Pagans like to say, "What is remembered, lives." Memory is re-membering, the act of giving life to the past through rituals of witness.
"It's funny how family can bring you back to yourself because they know you so well and for so long, they treat you as if you were always just the same. Which is exactly what can drive you out of yourself, too, after a while. Because of course, you're not."
Inside Out is a modern-day story of the shamanic journey into the Otherworld, a journey of both self-recovery and self-discovery. Does sadness have a purpose? Is it just a "negative" emotion that helps joy shine more brightly? That's the question that this movie challenges us to explore, and the answer is more complex than you might expect!
I'll never forget the day (nearly five years ago now) when The Oldest said, in a tone so like her mother's snide dismissiveness, "If you didn't want to be a stepmom, then you shouldn't have decided to marry a man with kids." It hurt. I felt blind-sided. I had no good answer. Instead, I sat for a second speechless and nonplussed, and then the conversation moved on. I didn't want to be a stepmom. I don't know if anybody ever wants to be a stepmom. So why did I become one?
It all started this past winter solstice when Jeff's youngest daughter told us that she was going to be a dentist. Actually, what she said was that she guessed she'd have to be a dentist, because everybody knows you can't make a living as an artist. Our heads kind of exploded at that point, so what happened next was a bit of a blur. I vaguely remember sitting her down at the kitchen table and asking her why this sudden about-face -- she'd been talking about wanting to be an artist for the last several years which, for a nine-year-old, is almost a lifetime. I remember treading carefully, lest I inadvertently suggest that being a dentist wasn't perfectly okay, too, if that's what she really wanted. The world needs good dentists, after all. But what the world doesn't need is a grumpy, jaded dentist who's secretly always wanted to be an artist instead. That doesn't end well for anyone.
As Christmas approaches once again, I find myself wondering, wandering in a liminal space. Asking myself how to teach children that realizing their own inner Santa Claus is infinitely more challenging than believing in some unlikely literal jolly-old-elf, and infinitely more rewarding. Asking myself where I belong, where we all belong, and how we belong to each other. Asking myself how I can tell the stories of my ancestors, pagan and Christian alike, to the children of my partner. What can I say that will be meaningful and relevant for them, that will share with them the "spirit of the season" that I have come to know and love and value? What will I say when they come singing, a penny for my thoughts?
This past weekend, we lost a beloved pet. Shou, a little gray mouse named for the Taoist god of longevity, joined our mixed and motley family six months ago along with her two sisters, Fu and Lu. Even from the beginning, she was the obvious Big Sis, bossing around the others, taking it upon herself to obsessively reorganize and redecorate their shared tank, transforming the new house we'd provided them for into a home. She loved playtime, but she was never one to clambered up my arm to perch on my shoulder. She preferred tunneling under blankets and exploring the dark recesses of empty tissue boxes instead. Still, she blessed our lives with such sweet-tempered assertiveness that even in the short six months she was with us, we came to feel like she'd always been a member of our family. She was dearly loved, and she will be deeply missed.
Christmas eve night, about nine o'clock. Basket slung over one arm and bumping into my hip with every step, I trudge through the snow. The ribbon wound around the basket's slim handle glistens in a hint of milky moonlight, gold thread woven in elaborate patterns through the deep red cloth. In the basket, a red pillar candle and two tapers — scented "seasonal berry" — jostle in a nest of intertwined greens, bits of douglas fir and blue spruce smelling sweetly of bent needles and dried sap; wedged among them, the frankincense sticks, the crystal bowl full of dark sunflower seeds and dried cranberries, the small jar of spring water decorated with silvery snowflake designs and curled bits of blue string. The snow crunches as I feel my way along the un-shoveled path through the park, some of it falling onto the tops of my moccasin-like shoes and slipping down inside to melt against bare skin.
Do you ever find yourself awake just before dawn, lying in the dark, your mind gnawing on some old, persistent anxiety? This morning I was worrying about money. Not surprising — a lot of us worry about money these days. I was worrying about money because of an email yesterday from the Ew about a timeshare that she and Jeff had bought years ago when they were married.
To me, a woman without children, the idea that a mother might not have even a few hours to herself to nurture her passions and pursue her own dreams is horrifying. Who could be more deeply concerned with the future of our society? Who could have more at stake in the work to see the arc of history bend swift and sure towards justice? Who could want more for a better world for future generations, than a mother? What words do we have for her? Is it enough to tell her that we honor her sacrifice and expect her to keep soldiering on? Do we pay lip-service to her noble self-giving as a way of refusing her the full depth of her desires, the fullness and complexity of her humanity? Or do we find a new way of living together?