Friday, February 17, 2017

The Struggle

After rain

Trump's grand and vulgar self-absorption is inviting all of us to examine our own selfishness. His ignorance calls us to attend to our own blind spots. The fears that he stokes and the isolation he promotes goad us to be braver, more generous.
James S. Gordon, founder of The Center for Mind-Body Medicine 

The whipsaw of anger and sitting in stillness.

A long time ago Sophie began to seize and I began to resist.

A long time ago I placed the baby in the middle of the bed while she screamed and got into the shower, turned on the water and crouched there under it. The word drown covers both the sound and my life, in those moments.

A long time ago I also rocked my baby and recited a mantra as she screamed for hours and hours. I've written that sentence, juggling those words, over and over for the last two decades. Sometimes I write more than twenty years. A while back I wrote over ten years ago. 

While the baby screamed I recited the words of Thich Naht Hanh over and over, aloud.  Breathing in I calm myself, breathing out I smile.

When I feel most angry I sit with it feeling its flood. Lately, I go to water, swim back and forth, fluid and cutting.

Anger both cuts out the noise and is the noise. It is both distraction and diversion and the means to focus and sharpen.

Sophie and her seizures prepared me for resistance and for anger.

The peace that came was not something to work on, that I worked on but was, rather, imposed.

The story of the angel and Jacob, wrestling on a hill.

A little East of Jordan (145)

A little East of Jordan, 
Evangelists record, 
A Gymnast and an Angel 
Did wrestle long and hard – 

Till morning touching mountain – 
And Jacob, waxing strong, 
The Angel begged permission 
To Breakfast – to return! 

Not so, said cunning Jacob! 
"I will not let thee go 
Except thou bless me" – Stranger! 
The which acceded to – 

Light swung the silver fleeces 
"Peniel" Hills beyond, 
And the bewildered Gymnast 
Found he had worsted God!

Emily Dickinson

Gaugin, The Vision After the Sermon (Jacob wrestling with the Angel), 1888


  1. I don't fully understand the poem, I need to reread it, but I understand your words, your anger, resistance, sorrow, peace. Your words, your testimony, are powerful beyond measure. Thank you.

  2. You and Emily and Jacob and the solitary struggle.
    Perhaps the imposition has become a strategy of sorts for the long walk?
    Never the less, an example for my struggle, thank you.

  3. Although I hate the expression, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger," and you yourself may have written about this, there are elements of truth to it. There are at least things which remain when we survive (and in your case- constantly and without ceasing) the impossible that do knit our determination stronger in a myriad of ways. We also procure tools which serve us and anger can be one of those, without a doubt.
    Mostly I guess I just want to say that I love you so and admire and respect you to the ends of the earth and to the heavens and back. There is no one on this earth like you, Elizabeth. I wish there were millions. The struggle would not be the horror that it is if there were.

  4. Anger is big, it takes up a lot of room and it helps me feel stronger and protected I think. Except that what I call anger is merely the façade I paint over sadness. Took me a whole lifetime to learn that and still I prefer anger at times, it's bigness, it's familiarity. I think sadness is underrated in our society, looked down upon, scorned. But it's as much a part of us as joy is.

    I am worn out with illness and anxiety. I feel sad today.

  5. Yes, the Imposed Peace... it can be Magical and yet also something one has to learn by finally being too weary to keep Resisting and just Accept. Beautifully written... oh how I can relate and your eloquent words remind me of how it has both broken me and given me a Peace beyond all understanding or logic. Virtual Hugs to you and Sophie... Dawn... The Bohemian

  6. I can usually tell which persons have known the fiercest struggles: they are the wise ones who exhibit compassion. They accept a wide range of emotions as 'normal' and healthy. They are the least judgemental among us. They can be soft and also hard as steel. (Not Chinese steel, mind you.)

  7. Every morning I go to the beach and look across the Saratoga Passage and salute Whidbey Island floating on the deep green water like a lamb and I think of you there and I think of you and I have so many thing I want to tell you but depression has had me by the throat it shakes me like a lioness and roars until all I can hear are tears sliding down my throat. I love you. You are here with me.

  8. When I die, my death certificate will cite anger as the cause. I'm surprised every day that my skin manages to keep it under wraps. The constant pressure . . . I'm certain to savagely explode at some point. In awe at how much anger a mother's body can hold.

  9. Like you, I find much comfort in reading poetry by Emily Dickinson.
    I like to believe that she is very precise in her choice of words.
    If you notice she does not label Jacob as a wrestler.
    But instead refers to him as a "gymnast"
    One could argue that a gymnast is a skilled athlete who uses an insane amount of strength to execute beautiful acrobatics that are awe inspiring for others to watch. They dance and perform effortlessly.
    The phrase, "how does she do that?" comes to mind.
    So although Jacob is wrestling, he is so skilled at it, it is as though he is performing a beautiful routine, a routine that is perhaps almost divine in its execution? He does not tire easily.
    Have you ever watched an athlete and thought to yourself how his/her talent is almost "God given"?
    She also states that Jacob "worsted" God.
    Usually when we win, we say we "bested" someone.
    Here, I believe, she is trying to say that by performing effortlessly against hardship, we expose/diffuse it. The hardship becomes the focus and not our reaction to it.
    If a guy throws a punch to your head and you jump up and somersault spectacularly over his head.
    He looks like a bully, you, on the other hand, look like a hero.



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