Friday, April 29, 2011

40 Shades of Grey

As I begin writing, the word “fluff” comes to mind. This surprises me, because I am the one with the motto: Must. Always. Dig. Deeper.

Is it really okay to admit, in a public forum no less, that I snuck downstairs first thing this morning to watch the royal wedding? That, five hours later (yes I said FIVE), I’m still lounging on the couch in my jammies? Competing questions come to mind: shouldn’t this blog be focused on the heartbreaking devastation in Alabama? Our turbulent earth is finding herself in the throes of a long labor with painful contractions. Don’t we have bigger fish to fry than gawking at silly hats, eagerly watching the countdown to “the kiss?”

Life right now is a study in contrasts. Who can deny it? Catastrophe is happening more rapidly than we can process. This is the precise reason we are tempted to escape to Fantasy Land.

I’ll quickly take this discussion to the symbolic. Here’s something to think about: The yin-yang symbol. The yin-yang illustrates a piece of light in the dark; a piece of dark in the light. It’s impossible to have one without the other. I’m fairly confident William and Kate are holding a bit of shadow on their wedding day. And perhaps the people in Alabama are seeing rays of light amidst the devastation.

Did you know the human eye can actually detect 40 distinct shades of grey? If we zoom in for a closer look at the curved line that defines the light and dark, we might see these subtle variations. This could be where life happens; our roadmap to processing this day of contrast.

So much for fluff, I guess. Time to get moving…

-- Kim for the Poplar Grove Muse

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fractured Family

Fractured Family

Every journey into the past is compicated by delusions, false memories, false names of real events.

Adrienne Rich

On Monday, April 11th 2011 my brother, Dennis Evans Riebsomer died. He was 61 years old. No one could make me laugh harder or scare me more. We were estranged and I said goodbye to him a long time ago for my own safety. It's still a loss. I loved him. He was smart, funny and charismatic, but, like our mother, he had a dark side. And as he grew older, it took over.

Seven years ago our mother disowned us, me for telling her doctors about her alcoholism and him for defending me. My family was good at making things look wonderful on the outside, no matter how bad it was on the inside. Truth-telling was not acceptable.

So how do you grieve in a fractured family? How do we help each other? My parents divorced when I was 19, a good thing. Dad moved on, mother is still bitterly stuck in 1964. We all have roles in our families. I was the hero, the good girl; I made our family look good, made my mother look like she was doing a good job. I was determined not to stay stuck with her in that self-poisoning place. I got help; I healed and designed a life that was right for me. It took time, but I got here. Denny's role was scapegoat. He played out what was bad in the family. Mother enabled him in that role. He could take the blame; she could be the victim of a disobedient child. She gave him free rein, no boundaries, no consequences to his actions. She wouldn't allow Dad to discipline him. I was over disciplined; he was under disciplined. She didn't do him any favors.

What do we do with the sadness, the anger and frustration for an ill spent life? My brother let darkness take over his heart. Still there is loss. The loss of what he could have been, which would have outshone us all.

Denny has three daughters, one died at birth, and four grandchildren--his oldest grandson, more like a son, that love was the purest, brightest thing in his life. He could never put his daughters' safety and happiness above his own needs. He let them down the most. And yet, the eldest daughter, the one who got the brunt of his misplaced anger, is the hero now. She has taken on the impossible job of helping his widow (not her mother) with the minutia of what it takes to make funeral arrangements and coordinate a memorial service with a budget of zero dollars in a family with one half of the tribe not speaking to the other half. Yet, she did it quite well because she has managed to keep the lines of communication open with everyone in the family. In that my niece is like my dad. she can keep healthy boundaries and not allow herself to be manipulated by those in our family who have no respect or basic understanding for boundaries.

There are some people who are so toxic that the only way to protect yourself from them spiritually, emotionally, physically and financially is to keep them out of your life. This is what I did with my brother and sister-in-law. It is a double loss. My sister-in-law was my friend before she was my sister-in-law. I introduced them. She let him turn her into his partner in crime. I know she is devastated by his death, but I can't trust her and I can't afford her. She is not in my life. My niece knows and respects this, more fractured family for her to navigate around.

We have always been fractured: exes, step mothers, in-laws and outlaws. People speaking, people not speaking, you needed a score card. When my son turned five years old we had to have so many separate birthday parties, that by the time we had the last party he asked me if he was six now.

Here's what I choose to do with my brother's death. I choose to keep it simple. I believe that matter doesn't ever die, it just transforms. I want to honor Denny's transformation. Last Wednesday night I had the seredipitous opportunity to have a moment alone in a sacred, peaceful space. I said a prayer and released my brother to the light. It felt right. I want peace for all of us, but mostly I want it for him. He deserves it.

Rebekah for Poplar Grove Muse

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dreams Come True

I made a recording in 1999 called "Dreamtable". The title song was inspired by an evening with friends during which most of the women at the gathering eventually found themselves at a large oval farm table recounting their dreams. The lyric, which at the time was a fairly concrete recitation of my own personal dream images, included this refrain: "I can tell a story/I often aim to please/And I will tell about the things that bring me to my knees/ round and round the circle/ we try to understand/our dreams are on the table and in one another's hands/".

Five years after this song was recorded, I got some important training from another woman, Mary Pierce Brosmer, who'd years before, followed a dream she'd had to create the founding school of Women Writing for (a) Change in Cincinnati, Ohio. I put up flyers around Bloomington and invited women into a circle to bring forth story in an intentional way. Six and a half years after that, today, lots of women have participated in WWfaC Circles in Bloomington. They've shared their stories, their truths, their poems, their fiction and yes, their songs, and many of those women are finding that they are making art out of their lives. For some, what were once dreams (about publishing, about standing up to read in front of audiences) are coming true. And for some, none of that matters. They simply relish a seat at the dream table. They've written their ways to wellness and greater clarity and find other areas of their lives enriched by having a connection to a women's community that aspires to the most grounded aspects of the conscious feminine.

I write this post on the eve of our 38th public Read Around*. I write on the heels, just the other day, of having witnessed one woman in our community stand up in front of 60 people gathered to celebrate her, and read, in a decidedly unwavering voice, from her forthcoming poetry chapbook. The next day, 14 young women in our Young Women Writing for (a) Change program, ages 11-13, stood up to read in front of a packed audience of friends and parents. They spoke with poise and fierceness in poetic and sometimes plain words about what they see when they look in the mirror and beyond it these days; the unsparing truths of girls becoming women.

I write in amazement and gratitude for what has come forth out of a rich community of telling, trying, and being tried in only the ways community challenges us. I write in reverence to my own dreamlife and what it helped bring forward in me and through me. I write in reverence to the creator of and legacy of this unique work and it's particular "way", and for what is carried forward by so many now across several generations of writers in our circles.

Natalie Goldberg says that through writing we all put down our individual roots and if we are courageous and persistent enough those tendrils will reach the deep underlying reservoir of spirit we all share. Courage and persistence. Courage. Persistence. Connections. Plant life transforms, the metaphor shifts--we are swimming toward the reservoir. Following our words and our dreams on fins, wings, and sturdy feet.

BLR for the Poplar Grove Muse

* Spring Read Around is Wednesday, April 13, 7:00 PM Quaker Meeting House of Bloomington near the corner of Smith Road and Moore's Pike on the East Side of town. This is a women's event. Men, please join us at the end of May as WWfaC is Featured in the HeartRock Poetry Series May 27th. 7pm.