“When the world is running down
You make the best of what’s still around” —Sting
As we heard the news of the final massacre in Aleppo on Tuesday, I felt things that are becoming all too familiar. There was, first and foremost, horror, heartbreak, and confusion about how such atrocities can keep happening, and incomprehension about what is wrong with human beings? In addition, it felt utterly perverse that my family and I were about to spend the evening decorating our Christmas tree in our safe (for now, anyway), warm house while this human catastrophe was happening simultaneously.
I woke up the next morning full of heartache and foreboding for Aleppo, and for everything that’s weighed heavily on my heart most prominently since the summer, beginning with the latest spate of police killings of unarmed black people, and intensifying with, of course, the election.
So I began another day with the question: How do I approach my relatively cushy (for now, anyway) life on the days when it seems like evil forces are taking over the whole world?
There were no community actions, demonstrations, or political meetings to go to that day, things that have begun to populate my calendar this past year. So what could I do? I mean other than not turning away from what’s happening (as I’ve done in the past)? Other than making whatever phone calls there are to be made? Other than making a couple more small donations to organizations who currently can only mitigate destruction rather than create wonderful things or make actual improvements? Other than praying?
Part of my morning ritual is pulling a couple of cards from my new age hippie freak card decks, otherwise known as oracle cards. (I don’t quite believe they are magically prophetic, but I do love using them for inspiration and finding my own meaning.)
First I pulled The Dance—Celebration card, which seemed not at all appropriate. But I decided that afternoon, the kids and I would have a living room dance party, which we hadn’t done in forever. I would go through the motions for them, and maybe it would give me a little pick-me-up, too. It did. (We danced to our New Orleans Christmas CD, which I highly recommend for people who love Christmas music, and for people who hate Christmas music.)
The second card I pulled that morning was the goddess Nemetona—Sacred Space. What to make of this? I already have my little altar. Of course, I didn’t have to take the message literally. It could have meant getting quiet inside, filtering out the noise. But what I did was make a simple spiral labyrinth in the backyard with my six-year-old son and his sweet little friend.
At first, the boys were not into it. They wanted to keep playing their crazy Star Wars game. There was a time when I would have tried to force their participation in my idea of an enriching and wholesome activity. I have mellowed since then. So I shrugged and let them continue playing while I began work on it myself. As soon as it started taking shape, they were drawn to it naturally and came over to help. The end result is a cooperative effort, with them improvising when we started to run out of rocks.
Every year, we do a little Solstice celebration. This year, along with our fire, we’ll line the labyrinth with paper bag lanterns and watch how many times the children walk in and out of the spiral.
I’ve been yelling at the kids more than usual. When monster mama makes her appearance these days, I’m a little surprised to see her, which tells me I’m doing so much better as a recovering yeller. But my nerves have been raw—relatively speaking, since I can’t begin to imagine the nerves of a Syrian parent, for example. Still, the darkness of the time we’re in has creeped into my parenting. I’m recommitting to more mindfulness in my interactions with them.
When there seems to be little else I can do, I can love my children well. I can do my best to help them discover and develop their gifts, and give them the confidence and awareness to use those gifts to be forces of love and justice in the world, however that manifests in them.
Doing this is no longer enough, but it is something. It matters, both for them and for the world of which they are a part. Being a parent is still my most important job.
© Copyright Camille Williams and Wake Up, Mama! 2016. All rights reserved.