Sunday, October 13, 2019

Creating Pockets of Protection, Sanctuary Amongst the Chaos, and Conversations with Strangers.

I honestly can't speak to anyone else's journey nor give politically correct stories from my self. I am just ME. I tell my stories here as a form of memory, self help or sharing in the hope of making someone else feel validated or less alone. But in today's vibrant landscape of Internet vigilantes policing language or cruelly commenting, I have witnessed wonderful conversations and comments that fill me with terror.
I feel lucky, to have virtually unknown spaces (for the most part.) I get to hash out thoughts without too much chaos and a lovely, small community of kind strangers and supportive friends. Obviously I know that in a public place anyone can find me and I am prepared for that, however, for now, when I come home to this space, it feels like a form of home physically built on the web...if that makes any sense?
(A Heritage Home we love near us.)

Home is always a theme of my heart for many reasons I've had to dive deep into therapy for. In short, I crave it more than the average person due to immense sensory pain in childhood. Also because of a loss of autonomy that I experienced up until the age of about 25. I needed a space where I could just be myself fully, control all my own choices that were often contrary to other's choices for me, and BE as quirky or as maximalist as I needed to be. This enabled me to also nurture and understand the children in my care and the husband I am in love with to partner with. The core of my deepest longing is harnessed into the depths of sanctuary.

Sanctuary has a history of courage. In this world of madness and hidden dangers, building a little home or place for others to feel safe in is a challenge. To build sanctuary we often have to face our own fears first, battle the forces that undermine, choose what means the most to our souls...and figure out what we truly value (which can be a journey onto itself.)

A true gift is to be rooted in hallow hills and sacred forests of belonging. To cultivate relationships and places where we feel we can grow strong and bright without fear. These rare spaces lessen the harshness of the world at large. It is where we learn to become strong so that we can take our shelter with us wherever we go, and others feel safe with us too.

It does not mean we do not have tension or conflict, because courage also means that we try to understand with perspectives. We choose to do hard things because of love. If we gave up on anything that tested us, our spirits would be poorer for it. Like the Beaver, creating a warm hearth for the winter months of soul or body, requires hard work, prudence, careful cultivation and perhaps a partner or soul friend who builds alongside us.

Living in freedom is often tied to levels of safety in all areas including mental, physical, emotional and spiritual. When our personal pockets are protected, we are often more enabled to live out our truths fully. At least, I find this to be true for myself. I have found that when I stop listening to the news, and have friendships with people who do not feel the need to pass that onward, my world becomes peaceful. I have enough to deal with in my small world. It is not ignorant to make my world as small as my sphere in it. I am less immobilized by fear and make more conscious choices when I am securely in my own happenings. I actualize on love more. I make healthier decisions rooted in love, knowing that trials and tribulations will be inevitable, but that I did not base my life upon the chance of them.

There is this cultural belief that in order to change the larger world we have to know everything about it. We are required to be up on the latest events, world shockers, and political schemes in our every day conversations. We are in information overload. Thus far, I see much fear and not a lot of actualization. Yes, there are also wonderful things happening, but they are not just from being aware. Wonderful change for others also happened prior to global awareness. We just heard less of it. It is human nature to talk more of the dangers in a form of preparation and protection.While this is important, I feel that the world has tipped over onto one side in a way to balance out the scales...which is natural but I hope within that we can also find some balance.

In my twenties I was all for globalization. I wanted everyone to feel belonging, love and security. But as I have aged and become a witness to the actualization of all I wanted, I am seeing that it's not the only answer. It is not the only hope. And I have realized that I personally do best within a smaller cultivation of BEING. In any other forum I would be slayed by the comments to this confession and I know most of my friendships are probably in the position I was a decade ago... and that's ok for them. But not for me right now. I still want the world to feel safety, belonging and love but now I realize that my call is so much smaller.

It's akin to finding Christmas. I adore Autumn and Christmas. Where I live we can get tastes of snow every month of the year which helps build the anticipation...and sometimes our exhaustion! (Picture of last week's snow below.)

Some years the season hits hard and it's all we can do to cope or not look at those who have more with slight envy. But other years we are in a season of joy and magic. Partially due to circumstance and also partially to the personal carving of choice. If we thought too much about the reasons why we shouldn't enjoy ourselves or our position of privilege to enjoy it...we would lose out on the giving of joy. Because joy is contagious.

There are so many mixed messages about what it is to be a good person, or what safety means. There are trigger words and trigger posts and triggering places...and most of us are genuinely trying to make the world safer by using these phrases or enacting our boundaries. As we should be for the most part. There is always another side. If we forget it, we forget to think of the other. If we think on it too much, we forget to honour ourselves. It's that ever flowing line and each will have a different take on that which is as it should be.

Home. It's a place to go when one feels the need to re charge. It's for when I feel lost or alone and I can retreat into the safe haven of care. It's a structure to share when our hearts lead us there. To me, it's a tale of in which we carefully carved out our intentions with sweat, tears and even a bit of blood. With every nail, every renovation, and each meal, we intentionally built our deepest desires and priorities. We sacrificed sleep for creating. We exchanged other pursuits to cultivate our own spin of beauty. A house with love in it is rich indeed...even if it's the love of self, pet, plants or desires.

It's also a place we carry with us when we are out in the world. There are certain spaces that have a similar feeling. Recently we were visiting one of these other world hearths when a 70 year old man approached us as we were sailing. "Excuse me," he interrupted our musings with his gentle English accent, "I just wanted to let you know that I am an observer of people. I have been a public speaker and writer which has taken me to many places...and I wanted you to know that your family was more beautiful to me than this view. I have rarely witnessed a family so in tune with each other. You have something special. You are engaged, not on your devices at all unless it is to take a picture for posterity. I've been watching you for the last ten minutes and I see you treat each other with kindness but more than that I see you genuinely ENJOY each other. I can honestly say that I come here most weekends and most families are caught up in the busy, their phones or gripping at each other...I want to know, if you don't mind me asking, what is your secret to this? Your context?"

I teared up a little. I asked if I could take his picture because the moment meant a lot and with my memory I will forget it otherwise. We ended up spending the rest of our time with him, travelling out of the park and exchanging emails. Some of his parting words to us were, "I know you treasure it- I can see it, but know that others see it too and it makes a difference. A family that is present is a gift onto itself. I never had that and I am unfortunately not close to my children. I wish I could have tasted what you have."

Strangers have been immersing themselves in our life lately. Some of it has been because we have inserted ourselves in theirs. For instance, I have oddly been going up to new moms and asking them how their labours were and how they are feeling. Yup it's an odd thing to do but I have been noticing all new babies and it just tends to happen. Luckily, all of them have been happy to share. Most almost seem relieved to tell their stories. I make it quick because I recall how tired and sore I was back then, but I have loved these small interactions. I am the introverted of all of introverts so this is shocking my husband and myself too! (Part of the reason my break up with my best friend was easier in the end was because both of us were introverts and I think we were relieved to get our time back, even if it was good, we had high demands on our time.) Anyway, I remember envying the women who already had grown children because they knew their children survived and thrived. I was constantly in fear of losing my children to death, illness or something dire...or perhaps just my parenting. I also recall being terrified of when they would be teenagers. Most of the women I have had conversations with at the mall or in a shoppe or on a street see me with my children. I often insert into the conversation that teenagers can be the best and every stage has gotten better not worse...and that the sleepy stage will eventually pass but I admire where they are right now. I wish more people would have told me that. Too many people told me to enjoy it because it would end too quickly- and YES it has, but I already knew that. I wish people would have told me it generally turns out OK in most normal phases.

One mom in a nearby town had a newborn strapped to her chest. It felt like we knew each other before but we could not figure out when. Her name was Mandy. I kept apologizing for being creepy but she thought I was great and even offered me to sniff the head of her baby. I didn't ( I wanted to!) because I wasn't sure how much was a joke and already felt like I was crossing that line into weird...but boy did I want to. I miss that smell. (Ha ha! See creepy! I know how I sound!) We talked for a good 15 minutes. A serendipitous meeting.

Usually I have this "back off #itch face" in social situations. I don't want strangers infringing on my energy and downtown I take the routes that avoid most people when I am on a mission. So there is one issue when I am open like this with a stranger...Generally I then find myself talking to EVERY stranger within the vicinity because they come up to me after. I did not get out of that shoppe for 45 minutes! I asked my husband after, "Why when my social persona is ON, everyone tries to talk to me? Sometimes people are literally standing in line. I think it's easier to have my back off face on." And he said the sweetest thing I will NEVER remember so I am writing it here; "Babe, It's because when you are open to the world, which is rare, it's like Aphrodite is walking into the store. A person who encompasses love, beauty and connective healing. And they sense that and want some of it." Wow, that is a's a lot to live up to but wow.

Because normally I'm like the picture below out in public. Ha ha- Yes those are white headphones on my head. (See picture below.)
The above picture was at my sister's birthday celebration at a restaurant. It was so noisy my eldest son insisted he go to the van to get his headphones for me.Due to our home and parenting, our Autistic children do better in sensory environments than I do as an Autistic. My children kept holding my hands and checking in on me during the meal.

In general it's easier to harness my energy in my home. We often have strangers in our home due to a monthly gathering of 9-20 people we host. We bring in different professors or people to speak on a topic they love. Last week we had an Archeologist from a neighbouring city (who is coming to speak in March) and wanted to meet us first in our home. In the two and a half hours she ended up staying she filled our hearts with phrases I wish I could recall. Luckily, I made my family re hash the evening and help me write down the highlights as soon as the door closed. Some of those were;

"I've been all over the world and I've never seen a home like this or a family as healthy as this. I wish I could transport your entire home and family to my classes and showcase you so all my students could study you. They would be better for it." I laughed nervously and joked, "That's a lot to live up to." (Especially since it is the second time in a month we were told a similar thing. Yikes but wow! It's memorable.)

"You're very special. Not just as a home- which you are - but as a family."

 "It's like a hidden secret that needs to be shared with the world."

 "Can you tell me what all the Witches are about?" I explained to her that I have an obsession. When I was first diagnosed with Autism and working through it- the Broadway Musical Wicked got me through that time. I was always drawn to good witches and magic but that sealed the deal!

 "You two are like two big children aren't you? I don't mean that in a bad way- I wish more adults would remember childlike wonder and encapsulating innocence." We both laughed hard and our children agreed. My son piped up, "Yup we call dad the child and mom the teen of the house." She laughed and said, "I see, your mom is considered a tad bit older..." and my daughter says, "Yes but  she is more moody too!"
The the speaker turned to my husband at one point and exclaimed, "You are all tough on the outside but sweet on the inside...I see you are the rebel type...that endearing charmer who can turn someone's world upside down with a few words or actions but I can also see that there is mushy marshmallow all through your core being." Ha ha she pegged him alright! We died laughing.

 "Honestly, by your emails, lack of Internet presence, posters for advertising and your name and husband's initials I thought you guys would be 80 years old! Then I walked into your yard it was the first sign that maybe I'd been duped! You guys sound so proper on email and your ideas so old fashioned in a way, yet I walk into your yard and home and all my preconceived judgments were blown to smithereens...I have a lot to consider about juxtapositions on my way home tonight." We get that a lot.

 "Every room has it's own flavour yet each has the value of personality. I can tell with the kids rooms that you listen to them and whom they are when you decorate. You see their souls. It's an incredible gift."

 "I work with college students planting a seed in them and hoping they will get it by forty. But your kids already get it! I can see the spark in their eyes in their conversations with they have not picked up a device once in the entire time I have been here. I'm very impressed. You guys are very special and I mean that in the nicest possible way. You are unusual but in a good way." This compliment we have received from five different university professors from differing institutions. Recently we were asked to speak at a University Colloquium on a similar topic because they were so impressed with our children and "unschooling" that they want us to answer questions as a family.

"It's amazing. You are really amazing- how you constructed this world. It's like a cave- like a burrow of safety with twinkle lights, blankets and all things comforting. I walk in here and I've shared more about myself with you strangers than most of my friends. I am an Introvert and not usually like this- it's you and your home. That's it's magic."

"You guys should own a bed and breakfast but not here because this is your sacred space to share with just a few- that's the beauty of it. It's such a surprise where it is! But you have the gift to make people feel at home in your home."

Our wonderful time with her ended with an apology from her, "Usually I am more professional...I feel I was so distracted at some points...I just want hours to look at all the stuff in your home. You are as intriguing as the dig sites I've been to in Nicaragua and Africa. I would love to study you and your home now. I got a little too excited and verbal but I hope you know it's because I am astounded." We assured her that her words were such an honour. It was honestly so much fun and a large boost to our ego! If only we could hear the kindness of strangers as often in the world! If only we would verbalize the beauty we see in others when we are with them in such a casual yet engaged way. In a few hours she renewed our sense of purpose and reminded us of how far we have come. She also infused hearth into OUR home by being with us.

Home. To me... it's freckles and sunshine, snuggles and snowstorms, fights and reconciliation, music and twinkle lights, magic and moonlight, herbs and candles, plants and blankets...and at it's core it's a concept that has been built into a reality. It's a detour from errands into the country so my daughter can give horses some cut up apples for Mabon/ Thanksgiving. It's the moment I tell my eldest son that he should accompany me to get the mail in the midst of his chores because he seems tired...and in the end he turns to me with a big hug and says, "I needed that mommy. I needed to get out. Thank you for always knowing what I need. I like being with you." It's my youngest carting his stuffies out of his bed and into mine because he thinks I need comfort from whatever pain or distress I happen to be in. It's my husband arriving with flowers after a discussion about new phases of life and saying to me, "Babe you have been, always will be and are my one new love and best thing in my life."

Home is him bringing me chocolate because he knew I would love the witchiness of the wrapping. Home is knowing the secret to having it all is knowing you already do. It's hearing the laughter of my family upstairs while I have my quiet time writing a post, yet I still feel a thankful part of it all despite the floor in-between.

Home is rushing to the dentist to get a huge sliver dug out of the roof of your mouth and coming home to a cup of water, lunch re warmed with all the chips out of it:)

Home, to me, is cozy Roots sweaters worn for more than 7 years anytime it's cold, I feel sick, I am in a flare, or I'm sad. Unfortunately, this sweater will be the one outfit they probably remember the most but on the bright side it is also the outfit that got the most snuggles too.

Home is a stranger seeing a family, and realizing they take their home with them wherever they go, when they are with each other. Because of choices, because of privilege (But is that all bad if they are honouring and sharing it?), because of strong boundaries of time and space, and because they focus on the micro and macro... and also because they are just lucky. 

We have had our share of hardships and pain and will again...but these conversations with strangers have also spun our web of sanctuary. The inter -connectedness of our dealings have created pockets of protection too. And on this Canadian Thanksgiving weekend I am so thankful for it all. And yes, I am proud of the house we built, both in our physical address and with our family of five. Do I hope to add on to it? Perhaps in the future or maybe not... We are in decision mode on that currently. But I do know without a doubt that I AM proud of what has been created. Often we are told not to be prideful. I was admonished all the time in childhood that "pride comes before the fall." Yet, it is important to take pride in our lives sometimes and honour all that has come before in order to set to rights what will come after. "It was an uphill battle nearly every day but I wouldn't have it any other way- Oh I'm proud of the house we built."- Brooks and Dunn

Song choice: Proud of the House we Built ( basically our life in a song)- Brooks and Dunn

"I dropped to my knees in that field on your daddy's farm.Asked you to marry me, all I had to give was my heart.While other kids went diving into swimming holes, You and me dove off into the great unknown. We were barely gettin' by, takin' care of each other. Then I became a daddy; you became a mother. Was an uphill battle nearly every day, Lookin' back I wouldn't have it any other way. I'm proud of the house we built.It's stronger than sticks, stones, and steel. It's not a big place sittin' up high on some hill.A lot of things will come and go but love never will. Oh, I'm proud. I'm proud of the house we built. Still workin' our way through the land of milk and honey. At the end of the day there's always more bills than money. I close my eyes at night and I still feel The same fire in my heart I felt out in that field. I'm proud of the house we built. It's stronger than sticks, stones, and steel. It's not a big place sittin' up high on some hill. A lot of things will come and go but love never will.I'm proud of the house we built. Oh, look at us today. Oh, we've come such a long long way....A lot of things will come and go but love never will. I'm proud of the house we built."- Brooks and Dunn