From time to time, I return to this place on life’s wheel: an inner child who is still hurting.
I may have grown into a man, but there is a little boy inside me, and he and his pain never went anywhere. It’s preserved, in mint condition, like one of those mummified bog people. Distractions are a hell of a drug.
As little Jonathan has taken center stage in my consciousness, I’ve tried to just be there for him. I want to give him the same thing we all need, which is space to feel, without expectation or condition.
It’s not always fun or easy, but it’s worth it. That’s pretty much childcare for ya, from what I hear.
Downstream, this has fueled work that I’ll share in 2023. I’m busy putting the finishing touches on essays, poems, and flash pieces about everything from terrible things my dad screamed at us, to driving him to get his car out of the repo lot, to questions about what you’re supposed to do with a person’s clothes after they die.
If you’ve been reading for a while, you know this isn’t totally new territory. It’s just more of me pursuing the full picture. I like thinking about this as a serialized memoir: my story and what I’m making of it, spun together 800 words (give or take) at a time.
Writing and sharing about my journey are healing for me. I hope there’s some of that in here for you, too.
Mind the headspace
“As within, so without.” I believe that our thoughts create our reality. With that, there are some questions I have to hold very close given my subject matter.
How do you confront the past but also move forward in life? What is self-compassion, and what is self-pity?
Victimhood scares me. I watched my dad spend a lot of time there, constantly setting the ladder on fire rather than climbing out of the hole. See yourself as a capital-V Victim, consciously or not, and you can justify some pretty terrible behavior.
We’re all victims of something, though. Our wounds are real, and they need proper care. Teach a child that big kids don’t cry, and they’ll join the generations of hurt people hurting people. Build a culture on that, and… well, I’ve heard it said that as long as our inside worlds remain bruised and battered, the planet doesn’t stand a chance. Checks out.
Our pain needs to speak. Emotions carry an energetic charge, and the only way I know to truly release that charge is to let it run its course– by which I mean stopping to feel. Until then, it’s awfully heavy weight sitting on very valuable real estate.
Reverence doesn’t preclude perspective
I’ve found that the self-compassion I’m after comes when I welcome my past as context for the present moment rather than a definition of who I am.
Something that helps me do that is a metaphysical concept called interbeing. It means that I am not separate from the rest of the cosmos.
My body, for example, is made up of food that comes from all over the world, and that food is made of labor, from field workers to truck drivers. My mind is made of lessons my teachers taught me in school and conversations I had earlier this morning.
I have many identities, and none of them are finite. Returning to that gives me a little more perspective on the bad stuff. Free from its hypnotic spell, I can hold it in my hand, look at it, see what it needs.
In practice, this awareness is tucked into everyday moments.
I am heartbroken that my dad packed up his things and moved, first to an apartment across town and then to a city across the continent. But I am also out on a run, and if I listen, I am part of an orchestra, my feet tapping the pavement in rhythm with passing cars and old men laughing.
I am confused by the adulthood that was foisted on me when I was just a kid. But I am also in my backyard, soaking up sunshine and breathing fresh air. If I look, the hawk perched above the fence tells me that I am not alone.
I am angry, sometimes because I don’t know what else to be. But if I remember, I am also full of gratitude, joy, and peace.
I can “be” many things at once. I can hurt, but I can also heal.
Amazing grace, indeed.
For the time being, a lot of my writing may have a particular slant toward loss and struggle and trauma. Who and what I think I am, though, are another matter.
Somewhere in the act of fully seeing myself—the me that is so much bigger than anything I’ve ever gone through—I find that moment of release. I let it all go.
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Happy new year
This is a post for the new year—a prayer that we may all see ourselves a little more clearly in the four seasons to come.
I did want to take a quick look back, though. First, brief notes on a few of my favorite posts from 2022:
My heart still aches for Seattle, which is to me both a place and a time in my life. Writing The Seattle I love felt like visiting.
I don’t play much ultimate these days, and I’ve slowed down on writing about it. Summer league was a special time in our house, though, and Chill, it’s summer league is a testament to why.
I’m more intent on telling stories and much less concerned with explaining their implications than I used to be. For Kristen was a milestone in my growth as a writer and a memorial to a little girl who I wish was still with us.
My actual new year’s resolution is to keep a closer eye on my nervous system. I waded into that subject in It wants to move. Also, I love my dogs.
I also want to tell you, my readers, that I appreciate you very much. I started this newsletter in October 2021, and your feedback, thoughts, questions, and encouragement in the time since have helped nurture the growth that I write about.
Going down this path—publishing my work, for actual readers—has unlocked important doors for me. Now that I’ve opened them, I know what I have to say next.
Thank you for that.
Last year, I wrote a long list of of prayers for the new year. I’ll keep it short this time around:
May we all continue to heal.
Gift exchange & writing together
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Yes! "Our pain needs to speak." You and I are on doing the same thing: writing ourselves out of our pain and helping to make sense of it. Best on your journey! I
I didn't read your whole piece (so maybe you explored this)... I was thinking about the idea of self pity... and this is just me wondering.
What if any behavior like self pity is an inability to connect to self and to others. Holding presence for oneself or having another hold presence for you... maybe necessitates being able to trust, to step into vulnerability, with oneself or the other. Maybe it isn't possible for some... inaccessible.
And thus behaviors that are energetically stuck, spinning around in on themselves. Like what you would call self pity. Or rants that keep spiraling around.