Monday, February 23, 2015

physiology of belonging

Flowers from loved ones. Community is an

essential part of healing. The freesias

came with a note that said "Remember -

when you can't ride the horse, get off and

walk it for a while. The horse thanks you too."
A few weeks ago, my father died.* I've been trying to get warm ever since. I know emotions are tied to body heat, but it's frustrating, anyway, to keep the house at nearly 20C and still to be cold from the inside out, always. I've been dreaming that I'm warm and cozy in a snow-cave. I drink tea and it doesn't warm me. I boldly go out in the sunshine and it feels cold on my face. I don't even sweat at ballet.

Then today, a tiny revelation: I was wrapped up in warm clothes, drinking tea and busying myself about the house to keep warm, keeping the fire stoked and constantly standing near it. Then unexpectedly my daughter mentioned to me that sometimes when people speak, she sees the words going by. What?! So do I!! I've always thought it was an anomaly - just one more lonely trait in my history of being different. I guess in the family aftermath of my father's death, a feeling of belonging somewhere was something I needed very much.

I was so excited by this revelation and the joyful feeling of belonging that I literally jumped with glee, and my daughter instantly back-pedalled: "Wait, no! It's not that exciting?!" Yes it is. "No! I probably only see them rarely! Or just once!" She was clearly alarmed at my enthusiasm, but she didn't understand how much that tiny thing meant to me. So I let it go. Then I took off my jacket. I'm too hot. My house is 20C and I just had a cup of tea, and - for the moment at least - I feel warm right through.

What physiological change was prompted by the feeling of belonging, of joy, of letting go of pain? I'm no scientist, and I haven't researched this, but the experience is a good reminder to me to appreciate and seek out these moments of joy, for whatever they are, and however seemingly unimportant, because my health and healing depends upon my doing so. It's also a reminder to me, as a parent, that my children's (and all of our) physical health depends upon our emotional health. It depends upon our sense of belonging and self-worth, as well as how we are valued at home and in the greater community. This reinforces my firm belief that healing and personal change cannot be provoked as well by external force or intervention as it can be supported by acceptance, love, and a nurtured sense of belonging.

*Further info is in the obituary, which I linked to. I don't have the emotional means to post about my father's death right now, but I promise that one day I will. It's a big family change; a big personal journey, and a very steep learning curve for me. It's going to take some time to be able to verbalize.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Love instead of hatred.

Media is depressing.

On national radio every day I hear fears about homegrown terrorism, Isis- and other radical religion-related atrocities; ongoing and always marginalization and ruination of aboriginal peoples and everything they have left on earth. On alternative news sources: murder by those in positions of authority, murder, torture and rape excused because the victims were voiceless or nameless. I hear about environmental and human devastation caused by the same corporations that also control the economy in the affected areas. Everywhere. Crimes against humanity. But it's news, we say - did we expect it to be positive?

For entertainment we get "reality", where "real" humans fight each other for viewers' support, or for hard-won praise from cruel and obnoxious judges who swear, belittle, ridicule, cut people off mid-performance, break dishes and spit out food. Or how about the mainstream drama that isn't entertaining without some form of visceral brutality, whether it be bloody gore, social or physical domination, emotionally fraught nastiness that at once demeans us as humans and makes us hate each other.

Yes. Hate. Each other.
In the smallest and the most brutal ways.

The latest hot-button hate issue in my feeds is vaccines. The pro-vaxxers vs. the anti-vaxxers. Never mind all those unvaccinating pro-vaxxers and vaccinated anti-vaxxers, and the large number of people just caught up in the hate game, posting vicious memes and catchy sarcastic "quotes", even though they know nothing about the issue. But when they've run out of juice they transfer the hating to whatever fashion trend is currently unpopular. Just pick a topic and start making threats and accusations. It's an easy game.

I'm mad. I'm mad at us all. I'm mad that we're letting hate grab us by the throats and throttle us. I'm so mad that I feel mad about this! So disappointed in myself.

I told myself that the next time somebody got angry with me, I would respond with love.
That was years ago. I keep on trying. I keep on failing.

I imagine myself like a cool wall of water, and let the hate hit me and flow away. But secretly on my side of that wall of water there is a little girl saying "stop it!" "that's not true!" "don't be mean to me!" and "help!" Until my words come bubbling up through the water and I have responded. Given time, and a keyboard, I can mediate my response to make it positive, but in person that doesn't happen. Either I start some accusations of my own, or I cry. Both just as harmful.

It's easy to be compassionate. I can see reasons to love anybody at all. It's reasons to love myself that are hard to come by, and when I'm feeling vulnerable, like when my family members are angry with me, that self-love crumbles, and I end up saying things I've heard in the media. I listen to a lot of music, so the lines usually come out of angry rock songs and bitter murder ballads. Yes, I'm admitting this. It's embarrassing.  

We all emulate what we experience.

So I wonder: if our media was all compassionate - and I don't mean hiding the facts or putting a glossy sheen on everything, but compassionately presented in a way that honoured and valued all people - how would our reactions begin to change? We're all going to get upset. We're all going to be hurt and get angry and feel terribly terribly weak and helpless. But if we surrounded ourselves with people and media that were accepting and loving... then perhaps we could find it in ourselves to feel strength instead of fear, create healing instead of injury; 

love instead of hatred.

Why community radio from the other side of the continent matters to us in BC

So I've been listening to WMMT out of Whitesburg Kentucky since my Aunt introduced me to it a few weeks ago. It's a community radio station, mostly playing Appalachian music and stories: real people, unedited... I listen because they play the music of my soul, and fill my heart with joy.

Click here to listen:

But not after 3PM. After 3PM, Mondays through Thursdays, they play news from the mountains (because 3PM our time is 6PM mountain time).

Mountain news may not be local to us here in BC, but it's more relevant than our own polished news, sometimes. It's been revelatory for me re: natural gas infrastructure. Every time I hear it they seem to be reporting on various tragedies to land and people caused by NG industry. The industry is never available for comment; the people are: Increased mortality, illnesses, birth defects, contaminated groundwater, drinking water, farmland. The news is ALWAYS devastating. The stories are heartbreaking, and prolific, encompassing many whole towns and cities, and they're interspersed with reports of natural gas industry expansion and job opportunities in various communities in NG or spill cleanup.

I think, as we in BC are having this industry shoved down our throats, but our local news doesn't report on these things, WMMT 3PM is a good thing for us to be listening to.