Quilting on a Quantum Level: A Tribute in Memory of a Mama Bear.

There are so many beautiful things in this world. Yesterday PawPaw was clearing out vines that had taken over some small trees down beside the driveway. I was ‘supervising’ from the Gator. As he got further back into the woods, he discovered a small bush called a ‘Strawberry Basket’ or ‘Hearts-a-Bustin.’ The little baskets of red berries are so pretty. We carefully marked it with a yellow tie and cleared all of the vines out of it. We had those little bushes at the cabin in NC and I remember them from when I was a child. I was so excited to see one down here. ~LWMetcalf, September 16, 2020, Facebook.

It isn’t difficult to find an analogy for the life of my dear friend, Lynn Warcup Metcalf. She wove a tapestry of connections by being true to herself within, devoted to her loved ones, and attached intimately to her passions all while negotiating artfully the seams with people she might have favored less. Nothing was left to chance. I imagine this is how she went about her quilting process, no doubt negotiating carefully the difficult pieces and parts of the process. She was prone to pointing out that her gifts contained imperfections, which struck me more as fastidious than absurd. I myself am a perfectionist when viewed from many angles.

Where I find it difficult to negotiate the practice of giving because my gifts never feel good enough, Lynn gave as if her generosity kept her very individual breaths flowing. She gave beautiful details, intricate information, and practiced methodical maneuvers from the moment ideas filled her brain until you received a loving card or package in the mail.

She was an ardent defender and supporter of those she loved. She didn’t have enough time to finish everything in her infinite desire to create, appreciate, and describe. She could never have had enough time to express all that she was capable of translating into seams, fabric squares, or as specimens of flora and fauna in written or photographic records of her walks and hikes with Art and Molly. Molly is the dog that found them to promise comfort and company to Art when Lynn’s terminal cancer won the game of solitaire that she had to fight with both hands nearly tied behind her back.

Indeed, Lynn had dreams about Mollie before she ever appeared into the reality of their lives. I wish I could have asked her about her dreams in the last few weeks.

I’ve never really thanked her appropriately for all she did to support me and my ‘Cubbie Bear’ in hard times. I never even managed a thank you note for the last quilt she sent to me as a housewarming gift in what seems like a week ago, but in reality, was maybe more than a month ago. I gushed on Facebook, but I never sent the photos of my new place that I promised. I never felt settled enough to allow myself to write, to express my appreciation, or to describe how amazing her gestures always were – gestures she maintained even as she was battling the depths of a cancer that didn’t provide much insight into how or when she would exit to the greater fabric of space and time.

She relied on her traditions and her faith. She put her whole heart into loving her family to whom she gave unconditional acceptance so that they could be the individuals they needed to be. She held great care for the animals who loved her lap while she paid special attention to her piecing work.

When I met Lynn some odd 27 years ago, I was the baby in a professional team of three people. We were dubbed the three bears, or so we dubbed ourselves, who can remember? Regardless, I became Miss Margaret to her, and she Mama Bear to me. We signed our messages MM and MB over the years. Our dear friend who rounded out our little work family passed away also too soon late last year during an asthma attack while we were all fearing a pandemic. Like Lynn, he left behind a loving family and grand kids. Back in the day, we would sometimes break for coffee and rum cake at a little Greek place across from our offices. Now I suppose those two might enjoy rum cake together in another realm of consciousness, hopefully still watching over me.

As I take in the information that death is inconvenient when lives are cut too short, I realize that I will never not see my dear friend and MB in the details of life, in the quilts and cards she gifted me, and in the generosity of her spirit. Her expressions of generosity connect more than her own being to the greater field of richness, beauty, and the authentic value of all things, no matter how small. She became as a quantum thread, piecing together the entirety of all that touched her life with love and care.

She is in every stitch, every wood-ear, and every tiny mushroom…the sunsets she took time for, appreciative pets, hurting family members, old time recipes and remedies, carefully chosen fabrics, and the deep organization and patterns of nature. She took joy meeting up with, describing, and providing updates about a random but curious yellow cat or lazy cows in pastures along her walking routes. Her photographic journals she posted on Facebook are reminders of this greater field of richness – including the serenity of snow, or the humor in capturing one’s own awkward shadow.

You paid attention to everything, MB. You were like a walking index of information and you knew exactly where to catalogue the next item. You loved babies and nurturing, and you believed women and mothers deserved the greatest care and respect. You cherished. You greeted the sun. You were like a mother Duck ushering your children along, not minding their wandering about but ever keeping them close in your heart and worry no matter how old they got. I don’t think you would have chosen to leave all that is so earthly and intricate, but you seemed brave, realistic about where you were going.

Were you afraid? I pray your bravery kept you clear as you passed through the veil of worlds. It is comforting to know that you have gone there, finally, but only because selfishly, I know that you know me and that you are part of the family of souls who will guide me no matter the level of quantum transformation I encounter in life or death. I imagine everyone by your side has been subconsciously holding their breaths. But I know you would not have chosen this. Your worry, your love for your kids and Art, and your grands and greats was too enormous to let go willingly. This wasn’t fair to you or to them. But here it is.

You painted beautifully in this life in love, creativity, and generosity. Love you MB. Always, MM.

The following are some photos of Lynn’s handiwork, photos of things she loved, and some of the pictures she took of the nature she encountered and her surrounding world. My sincere sympathies to you, Art Metcalf, and to Charlie and Karen and your families.

Photo Credit for final picture: Art Metcalf/Tanya Niles (Facebook post)

Valiant Child

ocean

A mother feels between her breaths
where time stops between heart beats
and memory works like muscle

Here at the edge of intention
where childhood ends
and memory of the final nursing is lost
though she swore she’d never forget

He artfully negotiates the room like John Wick

She amuses herself with thoughts of what could have been had she married Keanu.

Nestled there against her skin
he entangled all that her childhood needed,

but missed…

because Good Housekeeping.

Swollen with nourishment
for his cells and soul
she gave
and she gives
and now
Menopause.

The tears as she types
in the moments she has allowed for self-care
this month
this year
rarely.

The tears are the biological evidence
imprinting upon the air
her sorrow
her pride
her grief
her longing
her knowing
her accepting
her dreaming
her perfection
expressed as ancestral intentions

It is of unknown source carried like a ruck sack
slung over the back carelessly by her offspring
as he moves into a light
transcribed from within his own lenses.

He was five
when his blue eyes transitioned
to the hue of verdant oceanic dreams

She was old enough to be his grandmother then
just as she was kissing the strange light on the day her own mother’s breath closed

The air around her trembled
signaling her fate
the pace quickened
the portal of her vision narrowed

Then, he was twelve.

In the span of only seven years he blossomed from innocent sponge to
friend
leader
martial artist
thespian
gamer
gamer
gamer
gamer
comedic actor

It has been some time since she
as me
his mother
now single
on welfare
disabled
decided
that children come first,
and a paradigm of compassion, empathy, and respect can forge

a valiant child.

~MBennett (c) first published 6-15-2020 @ The Higher Process. All rights reserved.

The Fundamental Purpose of Schooling Vs. the Value of Self-Direction

IMG_5005
My son at six years, with his dog. Learning happens in every moment of life.

In defense against the battle being waged on homeschooling, Lawrence W. Reed wrote for the Foundation for Economic Education about the misconception that school was institutionalized for the sake of illiterate masses. Reed made the case that literacy was indeed not an issue two centuries ago.

I encountered an exchange about this content suggesting that schools are not fully to blame for declining literacy performance*, and that our society is influenced by a “lazy entertainment culture.” I actually believe schools are indeed not fully to blame. But I do not think our entertainment culture is lazy or a deterrent to learning. The discussion is made even more complex by the nature of performance measures.

*Performance measures, cohort outcomes, literacy rates – these are standardized measures and not true indicators of whole aspects of learning and knowledge attainment or application.

The premise of Reed’s essay is to debunk the myth that we needed institutionalized education for the sake of the masses. He provided a thorough overview of the elite knowledge attainment and wide access to many types and levels of information 200 years ago. He openly omitted for the moment, the preclusion and oppression of slaves and to certain degree, women from all, or certain access. He also illustrated the high functional applications of knowledge and skill then, as compared with relative low functional preparedness, now.

But in terms of our current cultural trends and influences, comparison across two centuries is a bit of a stranded analysis. Exponentially speaking, there can be no comparison. This is my jumping off point.

Parents restrict their kids’ natural urges to practice the functional skills of this age. I believe they do so out of fear projection, no matter how well-intended. This limiting, prohibiting, judging, restricting, and dismissing of media and other forms of visual, audio, and meme culture (including gaming) breeds a certain and noticeable level of social and functional ignorance.

I have witnessed this phenomena between my son and other whole life unschoolers and their schooled peers. It is disturbing, and frustrating for the kids who have not been held back from practicing and exploring with their generation’s tool sets. The *limits* many people place on “allowing” children and teens certain exposure to content creates taboos and extreme trajectories. They create the very reality they fear.

While I don’t take issue with Reed’s content or the purpose of his essay, a comparison of schooled literacy now to literacy of the early 1800s and prior is not necessarily a congruent comparison. I for one, dislike reading that flowery stuff. Give me emojis, please. Give me cave paintings and art. Let me fill in the blanks with my imagination and preferences. Better yet, let me press a button and get there in a faction of the time. I don’t feel this is a bad thing.

I don’t discount the evidence that school contributes to continuously poorer performance on standardized tests and measures. But these measures are assigned erroneously and in limiting ways. The more the testing is diluted according to demographic analysis, the further away from reality things get. You cannot reverse-engineer homogeneity.

Functional knowledge is also relative – school does not teach the functional skills required for the 21st century. Reed demonstrated this clearly. Schools have diminished intellectual capacity by wiring the brain not to question, but to accept input. This wiring is reinforced –  flash to kids who parrot their parents rather than thinking aloud for themselves. The authoritarian nature of schooling is responsible in large part for individuals being any measure less mature and discerning today than for the same ages even a century ago. Our brains were hijacked.

Colonial and Victorian societies had their share of misguided choices and pastimes, though, relative to our own era. And school is not the only system on the hook for limiting perspectives and neglecting the development of functional skills.

While school is a paradigm of indoctrination, parenting is entrenched in forms of indoctrination and authoritarianism. Why is it that teachers are now being afforded all but adoption papers by parents who are frustrated trying to do it all for the first time in quarantine? This is an ancestral issue, complete with cultural influences and well-intended (or, unquestioned) normative measures passed down through centuries without relative purpose.

Parents are not seeing that the responsibility for connection with their children starts with them. But rest assured, this is also an age of compassion. When we know better, we do better. Or at least, we can try to build a bridge to reshape the predominant paradigm.

Narratives are important as we seek to level up the paradigm of learning, and what we pass forward as education. I think the focus needs to be on shedding school authoritarianism and standardization, not on controlling the indulgence in cultural interests of current society. We need to open up that information highway and let kids experience freedom of choice, freedom of thought, and whole life self-agency.

Parental fear is responsible in tandem with the authoritarian nature of school for preventing the natural flow of societal learning and functional application of information. Someone not being able to read content from the 1800s has little to do with how much Netflix or YouTube they consume. Our society is different.

We also don’t have the need to read as much as we did then. I speed-read or scan much of the content I consume, while my son’s generation absorbs similar sound bytes as they move through video content. The format is different, but they are in control of when they speed up or slow down to focus. The method works, and when they have questions, they detour down a rabbit hole that might contain a combination of video, written, or functional life aspects around a topic. They even research, collaborate, and invent. And when quarantine is not an issue, they are facilitated towards even more open-ended excursion.

These trips through winding pathways instill a natural complexity of comprehension. This can be compared to what schools try to do when they make attempts to integrate subjects that don’t appeal to students’ interests. This fabricated learning is boring, inherently disjointed stuff that schools coerce kids to digest. Then they pollute the process further with standardized testing and far-fetched, relatively meaningless analysis of these data.

Thank goodness I have the freedom to indulge in whatever my brain wants to accommodate in a given moment most of the time. Children should have the same freedom to develop their own minds. Our experience with whole life freedoms tells me they can be trusted to do so when facilitated in connection and when partnered in respect.

Information in this century is readily available. We can take exponential shortcuts. But we have to have the ingenuity and creativity to find answers and solutions to our 21st century problems. Intrinsic motivation is a far more powerful learning tool than coerced, authoritarian education.

Also, demonizing kids’ interest in technology is counterintuitive. We must not deny them practice with the contextual tools of their future. Our job is to facilitate them while trusting them to practice self-regulation and discernment. If we hold them back from self-agency, we are denying them this practice while we are still around to help them recover from their mistakes. We are setting them up to take more risky falls in early adulthood, by great percentages. In our society, entire adult lives can follow deep ruts and never experience the extraordinary because such ruts are the antiquated paths carved by generations trying to fit within conventional paradigms. We must let go and trust the child.

Is the question really about literacy…. or is it about self-direction? The fear is ours to own. It is not our right as adults to project our conditioning onto our children.

Pandemic is an Opportunity to Exit the Structure of the Conventional School Paradigm

gray bridge and trees
Photo by Martin Damboldt on Pexels.com

I collected a few words from a comment I left on a post about high school seniors missing out on their graduations and spring traditions. It struck me how I both know and don’t know the pooling emotions of this phenomena.

Whole Life Learners don’t have their lives so compartmentalized. We live more in the present tense. It doesn’t feel like the world is closing in on us or that we are running out of time. Opportunities aren’t hit or miss. Rather, they are never-ending and spiraling out all the time.

I truly do feel for those in the conventional mold. I graduated from public school and remember the linear pathway, the anticipation… but I also remember the ennui and the depression, and the emptiness that followed – the now what?

The transition through high school graduation didn’t feel right. In fact, little ever felt right when trying to squeeze myself into the grid of the system. It felt more like I was spreading parts of myself over a substructure. I had trouble filling in some of the spaces. It felt uncomfortable holding my attention there.

I tried to grasp the moments as they were fleeting and measured. It was like trying to grasp at feathers floating by while sitting on a rudimentary boat, riding a strict current towards a certain destination. My anticipations were not often rewarded to the degree of expectation for what the moments might provide in the way of transformative experiences.

The unschooling process becomes a lifestyle. My son wakes up with prospects for an unfolding day, such as laying a foundation for a build in Minecraft or gathering the ingredients for a meal. We laugh. We take time to indulge in YouTuber compilations. Or, I curse and moan trying to make it out the door for an errand. I’m struggling with pain from degenerative joint disease. He anticipates my moves. He knows how hard I work to facilitate his needs. He gets why he needs to do his share. He appreciates what I am giving him from the trough of single motherhood.

We both work towards the parts of the day when we can relax and do our own thing. Many days, most days, that’s how we begin – doing our own thing. It helps set a pace for meeting the obligations on top of feeling satisfied. We converge here and there to eat, to respond to the cat, to help each other with random tasks or problems, or to feed our minds or creativity.

When I have to work, things get more tense. He fends more for himself. We build our routines and schedule around it. He understands how I balance what I have to do with what I want to do. When I can’t maintain balance, he feels the boat swaying and learns how to adapt. Together, we manage. It can be messy. It can be indeterminate. But we are in control, self-directing with the cards we’ve been dealt and the resources we cultivate. The process is inherently rewarding and shapes character. We carve out ample time to do the things that are meaningful to us.

We remember our trips to Chicago, Yellowstone, or when he was a toddler visiting family back East as we pour over a laminated world map he just got from Amazon. He asked me to buy it because he missed his old folded map that fell apart over a year ago. We talk about trips we still want to take.

He taught himself everything he knows about geography over his short years with travel, videos and gaming, and discussions about world events. He knows more than I ever learned in school or throughout my adulthood about the world’s countries and political leaders, cultures, and history. We get side tracked counting the states we’ve been to. It hits him that in 55 years, I’ve never left the US. I see the gears turning. I hear him tell a friend later online that everyone thinks he wants to be an architect because of his gaming builds, but right now, he wants to be an actor.

He practices his acting all the time with me. We sing our communications, exaggerating content and vocal inflections. He affects accents – Irish, British, Russian. He talks in memes in third person about himself. He pretends to be an old man, stooped over my cane as a prop. We end up laughing so hard I can’t breathe. He relishes in his gift for humor. I see how my willingness to be silly facilitates his need for connection.

The apron strings are tethered in certain spots. He asks me to check behind the couch, irrationally, while watching Supernatural. He proved in the last year that he can step out into the world and participate seamlessly in practices of conventional achievement. He had acted in a community play and became interested in interpretation for speech and debate. His friends who go to school were involved. He seemingly whisked in, and back out of that world and collected accolades in one fell swoop.

The reality is that it was hard. This was a regional and statewide organized activity. There were weekly practices and early weekends. He stressed over character development and getting his lines down perfectly. We are both night owls. We got sick from loss of sleep. I had to buy him special clothes because all he owns in his growing frenzy are sweats and custom tees.

Initially, he had begged me to facilitate his participation. It’s hard for me, physically, to take on the early Saturdays and winter Wyoming travel. But he came at this with intense intrinsic motivation. It’s my job to facilitate his interests and self-direction. His desire to compete was pivotal. He made mental notes about the things that he had to tolerate in a conventional educational setting. He was grateful that he could return home to his freer lifestyle. But he also wants to do it again in the future.

We often talk about opportunities he can pursue as he gains readiness. Pretty much the only thing that can stand in his way is himself, and much of that is a simple matter of development. At 12, he is already discerning. He is already decisive. His passions are numerous and his interests expansive. He is leading himself.

It is all spread out before him, an open landscape with endless choices. All he has to do is match his intrinsic motivation to the cause. Instead of floating, he is wading. He can walk out of the river at any point to follow any path he chooses. For now, he is content to enjoy everyday life. He says he would like to drive, but other than that, he’s not interested in getting older in a hurry.

There is no rush, unless his friends want to meet him on bikes. Then, it is a mad dash to grab snacks, water, cash, his phone, a hoody, and his helmet. As he pedals away, my world settles eerily. I am so used to having him by my side. As he ventures out, I’m met with spaciousness that is suddenly empty of his energy. I’m reminded how short-lived all of this really is, and how few apron strings remain. Unschooling him leads to my own self-examination. Connections are Everything, and the way he connects me to the world keeps me rooted in authenticity.

A whole life learner knows that the pathways go in all directions at once. They aren’t worried about stepping out of their comfort zones because they know they have the power to return and leave again. This isn’t far from the nature of an entrepreneurial spirit. Life is not linear.

Covid19 has flipped the world for most everyone. But for homeschoolers, the biggest change has been social isolation. We haven’t been able to participate in regular community activities. We miss our community, and my son misses seeing his friends. Our budgets are constrained, and we still can’t find toilet paper on the shelves. But our spirits are OK. We already know how to adjust. We go with the flow, knowing continuous change is a matter of life.

I can imagine how stressful it must be for system-based children and young adults during this time. I imagine the fear of feeling thrust off one’s track, not knowing how to realign and move forward within the chaos.

I imagine this process feels like being jerked from one end of the spectrum and back again. Ideally, these conventional learners would be facilitated in catching their breath and adjust to a new paradigm that considers the benefits of retaining flexibility and promotes individual discernment.

Ideally, they will never return to what used to be and instead will be afforded an opportunity to know themselves so that when the mouth of the river appears, they sense their own direction.

How Will They Learn? ~Education in Transformation (E.D.I.T.)

E.D.I.T. presents a video featuring unschoolers of all ages discussing how they learn without school, in Unschooling Myths, Episode 1.

Sean participated and conveys his perspectives on being a lifelong unschooler and going down rabbit holes of self-directed discovery.

Self-Examine, then Let Go to Level Up

silhouette photo of person standing in neon lit hallway
Photo by Naveen Annam on Pexels.com

We are in unparalleled times, connected globally as never before.

In The Common Denominator Is You, Michael Schreiner discusses a tendency to repeat life and relationship patterns that are symptomatic of giving away the power we have over our lives. I am reminded of my own efforts to take responsibility for having allowed my former self to live continuously within trauma and abuse.

Schreiner references Carl Jung’s philosophy that has become a pop psyche tenet:

“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.”

Along my journey, I chose to accept a term that betrays the illusion of security in childhood, codependency. The stigma associated with the powerlessness and victimization inherent in such terms is humbling to the ego.

  • It requires a journey through pain, emotional upheaval, grief, and layers of healing.

  • It requires trusting the space through which we cannot see.

  • It requires remembering to float on our backs when we are accustomed to reacting to life in fear.

When I realized this aspect of Self, I was awakened to a process whereby I was able to  start shedding the impact of complex domestic violence and sexual trauma. This happened layer by layer – digging through more than five decades of trying to see. I’m a bit of a late bloomer.

With intention, I reached levels of lightness that contrasted with where I used to be. That contrast provides enough definition to light the rest of my way.

Many people attribute such a process to trusting in their system of belief. It is very similar, so I won’t bother splitting hairs. Light, Wholeness, Faith, Trust, Hope, Compassion, Forgiveness, Healing, Centering – all of the ingredients are present.

To me, it felt like a gut-wrenching spiritual process of death followed by rebirth.

I integrated trauma that was grounded as emotional memory into what I perceive as Eckhart Tolle’s pain body. Integrating in this sense means that I took what I was made of, put it through the grinder, and recreated my very being. I thought the process was scary. What I know now is that the process isn’t singular. It is like peeling an onion. It is like sewing a quilt.

At one point in my early 20s, I slept on cardboard on the floor of an open graduate studio for days and semi-showered in the building’s restroom. I found myself secretly stuffing cellophane-wrapped giant cookies into my apron during my opening shift at Stefano’s Pizza where I earned below minimum wage – just so that I could eat something that day. My parents were married for 60 years before the first one died. I went to parochial school and private college. I won scholarships. So, this trajectory made no sense without examining deeper aspects of my life experiences.

I was too ashamed to ask for help. I also feared asking for help. My self-esteem characterized me as easy for the plucking. Indeed, I was targeted by a university professor twice my age. That is just a minor sampling of my early adulthood as a deflated young woman. When I look back, I am grateful to be in my present skin. But even in this skin I journey continuously towards elusive wholeness. This wholeness seems so unattainable and absolute that it is often hard to keep focus with an anxious world pulsating freely. Increasingly, I return to center to reposition.

We seek to control our spaces when a free-form nature defines our existence.

I find myself having to practice yielding to the flow of circumstances as opposed to reacting from a source of complex stress-responsiveness. This is one simple aspect of how choosing to raise my son in connection converges with the healing of my own inner child.

I could not deny my role in the process of allowing abuse. It is very difficult and extremely uncomfortable to live any way but authentically after that realization. It is an humbling life pass that becomes etched into being and soul.

Taking this responsibility does not equate absolving perpetrators of their insidious and hideous actions and intentions. Instead, it removes me from the circumstances of the crime so that I may regain what I’ve lost. It brings me back to center.

Truly, when enmeshed within trauma and abuse patterns, this process of stepping outside of the abuse feels literally like pulling apart the very threads of one’s own being.

Imagine that an afterimage of Self is left behind, an imprint of sorts that enables the healing person to glance back at where she’s been. This becomes a source of information for understanding parts of herself she’s released in order to escape – in order to grow.

She has the choice to fall back into the dysfunctional normal, or to fall forward in trust without foresight of who she is about to become. I must admit, when I got to this point, I felt I’d leveled up and could afford to breathe.

There is a space for wandering where fear is integrated as we search for light within an unlit tunnel. The afterimage of the fractured former self gives reference to reassure us that we are indeed walking away from hurt. In this process, I was carrying myself for perhaps the first time.

My child was witness to this process, a model for drafting inner strength from deeply within. As he stresses about what he perceives as the narcissistic behavior of a friend, I draw upon my tool box and remind him not to give away his power. Connections are everything, but we have to know how, why, and when to sever nodes in the grid. The kill switch might just begin with us. Reaction must be tempered before it can be mastered.

I found it precarious to wear my identity on social media during my period of transformation. So much of who I am now is not who I was before. But I’m still me. That part is reassuring. I feared I’d lost my essence, expended during prolonged epochs of fight or flight, or misplaced during bouts of intermittent depression.

Even as I shift and resume sharing opinions and beliefs, I try to take responsibility for how my thoughts differ from others’ instead of carrying the expectation that they see what I want them to see. I had to practice this. I had to sit on my hands and zip my lips when I desired to speak out against declarations that offended my own moral sensibilities. Next, I found myself wishing others would likewise calm the fuck down. Still a slight edge. I’m still me. I still want to express hard-earned opinions, but strive to use objectivity instead of passion to establish narratives.

So much of what I see argued seems sourced from fear – and fear is a liar. Fear projection is inherently a refusal of faith, another lesson I’ve learned raising a child in connection.

Some people have the wisdom of ages, but deny their fear. Others have integrated extreme pain, loss, and misfortune, yet sometimes glitch in fear projection when the idea of letting go challenges the very foundation of their beliefs. Fear is first gear on the stick shift. None of us is wholly exempt. I have to continuously operate the clutch. This blog provides me a space to spit myself out for self-examination. That alone can be nerve-wracking.

Fear projection is inherently a refusal of faith.

Sometimes I feel like I still don’t have all the necessary tools needed to stand against the grain. But I cannot control anyone’s hate. Authenticity requires that we accept before we judge. This also ensures that hate does not become a mirror.

This is where I was when I bailed in large part from social media in late 2016.

I felt pessimistic. I didn’t vote. It felt futile. I refused complicity. I had enough going on beneath my own skin. The story played out. Society experienced great upheaval. And now, society is collectively seeking remedy for Covid19, erasing so much of that ugliness and disarray. Society is Global. For better or worse, we are in this together.

As this story unfolds, I feel like there might be something worth voting for.

But it has less to do with babies being born or bootstraps being pulled up. It has little to do with rainbow flags. Netflix and Amazon already evidenced in chummy comic exchange that society is indeed in favor of the individual. Society has already accepted the predictions in 1984, but the latest Apple commercial makes it seem more bent towards discovery and creation. There is always a flip side to the coin. We might all end up in one big space-cruise-ship (like the one in The Fifth Element). It has less to do with universal income or health care or guns. It isn’t about coal or renewable energy or climate. It isn’t based on taxes or benefits. It isn’t about religious belief. It isn’t about white-haired old men. None of us should be surprised by our societal makeup. Even Mulder and Scully predicted this pandemic (X Files, Season 11, Episode 5).

This time, it comes down to unity. My motivation comes from seeing humans self-illuminate as we practice social isolation and conduct grids in support of one another across the entire world. We are leveling up as a species. So, let us honor our differences with respect for the higher process as we continue tunneling through the Twilight Zone of 2020. This is an election year, after all. On social media, we’ve never needed an election to divide us.

For example, when we use terms like anti-vaxer or pro-vaxer, we are mistaken and limit the scope of the conversation we can have. If we blame all of religious belief for one thing or another, we are demonstrating inflexible natures and a refusal to accept that the space between opposite poles contains anything of value. The more I listen, the more I learn. If we throw the baby out with the bathwater and overgeneralize, we miss the entire point of everything. We must re-frame our narratives if we truly desire connection. That is not to say that religious belief does not or cannot harm. My story is evidence of the nuanced trickery, and for others – the outright social injustice we allow by not thinking for ourselves.

If all we are after is to shame people into our perspectives, we need to go all the way back up to the journey in the dark tunnel and dwell there awhile longer (do not pass Go, do not collect $200).

Imagine all the people, living for today. As John Lennon sang, It’s easy if you try. Schools are adapting in this pandemic in ways we didn’t anticipate. My father had his tonsils removed in a school gymnasium in the 1930s during frugal times. School today has suddenly become capable of transforming to mirror community-wide response. Homeschoolers are opening narratives to help calm the nerves of frazzled parents. The system is not discriminating when it comes to feeding all of our children. We share common ground, at least for now.

Until we live the life of another, we really cannot know. If we push our personal and moral agendas in judgment without retaining objective narrative, we kill the chance for connection. I love Sy-Fy and shows like The X-Files and Dr. Who not because the conspiracies seem so relevant to our world, but because the light, passion, and imaginatively positive energies come together for the greater good, every single time. Perhaps such fantasy is my certain level of privilege because I am moving away from pain, but pain is still right where we leave it. This is what those who do not embrace fundamental campaigns for equality fail to perceive. Pain is like a virus, able to replicate itself into new dimensions and generations of hurt. Which is why I love The Doctor – he/she always sets things right while showing as much compassion to the villain as the villain’s own self recognizance will allow. If the villain refuses to self-examine, then The Doctor’s conscience can only go so far before turning back to shoulder humanity. This is how the villain bears responsibility for their self-demise; they force The Doctor to side with his/her absolute values. The arc is always poetic.

I went away from and came back to social media to dust off some of the us vs. them mentality and for personal healing. I couldn’t do them both at the same time. I don’t sweat the occasional rant – in fact – I deliciously indulge certain content of that nature when it aligns to my beliefs – or better – makes me laugh.

Taking responsibility for the common denominator means self-regulating back to center. Individuals who have survived and even thrived outside of the myriad forms of abuse and trauma learn that it doesn’t matter what you believe. It only matters where you show up and what you do when you get there – or how much objectivity you maintain when you argue. Courage comes from traversing the parts of your soul you can’t discern and the parts of the tunnel you can’t see through.

Maybe we should start sharing our judgements as the fears they really are.

A friend on social media posted a prayer for these exponential times to assuage anxiety that stated, “Do the next thing.”

Let it be, just keep swimming, go with the flow, let go or be dragged. Listen more. Ask questions. Authenticity rules. Let’s be mindful of our impact and the nature, strength, and purpose of the nodes of connection we create and what they mean for others.

Level up in connection. Hold on for the rest of 2020 because the shift isn’t over yet. Imprint this into the DNA of your offspring. This part of the journey is worth keeping.

Faeries and Flowers

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Guest Post by Lynn Warcup Metcalf

I always put numbing cream on my port site about 30 minutes before going up to Oncology because inserting the infusion needle is painful. Today I had a new tube of numbing cream with a “safety” top and couldn’t get it open. I was in the downstairs ladies room and there was no one else around. I can’t come out and get Art because I am somewhat uncovered by then. I tried and tried to open it. Finally gave up and used the tiny amount left in an old tube. It works better if you “blob” it on but I’m not sure what was left qualified as a “blob”. Used it anyway. We haven’t been out shopping so I didn’t have a small tag-a-derm to hold the “blob” in place and used my one large one instead. Things are not starting off well. We head up to Oncology on the fifth floor.

We are ushered in, I am poked, stuck, prodded, and weighed. Hmm, down nine pounds today. I haven’t eaten a lot. Food doesn’t taste good anymore. No problem, I could stand to lose a few more pounds. I head for a chair with the infusion machine on the right since my port is on my right upper chest. The Infusion Center is a large area with half-walls. It’s a beige room…beige walls, beige floors, beige chairs, nothing but beige. There are large windows on one side but we are five floors up and I can’t see much from where I sit, except sky and billboards. At least the sky is sometimes blue. Someone must have thought beige would be calming. Actually it’s a little depressing. I’m pleased to see my nurse has on pretty purple scrubs with flowers in the front. I have worn bright red. A red button front silky shirt and my favorite pair of red earrings. The earrings are like bell-shaped flowers with little black beads hanging from the center. I think of them as faerie flowers and, in fact, I purchased them from a website dedicated to faeries. They make me smile. I need them today.

By the time my blood tests came back, the numbing cream is wearing off. My nurse peels the tag-a-derm off and pokes the needle in, apologizing for hurting me. She starts the steroid first and then the infusions. It takes about an hour each and I have two after the steroid. As soon as one of the infusions starts I get a headache. It also makes me feel weak and dizzy. Some of it is worse than others. The nurse wears a mask and gloves and occasionally an over-gown while handling the infusions. Once some spilled out onto the floor. A man in a hazmat suit came to clean it up…that’s what is going inside my body. Surely the cancer doesn’t stand a chance, lol.

There are about eight people in my nurse’s two sections and she efficiently moves around taking care of each of us. Art is a trooper. He comes and sits with me. He reads or plays with his tablet or brings me a cookie, water, or a warm blanket. I so appreciate him being there. I could do it without him but I feel so vulnerable alone, it comforts me to have him near. When I’m done, my nurse says, “See you in three weeks.” I smile and we leave, carefully peeling off the little green stickers that we received to show we were “safe” as we came in.

Lynn Warcup Metcalf is a decades-deep connection and dear friend living with cancer. She is a prolific quilter with a gift for descriptive prose. She is an early riser, keeper of valuable ancestral knowledge, and gives appreciation to the details of life. I requested permission to share this post. It gives me rare understanding about the vulnerable, moment-to-moment experience of her journey. 

Update: Rest in Peace MB. You remain connected in my heart, always. April 24, 2021.

Interdependent Shifting

Birds Murmuring – the entire flock appears to move as one, but actually individual birds are responding to the movement of the birds immediately around them. In this way, they connect as in an organic whole, a sort of flowing grid bound by  an interdependent system.

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It seems a common, global concern enables us to mirror our best conscientious selves to one another. As a society bound to social media, we are generally fighting about which side of us and them we align to and in the process, forgetting our best human attributes.

I imagine it is vastly different when schools close and events are cancelled in a small, isolated town like ours in comparison to metro areas. Here, everyone connects online, offering each other help. Tired of Fortnite, Sean’s schooled and unschooled friends are playing UNO on Roblox together from their own homes.

What a weird exponential twist all of this is as we shift the dynamic of society and economics across the world. Not quite like a disaster, we have power and WiFi. 12 is probably about the best age to be through all of this.

I am grateful for the social isolation and that so many people see the value in flattening the curve. Maybe we are all sheep blindly falling in line. But, as far as the flow goes, this seems like the best wave to ride in the current situation.

Change is inevitable. Shifting together seems like a sound plan. I read recently in Quanta about how systems level up until the dynamic becomes so centralized and sizable that the leveling up creates a shift into a new paradigm. Analogies were drawn with power grids as well as viruses and other cellular systems.

In some cases, it is prudent to control the shape of what develops by dismantling individual grids or smaller segments of the operational system to keep the larger system from overpowering the paradigm too soon – like controlling the boil in a soup stock. But it can also be advantageous to allow the collapse of lower level systems, allowing them to be replaced by entirely different and newer operational organisms. It can be both complex and simple at either scale.

We are a social system, and we are individual humans leveling up. None of us wants to be compromised in any way, but if we are (for any reason), let us hope it is for the sake of a greater good.

Comparatively, immigration controls like ICE exemplify antiquated, malfunctioning, overzealous components of rogue systemic activity gone unchecked to the point of existing not for the greater good. It has spiraled into an ideological dysfunction. US penal systems are another example of corroded segments allowed to grow to the point of being grossly unprepared for pandemic effects (not to mention how inhumane and unjust they have become).

That we as a society can mostly experience consensus about social isolation during a pandemic proves that we have the capacity to use intention and (at least in the case of my small town) draw upon our collective human spirit to create change that helps us level up as we accept certain impacts alongside the emergent paradigm. If we survive such transformation, surely the process was meaningful and the new landscape freer for the benefit of the greater good.

Can we start to shape ourselves apart from the old paradigm of ideological division, reaching arms and hearts across the grid of social isolation to focus how much common ground we truly share?

Can we take this beyond Covid-19 and not forget how closely we resemble one reflection when essential moments dictate our intrinsic desire for connection?

What this means for us v. them may be as simple as letting go and leveling up to factors that shift us into the action of better being.  What falls away, my good humans, no longer serves the whole of who we are.

As for that handful of 12 year-olds who have now moved on to playing Anime’ Tycoon in Roblox, the worries of the world are no match for Naruto running.

Happy… Day of Connection

The energy of the full moon this late November has promised to trip more than a few of us up, maybe even cause technological hiccups. I decided this day to embrace patience and compassion as the flow of choice riding into this strong energy. I embraced the thought, and the reality followed in small, but palpable ways.

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I’m a little awkward entering a new phase of my life, but fading are the self-imposed shackles and perceived clouds of restriction. Stepping out in one’s new-found freedom is refreshing, and opportune.

I made reservations for Sean and me at a local establishment, using the last name given me at birth, newly divorced. When I didn’t see what I most looked forward to in the spread of sliced pies on the buffet table, I asked the server slicing the prime rib if I could request a serving of cheese cake, a signature dessert at the restaurant, and the main attraction in their lineup as far as I am concerned.

There was no one present to tell me that I couldn’t make a special request for myself. No thought police telling me how to think or act. No guilt telling me that I should not make such extra ordinary requests. 

The server obliged, generously. The meal was relaxed, and even sharing the slice with Sean, I had to leave some behind. The staff had been so busy that I had to find someone to refill my coffee, and when they finally did, they wondered how I managed to get the cheese cake. “I made a special request,” I said with a genuine smile.

Should this really be questionable? Are we really so fearful that we can’t ask for what we want for fear of disapproval? Unfortunately, it is a lifelong reality for many. It has far too long been the reality for me.

I didn’t feel entitled to it, but I politely asked if it would be possible, because I contracted a special price for a lovely meal and had been looking forward to the cheesecake.

This tiny thing felt like a memory of so many pin-sized stabs into my psyche throughout decades – feeling guilty for asking for what I want or need, as if I don’t deserve to do so.

After our meal, Sean and I found ourselves wandering the aisles of the only store open this holiday, confronted with undeniable bargains and sporting content spirits. Once back home, we planted the meager substitutes we found for our lighted deer in front of the house, because the deer bit the dust after four seasons of nestling in snow under our 100-year-old silver maple. We had already decorated our Christmas tree the week before. The season lay unencumbered before us, promising joy and abundance.

I tried sneaking a stocking-stuffer past Sean at the checkout, saying it was for his niece, but once home my scheme unfolded and the plan was thwarted when he asked to see it. I gave in. Moments are fleeting.

With all the texts and phone calls of the day behind us, I find myself right were I planned to be when I decided to write my own reality months and months ago.

I pause to give guilt good circumspect, tilt my head for a thorough examination of the path I’ve just traversed and conclude: There is no space for guilt in gratitude. There is only room in my heart space for compassion, light, and love. The gratitude I desire to convey to those souls who lit my path and helped me wrap my head around this choice that I have – to remember who I am – is too intense and joyful for guilt.

I deserve to be who I am. I rescue the inner child from life’s gift of trauma and tell her, baby girl, I’ve got this. I’ve got you. I’m not going to let anyone or anything hurt you.

The past becomes the past, immutable. Self-acceptance is the boundary that protects.

I am so grateful to you, my friends and family, for being lights upon my path.

Connections are everything.

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Res Me

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QB, QB! Res me! Wait, I’m med-ing!

There are these kids in California and Colorado who play Fortnite regularly with Sean, they are between 13-14. They formed a Fortnite Clan. I am frequently laughing out loud in the background in response to their antics, so they address me as Ms. BearSean (because Sean’s gamer tag is cubbiebearsean) and they sometimes compete to make me laugh. I feel like a favorite middle school teacher. They call Sean Q-B as a twist on Cubbie. He holds his own well with them, so even though he’s younger, they frequently invite him to play.

They call each other by their gamer tags, though we know most of their real names. But, gamer tags, it is.

Today, these kids from California didn’t have school due to smoke from the fires. They are all camping out in one of the kid’s basement with several computers and TVs connected and are planning to marathon-play on Sean’s Minecraft Realm, after warming up with Fortnite. Minecraft is nostalgia for the lot of them, including Sean.

They talk on Discord and have a virtual party. They tease Sean about being homeschooled and about being 11, and he dishes back to them without missing a beat. It gets loud. Who am I fooling, it is always loud.

They share memes. I’m a fly on the wall, getting first-hand exposure to the pulse of these kids and their interests, angst, and endless humor. Their sense of humor is off the charts. They’re sharp, they have to be to perform well. Sean tells me that maybe I drank beer for the first time when I was only 13 because there was nothing fun to do in 1978.

They self-deprecate. Insult each other. Rarely, they talk about girls. They joke and exaggerate and include wise crack references to popular culture. Mostly, they are creating fun. Once in a while their voices crack. Sometimes they rage. Sometimes they are crabby. They expose society’s stupidity and fear-based over-protection with their jokes. Same thing with society’s overly sensitive programming. They meme political correctness, exposing its inherent fault line. They are like that one person you want around in the event of an emergency. They are totally on their game, but they are spinning their wheels because of adult control. Their minds are already way beyond the broken record admonishment of adults.

Sometimes, they are on while admitting they had to sneak due to being grounded. I chuckle at their inventiveness. Sean has never been grounded. It makes absolutely no sense to me because punishment does not reinforce intrinsic values. I’d want these kids in charge during the Zombie Apocalypse.

Occasionally, they say they wish I would adopt them. I wish their parents understood how restrictions and punishment create chasms of disconnection.

Sean is using hair cream to style back his bangs. He brought a shirt over to me in Shopko and asked if we could get it, said it’s OK if we can’t. He told me how much it was on sale, and he grabbed the right size. How could I say no after that effort? Then, he saw a jacket he likes. Showed me how it was 50% off (like the shirt). Boom. Kid scored. He tells me every time he wears the shirt that he is so glad he got the shirt. I tell him I am proud of his decisiveness and choices.

Checks his hair in the mirror. Asks if his hair is OK.

Sean waits patiently all day to eat because we are going to get our favorite, Papa Bino’s. He eats pumpkin pie for breakfast, gummy bears, and waits. We can do this because we only have ourselves to answer to. He turns down intermediate food (filler food in the pantry) to hold out for the good stuff.

We run out to get some more cold meds for me while the snow arrives. He stays in the car because Imagine Dragons is on the radio. Tells me Imagine Dragons and Fallout Boys are dangerously similar. One of his first favorite songs was Centuries by Fallout Boys. I agree that they are very similar.

He tells me, Thanks for the food Mom, I love you.