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Unwrapping Holiday Trauma

Every year I face November with dread and guilt.

The dread is a longstanding, entrenched reaction to the upcoming holidays, and specifically Thanksgiving.

The guilt is because people I love were born in November, and it feels ungrateful to hate a particular month so thoroughly. There are November days I enjoy. Warm, sunny days where the leaves are glowing, or are crunchy underfoot, but most November days, it seems, are overcast, cool, damp with the hint of rain about to fall or the remains which are the aftermath of a good soaking.

When I was younger, and then much older, I spent holidays working. I took the shifts no one else wanted so they could have it off and I would be relieved of any holiday obligations.

Early in my life, I questioned the legitimacy of Thanksgiving as a pilgrim thing. Look to indigenous authors and speakers for more on that. It seems shitty, though, to celebrate an undertaking that cost so much human life.

The gratitude part, well, I try to sneak in as much gratitude as I can muster on any given day. Sometimes it’s overwhelming how much I have for which to give thanks, and sometimes I’m really scraping around the bottom of the barrel to come up with the basics, such as they are. Food, housing, transportation, health.

No one wants to hear of the trauma bearing down on the holiday love. Nor should anyone have to listen to that year after year.

Trauma identity may eventually morph into survivor identity which may eventually grow into thriver identity, but if you’re not there yet and the holidays are raw, painful, and full of gloom, it’s okay to step back and not participate.

Self healing and evaluation can take many forms. When I stopped working holidays and had the days off I was at a loss for a while. I didn’t celebrate Thanksgiving, so how would I spend the day?

I took to the internet at times, posting random stuff I was doing that day, cooking or taking things apart. Hoping to be a cheerful-ish presence for anyone out there quiet and struggling, while maintaining that whatever someone feels at the holidays is valid. Sadness, grief, loss, love, joy, numbness, apathy, bitterness, guilt, peace. It’s valid. It’s okay.

Year after year of experiences both lovely and difficult, and everything in between, can build up and intertwine around turkey and stuffing and pie and arguments and cheery twinkle lights and magical trees, and mysterious presents, and shouting and embarrassment and broken glass and cinnamon.

Healing sets its own pace. No amount of therapy can undo what’s been done.

The best that can be done is to allow the feelings to flow and to develop strategies for self-care, self-connection, and meet the emotions when they show up drunk and unruly, or robed in death, or staggering with haphazardly hastily wrapped memories.

The crying and the missing and the pain of being separated from loved ones. Valid.

The unpacking, unwrapping of a forgotten treasure or repressed nightmare. Valid.

Isolation or solitude. Valid.

Reading and resting. Valid.

The anger and hurt and disappointment of what might have been, what could have been, what should have been. Valid.

Because you should have been loved.

You could have been loved.

You might have been loved.

Here’s the real thing though, and I hear this from people, and I see it in myself sometimes, that you can be blind to the love in your life. I owe this insight to my children.

You can be blind to love in your life by focusing on the people who didn’t love you when the might have, could have, or should have.

I evaluate my days.

I observe how I behaved, what I did that was good, what needed more work, what opportunities I may have missed, where fear overruled intuition, where instinct sabotaged sense.

I try to envision how I might try something different. The ever evolving experiment that is life begs and answer to the questions what worked, and what didn’t?

How can I bring more joy, and peace, and happiness into my life? Where can I give something away, give something back, add some kindness into to the world?

I write it down.

I mull it over in my mind.

I practice.

I try it out and see what happens.

Sometimes, it is by not participating that I reach peace. I will hole up with a good book and a mug of cocoa and let myself be.

That is a freedom.

No one gets to tell me how I feel.

Feelings come and go.

Anyone who tells me how I should feel about anything, they can just step back. If I’m struggling with difficult emotions and someone says, just be grateful. I’m unlikely to be grateful.

Let me struggle. If I can’t feel it, I can’t address it.

I write a lot of poetry about growing and hope and striving and opening, but the path to get there has been fraught with darkness and suffering and painful realizations interspersed with joy and love and acceptance.

I set forth with my life trying to reach my highest intentions, to develop beyond the limitations of what I have survived, but when the shadows roll in heavy, I grab my blanket, my flashlight, a box of tissues. There’s a system of meeting the dark, developed through experience, and the best I can figure out is to meet it, greet it, and deal with it as gently as possible.

The holidays can be hard. From losses to joys, and the roller coaster that can come emotionally calling may be overwhelming.

Being around others. Valid.

Taking time for yourself. Valid.

I hope the holiday season comes in gently full of soft, wonderful surprises and meaningful connections.

I hope that if you’re struggling through grief, and ups and downs, and working through stuff, that you find a way to make yourself a soft place to land, a safe place to sort it out, a loving place to just be.

It is enough to just be.

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A Small Peace to Pay

I sat in meditation for hours or a day

Listening to my breath

My heartbeat

And the rest

The world did slide away

In darkness as I prayed

The prayers then fell aside

There was nowhere I could hide

In the empty stretching void

Feelings rose and feelings fell

I sat in meditation

Until I heard the bell

A resonation rising falling

An atonal silent calling

Loud in absence

Did I grow there in the forest

Of darkness silent

Is this realization

To know the breadth and depth

Of spirit

That giants walk among us

Dressed in common streetwear

No way to tell who’s who

Puff of smoke

I disappeared

The memory faded too

I walk the streets as small

As ever I used to

But for a moment I was grande

For an instant I was wise

Now I avoid my meditation

Sitting still and quiet

I take it with me when I walk

Doing dishes and the like

It’s a small peace to pay

Coins of wisdom falling

Into open palms

Trusting the right moment

The right word for to say

We are not alone here

Struggling with our tasks

Connected as we are to every life form

For help to come

We just must ask

I am not wise or wisdom bound

I seek only for the path

The next right thing to do before me

A clear step forward on the way

Holding lightly to this person

Who I’ve been and who I am

A small peace to pay

Centered in my heart

Dollars dropping dangers

Drifting on the breeze

The pains and joys of life

In and out just like the tides

Floating in this moment

Of crowded solitude

I walk the streets around here

Just as wise as you

lighted candle
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In a Snowy Field

Clicked my boots into snow shoes

Headed out across the white

One step floating sinking

Then the next

Layers of snow telling a story


Of blowing winds with dry small flakes

Atop a crust, robustly formed shelf

Over top an airy, cool, shadowed space

Towards the woods in bundled bliss

Sun sparkling on each flake

I tramped and trod until I stood

Alone amidst the water chilled

In the distance came a whomp

A settling tremor of the snow

So unprepared for such a sound

Reverberating all around

I shook and steadied

Watched and readied

For trouble my way to abound

The silence in the aftershock

In sparkling sunlight glowed

It’s how my heart stands solitary

Now that you have flown

In frozen beauty all alone

Another step away from home

trees covered with snow
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Watching the Sunset

I sit on hard stones

Feet dangling

Heels bumping, scraping

Soles finding purchase

At last

The sky mellowed in periwinkle

Above begins the descent

To meet me where I am

Without you

Here in the dark

In this cold

In this void

Faint flickering lights

Parsecs apart

An impossible distance

Against all reason

The fire within me

Answers the sudden flare

of orange in the heavens

I am flame and heat

Living light

I am whole and healed

Connected to

Every star burning

In this cosmos


purple nebula
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Alone is All Right

Alone is alright

I am good company

There are books in the corner

Stories waiting their turn

Violins in the air

Weaving peace in my heart

Twinkle lights twinkling

In bright cheery shapes on the wall

Crossing off quests from the lists that I keep

Each adventure leads to a new mystery

Alone is all right

After all this time

Turn up the music and sing

Turn up the music and dance

I fold myself this way and that way

I stretch out beyond these four walls

In contemplation I grow like a vine up the trellis

My mind flowers and releases each seed of new hope

I am right where I need to be

Doing my thing

I show up with love

Conscious and aware

I choose every day to be here and to stay

To do my best by the people I pass on the way

The secret is that I am never alone

My solitary existence is watered and grown

By the love of my family and friends near and far

Infrequently touching by phone or by message

Our prayers for each other are always a blessing

There is plenty of room

There is plenty of space

In this way

To reach out to people I haven’t met yet

For the ripples of love to touch more than my circle

My purpose is greater than self satisfaction

Playfully playing with life’s interactions

I let down the walls that defined me

Turned up the flames of the fire that refined me

Over and over again I take wing

Flying free from the ashes of yesterday’s woe

You put a torch to a beautiful thing

Burning, I hold your gaze as I sing

Alone is alright

I am good company

Alone is all right

There’s no wrong to this song

I take wing

yellow and white smoke during night time
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Missing Nothing

I made room


Fit love into sun filled mornings

Woodland walks

Midnight songs

Moonlit rambles

Between times so full

I never stopped

No need to stop

No lack therein

Nothing missing

Like water carving out the rock

Like earthquakes opening the ground

Like giving away things no longer used

I made room

Now I am open and not full

Of the light that used to shine

I turn under the silver moon

Slowly under a slivered shard

Of what had been robust and


To myself I am returned

Missing nothing

But that song

That shimmering glow

Just salty rivers running muddy

From these eyes down to the sea

I walk these sandy shores again

Under the stars

Just me

northern lights over mountain and forest
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When Ravens Cry 12/5/2020

Walking down a frosty woodland path

I heard the cries

I heard them calling

Angry voices shouting out

From beyond the trees

I had come for peace

I sought the tranquil comfort of the woods

This was not to be

No, this would not be

Maybe they would settle as I walked

Maybe they would resolve their quarrel as I moved

Through bare and bended branches

On leaves and moss icily encrusted

I meant to just keep walking

To find some quiet solitude, but I turned back

Following a game trail through the wicked thorns

I found them then, up in the limbs

The ravens crying angrily

Defiantly they cried

One more step, all took wing, and I could see

The trouble a predatory bird

The ravens cry a warning

The ravens cry a warning

Into the sky they fled

Leaving a still silence which

Into a tiny song burst forth

Short and sweet

Short and sweet

From the covering thicket to my side

And I walked on

Tranquil forest paths

As the sun rose to the raven’s

Swift good-bye

And my heart echoed with

The angry raven’s cry

The silence

And the sweetness

Of the trilling little ones

Who followed with me

For a time

They followed with me for a time

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The Deep Woods – Daily Poem 12/2/2020

There in the deep woods

Where everyone ends up some time

Despair grows into


Weary and afraid to take another step

Dark, quiet solitude will rise

Hush, darling

Hush, darling

Listen to the earth as you press your ear to

The soil full of life

Galaxies of teeming multitudes

She speaks in whispers to your heart

Reminding you to breathe

Sink deeper into the cave of the great mother

She is holding you now as you weep

In this cocoon you will be transformed

From this moment forward you can fly

All hopes rising from the earth

In blooms, and bark, and padding creatures

Now you are hope for others

Holding gently to their hands when they, too

Enter the deep woods in the darkest night