Allowing Grief

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

To support one who is grieving, simply allow them to be––to be a mess, to be demolished, to be in grief. And to not be the same person you knew them to be before the grief. Because they are not––and they never will be again. And if you are the one grieving, honor yourself and your loss by allowing that in yourself.

Grief “veterans” sisters Anne Mason and Thea Mason discuss.

Anne’s article describing her personal experience with loss and grief was written and published a few years after the death of their parents in 2002, 11 days apart. It was recently republished again this year in Grief Digest Magazine, entitled Responding to Life.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT BELOW:

Anne:                           00:01                Okay. So Thea and I are going to talk a little bit more about grief. We feel we’re still, we’re feeling that thread still of grief and we were just reflecting in a conversation we were just having on the fact that it’s probably partly the season. Our father had passed at the end of October and then our mother, 11––I never remember 11, 13 days later, whatever it was in the early November…

Thea:                            00:32                Eleven.

Anne:                           00:32                Eleven days. And one thing I wanted to qualify is that the reason that I think we’re talking about this as if we have a great deal of experience with kind of intense grief is that part of it was the experience of caretaking our parents from brain illness and injury over the course of some years. So it was very, very intense, you know, when people lose the brains, basically, that’s an intense process of caretaking. And then it happening when we were a lot younger.

Thea:                            01:20                It’s almost at 20 years, I mean we’re going toward 20 years now.

Anne:                           01:27                And then, and then happening within the space of two weeks. So that was just all intense, very intense and very magnified. So that’s partly why we are wanting to convey what helped. We were just reflecting on the fact that if it happened now, of course it would still be intense, but not as intense. So, we want to talk a little bit about what helped us during that time practically. And I was reflecting with Thea on the fact that one of the things I did during that, especially that first year after it all happened and I was going through the motions of life and work and dealing with the estate and all of these things, I started drinking cream in my coffee where I had drunk black coffee before that. But just to, to get out of bed and go to work, which was like, felt like it required sometimes superhuman capacity. I started drinking cream in my coffee. I started taking baths again. And I had lived in London, years before where everybody takes baths and I had gone back to taking showers here in the States. But I started taking baths, because it felt more nurturing. It was softer. It was gentler. I started doing yoga a little bit, and as Thea can vouch for, I’m not a yoga person, but I started doing yoga in the mornings. I had this funky VHS tape that I had inherited from Thea or something, and I would do this 20 minute yoga thing in the morning and it nurtured me. It helped me. I also look back on that time and realize, you know, I cocooned a lot and it’s kind of against my nature, to be so insular, you know, I’m pretty out there, but I was alone a lot. I wanted to be alone a lot. And I drank a lot. I wept a lot. I cried a lot. And, and I remember at the time, friends, people close to me, kind of trying to encourage me to get out of that, “Come on, you know, this isn’t you!” and being kind of at odds with that, like, “Oh, this is not me. What, what’s going on? What am I doing here? What am I doing?” And I wish I had had the sense that I knew best and the sense to just allow that process to happen without trying to force anything.

Thea:                            04:34                Well if I can chime in to that. This reminds me of the thought I had had when we were chatting a little bit ago was that it wasn’t you. And like we touched on last time, that there is that darkened space that we go into and we do–– allowing, allowing for that darkened space and time to occur like a cocoon. We do come out something else. We become something else. We develop, we grow, we change. But I just wanted to remark, because I don’t think I’ve thought of it this way before, was that when someone that we love and make connections with in this life leaves this world, the world is altered and therefore those that are closely tied to that person do truly change because they fill the space differently to be able to continue. And you know, when it is a connection that is like one of those of loved people in our lives, it does alter us and we do become something not ourselves while we’re in transformation. And I think even just stating that if that, if that knowledge was more apparent for those people who are supporting the grieving people that they will be different, and it’s not really a helpful thing to convey.

Thea:                            06:04                You’re not yourself. No shit, you know? You won’t be, you know, I will be picking up different threads of myself, but I’m weaving a new fabric. While I’m in this cocoon. You know, we are changing. So if there’s a little more intelligence about that process for people who are going through grief maybe or those that are going through it, our own knowledge that we’re going to be different and allowing for that without the guilt game of I’m not being myself for these people in my life. I don’t know if I’ve gone too far astray, but I think that’s what you’re speaking to. Wishing you had known that, you know best like listening to that inner voice again that is asking you to do something different, you know, is, is really valuable.

Anne:                           06:55                Yes, it’s definitely valuable. And it’s, and it’s good to talk to other people who have been through it as we did, you know, over time. I also went to a grief counselor. First time I had really done any therapy or any kind of thing like that, and it was helpful for sure, to have that validated. I think that’s an important thing to point out to others too though, who are there to try to, or those were trying to hold it for someone else. Trying to support someone who’s going through the grieving process. W.

Thea:                            07:33                Which is really a hard position.

Anne:                           07:36                It is. And I’ve read about this recently too, where people don’t know what to say. They don’t know what to do. People who have not been there really don’t know. And I think it’s important to just let those folks know that I think that all anyone is…You know, when you’re grieving that deeply. And one other thing I wanted to point out is like, you know, a friend had communicated recently about it, who had lost her son recently and that, as I said to her, I can’t even touch that, right? That’s, that’s many layers beyond. But what I can say is I, I just, you know, I just send you my love, you know, I give you my love and, and I grieve for you and with you, right? You know, you can say, I’m sorry for your loss or whatever, but you know, I always, I found all that platitudinal stuff kind of like, just, just be real. And just to know that that person, honor that person by allowing them to just be going through that phase that you’re describing, their transformation. They are not going to be what you know, they’re not going to be what you are used to, and they’re probably never going to be that again.

Thea:                            09:18                That’s huge.

Anne:                           09:20                So to, to accept that and encourage them in that rather than make them feel as if they’re doing something wrong. Right?

Thea:                            09:30                Right. Yeah. I think what you’re speaking to also, and I, you know, when I look back at people in my life when they’ve been going through their own grief and it’s like, you know, we don’t want to say “I’m sorry for your loss” while you are, is, depending on the nature of your relationship is a little bit like “I’m here and I can relate and I’m here.” But we can’t, there’s not much else. There’s not much else we can really offer.

Anne:                           10:02                Yeah, we can’t. That’s the thing. We can’t fix it. We can’t give them anything. We can just hold that space for them to just be and to be demolished too. We can hold the space for them to be demolished. To be all over the floor. To be a mess. Let them be a mess. You know? And that’s what you and I spoke about a little bit too. It’s like, you had used the word, I don’t think you said this in the video, but you said, there was a part of you that, because the fabric of reality had torn open…

Thea:                            10:42                Or altered.

Anne:                           10:42                Altered. There was a tear in it. (You Said), “It didn’t fit, it no longer fit. Your life didn’t quite fit anymore.” So that’s something that we become aware of more in any heightened state, I think.

Thea:                            11:03                Right. That you’re actually growing into a new way of being. When there has been an alteration to the reality you’ve been engaging with. So allowing for that growth and that shift and that discomfort. Kind of like if you have a new pair of shoes, they take a bit to wear into the shape of your foot, right? Or your, when you get used to a good pair of jeans. At first they didn’t feel so good, but that takes a little bit of time and then you fit them right and they, you fit them and they fit you. But it all takes a little discomfort for awhile.

Anne:                           11:43                Or more than that though I would say. I mean, I like your, your clothing analogy––as anyone knows, Thea’s style and her clothes and her relationship to clothes, it’s appropriate. For me on the other hand, like when we were talking about the mess and, and being demolished on the floor––I think also give yourself a break. And give anyone who’s going through this a break to, to really screw up too in a way. Like make some, make some big mistakes.

Thea:                            12:22                Which I think we all, we all did.

Anne:                           12:25                We all did, you know, and it was challenging and hard. But also it’s like we had to break some things. In order to then allow that new thing to form. We had to break it down. Say that again.

Thea:                            12:47                A new emergence, like of oneself. Out of it. To break down ideas that we had about ourselves that were held, I mean, in our situation, it being our parents, that’s a different dynamic than a friend or a lover or a child. So different things we had to break down to free ourselves even.

Anne:                           13:10                Yeah. I put it as, you know, we went a little crazy and that was okay. Because we only went so crazy. We kept things going, but we went a little crazy. And then we came back from the crazy.

Thea:                            13:32                The edges, I call it the edges. A little bit. Because we weren’t out of our heads, I mean, we weren’t disconnected with what we were doing. We were really pretty aware of the choices we were making in most of those moments. They were big but we, we pushed past our edges maybe that we had kept ourselves in before. And I, you know, I think what you said just about that, that initial time of intense grief, it’s like finding whatever it is that is some sort of ritual for you––cream in your coffee, baths, walks, talks, whatever––those little things that can hold so much power. Lighting a candle, you know, I mean, I’m just giving little things, making your, you know, whatever. I’m like thinking like my shoe rack, little things that I could make really neat and orderly that brought me joy because everything felt…

Anne:                           14:32                And tethering, right? It was a tethering, so whatever, you know, finding your little rituals of tethering. To tether you while you also are flailing at the same time through that.

Thea:                            14:48                And one more thing. I don’t know if this ties anything in, but I think there’s those, those pictures that when you’re sharing of your sort of cocooning, and I was saying a little bit of that spiraling inward because you tend to be more outward and I, I don’t think I’ve put this together quite yet until now. I tend to be a little more inward in many ways and I think in that period I was so busy teaching and practicing, I kind of did the opposite.

Anne:                           15:19                And parenting. Yeah, you did.

Thea:                            15:19                I went out a little bit more than I normally would be. So that’s curious. I don’t think I’d seen that until now.

Anne:                           15:30                Yeah, which pushed this other side of you like this, this other side of me. And brought us to the wholeness that we are now! I joke!

Thea:                            15:41                As we go through new challenges and edge pushing. My God.

Anne:                           15:49                Absolutely. Absolutely. As we’re, yeah. As we are both going through other changes, and we’ve also just reflected on the fact that having gone through that intensity in our earlier years and, and then becoming accustomed to cycles and cycles of grief does inform you to become accustomed to all cycles and that they do move and they’re waves, and it moves in and out. And if you just kind of tether yourself while you get through that, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Thea:                            16:23                Yeah. Thanks.

Anne:                           16:25                There we go. As nonlinear is all that was. Hopefully that’s, that’s something and something. And Happy holidays to all the grieving people out there, because I know this brings it up as it does the winter and all of that. Right? So, all right.

Thea:                            16:46                Absolutely. Take care.

Anne:                           16:47                You too. All right. Bye.

Thea:                            16:50                Bye.

Featured post

Coping with Grief and Loss

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

Grief can seem indescribably unbearable. But it gets easier, we promise. And it can transform and give birth to something positive––and widen, deepen and enrich our capacity and wisdom as we move through life.

Sisters Anne Mason and Thea Mason speak from experience.

Anne’s article describing her personal experience with loss and grief was written and published a few years after the death of their parents in 2002, 11 days apart. It was recently republished again this year in Grief Digest Magazine, entitled Responding to Life.

VIDEO TRANSCRIPT BELOW:

Anne:                           00:00                Okay, we’re recording. Okay. So we’re going to talk about grief today. And to inform anyone listening. Thea and I both, and our sisters, lost both of our parents at the end of 2002 after they both suffered pretty horrific, devastating brain injuries and illnesses. Our mother from brain cancer at the young age of 52, and our father from a brain injury following other health problems at the age of 62. So that was pretty intense as anyone can imagine. Tt was not just the loss, but also the years leading to the loss and how excruciating that was to witness.

Thea:                            01:07                And the 11 days apart, you know, and the, the compact “pow” of the loss.

Anne:                           01:10                Yeah. It was. And, you know, I was Mom’s primary caretaker. She was not remarried. Thea, she already had a family. So she also had a young child and she was flying back, taking care of things as well. Then my dad’s secondary caretaker. So it was just, it was so intense, right? As anyone who’s gone through loss understands. And so we’ve been talking about this and I’ll post a link to the article too that by chance I discovered––there was an article I had written really not long after they died, but then I kind of held onto it and submitted it for publication a few years later. So it was published about a decade ago and it was just recently republished this year. So the first thing I think we would like to talk about is to acknowledge for anyone who is suffering and in grief grieving, going through the grieving process, that we get it so much and that it is an experience that one cannot really convey or describe really, unless you’ve stepped through that door. And we’re aware of the fact that the world does not see or acknowledge what you are going through as you are walking through your day to day life, trying to just cope with an unbearable, indescribable pain. You know, I mean, it makes me want to cry when I’m––I don’t know why I’m in touch with it recently. And that is the weird thing about grief, it is always there, but it gets much more manageable and it transforms and there’s a beauty. There is as much beauty to the pain as there is the pain, I think over time, you know? And so yeah, you know, a couple of friends of mine have just suffered very close losses. So that’s been a topic we were just talking about.

Anne:                           03:44                Ricky Gervais’ After Life––it’s a new Netflix series and it’s remarkable. It’s extraordinary. His comprehension, his understanding of grief and his ability to portray it. It’s very good. I highly recommend it. So, I think what we want to talk about a little bit right now is, and let’s look at our time. As we had been talking about even in last week’s conversation, which we entitled Responding to Change and many other of our conversations have been kind of in keeping with this theme of our responses to what life presents, right, and how impactful it is. How our response to what comes obviously significantly influences our life’s experience. And others’, you know, in this case with grief, others’ response to what we are going through is also impactful. And that article I wrote about touched on how the lack of our society’s observance of grief, of what people are going through. There is as I had written in the article, there’s a short period of time where your loss is formally acknowledged, but maybe it’s our busy world, our busy society, our busy everyday hectic pace. I’m not sure what it is. I also think there’s something unhealthy in the way we cope. I think there is some times a sense of putting on a face. I think there’s a sense of kind of faking it––that we, that we should, you know, just appear as if things are okay.

Thea:                            06:10                If it doesn’t interrupt your thought too much, I think there’s something that I’m seeing when we’re articulating it is––your article says so eloquently really how you’re given this space and time, brief period of time where it’s acknowledged and then it kind of just slips away, but you’re still holding it. And that’s really the time where the burden gets heavier. And because the shock, depending on what grief stages or how it comes to someone, you know, ours was, I can speak from that experience. That was, it was just so intense. And, and because it was so intense for us, I felt like, you know, everything was blown apart, all of our reality in a certain way. So, so taking us to our knees that the only thing that could come through was grace. Like it carried us through the horrificness of it in a way. And then after the shocking part sort of starts to wear off, that’s when the new stages of that grief start to come in, in a more thunderous way in a sense. And what I’m seeing in this though is like, different cultures have different observances. You know, maybe you wear black for a year or whatever it is because it really does take that length of time. And our culture–we don’t do that so much in any real way.

Thea:                            07:48                But what I’m seeing is that we have the observance for this short period, and then you have the funeral or the celebration of life or whatever it is, but it’s like boom, boom, boom. And it’s like the meaning again is getting lost and it’s the image rather than the essence. Even the advice that you’re given through grief counselors to not make any big changes, which you speak to really well in the article, but it’s again, it’s like it gets lost. The words, the meaning, the intent, the impulse that’s sound gets distorted. And then it’s like you’re standing in nothingness.

Anne:                           08:31                It’s, you know I remember how I worded it and I don’t want to repeat exactly how I worded it, but basically it’s cautioning us, right? To not be reactive. To not be reactionary, maybe is a better way of putting it. But in so doing, it’s kind of throwing the baby out with the bath water. So yes, we should not, it’s helpful in life to not react impulsively without thought, without care. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t respond. Right? And that we shouldn’t act upon the process that we’re going through that we shouldn’t act upon some of the instincts or the awarenesses or changes that it’s bringing up in us. Right? So that’s one thing I think that it goes hand in hand with the way the culture observes our loss as well. It’s true that we have to get on with it. Right? And, you know, I remember in the midst of it, and I have since kind of lamented how challenging it is with a death. So the person who’s been caretaking experiencing incredible loss after they’re already exhausted from the caretaking, and then they’ve got to do all this other stuff after the death, all the legal stuff, all of the you know, the estate situation.

Thea:                            10:21                The business part.

Anne:                           10:26                The business of it. But, there is also something necessary in that because it keeps you moving, you know, and there is a tethering there, as unpleasant as it is, so that you don’t kind of go off the deep end. Not to say that one doesn’t at times go off the deep end. And I would say I, you know, those first couple of years were almost debilitating. Right? I mean, it was just, you know, I drank a lot, you know, and I sheltered myself a lot. I did go through the motions and I did what I absolutely had to do. But other than that, you know, it was, it was rough as you know.

Thea:                            11:16                And I know that too. You know, I think so much of the way grief comes to us or what we’re given through it–– knowing that I had a child to take care of, it minimized the spaces I could even go into. So they kind of came in a softer current over years because I had a living proof purpose that I had to keep going for. Right? And that changes things.

Anne:                           11:46                Yeah. Totally. You couldn’t, you couldn’t fall down. Right? And so that also means that probably it may have lingered longer. Your process may have just been elongated you know, but who’s to say? Right? Cause it’s still, I mean, there are still times, once in a great while, I will like, I’ll weep. Right?

Thea:                            12:11                I know. Yeah.

Anne:                           12:11                But also you know, on the flip side, for anyone going through it, God, I mean, as devastating and difficult as it’s been, I’m grateful to them for the gift that they gave us in that. I would not be who I am. I would not be the mother I am. I would not be…There’s so much that it deepened in our experience, right, to have gone through that. So there’s some good stuff that comes from it, you know, with all of life’s, you know I mean it’s cliche again, but the deeper the suffering, the deeper the experience, the deeper the wisdom I think.

Thea:                            13:13                Right. And that goes, we spoke just for a moment beforehand is like, yeah, as, we love more, as we grieve more and feel the depths and breadths, and all the angles and spaces of feeling––I mean these are the things that make us really human. It allows, I mean, I feel for myself, it’s allowed me to become a bigger person, more able to meet more people where they are. The more experiences I have, the wisdom, right? The more that there is a reflection within me to another, the more we share, the more we connect, the more we serve our purpose being here on Earth.

Anne:                           14:00                Oh gosh. And it reminds me of a comment a friend made on my Facebook page when I had just posted that this article got republished. And she had lost her mom. And she said, you know, it makes one aware, it’s a reminder that we don’t ever know what anyone else is going through as they’re walking through. Right? And so when you’ve gone through this yourself, it brings an awareness to you always that there are many layers there in everyone. It brings a compassion to I think one’s interactions with everyone and any one, because you start to reveal or you start to realize that so much more may be happening, has happened. You have not walked in their shoes. And that we really, this life, there are few that escape, you know, sorrow and pain in this life. And so just that awareness and compassion brings such a dimension to our relationships, our regard for people and the world really.

Thea:                            15:19                Because within sorrow, I mean, I want to say healthy sorrow, because there’s tragedy that is like, there feels like a wrongness in, you know, an injustice. But there’s, when there’s the healthy sorrow, I feel like within that is a real big seed of what’s beautiful. You know, it brings us to that which is––beauty, you know, love.

Anne:                           15:50                It’s a sweet sorrow. It’s a sweet sorrow. And it’s like having gone through that experience, going through this kind of experience and similar experiences, it definitely, like, it reveals that layer to existence. And we probably should start looking to wrap it up soon, and I’ll only touch on this now, but I mean, beyond the deepening, I mean, it’s, you know, I discovered my faith through that process too. And when I say that, I’m not saying a particular, an organized religion or denomination or, you know, and as I’ve said to people who I’ve gotten into discussions about this with, it’s like I feel that it’s much larger than any one particular organized set of beliefs, but a kind of you know, an all encompassing understanding connection to my source, connection to the divine, connection to other realms. And it’s, you know, it’s been a gradual process for me really since the deaths of my parents. And it’s been an organic, beautiful thing too. And one that feels very experiential. I remember a friend of mine who a German friend of mine who, who lives here in California where it’s really, people don’t talk a lot about God and faith here, in the Bay area, we’re in the Bay area. There’s almost a disdain for that. Right? And he had remarked that it has really struck him how I didn’t, I don’t have this from having been raised in it, you know, ’cause we were raised kind of half assed Catholic…

Thea:                            18:07                But I would say my experience was there was a sense of intelligence and divinity, the acknowledgement of God in our life even though it wasn’t through any direct channel or picture. But that picture that there is, there’s meaning and purpose and God.

Anne:                           18:33                Yeah. An understanding of there being more than we are seeing. Yeah. Right. More than is visible. I agree. But, he was remarking that, you know, that it came to me through experience in this way as opposed to where it’s come through for him and through practice. But anyway, you know, I won’t get off on a tangent, but there’s something so beautifully rich in the experience. Go ahead.

Thea:                            19:09                Well, I want to say, I don’t think it’s quite a tangent, but I think it will be a thread to come back to that we explore a little bit more because I want to reiterate again in our dialogues that we’re sharing together here. These are our reflections from our experiences and our understanding of those experiences and the way we then choose to engage with our life and the world and the people in our lives. And it’s not so much about is someone testing, has this been proven? This is through our own experience, which I think, what I want to wrap it into a little bit is––losing, having our parents move on at our young age, which felt very young at the time I think removed, I think I said this, I remember feeling it when, when it was going on, just that when they were gone, there was no longer any image of a guidance or you know, mother, father, between myself and God. So my relationship to whatever I call God, source, whatever, became even more clear and tangible for me because there was nothing in between it. I didn’t have anything separating it. And I think what that has brought to me through my own journey and you, is what I perceive is a gift and for me to do something with. So it’s, it’s like, it’s allowed me to develop that capacity more and more and more to listen to myself, to listen to what I Intuit or instinctively respond to. You know, trusting oneself because knowing oneself is more than just me. Like that there’s wisdom that moves through and shows itself to me through my experiences. So, yeah.

Anne:                           21:14                Absolutely. Thanks for making that distinction. Thanks for making that distinction. Yeah. It’s, once again, it’s you know, I’d made this comment recently, but there is some knowledge, there is, there is information that sometimes cannot be transferred through language or books or teaching, but only through experience. Right? It’s when the veil drops, you know, or when we walk through a door. So anyway, it’s an exclusive club. So anyone who has experienced it, welcome to it and promise it gets better and there’s so much richness to the experience that one can be in and does become quite grateful for. And we’ll probably touch on this more next time.

Thea:                            22:09                I think we should. And I just, there’s one more thing now I have to say that as you say that there’s more richness. I feel a little bit like it is that experience, because at first through it, things become more dull and it’s kind of like you’re going into a cocoon a bit and the veils wrap around you. And then when you pull yourself back through that, the world is more vibrant again. It changes. But you do go through a darkness.

Anne:                           22:40                You do, you do. And so do not expect all of a sudden, “Oh you know…” There is a deadening and a darkness to it at first, but you have to go through that to come out to a brighter light.

Thea:                            22:54                Yeah. Well thank you so much. I look forward to us talking more about it ’cause there’s so, so many other spaces within it for us to, you know, think about it as the culture of how to alter and change and support or develop new ways or old ways to honor the grieving process when each individual goes through it. So it can be a transformative space that’s recognized and really honored.

Anne:                           23:26                Yes, I agree. All right, we’ll think on that.

Thea:                            23:30                Thank you.

Anne:                           23:31                All right, one sec. Bye.

Featured post

Responding to Change

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

Our response to challenge and change is informed by our perspective––are we part of an infinitely complex, purposeful design or is our existence merely accidental?

Sisters Anne Mason and Thea Mason examine and discuss. Holiday style and in person:)

TRANSCRIPT BELOW:

Anne:                                         00:00                       Recording to the cloud. So we’re doing this a little differently this time because Thea’s here, we’re hanging out, and we’re very relaxed here in a circle of redwoods. So what we’ve been talking about is how we respond to change, responding to change, responding to challenges, obstacles that life presents us with and recognizing that something helpful to inform one’s experience in reacting to change is to recognize that this is either intended to be a school or there’s certainly opportunities to learn and grow from these experiences and that it makes it much easier to move through without resistance, as much resistance––or to move through with more grace, to move through with a focus on understanding the experience as much as one can and moving through it rather than resisting it or dwelling…

Thea:                                         01:30                       And even moving with it while it moves through, I think, is something as opposed to resisting, but to be able to see when there are these obstacles or challenges that come into our lives that are pushing us into areas that are more uncomfortable or unknown, how to sort of listen to the signals, listen to the current that’s moving with you and use the current to continue your movement wherever it is your goals are or…destinies as opposed to trying to turn around in the current, as opposed to pushing past it. I don’t know. I’m losing the analogy.

Anne:                                         02:28                       No, I agree. I mean…

Thea:                                         02:30                       …Which allows for a bit more harmonious, enjoyable moving down…

Anne:                                         02:35                       You also have the opportunity in that then to find your true path. I mean, it rarely looks exactly like you thought it was going to look like, right? And so to be open to the possibility that you’re being redirected in ultimately a positive way, if you can just kind of work with it, you know?

Thea:                                         03:05                       Right. That what comes to you is of a good nature and you are to find ways to work with it. To continue your becoming.

Anne:                                         03:17                       Yeah. Right. And even the things that come to you of a bad nature, we can speculate that that will assist our growing as well. Depending on how we respond to it, and identify and recognize it.

Thea:                                         03:29                       Well that’s what I’m saying––how we respond to it I think is what makes it good or bad, more than it may be. That’s what I’m just wondering. It’s like everything that comes up is there to show you something. Now it may be that you veer a little bit away out of that sector, you know, maybe it shows itself so you can go, “Oh, I need to reroute a little bit like this.” But that everything that comes is of a nature that is there for you to see and to utilize it, is basically what you’re saying.

Anne:                                         04:03                       Absolutely. I mean, I don’t think we’re here by accident. Let’s put it that way. Or you can choose to, you know, live that way. Good luck. You know, if you think that this is just an accident, I don’t know, whatever works for people. But it certainly resonates much more for me and makes much more sense to me that there is a purpose to it because whatever I observe around me demonstrates that there’s a perfect purpose to everything, you know, to the interaction of, you know, these trees to the earth, to the earth to us, us to the trees and all. It’s a pretty perfect design. So the idea that we’re some accidental blip in it sounds ridiculous, but anyway.

Thea:                                         04:54                       Sounds just preposterous.

Anne:                                         04:54                       It’s like the most make-believe fairy tale, right? That doesn’t make sense. That sounds like fiction. Anyway, we’re getting off on a tangent.

Thea:                                         05:08                       A little bit. So it started with, how did we start this, finding grace in the movements and change of life.

Anne:                                         05:16                       How we respond to change, basically, and what can help us, what can inform us?

Thea:                                         05:22                       And we can take that to an analogy of birth a bit. I mean it’s a little bit like, here comes the next phase. It’s uncomfortable and difficult and scary, cause you don’t know. It’s, I think, what did I say last conversation we had was it’s unbelievable, the space that you’re being asked to go into. You don’t have a reference for it. You don’t have anything you can liken to it. And then still the only way through it is to unfold a little more.

Anne:                                         06:00                       Well the only way through it is forward. That’s the main thing.

Thea:                                         06:04                       Forward. But the forward comes with a pushing. There is a pushing, right? And there is a contracting, but simultaneously there’s an opening, there’s a letting go in the contracting. So you’re having both those forces at the same time, practically. Right? This and this. The gloves, sorry.

Anne:                                         06:27                       No the light’s moving. It’s a pretty light, but it’s kind of like…can’t see us at all.

Thea:                                         06:31                       Blinding?

Anne:                                         06:35                       Oh, look what happens there. When I do that and move it slightly. Let’s see.

Anne:                                         06:40                       This is to continue on from where we were because we started building on this.

Thea:                                         06:47                       And we wanted to clarify and explore a little bit more what we were discussing about when something comes. That essentially the nature of reality, what comes to us, what thoughts, what challenges, whatever it is, is good. And that doesn’t, it’s not, or maybe it is the same as “It’s all good man,” because it is, but there is distinction.

Anne:                                         07:18                       So my point was like, I’m loathe to get into, you know, relativity because I think that can go astray so quickly, but like we were touching on in the discussion sometimes yesterday. I sense, I’m eager to get beyond the duality, too. Like, there’s more to it, there’s more dimension here. And so I think you talking about then accepting that the ultimate nature of reality is good. Well, and is God right?

Thea:                                         07:52                       And is God. And so that that comes, is good. And it’s in how we meet that which comes, that determines our experiences of good or bad, but the good is there as the foundation of it. And so do, do we struggle with it? Do we rail against it? Do we look at what it’s asking us to bring, to show, which then allows the good to come. I mean, I don’t know, I felt like I was more clear about it a little bit ago, but there’s, there’s like the layers of it as they come to us. It’s like the underneath current, that which is existing all the time. That is good.

Anne:                                         08:45                       And that’s what I feel like it relates to the whole point of me saying, you know, I don’t believe we’re accidental. You know, the idea of us being accidental, of there not being an infinitely complex plan at work or design at work seems absurd––I think if you’re walking through life fairly aware.

Thea:                                         09:07                       I mean, and then if we even think of just an ultimate-ish plan being the macro of the microcosms that we’re living in every moment, I mean.

Anne:                                         09:18                       It all contributes, it’s all part of it. Existing on so many levels and layers within ourselves, within our stages of development, of humanity’s development, within every and all. It’s complex. But I suppose what it comes down to is, you know, I think probably it’s looking at it one way or the other. It’s either that this is by design and therefore purposeful. Every moment is an opportunity to act with purpose.

Thea:                                         09:54                       True. Yeah, I think that’s huge. That’s liberating. That’s empowering. That’s everything really. Because if all those things, I mean, and I’m even talking like the little thoughts, you know––and we’ve shared this living and knowing each other for so long––you know, if you’re leaving the house and there’s that little blip that says check, check if the whatever, the window’s closed or the fire’s off or grab your keys or grab a hat. Those times that we don’t listen to those little things, we then look back and go, Oh, I did know. I’m taking that as the thread of all of it because it’s there.

Anne:                                         10:44                       It’s intelligence. There’s an intelligence there.

Thea:                                         10:44                       There’s an intelligence and intelligibility. It’s there for us to pay attention to or to ignore, and that sort of sets our route.

Anne:                                         10:53                       And so getting back to moving through challenges, meeting challenges, how we face our obstacles and move through life. That is what sets the tone. That is what informs the way we do it.

Thea:                                         11:12                       Yeah. And is it purposeful? Is it meaningful? That depends on what we choose, like how we’re able to perceive it because it is, we’re either aware of it or we’re not.

Anne:                                         11:26                       Right. And probably learning and growing either way. Right? Hopefully. Sometimes we can get pretty stuck.

Thea:                                         11:38                       And God, I mean, It’s like even those getting stuck, Oh, we were likening this to an analogy of birth later on in our conversation. We didn’t get there yet, but even that, right? Is there some something that getting stuck for a moment and then you find a new route through it, but you have to sometimes surrender then to that being stuck. I am stuck, and then something else can move or you can get back into the movement or be picked up by the movement.

Anne:                                         12:12                       Well because you know, a theme that has come up in other discussions I’ve had recently is just that everything is moving, and so it’s when we try to when we put on this pretense of it being static, it makes the whole thing way harder, right? It’s always moving. So we just have to––I mean this sounds, it always gets down to the platitudinal, trite cliches.

Thea:                                         12:50                       Well there’s truth in those.

Anne:                                         12:50                       Yes, they’re here for a reason, but that’s the “going with the flow.” And you know, I don’t mean it in that way.

Thea:                                         12:58                       Well, here’s the thing though, as you were saying, being static, being without movement, that’s what creates the static and what earlier in some conversation we were having, I was thinking that’s part of––oh, talking about the birth or the moving through obstacles, the unfolding or the shucking off of that which is staticky. Like those little pieces that aren’t in the flow. The more we let go of those with less and less of our own resistance to them being let go, the freer we are in that flow, the more strong the current is and the clearer it is, whatever it is, however, moving.

Anne:                                         13:42                       Totally. Well that’s also you know, it’s casting away expectation of what one thought it was going to be, look like, or whatever. That’s one thing, is being able to do that quickly. It makes you get through things a lot more quickly and more easily I think with less resistance. But also, it strikes me to then bring up the fact, the importance of then what foundational principles are you holding onto? Because we have to hold on to something, right? To get us through whatever it is. So what is the foundational principle that allows you to just with grace, with dignity, with courage, with faith, faith, faith. That’s the biggest part of it, right? With faith. So are those? Those are the foundational principles, right?

Thea:                                         14:39                       Like every religion has these tenets, ways of being that you hold onto. And so those are the framework. Those are the structure. That’s like the bones of it all for everything else to work around.

Anne:                                         14:57                       Exactly. But you know, the words can stop losing their meaning. Right. And that’s the problem with organized religion.

Thea:                                         15:06                       And that’s why there are aspects that we’ve had conversations about. It’s like we’re in a time of developing a new language. Language is constantly moving because things start to mean different things when they lose their, their root to the meanings. So sometimes we have to find ways to revitalize those meanings. And even maybe it’s just bringing the depth and breadth of these things to go with the flow. I mean all these phrases. They’re all in it.

Anne:                                         15:45                       The Tao, yeah. I think we should cut it.

Thea:                                         15:58                       I think it’s done. I think it’s done. Yeah. Well, there might be more thoughts that come up.

Anne:                                         16:03                       There may be! All right. See ya folks.

Featured post

The Case for Home Birth

by Anne Mason

Two hours after our daughter’s birth.

Both my kids were born at home. People have often remarked on the courage I must have had to have made that choice. It wasn’t courage––it was a desire for a comfortable, supportive birth environment I knew was the best bet for my kids and me to avoid unnecessary trauma and intervention. There are times when medical intervention is necessary, but most of the time, the medical system itself and its medicalized birth practices create the issues which lead to intervention in the first place.

Our bodies are designed to give birth. Fit, healthy women in most cases should be able to deliver their babies naturally––if only they are allowed to. I was 37 years old with my first pregnancy and 40 with my second. My husband and I eschewed all the tests and screenings recommended for “a woman my age,” as we were committed to bringing our children into the world, regardless of what abnormalities or issues such screenings might suggest. And we were blessed with two wonderfully healthy children born without complication or intervention.

I remember being questioned about our choice to birth at home when I was pregnant with our eldest. Well-intended friends pointed to historical maternal and infant mortality rates as an argument for hospital birth. A closer look at the history, however, largely implicates hospitals and doctors in the staggeringly high maternal mortality rates from puerperal fever in the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries––in which it was common practice for the medical profession to examine pregnant women and deliver babies after performing autopsies, WITHOUT WASHING THEIR HANDS. As Suzanne Humphries, MD and Roman Bystrianyk emphasize in their landmark book “Dissolving Illusions: Disease, Vaccines, and the Forgotten History,” puerperal fever’s massive maternal death toll profoundly impacted the fabric of society. It is no wonder this tragic and largely avoidable episode in recent human history influences our fears surrounding childbirth.

Poverty, lack of sanitation, lack of nutrition and poor standard of living during that time period also contributed to overall mortality rates, life expectancy and birth outcomes. When determining the risks of childbirth in this day and age in the US and other developed nations, it’s critical to examine our history and whether those risk factors still apply. Further, it is paramount that we look at the actual statistics involving home birth here in the US. Among low-risk women, planned home births result in low rates of interventions without an increase in adverse outcomes for mothers and babies.

It is becoming common knowledge that the US medicalized birth practices are a factor in the United States’ increasing maternal mortality rates. The only developed country with an increase, the US maternal mortality rate has more than doubled from 1991 to 2014. Earlier this year, Harvard Business Review cited these statistics and more in its piece The Rising U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate Demands Action from Employers and advocated for non-hospital birth options for low-risk pregnancies.

Furthermore, the medical system in the US is the cause of so many deaths that researchers from Johns Hopkins wrote an open letter to the CDC to request that CDC change its record collection criteria to accurately inform the public of this alarming statistic. With medical errors being the 3rd leading cause of death in our country, the hospital hardly seems a sensible environment for a healthy expectant mother to deliver her healthy baby into. On the contrary, the mother and baby would seem at less risk of fatal complications in the safety of their own home, attended to by trained midwives.

Beyond the health and safety of the mother and child, there are many more reasons to deliver at home. In the privacy of her own home, the mother is allowed to labor at her own pace. She can labor in the comfort and quiet of her own bedroom, bathtub or birth tub. While her midwives monitor her and the baby’s vitals throughout, they are unobtrusive and respectful, and they accommodate her timing, not theirs. She is not surrounded by or attached to any machines and monitors, and she is able to move her body freely.

Without intervention or epidural, labor proceeds naturally, as baby and mother coordinate their rhythm and contractions to bring the birth. The midwives do not pressure the mother to take Pitocin to induce labor. She is allowed to proceed as her body and her baby’s body dictates.

Family members or chosen friends are the only other people in the home, quietly and respectfully on-hand to support the laboring mother and whatever she may need at the time. A hushed reverence pervades the scene. And when the baby arrives, he or she is welcomed into the quiet, warm room, surrounded only by loving family, friends and trusted midwives the mother has gotten to know well over the course of her pregnancy.

Newborn baby and mother remain together in the comfort of their bed, while over the next couple of hours the midwives gently monitor, record birth stats and care for the mother (one of my midwives even brought me a plate of scrambled eggs after the birth of our daughter, as she felt I needed the protein). Once they determine all is well, they pack up their oxygen and equipment, hug the new mother, kiss the new baby and go home, only to return the next day and beyond to continue post-partum monitoring and care.

Mother and baby, big brother and father fall asleep in the comfort of their own beds. What a lovely way to welcome this new member of the family. And what a lovely way to come into the world.

Featured post

The Blessings of Home Birth

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

What better entry into the world than the loving sanctuary of one’s family home? The medicalization of birth in the US may account for its alarmingly high infant and maternal mortality rates––so let’s take a closer look when evaluating which environment poses the bigger risk.

Home Birth “veterans” and sisters Anne Mason and Thea Mason examine and discuss.

**NOTE TO VIEWER/LISTENER: Anne read from a few online articles she had printed out right before their chat, but the print outs didn’t display a few things properly, and she guessed at source and date of a couple. The piece she thought was from Harvard Medical Review was actually from Harvard Business Review (link below), and the NPR piece on the Johns Hopkins study was from May 2016 (link below as well.)

We’ve included a few additional links as well, in order to help anyone get started in doing their own research about the risks and benefits of natural home birth vs medicalized hospital births. The transcript to the video can be found below the links:


New Studies Confirm Safety of Home Birth With Midwives in the U.S.

To lower maternal and infant mortality rates, we need more midwives

American Babies Are Less Likely to Survive Their First Year Than Babies in Other Rich Countries

The Rising U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate Demands Action from Employers

Medical Errors Are No. 3 Cause Of U.S Deaths, Researchers Say


TRANSCRIPT BELOW:

Anne:                                         00:01                       Hey Thea.

Thea:                                         00:02                       Hey there, Anne.

Anne:                                         00:05                       So we decided we want to talk about home birth this episode, and it follows on a friend is coming up to having her third child and has decided to do a home birth. And we were talking about it, and given that you had all of your boys at home, your healthy boys at home, and I had both my kids at home, and our mother had our youngest at home, we have some experience with that and thought it related to a lot of the other discussions we’ve had about empowerment, authority, autonomy, self responsibility and more. (That’s A loud, long train horn!)

Thea:                                         01:09                       You know, it all depends on the personality, I think, of the train driver. They vary. Sometimes it’s like “HONNNNNK!”

Anne:                                         01:19                       And what kind of day they’re having! So, just to start out with a couple of thoughts, and we’ll go from there. A lot of times I’ll be in a group of women or be talking to women about birth, and having had a home birth, and those that haven’t had that experience will often say, “Oh, how brave. You’re so brave.” (Wow. That guy is really agro!) So yeah, they’ll say, “Oh, you’re so brave.” And I always say, “No trust me, I think you’re the brave one.” The women who manage to have uncomplicated births without intervention, according to the plan that they had set forth when they came into the hospital––I can’t really even imagine having that experience. How much harder you would be to have had you know, as gentle a birth as birth can be.

Thea:                                         02:30                       Right? Yeah. I mean, as birth is this place of absolutely power and vulnerability at the same time, and to be in a situation that you aren’t even really comfortable or quite relaxed. I can’t even fathom.

Anne:                                         02:52                       I mean, any woman who’s gone through this knows––you’re in a different state of mind.

Thea:                                         03:01                       If you’re allowed to be. And I wonder about that too. I mean, I think, I don’t know, I haven’t done it in the hospital. And I wonder if women who have given birth in hospitals have had varying experiences of being in that altered state. Or not.

Anne:                                         03:18                       Or if they have to always kind of be on in order to say no or to watch what’s going on––I mean, just alone, so, you know obviously complications can happen in any situation, right? But first off most midwives are incredibly experienced at delivering babies, actually delivering them, not C-sections, but actually delivering them. And delivering them in a number of different circumstances. I mean, my son for example, the cord was wrapped around his head as happens In think in like a quarter of births. Right? My midwife who delivered our daughter, helped me deliver our daughter, she worked in the back countries of Amish land, right? She delivered twins, she delivered breech babies. She could do anything, you know? And it was wonderful to be in the hands of someone so beautifully experienced, no matter what came up. And of course, midwives, they bring the oxygen, they have a lot of things at their disposal right here at the house. And they have relationships with doctors at hospitals so that if you need to transfer, you can go there. But. Provided it goes just the normal course, you’re in your own home, you’re in your own bed or bathtub or whatever you choose. You are able to go at your own pace. You don’t have to speed it up or, or either say no constantly to Pitocin or finally accept taking Pitocin to stimulate your contractions in order to get things moving because the hospital won’t allow you to be there for longer than a couple of days, et cetera. Right? So many things. And on top of it, you don’t have to worry about people coming and checking, taking blood, all the things, who knows. I mean, I have no idea what it’s like ’cause I’ve not done it except for having watched documentaries on the difference between those types of births. But you know, you don’t need to be hooked up to machines. You don’t have the constant intrusion of people coming in and out. And more. So it just facilitates the birth experience happening healthily and smoothly.

Thea:                                         05:53                       It does. As so many pieces of literature about the space of birth liken it to love making in a way, too. Because anything that requires a space of settling in, relaxing, letting down, opening up––t’s a very intimate experience. And picturing love making in the hospital, they don’t go so well together, you know. So I think that’s one picture. And another thing that was sparking in my mind while you were laying out those examples is––being a midwife, which is “with woman”, is “with them, is much like being a parent, knowing when to intervene and when to stay back and allow the process to simply occur. And you’re frankly allowing that space to be there. We’re doing that as parents for our children. Sometimes failing, sometimes being right on point. We’re doing that as teachers. Anything that is a guiding post requires that ability to know when to intervene and when to sit back to let the wisdom of the process have its place. And that’s what gets lost in the hospital, right? Because since we have all these things to check, we do. So that’s one part.

Anne:                                         07:31                       Agreed. I remember even as a child being able to hold my youngest sister in my arms before she was even, you know, washed off and like insisting on that. I remember insisting that I wanted to. And mom was on the bean bag in our family room. It was an extraordinarily different experience than she had had with her previous three births with me and our other sister, she had had them in one hospital and had just pretty bad experiences being forced to inducebeing kept away from her child at length and more. I remember then with you, she tried a different hospital hoping that would be better. Not at all. And finally went to the next obvious choice, which was not even legal in the state at the time.

Thea:                                         08:39                       I don’t know if it is yet. It wasn’t even 20 years ago.

Anne:                                         08:42                       Right, where we grew up. Right. So I guess what I’d like to do, I think you had articulated this, maybe you want to say it again about just inverting…

Thea:                                         08:55                       Well I’ve had those conversations with people too who’ve said how courageous to do it at home and my feeling quite the same as you. That, “No.” And then I was thinking that it’s really about taking that image, that picture of what birth is and it’s become inverted. It’s slipped through the wormhole to the other side, you know, the images of what’s courageous, and what’s comforting and safe, you know? And I think that there’s a lot of movement of that, at least in the communities that we live in, of people recognizing that birth needs to be re looked at to be redone, to be safe. And to be non medicalized to give families the best start. You know, I think one of the big parts of it being so medicalized is that it seems to create distance when there should be connection right off the bat, you know? And it’s hard enough. I mean, that’s the part that boggles my mind. It’s hard enough, just the actual physical laboring of it. And then really the weeks after of the care, I mean, it’s amazing what we do.

Anne:                                         10:24                       Well, it’s, I mean, let’s go further. It’s not just, yes, the actual physical laboring, but I’ve never experienced anything like it. Right? And having done it we all, most women I think would agree you get to a point and I guess that that’s around transition, but you get to a point where you cannot imagine going further. It is unbearable. Right? And it’s hard to describe. It’s not a pain like, like a wound. It’s the most unpleasant discomfort I’ve ever had. That goes beyond pain, but it’s not sharp pain.

Thea:                                         11:21                       I would even call it more, I mean, I know we all have our different colorings of it and I think that that’s such an interesting idea we’ve talked about even in another conversation––about what we identify as pain and how we articulate it and how we hold it in our understanding. But it’s more like “unbelievable.” It’s going to a space that is unbelievable. And there is required a complete surrender into what is unbelievable.

Anne:                                         11:54                       Yes, yes. And a courage, I mean, and I, I remember…

Thea:                                         12:02                       Your first birth? I remember it, too.

Anne:                                         12:04                       Well, the first birth you remember because, and I’ll say to the viewer, this is after Thea’s third birth, third home birth, and she has her youngest in a sling having been born seven weeks before. And she’s there in my little apartment, you know, helping me along. And me in my heady way and crazy trippy way that birth sends you into not realizing that I was as close as I was, just somehow thinking that it was just getting, I was just getting more, more pathetically weak and unable to, to deal with it. And I remember you just marveling that I was still talking about it instead of just going into myself. Right? And then the second time Thea got there 15 minutes after the delivery of my daughter. And I remember at the point where my midwife was saying she’s, because of course the midwives arethey’re checking all the time. They’re monitoring the heart rate of the baby, yours, everything. Right? And intimately, and frequently. They’re right there. And she said, “Okay, you know, if they don’t come out,”––we weren’t sure, boy or girl––”they don’t come out in the next one or doesn’t start coming out, we’re going to have you change your position.” And in that moment, and she told me why, because her heart rate was, not coming up as quickly as it should. And I remember thinking, “Okay,” and all I could think of was that scene from Braveheart where Mel Gibson’s character’s be being disemboweled and he shouts “Freedom!” And I think to myself, because it’s based on a true story, I thought to myself, “If somebody could do that and shout ‘Freedom!”, I can do this and I can get her out.” And I did. Right? So it’s like we all go through all these different processes. (Laughter).

Thea:                                         14:25                       (Laughter) Wow!

Anne:                                         14:25                       But doing that, or as we were talking about earlier knowing very deep down that something has to be.You’re in touch with what’s going on there with your child. And I’ve heard so many stories from so many women who have said, whether it’s the doctor or the midwife or anybody saying no, you know, you’re not far, or you’ve still got a while…And the woman is just like, “No, I know they need to come out, and not only do they need to come out, I need to transfer because they need to come out now.” And the mother gets in touch with an instinct in her that she’s never had before. That that puts her authority over her child above all else. And in home birth in, in my experience and mind, really allows that to happen in a much more conducive way, I guess. Pardon me. Than the hospital, medicalized births.

Thea:                                         15:42                       Yeah. A total different framework. Can we pause for one quick second?

Anne:                                         15:50                       Yeah. As I get a drink of water so I don’t hack all over the place. Hold on. Yeah. Okay. So we just got off on a tangent, but I want to point out a couple of things to folks who are looking at this and are interested in the idea of home birth but are concerned about the risks. So this came out this last year or so (NOTE: IT WAS ACTUALLY MAY 2016) ––a study by researchers at Johns Hopkins medicine says medical errors should rank as the third leading cause of death in the United States. And that’s I have a feeling that’s probably even higher, you know, because that’s really what’s, what’s attributed to medical errors. And our experience you know, extensive experience in the hospitals taking care of our parents suggests to me that there are a lot of things, a lot of dots that are not connected where intervention causes more complications that lead to death as well.

Thea:                                         16:52                       And unnecessary interventions and even mis and ill communicated Interventions. So much of it I think is like the whole system is so big that the communication channels are not connected and cohesive and things get missed, or whatever.

Anne:                                         17:13                       Absolutely. It’s become quite dehumanized, you know, and you don’t want to really bring a child into such an dehumanised system to give them a good start, you know? And it’s not to say that there aren’t some hospitals with some really great teams and great departments that really––and I know there’s a movement to revamp that too, and to give women more options of even like water births in hospitals and try to create an environment that’s a little closer to a birth center. So I know that consciousness is there, but you could also just do it at home, you know? So then here’s another I think this was like Harvard Medical Review. (NOTE: IT WAS ACTUALLY HARVARD BUSINESS REVIEW.) I don’t have it printed out where it is, but “Rising US maternal mortality rate demands action from employers,” and it goes in to say “The US maternal mortality rate has more than doubled from 10.3 per 100,000 live births in 1991 to 23.8 in 2014. Over 700 women a year die of complications related to pregnancy each year in the United States. And two thirds of those deaths are preventable. 50,000 women suffer from life threatening complications of pregnancy. A report from the Commonwealth Fund released in December found American women have the greatest risk of dying from pregnancy complications among 11 high income countries.” Wow. And then another one I think this was CBS News. Yeah, and I think this is, let’s see. This was a 2013 story, but “US has highest first day infant mortality out of industrialized world, group reports. About 11,300 newborns die within 24 hours of their birth in the U S each year, 50% more first day deaths than all other industrialized countries combined. I mean…

Anne:                                         19:33                       So, the other thing I want to bring up, and I don’t have all the data in front of me, but if you really, if you look into the history of midwifery and then the involvement ofthe movement toward surgeons getting involved in birth. I mean, because since time immemorial, really women have been…

Thea:                                         20:10                       The carriers of birth. The holders.

Anne:                                         20:13                       Yeah. The midwives have always been women. Until really the last couple hundred years. I imagine, I mean, it seemed like an easy gig. Right? And, you know, and they’re also, there’s good intention behind it too, because there were complications and there were complications for lots of reasons that don’t actually apply anymore.

Thea:                                         20:38                       Sanitation, cleanliness, poverty.

Anne:                                         20:39                       Absolutely. Not to mention––okay. Well then, then let’s get into this. So it’s like a little known tidbit that should be discussed a lot more in our history books when we’re looking at childbirth infant mortality infectious disease and more. But there was an epidemic of puerperal fever1700’s and on through the 1800s and the advent and during the real explosion of the industrialized revolution where surgeons were not washing their hands. And there was this, you know, it was like a progressive idea that washing hands is helpful in the medical field. There seemed to be a resistance to washing one’s hands. And so you would have the doctors, the surgeons leaving the corpse and death and going straight over to deliver babies. And that resulted in this huge epidemic of maternal mortality. It was this epidemic of puerperal fever. And that really didn’t start changing on an institutionalized level until the forties, the 1940s, where that became implemented as a rule that you have to wash your hands before helping deliver a baby. So it’s the implications of that are staggering. And it’s its own conversation or book really where you have to consider how that impacted the society, the societal fabric. You had hundreds of thousands of women dying in childbirth. So you had this staggering number of orphans resulting from that right around the time of the industrial revolution, which led to, you know, families without mothers child labor…

Thea:                                         23:07                       The misery of a time. The children. Yeah. That’s amazing.

Anne:                                         23:11                       Oh my God. When the women aren’t around to manage things on a whole, widespread level. So you had that and, and what was the other thing we were talking about? We’re just talking about like even just the birth practices of you know, the earlier part of last century, I mean, Twilight, chloroform, forceps, all those interventions…

Thea:                                         23:42                       Vacuum.

Anne:                                         23:42                       They look at that now and they realize how many deaths and complications that caused. Right? So I think that if anyone is remotely interested in the empowering and healthy experience of delivering your child at home, I would recommend, you know, a cursory examination of the real history of that. And why we have gotten so afraid of childbirth’s dangers and what those dangers really are now and how those factors can be controlled or what of those factors even apply anymore.

Thea:                                         24:31                       Right. And, and what it would mean, really in a vast way, if as large portions of our communities started to really bring it back to the home space, what would that do to our communities in a broad and far seeing line? What ways would that change our initial bonding with our children and therefore our relationship and dynamics of parenting? I mean the relationship aspect goes on and on and on and trickles. If we can minimize those pivotal, intrinsic to who we become and what we work with traumas, as we come into the world. Because we all have our traumas to work through. And if in this basic, deep realm of entering the earth, if there’s love and warmth and safety filling us and feeding us as the parent and as the baby coming in, what would that do to our world? As opposed to the fear and tension and separation we experience.

Anne:                                         25:45                       Absolutely. And traumas. I mean, just the interventions that are practiced as routine in the US birth practicesis traumatic. On first day of life, second day of life, you know. Just iimagine what it could be like for a human being to enter this realm and be laying there in one’s mother’s arms, in the warm and dimly lit room, quiet, surrounded only by loving family and friends.

Thea:                                         26:42                       Reverent.

Anne:                                         26:42                       Loving midwives. Because by the way, for anyone also wondering, the midwife always brings an assist, another midwife, they assist each other. There’s always two of them. What a difference would that make to our world if that’s how we all came into the world, right? So, so think about that. You know, we’re, we’re up on time. Maybe we’ll talk more about this.

Thea:                                         27:10                       Yeah, there are so many angles and, and colorings of this dialogue that really play out into all of the things we think about. Really.

Anne:                                         27:20                       It reverberates, right? So, hey, so if you want to give your child the right start? Let’s start at birth. Let’s start at birth.

Thea:                                         27:33                       Yeah, let’s start at birth. Thanks. Great. Talk to you later.

Anne:                                         27:38                       See you later. Okay. Let me end this again.

Featured post

Joyful Union of Work and Play

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

We can find play––and joy––in work. And the chores we give our children can develop a capacity to approach work with the fullness of being.

Sisters Anne Mason and Thea Mason examine and discuss.

Transcript below:

Anne:                                         00:00                       Okay. All right. Here we are. Take 17.

Thea:                                         00:06                       Hi, Anne!

Anne:                                         00:09                       Hi, Thea. Okay. So if I can just get my words together. So we’re going to talk today, a kind of continuation on last week’s where we were talking about the importance of children’s chores––and how necessary it is for children to participate in the family’s survival, operation and more and how that very much aids in their development, their sense of purpose self-esteem and wards off feelings of depression and angst. So, so we decided, you know, it was not a really long conversation and we thought we would continue on with maybe identifying some concrete examples of the types of chores and tasks that we can assign to our children, but specifically…

Thea:                                         01:09                       Sorry, I need to just speak to my child…

Anne:                                         01:10                       Okay. Let me, let me pause it for one second.

Thea:                                         01:14                       Okay. Sorry. All right. Please don’t eat that, which is dinner right there…

Anne:                                         01:21                       Okay. So we’re recording again. So part of what we hit on was the fact that it seems, and from our perspective perhaps as women, but it seems that the world that we live in, the modern world here in the States––I live in the suburbs, you live in a small city––does not provide as many natural opportunities and tasks for masculine activities. In the same way it does female activities. And by that we’re talking about, you know, the difference in––certainly between people and different temperaments, but also between girls and boys. Girls, you know, the type of household chores we have all the time. There’s never, never in short supply––doing the dishes, sweeping the floor, vacuuming, tidying, making things pretty. Even some of the yard work seems to resonate perhaps, maybe more with my daughter than it does my son. And when I was stretching to figure out, well, what is it that, that my son really resonates with? It’s chopping wood. It’s, it’s getting the firewood to build, building a fire. Though my daughter is pretty pro at that too. It’s, it’s digging. I remember, you know, how he really got into helping my husband taking apart the deck to then repurpose the wood. And fixing things. And it then led me to thinking about, well this house that we built in our backyard, I wrote about this in an article I just wrote about for his third grade year, Waldorf curriculum is building your own shelter. And we built a six by six by six by six foot A-frame wooden house in our backyard.

Anne:                                         03:37                       Something I never imagined I had the capacity to do, and we did it mainly without power tools except when we really needed my husband’s help here and there. Right? And that was extraordinary. And so one of the things I wanted to, to share was this book, a couple of these books that the Christopherus Curriculum––Donna Simmons writes, does this extraordinary curriculum, Waldorf curriculum that’s designed for homeschoolers, multi-age homeschoolers. And she had recommended Lester Walker’s Housebuilding for Children, written in like 1977 or something. And Lester Walker’s Carpentry for Children, you know, it was around the same era. And we followed these his plans in here. And I mean, this is, you know, that’s the house we basically, we built and it just, it goes through showing, you know, building the walls putting the roof in.

Anne:                                         04:47                       And there’s so much, obviously that’s incorporated into that, you know, just from a homeschooler’s perspective––algebra, geometry and more. Right? But anyways, so we had wanted to come up with a prescription for the boys more specifically because it didn’t seem as apparent in this, in this urbanized world that we’re living in. And I thought back to another project that my son had done with my husband, which was a bookshelf. I needed a bookshelf, and I needed one fast. And I’m particular about what will fit in the house. Not that my taste is so high end, but it’s just, you know, I just needed a, a particular kind of height and a compactness for the space. And they took these two old dressers, wooden dressers, and repurposed them and reconfigured them and then built some shelves into it and built a bookshelf. And how wonderful that is. I mean, I walk by it every day, several times a day. My son sees this useful manifestation of his creative force..

Thea:                                         06:07                       Will forces.

Anne:                                         06:10                       Yeah. And that I needed, that he provided. And so that was the suggestion I wanted to give anyone listening and who’s been thinking about this themselves. You know, no matter how small an apartment one has, how no or little yard or back deck, patio or whatever someone has, you can build a bookshelf. You can build a small bookshelf in that. You can build a small table, you can build a spice rack, you can build a cabinet and that is so terribly satisfying, and there’s so much learning going on in so many levels when that’s happening. But I think that that, that kind of task is something that is important to give to your son. Or daughter. I mean, I am so pleased that I, know the basics of building a house now from building this house. I feel so competent. I do as a almost 49 year old having learned this just a couple of years ago. And this is following on our father who was not so inclined that way. And you know, I mean his version of a shed, I mean, we loved him so dearly and he was so great at so many things, but not this.

Thea:                                         07:41                       But he did make the effort, which…

Anne:                                         07:44                       Well, he made the effort, which may not have been the greatest example because his version of the shed, I don’t know if you remember, but was like basically buying a few pieces of plywood and leaning it kind of up against the back wall of the garage, nailing it together and slapping some paint on it. It was a shelter, but I think that kind of thing was left with me and I probably didn’t feel all that competent in my abilities to do something as well as we did these couple years ago with just some good plans. Right? So I highly recommend Lester Walker’s books. Again,  Carpentry for Children, Housebuilding for Children, they’re used books. I can’t find books like this anymore. This, this was written back in the 70s when kids had more time. And time to fill up with purposeful activities like this.

Thea:                                         08:54                       With their own problem solving and skill building, yeah. So with those ideas, I think we can also just weave into that cause I think there’s a lot of room for those sort of projects if we are willing to take the time to fill out the little spaces in our life where it might be a different habit than what would be convenient to get this thing that you need for something, but to them slow down and allow an opportunity for your child or children to make that which you need out of maybe something you already have around or you know, repurposed things or getting the materials. So it’s just a slower pace to give those opportunities to our children, I think. Is another window to look through regarding that topic.

Anne:                                         09:49                       Yeah. I absolutely agree, which makes me of course, think about even the slower pace of growing our own food. Right? Whether you’re doing it in a window box garden or a small garden bed or a community garden or your own backyard, that has been infinitely rewarding for me in understanding many layers I think of just even this existence and making connections. I mean, it strikes me that now that we don’t have a lot of people growing their own food and I know there’s a movement back towards that, but we lose touch with just the process and just the process of life and the miracle of life. Just the fact of taking the seed and planting it in the ground and watering it and with the sun and the nutrients in the soil.

Thea:                                         10:59                       And caring for it, nurturing it too, or allowing it to have its time to do its own. I mean all the analogies for life are in…Isn’t that Thoreau? The seed? What is the quote? I can’t think of…whatever. Life, eternity in a… I’m mixing things up.

Anne:                                         11:26                       But yes, that is. I mean, the miracle of life. I mean, it’s occurred to me, it’s not just that, but health and wellness. You know, a farmer understands that the soil is critical to the health of the plant and that without amending the soil and nourishing the soil over and over again, there’s nothing for that plant. No matter what you do to it, it’s not going to thrive. And so, you know, so gardening alone, yes, brings so many understandings essential understandings back to us, right? A spice garden even, right? Just a tiny little one. Yeah. Or like you said, or the process of building the small table, a small bookshelf. To know what goes into that Is, you know, all, all that is of value in that is hard to even put in a language. And you know, when we’re so used to a world where you can get online and order it with a button now and it’s delivered to your door in two days.

Thea:                                         12:43                       Well there’s something too, just that picture of taking, you know, what’s in your hand and scanning over it. Like you run by it and you don’t really notice it. And then when we slow down a little bit and we stand in that space of––what’s in your hand and you just start to see all that it is, where did the wood that you’re using grow, what was the, you know, what was the journey of that which you’re holding to become that which you’re holding? And that’s, you know, that’s not so much the pace of the world around us. So it’s the real choice to come into that, to slow down, to have appreciation for that, the becoming of each thing that has become, or is becoming.

Anne:                                         13:35                       Absolutely. if we don’t stay in touch with that, we lose touch with everything. I mean, as you’re, as you’re talking, I kind of feel like maybe all this seems like a given intellectually, but I can attest to having been transformed by putting it into practice. You know, I grew up very heady and abstract, you know, and unlike you, I didn’t, I never knitted or cared at all to do macrame or handwork or crochet, or anything like that.

Thea:                                         14:13                       I remember. I know. I’ve watched you go through all of these things.

New Speaker:                      14:19                       And I was forced to by my own choice to homeschool my children using a Waldorf curriculum, which appealed to me for a variety of reasons that resonated very deeply in me, but you know, all of that I kind of dreaded really. And as I have come to each one of those subjects or new learnings, it’s been remarkable how, I mean, I say this, I can’t say it enough. It’s like exponentially transformed me. It has––my spirit, my being, my senses, my awarenesses, my connections have woken up like exponentially, right? Just in knitting, learning to knit. And understanding what goes into then everything that I have that’s knit/knitted. Understanding, as basic as this sounds, but I mean, making yarn, you know, learning to make yarn, the wool that comes from the sheep and beyond, beyond, beyond. Right? But we’re such a society and culture here of immediate ready-made consumption that, you know, the true prescription, I think for reconnection fulfillment, reward that is all here in front of us to appreciate is to get back down to those basics. And not just for a weekend camping, but to start to incorporate that into our lives and recognize how critical that is in order to keep us whole.

Thea:                                         16:21                       And tethered to that force of creation, really. To not be adrift and lost in the darkness.

Anne:                                         16:31                       Yes, yes. Especially for those times of challenge and struggle. Yeah, that aids me, that has aided me in how I have gotten through challenging times in my life, having gone back to those basics and exercised so much more of me, myself. It’s all very hard to quantify and talk about. It’s not tangible. Right?

Thea:                                         17:00                       I don’t know. I mean, I wonder about the tangibility, but I think it’s also, there’s something in there that is the reminder that we are creators ourselves and so that is remembered and recalled and exercised––it is then recognized through all of the weavings of what’s around us.

Anne:                                         17:25                       When it’s exercised on a daily basis. Right? And so, so that brings us back to this with the children’s chores and children’s work and children’s tasks. Our own chores and tasks, our own, as you brought up in the last one, cooking our own food and not going and buying it made or made and ready to heat up. There is so much that we have lost in embracing that sort of convenience.

Thea:                                         18:00                       Yeah. I mean it goes into every facet, really, of what’s necessary for us to live. You know, we think about the way we’ve––I mean this could be a quite the discussion just going from being such community people, you know, where you washed the clothes at the creek or where you, you know, harvest the food or the water, all of these things that our culture is so removed from. And I think what part of that has done––and we were touching upon this for a moment before we started this conversation––those things that are, and there is, there can be drudgery in those monotonous necessities. We know this. And there can also be a lot of joy and camaraderie and space to daydream, space to create ideas. And I think that in that there’s somewhere that the joy of work and that work is play in a certain way that those are two sides of the same coin I think essentially. But we have pretty successfully in our culture seemed to separate them in so many views when I look. That work is something separate than play, and work is to be something that we minimize and want less of so that we can have our relaxation or recreation. But really, if we have the time to come into our work in such a way with our fullness of being, there’s joy there. And within that comes that element of play, which is what allows us to be human, really, and to relate to others. I mean, you know, I work, I work five days a week outside of my home and so I, every week I sort of think, gosh, there would be a better rhythm if I didn’t have to go out to work five days a week, but did four, so that when I’m doing my home work, my housework, I have the space and time to fill that capacity with more joy. To do these tasks with more joy because there’s a little more time to fill them out.

Anne:                                         20:40                       There’s more room, right?

Thea:                                         20:41                       More room, because you know everything is about balance. I love my work that I go to, but I need to balance that with the work that’s essential for just maintenance of life. And it’s always trying to find how to live into the, the work of life with joy, you know? And so that’s what we want to be able to give our children experiences of. That work can be joyful, playful, all of those things. We want them to exercise it and create avenues for those experiences to be there for them to step into those capacities as they come into different challenges and workspaces of life.

Anne:                                         21:24                       Yes. And to have that experience that even in a a task that might seem even drudgery there is in that there is discovery to be had. So to have the experience of discovery, which becomes joyful and leads to the next. And so it keeps us always sparked. It can help keep us sparked, inspired and interested in just everyday living, if we’re allowed to see it through that way. Right? And merge, as you’re saying––and I’d like to discuss, maybe examine this more in the next one, but––work and play as you said, it’s kind of two sides to the same coin. Rather than being so separate, where one is resisted and the other so indulged in.

Thea:                                         22:19                       And then the other thing I had the thought to share, you know, especially for our children and these ideas, if people are working to exercise to find new spaces to give their children these experiences or spaces for these experiences or activities. They’re not always going to be like, “Sweet, thanks!” You know, that’s our job just to hold the line and continue to invite someone to pick up this new way of being. This new way to find meaning and purpose in what is needed in a house.

Anne:                                         23:08                       Yeah. And what I will say, and I, I don’t know how much time, I think we’re pretty far over. I didn’t watch when we started. But a key I think to it is doing it a little bit alongside at first. That really gets a momentum going and then you can kind of leave them to go at it once they’re engaged and involved, so.

Thea:                                         23:30                       So there’s more to discuss here. I mean, it’s a pretty broad and deep idea, I think, that continues to deepen the further we follow it and its ramifications. What we see in the world and what we’re looking to see developed more of. So thank you, Anne.

Anne:                                         23:55                       Thank you. All right, well ’til next time. Hang on a second.

Featured post

Purpose and Children’s Chores

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

When children are responsible for essential family chores and necessary home and yard maintenance, they maintain a critical focus on their contribution and significance to the whole––and a general sense of purpose which is a necessary antidote to feelings of angst and depression.

Sisters Anne Mason and Thea Mason examine and discuss.

Transcript below:

Anne:                                         00:01                       Hello, Thea.

Thea:                                         00:04                       Hello, Anne.

Anne:                                         00:06                       So today, let’s talk about being purposeful. It follows a little bit on our last conversation about even what makes us feel attractive or what makes us attracted to someone else. And purposefulness was a large part of that. And it also relates to a lot of other things we’ve been observing through our work and experience in life, parenting. We’ve been observing an alarming rate of depression and anxiety, lack of focus in children, in extraordinarily young children who you wouldn’t be expecting that of quite yet––in those typical like angsty teenage years. When children much younger than that are demonstrating symptoms and signs of depression, we need to explore that and address that in a way that we haven’t been doing obviously very successfully in this culture. Right? And you identified the lack, it seems, at least in the communities that we are surrounded by. Granted it’s coastal California. There’s a privilege of wealth in the areas that we live in. So I think that clouds or colors the landscape. But we’re noticing that children are not given, they’re not used to a lot of the similar day to day chores, meaningful, purposeful, necessary tasks that we grew up with. Right?

Thea:                                         02:10                       Right. And actually, and this might be a quick segue, but it’s something else that just popped into my head a little bit. Because as you were talking about that I was picturing our childhood, and while we had work, household work, I feel like, so a lot of our work actually was taken into sport quite young and a lot of our time was put there. And so that’s another coloring of this conversation, I think of the, the hijacking of meaningful work. Now that’s not me saying sport is bad, but there’s a lack of balance. And that ties into earlier conversations we’ve had where we talked about the difference of sport and play a little bit. And then when that play is hijacked right into sport, some other development doesn’t occur. And then the sport takes on a deeper meaning then truly it should have. And sense of self worth––as you were speaking about those stages of depression that come earlier and earlier and then when there’s a little bit more of that nuance of the angsty years where young people are learning how to deal with all of these senses of being, these powers and forces of becoming a young adult, when those don’t have a channel to be directed toward, they become self destructive and socially destructive forces, you know, in their circles of friends. And so that ties into, when there’s not the sense of meaningful capable purpose and work and the capacity to meet those things, we get depressed. People get depressed, and they can become ugly and lash out at others when they’re feeling small themselves. Right?

Anne:                                         04:11                       Yeah. You’re sparking some thoughts in me, ’cause we hadn’t even talked about this in tying in the sports, but it hadn’t even occurred to me. Yes. You know, I’m always saying, “Oh, back in our day, back in our day when I had to wash the dishes every day and clean up or shovel the snow or mow the lawn” or all of those things that I don’t see a lot of kids doing these days––we also though, what I should say for anyone viewing is that, we were a big tennis family, so we all played tennis. It was a bit fanatical. We attribute our parents’ divorce to tennis. And it became our job. And I, and I’m now kind of remembering, I’m thinking back to the fact that, so our father, a second generation immigrant––athletics and sports was very important to them. I think because of the discipline that it practiced, and obviously, there’s a joy and a pleasure in aspiring and honing that excellence that was manifest––like our uncle who was drafted by the Bulls. Right? But they had a balance back then. They certainly didn’t live in this age of technology and hyper developed world and structure, which scheduled kids almost every minute of their day. So that, that sport and that discipline and that activity, that was a respite from some of the chores and hardships, necessary hardships of everyday life. Right? And so then they––our baby boomer parents––brought that to our generation. “Sports! It’s toward scholarships. It develops, you know, rounds you out, keeps you fit. Good values, psychological discipline and all.” Which I admit it gave me, I think it helped me with. And opened up opportunities for me. But that was even too emphasized probably back then, you know, amidst also all of the dance classes and music lessons and voice lessons and, tutoring and school and….And, and, and, and.

Anne:                                         07:10                       And I remember now that I think about it feeling––I mean it kind of cultivates a bit of a narcissism too. It’s just, sure, Oh, you know, yes, lifting our children up is something we want to do but not in such an extreme way which puts all the focus of the family on them and how well they do in their match. Pulling me out of school for tennis lessons. Or I remember I am sure you remember well, yeah, I can say this now, I remember getting into a car accident and I won’t give all the details, but it was a really not a great situation for many reasons, but it was right in the middle of an important tournament, which I was doing well in and I didn’t really have any concern that there would be a problem about it because that was paramount. I was doing well in the tennis tournament and all that other stuff got it washed away. So I really just digressed there, but it does make me realize that it’s not just our generation, it’s, it’s what’s built on the other generation from what they took from their generation. And it’s gotten distorted.

Thea:                                         08:40                       Completely. And it seems that, I mean, and maybe it’s just in the circles I’m living in, that there is, a slow, steady waking up to the lack of balance in that scenario. That this idea, “That’s how my kid’s going to go to college,” is, you know, maybe that works for some people that they start this sport, they pursue it, they get a scholarship. Maybe those children actually continue playing or participating in whatever that sport is. More often than not, those children are burnt out by age 14. Right when it would be a good time for them to be picking up that sport, because they started so young. And then they quit, and that’s the moment they need that channel and that focus to hone. But people are realizing it’s not so successful. I mean college, that’s a whole other conversation about the distortion of all of that and…

Anne:                                         09:44                       Of the importance, the importance of college now, or the relevance of college in this rapidly changing world, given how much it costs, it’s no longer the answer, right? To the predictable paths of adulthood and profession.

Thea:                                         10:03                       Right. I mean because young people come into the world with $50,000 of debt. Or more.

Anne:                                         10:08                       50? 200! Yeah, exactly. So yes, I agree. And you in your Waldorf circle are more in touch with a lot of folks that are aware of that. And, so shifting course, reversing course, embracing a new course that hopefully rounds that impulse in our world out. And me having come to Waldorf as well, as a homeschooler, differently I recognize that too, recognize that more given my own experience. I mean, I was adamant about not letting my kid join sports teams or get involved in any outside, those types of extracurricular classes, whatever––structured, formalized organized sports, dance, all of that––too early because we did it so young that I burnt out by the time I really could have used it much more significantly at the time in my life, you know? So, yeah. You know, I mean it’s not just Waldorf education, it’s, it’s all of the alternative pedagogies. It’s also the increasing understanding and study into the importance of play in education. And how far we’ve gone away from that and how we’re trying to move back there slowly, slowly, slowly.

Thea:                                         11:55                       Well, how much is really happening when we play as children and, and how much is stolen from the development of the human being when those opportunities are lost, or robbed essentially of that time.

Anne:                                         12:11                       Yeah, short shortchanged, I guess.

Thea:                                         12:12                       So then, I don’t know if this is too much, but then ’cause what had inspired this conversation was really––so play is purposeful work at certain stages of the development of the child and the human being, really. And then and then we’re talking about what other purposeful work is there. And we do recognize we’re in one little bubble of a view into the world in coastal California. But you know, where we grew up, we did, we have to shovel the walk or shovel the driveway or whatever. You know, picking up sticks, I remember, just before mowing the lawn or whatever, all these things, which mowing the lawn, I didn’t go there, but raking leaves also. But––So what do these young people have today? And I was sharing that and it’s not quite formed yet still, so maybe something will get clearer––I feel like as a female, and maybe it’s simply because I am one––that there are still more tasks, household tasks that bring me a sense of real satisfaction. Because I, I enjoy the homemaking. I don’t see my sons enjoy homemaking quite as much as I do or even did as a young person.

Anne:                                         13:35                       Yeah, I have a girl and a boy. And the difference is so marked in terms of how they come to it or resist it. You know, so yes, go ahead.

Thea:                                         13:51                       So, so just thinking––and I know the way my life is, I don’t have opportunities for my kids. I’m not living on a farm, so I don’t have this like more physical work accessible to them. So it’s a real task as a parent in a place where I live to find this. And that’s what sport kind of gives an echo of, right? Of meaningful work in our culture. But outside of that, what work do they get to do that we can’t live without? What do they get to participate in that helps the family, that is essential, maybe, hopefully, kind of boring so that they have the time and space to develop a rich interior world.

Anne:                                         14:36                       Or not boring, but monotonous, perhaps. And you just made me realize city living is emasculating.

Thea:                                         14:54                       Totally! So that’s what we’re talking about today. Get to the country.

Anne:                                         15:00                       But there’s quite a push toward the city living and we could go down a lot of rabbit holes there. So what do we do? What’s, what is the prescription? Okay. I mean, let’s first identify the fact that we had also talked about this a little bit too, you know, as a homeschooler and someone actively involved in my homeschool group I recognize that boys earlier on are the ones who come to us and then the girls a bit later, because school is not really suited or designed for a boy.

Thea:                                         15:44                       The energy that is moving and coursing through the boy. And sometimes the girls. I was kind of one of those girls in a way too. Like needed to move a lot.

Anne:                                         15:54                       Yeah. You, you are. Right. Movement teacher and spacial dynamics person that you are––yoga and dance and…so yes, so school with its abstract, very sitting still, obedient––however way you cut it there’s an element of people pleasing obedience because of that framework of school, no matter how great the school is. It’s not that suited for boys. And increasingly with the, what? 20 minutes of recess and all of that, it’s so much less. So we need to recognize that. And in small steps individually, now, what we need to recognize is that for a boy to become a man, he needs to be able to do traditionally male things. And I don’t care who I offend saying that! I mean, there is a relevance to the traditional roles, or the traditional paths.

Thea:                                         17:05                       I mean, I think you could easily say the more masculine activities without it being offensive, because I know for me––and I get to watch at school, so at recess, which we have more than 20 minutes, all in all, we have like an hour, a day of recess. But that’s not the only movement our kids get. But I see, so let’s take third grade, fourth grade, second grade, the boys, they’re building, they’re finding wood and they’re building shelters. That’s their recess. Most often. The girls are now residing in the shelter, and they’re organizing it and they’re bringing little plants and making it lovely and sweet. And then the boys want to come in the house and the girls are like, “No, you mess it up.” And they’re like, “You can be the dog sleeping by the fire.” This is something that really happened and it’s, and it’s so perfect. “You Have too much energy. Unless you’re a resting, boy, you’re not in my house right now.”

Anne:                                         18:17                       Right! And she’s calling the shots. I mean, it’s certainly no diminishment of the female role in her realm, in our realm, right?

Thea:                                         18:25                       And there is a really natural acknowledgement. I mean, and there are some girls that are doing the building, not to say there aren’t, and I’m trying to think of any boys in the house. I can’t think of any right now, you know, currently. But, and I remember being that as, as a kid, even when we played in our, on our street, which wasn’t quite a neighborhood, but it was just a little more country and one of our sisters was much more into, “I’ll build this.” And I was definitely more in, “And I’ll make it pretty!” You know? “I’ll do that part.” So different needs in there to be satisfied.

Anne:                                         19:10                       Yeah. While I managed it. But anyway…

Thea:                                         19:14                       Precisely!

Anne:                                         19:18                       Or not. So, okay, so we’re at 20 minutes. We’ve identified some stuff. Let’s, let’s, let’s come up with a bit of a prescription for a couple of minutes.

Thea:                                         19:30                       I don’t know if this is a prescription, so my apologies again if it’s not that. But I think one of the other threads I just don’t want to forget was really the question of how is time spent? That portion of what makes things purposeful in our life. That is so out of balance. You know, our lives are out of balance and so what––it is! It’s prescription! Look at that. Boom! So it comes in as to these little moments that we get to choose. Do we make this work to survive meaningful? And do we get to put some of our creative forces towards that meaningful work? And that’s simply…food preparation. Do we buy prepackaged things or do we cook? Do we take the time to cook real food? Do we, you know self care products? Do we buy our oils for our face or our creams, or do we make them? And do our children get to be a part of those things––that we then take the time to make those things.

Anne:                                         20:35                       Okay. Absolutely. But what I’ll say is that doesn’t address the boys as much as I think we’d like to. So how about this? I was telling you that we––my husband mainly––chopped a huge tree down in our backyard. Right? And interestingly different people that we were talking about doing this before–– he was trying to get some advice or just discussing––couldn’t quite conceive that he wouldn’t hire that work out. Right? And he ended up doing it and he, it was a challenge. Because it’s a very big tree and it wasn’t too far from our house. And you know, it was like climbing, cutting a few branches here and there so he could still have a ladder to climb on, with the chainsaw, but didn’t want to use the chainsaw really that high up in case it slips. So using, you know, a manual saw. And then it ended with the family with the rope all pulling it down after he had gotten it short enough, it wasn’t going to ruin our house. “Timber!” Right? And then the kids helping chop, stack wood. Right? My daughter my son definitely, he thrived in that. Right? My daughter helped as well. But you know, we have different interests, you know, that that was I think more satisfying perhaps to, to my son. So what about just making conscious choices as, as ludicrously privileged as this sounds? So I, it’s grossing me out to even say this, but you know, things that we would normally hire someone else to do for us that we’ve never done before that do fall under that realm of like building and physical labor…

Thea:                                         22:33                       And fixing and taking apart and putting back together.

Anne:                                         22:36                       Fixing the toilet fixing the faucet. Painting the front door. The fence. Tom Sawyer. Huck Finn. What about making small conscious choices, even though it’s not as efficient, perhaps, maybe you can justify the money because of the time it’s going to save, you don’t have to manage your kid, all of that. Let’s start giving our kids more of those meaningful tasks to do. And see what happens and what comes from that. Yes?

Thea:                                         23:15                       That’s an idea. I mean, because we want to be able to help our children and help ourselves become more capable to meet what comes, whatever that is. So we need the opportunities to, to fail, you know, to, to practice the things that we’re doing. And build the muscles.

Anne:                                         23:35                       We also need to recognize, I mean, I, I’ve heard this argument before that, “Well, you know, the world is turning, you know, basically everyone’s becoming coders,” right? I mean, “the world’s all computerized, technology robotics. Why fight it you know, if you’re going to succeed, I mean, put your energies there.” Well, I don’t think that that is a healthy approach to helping children develop. I don’t think that we should reject that awareness of where the world is and exposure to that at the appropriate times and cultivating those skills. But if we just move in that direction only and put all of our efforts in that abstract video game, whatever, learning we are certainly very weakened. Another aspect of us is weakened. And if that whole framework isn’t there suddenly or wherever you go in the world or whatever, you know, your competence is greatly compromised. So let’s work toward, no matter where we think the world is going, still exercising all aspects of our human beingness––physical and mental, emotional and spiritual. So you know that, that’s the general prescription. Let’s determine to make this, continue this, the next one. Part two of it.

Thea:                                         25:14                       Yeah. There’s more avenues to go down. We’re just getting it started. So thanks for touching in. It’s just something that’s been on my mind, definitely lately. And looking around. So thanks.

Anne:                                         25:26                       Yep. You too.

Thea:                                         25:28                       Have a good one.

Anne:                                         25:29                       You too. Hold on and let me figure out how to press these buttons. Let’s see. Stop.

Featured post

Why Wouldn’t We Homeschool?

by Anne Mason

My homeschooled kids and their friend on a Tuesday afternoon.

I help run our county’s homeschool group, and I field new member requests. Parents come to us for myriad reasons. They’ve always been curious about homeschooling, but don’t feel confident enough in their teaching abilities to educate their children. Their son or daughter is being bullied at school. Their child is bored, doesn’t seem to fit, isn’t succeeding in the conventional school system. They notice a marked difference between their child’s confidence and happiness during the summer and the school year––some children plead with their parents to let them stay home from day to day. Children who have heard of homeschooling beg their parents to let them try it.

I often speak with these parents on the phone or invite them to attend new member park days where they have a chance to speak with seasoned homeschooling parents. We explain all the avenues and how much easier it is to do than they’ve imagined. As Rahima Baldwin Dancy puts it in the title of her book–– You Are Your Child’s First Teacher. And therefore, you are certainly equipped to teach your child.

The US didn’t even make it into the top 20 countries in math, reading and science PISA rankings, and I live in California, which ranks 37th in primary education scores among the states. So, one of the first things I point out to parents intimidated by the seemingly daunting responsibility of teaching their children: You really can’t do much worse than the education system is already doing, so take the pressure off yourself to begin with. Second, you’ll almost certainly do a far better job of helping your children hold onto their curiosity, develop their critical thinking skills, get more sleep, feel less stressed and actually enjoy learning. Third, in this Age of Information, every type of curriculum imaginable is available to assist our efforts. You do not have to hold a degree in mathematics in order to teach your children about long division, algebra, geometry and the like. Just as teachers in the conventional school system are provided with teaching guides and answer keys, so will you be. In addition, “out-of-school” learning programs and enrichment classes are increasingly available to homeschoolers who want to supplement their own teaching. And finally, human beings are natural learners, provided we don’t mess that extraordinary capacity up!

As teacher, author and speaker John Taylor Gatto articulated in his New York Teacher of the Year Award acceptance speech, ”How will they learn to read?’ you say, and my answer is ‘Remember the lessons of Massachusetts.’ When children are given whole lives instead of age-graded ones in cellblocks––they learn to read, write, and do arithmetic with ease if those things make sense in the kind of life that unfolds around them.”

I highly recommend any of John Taylor Gatto’s books or videos in which he explains the contradictions between learning and our educational system, and where he lays out the history of compulsory schooling here in the US––which is based on the Prussian model of education in which the goal was obedience and compliance––and what he identified as the “6 Secret Lessons Taught in School“:

  • Confusion and Fragmentation
  • Class Position
  • Indifference
  • Emotional and Intellectual Dependency
  • Provisional Self-Esteem
  • Surveillance and Denial of Privacy

Even in well intended, alternative, progressive schools, our primary educational system cannot provide children as rich a learning environment as they can find outside it. Homeschooled children are regularly involved in the world among folks of different ages and generations, encountering the infinite puzzles, problems and opportunities they find in day-to-day living––with the freedom to pursue and build upon their individual interests and passions. The classroom is a contrivance––an artificial, abstract environment which does not resemble the actual world we live in, and which demands children learn designated material at a designated time in a designated time frame in a designated manner.

A theme throughout Gatto’s books and lectures is that children learn easily when they are engaged and interested––and that they/we can learn in weeks what schools take months or years to teach. Timing also plays a huge role in how well children learn. I use a Waldorf curriculum to homeschool my children, and Waldorf education recognizes that sooner is not always better. This excellent article “First Grade Readiness” by Waldorf teacher and curriculum author Donna Simmons demonstrates this point. Her Christopherus Homeschool curriculum has been a joy to use, and her website has been a wealth of resource for us.

I was raised by liberal academics. My mother had a Masters in Education, and my father’s PhD was in the Philosophy of Education. They were both very heady individuals, and my feminist mother deliberately did not teach my sisters and me how to sew, knit, cook––or any of those traditional female skills, as I suppose she and my father felt they were liberating us from what they perceived could be a prison. If we didn’t even know how to do it, there’s no way we’d be “relegated” to housewives. And they sent each of us to a Montessori school until age 11, a pedagogy with a heavy emphasis on math, science and language, and very little on art, handwork or music.

Art, music, handwork, nature, baking, dance, story telling and more are incorporated very holistically into Waldorf education, so you can imagine what a learning curve it was for me to adopt such a curriculum to homeschool my children. And what a joy it has been! What a journey of personal development it has been! And how fun it has been to learn alongside my children in so many ways! When I am learning something, I am curious about it, excited about it, and that translates to the excitement I have in introducing these concepts to my children as well.

This week, we’ve been reading the epic tale The Mahabharata for my son’s 5th grade Ancient India block, and last year, I re-familiarized myself with pre-algebra to keep up with his math progress. Whether it’s history, mathematical concepts, music, literature or anything else, I am confident that I can learn as well as my kids can, and that while I add another skill set or subject to my repertoire, I can help my kids learn it, too. It enriches our lives, and it makes the whole experience of education and learning fun when the whole family is involved. It also keeps us all very connected to each other and with what’s going on in each other’s lives.

Check out the mini A-Frame house my kids and I (with my husband’s help) built in our backyard for my son’s 3rd grade Waldorf Curriculum.

Some folks are intimidated by the time and energy commitment of homeschooling. As my good friend and prominent homeschool advocate Julie Schiffman points out, “When people say to me that they could never homeschool because it’s ‘too much work,’ I respond with, ‘Do you realize how much work it takes to have a kid in school?'” Between shuttling one’s kids to and from school, packing lunches, managing homework, extra-curricular involvement and increasing requirements for parent volunteerism at the schools, homeschooling feels like less of a time commitment than what most schools require from the family.

And then there’s the oft repeated concern and question, “What about socialization?” Once you start homeschooling, you begin to realize what a non-concern that is. Homeschooled kids are out in the world all the time––interacting with people of all ages, professions and ethnicities. My kids have friends from age 8 to 80, and they regularly run into them at the market, the library and other places in town, often introducing me to folks they know through the open mic or chess club they attend regularly with my husband. My 8 year old daughter has tea dates with some teenage girls she’s friends with. When the kids get together with similarly aged homeschool friends (which is usually several times a week), they spend hours playing and talking, getting deeply immersed and involved in whatever it is they’re doing. My homeschool parent friends and I regularly discuss having to consciously make a point of saying “no” to some of the social events and get togethers in order to have enough time at home for homeschooling and day-to-day tasks. They are definitely not wanting for socialization.

And finally, what about the data on homeschooling outcomes? Homeschooling as an increasingly popular education option has been in place in the US and Canada for long enough to substantially measure the outcomes and get a fairly comprehensive picture of how homeschooled children have fared into adulthood. Homeschooled children score above average on achievement tests, SATs and ACTs and are increasingly being recruited by colleges.

Adults who were homeschooled measure above average in surveys analyzing social, emotional and psychological development, civic engagement and political tolerance. Homeschooled adults are more likely than their conventionally schooled peers to have completed an undergraduate degree, to have multiple income sources, to report income from self-employment, and to have higher average incomes than their peers. They participate more in local community service than the general population, and they report high satisfaction with life.

I’m the oldest of four girls, and after my youngest sister was born, my parents decided to save some money for the year my mother took off from work to stay home with her, pull us out of the private Montessori school we were attending, and homeschool us for a year. There had also been some staffing issues at the school––the teacher in the 9-12 age class that I was in had been replaced by a non-Montessori trained teacher at the time, and my education seemed to be suffering as a result. I had been having difficulties grasping concepts like long division and other subjects that were being introduced to me that year.

So, my parents bought a TRS-80 computer, some other materials and workbooks, and they set up our family room to be the “school room.” My mom was understandably pretty consumed with the new baby, and we spent a lot of that year just playing. I remember kind of secretly feeling guilty that we were “getting away with it,” because we spent so little time on “school work” and so much time playing out in the backyard, the creek, creating Fisher Price villages out on the back porch, designing basic programs on our new computer. My mom made sure we did some school work every day, but it seemed trivial in comparison to what felt like a year-long summer.

And then something funny happened. When my mom went back to work the following year, and we re-enrolled in school, I was no longer struggling at school. I had easily caught up on all the things I had been “behind” in––long division was suddenly a cinch. And I hadn’t even noticed that I had been learning it so easily and efficiently. Ever since, I have always known that if I had children, my first choice would be to homeschool them if at all possible.

Neither of my kids have attended regular school. I have an 11 year old son and an 8 year old daughter who are both curious, avid learners who excel academically, are engaged in their community, and pursue any number of myriad interests and passions including chess, dance, basketball, songwriting, beatboxing, poetry, reading, writing, gymnastics, playing and talking on the phone with their friends. They are generally kind and earnest in their interactions with others, and adults in their lives often remark to my husband and me how “well-behaved” they are. Of course, they don’t see them at home:) But this is a common theme among homeschoolers. Our theory is that because they aren’t cooped up in a classroom all day, they don’t feel the same need to let off steam and “goof off” as much while out at the store, at sport practice, at dance class.

Homeschooled children have more time––to think, to wonder, to sit, to be, to sleep, to breathe. We live in a hectic world, and children are very scheduled. As my kids have gotten older and gotten more involved in extra-curricular classes, teams and hobbies, it strikes me that the only way it’s been manageable is because they have so much breathing room during the day. And the family still has plenty of time together to share meals, have conversations, get chores done, and more. We’ve still managed to maintain what feels like a civilized pace and schedule, even with increasing outside activity involvement.

I enjoy spending time with my kids, learning with them, learning from them, watching them unfold. Parenting is flying by, and in a few years, I’m sure I’ll see less and less of them, as they become more independent, autonomous and more interested in their friends, dating, and outside pursuits. And then eventually, God willing, they’ll leave home to start their own separate journeys. With the state of things as it is in the conventional school system, and with homeschooling’s proven success––why wouldn’t we homeschool?

Featured post

What Makes Us Attractive?

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

What makes us attractive––to ourselves and to others? And what happens when we cover up all the mirrors in our house for a week? (But leave one uncovered for the cat, because that’s just too fun to watch:))

Join sisters Anne Mason and Thea Mason in their video discussion.

Transcript below:

Anne:                                         00:01                       Hi, Thea.

Thea:                                         00:02                       Hi Anne.

Anne:                                         00:05                       So this evening, we are going to follow on last weeks. We were talking about image versus essence. We were talking about this trend toward cosmetic enhancement and what seems to be an overemphasis and an inordinate value placed on appearance of youth specifically versus, you know, our natural physical aging and all the good stuff that comes with that, which is wisdom, experience, I think authority.

Thea:                                         00:44                       And ease. I would throw ease in there.

Anne:                                         00:47                       And ease. And confidence. Definitely ease in our being. We’ve been here for more times around the sun and the more we’ve done it, the more comfortable we are in encountering challenges, obstacles, and all of those things that life presents. Right? So that’s a lot to embrace. And, and so we had had a lot of conversations afterward with friends and folks who had watched it and weighed in. And my friend Tina, for example wanted to make the point that it’s not so much for her about what others think of us, what, how others perceive us––but how she looks in the mirror matters to her, she feels. How she looks to herself helps her feel one way or another about herself, comfort in her own skin or not. And that led to a discussion we want to have. You’d mentioned this last time. What, what makes us feel attractive, right?

Thea:                                         02:04                       And what do we find attractive? And where does that stem from? How do we cultivate it? Because we all like feeling attractive and we all like to be attracted too or from.

Anne:                                         02:18                       Yes, yes, yes. We like to try attractive and attracted. Yes, indeed. So what makes you feel most attractive?

Thea:                                         02:35                       So what does make me feel attractive, and what makes you feel attractive? Feeling energetic, feeling vital, feeling a sense of power and a sense of ease. I think those are two things that I feel good in myself when I feel those things. I mean, the very clear distinction would be if I’m ill, we don’t feel attractive, right? So when we’re feeling alive to the world and that comes in different capacities and through different channels at different times. Sometimes it’s––feeling a real strong sense of purpose gives me a sense of vitality and powerfulness and capacity I think.

Anne:                                         03:33                       Ah, yes. Yes. Well capableness, even. Right?

Thea:                                         03:38                       Yeah. Yeah. Feeling capable. I mean that’s where the power I think is, really, is feeling capable to meet what comes and what presents itself to me and I was going to go somewhere else too. Now I don’t remember. Maybe you have something else to throw in there.

Anne:                                         03:57                       No, I mean, you know, what makes me feel attractive? You know, I think I probably feel most attractive when I’m less aware of myself that way or other. When I’m in it, when I’m present, when I’m connecting very much with someone. When I am doing what I feel my purpose is to do, when I am living my purpose, when I, when I am following my passion in whatever way that manifests. When I am, I mean, and I don’t want to sound contrived. I was just thinking when I am involved in something––I’ve been involved in causes that are larger than myself. When I’m involved that way, I feel vital and right. And yes, powerful. All of those things that you mentioned. When I am helping people. A couple of days ago someone was in need and a few of us were helping that person in need. I think that that like purposeful when we’re all working together to help someone out.

Thea:                                         05:31                       Capable. Meeting what’s in front of you. So it’s interesting as you know––speaking about what makes us feel attractive––it’s about being necessary, needed. These are the things that give us that sense of being appealing because we feel like we’re fulfilling purpose.

Anne:                                         05:57                       Significant! We feel significant, we feel significant to whatever it is we’re bringing ourselves to.

Thea:                                         06:10                       And then, I mean, and then that leads me…you know, of course those things flow easier for me when my body feels healthy and strong. When I’m rested, when I have a good rhythm in my life. So health, feeling healthy allows me to fulfill my obligations, allows me to fulfill them beyond the base minimum or the bare minimum. Into, like, giving my inspiration, using my inspiration, being inspired. So really, so I’m thinking attractive to me is synonymous with good. Feeling good. Right?

Anne:                                         06:58                       Yeah. But I also really like what you just said––inspired. I mean that kind of encapsulates everything that we were just talking about. Feeling inspired.

Thea:                                         07:07                       And that can happen through my own work, through whatever it is that my passion or my sense of purpose and meaning comes. It can also come through ignited moments with other people. Right? And that can come in different forms, can come through conversation, can come through appreciation of something beautiful together with somebody and seeing something with someone else.

Anne:                                         07:37                       Yes! And that’s what I was talking about with that connection. That I think that’s one of the biggest things that’s attractive to me in other people is a connection. You know, I mean, that only makes sense, right? When, when we’re on the same wavelength or if we’re on the same big wavelength together or something and meeting each other there and they’re seeing what I’m seeing and we’re back and forth, that’s very attractive to me. Right?

Thea:                                         08:06                       Yes. And I would add to that, the other thing that makes me think or find someone attractive is when someone IS capable, when someone is in their own purpose and when someone else is fulfilling their destiny, or searching or seeking to fulfill it and is finding their own inspiration. That draws me to them. Because there’s something happening in that.

Anne:                                         08:38                       Yes. It’s dynamic. But, but also when they’re doing it in, in such a way that is without self-consciousness. Right? And that’s, that’s when courage, I mean courage is attractive in many forms, but when someone is seeking, when someone is trying, when someone’s doing, when someone is exploring, that’s all very attractive. Right? And you know, and then in terms of like, you know, just the requisite list of what do I find attractive? And let’s, let’s acknowledge that we’re women, right? And, and women are different than men which is the age old thing. And I don’t know what it’s like to be a man, though I’d say, I don’t know, with different hormonal changes or whatever as I get older, you know, I can get us more of a sense of where they’re so drawn and driven aesthetically, sometimes, but stillwe’re different.

Anne:                                         09:41                       But I also want to point out that that article that I had written about wrinkles and gray hair means we’ve arrived––I got a lot of good feedback from men who expressed that they, they don’t like the fakeness either. That’s not important enough to them. But there are so many other aspects of a woman that are what draws them. Right? And vitality and health of course, right? It only makes sense for all the reasons you mentioned, but but back to what, what I find attractive is the mind, you know, I’m, I’m into the mind, I get drawn to, to people’s minds. I get drawn, like I said, to, to the connection. Certainly ease and confidence in someone is very appealing. I have had many relationships in my life and there’s not been one particular type. There’s been different different sizes and, and colorings and features and all of those things, right? And because it comes––that attractiveness and sense of oneself, self-possession––comes in many forms, right?

Thea:                                         11:20                       So, attractiveness, you know, sense of beauty and the lack of consciousness about how one is beautiful in a moment––is what’s beautiful. But as soon as there’s that awareness of how beautiful one is, it’s affected and it feels unattractive in like a moment. So it’s a funny, funny thing that can happen, which I think kind of led us into a little bit of another conversation tying all of this into parenting a bit in terms of how to allow our children to grow up without this scrutinizing self-consciousness––which, which comes in different phases and at different ages anyway coming into becoming. But the lack of, of having lots of mirrors for children to be studying themselves. Because if we get, I mean, I’m thinking of myself as an adolescent right now and there is this, there was for me a period of like really scrutinizing myself in a mirror, which, which was never pleasing. I mean, it, it never made me feel better. Well I remember some conversations with you, but I won’t bring those on here.

Anne:                                         12:50                       Are you thinking of the…

Thea:                                         12:53                       Totally. Hilarious. But you know, it’s, it’s about getting outside of ourselves. Cause when we go into ourselves, we, we become less happy. I mean we can take that into talking about when one feels depressed. I mean, I remember adolescence and having that feeling of depression. And that was when I was focusing on myself. So much. So it’s like getting outside of oneself, we become more beautiful and we become happier, which those are like two sides of the same coin anyway. And, and so thinking about our children, not having photographs of your children all over the place in your home because we are not these finite beings. We are more than that. Right? And that’s the thing about this, when we’re having, you know, artificial work, I can’t remember what the word was

Anne:                                         13:58                       Cosmetic enhancements.

Thea:                                         13:58                       Cosmetic enhancements. That’s working just with this finite physical being, which is not the thing that makes us attractive. I mean, sure, there are moments, there’s classic, you know, there, there are beautiful features, but it becomes more and more apparent as we live that it’s what’s coming through this being that we find appealing or not.

Anne:                                         14:23                       Well, you know, let’s also recognize the fact that there’ve been different definitions of what beauty is in the first place. Right? So, so yes, what’s coming through us probably is more what drives that rather than the other way around. Right. Perhaps so happened to be that what was coming through certain folks who had certain features and, well, the big breasts makes sense. That’s fertility. But you know, the lean athletic versus the round…

Thea:                                         15:07                       Voluptuous.

Anne:                                         15:09                       Yeah, it all changes. It goes back and forth. And so, yes, perhaps what drove that is that a lot of the doers, the figures of the time, resembled that instead. Right?

Thea:                                         15:22                       Or what impulses were needed in different times. Was it more of a softening, comforting, gesture to a world that was suffering or was it like, get shit done. So that’s an interesting picture.

Anne:                                         15:42                       Right. But back to what you mentioned about the photographs for example, I mean, I remember being, you know, again, you being my parenting mentor and you making me aware of the fact that taking shot after shot of your kid at every angle at one, at two or whatever, and putting them up on the wall. It’s like first off, it pulls the kid out of themselves once they become aware of the camera in the first place, right? Second, then they’re looking around at all of these stages of themselves, which are not them anymore in the first place. So, you know, just seems to muck things up. The mirror thing, which followed on a conversation I had with Tina, it’s like, it does start making me wonder. Has this trend toward image and appearance come along with this age of abundance and materialism where we just have so much stuff, which means we have mirrors all over the place. And then go, go beyond that to Hollywood celluloid and the emphasis on image, and then of course TV. And then now digital cameras and smart phones, surveillance. You know, you’re on camera all the time. So has that been what has driven this and, and perhaps we need to take a step back and more consciously figure out how to––amidst all of that, amidst living in a fishbowl––make a conscious attempt to remember, remind ourselves that that’s not necessarily what, well, that’s not all we’re about. Right?

Thea:                                         17:42                       Thank goodness.

Anne:                                         17:45                       And then the final thing I’ll say that struck me as you were talking is, you know, we’ve talked about confidence, ease in oneself being in that moment that, that beautiful harmonious moment of just purpose and doing. That is a very attractive quality in anyone and to ourselves, for ourselves. If we are spending a lot of effort and time on contriving ourselves…

Thea:                                         18:23                       On the artifice…

Anne:                                         18:23                       Then not only do we know that, and that ultimately might not make us feel so confident and at ease with ourselves even when we’re looking in the mirror, right? Because we’re seeing that insecurity manifest. And this, that fixation that self focus. We’re seeing that self focus manifest on our faces when we do cosmetic enhancements, makeup, whatever. But other people do too. Right? It’s revealing. It’s revealing and when we get a little too hung up in ourselves, that reveals itself and that doesn’t move us toward attractiveness to ourselves or to anyone. Right?

Thea:                                         19:27                       I would even then just add, it’s like, you know, our good efforts, our true and good efforts not only ripple out and are attractive to our friends, our partners, ourselves, but it’s good rippling into the world. You know, those moments of, of ease and wisdom. That’s good for all. Right? So, so that attractiveness is not just an attractiveness of mate to mate or whatever, you know, it is a ripple into the world.

Anne:                                         20:11                       It’s moving out into the world rather than getting fixed in here and contracted. It’s expansive, right?

Thea:                                         20:19                       It’s expansive, yeah. And growing and reverberates, you know, and those are things that make us feel good, you know? I feel good when someone else is rippling into their goodness, you know? And that comes back and forth and those things expand all of us into something bigger. Than just our own small self.

Anne:                                         20:46                       Yes. Okay. All right. Well let’s wrap it up with that and so maybe the point to remember and practice a bit is to evaluate whether or not––don’t put a lot of thought into it––but it’s like these efforts that we’re putting into appearance or whatever, does it ultimately make us feel good? Do we actually ultimately feel good? Does it feel good and right?

Thea:                                         21:19                       And, and then, you know, depending on different people’s habits, you know, I see myself in the morning when I brush my teeth before I go to school or work or out. But otherwise I don’t really see myself much during the day. So maybe even just taking note of how often you see yourself or see reflection of yourself.

Anne:                                         21:42                       Put the mirrors away! Cover them up. Do a one week experiment. Cover up all the mirrors in your house. And see how you’re feeling about yourself after that.

Thea:                                         21:56                       Yeah. It might be, it might be an interesting thing. I remember doing that at different times.

Anne:                                         22:03                       ‘Cause You got so caught up in your?

Thea:                                         22:07                       I think it was when my kids were young, I just kind of…

Anne:                                         22:10                       Exactly. Oh, now I remember. Yes. You did. Just to, to not distract them with all of that, right?

Thea:                                         22:18                       Yeah. I mean, you know, it’s good to try. But it is fun to see a cat find themselves in the mirror. So I remember seeing that too. That’s pretty fun.

Anne:                                         22:25                       Yeah, I get it. I get it. Okay. I was going to say one thing about my kids, but now I was, I was reprimanded for sharing too much about my kids, so I won’t, but, kids in mirrors sometimes…I’ll just say this. I remember being a kid and crying and sobbing in the mirror. And watching all of my expressions. Right?

Thea:                                         22:48                       I think I remember seeing you do that, actually.

Anne:                                         22:55                       My sidekick. Alright. Well, thank you so much for fitting this in. See how this one goes. Love to you. Love to everyone. Love to you, Tina. Okay, bye. Hang on a sec.

Featured post

Embrace the Face You’re Living

Anne Mason and Thea Mason

For all this talk of female empowerment, injecting Botox into one’s face seems anything but. Let’s embrace the face we’ve lived, and let’s free ourselves from this prison of artifice and illusion.

Join my sister Thea Mason and me as we discuss and examine the impulse behind the Botox trend, and a different way of conceiving our wrinkles, gray hair and…gap teeth:) And how these badges of experience serve to empower us.

And if you haven’t read it yet, please check out my related article: Gray Hair & Wrinkles Mean We’ve Arrived!

Transcript below:

Anne:                                         00:01                       Okay. Hi Thea.

Thea:                                         00:03                       Hi.

Anne:                                         00:05                       So we are recording this evening for the first time in the evening, and you are also recording from the road, so we’ll see how the signal works. So this conversation we want to follow on last week’s. Last week’s, we called “Claiming Our Authority.” We were discussing the fact that it seems we’re living in a culture in which people seem to trust outside authority over their own. And we think that’s a problem. We think that people need to get more in touch with their own inner compass, inner guide, inner voice than they are right now. And that’s not to say we don’t value the advice of trusted friends, family, therapists or whatever, when we need perspective and help, but there seems to be a pattern a trend toward looking to experts for almost everything these days.

Thea:                                         01:27                       Handing over one’s own authority, one’s own responsibility, self responsibility to another figure.

Anne:                                         01:37                       Yes. Yes. And as we discussed this, we, we linked it to this, to the fact that image is such a predominant theme in our world, image over essence. You have used this, you’ve articulated this a lot. And the artifice and pretense at work in our world. And we determined that the direction we need to go in to help people reclaim or claim their authority is too recognize image and the value of image––the value of image as a model sometimes for something to aspire to, and to imitate, perhaps ? You had discussed, you had used as an example, like your teacher, you know, who do you sound like at first when you’re trying things out? You sound like your teacher until you make it your own. But it seems as if we’ve gotten stuck in the image and imitation and not moved it to the essence.

Anne:                                         03:00                       And it then led us to an off-camera discussion about, you know, maybe just little steps like you know, we’re makeup free gray hair, not a lot of pretense here, I think. And you hilariously made the joke back to me saying “And I’ll raise you one gap tooth.” And we realized that’s the starting point of this next one. We need to talk about this. We need to talk about your gap tooth and how you came to terms with your gap tooth and the process you went through when you suddenly had a gap tooth as a grown woman.

Thea:                                         03:45                       Yeah. Okay. So I’ll make this real quick. So this gap tooth is made by orthodontia, essentially, a misdirected well-intentioned parents following directions of an orthodontist. And so I had a fake tooth for many years that never felt comfortable. And because of the way the orthodontia experience went, had created a crooked tooth in my mouth, they had like made my front tooth crooked, which had actually given me headaches for years, which led me towards different healing modalities to heal myself when I was young. So, you know, I learned a lot. And then at one point, I guess I must have been in my thirties and my fake tooth that was glued into my mouth had fallen out for a weekend when I was traveling in Indiana, where we’re from. And I was like, darn darn darn it. Here I am! And and it was out for a few days and I felt extremely vulnerable and insecure at first. Very exposed. But in those couple of days, because this tooth had been yanked to the side and was crooked and had been creating pressure in my skull, I started to feel this deep release through my whole being, not having the fake tooth in there.

Thea:                                         05:18                       And so I knew that I needed to take it out. I knew I wasn’t quite ready. I was going to take a little bit of the pain for my vanity or something for a little bit, but I had sort of given myself a timeframe. And so from that point, I think it was about a year later, I took it out. Because I had been sort of just working with envisioning myself with a gap tooth so that my tooth could relax. And you know, I happen to work with children, and I play games as has come up many times. So I took it out and my first day back at school, you know I was a pirate playing a pirate game. So just “Arrgh!” And I really kind of stepped into it and took it on and became really open. And it literally has changed my life.

Thea:                                         06:14                       I was in a relationship that was not super positive or healthy, and the person I had been in this relationship with had even remarked, “You have not been the same since you took out your tooth.” And so that has given me this journey to myself.

Anne:                                         06:35                       All right, we’ll see. We’ll see how this signal goes. The signal’s coming in and out. So you were, you were saying, so this relationship that you were in at the time…

Thea:                                         06:45                       This relationship that I had been in for many years with the fake tooth in my mouth this person had remarked that once I took it out and, and life, you know, I was changing and claiming more of myself and my right to be and to yeah…

Anne:                                         07:08                       Your authority.

Thea:                                         07:10                       My authority. And you know, this person had remarked that I had never been the same since I took my fake tooth out, which, you know, had freed me from some idea of how I was to be. And I do remember, I mean, I was definitely feeling vulnerable and exposed with it for a period of time in the beginning. And I remember probably remarking to you, or at least to myself, that this is kind of like, this lets me know who someone is right away. This is something that stops someone’s way of relating to me, I’m not interested. You know?

Anne:                                         07:56                       Right. It kind of culls the herd right off the bat, right? Yeah. I mean that, that to me, I mean, so many people would have gotten work done to mask a gap in your tooth right there, right? And to go through that process and be uncomfortable over and over meeting the world, you know? That is, that’s growing, right? That’s growing. And that’s, that’s so freeing to get through that and come out the other side. Right? And well that leads me to, so talk about what we were, we had been talking about a little bit and I just wrote a little article about it too––but the topic of cosmetic work and or Botox injections or whatever has been, has come up in my circle of folks of women too. And then you and I talked a little bit about that where I’m trying to get my head around that. That idea of taking measures, which is essentially injecting poison into your face to paralyze the facial muscles so that they don’t move. So it doesn’t form wrinkles, so that we look younger than we normally would look, right?

Thea:                                         09:40                       Young? I mean, can I say younger? I mean, that’s not…

Anne:                                         09:47                       That we look, we look less wrinkly than we otherwise would, right? And I, you know, I touched on the fact that I think there’s, I think there’s a problem with that. And I, again, I acknowledge that, you know, I’ve always been content with the way I look. So yeah, I’m grateful for that, you know, so I understand. I haven’t walked in everyone’s shoes. But you know, I, I like my gray hair. I like these crow’s feet. I like these lines. These lines represent my experience! My, like I put it, my legitimacy. It is who I am. And, and I bring that to the table, right? So this obsession with looking other than we are is something that I think is getting people stuck. You know, it’s not just, I mean, that follows that we get stuck otherwise as well. Right? If we’re perpetually seeking to look different, be different, look different.

Thea:                                         11:16                       Well, actually making this body stuck. I mean, actually, that’s what it’s doing—is making it stop. And that is the opposite of growth and flow. That’s not what we are here to do or to be.

Anne:                                         11:37                       Well, and you know, honestly the way I look at it is kind of like, I mean, we’ve got a life and then we’ve got death, right? So I’ve always looked at it as if our lives and the way we live our lives prepare us for that next very beyond unknown adventure, whatever that is. If we get stuck holding on to something and not moving past it, whether it’s image or other, then I would imagine it’s going to make that stepping through that next doorway a lot more challenging. Right? So you know, and I say, well, we’ve gotten a bit off track here.

Thea:                                         12:27                       We have a little bit, but, so maybe we’ll just find where we’re going and if it’s not, it’s not, but what that makes me think of a little bit is I mean really in this aging, I mean, you’re saying “This is who I am.” This isn’t who you are. I know that’s not what you mean. Like you aren’t your lines, but this is the story of your life that you’ve carried. Right? And really it seems like as we age, the idea is to be able to drop this more easily. This whole thing. Yes. And instead, people are going to the gesture of grabbing it and holding onto it while they decompose, you know?

Anne:                                         13:13                       Yeah. It’s holding onto the artifice. Isn’t it? Holding on to artifice. So I’ll share a little story too. And I wrote about this as well, but I look at womanhood in basically the three archetypal stages of maiden, mother, crone. And I, I feel I’m in the mother stage right now. I mean, I am, I’m, I’m mothering my kids are halfway there, I’d say. And I remember, yeah, right before I embarked on this journey of starting a family and having these children, I was sitting with a filmmaker who liked to just randomly just take pictures as you’re sitting there. And I knew how to take pictures quite well and I knew how to pose, and in that moment, I made this conscious decision as, as he pulled the camera up, to not pose. To just look straight at it, because I realized I was walking through a doorway as I was embarking on this new life and I was no longer the, the maiden. I was no longer the, I wasn’t the ingenue, right? I was owning my, my entrance into the next stage of motherhood, womanhood. And that was very significant to me. But it was a conscious decision, conscious choice. Right? So as I also had mentioned in this article, you know, there’s a place for each stage. We need the maidens and their fertile, supple bodies. But what, what comes with that is also a naivete. And, a hopeful naivete, which serves us very well and serves the world very well, but that also needs to be tempered by the mother, that next stage of woman who has experienced and who has honed her purpose and brings her experience to the table as well. We need her as well. And we also need the crone in her wisdom, in her deep wisdom of life’s experience having gone through maidenhood through motherhood and grandparenthood and even beyond because our perspective changes greatly as we move through life.

Anne:                                         16:16                       But if we’ve got a bunch of we’ve got the maidens sitting at the table, the, the women trying to look like maidens sitting at the table and the crones also looking like maidens something’s off whack and we’re not going to move forward. Right? So I guess let’s wrap it up by, by just, you know, concluding that there is such a liberation in shedding that one stage. And that identity, right? I’m not the pretty young thing anymore. Right?

Thea:                                         16:58                       Right. Well, yeah, I mean sure, yes. Pretty young, I dunno. I just, you’re very pretty. And I think getting prettier, you know, is, is the other thing. There’s, there’s something to a person, inhabiting themselves more fully and completely that is breathtaking. So, so that’s the thing. I mean, I, I think what I would want to take us to a discussion next time is what is it we really find appealing and attractive in people, in our friends, in our lovers? What is it? Because it’s not the lack of wrinkles, right? Wrinkles and gray hair can be just the sexiest, most delightful thing ever, right? So, why? What is it we’re holding onto there? What is it that we are, in a culture, still trying to hold in our hands and we name it as smooth skin. Like what is that? Is it, is it hopefulness? Is it that that’s actually what’s being lost? And so holding onto the image of what we were when we were hopeful? You know, there’s a whole lot in there.

Anne:                                         18:25                       Yeah. and also to kind of, to explore who is driving this, too, in a way. Like, we talk a lot about female empowerment, but this is anything but, right? So are we mistakenly seeking something that is not even that, which is something to aspire to even even on a superficial level? Right? Are women doing this for men? Are men doing this for women? I know some women will talk about the fact that it will up their confidence to look better, to look more youthful and that aids them in all areas of life. But that still comes from some, some original impulse that that youthful look is something that is so highly valued even when you are almost 49 years old or whatever it is. Right? Or 70 years old.

Thea:                                         19:45                       Right. It’s so hard for me to really grasp that, that I just keep thinking that it’s actually we’re grasping after a feeling rather than a looking. Right? And that’s where the image part is––what we can look at in a picture and see ourselves when we were young and didn’t have wrinkles and remember the state of mind, maybe? Or the state of feeling that we were in, and that’s what we’re reaching for rather than actually this skin. I, you know, I don’t know.

Anne:                                         20:19                       No, you got it. You got it. It’s the tangible, it’s something that we can, we can grab basically. So perhaps it goes much deeper than that, but, but the only way we can quantify it, materialize it, is with Botox or facelifts or something.

Thea:                                         20:38                       Or the only way we think we can, yeah. Right?

Anne:                                         20:41                       Right. So next time we’ll talk about that. We’ll see how this one turns out with all your frame stuttering.

Thea:                                         20:49                       Yeah, sorry.

Anne:                                         20:50                       No, hey, it is what it is. We roll with it. Right? It’s all about the substance and not the image. All right. Let me end the recording. Thank you for doing this. Hold on.

Thea:                                         21:02                       Thank you. Thanks for all of it.

Featured post

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑

Follow us