I was thinking about ouroboros—that image of a snake from ancient Egypt and Greece with its tail in its mouth, continually consuming itself and being reborn from itself, representing wholeness or infinity.  For some reason, there’s something claustrophobic about this, reminds me of how I can never get away from myself—the raw material of outer life always filtering through my inner world that I can never escape, bouncing around in there like an echo chamber.  But, I suppose I can try and feel more fluid about it, not so trapped, like maybe it’s okay that we’re in a process of continually swallowing up ourselves—who we used to be from childhood, yesterday, one minute ago—digesting that person, re-creating into who we are today, right now.  Maybe this is freedom, the infinity of change, sustaining forever through this strange nurturing and growth process.

I’ve decided to take voice lessons, because I was recently inspired by a friend.  I feel like there’s always been a disconnect between how I sound inside to myself and how it comes out to the rest of the world.  It’s like the vibrations gets stuck somewhere in my throat, a tightening happens, like wringing out a towel, the end result lacking something important it began with.  Maybe that’s why I like writing so much, because the disconnect dissolves—what’s in here is now magically out there—and I like being heard in this way that feels so unafraid.  Of course, the verbal disconnect is most intense in certain situations.  For example, at Back to School Night for J’s new school, we had to share one “fun fact” about ourselves with a group of other parents.  I was surrounded by kind, friendly, eager faces but, for some reason, my body reacted like I was suddenly being held at gun point.  Please, God, no—I felt a churning sensation inside, an internal begging, pleading, followed by total shutdown, frozen, mute.  I stared at the parent who went first, her words seeming to just flow out in a way I could not comprehend.  It wasn’t so much that I couldn’t think of anything, although the thought did cross my mind that, Oh my God I have nothing, which I knew wasn’t true, and I was able to scrounge up something (um….I like to paint—is that fun?). It’s just the thought of the next step—releasing it into the air—felt like a belt tightening around my neck.  And I’m pretty sure it ended up coming out that way—like a strangled little bird.  So, going back to the ouroboros—maybe voice lessons will help me swallow up that little bird and release it again in new ways.  We shall see.

This week, C continued to insist on reading Goodnight Moon every night, repeating the phrases after his dad read them aloud, “goodnight bears, goodnight chairs, goodnight kittens, and goodnight mittens…”  Afterwards, he lovingly propped it up by his pillow so he could gaze at the last page while he fell asleep—peaking at the little bunny snuggled in bed, quiet darkness against the brightness of the stars and those tiny, warm lights of the dollhouse.  One day this week, his dad brought home a book called “Farts” and C laughed hysterically as he pushed the different buttons in the book to make the noises you can imagine.  At his preschool, “F” happened to be the Letter Of The Week so he brought the Fart book in to share.  Classy.  Recently, he also got a hold of a birthday card that plays the song “That’s what I like about you” every time you open it.  He carried it around with him for about a week and also shared it at school, referring to the card as “my book.”  He recently stopped crying in the mornings during preschool drop off, as if something clicked deep inside, integrating this pattern that loved ones leave…come back…leave…come back…we’re together…I’m alone…together….alone…with you…without…with you…without…and on and on and on…his little being swallowing and re-birthing into all of this, life’s constant cycle of loss and, hopefully, reunion.

For homework this week, J painted a cardboard box with brown, yellow, and red and used Scotch tape to add pictures he cut out of old Lego instructions.  He chose family photos to go inside that included one of him grinning toothless over his birthday cake and another of him kissing our beloved family cat.  He carefully chose special artifacts to go inside as well, such as a piece of lava rock his dad had as a kid.  After working quietly for some time, he seemed very pleased with himself and said to me, “Maybe when I’m a grownup and I can’t remember what I liked in first grade, I’ll look in this box and remember.”  This week he also rode his bike without training wheels for the first time, fighting back tears of frustration, that painful stage when succeeding at something new feels almost impossible.  The process was so painful to watch, I nearly cried with relief when I saw him picking up speed and wobbling along down the street for the first time, all on his own.  One morning this week he forgot his backpack and I fought the urge to go back and retrieve it for him, knowing it was important for him to make mistakes, to struggle—even if it was so painful for me to see his sad little face as he closed the car door, I had to cry a little on the way home.  This may sound overly dramatic, but it was symbolic to me—knowing I had to literally let him suffer (if possible only manageable amounts) from natural consequences, so he would know he was not entitled to someone else fixing his mistakes, and he could build the resilience to cope in a world full of inevitable failures and pain.  Maybe that sounds dark but there is also lightness, two sides of every coin, in that I knew he would be okay, that the sadness would pass, which I also think helped him know it too.

D went on a work trip this week and I missed him.  It was too quiet when the kids went to sleep.  I thought about our marriage like that ouroboros—an intricate balance of two lives, eternally returning to each other.  When he arrived home, we fell back into our comforting rhythm, cracking up about the boys, teasing each other about how we fold our socks.  We even got out for a date night and got to feel a different energy—escape that domestic web that contains our day-to-day life, which is beautiful but hard, putting aside what we are building—shared hopes and dreams—which again, I am thankful for, but also requires something else ingrained inside and brought out to the light, now and again, for air—that moment-to-moment experiencing of what drew us together in the first place, which is more free and effortless, not logical or orderly or even agreeable, but bright sparks of individuality like the shattering of an enormous kaleidoscope—enticing, unpredictable, magnetic.

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Around and around

Saying goodbye to J on his first day of first grade felt like I was sending him off into the open sea on a homemade raft—tightly woven together everyday moments of our family life that are a mixed-up, mismatch of colors and textures, a combination of past and present, beautiful and tragic, alive and dead, family and friends and ancestors all spinning together.  I felt comforted by this image, but also a little self-conscious, as if the intimacy of our family life was somehow a little exposed by this weirdly-shaped raft—not any stranger than the others as all are equally unique, but odd just the same.

We celebrated our last day of summer with a trip to the zoo.  J and I rode the train, laughing as the ride squeaked and sputtered and whistled down the rickety track.  Later we sat on a quiet, sunny bench together eating popcorn and churros, him wondering aloud what kind of powers he was going to get by drinking red Powerade.  He rode the merry-go-round, his long legs dangling over the plastic cheetah.  Every time he circled around, he waved at me, smiling big and sticking his tongue out the hole of his missing front teeth.  Around and around, hello-goodbye-hello-goodbye-hello-goodbye.

At the playground with C this week, he offered me a basketball and once I joined him, he gleefully shot into a mini-hoop, over and over until the sides of his face got sweaty.  He hardly ever made it in, yet he appeared to have so much fun, laughing when our balls collided or when he almost made a hoop.  Every now and then, he ran over to a nearby bench, sat for a few seconds, drank from his water bottle, and then ran back to shooting.  I was amazed by this—his determination and love for shooting hoops at age two-and-a-half.  It got me thinking about his dad and grandpa, who both played college basketball—of their spirits mixing together somehow, getting all jumbled up, intertwining and melding together, in this moment at least.

I guess we are all pieces of our family, of each other, breathing the same air.  Do you think we ever merge or collide into one another in some other dimension?  Could it be possible to somehow overlap when we are immersed so deeply in an activity in which our spirit experiences such passion it transcends logic?  We are clearly so affected by each other in the physical world, our own energy changed so simply by registering the expression of someone else when they enter the room.

Yet somehow our worlds are also so far apart, with impermeable boxes around them as we can never really know another’s experience, never feel it in the way they do. With all the information we know, no matter how hard we listen, how close we can relate, it is still just a guess.  Maybe that’s why love can be a rich, satisfying closeness, while at the same time, an isolation that is a sharp, unyielding edge.

“There’s so many worlds out there, it’s mind-boggling,” my husband said the other night.  We were looking over the Bay Area from the hills, in one of those rare moments of stillness together, when everything seems quiet, except for a comforting buzz, that is the movement of the world.  Then I thought of billions of homemade rafts, invisible pieces of past and present tied together with mud and reeds, carrying, loving, dreaming, drifting along forever, for all those people filling cars, buses, boats, planes—driving through, docking, taking off into the sky, overlapping, integrating, merging, pulling apart—circular and unending, hello-goodbye-hello-goodbye-hello-goodbye.



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The Hug Team

Have you ever used one of those shopping carts that has a pole attached, so it can’t leave the store, and failed to notice this important detail, until you tried to exit—while in a rush—and it crashed against the top of the door, causing you to go flying backwards? This has happened to me more than once, most recently, last week.  “Ma’am, you can’t go outside with that cart,” said the security guard in a commanding voice after my pole dramatically hit the doorframe. As if I still hadn’t realized my mistake at that point. No, pretty sure the moment I crashed into the doorway with an embarrassing clang and a jolt to my system, I realized immediately just how dumb I was, thank you very much.

“One of the most difficult human challenges is finding a truthful way to live within limits, whether these limits are imposed by our own fallibility, the needs of others, or societal dictates.” -Sandra Buechler from her book, Still Practicing.  I came across this quote the other day and it stuck with me.  It reminds me of how, sometimes, I feel the rush of life’s energy through my veins—so electrifying and clear—like a dog with its head out the window, sensing all that exciting animal and human activity, salivating over those fresh, nonintoxicating smells of aliveness, the earth.  During these moments, I feel closest to understanding the interconnectedness of it all, the universe, love. It is thrilling and expanding, and it feels like I will never come down.  Until I do. With a jolt. “Ma’am, you can’t go outside with that cart.” And suddenly, the universe is telling me, slow the fuck down, there are limits, pain, fallibility.  (And, of course, it’s not really about the grocery cart incident.) Often despair follows this and some existential questioning. Why bother when there’s always the inevitable crash, that acute awareness of tragedy and pain, death—the ultimate human limit.  And I see myself hating those setbacks, fighting against them, feeling angry, because, how dare I must suffer this way and can’t fly so high.  And, who suddenly took away my goddamn wings? No one.  It’s just life’s limits—boundaries that are real—boxes that shape a human life.  When I came across this quote, it felt nice to have some language around all this.  It was like being offered a hot bowl of soup when you have a cold.  It didn’t solve anything, but it did provide some nourishment, and maybe beginnings of a little joy returning—like a drop of fuel, starting to fill my tank for when it came time for soaring again.

I watch my oldest son, J, in his fantasy world.  Almost daily, he shares a running story plot about a monster called “the Lull” and its “Evil Biker Gang.” He says that he and a group called “the Hug Team” are constantly thinking of creative ways to outsmart “the Lull.” It’s interesting to me that this story he authors for himself, appears to take up a significant percentage of his waking thoughts.  And in this fantasy play, he creates powers for himself that are, of course, beyond his literal capacity.  So perhaps this is his way of dealing with that challenge of living within human limits in a way that feels truthful and free.

My toddler, C, points to pictures and tries rolling the words around his mouth: “motorcycle” “dump truck” “bath time.”  He has a clear desire to join the world of language, to be able to express himself, to be initiated into the club of communicating human beings. It is pretty mind blowing to witness this process, to really listen, and watch him making his way over this significant bridge.  “Kisses” “Ball” “Spoon” “Baby sleeping” “I don’t want that.”  C has learned that some words or phrases he says will elicit hysterical laughter from his big brother, like when he points to his own little backside and says matter-of-factly “big butt.” He seems to keep these phrases highlighted in his mind to be pulled out at critical times.

The other night, my husband showed me a YouTube clip of Noam Chomsky that went along with my latest wonderings about limits.  Chomsky argues that even the most free-thinking artists and poets are still creating inside some sort of structure or limits. And that this frame is what makes a poem so beautiful and differentiates it from free association.  It makes me wonder that if we didn’t have those limits of life (impeding death, illness, pain) would we operate in some sort of free association living? And what would that look like—a meaningless jumble of disjointed activities, unending maniacal euphoria? And that’s one of the reasons I love my husband so much, and why I would be so alone without him. He can join me in my weird thoughts and understand that I need complexity to keep on living. And I think he needs it too.  Maybe we all do.  And at the same time, what we need can also be so very, very simple.  Like he can hold me late at night when I’m crying. Or we can share a belly laugh, which is a type of freedom, when C thoughtfully points his pudgy finger in the air announces, “booger.”

J's art

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Hold you

“Do spiders eat gingerbread?” J wanted to know the other day.  He said he was thinking about that because of a song from camp. Yes, this is the first year he is now old enough to be at a “summer camp.”  It’s located at a regional park nearby where he spends his day among kids and nice counselors and the trees, making forts and doing science projects.  He comes home covered in dirt and smiling with that little gap where he’s missing his two front baby teeth. The campers go swimming once a week and this involves the highly complicated task of bringing his swim stuff, changing into them, and then changing back into his dry clothes afterwards.  He often talks about a friend he made at camp and how they swap funny scenes they remember from Inspector Gadget.  He sometimes breaks out into a special dance where he gleefully swings his little arms by his hips.  He is so big now but also still so little, which makes me feel a strange sensation, like salty tears are falling somewhere in a small, lonely spot—but also slivers of strength and meaning connecting me to a vast, beautiful ocean.

Meanwhile, little brother, C, is determined to get his shirt on without mom’s help and says, “I do it! Self!” He sings The Wheels on the Bus, rides a scooter, and when he doesn’t approve of a new food, he says definitively, “I don’t like it!”  He loves his blanky, which he often wraps around himself like a bathrobe and drags it around the floor behind him.  At dinner time, he insists that Blanky has a spot at the table, next to his plate.  He started preschool where he glues macaroni to the letter “Y” and has a teacher who smiles warmly and seems to genuinely enjoy him.  He says, “Hold you!” when he wants to be held.  I love bundling him up in Blanky and kissing his soft, sweet hair.  He likes to be tickled and wrestle with daddy.  His laughter makes a sound that radiates light and seems to oxygenate the fibers of my body.  I feel like I just birthed him, yet at the same time, each day has added to a sensation of him being him in this world, separate from me, clearing his own path away and towards where he needs to be in this mysterious universe.

Another part of this update is that we moved.  We are thrilled about our new location as we are now much closer to family and old friends and it makes sense for my husband’s job and mine too. But even the happiest of moves still must involve some form of craziness, right? And so, of course, the other day I went accidentally plunging my car the wrong way over a line of tire spikes.  Let yourself really imagine that one for a second.  Because, who actually does that? Thankfully, it did not turn out too bad.  I realized my idiotness as I was doing it, made a cool swerve move and only managed to gouge one tire completely flat. But still. There was definitely a moment when I thought all was ruined.

Thankfully, the same week, a dear friend brought me to a workshop for shamanic healing breathwork, which I never knew existed. My favorite part was when we all closed our eyes and danced on our yoga mats to this wild drumming music.  I felt so free and uninhibited and only slightly embarrassed when I opened my eyes and realized I had somehow, in my enthusiastic and awkward dancing, turned a full 180 degrees and had been unknowingly facing the folks behind me!  Good God!  Oh well, I laughed at myself and turned back around and got back to dancing and even cried a little bit, in a good way, at the very end. I would recommend this for everyone.

Lastly, this month my husband and I are celebrating twelve years of marriage.  We got engaged in our early twenties, three months after we met, so neither of us really knew what we were in for.  But, somehow we did understand something that maybe cannot be explained in words or made logical but pulls two souls together in a combination that just feels right, like they were always there. So, our anniversary feels special but also not, because I feel like togetherness is something that cannot be measured or counted in any reasonable way.  For example, the other morning something happened that has never occurred in the more than four-thousand mornings we have shared together.  That day, upon waking, we happened to be facing each other in the bed, heads perfectly aligned, our noses nearly touching, when our eyelids snapped open at the exact same moment.  Therefore, the very first thing I saw, upon journeying from dreamland and into this concrete world, was his deep brown eyes waking up from wherever he was, straight into mine.  It was the best thing ever, and I would take that moment over one million anniversary dinners.

So we will celebrate, but nothing big.  I will keep shamanic breathing and dancing.  I’ll try to drive a little better.  Togetherness with my husband will continue to unfold with surprises.  My kids will keep growing faster than I could ever imagine, the speed of life both terrifying and thrilling.  I will hold on to the handrails when I need steadiness.  But I will also let go, once in a while, and feel the rush and risk with my hands in the air, letting myself feel empowered and brave, facing fears, my body able to brace those wild turns, feeling all the energy of that painful but beautiful earth below that keeps on living.


C’s macaroni art.

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Cake and ice cream

“Cake?” It’s what C says first thing in the morning when he walks into our bedroom. “Cream?” And apparently he would like ice cream with that. What a funny way to wake up. First of all, I cannot believe C is now walking into our bedroom in the morning, because that’s how grown up he is now; and second of all, was he dreaming about cake and ice cream or does he really think this would make a good breakfast? He reenacted this scene several mornings in a row, maybe reinforced by our startled laughter each time. It was an improvement as previous mornings he would just stand at the edge of our bed and yell “eat!” in a frustrated voice until we woke up. At least cake and ice cream shows a little more creativity on his part.

Two-year-olds are definitely full of themselves, in a good way, and I think wanting cake and ice cream for breakfast is an example of healthy narcissism. Narcissism definitely gets a bad wrap, and I used to recoil at the word, but I’ve been thinking about it different lately, from the lens of depth psychology, in that only by embracing our natural narcissistic tendencies by being honest with ourselves that they are there, can we let go of defenses and be our full, loving selves. So I would say that me writing this blog is like eating cake and ice cream for breakfast, my inner soul craving some sense of indulgence, need for the spotlight, specialness. So I indulge and my soul feels honored, heard, celebrated.

Speaking of spotlight, J had an end of the year sing-a-long, and I definitely cried watching him up on stage with his class singing “you are my sunshine.” It was a lullaby my mom used to sing to me, and so I think anyone would have done the same if they were in my shoes. Plus, singing with hand gestures is just not his thing, but the fact that he was really trying hard made it beautiful to watch. At the end of the year, we were given a report card and he had good marks which made me feel proud, and we also got a letter from the school nurse saying he is red-green colorblind, which made me feel even more proud, for some reason, and in love with him, because it’s one of those quirky things that make up who he is.

When J asks “why do I have to go to school if I don’t want to?” I realize that I have that part of me too – that asks why do I have to do anything if I don’t want to – and that it’s important to recognize when this shadow part also shows up. Because I think if I deny it’s there, all that energy to hide from it can become exhausting and block making true contact with myself and others. I love the term radical acceptance (Tara Brach) in which we don’t necessarily agree or accept in a submissive way or shirk responsibility to make positive changes if we can, but we can surrender to fighting imperfections in ourselves and life, which we have no control over, in order to free up our energy and heart space to have more authentic contact with others and the present moment.

So that’s what’s new with us and my healthy narcissism believes there are readers out there who care and will enjoy hearing about it. And I hope that my own quirkiness or humor that I’m still discovering and letting out into the light will connect with yours.

J writes, “In summer, I will have a lollipop.”

Posted in childhood, Depth psychology, growing up, james hillman, jungian psychology, kindergarten, motherhood, parenting, psychology, Radical acceptance | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Love tickets

“I wish I were zero years old so I didn’t have to know that happened,” J said when he learned about the Titanic, bringing home a picture book about it from the school library. The two of us were drinking hot chocolates together in a nice, cozy coffee shop because I was trying to do something good, and then suddenly we were reading about people freezing to death in the Atlantic Ocean and I’m thinking oh my god this outing has suddenly become more emotional work than I ever thought it would be, and that is parenting exactly.

We have crossed so many new bridges this year in kindergarten. Not only does J have his own backpack for the first time, with his own things in it, but he can get it on himself. Who knew such a task could be so acrobatic—this is how it went the first month—with a serious look on his face that said “I got this,” he would carefully put on the first strap and then his entire body would erupt into a wild-man-whipping-maneuver, flinging the pack up into the air where it bonked around for way too long, nearly knocking himself in the head, until he could finally reach it with the other hand and was able to safely secure the damn thing onto his other shoulder. Watching these early attempts, I experienced a strange sensation of fighting back tears while also the urge to laugh.

His younger brother, C, is now two years old, so I should probably not refer to him as “Baby C” anymore. He was probably no longer a baby the moment we were at grandma’s and I went to get him from his nap and found him somehow standing outside his travel crib, saying “uh-oh!” I secretly cried when, shortly after, I gave away that fold-up crib, marking the end of an era. C loves to play ball with dad and goes to toddler gymnastics with me, where he appears to experience pure bliss through the simple act of jumping around for forty-five minutes on different bouncy surfaces. It’s contagious and as a witness, I often feel giddy and happy inside. The first time C had ice cream, afterwards, he pointed to his empty bowl and said, “more brrrr!” When it was warmer out, he liked to pick tomatoes from the garden, carefully place them on the cement and then before anyone could stop him, stomp on them with his bare foot. Gross. Understandably almost everything he does makes J laugh.

The first week of kindergarten, J developed blisters on his hands from the monkey bars, and now, almost springtime, they have hardened into calluses. He knows true things about the world that make him sad. He colors little red hearts, cuts them out, and hands one to me, saying it’s a “love ticket.”  I try and remind myself I’ve been “love-ticketed” and this helps to recharge emotional drain, my own rawness around parenthood, my fear of wanting to do it right, and I am able to have some moments of peace, to settle into the uncertain muck and beauty of life that expands us.Love tickets

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Growing down

The other day I found my shoe hanging from the door (see picture below), which made me laugh out loud because it had been one of those days—the kind where you jam a toe on the baby gate so hard it immediately turns purple and then somehow that same toe keeps getting stepped on by your five-year-old, then rolled over by your own grocery cart, with your toddler in it, as your five-year-old asks for cereal, with chocolate in it, and you say “no” and you curse yourself for wearing flip flops and being so clumsy and believe deeply in that moment that your toe will never, ever, in this life, actually heal.  But of course it does, and somehow, we just do.

Lately I’ve been thinking about the image of an upside down tree, and what it means to “grow down,” my spirit grasping for something on this earth to take hold of, the idea that we start life with something in us from another world and eventually learn how to grow down, be grounded in the earth and become part of this world (from The Soul’s Code, by James Hillman, a Jungian psychologist.  At least I think this is what he’s been talking about, or else my mind just wandered off into a very weird place). I like daydreaming about his idea of the acorn theory, an energy pattern directing us from inside, something that has its own dimension that is somehow not on either side of the “nature versus nurture” debate of who we are and how we became that way.  And for some reason, this feels good to think about, like when I’m hiking alone or laying on my yoga mat listening to Pearl Jam a little too loud on my headphones. It’s a spacious feeling.

Lately, J has been asking me, “what is a party boat?” and “can we get one?” His little soul is definitely interested in learning how to have some fun here. He also gets a kick out of waking up before anyone else in the family so he can color and eat cereal and listen to his favorite music (Trolls soundtrack) without being bothered. Meanwhile, Baby C’s idea of a party is taking out all the shoes from the bin by the door, dragging them around by their laces, and then hanging them in ways I didn’t know was possible (the surprise shoe hanging from the door was his doing). He also enjoys dropping a wooden spoon off the top of the stairs while saying “uh-oh” and running down the sidewalk as fast as he can while shouting gleefully. Maybe these are examples of their little souls finding pleasure and excitement in this earth somehow, directed by an inner something, rooting down.

So I’ll keep thinking about my upside down tree, especially when there’s pain or constriction, in or around me, my spirit settling down, into, seeking out so it can do what it demands to do. I’ll continue to find my own version of a party boat or a shoelace trick, to ponder meaning, laugh, connect with others—family and friends and strangers who are also here settling in.




Posted in carl jung, Childbirth, childhood, growing up, james hillman, jungian psychology, mom blog, nature versus nurture, parenting, psychology, the soul's code, toddler, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments