them hungrily, not worrying about the crumbs; then realizing that this was all I had to eat, I started to nibble them slowly, sucking each morsel until it slowly turned to mush in my mouth.

I thought about what my sisters had said. Would my Mom really kill herself? And would I be to blame? It must be true, I thought, because I was the only locked out of the house.

I didn’t want my Mommy to die, and I didn’t know what to do about it. Tears and snot mingled with my soda crackers, but I didn’t brush them away. A new understanding was dawning and it made me feel deeply saddened, afraid, and alone. I had the power to make my mother take her own life.

My mother didn’t take her life that day, but as I grew older, the lesson I’d learned was reiterated and reiterated.

“Don’t make your father mad!”

“We must be nice to your sister, or her heart will get worse.”

“Don’t upset the baby!”

“Don’t tell your mother, it will only disappoint her.”

And on and on.

The burden of keeping my family happy became an impossible task that I somehow took on as my own. Of course, I was a failure.
But I kept trying.

I didn’t question the fallacy of this belief until I became a mother myself. As a parent, always trying to please children is a no-win situation. My role, I knew, was to make the tough calls, and say no even when my child would rage or cry. It hurt me to have always be the “bad” guy.

But it wasn’t until my fourtieth birthday that I really understood how wrong I had been all those years. As she had every year, my mother tried to downplay the importance of celebrating my day of birth.

“I don’t imagine you need anything,” she told me days before. “You’ve got more than you want, but I suppose you’ll be expecting something from me.” It was the same thing I heard every year. Weeks before each of my siblings birthdays she would begin planning, calling me up to make sure I didn’t forget. But she’d forgotten mine on more than one occasion, always excusing it by saying my needs weren’t as great as my siblings.

Something in me snapped that day. Something in me decided that I had feelings too, and I was going to express them.

“Mom,” I said. “If you don’t want to celebrate my birthday, then don’t, but don’t taunt me about it. I have feelings too, you know.”

“I’m just saying, you live a very good life, Beth. What could I possibly give you that you don’t already have.”

“A card, Mom. A token of acknowledgement. It doesn’t have to be a big deal.”

“You don’t have get like that about it.” My mother didn’t speak to me for a week.

I told my therapist that I was a bad daughter; that I had hurt my mother.

“Aren’t you all powerful!” he declared.

I was taken aback. “What do you mean?”

“Try as I might, I’ve never been able to make anyone feel anything. How someone feels is a personal, emotional response. Pretty sure you can’t choose that response for them.”

The truth of what he said hit me like an arrow shattering all those years of defeatist delusion. “Of course, I can’t. You mean my mother feeling hurt is her own choice.”

“She can choose to be hurt, angry, self-righteous, belligerent, whatever. You can do nothing about that. You don’t have that kind of power.” He let that sink in. “The only power you have is choosing your own response in any situation. What is important here is that you validated yourself by expressing something important to you. How she received it is out of your control.”

And all these years I thought that it was me keeping her alive.

“Rule your own life,” he added. “It’s so much easier than trying to rule everyone else’s.”

Uncategorized

Day 178 “The Tao of Money”

We are in the bank and I am waiting as Thor does his banking and stops to visit with the employees.  He hugs one teller and another near me looks at me with a sorrowful expression.  I don’t clue in until this happens three times, and then I realize the embrace is more intimate than I had thought.  I run into the nearest washroom.  Two women from the bank are present.  “Did you know about this?”  I ask.  They indicate that they did and look at me with pity.  “Is there more”, I ask?  “Yes”, comes the reply.  “He is doing drugs too.”  “How do you know?”  Panic grips at my heart.  “He asked us if we knew anyone who deals in codeine.” I have no choice, I will have to leave him.  Where will I go?

I awake from the dream in sobbing anguish, and then relief as I come to my senses.  The dream had seemed so real, at least the emotional part.  I know that feeling all too well.

Thor has an easier relationship with money than I do.   He sees it simply as a tool, a means to an end.  He seldom worries about it.  “Feed the cat another canary” he will casually say before spending.

My experience is completely different.  Money, I have learned is an instrument of power, and that power is abusive.

My mother’s first husband packed all their possessions into a moving van and left her with an empty house and even emptier pocketbook.  She had four children to care for and no means of doing so.  She married the first man who showed a willingness to take on her plight, and remained forever indebted to him, unable to free herself from the abuse that would follow.  The power that he exerted over us was justified by the fact that he provided for us; he was the breadwinner.  Money made him king.

I was sickened by how my father used money to control my mother.  Until I was fifteen, he would not allow her to work outside the home.  Just when she reached a breaking point, threatening to leave, he would buy her expensive clothes and take her on exotic trips.  Her weakness angered me as much as his ploys.  I hated that money reduced them to such ugliness.  I vowed to live my life differently.

But of course, I didn’t.

When I married and had children, I chose to stay home, putting myself in a position of dependence.  My husband reminded me of that frequently, never allowing me to spend money on myself or the children.  If I wanted something, he would tell me, I had to earn it.  I was trapped between my need to parent my children, and my desire to provide the better things in life for them.  In the end, he moved me out, and abandoned us financially.  Money was the weapon he always used against me.

My daughter now fights a similar battle.  The father of her child, unwilling to take on responsibility, flaunts his new possessions in her face while she struggles to support the two of them.  Money, again, is the root of this evil.

“(C)onsider formulating a new concept of money as a neutral quantity,”  Derek Lin writes in The Tao of Joy Every Day.  I would love to perceive money in a different way, free of the emotional charge it carries for me, but there have been too many painful associations for me to view it lightly.

I confess, when it comes to money, I still feel afraid.

disability · Family · health · life · memoir

Path Rights

Born underweight, and with a hole in her heart, my oldest sister seemed doomed from the start.   By the time I was born, her condition had deteriorated, and she spent most of her time in hospital.  My parents were told to expect the worst.  Open-heart surgery was the great new procedure that saved her life at thirteen.  She got better.

Two years behind her peers at school, she was hell-bent on catching up.  Years of being pampered had not helped her emotional development, and she was not afraid of acting out.  She loved being the center of attention, and didn’t care if it was for being good or bad.

Eleven years her junior, I found my sister’s volatility scary.  It was almost a relief when she would lock me out of the house, or ignore me for long periods of time.  Our relationship didn’t really develop until she gave birth to her own daughter, then she needed me.  I was a built-in babysitter.

I watched my sister jump from one bad relationship to another.  I witnessed my parents rescuing her time after time, and I was dumbfounded at her disrespect and lack of gratitude in return.

She could be sweet as anything when she wanted something, but if she wasn’t interested, or changed her mind, look out.

When she got sick again, I decided to explore ways to help her.  The more I learned about the body-mind connection, the more I was sure I could save her.  She laughed in my face.  You are so naive, she would say.  Or, You are playing with the Devil.  Personally, I’d always thought she was the devil.

One day, I decided that I would just let her be, and stop trying to change her.  I told her as much.  She tried to fight with me.  I stood my ground.  She cried.  Then finally, we talked.

“Everything I’ve been studying and doing is to help you,”  I explained.  “But it’s not working, so, I’m not going to push anymore.  You are sick, it is your life, and you have to do what is right for you.”

“You don’t understand,” she said.  She was right, I didn’t.  “I don’t know how to be any different.”

“What do you mean?”

“If I did what you say, and got better, then what?   Being sick gives me power.  It lets me get away with whatever I want.  How could I do that if I got better.”

She had a point.  Being sick gave her enormous power.  How could I argue with that.

In all the years that I had judged, and fought with my sister about her life, I had not appreciated that it was working just fine for her purposes.  We all have the right to our own paths.

adversity · culture · Family · life · memoir

Abuse and Money

I arrived home from school one day to find my mother sitting in a corner trembling, her face face blotched red and swollen from crying.  “Mom?”

The eyes that stared back at me were distant.  This was not my mother.  I took stock of the situation.  It was 3:15.  My little sister would be home from school in half an hour.   Dad would be home at 4:30 and expect dinner on the table.  Nothing had been started yet.  I dropped my books and got down to business.

“Mom.  You need to talk to me.  D is going to be home soon, and we have to get dinner on.  What’s going on?”

She nodded slightly.  “I can’t do it anymore.  Your father……..”  Her voice trailed off, but she didn’t need to say anything.  I knew how brutal my father could be.  I heard daily how stupid she was, and how she never cooked anything properly, even though that was her only job.  I wanted her to leave him, too.

“I’ll do whatever I can, Mom.  In two years, I can quit school, and get a job.  I’ll support us.”

Was that a faint smile?

“We’ll make it work, Mom.  We’ve got each other.”

Reaching for the pots and pans, I added, “Now what can we get started for dinner?”  There would be hell to pay if dinner wasn’t on the table the moment my dad walked in.

* * *

At twelve  years of age, I learned that money was what kept my mother in an abusive relationship.  It never occurred to me that she had the option of getting a job; she was a stay at home mom.  Five years later, we would go through a similar scenario, only then I was already living on my own, and had enough sense to get her to a lawyer.  In the end, my father convinced her to stay.

Years later, I would find myself a stay at home mom, with a husband who controlled the purse strings.  Like my mother, I felt powerless, and inferior.  Unlike my mother, I left anyway.  I braved poverty in order to find my worth.  Nevertheless,  I struggled, seldom able to give my children the material things they craved.  I felt guilty, worthless, inadequate.  After six years, I had a serious talk with God.

“God,” I said, “I want to make a difference in the world, but I can’t do it if I don’t even know where the next meal is coming from.”

I tried affirmations:  All my needs are always met; there is enough for everyone.

Eventually, things turned around. Yet, my relationship with money has not yet healed.  I want to be able to say the money’s the money, the way my new husband does.  I want to be able to see money as a means to an end, and not the end of my means.

My attitude towards money still needs work, but I am ready for change.

(Image:  empoweringparents.com)