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Learning and trying to be kind and living my life as fully as I can stand it.

Monday, October 22, 2018

A weekend

It's Monday morning and I'm alone in the house, cleaning. I'm on a bit of a roll, making some progress that might outlast the arrival of the kids in a few hours. It usually feels futile.

Last Thursday I got sick. Not "go to the hospital" sick although it can be hard to know that. It felt like croup, my chest full, cough deep. Do grown-ups get croup? When I felt the sickness creep into the corners I felt the alarm bells in my head. Get a sitter, they said. Don't try to take care of these kiddos when you feel like crap, they said. I dug deep and pushed forward because I am a slow learner.

By bedtime I was long past done. We'd had a mellow, TV-filled afternoon and everyone was pretty mellow. TV coma mellow. I thought bedtime would be easy and it wasn't and I lost it. I screamed at those sweet loves and scared them and felt like a shithead. I burst into tears, which scares some of them more than the yelling does. "Please stay in bed. I'm so tired. I don't feel good. Give me a break."

They kept creeping out to me, cowed but wanting to say one more thing, wanting to get one more doll. I never want anyone's posture to change because of my behavior. I don't want to scare, to intimidate, to try to control. But I felt the wave of exhaustion and rage building and pouring out of me before I could stop it. By that point it's too late anyway. I recognized the point I needed help long before that and I ignored it and then the yelling.

I went back to their room and sat with my back against the wall, mug of hot tea in my hand, rivers of hot tears pouring down my cheeks silently. They quietly fell asleep and I mourned the pain that I as the flawed, needy, sick person that I was and am can cause.

Friday morning I called my friend and asked if she could take the Bigs to school. Yes, she said. I called the babysitter and asked if she could take the kids after school. Yes, she said. I dozed on the couch with the Littles watching TV, waiting for their dad to pick them up and taken them to the pumpkin patch for the field trip they'd been eagerly awaiting for weeks. He came and they flew out of the room, jazzed. The front door closed, leaving me alone in the house, and I wept. All I'd wanted was to be alone to rest and when the solitude arrived so did the despair.

"I'm going to be alone forever. I'm going to be taking care of four kids by myself forever. I can't do this. This isn't what I wanted."

I knew I was in the dark place. I knew it was the sickness doing what it does, bringing me to my knees. I knew it wasn't the only truth but it felt like the one and only truest truth.

As Anne Lamott says I eventually picked up the heavy phone and started reaching out for help. Help me, I'm scared. Help me, I'm lonely. Help me, the shame is overtaking me. I yelled at my kids. I scared them. They'll be gone all weekend and I didn't send them off with love. Help me. I need help.

Help arrived, in reassuring words. An offer of physical help from my mom who would come the next morning. Understanding. Solidarity. Sympathy. Support. Help came and I could eventually fall asleep and start the process of getting better.

Friday night was the second night ever that I slept alone in the house. The silence of being alone is so different than the silence of being alone with my four beloved sleeping children a few rooms away. I left the microwave light on, even though it was just me, to shine as a bridge between this new life and my real life. My life as a mom when I'm so busy and so distracted that I don't have to face myself. I read and slept and fed myself and it was a mix of peaceful and lonely.

Saturday morning my mom came and held me. She walked the dog and cleaned the kitchen and offered to buy me the special, expensive food I need to help me get back on the eating plan I've fallen off of these last few weeks when I needed the most to be taking care of myself but when I put taking care of myself on the most distant burner available because it felt too hard. Her offer made me burst into tears, out of gratitude. And out of the shame that comes from needing so much help for so long. It was sweet to work side by side and get the house on the road to not being a total disaster. We didn't talk much and that was nice too.

She left and I spent the rest of the day alternating between sitting quietly and reading, resting and then working on a task. Everywhere I turn inside and outside this house there is a pile that begs to be dealt with. It exhausts me to see them and it exhausts me to deal with them. The mix of rest and work soothed me and by the evening I felt agitated, knowing I still needed rest and knowing I needed a change of scenery. I put on a cute outfit and a little make-up, drove the San Francisco with the intent of checking out LitCrawl. Instead I got a parking spot directly in front of my friend's house and stayed in all night, ordering my favorite Chinese food for delivery and watching a movie on the couch.

Sunday morning I woke up early and slipped out of the house with my dog. We walked the quiet, cool streets of the city to Blue Bottle on Linden Street. My city soothed me, as she always does. I love the feeling of being alone surrounded by people. I love all the human interactions I have, each and every time I'm in San Francisco. They are brief but there is something about them that makes me so happy. "Good morning. Cute dog." Smiles. Acknowledgement. Community. Camaraderie. Contentment. I took deep breaths, breathing in the feeling of being me, a me I recognize and love. I talked to a beloved college friend and that filled me up. I looked and listened, appreciating the colors and the familiarity of these streets. The memories they hold.

I took a different route back to my friend's house and ended up walking past murals painted on plywood barriers across the street from Alamo Square park, down the block from the Painted Ladies. I admired the art and felt grateful for the impulse and need to create art. A block later I slowed down, across the street from the huge, rambling Victorian I lived in back in 2003--the year I turned twenty-five. The year I started working in organ donation. Four adults sat on the front steps, drinking and hanging out in their pajamas. It was clear they were still going from the night before, not starting a new day. I hesitated, staring at them and they started staring back. Feeling shy but feeling like me I crossed the street. They stopped talking, curious.

"I used to live here," I said.

The smiles came. "No way. What room?" Testing me, maybe.

"The big one by the kitchen," I said. Now the smiles got bigger.

We talked about the great parties in that house, one of which was still going. "Come in!" they said.

So many smiles, so many memories, so many little stories of their lives there and mine. I moved out a only a couple years before one of them moved in--we wondered how many degrees of separation it would take us to link our tenancies. Real conversation with strangers. One of my favorite things.

I turned to leave, walking down the hardwood hallway pointing to the doors. This was my office, where I allocated organs for transplant alone at my computer in the middle of the night. I touched the bathroom door and smiled. And in here I had one of the best kisses of my life.

Life. Change. Memories. Possibility. The dark places. The hopeful places. The sweet, sweet beauty and grace that comes so often hand in hand with seemingly unbearable exhaustion and pain. What a strange, amazing design it is to be human.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


In honor of Mental Health Day, which was yesterday, I add some words. This was written a few months ago and does describe my current mental state.

Coming out of a depression is like taking deep sips of the clearest air. Like drinking the purest, coldest water--the icy water out of Arthur's red Igloo cooler at soccer practice. Ideas and insights pour into my mind unchecked. I can't get to the page fast enough. Some of it is relief at no longer being in the pit. In the darkness. And some of it is the other face of the beastly angel that is my mind, the joyful extreme. I earn it because I pay the heavy pile of stolen coins, the anguish of being deep inside a painful brain that lies to me and won't let me out until its time.

My depression came on two weeks ago, most likely because I got sick. Those two things almost always go together. I got sick and that made me scared--scared about being sick when I'm alone with the kids. Scared because when I get sick my body shuts me down and I can barely get out of the chair. Scared because I turn a lot of resources inward, trying to recognize whether I'm sick enough to need to go get checked out or whether the muscle memory of being sick fires the panic buttons inside me and I'm really just regular sick.

Depression for me is wearing poop-colored glasses. I hate where I live. I can't think of anyone I actually want to be with, even as I remind myself of all the people who love me and accept me who would happily take my call. I can only see the things I don't like about myself, even as I'm trying to soothe myself saying "These are the mean voices. This is not the truth. This is the darkness and it won't last forever."

I got a little bit better physically and my mood lifted a bit too, which made it harder to be plunged back down the next day. Oh. Still here? Fuck.

I balance my physiological health with my mental health. The isolation is bad. The loneliness is crushing. But I don't want to go out. I don't want to talk. I don't want to spend the energy it will take to be around people.

I have never been suicidal and I don't think I ever will be, mostly because this life was given to me by a young woman when she died 18 years ago. It's my gift. It's my responsibility. It's my honor to be here. And there are times when I sit in my own head and beg "Do I have to keep being this person? Does it have to be this hard? Isn't there something I can do to make it better?" It's why I avoid meditation, afraid that in the quiet I will tip into the abyss and not come out again.

People tell me I'm too hard on myself and I now understand that to be true, even when I'm not depressed. I am healing that part of myself, slowly and steadily. And because of my yoga practice, my spiritual practice, my sacred movement and sacred sisterhood at The Practice I remember to find my breath. To tell myself, I have this breath. And this next one. Can I stay here, in the pain and the darkness, knowing it will not be forever? Yes.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Me too

As a freshman in college I played on the Varsity soccer team. Played is overstating the case but I was on the team. One night I went to an off campus party with a bunch of my teammates. I got wasted even though we had practice very early the next morning. Several hours later I woke up in a bed with a guy having sex with me. I'm pretty sure we had been making out at some point in the evening. I know it was his house because I took a pair of his shoes so I could run the mile to campus in time for 6 am practice. As I ran around the turf I could smell the alcohol coming out of my skin. After, we all went to breakfast and then went to work concessions for the football team. I ladled bowl after bowl of clam chowder for grown up alumni, holding back my vomit. The smell, the texture, the whole experience. It was years before I could eat it again.

I don't know that guy's name. I don't remember what he looks like although I think he had brown hair. I don't know who came with me to that party. I do know the PM Dawn song "Set Adrift on Memory Bliss" was playing because to this day I can't listen to it. If it comes on the radio I have to change it because because my body vibrates with NO.

I was drunk. I'm sure I was letting him know I was interested at some point. I imagine I must have laid down in his bed. I don't think I blamed him or even really thought he'd done anything wrong. No one ever told me that it wasn't ok for someone to put himself inside of me when I was unconscious and it didn't seem obvious. I got myself into that situation.

My body knew it wasn't OK though because it kept saying NO to that song. It still does. I feel panicky when I hear the intro.

Many many many years passed before I thought maybe that was date rape? Or something? The conversations around me started changing. People started talking about consent. Oh. My intellectual understanding of what happened started catching up with the physiological trauma that my body had been carrying. Oh.

I don't know if that guy thought it was OK. Did he hesitate? Did he ask himself if it was OK? Was I somewhat responsive? I don't know.

It's embarrassing to admit to getting so drunk that I would let that happen.

Sex is pretty confusing. At least it is to me. Some of that has to do with the fact that I started having sex when I was in high school and none of us knew what we were doing. Although I thought the guys did know what they were doing and that they would somehow teach me. A lot of the confusion has to do with the fact that not many adults then, or now, know how to talk about sex and love making and feeling good and navigating the emotions and the awkwardness and the power of it. Certainly not with kids although now that I'm grown I see that we don't really know how to talk about it with each other either. I was in my 30's when a therapist said "You know men have a lot of anxiety and self-consciousness when it comes to sex too" and my mind was blown. Oh.

When a grown woman is willing to sit in front of a country of people and tell us about needing a second front door to feel safe because of something that happened to her when she was fourteen, that is real. And when many or most or all of us know that in the end the people who decide probably won't give a shit, that is real too.

I can easily imagine scenarios in which a high school boy pushes a girl down and gets on top of her, holds her down, laughing, and then walks away thinking nothing happened. No one got naked. No one had sex. What's the big deal? Add some alcohol to the experience and the whole thing could easily be forgotten by him. Because it wasn't out of the norm. And because we can still have a national conversation around the fact that a woman is saying "You did this to me. You hurt me and you scared me and I can't forget it because my body will hold onto it forever" and the responses are "No I didn't" or "He was only 17" or "All his colleagues like him."

We all make mistakes, at seventeen and forever after. Things that seem obvious now, like "Having sex with an unconscious person is not OK" didn't seem obvious to me then.

The devaluing of women is so pervasive, so insidious, so normal and deep, that I'm still waking up to it myself. Most of my embarrassment about writing this is that I'm still not outraged and hurt enough on my own behalf. That I still give that dude the benefit of the doubt. That I still think he probably wasn't and isn't a bad guy. That he didn't know better. That's still my default.

Imagine a world where there is room for curiosity. Where Brett Cavanaugh, the professional, successful, advocate of women that he tells us he is, could say "I'm so sorry. I don't remember doing that but I believe you when you say that I did. I never meant to hurt you and I will keep working and learning to try to atone for the fact that my actions have affected and will continue to affect you forever. Please forgive me." That is someone I'd be willing to have as a judge--a human who is fallible but willing to be better.

Instead he is a man who complains that he won't be able to coach kids again, even though he loves it so much. He is a man who complains about how long the past ten days have been. We're talking about a lifetime appointment and the ability to make laws that affect all of us forever, sir. Can we have someone better than you?

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Here we are and there they go

Yesterday was our last day of summer vacation. The kids and I have spent almost every day together these past couple months in a mix of lounging and hustling, adventuring and hanging out at home. The house as been a complete disaster for most of that time. We've eaten home-cooked meals and grabbed random handfuls of whatever snacks happened to be in reach. We've been bored and restless and found our way out of it. We've been blissed out and awake. We drove into San Francisco many times, Barted once or twice, jumped into pools many times and exclaimed over discoveries big and small. We've created lots of art, built many towers and a tree house, done tons of laundry and mowed the lawn never quite often enough. We've watched lots of TV, tried camps for the first time, celebrated birthdays and grown inches. We've had lots of grandparent times, play dates at friends' houses, bee stings, playground visits, ice cream truck celebrations and not many naps. We've paired up in every way possible, snuggled in, laughed, tantrumed, fought and loved. We've been together, talking and wondering and playing and expanding. It has been good.

My big kids started kindergarten today. Yesterday we were in San Francisco visiting my dad, their Poppy, in his new apartment. He lives a couple blocks away from the hospital in which they were born and we drove by it yesterday, pointing things out and telling our stories together.

That's the corner that I ran around, holding my big belly and scaring the people on the sidewalk who got out of my way as fast as they could.

That's the apartment where Lily and I lived by ourselves for three weeks while we waited for Cyrus to be ready to get out of the hospital.

I didn't feel like drinking a bottle so I stayed there a while.

That's right.

I wasn't deep in nostalgia, I wasn't deep in emotion, I was in another place. An in-between place of deep awareness. The human inability to truly comprehend the passage of time because it is a mix of fast and slow, holy and excruciating.

They take my breath away with their long, strong limbs and their bright eyes. Their funny observations and their great vocabularies. Their pride in accomplishing new tasks. Their kindness and their resilience.

"I'm not a baby," Cleo told me at dinner last night.

"That's right, you're not," I replied.

"But you call me Baby," she said.

"I do. Do you want me to stop?" I asked.

"No. I want you to keep calling me that," she said.

"Good. Because I want to call you all that forever, even when you're grown-ups." I told her.

My babies. I think about holding Lily and Cyrus on my chest together for the first time, weeks after their birth. I was filled with so much gratitude that they were both alive and that I got to be their mama. When we first got them home eight weeks later we swaddled them up and put them in the same crib, an ocean of mattress between them because they were so little.

We took a quick picture this morning, the dog tied to a pole a few feet away, their little sister sitting in a huff against the wall. We wandered around trying to figure out where we were supposed to be. We found our place and got in line for Room 11, surrounded by kindergartners and parents, wide-eyed taking it all in. The line started moving, we got to the front door and were greeted by the principal and then they were gone.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Waking thoughts

When I was nineteen or twenty years old I quit soccer. I cried in front of the coach when I did it which I hated doing--I didn't like that coach at all and I wanted to quit with my head held high, powerful. In those days tears flowed easily, especially when I said anything that scared me out loud.

Walking back to my dorm, Anne was with me. She was a year older and we were friendly with one another, although not really friends. I didn't really have real friends on that team which was quite a change from my past team where the friendships were equal to the soccer. I don't remember any parts of our conversation other than her saying to me "I don't know who I'd be without soccer. I've always been a soccer player. But you have so many other parts to who you are, you'll be ok."

That was a relief to me at the time and I've thought about it over the years to remind myself--this thing that you're doing, whatever it is, is not you. You are more than this one thing.

I pulled those words into my heart this morning as I woke up to motherhood changing, yet again, as it always does and always will. My son wasn't in bed with me--he was next door with his dad where he'd been since one in the morning. One of my daughters, she who used to be the only one who stayed in her own bed all night, was over there too. I was in my son's bottom bunk bed because another daughter had asked for me also around 1 a.m, which is how I'd noticed the other two were gone.

In the arrangement we currently have which will be ending in the next couple months, I often wake up to an open back door. In the dark the kids, especially my son, make their way from the big house to the in-law unit, walking the thirty yards surrounded by shadows. Sometimes I wake up alone. That never used to happen.

Motherhood is not the only thing that I am. It is a big part of who I am, though. Motherhood and wifehood have been two of the things that have changed me the most and now one is ending and the other is changing. But it will always change. So why am I gripping so tightly?

I remind myself that it is not my kids' job to love me enough to fill up the holes in my heart. It is their job--their joy and their opportunity and their hardship--to be kids. It is my job and my soon to be ex-husband's job to build the structure and the support in which their developing brains can grow and thrive. I tell them "You never have to choose between your dad and me."

And it is my job to make that always true.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Fight or flight

In my head and in my heart I am the kind of mom who supports my kids as they feel intense feelings. In real life I am the kind of mom who starts yelling "STOP CRYING!" internally gasping in horror as I imagine the therapy my children will need to learn how to feel their feelings after their mother repeatedly told them to stop. Recently I read an essay written by a mom about how she responds to her daughter's tantrums and how the responses teach her daughter emotional intelligence. I felt a tiny flash of shame and desire, sad that I didn't do what she did and full of a wish to learn to do that. Those feelings were followed by  emphatically shutting off my phone and patting myself on the back for doing my best and trying really hard to keep doing better. Parenthood brings up the consistent wish that I had no flaws with which to damage my children as well as the constant reminder that I have the opportunity to show them how to be a flawed person who keeps trying.

The other night I lay on the floor of my kids' bedroom waiting for them to fall asleep. I started to weep, curled into my left side on the stained carpet. The tears came quietly: my kids didn't notice. I was grieving a relationship that is changing and feeling the hurt and fear fill me up. The tears came after several days of my own emotional upheaval, during which time my mind was racing circles within its inflexible container. Outrun, find a way to fix it, make a change, do something! The tears came, a relief. And I saw so clearly how much I hate feeling sad. Or mad. Or scared. I don't just hate it, I want to get as far away from it all as I can, by almost any means necessary.

I have spent most of my life trying not to feel my feelings. And not just because they are painful but because my whole body goes into a major fight or flight response, all of my parts straining to get the hell away from the thing that is causing the pain. But the thing causing the pain is. . . in me. My heart.

The fight or flight comes up with my kids too which is tough because three and four year olds are kinda nuts. I mean, they're supposed to be. Everything is new. The can speak more words than they truly understand. They are growing and forming and changing so much. They fly into rages or tears or tantrums and often they are totally irrational--at least to me. There is always some kind of explanation if any of us were calm and rested enough to sit there and find it. My well-educated mind can tell me that most of what they do is developmentally appropriate. That these small humans don't have the words to express all of the feelings that are coming over them. In fact, they are most likely in a state similar to mine--being flooded and not knowing what to do. My heart wants these beloved, amazing people to feel safe and cherished no matter what. I would love to sit on the floor and calmly put a hand on a screaming child, telling her "I'm here," and letting the feelings wash over her until she is ready to move on. I don't want them to be like me, afraid of my own fear. Afraid of my own rage. Afraid of my own grief. But my mind and my heart take a back seat to my body, awash in messages telling me to do anything I can to shut that shit down. What a relief to finally be paying attention to my body so I can notice these things are happening. And to have teachers and coaches who confirm that yes, my body is often in fight or flight and it doesn't need to stay that way. That is a coping mechanism that I don't need anymore. We can fix it with a lot of different kinds of hard work.

I don't recall ever experiencing the fight or flight during any of my many babysitting experiences. In fact, one of the reasons I was such a baby whisperer before I was a mama was because babies could feel the calm radiating from my body into theirs once I picked them up. I was unphased by crying and it never lasted long because of that--babies and kids settled right into my chill and stopped. But mamahood? Totally different. Maybe partly because I have so many. Yeah, that's a lot of it. With one at a time I might have been able to gut it out. With four it comes as a torrent. The whining and the crying often come from multiple directions and the need to escape it or shut it down washes over me like Niagra Falls. I just. . .can't. Within two minutes one night one kid was asking me, politely, to staple a hand-crafted book, one kid was screaming to get out of the bath, one kid stood up at the table and knocked a full glass of water onto the floor and the final kid was standing at the stove next to a hot pot of cooking chicken, demanding to make popcorn. And that wasn't even a time that I lost my shit. Oh wait, that's a lie. I didn't lose it in that moment but a few minutes later as I carried the crying child from the bathtub (after being told three times that said child needed the dinosaur towel! The dinosaur towel!) I stated fiercely "The effing crying is making me want to tear my head off." Except I didn't say effing.

This tornado of kids is teaching me so much. One of the reasons I don't write much about them individually or specifically here is because I want to protect their privacy. The other huge reason is that the experience of becoming their mother affects me so intensely that I'm processing and learning and healing myself and that's what I want to write about.

Thursday, January 18, 2018


I think I scared some people with my last post. Eek! That is hard for me because for a moment I let myself fall into doubt. Is it too much? Am I too much? I feel like reassuring everyone, making my fear and darkness lighter, smaller. And then I gently remind myself that too much or not, it is true for me and feels worth sharing. And I remind myself that I do not have control over how other people respond to what I write. And then I let myself feel the depth of people's love and concern for me and I bask in it, feel grateful for it and come back to the page.

I will say that for me to write something like my last essay means I am no longer in that place. I've passed through it and I feel lighter and ready to share it because often when I do someone else is helped by knowing they are not alone. And that's why I believe God and She and the Universe give us grief and pain, but not all at the same time. So that there is always someone who can stand still and strong and hold my hand when I need it, to help me be ready to stand still and strong when someone else needs it.

In my deepest self I am more than ok. I am awake and interested and so very glad to be living this life. Yes, I do struggle with depression and anxiety. Often the path I am walking is not an easy one. I know I am not alone in that. But I am also so held. I have found people who are travelling similar paths with similar interest and commitment. I see how I want to travel even as I'm not sure where I'm going and even as I sometimes very much wish that I could just arrive already.

My first significant therapy experience began when I was 33. My best male friend, someone I love deeply and who surprises me with how well he knows me, suggested, not too gently, that I talk to someone about my issues. He is not known for his tact. I had tried therapy and hadn't loved it, mostly because I felt like I was trying to get the answers right. I felt tired in advanced by the idea of trying to find the right practitioner. At a party an old friend recommended her therapist to me. That's how I met Ame, a Hakomi practitioner. Hakomi is a body-centered approach and those sessions were really the first time I was invited to drop down into my body, to pay attention to how my actual physical body felt. I wasn't just talking about emotions, I was being asked to notice the sensations in my feet, my belly, my shoulders, when we talked about something or when she asked me to sit quietly and observe. It was hard as hell. Not just because my mind was always jumpy but because the response from my body was so very faint. I wanted to get the answer right and my mind would leap to the occasion, guessing how my belly might feel while talking about something that scared me. But when I quieted my mind, I often felt. . . nothing. Ame would take me through exercises of feeling my feet on the floor, feeling my butt in the chair, feeling my back against the cushion. I could feel the floor, but not my feet. I could feel the couch, but not my butt. It was like I didn't exist except for in my head. After many attempts she, my body, started giving me little, quiet murmurings--like a tiny little mouse peeking out of a long-inhabited cave. Whispers so faint that I wasn't sure they were there at first. And what she was saying to me made me cry because my poor body was so grateful to finally be asked. She wanted to talk and sing and yell and she didn't trust me one bit to actually keep listening.

In one of our sessions I talked to Ame about my years' long experience of feeling like two different people. On some days, I said, I felt light and open and happy. On those days I was energized and awake and could easily see the signs the Universe was giving me, telling me "Yes! You're on the right track. Keep going!" I loved those days. On the other days I felt heavy and dark and blocked up. I wanted to hide and be quiet and binge watch TV. I hated those days. I told her I tried to pay attention on those good days to make note of everything I'd done, what I'd eaten, if I'd exercised, so that I could try to have those days every day. I even said I was thinking I should keep better track of my cycle so I could see if there was a pattern.

She didn't exactly dismiss me but she essentially said that it was impossible to feel the same way all the time and that neither type of day was good or bad. I didn't have two selves, I was all the same self. She wanted to focus on my strong certainty that some feelings were good while others were bad. This was important because I did, and still do, fall easily into the belief that there is a right way and a wrong way of doing everything. I thought, deeply believed, that there were good things about me and bad things about me and therefore the obvious goal was to rid myself of the bad things, even if some of those things made me feel good sometimes. Ame introduced me to the idea of trying to see the voice in my head as an observer, rather than a judge. To notice things rather than proclaim what each thing meant. My time with her was profound and helpful and, as I know now, just the beginning.