Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

When Death Settles in for a Long Visit

Our eldest cat is old. At 22 years she's roughly 98-102 in people years. That's the toll her long life has taken on her body. She has outlived two of her sisters. She still uses her litter box. She still prowls the house at night, even though it involves more yowling and getting lost in the dark. Her instincts to hunt are strong but her eyesight is not.

She has slight dementia. It's been a long three years of worrying over her, reassuring her, finding her, calming her, etc. We love her. Of course we do. But some days it's like having a stranger in our home. And death is a shadow fixated on her movements.

Even as I type this, I am prepared to change tenses. I am accepting of the reality that even in the few days before I post this Zami may pass. Every day carries the possibility that she may no longer be with us. And yet she might live another five years.

Who knows?

It's hard to live at that edge, that boundary. Anyone who has ever cared for a dying loved one knows this space. That place of difficulty when they get forgetful. When you have to get up during the night to check on them. When you haven't seen them in a while and you raw straws or play rock-paper-scissors to see who is going to make sure they're breathing. And you make deals with your deities for more time, longer days, and that they pass peacefully in their sleep.

There are days and moments where you will wish their ending to come swiftly. Because you're human and to be a caretaker is to be drained and running on fumes and unable to say fuck it when you need to because there is care to be given. We are human.

We're readying ourselves for a retreat to the mountain. We will tell her we love her before we leave. We will snuggle her and tell her what a beautiful girl she is and how much we love her. And we will tell her that if she is ready, we understand.

You wish kindness for their suffering, but what of your suffering heart?

Let the living care for you. We do what we must for those we love. Listen to your instincts. Listen to your heart. Listen to your head. They will not agree but if you look for the light, the way will become clear. Only you know the best choices for your loved o

The poet Mary Oliver has a piece called "In Blackwater Woods" that has a delicious ending that I cling to when death involves my loved ones. It's easy to be strong for other people. But it's hard when the potentiality of death is in our home. Every breath is precious.

"...To live in this world
you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it go,
to let it go."

Disclaimer: I did not get to post this piece before I left on my retreat. Zami was gone when we returned yesterday, which made it feel all-the-more important to publish this as it originally was.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Where Compassion is Needed

I try to put myself in their shoes. It's not hard for me, it never has been. I have always been highly-sensitive to other people, empathically empathetic even. So when I put myself in their shoes I don't just logically dictate how my life-as-I-know-it would change. I create a reality where that *is* my life and I sense-it-as-true intensely.

So I wonder how my world would have changed if, when I went to my mom to ask for my birth certificate and social security card so that I could get my driver's license and/or my first job, she had to reveal a dark secret to me... that I was not born in America. That we were illegal.

I think about what constitutes my childhood near the Great Lakes-- the playground of my elementary school, McDonald's happy meals, craft fairs down Main Street in the summer, playing hide and seek in m neighborhood, babysitting, reading, the library that was my second home, dancing, theatre, applying for colleges, filling out my first round of taxes, etc.

And what if my government told me that I wasn't welcome here? That I had months to settle my affairs before they shipped me back to, for instance, Poland (a country of my ancestry). A country I had never been to. A country I couldn't point to on a map with a hundred percent confidence. A country whose language was completely foreign to me. A country that housed none of my family. What if my government suddenly told me that was my real home?

What if, instead of college, deportation was my future?

What would be crueler? Charging me $500 every two years until I could arrange my naturalization? Or deporting me to a country that is not and has never been my home?

We often let bureaucracy get in the way of taking care of humans. But the institutions we put in place were always meant to be in service to people. And somewhere along the way we lost those pieces. The way back to them involves compassion and kindness. Empathy and love.

Our Dreamers are not terrorists. Their classmates had no idea they were here illegally. They were people with faces and names and hopes for how to help make this country a better world. They were raised to believe they were citizens until they found out they weren't.

I know about living a life in secret. I know about pretending to not be gay. I had a job for two years where I had to make up a whole alternate life where I wasn't in a serious monogamous relationship with a woman. No one should have to live like that. There has to be a better answer for them than deportation.

They did not make the choice to come here.

All of my ancestors came here at some point from another country. That is true for most of us. So I cannot, in good conscience, support the decision to deport people who are culturally as American as I am. Besides, I do not consider myself American first. I am human first. We are all human beneath the color of our skin and the country of our birth. Sometimes that has to matter more.

This video, titled Illegal, is moving and gives a humanitarian perspective on this topic.

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