Ribbons of allowance

On the morning of my third full day at the writing retreat, I wrote the following in my “Morning Pages.” I share it here unedited. I think it’s a good example of how writing practice allows us to become familiar with our own minds, and also helps to unearth deeper wisdom we may have access to, if we listen.

It’s a good thing I woke with a feeling of allowing my day to unfold, rather than following my agenda. A good thing to make that shift, and a good thing because the first thing that went not according to plan was the toilet plugged and I had to plunge my own shit. Well that’s better than having to plunge someone else’s shit, I suppose.

I am aware as I write this of this group of women (and non-binary) as a possible audience. And aware of their influence on me. A___’s courage in writing about sex – and B___’s too – especially those, helping me not shy away from writing about shit. Yet even now, I sense an edge – am I writing this for their ears? Possibly. Is that okay? Well, I guess I want to let it be okay. In the spirit of Tara Brach, radical acceptance. This, too.

This shit, too. This shit. I never noticed this is an anagram of shit. This shit hits. This shit hits the fan? What is it about shit that is so disgusting? It’s like the dead mayflies in the water. I wish the fish would hurry up and eat them. Or maybe they are too rotten for the fish already? Do fish have a taboo against eating rotten stuff? Against eating shit? “Eat shit and die.” There’s an expression. Do fish get food poisoning? Do they die of it, like Mingyur Rinpoche nearly did? That would have been tragic. Yet people die all the time.  

Oh, yeah. Today is the anniversary of Mom’s death. On the secular calendar. Her yahrzeit is next Sunday, and I have already made sure I have the candle, and the prayer sheet is with it, at home. Unusually well-prepared, because I’ve been slowing down, my calendar is less full, to make time for writing. And for plunging my own shit. And, apparently, for becoming an early riser. Last night I finally managed to get 8 hours of sleep by turning my light out at 9 pm – before it was fully dark!! I don’t think I’ve ever done that before without some external demand like having a plane to catch. It’s like being a child again, or being old. Allowing.  

I have the idea to braid the ribbons today. The ribbons that my mom used to tie to her suitcase so that she could find it at the baggage claim. They are red, white, and blue – not my first choice, the patriotism too close to nationalism too close to Nazism. Probably not her choice either – maybe one got added at a time, as the older ones wore. Or maybe something Bob or another Southern friend bought for her. There’s a prejudice – that Southerners are more likely to have unthinking patriotism! Sigh.  

Maybe the ribbons of my mother’s caution, ribbons of her fear of loss, fear of her own incompetence, which I so harshly judged her for, were also ribbons of her self-care. Ribbons of her planning for her weakness, her frailty, her humanness. Ribbons of her acceptance of her imperfection. Ribbons of allowance. And maybe with this rewriting of them – as Miriam said to me in our meeting on Saturday, quoting Annie Dillard, writing about memories changes them – maybe I want to put the ribbons, braided, or not, or partially braided, on the Time Guide sculpture I am planning to make. Or maybe not. We’ll see. Allowing.

I also woke up feeling in awe of what Miriam is pulling off here. To hold this kind of space for this many people to go this deep. Holy crap, as she might say. Is crap holy? Back to shit again. Allow this shit to be holy.

1 thought on “Ribbons of allowance”

  1. Jean McElhaney

    celebrating and resonating with all of that — yes. especially the part about the ribbons being a way to deal with fear and vulnerability and places where one does not feel as competent and secure as one would like. can we make something out of those places? can we make something beautiful? (and can we even remake something beautiful out of this country? so that instead of red white and blue being associated with nationalism with nazis with death it can be associated with communities of people we call “Americans” in a place of mountains and rivers and trees and good-hearted people?) I say this as someone who is watching the news from the US with some horror but who also sometimes misses being there so much.

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