I came across this poem I wrote back in 2009…my dad was resisting allowing in-home-help for my mom. When we were finally able to get someone in to help my parents, when my father finally acquiesced, I wrote a poem of gratitude for this corps of helpers. Caregivers are underpaid and unsung heroines and heroes. They do women’s work which, as we realize, is undervalued across the globe.
before all life
and the caregiver who
washes a sink full of dirty dishes
and changes diapers
or empties bedpans
bathes my parents
–to those who wash urine-soaked mattress pads
I revere the life
which enters in a bloody burst
catching its first breath in a cry
and releasing its final breath in a shudder
and everything in between
–especially women’s work
which great corporations
like hotels, restaurants,
the hospitality industry
model themselves after.
Women have always
prepared our food,
cared for the sick,
done the laundry,
and not been paid for
their necessary labor.
i.e., my mom
–now my dad has to pay wages
for her care after sixty-six years
of her unpaid service to him.
To pay for women’s work
is a tough pill for him to swallow
wash it down
wash it down
and cough up the money
for these worthy and necessary chores
from worthy givers of care
to my more than deserving mom.
Ultimately, my parents moved to a care home. Their needs were met by caregivers making minimum wage. There is a real humility in accepting help as we age. And caregiving is a humble profession that deserves to be elevated. Where does any one society place its value? This becomes obvious in what they put their money towards.
My father passed away in 2010 and my mom died six months later.
The question I asked in an early journal (2012) “Can I bring beauty to the perceived as unbeautiful.”
For some reason, this question seems as timely as it did when I asked it in 2012. In the last blog, I mentioned being present and pondered why it seems unsustainable.
I live in a beautiful place. I look out the windows and there is INSTANT BEAUTY surrounding my cottage. Within five minutes, I can be walking beside a pristine lake. We are saying farewell to a winter that sparkled with white snow, tree branches etched with snow, unique snowflakes whirling then landing. We are turning towards the first crocuses, daffodils and tulips–the heralds of spring.
I am always stopped by a spring flower. I pause to acknowledge it. Yet, how quickly I leave that beauty behind and retreat into my head. Into the same old annoying thought patterns. That nowhere land around which my mind circles. I am resisting the beauty that surrounds me. Why? Why do I choose these thoughts over this present beauty? Why this incessant need to solve what is insoluble.
As far as bringing beauty to what I perceive as unbeautiful, I think that’s not really the question. The real question seems to be why am I once again missing the beauty that is. If the unbeautiful represents the shadow in humanity, in you, in me, then as I understand it, it needs acknowledgment from me. “Yes, you’re there too. I welcome and accept you.” And then there comes a time when the fascination with the shadow desires to lessen. Isn’t there?
Our media, in case you haven’t noticed, gives weighty attention to the mess that humans continue to make of things. The media is often a fear monger. I have heard that it takes seven uplifting thoughts or things of beauty to counter one negative message. Yet, we are bombarded by a media that perhaps knows exactly what it’s doing–keeping people in fear and immobilized. An amnesia for what is beautiful takes over.
Some of my friends don’t read or listen to the news. They seem generally happier for it. Is it sticking one’s head in the sand not to read the news? Is it irresponsible not to stay up on world affairs? Some would say so. How much better off am I for reading the news, the conflicting news, the reporting that creates dissension and division? There are things in the realms of politics that have been set in motion that I don’t seem to have control over. There are certainly decisions that I don’t align with…and yet, how is my dread of them going to change anything?
What if I could go out today and really be with the beauty that is around me? What if I could wander in the wonder of what it is to be alive today? What if I could hold the mystery of our being-ness closer and worry less about the uncertainty?
Can I make the unbeautiful beautiful? No, but I can meet the unbeautiful with it’s counterpart of beauty. For everything has a counterpart.
While working on a painting, I remember what one teacher said “work with what’s working.” That’s a good reminder for life. There is a lot that is working and that I can easily take for granted.
Rejoining the Beauty by Christine O’Brien
The chief beauty of the world pattern of patterns To tap into that beauty to let it be the motivator of this day Jane’s tree, Crissy’s flowers, the amethyst ring, a smile, the cuddly cat These things know what I only surmise A creator who set this world in motion where I join with this source in my own creation a masterpiece in the making Within the stumbling, the waywardness– beauty In the lost or unlit places– beauty There is no waiting for me to reach that highly evolved state in the present incompleteness– beauty In what’s for dinner and who I met for breakfast yesterday– beauty In the unknown tomorrow the tentative step forward, the risk– beauty In the potential for love, the yearning for peace– beauty The stone in my shoe set free, rejoining the beauty
Music is certainly a way to engage beauty. Remember to listen to music.
Mother comes with a built-in judgment a plan for struggle to fall and fail Her platform, built by men an ‘ideal’ that doesn’t allow her to be whole.
While Mother has the most amazing qualities, potential –she is placed in a hotbed of masculine insecurity and his misuse of power, his idea that power means to overpower– to oppress, suppress and make her subject to… his unhealed places.
Her qualities, natural instincts of care, nurture compassion and feminine power are contorted to fit into his world, to meet his needs.
Mother is stolen from herself and her children. She is lost, she is sad.
***** Today…03.11.2021 I have written about woman, wife, mother for most of my life. I am or have been all of these. Some humans would like to believe that we’ve evolved so much that there is no longer oppression and abuse of women. We hear world news rendering this belief as false. Yet, we hold onto the idea that it’s not happening here. Sadly, it is present today in our own country, our own community and our own families. Domestic Violence is real. It is mostly the abuse of women and children.
The woman victim often denies that she is a battered wife. There is a complex of qualities that create a circumstance for domestic violence. For the woman being abused, it can involve low self-esteem, trauma, shame, confusion, the desire to be loved and cared for, fear and more. There can be an economic component as to why a woman stays in an abusive relationship. There are always hidden reasons and causes, below the level of her awareness–often, she grew up in a household where this was modeled. The male abuser has likely been a victim himself–of trauma and having grown up in such a household. He has not learned to value a woman nor has he learned how to manage his own triggers, anger, past trauma.
When I moved to the mountains, twenty-plus years ago, I determined to write about the battered wife…her battle for sovereignty. When she recognizes that she has stayed too long in an abusive and demeaning relationship, how does she finally leave? My mother never left. She stayed true to the model of battered wife to the end. She stood by her husband despite the ongoing abuse. In the care home, I witnessed how my father finally had only to give my mother an icy stare for her to comply with his demands. The patterns were so well-established and neither of them knew how to extricate themselves from such a merciless cycle.
This is one of many tough topics. One that many people in my circles avoid. I understand why. It’s an ugly topic, isn’t it? It has ancestral roots. How does one change something that is so embedded? And, of course, how does the prevailing and entrenched attitude towards women as inferior to men begin to change? How does a woman change that diminished model within herself?
Sometimes, when a woman has experienced domestic violence over a long period of time, it is hard for her to talk about it. If she has left the situation, there is a part of her that wants to shrink away from it and ‘have a happy life now.’ However, the effects are lingering and the body has set up patterns of re-traumatization with the intention of protection. Reading about something along the lines of domestic violence, a woman can get triggered back into an event in her life. Fight, flight and freeze strategies are engaged. Conducting a normal life is unrealistic given this response to triggers.
This topic of Domestic Violence is up for me now as currently some of my family members are living through this nightmare. For one of them, it has been carried to the extreme and she is in the hospital fighting for her life. When and how does this change? First by shining a light of recognition on it. Bringing awareness to that which we would rather avoid. The world has been under the spell of man’s dominion over woman and nature long enough. We’re missing everything until we are inclusive of the wisdom that is innate when we embrace our interdependence on one another and the wholeness of life.
So the groundhog predicted on February 2nd…that gives us three weeks down and three weeks to go approximately in the northern hemisphere. It’s all so unpredictable these days. Like everything else in front of us, we’re going to know how much longer we have of winter when it happens. Forecasting is a strange sport.
We’ve had a long inward time…much longer than we anticipated. Another writer, K. DuMont, said
“Time introduces a new character to our lives each season, one with a temperature and a temperament that affects our own.”
So, what has your temperament been like lately? People here are talking about covid fatigue. Someone asked me today how that expresses itself for me. I thought about it and found myself talking about the things that I miss…like the ease of movement, sitting in a café leisurely sharing time and tea with a friend, hugs. The incentive to clean my house used to be strong if I knew I was going to have company coming over. Now, who cares. A pile here, a pile there. Visits to my family five hours away have been curtailed. Another friend asked if I take fewer showers than I typically would. And, the last time I had a professional haircut was over one year ago. I’m weary of the limitations. And, with that, I have a lot to be grateful for although sometimes it’s hard to remember. Humans are social beings.
Each of us has our own particular tale to tell around this unprecedented time as I hear it being referred to. Iinquire within…if these are the rules of the game, can I safely bend them or come up with a creative solution to alleviate the loneliness (I live alone)? Without knowing how much longer that we have to do this cautious dance in the world, is there something I can offer to myself to make it a little lighter? Is there some sort of community (yes, we are grateful for ZOOM–but then there is ZOOM Fatigue?) Is there some other way that we can create community for ourselves? I’m open for suggestions. Even if you’re an introvert, you miss the company of people. Don’t you?
I was invited to do a collaborative painting with another artist. I received a panel through the mail. The first artist had etched the design–there was an original from which she created her own unique expression. As the second artist in the collaboration, my part was to embellish it. Which I did, adding color, collage and using various techniques to try to render something compatible yet unique to me. I then mailed the panel to a local art council. They gather the panels from several other participating artists to create a mural. That’s one way to connect with others. Interesting, but not totally satisfying.
I am, by nature, introspective. However, prolonged introspection–urgh. Regardless, winter is considered the season for the inward journey. According to author, Jamie Sams, in the Native American tradition, the bear is the guardian of the west and winter, the season for introspection. She says that “…bear seeks honey or the sweetness of truth in the hollow of an old oak tree.”
Over the course of this long time with your own company and thoughts, is there a sweetness of truth that you have gleaned. One thing? More than one thing? Share it under comments here if you like or at least share it with one other person.
Writing a blog, one can get stuck in a rut. Trying to hold true to an original intention for the blog, I encountered a block. While I loved what I was writing and sharing, was it making a difference for myself and others? Was their an evolutionary track to it? Perhaps, I’ve gone as far as I need to in that direction.
I paused the blog to grieve three intimate losses, to reencounter myself and rekindle a relationship with what has been a lifelong theme. That theme is the theme of woman/mother in a society that disrespects woman. As a girl with a mother who was virtually voiceless and invisible, I was impacted strongly. In her invisibility and silence, her effect upon me has been profound. How, then, did I find my voice? How did I allow myself to dare to go from invisibility to being seen?
As I write this, I ask myself “Do I want to share something this personal referencing my ongoing lifelong journey towards finding my voice, healing and wholeness?” I haven’t arrived there and I don’t necessarily feel secure or that I’m in a place of grounded strength and complete self-awareness. If I haven’t arrived, then how credible can I be? While I took a break from writing this blog to process grief, I realize that the period of healing, grieving, reclaiming and replenishing is ongoing.
In these times, each one of us has something that we are working on in the inner landscape of our individual lives. We are, each one of us, a microcosm with its own center and on our own evolutionary track. We do this, side-by-side, unaware of what our neighbor’s or our brother’s or our sister’s inner self is working on. If recognizing this helps me to access compassion, then I’ve come a long way.
We live in what has been termed “unprecedented times.” The challenges are great for us as individuals and as a society. There are a few people in my immediate circle with whom I reflect and share deeply. I admire those who can hold a positive attitude…although sometimes I wonder what channel they are tuned into as I don’t have the same consistent optimism. I do have hope, but I also am a witness to my own turmoil and the world condition. What is my small part in this great whole?
As I was walking in the late afternoon, it occurred to me that I could harvest writing from my journals, essays and non-fiction short stories to present the themes that explore a woman’s evolution from invisible and voiceless to “it is safe to be visible and to have a voice.” But there is something that I’m looking for in my own life and journey–what is the transformational piece? I don’t only want to present a problem…I want to consider “What is a possible way to transform what was or has been?”
I offer that question to you, the reader of this blog. Surveying your life, are you able to name a transformational piece? Certainly, there can be more than one.
…and in the times that you live. Right now, this feels very challenging. With a pandemic, wildfires around the earth, worldwide protests arising from ongoing social injustices, political instability, economic crashes, and more! Who wouldn’t want to escape into the past or a perceived as better future?
How often do I retreat into the past or project into the future in my thoughts? Often, I’m sure. I remember thinking that “things would be better when I conquered some aspect of my personality…in the future” or how much more pleasant it is to linger over a rare soft spot in the past. I do think that sometimes, it is good to recall a moment when I felt powerful in the past, or exceptionally healthy or positive and to draw on that feeling to bring it forward into a challenging time today. However, idling there isn’t helpful. And while it’s fine to imagine a better future, now is where the action happens to begin to shift energy.
On my last birthday…I rediscovered magic. I woke on my birthday feeling unsettled and grumpy. I felt like cancelling the gathering with three friends. I had a flexible plan for them to come over around 5:00 p.m., depending on the heat. We would sit outside, bring our own food and drink, sit socially distant and share carrot cake. Contemplating cancelling, I thought about the last birthday, a big one, when I was sick. I thought about how I deserved a party, a celebration of me. I remembered when I was a girl and had given myself a few birthday parties…because no one else would. Suddenly, I had the energy to create a special setting for myself and my friends in the backyard. And the day unfolded from there into a lovely shared experience.
“Let me stand in my age with all its waters flowing round me.
If they sometimes subdue, they must finally upbear me, for I
seek the universal and that must be the best.”
I didn’t know who Margaret Fuller was. Do you? It’s amazing to me how many women of some notoriety in their times have slipped through the cracks of “his…story.”
Margaret Fuller was an American journalist, editor, critic, translator, and women’s rights activist (1810 to 1850). In a brief forty years, she accomplished quite a bit! She left behind a lot of her writings including a book entitled Woman in the Nineteenth Century. I encourage you to google her and read a brief bio of her life. She was a deep thinker of her times. Anyone who has gone before (our ancestors) sets the stage for the next ones to enter.
I’m tackling it…the two file cabinets, the plastic bins in the closet, the cluttered shelves in the dining room. I started with the least cumbersome–the wicker shelf unit in the living room–cluttered with art supplies, recycled papers to be used for my innumerable lists, roles of decorative art papers, art journals, writing journals. As I rearranged or tried to organize, I realized that the frustration I feel isn’t perhaps that I have all of these journals and loose-leaf writing. I realize that I am a frustrated communicator!
Over the course of my life, I wrote and explored my questions on any and everything in these journals! There were times when I had a special person in my life with whom I could discuss the deeper things of life. And these rare people were dearly valued. When they moved on or died, that avenue, that special connection was gone. Then my questions lay like kindling in a mishmash pile, unanswered. It seems as if the questions, thoughts and poetry hover in another universe, waiting to be met, hoping to meet other inquirers. In the meanwhile, they sit in space (or in my journals) struggling for air and witnessing.
Does that make any sense? It is obvious that when I look at these stacks of journals, there is a seeker inside of me. A frustrated one. Because a monologue is a lonely place…I at least crave a dialogue or a circle of seekers like me. It would be nice. It would be great!
I have a few questions for you…do you welcome your own questions? Do you judge them? Do you find ways to share them with someone who won’t judge you in any way, with whom you feel safe?