love is

susan-arnsten-russell-twofer-copy

touch drawing by Susan Arnsten-Russell

What we have once enjoyed we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.
Helen Keller

Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive. – Dalai Lama

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.
– Jack Layton

For the month of February we have been exploring different aspects of love in writing and image. This past week, we offered as opening poem ‘What she loves’ by Judith Sternbergh. Its four sections start with the following lines, in order: Here is what she loves deeply … Here is what she loves but one removed … Here is what she loves with an embarrassing relish … Here is what she needs and keeps her. Some writers used these same headings for four-part writings of their own. Others found themselves pulled by words from an epigraph. Or simply riffed on love, a word able to elicit endless responses as varied as the women writing them. This past week, the darker side of love sought or lost permeated most of the writing.

IS THIS LOVE?

I often wonder, is this love? I think it is, but I can’t express it. Or when I do, it comes out in anger or frustration, often hurting the one person I don’t want to. Why do I do this? Well, it’s the only way I know how, the way showed to me growing up. I don’t know if I’m ever going to be able to change this way of thinking what love is. But this girl makes me want to. She is my rock when I fall, my shoulder when I’m sad, and the love I need, and have longed for, for a long time. I know I’m capable of loving someone if I let down the walls I’ve built. However, scared of being vulnerable leaves me frozen where I stand, not wanting to. I’m confused, left with the worry and doubt in my head. Would I still be the person she knows if I do let down my exterior wall? or will I be so different she leaves me, abandoned, like I’m so used to? I don’t know for sure. But I do know being stripped away of her would just damage me more, leaving me helpless again to my own misery. Ths misery I create so well. All I can do is try and pray for the best in any situation I put myself in regardless the outcome. I’m just scared.
DB

***

PERFECT BROKEN ANGELS

Love and compassion is something I tend to give too often.
It is never reciprocated.
So why do  I give it to begin with?
I walk a lonely road,
lover of all forsaken angels, always trying to save
them from emotional bloodshed.
Continue reading

kindness first to ourselves

sirian-heaven-wordpress-com

sirian-heaven-wordpress-com

“The most terrifying thing is to accept oneself completely.” ~ C.G. Jung

“By surviving passage of doubt and depression on the vocational journey, I have become clear about at least one thing: self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others. Anytime we can listen to true self and give it the care it requires, we do so not only for ourselves but for the many others whose lives we touch.” ~ Parker Palmer, Let your Life Speak

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” ~ Marianne Williamson

In last week’s group, we focused our attention on compassion. So often, when we discuss the word “compassion” or “kindness” we think first about what we do for others, how we show these qualities to other people. We forget that in order to offer it others we must first give it to ourselves.

And even when we do offer it to ourselves, complications remain. Our hearts, like long-wailing infants, are surprised to be lifted and keep crying out, keep asking questions. In the pieces you’ll read below are two writers’ accounts of this. As they explore the idea of self-compassion, they are confronted with fear as much as their sense of self-love. As a group, we recognized that, just like everything else, to get good at giving yourself kindness and self-compassion, you have to practice.

I’M READY

You never know from one day to the next,
what will happen? Who will you become?
Minds seem to go blank,
I would like a fire to mesmerize me,
maybe the wind will carry me away.
Worry is intense, terrifying, blinding
will that pattern be explained?
All the years, where have they gone?
Waiting to shout: I’m ready, are you listening?
It’s me, I’m here, waiting.
Do you hear me calling?
Am I speaking in tongues?
I’m here, it’s me, are you coming?
I’m ready now to start a new life. Will you come?

CMP

*** Continue reading

moving toward gratitude

gratitude saying

credit – dr christina hibbert

Perhaps it’s the time of year. People gathering family and food to celebrate the abundance in their lives as if it were the norm.

Perhaps it’s because, this year, I will be without my family. I’m feeling a ragged hole in my heart without anticipation to soften those sharp edges.

Perhaps it’s because the reality is, many people do not have family around them this week. I’m thinking of a few women who, in their post-prison-release reality, are sinking into their own variations of scarcity. Scarcity of food, family, money. Scarcity of support. Scarcity of internal resources. Scarcity, period.

As the holidays approach – with their weeks of preparation, hype and inevitable let-down – I am more reminded than ever of those whose reality is scarcity. Even when their imaginations can conjure alternate story lines or comforting memories. Continue reading

connecting despite walls

Last Thursday evening as I was leaving the prison late, I experienced one of those moments that touches a place almost too deep for words.

I happened to look through several layers of glass into a distant room. And there, standing a bit to one side in conversation, stood one of ‘my’ writers. She hasn’t written with us in our weekly writing circles for some time – she’s been on an emotional roller coaster for a while. Yet every time she HAS joined us, her writing has been powerful, raw, and (according to her own words) more valuable than any counseling session — because of the depth and immediacy of shared experience. She always thanked me for coming and appeared genuinely grateful for the chance to reflect on and learn from herself and others in the group.

Our eyes connected. I put my hand to my heart, patting a soft fist against my chest two to three times in a gesture I reserve for those I most care for, nodding as I did so with a smile. And SHE crossed both arms over HER chest, holding my gaze with tender intensity as her own head nodded ever so slightly.

The compassion that can pass through time, space, even glass prison walls – not to mention the enormous divide between us in terms of where we are in our lives . . . !

THIS is good work indeed.