loving in the war years: when it all falls apart

in the middle of mourning, news came that a family member has stage four cancer. and that it had spread, far and wide.

and everything just stopped. work, laughter, joy, mourning. grey overcast rolled over life and i couldn’t move.

i lost a dear friend to breast cancer. a different family member was throwing up blood, but guilt and shame over an addiction made him assume the blood was caused by the addiction. it was cancer. another family member died a long slow painful death from a cancer nobody had ever heard of.

and now here we are again.

not only is there the pain of a loved one being ill, but there’s that Death guy again, staring at me straight in my face. challenging me. he’s not going away. in fact, he just keeps getting closer and closer. i can’t avoid him, i can’t pretend he doesn’t exist. not anymore.

what is my relationship with death? what am i going to do about the fact that i’m going to die at some point?

i’ve written and contemplated a lot about death. as a kid, i was terrified of ‘not being’ anymore, and so the dying part terrified me. the moment when you switch from being alive to being dead. but now i am older and i’ve experienced death of loved ones and meditated with death and written stories about it…and i’m less afraid of not existing. and utterly terrified of not ‘being alive’ before i no longer exist.

a person i follow on twitter asked the question, what do you hope to be doing in 5 years? it’s a great question, one that i have long struggled to answer. but it’s also a question that she asked right around the time we were finding out about this family member. and so the question was not one that lead to joyful answers or determination. it lead to the worst case of nihilism i think i’ve ever had. and boy, let me tell you, i can do nihilism hard core.

what is the point of being alive? what’s the point of any of this? why are we here? what intention did god or the universe or whatever created this planet and humans have for any of us?

these are not new questions, these are questions that have hounded and terrorized most of humanity for the entirety of its existence. but as i sit here, a middle aged person that is about the same age as so many of the others i’ve known who have died, i wonder why am i here and not them. why do kids in war torn regions get killed and not me? what decided which hundreds of thousands of people would be killed when the atomic bombs were dropped and which wouldn’t?

is there a god or a universal law that decides these things? and if so, what is the criteria? what was the deciding factor that let the mother be killed but not the baby that is left suckling at her breast?

the randomness, the lack of rules. there is no way to assure ourselves that we will die in our sleep at a very old age. it is discombobulating. but it is terrifying to think that the lives of the people who are killed by wars, who die from cancer, who are hit by cars (as my dear friend was), who’ve ‘reached their time’–have no meaning. that it doesn’t matter what they did or accomplished in their five year time line or what they checked off their bucket list or what they did that morning or what they wanted to do that evening…it is terrifying to think that there is no meaning to the lives they lived. that there is no meaning to my life.

that we’re all here on earth just waiting for the moment until we die.

i’ve always thought that i was put on this earth to be the greatest and best me that god intended me to be. but i don’t know anymore. i could’ve been at the bar in florida that was shot up. I could’ve been the driver on I-94 that was smeared across the pavement. i could’ve been the one who was told the cancer was back and it spread. everywhere.

that i’m not the one who died yesterday doesn’t give meaning to my life today. or does it? should it?what is the point of doing this, of doing life?

what happens if i die, and i’ve never done all that i wanted to do? or i’ve never dreamed as greatly as god intended me to dream?

i am blanketed by grey immobilizing hopelessness, while a blistering fire of desperation burns in my guts. there is no hope. but there’s so little time. i must get a bucket list, i must get that job i always wanted, i must win the lottery, i must i must i must i must…

i will eventually be the one that death doesn’t walk away from. what do i do until then?

i don’t move. i haven’t moved. i snarl and hiss at my partner and wearily cart children to school and dutifully wait for them seven hours later. rote life. rote living. terrorized by death.

what am i going to do? what is any of us going to do?







loving in the war years: day twenty eight

Coming Back To Life: Healing Through Crisis With Ritual + Action

A creative parent holds space for a child to explore, be creative, test boundaries, let their imagination run wild, experience different personalities, ideas and roles. A great parent doesn’t control or shut down. This is the same when dealing with your inner-child. Allow yourself explore and experience life, empower yourself to make the right choices and live life in your own way. Be an innovative parent to your inner child: loving yourself when you’re sick, being encouraging when you fall over, and always cheering yourself on.

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loving in the war years: day twenty seven

Feeling Grief + Dreaming Another World

“Philandro Castille. I honor your life by releasing this grief to go home. I release this heaviness in my heart so I can be an active part of creating a new world”

“To the people of Nice. I honor your lives by releasing this grief to go home. I release this heaviness in my heart so I can be an active part of creating a new world”

“ For the non-human communities who are devastated by strip-mining… For the three officers who were killed in Baton Rouge… For anyone who preaches hate and division… I honor your lives [or the lives that have been affected by your wounds] by releasing this grief to go home. I release this heaviness in my heart so I can be an active part of creating a new world ”

read more…

loving in the war years: day twenty six

the following quote comes from a really great blog post about nourishing self with food during times of mourning. it has a good recipe for bone broth that i highly recommend–with a few caveats. while this author is probably correct that bone broth should be made from organically grown animals, i also know that organic meat that’s connected to the organic bones can be and is often extremely expensive. sometimes you can get lucky and find just the bones without the meat, but even those can be super expensive. whole foods knows there’s a bone broth phenomenon going on right now.

my suggestion is to buy the ‘tough’ cuts of organic meat with bones in–because they’re not ‘prime’ meat they’re often quite a bit less expensive. you can also ask for bones, on the off chance you have access to a butcher (but as i said this often can be just as expensive depending on where you go). also, don’t forget that buying already made organic broth in a box is totally a choice. of course it feels good to buy things fresh and make it yourself–but, sometimes self care comes in the form of being able to pull a lid off a $2.99 container and heat up contents in microwave. you get the benefits of self care, self nourishment, and calming soup all for much less expense and much less work.

anyway. check out this excerpt:

Sorrow and mourning can take many forms, as death and loss can come in so many different guises. Sometimes it isn’t the physical death of a loved one that we mourn, but the end of something we cherished. The loss of a job, or a friendship, or an intimate relationship, or even a lost pet. So many experiences tear holes into us, and we have to practice a fair bit of self care in order to heal those wounds so they don’t grow and fester.

I’ve mentioned that one of the most nourishing foods I’ve come across yet is bone broth, as it isn’t just a soothing internal hug, but also replenishes a body right down to the cellular level. It can be used as the base for a heavier soup, or just enjoyed on its own by the mugful; something that I try to do as often as possible, especially during the autumn and winter months. Quite often, a cup of this broth first thing in the morning does more to wake me and replenish my spirits than half a dozen cups of coffee ever could.

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loving in the war years: day twenty two

a day of mothering: milky oats

trauma and grief
have actual effects, not just on the heart or the mind, but on the body as well. and more often than not, when trauma and grief are mixed with stress, a body has almost no choice but to move into a ‘fight, flight or freeze’ state.

or, in other words, extreme stress can cause extreme reactions–even if you are not physically under threat (like, from a lion). you may feel like you are, however, and so you become highly anxious, snappish, have insomnia, and maybe always feel like you drank too much coffee. or, conversely, you’re sluggish, sleep all the time, have no interest in life, and like it wouldn’t matter how matter how much coffee you drank, you’ll never be able to move again. or you’re too fearful to move, or all you want to do is move. or a combination of all these things, just depending on the time of day.

the thing is though, is that when it comes to grief and trauma, the fight, flight or freeze state doesn’t ramp up and then work back down again as it would with a lion. because grief and trauma stay with us, because grief especially never really ‘goes away,’ you can stay in fight, flight or freeze for decades. needless to say, you’re body is not built to handle that sort of stress for that long.

enter milky oats.

milky oats come from the same plant that gives you your morning breakfast. they are the tops of oat plant, and provide concentrated nutrition. within that nutrition, they also work to revitalize your very overworked body, you’re body that just seems to be too tired to work its way out of the hyper-vigilant state it’s in. too tired to do anything but be anxious or stressed.

milky oats is a long term herb, one that works best the longer you take it. it is an herb you build into your routine, that you have a relationship with. in these days when people are used to desperately searching for the miracle herb that ‘helps,’ many don’t find much use for milky oats. people have been trained by pharmaceutical companies to expect immediate relief from whatever ails them. milky oats doesn’t generally immediately help (although on some it does). and even when you take it long term, you don’t generally just wake up one day and know you feel better. the effects are so gentle, so nourishing, it tends to be more like one day you notice that you’ve taken the stairs every day that week instead of the elevator. you just sort of slip back into feeling ‘normal’ again. not the immediate relief many need (there are other herbs for that), but definitely long term healing.

it’s best to take a tincture when it comes to milky oats, so you can get the full benefit of the ‘milk.’ and the highest quality milky oats tinctures are cloudy green in color. but there is benefit to drinking a cup of dried oat tops or oat straw (the stalk/leave of the plant) tea. Susun Weed talks about the benefits of oat straw here. and you can read more about milky oats here (scroll down past the nettles information) and here.

it’s often very difficult to fit in a new daily routine in your life, but if you think of milky oats as less of a ‘routine’ and more of a small moment of daily mothering, i’ve found i rarely forget to take my tincture when i need to. in times of mourning and grief, even taking 30 seconds to drop a few drips of tincture into some water can be enough care taking to help you get through one more day.

loving in the war years: day twenty one

dia de los muertos en oaxaca
foto credit: della nohl photography

i still observe dia de los muertos.

even after a white lady invited me over to her house to ‘celebrate’ with drinks she made from a new recipe she found,
even after i was informed by a mexican mexican (who, unlike american poser mexican me, never suffered from assimilation) that i was doing it wrong,
even after all the articles declaring dia de los muertos to be the ‘mexican halloween,’
even after the thousands and thousands of white women with the money to get skeleton face make up tossed their braided hair at me,

even though i have so many questions: do you remember/honor children on the first or the second of november? how do you construct an alter? what do you say? what do you do? do you pray? do you cry? i search the internet for answers and curse again–oh, how i wish the internet was not my elder, my mentor.

even after the insecurity confusion anger

i still observe dia de los muertos because it is a mourning ritual that still exists. it still exists. it survived.
the whispering wind calms me. lets me know. it’s ok.
it’s ok.
we’ll survive.
even after.

i honor

because even after all this time.
i still miss them.