The weather has been cold and crisp over the past week, and we have all been fighting colds and the beginnings of ear infections. Horus had one particularly bad day, but we sat him in front of the fire and healed him with stories, love and attention, a hot bath, and early bed.
The next morning, he was much improved. We missed karate and we missed the farmer’s market, and everything has slowed. Yesterday we geared up to go on a nature walk, but it was frigid out, and we only made it to the verandah, where we excavated the boxes of Christmas decorations I had taken out of the garage.
Oh Christmas Tree. Instead of going out into the woods to find a scrawny straggler to adorn, for some reason I bought a tree. It was an impulse buy, and I rather regretted it, but now that it’s up, in all its ridiculous beefy glory, I kind of like it. It’s true, *all* Christmas trees are lovely.
Out on the verandah, in the freezing cold, digging through the boxes of holiday treasures, Horus found an ancient chocolate orange that, astoundingly, the mice hadn’t ravaged, and he (brilliant child) clued in to bashing it in order to free the “slices” and was stuffing them in his mouth as fast as he could, right when our visitors arrived.
The visitors were lovely, but I was a mess: bleary with exhaustion, dirty, and mildly embarrassed at the state of the house: cats prowling, eating food out of the bag because I hadn’t got around to filling their dish, pot full of broccoli on the stove since breakfast, ashes all over the hearth. Poor Treva got upset because I was ignoring her again (oh middle child, I do love you–and to my little sister, I am truly sorry) and then when we all trudged inside after a tour of the disastrous kiln, (pottery still lying all over the place, frozen into the snow) Treva smacked one of the visiting kids, and then she said a swear word, and I was, essentially, ready to die of shame.
By the time our guests left, I actually felt a bit sad: I am a failure, and this acquaintance who lives a ways away, must be thinking that I’m just an inarticulate nutcase with badly behaved children, living in a freaky, cluttered, cramped little hovel…which, on this day, was apparently true. I definitely have to work with these ideas: that I should be on my “game” when visitors come over…thoughts about procedure, image, the impression I make on the world. These things do matter, to everyone, to an extent. They matter to me in that I worry I lose opportunities to make friends…I was too tired to be allowed to socialize. Nonsense. I’m ok. Am I ok? Will my children be ok?
We had more visitors after that, but the day mellowed out. And then the kids and I read books and sang Christmas carols, and everyone went to bed, and I stayed up way too late, thinking about things.
On the weekend, I traded a woodfired coffee mug for an energy work session with a very skilled healer. She told me things I knew were true, and it was eerie and affirming, and comforting as well. I left feeling loved and broken and hopeful, which is, sometimes maybe, all we can be.
I have been thinking quite a lot about the eightfold path, and of Right Livelihood, and Right Speech, and Right Action. How to give, without giving myself away, or burning out. I have been thinking about how to create peaceful spaces for myself and my children, for and in my marriage, in my community, in my home and heart.
Sandy Hook, Egypt, Afghanistan. The North End of Halifax. The Downtown East Side. Individuals and societies are mired in violence all over the world. And yet, aggression and hatred are not our true selves. I don’t believe violence is “natural” or necessary, and I don’t believe that mental illness occurs as random chemical imbalance. It is popular to describe mental illness as “a disease like any other”. I suppose that insofar as I believe that all disease has an origin and a reason, a foundation in emotion, threads, I can reservedly agree, sort of. It doesn’t matter. There is no explanation for the rampage. Killing *is* mental illness. The blame falls on the institutions, the doctors, the politicians, the police, the media, capitalism, the guns, the film industry, video games, the suburbs, the drugs, the cars, the meds, the internet, war, poverty, competition, schooling, daycare, you, me.
And, of course, I always come back to birth, and how formative I truly believe our birth experiences are…and the sad fact that the majority of children in North America–in the world–are born into violence, and are assaulted during their first precious moments earthside. So many walking wounded.
Daily, I am reminded that my own children are processing trauma: the trauma of imperfect parents, the trauma of the generally fractured nature of existence as it is right now. Parents who sometimes say nasty things to each other, who get tired, who lose patience. I do not, at all, believe that a child’s hitting, biting, kicking (towards parents or other children) is “normal” or simply a “stage”. I think this is a clear message that there is imbalance and legitimate fear and anger, and that need to be expressed and addressed.
All the parents I know walk a tightrope over the morass of our culture. We pick and choose and hope for the best. I continually, daily, screw up badly as a parent, but I have a strong instinctual sense that if I can curate my children’s experiences in an honest way, filtering out media and ways of relating that divide–which for me, include television, movies, mood-altering pharmaceuticals, video games, (Is there really a video-game category casually referred-to as a “first-person shooter”?! Goodness.) –while focusing on ways of experiencing and being and interacting that connect us: books, walks in the woods, board games, music, art, real foods…that this is strengthening and healing in myriad ways. We build trust, we repair and recover from trauma more readily, we built our moral fortitude. This sounds sanctimonious, maybe, but I don’t think I’m alone in feeling a call to goodness.
I feel strongly that if I truly listen to my children, and see them, and hear them, and endeavour to do this throughout their formative years–throughout their lives–that they will be ok. I feel strongly that if I can get my shit together, in order to provide a healthier alternative to public schooling, that they will have an advantage. I feel strongly that if I can provide for them an example of how to live well, that they will be ok.
We have so much work to do.