Wednesday, November 26, 2008


By the way, if you are wondering why I am now only including one word title lines, it is because if I include more than one, the browers or whatever this is converts the words into question marks. So I might have Love ??? ????? in a title line.

It is amazing how little I understand the mechanism I am using here.

I am off to pick up Ari soon from daycare & he and I will head down to RI tonight or tomorrow for Thanksgiving. I am sad we won't be with Rachel & Robbie & Adam & Aiko & Sarah & Stewart and the pack o' chillen that will be celebrating in Manhattan. I'll miss them, but we at least saw each other over Daddy's 80th birthday, so I at least laid eyes on the kids and held them in my arms (except O & E of course).

It was amazing to be staying in the Big House. There is something about opening up the curtains to THAT view--it is heart-piercing. And yet and yet--all of my yearning and longing, these days, seems to be wrapped up in that little person who I write about. It is as if all the rest merely dances around me--terribly important but not penetrating in the way it once did.

Today a former student brought her son and her 6 month old into the place where I intern now. The children were gorgeous, of course, and her little baby girl just nestled right up to me--quite literally a bundle of joy as she batted at my face and chuckled, pleased with herself for being able to grab my hair. Ai, yi, that feeling of baby-ness in my arms. And she so petite, too, unlike the huge hunk of baby that was Ari at that age. There is a feeling of gratification in holding a baby that is unlike any other sensation on the planet, may I live a hundred years and do all sorts of sensational, unlikely things.

I remember when my cousin's Dad, of blessed memory, saw me holding her sister's gorgeous first born. I was just holding him, relishing his weight on my chest, refusing to relinquish him to any of his other worshippers. And he said to me, "You need one of those for your own." It was one of those comments that hurts a little and yet lodges somewhere. I thought, yes, I do need one of those for me own. No matter what it takes.

I don't even want to outdo that rapture. And I do have one of my own now. Thank you, Walter.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008


I have had people ask me lately what is the hardest part of this whole social work school/single parenting gig. Thinking about it on my drive back and forth to the nursing home I visit in Everett today, I want to say that what feels the hardest right now is doubt. It is the sense of not knowing and being so unsure. Of course, that is developmentally appropriate for me as a neophyte psychotherapist. I should feel unsure and uncertain. I don't know yet how to respond appropriately to any number of different types of concerns I will be facing. I have an awful lot to learn.

So that's one type of doubt--the doubt engendered by a lack of confidence. And while that doubt is very uncomfortable, I hope I can trust to time to cure it. Knowing me, there likely will be some point in time when I will have entirely forgotten that I felt this type of doubt at all. I will at some point feel confident I know how to handle most issues and feel I can compensate for what I don't know--access the resources I need to help me.

Okay. I can imagine that future. I don't know how long it will take to get there, but I can imagine it. Then there's another type of doubt--the doubt of not knowing about what to think and believe--theoretically and historically.

This is such a conundrum for all of us post-modernists--and by this I mean all of us raised in a post-modern era. All of those duly influenced, like it or not, by post-modernism. We know how caught we are in conditioning, in the social influences of our time--but we have no idea how to escape that sticky web. Most of us feel comfortable with the fact that we are products of our culture. We just are, okay? That's fine, until you encounter the kind of conundrum I am facing now.

Our culture is one in which medication plays an increasingly intimate role with psychotherapy. I underestimated the role that it plays in social work, but it is a very intimate one. Social workers are considered incompetent and even unethical unless they encourage clients to go on medication. If they fail that mandated role, they are letting their clients down.

Given that we are now increasingly suspicious of the role of commerce in the medical world--it is hard to know for me what is truly therapeutic for clients or if, in the words of one of my roommates, all we therapists are merely whores for the pharmaceutical industry. This really is not as rhetorical as it sounds. He has a lot of data to back up this stance; and though it isn't the way he would phrase it in public, it is basically what he means. So I agonize about our sociological conditioning and what I can do about it. I guess that's all I can say at present--I have to run off and get the babe. This post probably makes no sense at all. Ah well. Doubt really has a life of its own, and its own rhyme. And its own reason.

All those clients, frozen in decaying and malfunctioning bodies and terribly psychotic minds. All that suffering. It is tempting to think that a pill is indeed doing the trick; but the science would tend to tell us otherwise.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


You get caught up in the excitement. I said to Ari this morning, "Let's go find out who our new president is!" With all the expectation that it would be, in fact, President Obama. President Obama. It does sound pretty good. I do feel patriotic this morning. I feel as though Obama fulfills Lincoln's promise. And while the New York Times proclaims on its cover--a great cover--that it is an historic day because Obama is African-American, I think what makes it even more historic is Obama's metoric rise--the power of the man himself, as a campaigner. He is a phenomenon, and I don't think anyone can now gainsay that. Let's see how he manages as President tomorrow. Today, let's gloat.

And no on Question 1. Phew.

Ari is dressed all in blue today.

Monday, November 3, 2008


So there's a great blog I follow about mindful parenting.

Check it out. I know you all are more fixated on the election right now. It's not just Obama, here in Massachusetts it is Question One, and out there in California it is Proposition 8, and in Connecticut it is about the constitutional amendment--big topics everywhere you go.

So Dr. Brady's post--not even his most recent post--about death probably isn't where most of you are at.

He quotes Tagore, which kind of hit a nerve for me since my Grandma left behind a quote from Tagore to be found by all of us when she died. This post--and the comments left by readers--really bolstered me because I have been amazed how much I have thought about death since Ari was born--and a little worried about it. It didn't feel normal. (And it still may not be normal, but at least it doesn't feel wrong.)

I brought him into this world, after all. I am responsible for the fact that he is alive. Unlike someone who chose to do this with a partner, I took the responsibility wholly upon myself to bring this life into this strange and somewhat desolate existence. Who knows what will befall him? But I do know that someday he will die. And there are times when I find that knowledge to be almost unbearable. Strange words from a yogi.

This issue goes to the heart of everything for me, and has every since I can nearly recall. I was told when I was too young to understand it that “death is a dreamless sleep.” I remember being so confounded by death and the limits of it. I remember long late night car rides when I would look into the steamy car window and think about Laura Ingalls Wilder being dead; about her body decomposing somewhere and her suchness–where was it?

It never stopped plaguing me–the fear of death. Not only losing this self, but all the other selves I love and have loved and in fact the loss of all the people who were already dead when I came to love them (great-grandparents, authors, artists, etc.) I hated hearing about tombs being broken open, etc. I hated the idea that anyone’s carefully crafted protection was being sundered. Even if I did not believe that those rites offered them any protection at all from the neurons simply shutting down as part of the body decaying and dissolving–even if I in no way could really believe in any Eternal–-I hated the idea that someone else’s faith was challenged in such a fundamental way.

It has been one of the hardest things about becoming a mother. I have attached so fiercely to the aliveness of my son. I have moments when I can’t bear the idea of him dying–-ever. (Much, much worse if he died before I did.) I also can’t bear global warming. That is too much impermanence for me. I have friends who are able to face the possible extinction of the human species with equanimity, even joy. Not so me.

One of the times I felt fully free of this (almost always nascent) brooding was when I was on retreat at IMS. I was walking and glanced up through the window and saw (imagined) an image of children climbing up a play structure to go down a slide. (This was before Ari was born.) And I thought, so peacefully, “Ah, yes, it will be their turn.” I felt myself relinquishing the me-ness of death, for myself and for others as well. I just felt myself take my place in the order of things, and death along with it. And I felt a great contentment that I would be able to go along with all these other beauties--these people I have loved–-into the unknown.

It still torments me, death, along with other things, like starvation, and children suffering in unspeakable ways. I always feel these things so keenly; perhaps I am unwilling to relinquish the sadness in this anguish. We do suffer; we will die. It is not “okay” how some people must live. And I can still love this reality that we are all of us helpless before. This moment, typing on the keys. Right now, I surrender to it.

I love the idea of living a life where death seemed truly like a friend, nothing to be afraid of. Any of you feel like that?