About Me

 

 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott

 

I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

Motherhood is not a biological designation
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Saturday
Feb182012

Why ritual is an anecdote for trauma

 

For ritual allows those who cannot will themselves 
out of the secular 
to perform the spiritual, 
as dancing allows the 
tongue–tied man a ceremony of love. 
-Andre Dubus "A Father's Story"

My therapist says that right after a trauma, it is vital to offer people the gift of choice.

For example, if someone survives a car accident, and they are conscious, you ask them, could I use your cell phone to call your family? Or you say, May I cover you up with this blanket?

You don't just do or take; you ask.


You give them the gift of choice in the face of uncontrollable circumstances.

My therapist also says that after trauma, people want comfort.
They want warm blankets, a cup of coffee to wrap their hands around, a pair of cozy socks, the panting body of a dog or kitty to curl up against.

They need tactilic touchstones-grounding objects-not just soothing words.

After the fire, after birthing Phoenix, I made a ritual out of my morning carpool.

I drop my two older boys at school, and then I drive through the Starbuck's drive-thru and order one iced coffee with two raw sugars, and a sausage sandwich with egg, hold the cheese.

I felt guilty for the cost, but I didn't do it every morning, and when I did it, it brought an insane amount of comfort.

Maybe I couldn't control my house burning down, losing most of my things including my doggie, getting my nether regions blown open by an unplanned home birth, but I CAN ask for a Starbucks iced coffee, and sure as the sun rises in the sky, it appears before me, exactly as I planned.

Gift of choice AND comfort.

My guess is that years into the future, when I look back at the season of the fire and the loss of Buddy and the delivery of Phoenix, I will remember sausage sandwiches and Starbucks.

And this is good.

I also made a ritual out of my blankie.
It's maroon and huge and velvety; it even has satin edging like a baby blanket; I like to curl up under it while I nurse in the middle of the night; the weight of it pins me to the earth.  It keeps my soul from spinning out of orbit.

Michael and I made a ritual out of tea in a cast-iron kettle...really nice tea, like Teavana Chahooga Om Chai Sawanna Banana tea...this is not the real name, but, like, every canister of tea from Teavana sounds like some drunk yogic chant.

I'm becoming addicted to rituals.
More and more, I think they are essential for living a deliberate life, and I think they are the things kids remember when they get older.

Mary Oliver says:

 

The path to heaven
doesn't lie down in flat miles.
It's in the imagination with which you perceive this world,
and the gestures with which you honor it.
-
(I read this in the book The Rest of God, which is one of two books written by a Christian where I actually enjoyed not just the content, but the writing style)

 

What we choose to believe about living is not just rooted in the imagination-the way we think about the world-but in the gestures we choose, the rituals we adopt, to put flesh on what we think.

If I never go out of my way to help someone carry bags of groceries to their car, or watch a friends' kids for free so she can get a manicure, who the heck cares if I say I believe in Jesus and that my church is really awesome?

If I never cuddle up with my hubbins at night instead of reading a book in the bathtub- which I recently did as I got to the place in The Hunger Games where the book could not be put down, and I hid myself in the bathtub for at least two hours, until my husband found me, shivering in the dregs of my own dirty bathwater, hair like swamp grass around my face, laughing with guilty hysteria as soon as I heard his footsteps creep across the bathroom, him asking what the heck I was doing since it'd been maybe an hour since I said I would come to bed with him-

will he care if I get him a sweet Valentine's card professing my undying, unselfish love?

 

If I never hang out with my kids, will they remember how many times I said I loved them?


It's what we do with what we say we believe that makes a life.

 

I guarantee you that when my boys are thirty years old, they will still remember Daddy coming home from work every day with a grin on his face and chanting: I'm going to eat your beebo!!

They will still remember us pouring cozy yum yums (juice and water together in a glass) and eating num nums snacks, and getting chozy tucks at night, and all the other little ritualistic Wilbourn language we've developed over our seven years together as a family.

They might remember the fire, but I bet they will remember even more our nighttime ritual-no matter what bed in what house-of kneeling down to thank Jesus for all of his blessings, and then getting a chozy tuck with some extra tuck tuck tuck from neck to ankles under their warm blankies.

Reader Comments (2)

I love this post. As a mother of young adults, I wonder what my children remember of their childhood. I was a very serious mom and I appluad your intentional crazies- in language and gestures. I love your kiddos and your family. You don't do life perfectly but you certainly do life well!

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterKathryn

OK, now I'm addicted to your blog because I love the fresh, fun and crazy way you think and express yourself. The picture you paint of being discovered in your "sin"; hair like swamp grass...hillarious!

I can so relate you your family language. I remember my dad comming home with his prickly face from not shaving since morning and chase us through the house while we laughed and screamed hysterically, threating to give us "nummies" (terrible tickling on bare bellies).

February 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterlisa sachleben

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