I sat down to do my daily (more like monthly) meditation. My brain has been spinning since the revelations I learned last night about my relationship with my grandfather. I don’t feel like I know myself anymore.
The Lord and Lady showed up pretty quickly after I started my meditation timer. It was instant hugs of comfort and understanding. We sat together in the grass, the Lord took my face in his hands and reminded me that:
“The Universe made you. The idea of you was so powerful We brought all the pieces together, from every corner of the Universe and beyond, and made the unique and beautiful person that is you. And no matter what, you are loved, without question or limit. Even in the darkest depths, your soul, your heart, is the only light you need. You are you and that is perfect.”
I’m not sure I have ever felt this connection to them before. They have always been there, but now they are truly here with me.
It’s no surprise that I pulled the Honey Bee card from my new Liminal Spirits Oracle. One message of the Honey Bee is about communication within a tribe or family. It’s also about about unique place in our family structures and finding joy in the work we do. I think Honey Bee is here to help me find my place in the hive.
It’s always interesting – sometimes good, sometimes bad – to find out something about your past that explains so much about yourself in the present.
It’s hard to find out you were unwanted as a child. I always knew my grandfather was a narcissistic asshole. He was a truly horrible person. And for some reason I will never understand, he hated me. Or was at least completely indifferent to my existence. My mother shared a memory with me yesterday from when I was three. My grandfather was our (I have a twin brother) primary babysitter until we started school and could begin fending for ourselves. On this particular day, I looked at my mother and told her I didn’t want to go to grandpa’s house. When she asked me why, I replied solemnly, “grandpa doesn’t like me.”
My mother didn’t sugar coat it. She didn’t try to explain it away or make excuses. She just said that is the way it is, grandpa can be mean sometimes. She made sure I always had a book with me and I would find a hidden corner to curl up in and read until mom or dad came to pick us up. I know this broke my mother’s heart.
I have spent most of my life feeling unwanted or ignored by my family. I always feel they never want me around or are humoring me when they invite me to things. The first thing I do at any gathering is grab my book and find a quiet spot to tuck myself into for the day. I claim my spot and after 30 some years, my family has figured out that you don’t sit in Lauren’s spot. It has been a running joke among my in-laws since my husband and I met.
Hearing my mother tell this story of a three year old realizing she’s not wanted explains so much about my current view of my place in the world. My psyche has spent the last 12 hours trying to reorder everything I thought I knew about myself and my family. I’m not sure I even know where to start.
Growing up outside Galesville, WI, tucked into a small valley, I was in awe of the flat open expanse of the La Crosse marsh. It was always a special occasion to load my brother and I and some of our friends in our station wagon and have a picnic at Myrick Park, but I always found myself standing on the edge of the trails, the toes of my shoes barely in the water, looking out across the marsh to the bluffs on the other side. We were never allowed on the trails because at 8 years old, you couldn’t convince us not to jump in the algae or chase birds. I am lucky enough now to live right on the northwest edge of the marsh, a walking trail practically in my backyard.
In the middle of the marsh, on an aptly named trail, is an old cottonwood tree that I have gone back to visit year after year since I was about 20 years old.
The fastest way to get there is by taking the paved Grand Crossing trail but it’s not nearly as beautiful. It seems more fitting to start on the other side of the park and walk the gravel and dirt Cottonwood trail. If it’s been dry, little dust clouds float around your feet as you walk. The trees and grass on either side of the trail will be a little droopy and a deep, dark green. The water will be green with algae floating on the surface and if you watch carefully, you can see turtles hiding among the logs and driftwood. Usually I just hear their splash as they slide back into the water because I was making too much noise. If it’s rained recently you have to be careful not to slide around in the mud. I usually stay off the trails on those days for fear of damaging them. The perfect day to walk the trails is about two days after it’s rained, hopefully its sunny with a few puffy clouds floating by.
You’ll walk about half a mile towards a shady clump of trees in the distance. After a few turns you will come to right angle in the path and standing majestically over this crossroads is a cottonwood tree. It stands well over a 100 feet tall, its canopy blocking out the sun for most of the day. The bark is not smooth; instead the trunk is marked with deep grooves, almost like a giant cat has used it as a scratching post. Cottonwood trunks are hollow so you can always see birds and small critters coming and going from their shelter within the tree.
Most people never see the most unique part of this tree. If you leave the train and walk around to the back side of the tree and look carefully at its base, you’ll see a fairy door; a patch of bark lighter in color that looks like it has hinges, doorknob, and even a little curtained window. I discovered this door when I first saw the tree as a child (*I can’t remember how young I was*) and I instantly believed that fairies made a home in this tree and it was a doorway into their realm. I’ve chosen to hold onto this belief, because really, who wants to completely give up the possibility of a little magic in the world.
In many Native American stories, the cottonwood tree is a symbol of hope. The cottonwood tells us we must remember that we are all connected as one community, to count our blessings, and to have hope for the future. This is how we will get through trying times to find peace together on the other side. This message seems fitting for the current times we are living through.
Every spring when the trails reopen for the season, I can’t wait to get back to the marsh to say hello to the cottonwood tree and welcome in another new year with new hopes and new dreams.
This too shall pass. It might pass like a kidney stone, but it will pass.
It feels like this pandemic will last forever. It’s hard to remember when there was a time we could freely run errands or make spontaneous plans with friends. It’s impossible to imagine what the will future will look like after.
If you’ve ever had a kidney stone, they hurt. I mean piercing, stabbing pain in your back and side that feels like you’ve been stabbed with a hot poker. It’s hard to imagine something so small can cause so much havoc on the human body. When you have a kidney stone, everything just stops.
Now, doctors will tell you to that you have to be up and moving. Walk around and let gravity help move the kidney stone through your system. Pain will limit your movements, but do what you can. Just lying around may feel better in the short term, but you’ll be in pain longer as the stone just sits there in your body. You just have to remember that eventually, the stone will pass and you will be able to resume your daily life.
So right now, the world is passing a giant kidney stone. The worst the doctor’s have ever seen. But we can’t just lie here and do nothing. We must keep moving. We need to keep each other safe. We need to help our neighbors and those who are struggling. We need to check on the teachers and single mothers and furloughed workers and those with mental health issues or who might be unsafe at home. Even through the pain, we can still make a difference
And just like a kidney stone, this too shall pass.
before i could release the weight of my sadness and pain, i first had to honor its existence
We are living through a pandemic. It’s not a productivity contest. I see so many articles giving advise on how to be more productive working from home. How to finally start that creative project you’ve been putting off. Learn a new language. Read through that list of classics you’ve put off since high school.
I think they are all forgetting we are just trying to survive.
It’s okay to grieve. It’s okay to be sad and angry. It’s okay to just sit and stare out your living room window for a few hours, watching the birds or maybe nothing at all. That’s okay.
The only thing our brains are worried about right now is survival. All of our energy is going into preparing for the next news briefing or conference call that changes everything, again.
We have to honor our pain. We have to honor our exhaustion. We have to honor our tears. We especially have to honor those feelings in others. We all react differently to trauma. Yes, some of us may be able to sit down and write the next great American novel. Some of us can barely get out of bed in the morning.
Honor however you are feeling, right now, in this moment. It’s okay.
The amount of banana bread on my counter directly correlates to how angry I am.
Nothing soothes anger more than putting a couple of overly-ripe bananas in a bowl and mashing the crap out of them. I prefer to use a star shaped silicone meat tenderizer (usually used to evenly cook ground beef). You can hold it like a mighty sword — two-handed grip with the blade pointed down, ready to strike — and make those poor bananas pay for all the hurt they’ve caused, which I suppose is better than taking my anger out on another, undeserving, human being.
I was not prepared for how angry this safer-at-home time would make me. I’m angry that I have to work from home. I’m angry that my best friend had to cancel her wedding. I’m angry that I don’t get to see my work study students graduate. I’m angry at all the people who keep complaining they’re bored. The politicians. The protesters. I’m angry at lost time and the world in general.
I never thought I would ever live through a time like this. I thought the Trump administration was the worst thing I was going to have to tell my future grand kids (or more likely my nieces and nephews) about. Even in the middle of the fear and chaos of 9/11, at least we could see our enemy. And let’s be honest, war is something we know how to face and are fully prepared for.
If nothing else, I hope I personally, and society as whole, can learn from this pandemic and use our anger to make sure we are never this unprepared again.
And now to take the latest loaf of banana bread out of the oven.
I take a daily walk through the park behind my apartment. It has a lovely walking path with a beautiful view of the marsh. It only takes 15 minutes to make the full circle which is perfect for a quick break in the middle of my day.
On one such walk, I looked toward the tables that line the outside of the park shelter and noticed an object sitting there. I never would have thought I would find a pair of black high-heeled shoes precisely placed in the middle of the table. Some dirt showed they may have been there overnight but otherwise they were just sitting there, waiting for their owners to realize they had been left behind.
I think many of us feel like this pair of shoes. Forgotten. Left out in the weather. Hoping to be retrieved by someone who obviously valued us at some point in the past. It feels like the world is just passing us by. We are missing the best years of our lives while the world just keeps on spinning underneath us. The next day, the shoes were gone, hopefully picked up by a panicked owner who was so glad to see their shoes were still there, waiting.
It looks like the place had been abandoned only yesterday. Everything still. Waiting. Silent. No popcorn can be heard popping. No children screeching as they get spun around on the tilt-o-whirl. No sticky fingers from too much cotton candy.
The child went missing almost 20 years ago. The last sighting of her was of a wide, happy grin and her parents shooing her toward some game or another. Just hoping for a few minutes of peace from their daughter’s endless energy. How could they know they’d never see her again? Of the news coverage and cameras that would follow them around for weeks? Of the devastating heartbreak, anger, and loneliness as one of them abandons the other to their grief?
The leaves being blown along the boardwalk sound like the pitter-patter of children’s feet as they run through the carnival games. I kick aside a hot dog wrapper and wonder how long they searched before they stopped looking for me. When did my stuffed animals get put into storage and then eventual thrown out? How long before their hearts stopped breaking every time they caught a glimpse of another happy child in her parent’s arms?
The memories distract me from my true purpose here. I make my way to the park across the street. So many families. So many little girls. I straighten with purpose as I scan the crowd searching for the perfect one.