Monday, September 22, 2014


I read this short post today. It compares the self-soothing of a new baby with the self-soothing of its new mama. A friend and student who works with trauma recovery posted it.

I know a lot of new mamas right now, so though I am not one, I am becoming familiar with their particular brand of fraying. However, I am well-familiar with an overloaded nervous system of other sorts - any sorts - in both my students and myself. One thing I particularly like is how the author draws attention to self-soothing - that it can manifest as overwork, drug addiction, rubbing feet together or going for walks. In other words, she does not judge one as better than the other, simply recognizing that we all have our own methods, most of them semi-conscious.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Counter-Narratives of Joy

It's easy to tell a sad story.

I know, because I have told one a long time. Many sad stories, in fact. I am not saying it is easy to live a sad story, but modern American culture seems to long for tragedies.

I know this is hedgey ground. I, myself, highly dislike overtly positive psychology, affirmations, attraction theories. I think, I believe, it is highly important to not only address our pain, but to tell that story, again and again and again. Until we feel heard, until it is clear, until we understand.

And yet.

At a short writing workshop in Toronto on Monday of last week, a student ended her last piece, the last one read, with a passage about "counter-narratives of joy." This struck everyone immediately - we all felt the power of it, though it took some discussion afterwards to figure out why, and what the different meanings were.

The main gist was this: we tell stories of woe, of suffering, of sadness, and they are essential.
And yet.
Sometimes they become the main narrative. The only story. The way we show how hard we have worked, how much we have been through. Suffering can seem a credential, being a victim a preferred position, always being wronged as being on the right side. So it's not just a need for stories of joy - stories that also express - also, not instead of - where we have reveled, appreciated and celebrated. Not just that need, but that following, developing, expressing that can actually seem antithetical, opposing, against the stream.

Monday, September 08, 2014

What Do You Want to Say?

In reviewing French recently (I recommend the Michel Thomas method), I encountered this gem. The lesson is ostensibly about something I already know. Luckily, French has two verbs for knowing something. They show how my knowing shifted:
the French verb connaitre - have familiarity with - implies how I knew this grammar lesson before. But after hearing it stated this way, I developed a deeper knowing, which the French verb savoir expresses.

Here's the lesson:

Monday, September 01, 2014

Living the Subtle

I have a cold right now. Just about nothing feels subtle about me: I honk when I sneeze or blow, cough constantly, and my voice has dropped an octave, instantly declaring me sick to all I dare speak to. And yet, so many subtle things have been happening recently.

Under-the-surface, mid-sea changes that bring strong waves to the shore. Those waves I have yet to see, but I am learning to feel and trust what is happening deep underneath will have its own effects.

What do I mean?

Dylan and I "celebrated" our sixth wedding anniversary on August 15th. I put the verb in quotes because, in fact, we spent a good chunk of the day crying. Struggling through wants and needs, accusations and defenses, we were able to rest holding hands at the end of the day. But it was not pretty arriving there, and for days - weeks - after, I contemplated the ultimate, not subtle thing:

I thought about leaving her.  In a short period of time, she also considered the same about me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

No Home Like Home

Watering Hole, Philadelphia, August 2014
In case you haven't noticed, I travel a lot.

The first weekend in August, I was in Philadelphia teaching Miksang. A few weeks before that, on a three week retreat in Colorado. My wife gets tired of me traveling (that's the polite way of putting it). I get tired of me traveling (that's the simplistic way of putting it). And my cats? I think they don't notice so much, but they sure are happy when I get home.

As am I. I wish I could bring the cats and my wife along with me. I get jealous of dog owners, that they can carry along their dogs. I see them in carriers (well, little ones) on planes, out running in dog parks in other cities, and I wish the cats could just curl up and come along. I wish each place I am for between 4-21 days could become home for just a little bit.

It does, sort of. I figure out where to get the food I need. I take good care of myself: I practice, sleep, bring my own pillow, make sure my meds are in order. I get better and better at this over time. And yet, ironically, I also get older. It takes longer for me to adjust to time changes, more sleep for me to feel recovered. I get sick less often because I am more in touch with what I need - and I need more than I did when I was younger.

Nothing beats arrival - especially arriving home. Piles of mail, of dirty laundry, of dirty dishes, even, can't deter me from snuggling my wife and cats. Home is my watering hole, where I come back to again and again.

In my first chapbook of poetry, At Home Here, I implied I can be at home anywhere. Yes, and also, there is actually no place like home. No home like home.