being witnessed*

hillary rain, self portrait 

hillary rain, self portrait 

Oh what a rare and precious moment I am having this morning.  My son is sleeping in, my husband tickity-tacketing on his keys in his office down the hall and my dear sister is sleeping peacefully in our guest room.   My creamy cup of coffee is steaming near my face and the singsongs of the birds through our window are melodies I've never heard before. The light of the sun rises so early here, 4am and fades away to dark after 10pm.  The days are long yet so full and when I can have a moment to myself, it fills me up and gives me the courage I need to be present in it all.  Mmmmm...I am drawn to come to my fae space to connect here with you and share what is on my heart.

My partner Hillary Rain wrote such a real and beautiful piece here on her blog and her words have been lingering with me like a soft gentle whisper, offering comfort when I begin to go to those places of overwhelm in the other spaces of my life.  Oh this lovechild we have created together has given us so much energy in our bones throughout the ebb and flow of our days.  As she so beautifully said, her and I have both come together to gather circles of women not to teach but to stand witness.  Witness to ourselves, to each other and to the women that are drawn to the gentle and wild energy that will pulse through the four weeks of our course.  The thing is, her and I need the gentle, tender and powerful assignments and soulful prompts and ritual in this course just as much as the others will.  We come to the circle as very real, humbled souls seeking shelter and safe, witness and courage...because we need it so, just like you.

As I write this I am reminded of a yoga teacher I had when I lived in Berkeley.  I remember she would come to class and would share a piece about her morning or her day prior that brought her to a space of surrender onto her mat.  Sometimes she would let tears fall as she shared, sometimes she just took deep breaths of gratitude for our witness and she would encourage us to do the same within ourselves in a moment of quiet.  She wouldn't stand before us the entire time.  When the class went into a zone, she would join us, lay near us, bend near us, surrender near us and I could feel her need for the movement as much as all of us and it always moved me deep.  I've never felt a connection to a teacher as much as I have her.

Yesterday was Thursday.  Thursdays are occupational therapy days for Cedar.  We go in the mornings and when we return, he has very tender days.  His reserves are low as he gave so much in that hour with his therapist.  He walks through the door with his senses so very heightened to the point where even a whisper can cause pain to his body.  My sister, who is visiting this week, witnessed the intensity of it.  She witnessed him melt and cry and scream throughout the morning at every sound around him and me bringing him up to his dark room, giving him space to regulate his senses before surfacing.  I walked down the stairs and into the kitchen to continue making sandwiches for everyone.  She gave me space for a few minutes before she walked in and one look at her as she stretched her arms out to hug me and I felt my body let go of my hold to keep it all together. I fell into her open arms and found myself sobbing into her neck.  We were quiet for a while as she swayed me back and forth.  My sobs took me by surprise. They felt very primal and from such a very deep place.  Since Cedar's diagnosis, I have felt misunderstood by people in my life that I love about him and his special needs and how we support and parent him.  Nobody understands what we go through unless they're in it with us, in our home and not very many people in our life enter into that space.  Its very sacred to me and my husband and to Cedar too, to let people into our four walls.

She pulled away to look into my eyes and said "you are such a strong mama, Denise...you are such a strong mama. I don't know how you do this my love. What happens with him is so hard to watch. I see the pain in his face and I see you holding it for him. You are so strong"...and she kept repeating that as she held me.  I let her words wash over me and allowed them to just soothe those achy parts that are hidden from my awareness most days.  Because I don't think consciously about how hard it is most of the time.  Both my husband and I have no choice but to draw strength from all of the moments that bring us life with our deep love of and connection to our son.

I can imagine that all caretakers to children or adults with special needs, don't or can't allow themselves to go to that place of awareness too often.  But when we are truly seen and witnessed and in the arms of a safe person holding a mirror to us, it gives us permission to be honest and raw with them and with ourselves.  She put her hand on my heart and said "YOU were chosen for this.  You were chosen."  and I felt my chest expand and I didn't break the gaze from my sister's loving eyes and I heard myself say with such certainty "I know.  I know..." and in that moment the sobs ceased and I felt renewed and told her "I'm going to go upstairs to check on him."  Cedar and I held each other tight upstairs.  He melted into me witnessing him, just as I melted into my sister's witness of me.

Sometimes that is simply all we need to bring us back to center and to find the strength where we thought we had none left.  Being witnessed with such compassion is so very powerful and THAT is the energy we are drawing from as we gather circles of women in our course.

Hillary and I...we are just showing up after long work days or long days with a special needs child, we are showing up and sharing our stories, sharing what brings us life, sharing what nurtures and pampers and reminds us who we are in the midst of doing our best to hold it together for ourselves and those who need us and we hold hear in our life.