Only a few people post comments here, but here’s what they all have in common–a sense of humor, levity.

My yoga teacher passed along a Rumi poem when she initially guided me through the black thoughts that come up in my yoga and meditation practices:

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

–Rumi, The Guest House

I looked it over again tonight, and what jumped out at me, this time, is that we can greet malice and darkness and other visitors at the door, laughing.


This made me thing of a song that has always moved me to tears, even before this all went down. I had a sister who was “retarded,” as they said back then, who died when I was a toddler. (Later in my life, another sister explained that our sister had hydroenchephalitis, treatable, now, in the womb.) Her name was Claire. She died when she was 8 years old. My older brother and sisters remember her. I don’t. Claire’s name was never uttered without love and deep sorrow in our household. To this day, when I hear the name “Claire,” I feel sorrow.

When I heard this Natalie Merchant song, as an adult, I was so moved by the woman who meets the protagonist of the song. I picture her perfectly. When everyone was flustered and wringing their hands, she came into the room. She’s solid, she has a gentle smile, her hair is in a bun. (That’s not in the song. I made that up.) She picks up the baby, she advises that the child will not suffer. And she laughs as she says what she says.

She laughs.


4 thoughts on “Laughter

  1. Woah. I played this video again to make sure it worked, and it occurred to me–I am interested in this song now because I fret about my children. I am so worried that my children are damaged, deeply and irreparably. There have been women in my life–both professionals and friends–who have given me “that look.” That look consists of their narrowed eyes and furrowed brow while they think and try to find a way to deliver what they’re thinking, and then they assure me that the kids will be okay. They see us, in our entirety. The kids are gifted, in the ways they are gifted. And they are loved. They’ll make their way.

    Sorry to use this blog as my own personal sounding board, but, wow, I feel a lot better now. Things suck, but that won’t determine the rest of their lives.

    I feel grateful that I know people–professionally and personally–who have been able to inject levity and reason into my deepest, darkest fears.

  2. I thought blogs were sounding board for our inner most thoughts. Having said that an observation I’d like to share about kids is that adversity at a young age does not mean they are going to be left irreparably damaged. Most of the time it makes them stronger and more empathic adults. Love will get them through this dark time and you are doing your best to give that to them. Both of my parents lost their mothers at 8 and 9 years old. It does effect a person’s personality to have gone through hardships at an early age…no one can deny that. But don’t assume it will shape them in a negative way. Over the course of their lives this dark time could become the basis for a driving force that does good things in the world or helps them decide on a career path or just to become caring, empathic human beings.

  3. Of course, that’s right. I guess I feel like I’m writing out problems and then making sense of them once I see them posted.

    My concern about the kids is not in losing their father, but in living for so many years in a household that may have harmed them. I was so worried about helping my husband, thinking he was improving. I thought I was taking care of the children, but now I fear that they had to develop defense mechanisms that may have hardwired their brains. The damage that my husband’s illness caused continues to ripple through our household. We’re working hard to alleviate some of that, but it’s tough work.

    I probably only processed this in the last week or two. That’s why I’ve thought a lot about his pain and how much it is imprinted on us. The timing makes sense. I’m back to work, I can use a power screwdriver, I can shovel the driveway and still get to work on time. I can do this–work, take care of the kids, manage the household, hold us up. It occurred to me last week that I should have done this sooner. As my husband’s illness ravaged him and us, I should have gotten my children away from it. I can do it on my own now, I could have done it then. I could have sent him off to an institution, or to his aunt in New York, where he could have gotten better care, and the kids could have had some peace from the illness. I am so in tune now with my mama bear instincts that it makes perfect sense to me. In the past few years, though, I juggled to comfort them and aid their father. I feel into a depression last week because I regret that choice insofar as my children have been hurt, and they still hurt.

    Of course, things are much clearer in hindsight. I acted the best I could. I reached out, to professionals, to clergy, to friends, and none of them did better than I. No one had a grasp of the situation.

    And indeed, if children can heal from loss, then it’s possible they can heal from damage. That’s how the Natalie Merchant video helped me. I’ve been the worried mother of that song these past few months. I’ve had wise women in my life who have assured me that these children can heal, even thrive in their strength and the life skills that they are developing now. I heard them, but I didn’t quite believe. Playing back the video sent that message to me in a way that I could understand. Laugh through the adversity and the pain and keep moving. We are able to fight back. And with love and patience, these kids will make their way. That, I believe.

  4. I’ve always related to this song as well. It’s beautiful and has a beautiful message. I love the poem, too. It’s a really good one to keep handy. Your humor, strength and kindness is clear in what you write in this blog…that is also something your children will be guided by. You did the best you could, you are doing the best you can, and it seems like you are doing a lot.

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