Symptomatology

Reflection--Photographer unknown

He over-eats because he’s nervous.

She over-sleeps because she’s sad.

He hits because he doesn’t know another way to show he doesn’t understand.

Her stomach hurts when there’s a test

His when a certain uncle comes.

She ‘checks out’ when her parents fight

or students raise a hand.

He cries with every little scratch.

She’s stoic with a shattered arm.

Their eyes glaze over at the sight of checkered shirts

Or painted nails

A hairdo

A certain aftershave

Or lip balm.

He can’t sit still.

She won’t stop day dreaming.

He mopes. She cries. He pouts. She flies

Off the handle

If someone meets her eyes.

He wets the bed.

She carves red lines into her thigh.

He fights because he’s scared.

She spits because she’s feeling trapped

and

flirts because it is the only way she knows

to interact.

They’re judged

For all

Of the above

When in fact

Their behaviors speak a loud broadcast

Of unabated stress

And lives

That turned

Hard

To survive.

 

 

 

For The Daily Post

Controversy: Friend or Foe?

heart-stone

In the current climate of contention, many seem to see controversy as indication of animosity or ‘wrongness’ rather than an entry point to discussion.

What is that turns a difference of opinion or even heated disputes into declarations of allegiance or betrayal?

How does dissent become a call for combative rhetoric, rather than an invitation for conversation and possibly a point of understanding where one might’ve been wrong, been wronged, been blind, been blinded, yet can still find growth?

Why do so many find arguments a threat and varied views a sign of weakness or enmity?

Where have we gone so wrong, so long, that we forgot what we should already know?

In the give and take of conversation, even very young children learn that not all share their point of view, and that they cannot always get their way (not should they). They hopefully learn how to persuade as well as how to accept that not all persuasion means they’ll get their heart’s desire … That they aren’t wrong to have wishes even if those did not manifest, and that to not get their way doesn’t make them weak or ‘losers’, nor does it make the other ‘stronger’ or a ‘winner.’

Living as part of a healthy society requires we accept differences and listen to more than just the echoes of our personal view chambers – be it in the small groupings of family, classroom, playground, and work environment; or in the bigger congregations of towns and cities, countries and religions and cultures and the whole blue marble we’re all traveling on.

How much do we lose if we refuse to engage with anyone who sees a different perspective; if we attack any who disagree with words that are meant to silence, put down, dismiss, disown, distract?

How much do we limit our humanity – and our children’s, for they are watching – if we divide the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’; into those in the ‘right’ and those in the ‘wrong’ (and any who do not share our views we place automatically into the latter …). If we split the world into those who are ‘with us’ and therefore somehow morally superior, and those who ‘must be against us’ if they challenge things to not be exactly as we see then?

Controversy is the soil of growth. It can be made good use of, or it can be muddied into insult-slinging till it buries up real issues under heaps of refusal and refuse. Dissent can offer new space and pathways, or it can become no-mans-lands where any who dare venture risk a wounding and the blame for encroaching their view point onto another’s walled-off boundary.

I listen to children negotiating play: who will be whom, what the rules would be, how best to proceed, who gets to ‘be whom’ for how long, how far to push the limits of roles and imagination and possibility … And I think to myself: It is from the mouths of babes we should re-learn how to engage. How to take turns listening. How to accept that we do not hold absolute truth about almost anything, and that our views do not give us the right to hurt, to harm, to wound, to bully.

Much power is already cemented into viewpoints. An ossification of attitudes as proof for battles ‘won’ or ‘lost’ in pseudo-righteousness tips the balance of discussion so it loses any common ground and becomes blind to shared humanity and understanding. It is past time we all re-learn, remember, and take on added practice … for how to keep open hearts to and amidst controversy.

negotiation--prepare2play

Photo by: prepare2play

 

For The Daily Post

Learned Instinct

churning

What do you do when you are worried?

How do you act when you feel harmed?

If angered, wronged, misheard, left out?

What do you do when someone threatens?

How do you manage double binds

That tangle up your mind?

 

Do you cower away?

Do you lash out?

Do you curl into a ball under the covers

And turn off all reaction, action, light?

Does your body compensate

In sweet diversions

Or does your gut churn ire

Into acid

And shuts down?

Do you sob, mope, break down

Break something

Break someone?

 

Does your heart thunder in your eardrums

As your blood pressure spikes red

Behind your eyes

Or does it plummet

Grayish

Into numb?

 

Do you respond in kind

To wound another

To give as good as you had gotten

To show who’s boss

To cut to size any potential bully

So they stay down?

 

Or do you shrink

Into wall flowered corners

Get by through fading into

Silence

Till all turmoil passes

And you can seek the bits you hadn’t managed

To protect

And tentatively try to

Patch life up?

 

When feelings flood, how do you manage:

Float on? Hold tight? Spit out? Swirl dizzyingly in the eddies?

Drown?

 

What is the language of reaction

In your body?

Does your mind

Command

Reflexively

Or does it find a pause

Between a stimuli and action

To weave insight to choice

And sort true danger from benign?

 

Do you collapse

Into outdated paths

Formed by a not-good-enough childhood

And unhealed histories

Still near

Or has your palette widened

To allow volition

Over instinct

And

Kindness — to yourself, to others —

To find courage

Over fear?

 

 

For The Daily Post

For The Record

dressup

 

For the record, she is fierce, even if she is in fluffy skirts and fleecy socks and every color of barrette holding on to dear life in her hair.

For the record, she is loving, even if she screams at her baby brother, narrows her eyes to daggers when she doesn’t get her way, and pushes every one of her mother’s buttons till something gives and tantrums fly.

For the record, she is smart, even if she cannot quite “do numbers” the way some of her classmates can and even if her words tend to come out upside down and sideways and in the wrong order and all too often not quite on the topic.

For the record, she has lots to say, even if she shrugs an “I don’t know” or grunts a precocious “whatever” because explaining feels too hard and some words hide and narrative does not form the way she senses that it ought to.

For the record, she is funny, even if she may not laugh at some jokes other people say, because she doesn’t get the puns and is still out to lunch on idioms and doesn’t quite see humor in confusing riddles.

For the record, she is thoughtful, even if she often acts before she seems to think (because she cannot always get the thought in time to matter), and reacts as if she doesn’t care (when she if fact cares more than many).

For the record, she is brave, and utterly indomitable. She works harder than most realize and deals with more frustration than is reasonable. And yet, she does still try. She may do so in frowns and pouts and at times even in ways that appear less than fully loveable. But she has no bone in her that isn’t kind. Just all too many that are over-tender.

For the record, she is a handful and a heart-full. She is bubbling with spirit and wriggling with life. She’d keep you on your toes, but oh boy would you earn a good dance for it! For a little body, she packs some serious soul punch.  She is fabulous personified. A guaranteed-to-wake-you-up-in-the-morning child.

 

 

For The Daily Post

The Sounds In The Silence …

 

“Hello darkness,

My old friend,

I’ve come to talk to you again …”

The song plays incessantly in my head, sparked awake by the words of a pre-teen who shared her nighttime worries with me.

She finds it difficult to sleep. Her ears strain to pick up any errant sound: A car’s brakes, a slammed door, people’s voices, steps, a distant bark. She’s afraid they’ve come.

She’s been told she shouldn’t worry. She’s done nothing wrong. Yet there are those who hadn’t, and still had loved ones taken. And she’s not from here. Not really. Not from birth, anyway.

What if the rules change and she’s deemed “returnable”?

What if they keep her away from her parents, send her back to where she’d come from? What if she cannot find the words, if they not let her explain that she is finally, finally, home?

She lies in bed at night. Listening. Making and discarding plans. Fretting in the dark.

Maybe she’ll hide. But where? Someone at school said they sometimes have dogs. She loves dogs. Police dogs — beautiful and focused and proud — never used to scare her. They do now. At their handlers’ command, they can hunt her down. She’s seen it. On TV. In her mind. Now her dreams.

“I listen to the sounds in the silence,” she whispered, eyes bright. “And I wait. Even in my dreams, I listen … and I cry when they come.”

 

 

For The Daily Post

Can You Hear?

Can you hear the hearts that beat

across the mountains, deserts, oceans

hoping for safe harbor,

an anchor

home?

Can you see small fingers gripping

other little hands

bereft of parents,

lost,

alone?

Can you hear the soft breaths

of babies

sleeping

in tired arms

weighted by

desperation,

violence, hate, war?

Can you hear the calls

in dreams

in prayer

for safe passage

for a welcome

to belong?

Can you —

how can you not —

hear,

the urgency

of hope

that hardship snuffed

and yet

still

yearns to grow?

 

refugees-express-co-uk

Photo by express.co.uk

 

 

For the Daily Post

 

The Scent of Home

syrianrefugee-unicef-photo

Child Refugee – Photo by UNICEF

The scent of home that she no longer has.

The spices, baking, the aromas

Of togetherness

And family

And love.

The scent of grandma,

Gone,

Killed by bombs.

The scent of ugliness

And war.

The scent of mornings

Blurred by smoke.

The scent of sea, now tainted

With the stink of gasoline

And sick

And worry.

The scent of tent

And mud

Hunger

Cold.

The scent of hope

Faint but held

In Baba’s handkerchief —

He said he’ll find them

One day

In Wherever Land.

The scent of fear

In mother’s arms

Trying to filter comfort through her own terror

Devastation. Loss.

The scent of home that she no longer has

Wafting away

In search

Of someone

Who will help

Her

Make a new one.

Her Whole Life in a Plastic Bag

three-clock-bears

Photo: threeoclockbears.com

 

Tamina attended first-grade in a Harlem public school. She was homeless most of that year. Her mother lost the apartment after she lost her job. Sometimes they stayed with relatives but mostly Tamina, her mother and her sister slept in shelters where they could never stay very long. They carried their belongings in thick black garbage bags, protection from the weather. Tamina used to have a teddy bear, but it got left in a shelter and her mother was ‘too tired’ to go back for it. Tamina never got it back.

Tamina had very little. Other children had a home, their own bed, place for their stuff, more stuff. So she stole. Mostly small things: erasers, crayons, hair-pins. Things she could hide in her pockets and later in her black garbage bag. If confronted, Tamina would furiously demand it “was always hers.” I suspected she often believed it and wondered if some items resembled things she once had and owning them was a link to a time when life was less overwhelming. Beyond an overall language delay, Tamina seemed confused about concepts like the difference between possessing and owning: in some shelters cots were ‘first-come-first-serve’ and while you had it, it was ‘yours’ even if it did not remain so for long. You had to ‘watch’ your stuff or have it disappear. Why could an unattended eraser not be ‘hers’?

 While children often crave things that are not theirs, Tamina’s stealing was possibly about unmet needs. Her mother was “always mad and cussing” and Tamina could not rely on her for support. Children whose ‘hungers’ are neglected seek other ways: become secretive, dissociate, numb themselves with substances, steal, hoard. These behaviors often further distance them from care and social support, when they in fact communicate confusion, loneliness, anger, loss, and shame.

[The above is an excerpt from “Communicating Trauma” Routledge, 2015]

Communicating Trauma-Yehuda

Homelessness does not necessarily mean neglect, but the realities and causes of homelessness pose many risks, especially to children. In addition to loss and grief, there are increased health and safety risks, along with reduced access to care. Children without homes suffer insecurity, and their caregivers may be too overwhelmed to attend to their emotional needs. Depression, posttraumatic stress, illness, disability, poverty, domestic violence and other life-crises are all too common among parents of homeless children. Any one of these factors can overwhelm a parent and reduce their availability, let alone when such factors combine.

Having no place to call home–in all the forms it takes–can be distressing and occupying. It leaves children anxious and unavailable for learning. Homeless children are often wary and worried, angry or withdrawn. They are three times as likely to require special-education, four times as likely to drop out of school, and almost nine times as likely to repeat grades.

Homelessness devastates. It is crucial we work together to understand it and resolve it as well as support families in crisis and address risk factors before they reach a loss of home, hearth, and heart.

 

 

“I tried and I tried”

Everything is harder for this little one.

Her body doesn’t quite know how to calm itself. Her hands don’t always know the extent of their reach. She trips. She falls. She bumps into. She upsets the cup, the plate, the markers on the desk. It takes her longer to climb up a flight of stairs. She needs help tackling them going down. Her mouth doesn’t quite make sounds as easily as others’ can: words come out jumbled, not always the right sounds or meaning, often in a mismatched grammar and word order. Food gets messy. Swallowing’s tricky. She gags. She coughs.

But she tries.

Oh, boy, she tries.

And tries.

And tries.

She’s a perfectionist, too.

Indomitable.

Determination personified.

Everything requires repetition. Still she tries again. Again. Again. She shakes her head at any suggestion she accept the unperfected.

“I do more time,” she insists, sometimes in tears but with no less conviction.

And she does. ‘More time’ and time again and then again and then some.

And slowly, sometimes out of the mist of helpless frustration and gritted teeth and hugs and endless patience — she succeeds.

A circle that closes. A list of items in a category. An idea expressed. A multisyllabic word with no sounds missing. A full sentence with all words in attendance. A coat pulled on without assistance. A triangle traced. A tower of blocks. A pattern of beads. A banana that peels without the insides getting mashed. A sip of apple juice from an unaided cup, no spill, no cough.

“I tried and I tried,” she beams. Each time anew. Sometimes with tears still glistening from the last attempt that didn’t quite get up to her own standards. Each time there’s fire in her eyes.

“I told you I can!”

Indeed you had.

Indeed you can.

Hats off, little one.

Every. Single. Time.

drseuss-determination

 

For The Daily Post

 

What we see; why we don’t

now where...

Photo Credit: A.M.

“How come they didn’t see it happening?”

“How could they let this happen?”

“How is it possible that it took place and no one knew?”

“How can they say they didn’t see?”

“Can people really be this blind?”

“Don’t they care?”

“Don’t they see?”

 

Maybe they didn’t. The improbable is possible. People can be that blind. Even when they care, they may not see.

It is easy to see what one wants, what’s congruent, what matches assumptions or views or held beliefs. It is easy to recognize what one had learned already, to follow perceptions already accepted, ways familiar … easier to understand words that resonate with what does not burden with new challenges or calls for reassessment or brings up shame.

Shame. People don’t like to see what brings up shame.

The very whiff of it can bring on denial. Projection. Deflection. Blame of others. Avoidance. Cold shoulder. Dismissal. Refusal. Minimization of the pain of others to avoid feeling one has done wrong, seen wrong, is wrong.

Shame tugs along with hate and violence, in words or action or both. Inflicting pain on others might get justified or explained away … A way to keep downtrodden what one thinks should stay unnoticed, un-make-wave-able, quiet, under rugs, buried. Unseen.

It takes time, heart, and bravery to crack and drain shame.

It is easier to blame. To point fingers. To make “an other” to scapegoat or distance from. To claim misfortune due to one’s abilities, affiliation, religion, political leanings, nationality, age, gender, race, vocation, location, possessions or lack thereof.

To yell “false claims”, “exaggeration”, “attention seeking” or the newest term: “fake news.”

Shaming is a weapon of pseudo self-preservation for those who need to ensure the pain of another remains unseen and one’s own comfort can stand unprovoked.

Shame silences:

Unspoken words of wounded children

Pleas of disrespected women

The worlds of the oppressed, belittled, turned against them.

The desperate, the lost … unanswered. Unaccepted. Unacceptable.

Unseen.

 

It does not need to so remain.

To face what was already there but eyes were closed to, is the first step to unmaking shame. To healing pain.

May we find ways to see. May we take heart to act. May we become for others what we need or needed them to see in us, to do for us, to hold with gentleness.

May the unseen become the visible.

May shame be drained.

each other

 

For The Daily Post