On my soul, my eyes, on my body.
So much weight. It feels hard to move.
Stuck in the muck of life.
Rooted in the ‘not enough part’. Not enough, so must
consume and consume and consume,
Too much, too many, too, too, too.
Is it loving to write these words? To indulge these parts.
Or it is feeding the shame? I can’t tell anymore.
Moss in an early winter storm.
Not sure if I want to reach out or in.
Things have changed. In me and out there.
Is there a difference?
Seeing so much beauty in every thing, every one else.
Can I find beauty in myself, my heart?
Can I hold both the grotesque and the exquisite in the same breath?
My instinct is to silence these wailing parts.
Muffle them in food, technology and sleep.
I might soothe them just by witnessing their existence.
Holding the sweet tension of numbness and aliveness.
Bearing witness to the complexity that is my self, my
experience and my beautiful human heart.
I am here because…
I want to love me.
I want to love life… even the parts I don’t want.
I want to accept that I will never be done trying to love all the parts.
This is not a fight to the death… and it also is.
And I see I am not alone, and yet I also am.
The story of me includes lonliness and heartbreak and fierceness and armor and yet…
I see my strength without the story, too.
I am not just me, the story of me.
I am also you.
We are all connected. Together.
Alone, together. As one.
Ugh. Cheesy. And true.
I want to FEEL connection, and I know it’s already there.
I want to choose awareness, and is it really a choice?
I want to be profound. Why? Aren’t I enough?
I feel a tightness in my tummy. My child screams he’s hungry. I hear we’ve bombed another country. My daugheter spills her cereal all over the floor.
What a strange existence.
Then later… I sit safe and cozy in my bed, trying to think what to say.
How do I share my heart? Why?
I feel so solid and whole. And yet I am just a part. A sliver. A thread in the grand tapestry.
My body aches, reminding me I’m a human being.
In a weaving with no pattern, yet I think I can see glimpses of order…
And it doesn’t matter.
I’m still just here.
A few years ago I would have immediately lept onto my high horse after reading
this article about the new ground-breaking scientific study on spanking, which states that five decades of research on children that were spanked shows spanking in fact doesn’t improve behavior or have positive long-term impact on a child’s life. A while back I would have told myself, “See, look, I already knew it was ‘bad’ and now there is proof that I am doing it better!” However, after reading this article, now I notice that I want to pause, as I see that I feel shame… as I witness the stories in my mind of all of my own “bad” parenting moments. And I see that my impulse, upon being told yet again how parents are screwing up their children, is to want to fight the shame and throw it right back as blame — judging someone else so I don’t have to feel. Holding onto my “good” parenting moments and looking down my nose.
However, I can no longer ignore the part of me that can understand the spanking. I do understand how a parent can get to their wits’ end and feel that physical harm is the ony remaining option. I have been out on that ledge with my child, feeling scared and alone, feeling that it’s me versus them, that I have no option but to “put my foot down” and get things under control before the whole ship goes under. It’s a very lonely place. I remember my mother telling me a story about a time she spanked me when I was two years old. Apparently she sent me into “time-out” like a compassionate mother is supposed to do, and I refused to stay there. So she spanked me every time I came out, until she had spanked me more than ten times. She said she finally sat down and cried and let me out of my room, because she felt concerned that she was abusing me. She had no idea what recourse to take and felt horrible for the pain she had caused. I get it. My own son refused to comply with “time-out” and baffled me by responding only if I yelled.
No parent feels good about causing their child pain, whether it is physical or emotional pain, and no parent has any doubt that they are causing their child pain. We just find ways to justify the “bad parenting” moments, because otherwise how else could we live with ourselves? When I got to the line at the end of the article that says, “We hope that our study can help educate parents about the potential harms of spanking and prompt them to try positive and non-punitive forms of discipline,” I felt so mad. What I hear is that yet again parents are “doing it wrong” and just need to be “educated.” Are we really under some illusion that if only we were all educated about being perfect parents that then everything would change? Oh, if only someone had told me that there is a better way! As someone who set out to be that perfect parent and was immediately “educated” by my children, who taught me that there is no such thing, I can atest to the fact that the numerous parenting books and articles I’ve read have not changed the reality that sometimes I feel enraged at my children’s behavior. Sometimes I just want to tap out. Sometimes I want to scream.
Instead of asking how we can get parents to stop spanking, what if we asked WHY parents are spanking their children? What if we asked parents what they needed? What if we created systems of support for families rather than more research that blames parents? What if every person that “liked” the “no spanking” article on facebook instead reached out to a parent and offered them some support? What if every parent that feels horrible inside about the time they stood on that ledge with their child and reached out in terror for help and found only lonliess and rage or fear could offer that part of themselves some grace? What if we stopped telling parents what to do and started listening?
Yes, lets help stop spanking AND yes, let’s look for science to support positive parenting styles, and also — let’s offer forgiveness and support rather than judgement.
My heart is a voyager
Feeling the unknown like a tide
Feeling the pulse and pull
She sails the high seas
Through ups and downs
Calm and storm
She calls them waves and rides them as they appear
My dear heart
She moves toward the dark
At the same time she moves closer to the light
Stars and splashes
There is no distinction
And yet…she knows where she is.
Words and picture by Christy Lochary
I had dinner with a friend the other night in this delectable Argentinian restaurant in downtown Denver and she tells me she is writing a book about YOU. She explains that it must be about YOU, because that word needs to be redefined since most people don’t understand it. As I sit listening to her enthusiasm, I feel both excited and scared — excited about her book and scared about the beet salad that was on it’s way. As she talks about helping people learn to find acceptance, I’m reminded of this recent article: The Two Phrases You Should Stop Using To Become More Successful. The article talks about how words like “must” or “should” or “but” hinder us from seeking acceptance, and thus keep us from finding success. I think about the other day how my eleven-year-old son ran in and told me that he “had no choice but to eat gross bread off the floor that would make him sick,” since his younger brother spilled the bread on the floor. He says things like this frequently: “I had to stay home from school,” or “I needed to push your bike over because it was in my way.” I am reminded of my mother who would sometimes say, “it’s not a choice! You should have finished your chores by now.” And then I hear myself thinking, “I can’t tell my friend I feel scared, she won’t understand that I really don’t really like beets!” But. Can’t. Had to. Should. Must. These words imply that we don’t have choices. However, I remember from learning about Existentialism in the AP English class that I HAD TO take that I know we do have choices and free will. Even if I turn into a cockroach, I get to choose what to think and how I want to be. As for some more modern references, I CHOSE to read, I enjoyed both Eckhart Tolle’s “The Power of Now” and Byron Katie’s “The Work.” I think my favorite, though, is “Time-out for Parents,” which is specifically about how to be yourself, even as you’re trying to be the perfect parent. Another book I love to think about in relation to this topic is “Ishmael,” which really delves into the question of why do we humans have such trouble remembering that we have choices? Why do we buy into the stories of “should?” Why don’t we want to accept what is right in front of us? Maybe it’s because we all grow up living within this story of society – the story that this is the way the world “should” work. Some of the books call these stories, some call them voices, others just thoughts. Regardless of the language, though, many people are clearly trying to get at the same thing. Living in the stories/voices/shoulds is causing us suffering! We are constantly comparing ourselves to imaginary standards, berating ourselves for supposed mistakes, and denying we have choices because they are hard to accept. But what if we could remember that we have choices? Rather than saying when dropping my children off at school, “I’m sorry I have to leave you, I have to go to work,” what if I say, “I am choosing to drop you off here because I have put a lot of effort into CHOOSING a place I trust to care for you well. I will miss you while I’m at work AND I’m CHOOSING to go so we’ll have money for food, our house and other nice things, as well as offering myself intellectual stimulation with other adults so I can feel more present with you later.” What if I could say to my friend, “I really dislike beets,” and just accept that she might be disappointed? I work with a student who loves to yell, “We have choices!!” and I frequently want to join her and shout that from the rooftops. WE HAVE CHOICES!!