My middle daughter has retreated to the heartland for college. It's been a few weeks. A few very rocky, bumpy weeks. During their first session this morning, her CAPS counselor, if they could be called counselors, said: "Why did you even come here? You knew this college campus wasn't Chicago, right?" She did. When I casually asked for his last name, she wisely refused to share. This ursine mother hasn't learned the lesson about remaining silent when it comes to Adults Behaving Badly To My Daughters (after yoga classes, on busses, at frat parties ...).
Without the ability to apparate or the bank account to jump on a rescue plane, I've taken to lunging for my phone every time she calls, which is, thankfully, often. #codanomore. I pick up. During meetings, in the bathroom, while driving, on the elliptical. I bark shout into the phone when the reception sucks. I care not about fellow people in line. DON'T YOU KNOW MY DAUGHTER IS SAD? THIS IS (MORE) IMPORTANT (THAN YOU)! I somehow manage to say all the wrong things. When she is sobbing, for example, because the sister with whom she bickered constantly isn't taking her calls. Or when her roommate's hometown boyfriend is coming to stay with them for the weekend ... and bringing his ("possibly cute?") friend. Or when she has to do hard things. Things she's never done before that are hard. Because new is hard for our bear. So strong on the outside; so soft and vulnerable and comfy in the comfort zone, thank you very much, on the inside.
The ocean is vast. Her world is fractured, foreign. Shoreless.
She had the same posse, for the most part, from preschool through senior year in high school. She's grieving the loss, the cocoon of her best friends. When I posit that loss might be what is making her so sad—and share that I understand how it feels to lose best friends—I have not said the wrong thing (this time).
I hear her exhale. I feel her pain. We share loss. Losses. And yet, I know she will be okay. She's with her people—the ones from the heartland who will stand by her side for life. The keepers, like her.
On a completely unrelated note, I tend to gravitate to "my Midwesterners" (as I call them) at work. The under-30 power house across the hall who is soon to be featured in a local magazine because she does things like volunteer at orphanages in the Dominican Republic in her down time ... and her day job is no picnic. She went to Illinois State and loves the State Fair, which gave me an excuse to share one of my favorite heartland tales with her. Here you go ... enjoy:
I want to recount, to process, the seven intakes I did today with female victims of crime experiencing homelessness -- each with a story more horrific than the last. But I can't.
I want to escape to the Rialto. See Peanut Butter Falcon again. But I can't.
I want to believe that the human condition is improving. But I can't.
This painting, hanging in a restaurant a few blocks from our house, is across the street from the hotel where we got married one year ago today.
The man's predicament is self-evident. We've all been in the tree, out on a limb. Some hold on. Others let go.
I let go.
The dog, however, seems open to interpretation.
If the dog represents fear, I like to think I outran it.
If the dog represents security, concern and support on the way --- as in, what are you doing way up there so far out on the limb? Come down! I'll be here when you fall! I'm a man's best friend -- we have nothing to fear by letting go.
Check her out! Tara Brach, that is ... in particular, this podcast:
Tara is helping me navigate some lingering, inconvenient emotions (okay anger) about a certain person. No, not my ex. This person, Tara reminds me, can't help that he was born with a silver spoon up his ass. Nor his propensity to lie under oath despite his Ivy League pedigree. It's not his fault that he has to hide in his spacesuit, having drowned his gold with Jack Daniels (hidden in the garage) and deception. His secrets, from cross dressing to infatuations with women other than his wife, are the least of his issues, when considering his blind, boundless ego.
All of which make him fodder for thinly-veiled fiction, perhaps as here.
My therapist, through EMDR, allowed me to see him as a deeply sad person. Then as a young bully who--like the bullies in every movie we've ever seen--has been a victim of bullying (which would explain, but not excuse, the aggression and cheap shots on the soccer field well into his adult years). Then as a flawed human ... afraid of loss, of disappointing others. And in that, surely there's a modicum of goodness and gold, no matter how adept he has become at suppressing it.
"Write about it; move it through and out of you," my therapist said.
Quote used by my yoga teacher to close her crowded (for a reason) 6a class today.
Fresh off two days in Tahoe with college besties and extended family for my friend's father's 80th bday, where I was reminded what if feels like to be surrounded by tender hearts.
Answer: very, very good.
We made a promise to focus on WHAT IS RIGHT in each day, each hour, each moment, each interaction—headwinds, small minds and news cycles be damned.
She fled an eleven-year abusive marriage. They had a daughter. She took her with her.
Modesto might has well have been another country.
She responded to the right-hand star command.
She relapsed when she was exited from the shelter for smoking downstairs, while her child was upstairs.
Which was not allowed.
She had been warned.
She was reminded -- repeatedly -- that she was unworthy.
She did her best.
Finding the job, the car, the apartment. And yet ...
She was reminded.
She was not enough.
She wrapped her hands around the stranger's waist -- full chain.
Because she had to begin again.
Why not here?
Why not now?
She just needed that hand. That right-hand-star hand.
New student college orientation with my middle daughter. The push/pull is painful. For both of us. She walks ahead of me, but I'm not allowed to leave. She channels her stress at me (bullseye), but I'm not allowed to react.
When I parry--not a good strategy--it escalates.
When I burst into tears (I'm losing a limb, for God's sake) while she's just trying to take a shower, it's not ideal.
When she allows tears on Day 2 because she skipped lunch because because she had to be "on" for 12 hours after four hours of sleep after canceled flight (re-routed from IND to ORD into four-hour drive into 2am arrival) because advisory appointment on her own because a zillion people she doesn't know because humidity hair because ALL THINGS utterly foreign because mom and dad got divorced because life is f'n scary and hard and thrilling because mom brought the wrong clothes because away from sisters for the first time in 18 YEARS because loss and gain and growth and pain ...
Elizabeth Gilbert was not pulling punches last night.
In response to the first question -- Why this book, why now? -- she said, matter-of-fact: "I wanted to write a book about a woman whose life was not destroyed by her sexual activity."
With that, she had my attention, along with several hundred people (99% female) gathered at the Sebastopol Community Center, despite the sweltering heat, to catch some of her magic wisdom.
And indeed, wisdom was dispensed.
Pearls like ...
At the end of the day, we are all just walking ourselves home.
Suffering is universal; your task is to turn your suffering into something.
Who would you be without your life? (A nod to Byron Katie, a source of Gilbert's inspiration, along with Glennon Doyle )
more tk ...
Here, I am a writer and change agent. Opinions: not vetted. Stories: my own.