Forgotten Art: Jasper – Seth 7

A reply to: A letter from Seth

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Dear Seth:

Thank you for your letter, and my apologies in my late reply.

My receipt of your letter was delayed. You see, I left town for a spell, on a personal mission of sorts.

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While I was away, I asked a friend to collect my mail. Which he did, faithfully. He delivered it when I returned, all except for your letter, which had fallen behind his TV stand, and which, since my friend rarely cleans house, was not discovered until yesterday. By now so much time has elapsed since you wrote. I suspect you may have immigrated to a completely new universe, as I feel I have.

I trust all is well? Have you been able to build upon the honesty with Sarah that you described in your last letter?

I hope so, and that you and Sarah are both healthy and reasonably happy.

I am both–happy and well.

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My personal mission was a complete success, surpassing even my optimistic hopes.

My life and family have expanded since I last wrote.

My nephew Norm got married. I was fighting a flu (the flu won, temporarily, though I’ve emerged the victor now, with a robust immune system fairly bursting with antibodies for that specific virus. Three cheers for white blood cells! Warrior lymphocytes to the rescue!), so I did not attend the ceremony, but by all reports, save for my nontraditional niece Meadow’s, the wedding was a smashing success. A good time had by (nearly) all!

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A few other expansions have happened within my own nuclear family, too. I won’t bore you with the details at present. Suffice it to say that the old aphorism, “Open doors lead to happy homes” holds true.

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I have been busy.

You live with another, so you must be well acquainted with ways that conversation tracks through the daily routine. When I lived alone, I seemed to have plenty of time for everything–when I wanted to talk, I called a friend, invited someone over, or strolled to the coffee vendor in the plaza. Conversation happened on my terms.

But now? Now conversations seems to happen at any odd moment!

I am not complaining, merely stating that I’ve been busy, busy talking.

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Of course, the frequent chatter makes the moments of quiet more valued. Do you find that?

I had forgotten the simple joy of spending silent time in the presence of another, the joy of living alongside other living beings.

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To hear someone breathing beside you, to hear another’s unexpected laughter, to feel that body warmth that can stretch even across the distance of a couch pillow. And socks. I had forgotten what another person’s dirty socks smell like! How odd that this, too, would be a source of contentment.

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I’ve been expanding my culinary repertoire. Have you or Sarah ventured much into the vast territory of recipes containing cheese? Not fancy cheese, mind you, what some may call “stinky cheese,” or “ew, gross cheese!” But good plain cheddar, preferably white. Simple, white cheddar.

It is amazingly versatile and, from all reports, even makes broccoli taste “delish!”

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I’ve always considered myself to be a happy man, except, of course, during those crises when falling apart or mired in the depths of grief. Even a happy man experiences different flavors of life, sometimes–those undercurrents and shadows that ground the high tones. The basso continuo to life’s merry melody.

But now, I am happy at a new level. Maybe it is deeper? Or maybe, it is that it can be shared. When happiness contributes to the happiness of another, it becomes happiness squared.

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Forgive me if I don’t answer all your questions. I find, on a typical day, I now spend about three hours answering the questions of another. And so my capacity and energy for question-answering is taxed.

I will skirt around one of your questions, though. You asked about dreams. I won’t tell you about my dreams. But I will tell you about an experience that was as rich as dream and as profound.

This happened shortly before the expansions in my household I’ve referred to. I took a walk through the city, winding up near a public festival in the Arts Quarter. It was a thinking walk, so I kept apart from the crowds, wandering the back alleys. I’d been talking to Bess in my thoughts, as I do, especially when I feel I am approaching crossroads.

The full moon shone down. I looked up, and, like a romantic, asked for a sign. A breeze from the bay. The silhouette of a jet across the moon. And the pink explosion of fireworks followed by a thundering boom.

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Confirmation. The path of energy is anything but stagnant. It’s OK to seek a new constellation.

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And a new constellation is what I now find myself in.

Seth, I hope your and Sarah’s lives lead you to happiness, expansion, and the rich fullness of breathing the same air.

Your friend,

Jasper

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Zuki: “Category D”

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We cannot figure out why Zuki was labelled “Category D.”

She is the cutest, funniest, sweetest little kid! She runs through the house whistling, chirping, and clicking, always with a crazy-wild grin. How could anyone thing this makes her a “difficult child”?

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It seems so simple to me: Just follow what we learned in Early Childhood Development! The first thing we learned was Maslow’s Hierarcy of Needs: Food, water, warmth, rest.

We took care of that right away, easy-peasy! She loves milk, and we’ve been following the dietary guidelines we received for her, which is lots and lots of meat and seafood.

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It’s a little tricky since we’re mostly veggie eaters, but Youssef has been grilling steaks, steaming oysters, clams, and mussels, and searing bass. She devours it!

Next comes security and safety. I’ve never before appreciated as much how quiet our home is–with no other houses on our street, we rarely get even a car driving by. It feels secluded and protected. The bricks muffle the noises of wind and weather, and we feel like cozy bears tucked in our den.

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Why! Think of it! We’re on the third tier of the hierarchy already, intimate relationships and friends!

Zuki has bonded immediately with Meadow.

Confession Time: I wish she’d bonded that closely with me already!

But who wouldn’t bond with Meadow within an hour? She’s so calming to be around, with her sweet voice and her gentle ways. I know I’m a bit bouncier and louder, so it makes sense it takes longer with me.

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Little Jena has fallen in love with her sister-cousin.

“Can I watch her sleep, Mom?” she asked the other night, after Meadow finished reading Zuki her good-night story.

Meadow and I both chuckled. “She’s not a kitty-cat!” I told Jena.

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“No,” said Jena. “She’s more like a tiger cub. I don’t think a kitten would eat a whole steak!”

This is how Zuki wakes each morning: with a giant smile!

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Meadow says even though she’s just a tot, we can start laying the groundwork for esteem needs and self-fulfillment needs.

“She’s not too young to begin feeling a sense of accomplishment!” Meadow says.

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“Or creativity,” I remind us.

“Or mischief!” adds Jena.

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I wonder if there even is such a thing as “Category D!” I have never met a difficult child, only difficult situations. Give a kid an environment that meets her needs, and you’ll have a delightful kid!

Of course, in my book, Zuki is simply Capital-D-delightful, ALL the time! Maybe that’s what “Category D” means! Delightful Child!

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Zuki’s Home!

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Today was Zuki’s first day with us. She went straight to the doll house. Her eyes were so wide, and she chirped.

“Think she’s hungry?” Meadow asked, when she started gnawing on Flower Mommy Doll.

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She was humming. “I think she’s happy!” I said.

It’s hard to believe this day is here! This whirlwind happened after Meadow’s pen pal Dove wrote to her. I knew something was up when I saw Meadow reading her pen pal’s letter. Meadow gets this look like she wants to save the world, and that’s when I know: buckle-up for change!

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“What is it?” I asked. I could tell something big was going to happen.

“Oh, Mizuki. It’s terrible. A refugee ship crashed and there were little kids on board.”

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“And you want to help?” I asked. I needn’t have asked. I already knew the answer.

“Of course!” Meadow answered, just like I knew she would.

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Next came a string of email messages, phone calls, and texts, and lots of long conversations about how best to help: Financial support? Meadow’s got loads of money. Volunteering with the agency? We both have a little extra time in our busy schedules. Holding workshops for care-givers? We’ve got expertise. Providing trauma-therapy training for the social workers? Meadow is a gifted therapist. Eventually, it came out that what was really needed were homes for the survivors, most of whom were under three years old.

Many had already been placed with qualified, carefully selected individuals, and the toddlers were receiving care. Already, they were successfully integrating into their families and the local communities.

But alongside these success stories remained a few dozen children who had been labeled “difficult to place.”

Some had behavioral issues; some had mobility challenges; some seemed to have nonstandard developmental patterns.

When Mr. Noriega learned that I was pursuing an advanced degree in childhood education and Meadow, a doctoral in trauma therapy, and that Meadow had already adopted a child from a refugee camp who was thriving in every way, he asked if we’d consider taking one of these “Category D” children.

I think this was what Meadow had hoped for all along. She beamed.

“We can’t really refuse, can we?” she asked.

Of course we couldn’t.

Meadow’s family has been supportive.

“Another grandniece?” said her uncle Jasper. “The clan expands!”

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Jena has been an angel.

“How do you feel about becoming a big sister?” Jasper asked her.

“I’ve been practicing,” Jena said. “I’ve been bossing the kids at school all year!”

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But Jena has natural empathy. I think she must have picked up on Zuki needing a little time to settle into her new home.

She didn’t rush towards her or try to smother her. She simply smiled in her quiet, calm way and let Zuki be in charge of her own physical space.

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The approach is working! Zuki circled, studying her big sister and clicking her tongue. She’s a very curious child.

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Confession time: I’m pretending that Zuki is Youssef and my love child. Shhh! Don’t tell!

But I think she looks like us combined. She’s got Youssef’s curly hair and broad nose. My blonde coloration and pale skin. She could be our baby!

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When we learned her first name was Zuki, Meadow and I decided she’d take my last name: we filled out her paperwork entering her name as Zuki Suzuki.

And we entered my name, Mizuki Suzuki, as the primary care-giver.

And now, I have a baby daughter, who just so happens to look like the perfect combination of me and my squeeze, my own little Zuki-burger with curly fry pigtails!

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 10

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin

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Dear Kaitlin,

Thanks so much for your words of kindness! You know what it’s like to be a busy working mom–sometimes we’re moving so fast that we don’t even get a chance to stop and appreciate all we do each day! Your kind thoughts helped me pause for gratitude!

Jasper believes that gifts are to be shared–I’ve always known when he’s said that that he’s referring not just to the traits and talents we’ve been blessed with, but to our privilege.

You’ve got a big, loving heart, so you share it with all your kids and grandkids, and with Leroy. I’ve got a nice house and plenty of resources–and I used to have time!–so I share those with Jena, and now with Mizuki Suzuki.

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I don’t have much free time anymore, with going back to school. But it’s a three-day weekend, so that brings me leisure to write to you!

I’m so glad you find Ira inspiring. I do, too. She’s kind of a nut, actually. Well, she’s a great match for my nutty brother. Do you know they both still play with toys? It’s funny, but why not? It makes them happy. They’ve created this entire imaginary universe that they populate with characters based on their favorite toys. You’d think that Aari, Ira’s daughter, would be part of that, right? But she’s far too practical. She just rolls her eyes and lets her parents talk about Miss Meowness’s adventures and the llamacorn’s escapades.

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It works for them. I’ve been reading a lot about play therapy. Most of the research is on play and children, but, especially with someone as childlike as my brother, I can imagine that the findings transfer.

Landreth (2002) notes that “play relieves feelings of stress and boredom, connects us to people in a positive way, stimulates creative thinking and exploration, regulates our emotions, and boosts our ego” (as ctd. by Lilly, et al. 2016).

Ira and Norman seem to use it as a tool for communication and bonding: they can say things through play that they might not be able to approach in a more direct fashion, and this shared communication style connects them in a healthy way.

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Mizuki Suzuki is big into play, too! With her, I think it’s how she relieves stress and boredom. She’s taken on the house-cleaning chores while I’m in school, but really, I think this is just an excuse for her to “pick up the toys,” which is her code for “let’s play with all of Jena’s stuff!”

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Jena does a great job of playing with me, Jasper, and Mizuki Suzuki, but she has yet to learn how to play with kids her own age! Well, that’s what preschool is for, right?

The other day, one of her little friends came home with her. Immediately she started asking him, “So, what do you want to be?” When he didn’t answer right away, she shot out all these suggestions: “A panda bear? An abominable snowman? A sloth? You could be a sloth! And I’ll be an aardvark!”

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He just looked at her, confused.

She’ll learn to leave space for other people’s ideas, right?

Speaking of space, it sounds like you could use a little space in your life. So many things happening! So many connections between all the people you care about, and even between those you’re trying not to care about!

But I know you: Even those people you’ve had challenging relationships with–even those people you don’t want in your life anymore–you still care about them.

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And when we care, that’s when the tangles can happen. Your situation sounds complicated now–family complications, legal complications, professional complications, romantic complications.

It must have been a real shock to run into Newt. I can see why it felt like a betrayal that you hadn’t been told he was in town. You didn’t have a chance to prepare yourself.

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You know what? I’m glad you took a few weeks’ break from Leroy and Dr. Shea after all of that. I can understand the jealousy. I wonder, too, if there was a feeling of lack of control: It seems that they were making all the decisions for you, rather than sharing information with you so that you could make your own decisions for yourself and your kids.

That must have been hard. And even though you had a break from Leroy, you still had all the kids to care for, so I’m sure you felt like you had to keep it together.

Through all this, do you ever get time for you, where you can slow down to feel your own heart beat? Maybe you find your heart as it beats for others.

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I have faith that everything will work out. Things are messy now, but things don’t stay perpetually messy, do they? Or rather, new messes come to take the place of the old ones that get cleaned out!

I’m so sorry to hear about Reid. That must challenging, especially for Ben. When someone we care about is in trouble, it can feel so devastating. I can imagine that Ben is feeling that way about Reid, and now you’re feeling that way about Ben. I wonder if it would help him to know how much it hurts you to see him feeling unhappy and worried. He’s pushing you away right now, but maybe it’s because he really needs you, and this feeling has him scared, especially when so many other people, big and little, need you, too.

It sounds like you’ve thought through your situation with Dr. Shea. You have such good intuition that if you feel she’s your best choice, then I’m sure she is!

Do you know that Jena has decided that her favorite game is “Therapist”? I guess it’s like how some kids play doctor. She knows that I’m studying to be a therapist, and when she asked what a therapist was, I told her that it’s someone who guides people to find their strength, especially when they’re feeling scared.

So when we play dolls, she has her doll be the therapist.

“Are you scared now?” Her doll asks mine.

“Oh, yes!” Mine replies. “Very!”

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She giggles at that, and then we talk through all the things that might make a little doll scared, which, coincidentally, are all the things which make her feel scared.

Right now, her biggest fear is the Void Monster which comes out of the kitchen faucet in the middle of the night, when the water is turned off.

The Void Monster’s kryptonite are bubbles. So when she does the dishes, she feels safe all night.

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When I told Jena tonight that it was a three-day weekend, which meant an extra day at home and extra time to play, she said we should have Ira and Norman come over.

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“That way,” she said, “if we run out of things to play, they can give us new ideas!”

So I guess Sunday will be a big Family Play Day. I’m hoping Jasper will come, too. He said he picked up some kites in the Spice District, and I think Jena’s almost old enough to learn how to fly a kite.

Amazing, Kaitlin! Remember when we first started writing, and both our daughters were such little things? I really owe it to you to helping me through those confusing early days! You’ve been such a great role model and such a great Mom coach!

Sending you lots of love–I know you’ve got so much strength already, so instead of sending strength, I’ll send peace.

So much peace,

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 9

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin

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Dear Kaitlin,

Thank you so much for writing! I’ve been wondering how therapy has been going, how you are, and how the kids are.

You know me by now: I always have to get to the tough parts first. It might be silly, but I always think that if you only read the first part of the letter–you know, if you get interrupted or if something important comes up–I want to make sure that I’ve written the part that needs saying.

I have to admit that I felt a little uneasy reading that your therapist has a long and close history with your fiancé. In my coursework, the professors have been emphasizing the importance of professional distance as an element of ethical therapeutic practice.

If you feel comfortable with Dr. Bailey, and if you notice continued improvement, then all is well and good. Just remember that you have options. Every city has many qualified therapists, including ones who specialize in trauma and PTSD and who didn’t grow up with the man you plan to marry. You have options.

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PTSD has the reputation in some professional circles of being “untreatable.” The program I’m studying takes the opposite view: people can heal their trauma and PTSD. The approach we use is called Somatic Experiencing, and, through allowing the body to complete the movements that were interrupted during the traumatic event, the brain is able to resolve and renegotiate the trauma, resulting in health. That’s a bit of an over-simplification, and we include many other steps in the total approach (including the art therapy that I’m involved with at present), but that’s the essence of the approach.

It works. I’ve seen it, and I’ve met people who’ve been through this course of treatment–and they’re healed. My friend Micah is one, and Ira is another.

Ira worked with an SE therapist before I met her. I always wondered how, experiencing what she did, she has managed to be so confident, funny, happy, and able to love.

I interviewed her for a paper I wrote on SE, focusing on the experience of those going through the therapy. She told me, “We get stronger. When we crack and then we heal, we touch life. We become more alive.”

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Knowing Ira, I believe this is true.

I can hear that energy coming through your letter, too, when you write about the property and all your dreams for the future. We’re resilient, Kaitlin! All us humans are resilient and full of goodness at our core.

Speaking of the resilient, little Jena is doing great! She is not so little any more. She just turned four! Can you believe it? She loves pink and jewelry and little bows and frilly, twirly dresses!

And she is quite a mischief! Sometimes I catch her with a certain expression, and I just know she is planning something. It usually involves Uncle Jasper–either as partner-in-crime or butt-of-the-joke!

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Jasper doesn’t mind. He is so proud of Jena. Can you believe it? He’s already teaching her how to use the computer to play reading and math games!

I’ve been encouraging them to wait. Jena starts preschool next week, and that’s plenty soon for her to begin formal learning. But Jasper says that Norm and I were both reading, writing, and solving simple math equations by the time we entered kindergarten. And Jena begs to get on the computer and whines when I suggest she shut it down. When I think of how much I love to learn, I guess it’s all right if she enjoys learning, too.

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We got to meet a famous poet the other day, Bucky Duckson. Have you heard of him? I was so thrilled! He’s one of my favorite poets! He’s been traveling and my uncle is putting him up for a while.

Jasper asked him to write a poem for me–a birthday present. I’m embarrassed by the poem. It’s beautiful and so well-written, and if it were written for anyone else, I know I’d love it. But that it was written for me makes me feel shy ten-times over. Fortunately, when I met Bucky, he hadn’t even written the poem yet, so I wasn’t self-conscious and we had a wonderful conversation.

Jena enjoyed meeting him, too.  They had a bit of a discussion about poetry.

“I don’t think poems do have to rhyme,” Jena said.

“No,” Bucky answered. “You’re right. Of course. But just because they don’t have to, that doesn’t mean that they can’t. Some of the best poems employ rhyming couplets.”

“I like them when they go ‘splat,'” Jena said.

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Youssef is still our nanny. I can’t imagine life without him! Even after Jena graduates from high school and enters college, I think I will still have Youssef as our nanny. He just makes life better.

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And I hope that Mizuki Suzuki will live with us forever, too. She’s been a huge help while I’ve been busy with school. She’s a student, too, but she always seems to find time to pitch in with the chores. She calls it a good study break. But I think she’s just got so much energy that she can’t sit behind the books for more than twenty minutes at a time!

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I hope Reid’s trial isn’t too stressful for you and your family, Ben, especially. I’ve been surprised at the ways that children seem to be able to make sense of adults’ complicated lives–they sometimes seem to look past the complications and right into the person. I think that sometimes children can handle a lot more than we think they might be able to. At least that’s what Mizuki tells me, and she’s studying childhood education.

I’ve been so slow in answering your letter that I’m sure that many things have changed already! I hope that each change brings you closer to your dream of your home for you and your family on your beautiful property!

Take care, Kaitlin! And tell all your children and grandbabies “Hi” from me!

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With lots of love,

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Jasper – Liam 5

A reply to: A letter from Liam

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Liam, my friend!

It’s been too long since I’ve written you.

Why, I could have sworn it was just two days ago that I received your last letter. But when I look back, I see it was two months!

Forgive me. I’ve been puttering about, as my grandfather used to say. It’s not that I’ve been rushed–each day’s been full of the luxury of summer. But perhaps that’s just it. It’s been summer, and I’ve been swimming the tides of days, and now, here we are, nearing summer’s ends, and the first cool breezes have begun to sneak in on the backs of the morning fog seals.

It is nearly the end of summer, and I have been too full of the long luxurious days to even think to write!

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Now, as the fog horn blows, it’s time to remedy that.

Greetings, Liam!

I trust all’s well with you and yours. Have you settled into sweet times after your dangers and adventures?

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After my long stretch of much to do with nothing much to report, I suddenly have news!

I am host to a Writer In Residence. In fact, Bucky Duckson, renowned poet and wandering bard, is currently staying with me in the old brick house.

He arrived road-weary and travel-beat.

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But a fresh shower, a plate of taco casserole hot from the oven, and he was brimming with energy again.

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I have a good friend who is an editor at a small independent publishing house, and he’s the one who suggested that Bucky stay here during his summer tour.

The house has plenty of room, and I find inspiration in being around other writers. I’ve told Bucky he’s welcome to stay as long as he wants.

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The inspired buzz has thrown both of us into productivity. I painted a pop-art portrait of Bucky: the artist and the dreamer.

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Bucky has volunteered to write a poem for me in return.

“I’m not so sure I need a poem,” I told Bucky.

“Not even for a favorite teacher, who might also be a special friend?” Bucky had already met my charming organ teacher, Micah.

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I can imagine that Micah has probably had dozens of poems dedicated to her already. And I’m too old of a fool to be tossing one more in her direction.

“Or what about a family member?” Bucky asked.

Now there was an idea!

“I do have a rather remarkable niece!” I told Bucky, “who has a birthday coming up very soon.”

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He was interested in hearing everything I could share about Meadow.

“I’m on it!” he said, after I sketched her life story.

The next day, I threw a party so that Bucky could meet Meadow, and friends and family might meet Bucky.

Meadow was delighted.

“Bucky Duckson!” she cried. “I read your quarto!”

My editor friend had published a small volume of Bucky’s work. Good stuff!

“That one poem, especially,” Meadow said. “‘Granite Falls Girl.’ That’s haunting. It’s beautiful!”

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Bucky spent a good amount of time talking with Meadow’s good friend and room-mate, Mizuki Suzuki, who told him about Meadow raising Jena and returning to school to become a therapist.

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Norm filled Bucky in on Meadow’s childhood dreams.

“Did you really want to be a fortune-teller?” Bucky asked her.

“No!” she laughed. “Not a fortune-teller! A storyteller!”

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“I’m mostly a storyteller,” said Bucky. “Poets, you know, tell the best stories.”

They talked about folklore and myth.

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After the party ended and all the guests left, Bucky stood outside gazing at the moon. When he came back in, while I was washing the dishes, I heard him clacking away on his old manual typewriter, which he uses exclusively to compose his poems.

He showed me the poem the next morning, “For Meadow.” I’ve enclosed a copy of it.

I’m going to give her the original for her birthday in a few days. She’ll laugh. She’ll blush. She’ll claim it was written for someone else. But the truth is, this poem, in all its praise, hasn’t an ounce of flattery: only veracity. Meadow is all that.

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Bucky seemed to find nearly as much joy in writing the poem as I did in receiving it to give to my niece.

Liam, if you’ve ever wanted a written tribute for your Lenora and Alina, Bucky is a poet-for-hire, and a damned good one, at that!

Well, I’m off to walk across the bridge with Bucky, who said he wants to experience all the traditional adventures of the city. We’re heading out now so we can return in time for the Spice Festival.

Enjoy summer’s end, my friend! And wishes for health and joy to your family.

–Jasper

Author’s note: Bucky Duckson really is a travelling poet who writes on commission! If you’d like him to stay with your Sim or to simply write a poem for them, you can reach Bucky at his Writer-in-Residence thread at the EA Sims Forums. Many thanks to LegacySims2017 for letting Bucky stay with Jasper for a while and, especially, for the lovely poem! 

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Dove 12

A reply to: A letter from Dove

meadowpix12

Dear INWk,

Congratulations to you and Maki on your engagement and marriage! A festival wedding. How romantic! When I think of the story of how the two of you met and re-found each other, it seems that only the most romantic wedding would do!

I will do everything I can to attend your commemorative ceremony next year! I’m already blocking out the entire month so I can remember: keep the schedule simple–be flexible!

Oh, Dove! I have been SO busy! I am sure that it is no surprise to you. As a scientist who’s passionate about her work, involved with raising two kids, and a loving partner to a beautiful wife, I’m sure you know busy!

I have just met busy. And let me tell you, busy is busy!

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But also, busy is very fun and oh-so-rewarding. I’m sure you know this, as well. How did that award go? Are you the new Pioneer of New Technologies? Whether that’s your official title or not, I know you are a true pioneer!

School is more than I ever though it would be: More engaging; more rewarding; more demanding; and more valuable.

INWk, I really feel that I’ve found my calling–or at least my passion! All I want to do now is study and learn more–and I want to learn it all instantly!

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Our program is based in the work on trauma led by Peter A. Levine and described so effectively in his book In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness.

In its most simple distillation, his theory is this: trauma is defined “as an event that causes a long-term dysregulation in the autonomic and core extrapyramidal nervous system” (Payne, Levine, and Crane-Godreau, Somatic experiencing); or, to put it in terms I can understand better, trauma occurs when one’s protective responses (fight, flight, or freeze) don’t have the chance to complete their cycle and become somehow “stuck” or “out-of-sync.”

With this basic physical understanding of a process that is felt and experienced mentally and emotionally, we find a way out: through the wisdom of the body.

Most of the work of our program is designed on following a recursive pattern through re-regulating the body’s response.

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The part that Micah and I are currently engaged in, the music and art therapy, fits into the final stage of social engagement. Micah and I also both notice that, with both the refugees and the individuals at HoH, the activities in music and art therapy provide a very real sense of agency for the participants which reactivates self-esteem in a vital manner.

In order to be able to be effective at what we do, the program trains us in all the levels of Somatic Experiencing–and here’s where I get so excited and want to learn everything all at once!

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Does that ever happen to you?

There is so much to learn! I get so impatient sometimes–and then it’s easy to despair because I know I’ll never know everything there is to know–and sometimes, I just can’t bear that thought! Have you felt that way?

My uncle Jasper tells me when I feel like that, that I would have been happy living in Ancient Greece.

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“In Aristotle’s day,” he loves to say, “one could know everything there was to know. All of human constructed knowledge could be learned by a single individual. Aristotle knew it all. And so did his best students.”

He assures me that I could easily learn all that Aristotle’s best students knew, too–in fact, I probably already do. But knowledge has marched on, and what his students knew doesn’t even fill a thimble now.

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Now, there’s so much to learn that we specialize, and I fear sometimes that even in my area of specialization, I won’t be able to learn even enough to be a helpful or useful therapist!

When I get like that, my mentor in the program tells me to relax. She reminds me that life is long, and I am not even 30 yet, and the best therapists are in their fifties, at the youngest. We are encouraged to adopt a life-long learning approach, which suits me fine and helps me to relax a bit.

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How are your children doing? Are they regular city kids? What are they most interested in?

And how is Maki?

We are all doing well. My friend Mizuki has moved in. She’s also going back to school! She and Youssef, our nanny, are a sometimes thing–that is, she is romantically interested in him, and he sometimes returns the interest, and when neither is too busy and there aren’t too many of the rest of us around, they might sometimes exchange a flirt or a kiss, but never anything more! Or so Mizuki bemoans to me.

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But if anyone is worth waiting for, Youssef is, for he is loveliness itself! And even if he and Mizuki remain very good friends, I will attest that he is a friend worth having.

Jena is doing so well. She loves that now she has three adults doting on her.

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As much as possible, I try to do my studies while she’s asleep or at the library when she’s with Youssef, but honestly, as long as Mizuki and Youssef are around, I don’t think she even cares if my head is in a book!

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I’m so happy I can share all my enthusiasms with you, dear INWk! And I hope that you will reciprocate in your next letter!

All my love to you, Maki, and your littlies!

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 7

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin

meadow07

Dearest Kaitlin,

There’s so much in your letter that I want to respond to, but let me put first things first.

I gather from your letter that you’re not feeling safe in regards to Newt, or Reid, either. It also sounds like you are ready to begin to take steps to divorce Newt.

It’s very important to have safety measures in place before you begin the procedures.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline, www.thehotline.org, is a great place to start, even before you begin filing any paperwork.

They can let you know how to develop a safety plan. Another valuable resource is  WomensLaw.org, which offers information about how to file a restraining order, if needed (and don’t dismiss this possibility, just because you know and care for these two brothers). WomensLaw can also connect you with programs near you, including free and low-cost lawyers. Both of these resources are great first-stops as you begin your plans.

They offer free online chats, too, so when you feel you need to talk with anyone, 24/7, they’re there for you. My friend Micah told me that she would often call the hotline (1-800-799-7233) when she started feeling panicky. She said for the first dozen times she called, she wouldn’t even speak. She just held the phone to her ear and listened as the advocate stayed on the line with her. Knowing they were there, Micah said, gave her the strength she needed during the roughest times.

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So I wanted to bring that up first because it’s the most important thing. You need to be safe. These resources can help.

I’m so glad that I can be on your support team! I know I’m not very good at giving support–like you say, I’m analytical! And my empathy doesn’t seem to translate into comforting words but into action-steps or intellectual theories.

Those websites I linked to also offer references to services near you that offer free support–nearly every town and city has a place like House of Hope, where those who have experienced domestic violence can go get support from others. This would be support that’s actual support–not like what I offer!

Guess what, though? I have exciting news! I’m ready to learn to be better at all of this! I’ve enrolled in a graduate program to get a master’s in art therapy! Classes start next month, but I’ve gotten a head-start on the readings and research. Oh. Man. Do I have a lot to learn! My dream is to be able to offer art therapy at HoH and the refugee center. I suspect that art offers a way to heal from past trauma, and so I want to learn how that works.

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The best part is that as I learn more, I’ll be able to be a better support person for you!

You are already in my top-tier support! You’re so kind, so sharing and giving, and… just you! It makes me smile to think how everyone who has you in their life benefits.

OH! The other important part! Congratulations on becoming a new grandma! Jordan sounds lovely, and Brooke does, too.

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I loved hearing about Dakota. You know that I’ve got a special spot for adopted kids. Ben sounds like such a good big brother. I know how valued a big brother can make a little sister feel!

Your feelings don’t sound like they are a mess to me, Kaitlin. They’re feelings! We have all sorts of feelings! And I can understand how you would still think of Newt with fondness and even love. It’s OK to do that and to also feel afraid of him and hate him, even, at the same time. We don’t have to have just one set of feelings! We feel what we feel. Our feelings don’t have to make sense.

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I don’t think you need to force yourself to open up to Leroy more than you feel ready to. It’s evident that you love him and that he’s there for you. You can just take it as it comes, sharing what you feel ready to share without pushing yourself in ways that make you feel unsafe. Sometimes talking helps, and sometimes it doesn’t. Trusting yourself to know what you need in the moment might be the best approach at this point.

Well, some big changes have come into my life in conjunction with my decision to go back to school!

First there’s Youssef! He’s our new nanny. Since I wanted to be able to have time to focus on my studies, I decided I’d hire him. We both felt it would be good for him to start right away so that Jena could get used to him before I had to leave for classes.

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She loves him! And he adores her! I feel so happy when I come home from the library to find them playing together or to see him reading her a bed-time story.

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When Jena first came to me, it seemed best for it to be just the two of us. That let us form close bonds. And now, it seems right for Jena’s sphere of care-givers to expand. This is helping her to build trust as she sees that more people than just me can offer her love and nurturing.

It’s been a big help for me, too. Youssef is wise, kind, and has a wealth of experience. Being able to talk with him about the things I’m learning provides me with every bit as much as what Jena gets. We’re so happy to have him in our lives.

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Just like with you, when you get one you get two, and our home circle seems to be expanding!

Did I mention my friend Mizuki Suzuki to you? (Don’t you love her name?) We met when she came to repair a broken stereo, and we became friends that first visit! Since then, our friendship’s deepened.

She is also going back to school when the new semester starts. She’s going to become a teacher! Because she lived all the way out in San Myshuno, and because she’ll be quitting her repair job to return to school here in Windenburg, and because Jena and I have this huge house all to ourselves, I invited her to move in with us.

And she accepted!

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I’ve been amazed how much it helps having another adult in the home. Mizuki is so thoughtful, too, always looking to see what needs to be done and pitching in with a smile.

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I think you would love her–she’s funny, childish, and creative. She will make a perfect primary school teacher! She’s focusing on the Waldorf method because, as she says, she wants to “educate the whole child!”

I joke that it’s a good thing. I wouldn’t want just half a child educated! Or just a third! And how would one decide which third? Shall you educate the right leg and stop there?

Whole is much better!

It turns out that for Mizuki there’s another benefit in living with us: She and Youssef have become an item!

I was so surprised to come home one day and find them in each other’s arms!

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I felt a little awkward at first. Then Mizuki said that it simply happened quickly. They met here at our place, when Mizuki would come to visit. Then one day, before she even moved in, she dropped by while I was out and Youssef invited her in to wait for me, and they got talking and felt they had a connection. She hadn’t mentioned it to me when she moved in because at that point, it wasn’t romantic. But in the days after she moved in, it became so.

I find it sweet, and I’m happy that Jena can be around a loving couple.

I don’t seem to have any interests in romance, myself, or any romantic feelings towards other people. So I am happy that Jena can have a model of a healthy romantic relationship without my having to provide it!

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Well, it seems there’s so much change in both our lives as our circles expand.

I want you to know that I’m always here for you. I’m enclosing my phone number, in case you ever want to call. It would be amazing to hear your voice!

Take good care of yourself, Kaitlin! I treasure you!

Lots of love,

Meadow
555.555.1212

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Kaitlin 6

A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin

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Dear Kaitlin,

Hi! Oh, wouldn’t it be amazing if we could meet sometime? I wouldn’t stop smiling the whole time! All the hugs!

I’ve had so many thoughts in response to your last letter, and I’ll share them with you. But first, I want to tell you thank you!

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In association with my volunteering at House of Hope, I’ve been examining my support system. And do you know what? You are one of my strongest points of support!

We’ve been using the materials available at the Soul’s Self-Help Central, an online resource center. I filled out a grid listing people I know that I thought could be part of my support team and their capacities to offer support. You came out so strongly in every category! I’m not surprised. You are an amazing person, Kaitlin–brave, kind, generous, and insightful! You’ve got a great sense of humor, too. I’m guessing that everyone who knows you has you on their list of support people.

And that makes me wonder. Who’s on your list?

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I would be honored to be, if you felt I had the skills and capacity. I am so inexperienced when it comes to life, and I’m discovering that my interpersonal skills are woefully undeveloped. I’m starting to suspect maybe I’m not very mature emotionally. But, you know what? I am eager to learn and grow and develop capacity! So, maybe if I’m not a very good support person for you now, I will be later, after I’ve developed more skills, maturity, and abilities with people.

At any rate, you can know that all my good wishes and gratitude circle you!

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Congratulations on Leroy’s proposal and your conditional acceptance! I hope soon the circumstances allow you to accept for real. Congratulations, too, on his adoption of Dakota. I guess, in a way, she’s a new daughter for you, too. Adoption is such a wonderful gift–I’m really happy that you get to experience it, too, and what a lucky girl she is to get to be part of such a big, loving, supportive family. See all the good things that have come out of your brave actions?

I can understand your not wanting to claim the word, “victim.” That word carries so much baggage–and none of it good! I’ve discovered that the women in my art group don’t like the word, either. During one of our painting sessions the other day, the topic came up.

Some of them use the word, “survivor.”

Ira says, “I don’t like labels, anymore. I like saying, ‘I’m a person who’s experienced trauma.'” She says that, since all of us living on this planet have experienced harsh situations, and the trauma resulting from those situations, that descriptor connects us with everyone. I like that insight.

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Jasper’s organ teacher uses the word “hero.”

“It’s what we are,” she says. “I am a female hero who’s made it through my journey of trials and tribulations with the help of all my helpers, and now, I shine brighter.”

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She says that when she read Joseph Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces, she wept.

“This was my story,” she said. “All the patterns and steps of my journey, described here in archetype.”

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She and I are going to lead a workshop on “The Hero’s Path,” along with one of the counselors. I’m excited that we’ll be leading it together, because that means we’ll be colleagues, and we can become friends! When I only knew her through the painting group, I had to limit our relationship to “service-provider/client” due to policies of HoH, since I’m the leader of that group. But that restriction stops when we lead a group together!

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I’ve learned that when we’ve experienced trauma–and domestic violence is trauma–that any emotion can trigger it, causing us to re-experience all the fear, anger, and danger-signals we felt the first time we experienced it. It’s because when we feel deeply again, all the emotions can come rushing back. So please be gentle with yourself when you think about all you felt during your recent exchange with Leroy. It takes time to learn to trust again, and letting yourself feel whatever you feel seems to be one of the important steps to get there.

I don’t know much at all, but I’m learning. I’ve been researching trauma, grief, and shame and have discovered that they are very interconnected.

As best I can understand from what I’ve read, when we experience a trauma, our mind switches into survival mode. In that state, the focus is on survival–life doesn’t feel safe. In survival mode, the mind focuses all our energy on getting us out of danger, and so the painful emotions associated with the trauma are split off. We just don’t feel safe enough to deal with them.

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When the system works, later, when we’re safe, we’re able to feel and process the emotions, at a time when our very survival isn’t threatened. But what if we don’t feel safe again? Sometimes, we never reach that point, and the emotions remain split off.

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When that happens, we can sometimes develop guilt and shame, especially if the traumatic event left us feeling helpless. Guilt at least offers some illusion of control.

I didn’t really understand what I read about trauma, guilt, and shame, until I began to apply it to the most significant trauma I’ve experienced: the death of my mom.

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It was my first year in college, during finals week, when she died. I just couldn’t deal with it. I remember thinking that if I felt the pain, I would drown. I’d drop out of college and I’d die. I didn’t think I could survive it.

So I didn’t feel it. I focused on my finals. I aced all my tests.

Then, when I got my grades the next semester, and I saw all those A’s, I felt so guilty. “I shouldn’t have studied. I should have gone to the hospital more. How could I earn A’s when that happened? I should have been with my dad. I should’ve stayed with Norman. I should have dropped out of college.” I thought I could’ve prevented her death if I’d just been there more–if I’d dropped out and taken her to chemo. Or if I’d stayed with her in the hospital. Or if I’d brought her flowers. Or if I’d worn red tennis shoes, instead of black ones.

Then the shame came. “I’m a terrible daughter. I’m a bad sister. I’m such a selfish person.”

For about two years, I didn’t grieve, but I was guilty all the time and I felt so ashamed. I could hardly see my dad and brother because of the shame.

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What finally brought me out of it was in junior year when I took an Intro to Comparative Folklore class, and I discovered fairy tales from every culture dealing with the death of the mother. My favorites were about girls who lost their mothers just as they were coming of age. There are hundreds of these tales! I lost myself in them, and then I found myself.

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Around that time, Norman came to visit. We went to the botanical gardens on campus. When I saw a bromelia in the greenhouse, I began to weep. It was my mother’s favorite plant. Norm hugged me, and he began to cry, too. We slumped onto a stone bench, holding each other, nestled in the humid hothouse air, and we finally felt safe enough to grieve, and we cried until we hiccuped. And then Norman looked at me, and he said, “It isn’t 42.”

“What isn’t?” I asked.

“The answer to life, the universe, and everything,” he said.

“What is?” I asked him.

“Damned if I know.” We laughed so hard. We laughed as hard as we’d cried, and then we laughed some more, and then we cried again, and then we ate ice cream in the tea shop, and my eyes hurt and my chest hurt, and I had a knife through me. I cried a lot during the next year. And then my dad died. And I cried a lot more. But I stopped feeling guilty, and I didn’t feel ashamed. I felt safe enough to feel, especially when I was with Norman or Jasper, even when it was hard.

I’m not saying that grief is the same as domestic abuse. I’m just saying that I’ve experienced the splitting off of emotions and the guilt and shame that follow.

Feeling guilty is nothing to feel guilty about, and there’s no shame in feeling ashamed. It’s all part of how our minds and bodies are constructed to help us survive. Call it socio-biology. And when we understand the process, maybe then we can create the safety that we need to be able to move through the process and back into our healthy selves again, to find our own paths back to being the heroes that we are.

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I hope that I can help to create a safe space for you, Kaitlin, so that you can share with me how you feel. I would like to be able to do that. Maybe our letters can be your hothouse, with bromelias and orchids and roses blooming, smelling sweet, and safe, and calming. And then we could drink tea and cry and drink more tea and maybe even laugh.

Speaking of laughing, I have no idea what’s up with Ira and Norm. She calls him “Babe.” He calls her “Cupcake.” And he told me yesterday that they haven’t even yet shared their first kiss. At any rate, it’s plain to see that it’s love.

Kaitlin, I’m sending you all my thoughts and feelings of admiration, gratitude, and friendship.

Love, love, love,

Meadow

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Forgotten Art: Meadow – Dove 10

Author’s note: I accidentally published this before I added any words! Sorry! For those of you who saw it without words, I hope you enjoy it more with them!

A reply to: A letter from Dove

dove1002

Dearest INWk,

How lovely your children are! They look full of delight! Do they keep you busier now that they’re bigger and more independent? I would imagine that all that curiosity and energy keeps you on your toes!

I was saddened to hear that your people also have domestic violence. When I first considered it, I felt that, being telepathic, the suffering from domestic violence with your people would be less. But then, the more I thought about it, I began to see that telepathy (and are you also empathic?) would not necessarily prevent the suffering. What I realized was that if we knew what others were thinking about us–especially their harmful thoughts–then we might feel even more hurt.

Is there such a thing as “privacy of the mind” among telepathic people?

Recently, I’ve been examining my support system. Or, maybe more accurately, I’ve been realizing that I don’t have much of a support system, and it’s time for me to build one!

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Of course the subject came up through my volunteer work with House of Hope. In fact, we had a seminar for the staff (including me), along with employees of other local service agencies, like the refugee center that brought Jena here. The seminar’s title was “Support2“, and it was about the need for support-givers to have sound support systems.

We were given a worksheet. On it, was a starting list of qualities we would look for in members of our support system.

Here’s the list:

1) The ability to listen for the duration of my need to ventilate or communicate something without changing the focus onto themselves.

  2) The ability to then share regarding the given topic from their own personal history and/or perspective.

3) The ability to help me understand the situation from a different perspective, through systems-thinking, reframing, or providing new insights and understandings.

  4) The ability to voice at the start if they are unable or unwilling, for whatever reason, to give me the time that I need.

  5) The ability to inform me if the content of the conversation is harming them. This shows me that they are taking care of themselves and frees me from that responsibility.

  6) The ability to share what is bothering them AFTER I have finished. Not changing the focus of the conversation from me (if I initiated contact) until it was completed.

  7) The ability to comprehend what I am saying. Even if they don’t fully comprehend, are they at least trying to understand what I am saying or feeling?

  8) The ability to repeat to me what I am saying to help me clarify my comprehension and communication abilities.

  9) The ability to respect my right to refuse their venting on me if I am unable to cope with it.

  10) The ability to respect my privacy in regards to my property, body, and mind.

  11) The ability to not violate my space, body, or mind. This incorporates not touching unless gaining my permission, not telling me what I should do or how I should feel, or that what I am saying, doing or feeling is wrong in any way. It also incorporates not trying to make me adopt their point of view.

  12) The ability to encourage me to choose of my own free will what to do and to help me explore and discover the various choices available to me, even the negative ones. Not trying to fix things for me or run my life for me.

  13) The ability to accept and encourage my participation in activities without them and with other people.

  14) The ability to accept not being told everything and not being my only support person.

(from Building a Support System at SoulSelfHelp)

We were encouraged to modify, add to, delete, or edit this list in any way we wanted, so that it fit us. I added #3 to the list. Surprisingly, thought the list was created for survivors of abuse, I found that it fit me amazingly well. When I mentioned this to the woman leading the seminar, she looked at me carefully.

“Well, you’re highly sensitive,” she said at last. “We’ve found that HSPs (Highly Sensitive People) have very similar needs to survivors. It’s because the world is so harsh, my dear, so if you’re picking up so much stimulus, you need to take extra measures to protect your own privacy and autonomy.”

INWk, that statement floored me! It’s so accurate! I’ve always wondered why it was that I needed all these extra layers of privacy and protection in my life–now maybe I know!

The next step was to make a list of people in our lives who might be members of our support team. Of course, I put down my uncle Jasper, you, and my other two pen pals. I didn’t put my brother Norman’s name on the list, because I knew right off the bat that he didn’t have the capacity for items 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, and 12. I mean, not at all.

I wanted to put my friend Ira, who’s in the painting group I lead through House of Hope, on the list, as well as my uncle’s organ teacher, who’s also in the painting group. But we were told that we couldn’t have anyone in our support system who was receiving services from the agencies we worked or volunteered for. “You might be on their support team,” the leader told us, “but while they are receiving services from the agency you represent, they cannot be on your support team.”

I completed the project with my short list. We had to rank everyone’s capacity for each of the items we’d listed on a 10-point scale, with 0 for having no capacity to 10 for having strong and consistent capacity. You and everyone else on my list did great!

So the good news, I’ve got strong members on my team! Thank you,  INWk, for being one of them!

The bad news is only one of these people, my uncle, lives near me and is available for me to see regularly. Clearly, I need to do some work to fill out my support system.

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I thought about my friends. Well, I don’t have many. There’s Anaya!

I invited her over one evening to see if she might be a good candidate. I really enjoy listening to her! She talks about art almost every time we get together, and I always end up feeling inspired.

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But as we talked, I discovered that she doesn’t have all the qualities I’m looking for. She talks while I talk–I mean at the same time–and I’m not able to finish, complete, or even discover what it is I’m trying to say.

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She also has a habit of zoning out while I’m talking.

I asked her once what she was doing, if I was boring, or if she was visualizing what I was saying, or what.

She confided that I was a little boring, and she said, “My mind is like a butterfly. It can’t be tied down! When the ideas come, my mind needs to follow. All my friends understand this.”

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I can understand it, and it’s a fine and even admirable quality for a friend to have. It’s just not a quality I’m looking for in a member of my support system.

So, I added a new item to my list:

15) Has the capacity to listen to me without getting bored, or will at least take measures to pay attention to what I say even when I am boring.

dove1004

So Anaya, while a valuable and inspiring friend, isn’t part of my support system.

The next morning, I invited over the social worker from the refugee center. She was at Support2 with me. She’s actually Jena and my social worker, since I adopted Jena through the center, so, while I can’t be on her support team, she can be on mine.

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We had a good visit. I definitely feel like she’s a strong member of my team.

The thing is, she kept getting up and walking around while we were talking. This isn’t the first time she’s done this. She always walks around while we talk.  I think it’s just that she has a lot of energy and she’s a very physical person. But I find it a little unsettling when we’re in the midst of a deep talk, and she’s suddenly up walking around and joking.

dove1009

I thought about adding a new item:

16) Has the capacity to stay seated during a deep conversation.

It’s important to me, but I have the feeling I’m being petty, so I left it off the list.

I felt better: In a day, I was able to add one more person who I see on a regular basis to the list. I knew I still had some work to do, though.

That afternoon, my stereo broke. Usually, I fix it myself, but I was in the middle of painting, and Jena wanted some attention, so I decided to call a repair person.

I really like the woman who the Fix-It company sent!

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After she finished her work, she stayed for a while, at my invitation.

As soon as we began to talk, she sat down. And I noticed she remained seated the entire time we talked!

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She listened to everything I had to say. She never interrupted. And then she shared insights and observations from her own life, and everything she shared helped me understand better the situation I’d been talking about!

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I had the most amazing feeling while I was talking to her: I felt really, truly listened to.

While I was talking, she became quiet–not just “quiet” as in waiting-for-her-turn. But quiet–as in still, but attentive. Truly, deeply listening to what I was saying, without thinking about what she would say next.

It felt like a real gift.

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I hope I am able to learn and practice that quality.

She stayed for about half-an-hour, and we became friends in that time. We’re getting together for tea next week. I really hope that we stay friends because she’s someone I’d love to have on my support team. And I’d love to be on hers.

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Oh, this is such a long letter! I hope it’s not too boring! Well, you can tell me if it is!

INWk, thank you for being such a good support person for me! I hope that I have the capacity to be a support for you!

I was so excited to hear that some of your inventions are making it out into the world! How does that feel? I did notice your new ice cream flavors, Weight of the World and Taste of Diet. In fact, I bought Weight of the World, and I love it!

It’s so exciting to me to think that I know the inventor of that ice cream! I hope that you’re getting lots of great feedback on it–you deserve it!

Fill me in on all that’s new with you! It always seems like so much happens in your world in between our letters, even though in mine, the days barely crawl by!

Maybe you can explain the funny textures of time to me.

So much love to you and all of yours!

Meadow

p.s. Jena thanks you for the Cat Compendium! She adores cat words! 🙂

dove905

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