To the Parkland Survivors: One Mom’s Response

March for our Lives sign
You lead, I will follow

“Hey mom, guess what I found out at school today?”

My hands tighten around the steering wheel. My 17-year-old doesn’t hey mom me much anymore. I glanced at her, raised my eyebrows listening for more.

“We have a new active shooter protocol”

I feel my heart cracking and my stomach sinking. If she can manage to go to school every morning wondering if this is the day she will be shot, I can manage to hear about it. I asked her what changed.

“Now, instead of sheltering in place, we are supposed to run as fast as we can away from the gunfire.”

I asked if they meet any place specific after they run.

“No, we just run.”

They are on their own, they just run. The adults in this country failed to take the simplest, most obvious measures to protect them, so when it happens, all they can do is run.

“Oh, and we are not allowed to leave if a fire alarm goes off unless it’s announced on the intercom it is a real fire or drill.”

There have been over 80 school shootings since my daughter entered kindergarten. She was 11 and still in elementary school when a shooter killed 20 first graders and 6 teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Columbine happened 2 years before she was born.

She has always gone to school under the shadow of school shootings. After Sandy Hook, I thought things would change. We wouldn’t, as a country, sit back and do nothing in the wake of the slaughter of first graders. We couldn’t. And yet we did.

Darrell Issa, my congressman, admits to taking almost 30,000 dollars from the NRA.* He has consistently voted against any restrictions on gun sales, and has even co-sponsored bills to loosen restrictions, which the majority of Californians oppose,** even those in his district.

I signed petitions, I wrote letters, I voted at the machine and with my wallet. A lot of us did. But the NRA’s wallet is bigger. Much, much bigger. We failed. I gave up.

And in giving up, I have failed my daughter. And I have failed all the students who go to school with the daily fear of “will it be me today.” I gave up, when I could have done so much more. My friends gave up when they could have done so much more. Most adults gave up when they could have done so much more. We failed the most basic task of parenting, at the most basic task of being moral human beings. We failed to protect them, when it was in our power to do so.

But it’s not too late. Because in walked the Parkland survivors who stood up and said “enough is enough!” Who used their 21st century electronic platforms to remind us of things that we already knew but refused to act on. They reminded us that it’s immoral to protect guns over children, that throwing our hands up and saying “but, the 2nd amendment” is bullshit. They inspired us to look into the issue and find out, according to federal court decisions, assault weapon bans are not unconstitutional. To search further and discover even Scalia, in the Heller decision, said, “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”***

They reminded us it’s not a zero-sum game. It is not a game at all.

But, even more than that, the Parkland survivors encouraged my daughter to take a stand, to advocate on behalf of herself and others. They reminded her and her generation of their power. They inspired her to follow a better example than mine, and to call bullshit on adults who are not living up to their responsibility to protect children.

She was the one who got up early on a Saturday to march in our local March for Our Lives, she bought the supplies and made the signs. She took the time to register people to vote, even though she won’t have that privilege until next year. She walked out of school to hear the names of 17 dead teenagers. She spent 6 minutes and 20 seconds to take on a burden that the Parkland community will bear always.

So, I’m on board, again. And, this time, I will do whatever is required of me to prevent this from happening again. But I’m going to follow the lead of the Parkland survivors, and my daughter, and her generation. Because they have proven we won’t live up to our responsibilities, and shown how, with our help, they can save lives.

Lead on. I have never been so hopeful. Or thankful.

March for our Lives poster
Should be An, but I’m not gonna quibble. These kids!

© 2018 gigi quinn

*San Diego Tribune, 6/22/2016, ** Orange County Register, 1/10/2018, ***Time, 6/20/2016

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2018 and the Transitioning Labyrinth

new Year's day 2018 transition labyrinth kirkos helps mental health
Kirkos’ transition labyrinth 2018. Can you see me down there walking it?

My late father-in-law had a pedantic penchant for Latin. If he were alive today, he would describe 2017 as annus horribilis. And, I would agree with him. That’s not to say there wasn’t a bit of mirabilis in it, there was loads of that too, but it seemed that the hard stuff in life had its thumb on the scale in 2017.

As a consequence, I wasn’t feeling very reflective or hopeful when I woke up on the first day of 2018.  There is nothing magical about the turning of a new year.  There is nothing new or blank about it.  There is only the magic, and the new, and the blank we decide to bring to it.

So, around 3 pm when I went to meet friends at the tides-willing annual New Year’s Day transitioning labyrinth on the beach, I wasn’t expecting to do anything except recharge a little by watching and walking with my fellow Encinitas weirdos.  To be honest, there were some perfectly un-weird folk there as well, but I’m a sucker for weirdos. They are the light-bringers in my life.

The energy I was looking for was generated by a bunch of people massed around a labyrinth cut into the beach at low tide by a local artist.

public art improves mental health
Kirkos’ tools for creating the labyrinth

The artist, Kirkos, used his special tools to scrape the sacred geometry into the sand and the community came to decorate it with rocks and seaweed and sticks, Buddha statues and crystals and flowers, along with shells and rusted keys and random objects like the tiny gingerbread house with sliced banana for roof tiles.

Not unfamiliar with walking meditation, I finished exchanging New Year’s greetings with random and not random people and entered the labyrinth path intent on a peaceful walk to the center.

There are people in the labyrinth community who say the labyrinth is an ancient symbol that relates to wholeness.  I’m not so sure, but this one felt mystical. One of my favorite words to describe it is unicursal.  There is one way in and one way out.  Just like life.  And, just like life, this labyrinth was filled with a lot of people—some who made it harder to walk and some who made it easier.

new year's day labyrinth on beach
People making it easy to walk the labyrinth

I’ve been struggling to give up judging, but it’s hard to not judge when people bring their dogs to a crowded labyrinth on a no-dogs-allowed beach.  It makes it hard to stay on the path when a puppy is rampaging around it and disturbing the lines so carefully carved into the sand by the quirky old artist.  I breathed through my initial discomfort with the irresponsible dog owner (the puppy, of course, was innocent of any wrongdoing) and refused to consider it good or bad. I was somewhat successful.  I was more successful not judging the children running through the labyrinth.  They made it hard to walk as well, but they were just so fully being themselves, it was hard to be irritated with them.  When a parent apologized for one of them bumping me, I just smiled and said Happy New Year, then tried soaking up some of their enthusiasm for life.

As I walked, I tried to focus on the year just past. My plan was to think about 2017 on the way in and think about my intentions for 2018 on the way out.  I’m a little obsessive, and like things tied up in neat metaphorical packages.  But early on, I wasn’t able to focus on anything other than the people talking, and children playing, and the dog charging to the center with no regard for the path or the decorations placed at the line ends.  And, I couldn’t stop watching the ten-year old girl in the black hoody with cat ears on the hood and the words “I am a cat” emblazoned on the front.  I really wanted to be that girl for a moment.

I was also concerned the doggo would eat the gingerbread house, in which I had already invested a fair amount of emotional energy trying to figure out.  The banana slice roof tiles were odd, was it supposed to be a bird feeder?  Or was it purposely built to be healthy, and if so why does it have to be healthy if nobody is ever going to eat it?  If you are a health food extremist (we have a few in California) does that mean you can’t even use candy for decoration?  Or was it just a spur of the moment gingerbread house and the only thing handy to decorate it was yogurt covered pretzels and bananas?

gingerbread beach house new year's day labyrinth 2018
Gingerbread house decoration

This last one seemed most plausible to me, as it described my life when my children were still interested in building gingerbread houses. There may be only one way in and one way out of a labyrinth, but there are endless paths that my mind can take while my feet are walking it.

Frustrated that my mind wasn’t cooperating with my plans, much like my life doesn’t cooperate with my plans, I gave up when I saw my husband walk onto the beach with the camera. Like that adorably annoying dog, I ignored the path and lines and headed straight toward him.  He gave me the camera and told me he was headed to work to get some writing done.  As he was leaving, my son walked up with his friends.  We (and by we, I mean I) talked a little about leaving the hard part of the year on the labyrinth. Quickly tiring of my hippy mumbo jumbo, they left to pursue New Year’s tacos somewhere with less weirdos and less mom.

healing and mental health recovery through beauty and labyrinth
Distracting decoration on the lines of the labyrinth

In the course of this one-sided conversation, I became fascinated by the idea of leaving the hard shit of the year on the labyrinth and letting the ocean take it away as the tide erased the carvings from the beach. I knew I couldn’t actually get rid of the hard stuff, but maybe I could put it in a more productive place.

So, I quit thinking about the hard stuff and started listing it.  My son’s suicide attempt, the hours in the hospital listening to the monitor go off whenever he stopped breathing, my uncle’s death which brought peace to him and anguish to so many others,  the long wait at LAX when I was unsure if they would let my son on the plane and if so whether he was safe to be on the plane, the hurt and anger in my daughter’s eyes when her trip to visit colleges back east was canceled due to yet another mental health crisis, another trip to the emergency room listening to the fucking monitor stop and start again echoing my son’s erratic blood oxygen level,  my father’s emergency surgery, the lies, the fear, the careless words, the carefully constructed words used as weapons.

Every. Thing.

Everything I could remember.  Every feeling and action that caused pain or suffering or even mild discomfort,  I named it.  I looked at the year from my husband’s perspective and named all the shit.  I did the same from my daughter’s point of view, then my son’s.  Everything I could think of.

I listed it, acknowledged it, and willed it deep into the sand path I was walking.  I kept doing this as other walkers scooted past my slow walking pace, as children bumped me, as strangers said inane, belittling things about disruptions on the path misaligning chakras.  I felt the muck of 2017 crack like a hardening mud mask and begin to fall away.

walking labyrinth helps anxiety and mental health
Bird of Paradise decorating path of labyrinth

By the time I reached the center, I felt relieved of a burden. I felt lighter and almost content.  I began to notice the careful placement of shells and flowers.  The happy juxtaposition of the gaudy, natural bird of paradise flowers with the gaudy, unnatural plastic pin wheels.  My  lips curved into a smile without even trying.  And I began to recall some of the good as well.  I remembered the healing suicide prevention walk I did with my son, our time at The British Museum, our fairytale cottage in Meath, the inspiring women and charmed time that was my writers retreat, and the random happy accident of watching Loving Vincent together at La Paloma.

On the way out, I kept passing an older man with a few missing teeth and the unruffled demeanor of an Encinitas native.  We smiled at each other each time we crossed paths in the labyrinth.  He commented on how long the walk was.  I smiled, for me the walk was just long enough.  Once I made it out of the labyrinth, I looked up and noticed him walk to where the artist’s tools were sitting and begin to gather them up.  I realized the man I had been smiling at was the artist himself.

mindfulness labyrinth helps anxiety and mental health
Baby labyrinth set up beside the big one was new this year. Carved into the sand at the entrance to this one were the words Enter, Breathe, Pause.

I walked up to thank him for his effort and, as I shook his hand, he told me he usually doesn’t walk the labyrinth himself.  But for some reason he did this year and was surprised by how long the walk actually was.  I thought a moment about creating this space, this transient sacred geometry without even the intent to walk it yourself.   And when I looked back at his creation I saw his generosity multiply and bubble over in the faces of those participating in this private act of public art.

I told him I liked the addition of the two smaller labyrinths he added this year.  He nodded, thoughtful, and mumbled, “yes, each year it just keeps evolving.”  Which reminded me again, that labyrinths are very much like life.

 

(c) 2018 Gigi Quinn

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5 Beautiful Ways to Survive the Holidays While Miserable

Are you overwhelmed by the holidays yet?

child fireplace mug family
Redefining meaningful holidays

Did you sit through Thanksgiving a little bit grateful but also a little bit sad? What if you are entering the holiday season in the midst of a crisis relating to your child’s chronic illness?  Or a loved one’s catastrophic diagnosis, PTSD or something else that makes you totally unfit to enter into the spirit of the season?

That’s me at the moment.  Thanksgiving has come and gone—even Nordy’s finally put up it’s Christmas decorations.  But here I am not feeling at all Christmassy.

What to do?

Well first, if you’re me, you check to see if Christmassy is really a word and if you have spelled it correctly.  Then you come up with rules to survive this season of joy, even though you feel like you haven’t been capable of joy in quite some time.

#1          Fake it

I was talking to my sister around Thanksgiving.  She was asking about my son who spent a few weeks in the hospital before being transferred to an inpatient treatment program.  When she asked how I was doing, I was too tired to be anything but honest.

Tired and sad.  Empty. That’s what I told her.

Shocked, she claimed I sounded so good.  She thought I was doing really well.

I told her I was faking it.

Sometimes when you act like you’re fine, happy even, you can trick your brain into believing it.  If it works, you can scrabble together some of the energy you need.  Even the simple act of smiling can trick your brain into thinking you’re happy.

This fake it ‘til you make it strategy is based, in some respects, on science (see, for instance, here or here), and I have found that it works pretty well to get through short term social engagements.  Especially those I want to go to, but don’t feel like I have the emotional stores to make it through dry-eyed.

This was the strategy I used for Thanksgiving.  Sad and tired notwithstanding, I wanted to go, I wanted it to be an occasion filled with love and laughter. So, I faked it.  I forced smiles and laughs until I was really smiling and laughing. As I faked my own joy, I was able to openly connect with my friends and family.  I was able to feel true delight at our friends’ engagement, real enjoyment in food lovingly prepared.  I left feeling genuinely thankful for so much.

One caveat, you have to make sure it’s the happiness you are faking.  It doesn’t work if you are just burying the sad you feel.  You have to honor the sad and then make a point to enjoy your time with family and friends.

 

#2          Lower the bar

I’ve been working on lowing my bar for a while.  I remember a few years ago I was asked how I was doing and instead of throwing out a reflexive, I’m fine, I thought for a second.  I realized both of my children spoke to me and that makes a great day.

Not good.  Great.

My expectations frame how I perceive my life.  So, I pare it down to the barest essentials.  Now, I don’t even need the kids to talk to me for it to be a great day.  Today, it’s just that the kids are alive.  And, given the fragility of life, I know it’s possible I may have to lower it even further.

“But, Gigi,” you say, “my bar is already on the ground, how can it get even lower?” And to that I say, “get a shovel.”  It can always be lower.

 

#3          Re-evaluate your priorities

Just because you have always had a Christmas/Solstice/Hanukkah party at your house, doesn’t mean you have to have one this year.  Just because your family loves your version of holiday feast, doesn’t mean you can’t just go to Red Tracton’s and let them do the cooking, serving and cleaning up.  Take a look at your holiday traditions.  Decide which ones have real meaning to you.

For me, it’s always been the tree.

girl christmas tree presents holiday
My perfect tree, long ago and far away

I have a tree decorating ritual, complete with cookies and champagne.

It’s a little obsessive, I admit.  After the tree is up, I string the lights, then wind the ribbon around it.  Next, the angel goes on the top.

After that, the kids get their new ornament.  We give them one each year, even now that they are 16 and 19.  My mom did this as I grew up. When she finally sent them to me after I got married, I relished putting them onto my adult tree.  It acknowledged my old traditions at the same time I began creating new ones with my husband.

She continued this tradition giving each grandchild an ornament every year.  Now, we each have our own large collection.  We take turns placing them on the tree until it’s full and my husband says we have too many and need to scale back.  After that, I try to balance the aesthetic and fill in the holes with the red blown glass balls which my husband claims don’t fit.  Then we stand back and admire our work.

That’s it.  A perfect holiday for me.  We have done this exactly the same for 18 years or so. I thought it was required to make our holiday perfect.

Until last year.

Last December I was barely functional. I was dealing with migraines, and vertigo and my own mental health issue.  School carpool and my doctor’s appointments were almost the only reasons I would leave the house.

It was our first half-assed Christmas.  The tree went up just a few days before Christmas, we didn’t even decorate it until Christmas Eve.  No cookies, no champagne, no pictures.  No ribbon, just lights.  We picked out a few ornaments and didn’t bother with the rest.  And even though there was plenty of room, the blown glass balls stayed in their box.

And I still had a perfect holiday.

It wasn’t the ritual or completed tree that was important.  It was just us being in this together.  That space of time we took to be with each other.  I recently talked to the boy about last year’s half-assed tree and he remembered it as a great tree.

We will probably have a half-assed Christmas this year too.  I’m redefining perfect in ways that have nothing to do with gifts, decorations and traditions, and instead revolve around space and time carved out to be grounded with those I love.

crane in lagoon at christmas
What I do with my crew instead of shopping

Sometimes half-assed is perfect, you just need to reevaluate your definition. Distill what you need to make meaning of this season.  You will be amazed by how much you can let go.

 

 

#4          Give your time to your community

Time is always a precious commodity during the holiday season.  The theory of relativity never seems to work in my favor in December.  But if you spend your time helping others, it can ground you in the meaning of the season.  And, if you’ve followed number 3 above, you will have lots more of it.

It’s sounds counter intuitive, but it is backed up by science.  Volunteering has positive effects on the volunteers mental and physical health.  (like this from Harvard).  Do yourself a favor and take a shift at a local food pantry, organize a toy drive for foster kids, take time to play with some Head Start kids.  Smile at strangers.

#5          Quit reading lists of how to survive the holidays.

Breathe, you got this.

 

(c) 2017 Gigi Quinn

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Writing at McDonald’s, With a Picture of a Beagle (Maybe)

5000 year old writing (not mine). I wonder what kind of space they used to create this?

I have a great writer friend who just wrote a particularly good post on reclaiming your own creative space.  You should read it because this women’s issue has been around since before Mary Wollstonecraft, and it’s one a lot of women in general (especially me) neglect.  And also because it’s really well written and has a picture of a beagle in it.

It seems particularly apropos to me at the moment, as I am sitting in my local McDonald’s doing my daily writing.  This writing will last as long as it takes for my 2 large diet Dr. Peppers to do their job and send me home to cleaner facilities.

My daughter judges time in songs, I judge time based on how long my bladder is happy.  This is the world I live in.

As I sit here, I wonder why I’m here in this space instead of my own.  This space, with its not-up-to-my-standards bathroom and shitty Wi-Fi that blocks my own blog.

McDonald’s blocks my site, but not myerotica.com. Go figure.

No kidding.  I cannot log on to my own website from the Wi-Fi at this (maybe all?) McDonald’s because it has been blocked as a courtesy.  I’m not sure why blocking my site is courteous, but my deportment lessons were all pre-internet so who knows what I’m missing.  Also, what’s up with the distinction between guests and customers?  Do you think I could come in here every morning and sit myself at a table without ordering anything and just be a guest instead of a customer?

This idea, disturbingly, intrigues me.

In possibly unrelated, or maybe just vaguely related news, I was able to click through to a Medium page entitled myerotica in this very same McDonald’s, so I’m even more clueless as to why my site is blocked.  And no, I don’t know why Medium suggested that page for me.  Is it a bug or a feature?

In any event, when I saw my friend’s post pop up, I had to wallow, just a bit, in the irony that I have made this space into enough of my own that I was a little peeved my usual seat wasn’t available when I walked in this morning.  Indeed, I was ticked off I couldn’t sit in my usual spot in this very public space.  While that certainly doesn’t make it my space, it does make it seem that I believe it is my space.

My clean bathroom requirements aside, right now this space is working for me in a lot of ways that are important, and I’m calling it my space while ignoring the irony.  But I’m left wondering what I’m avoiding to be here, while at the same time I’m feeling pretty good with what I am managing to produce in the space.

That leaves me with lots to ponder and think about as I avoid doing the hard work, of both writing and life.  And, because I like to be as efficient as possible in this avoiding, I would love to hear about your struggles and insights surrounding creating your own space in the comments below.

I don’t have a beagle, so here is the squirrel of judgment.

Please, help save me from myself!

Also, please feel free to call McDonalds at 1 (800) 244-6227 to request they unblock my website!

(c) 2017 Gigi Quinn

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Mindfulness and Mayhem, mmmmmm

In my twenties, mindfulness practice seemed impenetrable.  All that sitting, and focusing, and what the hell was I supposed to practice anyway? Seriously, I let the word “practice” get in my way much the same way I let the word “metaphysics” derail my first philosophy class.

Now in my fifties, DBT has come in handy as a good practical introduction to mindfulness.  We start off each group with a different mindfulness exercise.  Mindful observing, mindful knitting, mindful counting, mindful candy eating.

Folks, you can do it with candy!

I was clearly reading all the wrong books in my twenties. Mindfulness isn’t about clearing your mind of all thoughts, it’s simply recognizing what you are thinking about and not hanging on to it.

This, along with my deep-seated need for survival, has brought me deeper into mindfulness.

At home I sometimes practice mindful dish washing (getting better), and on the road, mindful driving (lost cause).  It has really opened up my idea of what mindfulness is and how I can use it.  Almost in spite of myself, it has become a real tool.

In my current life-as never-ending-crisis cycle, I find myself reaching for this tool more and more.  Recently I have tried to incorporate it into my weekly routine, grasping for even the barest bit of sanity.

3 days a week of mindfulness practice at the beach a week—that’s the goal.

Waves of Mindfulness

Now before you get too far into imagining me sitting peacefully in lotus position on the beach in some sort of flowy garment smiling the Mona Lisa smile of a true practitioner, I should remind you that I reach for mindfulness to help me function.

Function minimally.

If I was together enough to arrange a quiet, pleasant mindfulness on the beach session, I wouldn’t need mindfulness.

No, my mindfulness consists of stopping off at the beach parking lot on my way home from carpool.  Sometimes I even manage to change out of my pajamas before I leave the house.  And as much as I would enjoy having a quiet moment to myself, usually I’m sharing the lot with a sketchy RV on one side and someone who is blasting hate radio on the other.

The goal is to do 30 min to an hour of mindfulness practice, or writing, or thinking about gratitude.

Yep, you got that right, mindfulness in my car, that’s the best I can do.

It usually turns into 15 minutes of me checking Facebook then another 15 trying to find a meme I really wanted to share with someone, 15 minutes of wondering if I’m doing it right, and maybe 5 minutes of actual mindfulness.  The ratio has been changing in the last few months, to the better I might add, but it’s roughly 5 minutes of mindfulness.

Don’t judge.

But today was different, today I went beyond mindfulness.  Today I was full on communing with nature.  Today it was dolphins!

Pulling into the parking lot I could see what I thought looked like dolphins moving close to the shore.

Remember, I always want dolphins at the beach, but I don’t always actually see them.  And when I do, it’s usually just one or two and I only see a glimpse of their back and maybe some spouting.  Maybe only 6 out of every 10 visits do I get full on, whole dolphin sightings.

I know, sometimes I hate me for living here too.

When I reached my parking spot, placed strategically between the industrial trash can and the recycling bin, I confirmed the dolphin sighting.  Lots of dolphins.  A small pod moving north.

I never even made it to checking my Facebook.  Still in my jammies, I jumped out of the car to get a closer look, noticing they were swimming toward a group moving south.  Today, I decided, watching dolphins was going to be my mindfulness practice.

Leaning back onto the hood of my car, I focused on them.  I focused on the color of them, the slide of them through the water, the arc of their backs as they surfaced. I noticed when one would surface, I absorbed the closing distance as the two groups moved toward each other. I breathed in through my nose then breathed out through my mouth (not required for mindfulness, but I do try to incorporate all the clichés I can). I was so totally rocking this mindfulness shit.

I didn’t actually take this picture

OMG there was a baby!

Not that it takes a lot to distract me, but this was total dolphin pandemonium—a couple of babies and more than a dozen other dolphins.  The two groups met up and then all began moving south together, showing off lots of flippers and tail flukes and breaching. Some were running into each other and then chasing each other.

Mindfulness evaporated, my mind was in full flight imagining what they were up to.

It was almost like the adults were going back to look for the teenagers that were lagging behind.  Teenagers trying out independence and being awful about it.  I saw the eye roll one of the girl dolphins gave her mom when asked why she wasn’t staying closer to the main group. I felt the mom’s relief and simultaneous frustration at finding her daughter safe, then realizing there was no reason to worry to begin with.

I’m sure one of the tween dolphins was bitching about having to look after his baby brother.  I imagined teenage dolphins flirting, showing off.  I saw the boys daring each other to do totally dangerous things to prove they were “cool”.  I imagined a great white shark following them around like the schoolyard bully.  An octopus trying to give them her words of wisdom, while trying not to be eaten.

I saw the whole ocean being dwarfed by the energy of the teenage emotions they were desperately learning to manage.  And the parents struggling to keep them safe while realizing there is no way to control them or their environment.  I could hear their grandparents sigh, those damn kids, where have they gone off to now?

These dolphins were living my life, I swear.  And they were doing it better!

I don’t know how I knew they were better, but it could be because they were not at all terrified of open water.  Or not.

They were clearly doing it better because they had created a community of strength and support.  It takes a pod to raise a dolphin.  The mother and father aren’t in it alone, and they’re not afraid to accept help. It was like these dolphins were speaking to me.  Directly to me.  Reminding me that I don’t only find my strength in independence, I find it in interdependence as well.  My community, my tribe, my relationships.

I wondered how dolphin parents would handle cell phones.  How do they deal with depressed teenagers?  Is it easier to manage teenage sleep when you sleep with half of your brain?  Are hypoglycemic dolphins as volatile as my daughter?  DBT talks a lot about rational mind, emotional mind, and wise mind.  But I don’t remember it talking about metaphor mind. My life works better in metaphor mind.

Realizing I didn’t make it to even 5 minutes of mindful practice, I noticed an adult break free from the crowd and take a moment to ride a wave before returning to the pod. That dolphin gets me, I’m certain of it.

(c) 2017 Gigi Quinn

 

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One Step, Two Steps, Breathe

I don’t have pictures from Mother’s Day last week.  We didn’t have any special celebration.

We are fragile.  We are feeling fragile.  We are not up to noise, or cheer, or talking.  We are over talking.

For the moment.

So we went to the mountain that is not really a mountain.  And we held hands while we walked silently.

One step, two steps, breathe in.  One step, two steps, three steps, breathe out.

Hand in hand with the two who define my motherhood.  Left foot, right foot, left foot, right foot.

When I got distracted by my thoughts, I just went back to left foot, right foot.  I realized I still mix up my right and my left.  I laughed.

When our hands got sweaty we released and walked on our own.  Left foot, right foot. Someone behind me was talking about cats. I got annoyed.  The only directions we received:  no talking.  I needed to get back to walking.  I had to let my annoyance float away. It was hard.

One step, two steps, breathe.

I missed the soft skin of their hands in my hands, I reached for one again.  I felt love, and family, and peace.  I remembered a book, Peace is Every Step.  How long ago had I read it?  Why wasn’t I reading it now? I let it go and went back to my walking.

One, two steps, breathe in.

My husband’s knee couldn’t make it up the hill so we were three, not four. There were over a hundred of us, but for me it was only us three.  Warming up as the sun melted the mist, and breathing harder as we headed up a steeper hill.  I got tired, but still I walked and counted and breathed.  The road was rough and pocked with holes and ruts. The hand I held steadied me.  A subtle role reversal, but I noticed.

One, two, three steps, breathe out.

I thought about the Dharma talk we had just heard.  Imagined finding the baby Buddha inside me, waiting for me. Like honey inside a swarm of bees, he said.  Isn’t that nice? Or the seed hidden in the very depths of the flower.  Much nicer I thought.

We are all mothers of the baby Buddha inside us, he said.   We just need to have a clear mind and access, and…  And something else he said.  I couldn’t remember.  The talk was peppered with words in a different language, in an accent I couldn’t quite penetrate.  Like looking through a dusty window and trying to comprehend the beauty of the meadow on the other side.  I could make out the shape and color of the flower that was his talk, but couldn’t quite see its delicate structure or catch its scent.

Come back, breathe, walk.

A few people stopped walking and began staring at the bushes, pointing out something they had seen to others.  I thought of the sign posted on the way in, “Be mindful of toxic snakes and insects” it said.

I love that sign.  Every time I pass it I want to take a picture.  But I never do.

Right foot, left foot.  Be mindful of rattlesnakes.

Then we continued down, down, to harmony grove.

I guess the girl got a picture or two

A small stand of trees beside a dry creek bed.  Flowers were everywhere.  A small statue waited to be washed with flowers and water. Everyone had the opportunity to pour the sweet water on the statue.  The symbolic bathing of a child, the nurturing of the peace within us.

When we met back up with my husband, their father, we were indeed home. We had arrived.  And, in that step, there was peace.  And maybe we were a little less fragile.

 

(c) 2017 Gigi Quinn

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