You know it’s over when they let you enter without first scrubbing your hands.
This ends one of two ways. Only one means coming home with the one you love.
Safety precautions are no easier in intensive care, just clearer.
The ventilator, translucent skin, the unsteady beat of the monitors--all scream vulnerability and so, of course, of course you wash and gown and mask. That’s obvious.
The dying parent. The tiny babies. Every cell in your body wants to shield them from danger, even – especially – the invisible danger clinging to you from outside, hitching a ride closer to them. Looking for a way in; their vulnerability an invitation.
They can’t protect themselves.
Protecting them is obvious even when it’s not easy. You respect the barriers marking the threshold between the menace outside and the relative (hoped for, prayed for) safety here, inside.
When you can see blue blood rushing beneath translucent skin, it’s not hard to wash your hands.
The line used to be hard and sharp. Maybe it was imaginary, but it seemed straightforward. Safety is here: danger is there.
Now, the ink has smeared until that line becomes earth, becomes air encircling each of you and what does it mean to be safe now?
Ah, but you know what it means to keep a distance, so that you can protect.
You remember. It’s planted in the marrow of your bones.
How do you love through panes of glass? With a heart beating so hard you’re certain your tiny babies must hear it, too. When you touch them with a gloved hand, is it warm? Do they know it’s you?
Only your voice can touch without danger. The soft lullaby you sing into the incubators when you have to leave them. And the way his heart speeds up when he hears you coming into his hospital room.
On that final morning, they let you in without scrubbing. You touch your father’s hand with yours, unwashed and ungloved, because that line doesn’t matter anymore. It’s how you know it’s over.
All those years before, you got to take your babies home, drawing a new line around them, hard and strong for as long as you possibly could until you cracked it open to take them out. Out there. Unwashed hands and air travel leave them with bronchitis, but they’re stronger now and recover. You gave them time to grow and for their lungs to heal.
And you know it isn’t over.
It’s planted in the marrow of your bones.
And now? Now you will stay away for as long as you must if it means they will be safe.
You will love them again through a pane of glass (or a computer screen) when they are six-thousand miles away instead of in your kitchen, cooking and bickering, where you wish they were (where they’re supposed to be) instead.
You will send your voice through the telephone and hug over a video link and listen through a window for the music you know is out there because the line defining dangerous and safe has shattered, and you will protect them with the distance that you keep because this is what you do when you love.
- Visual Media and Poem by Dr. Mara Tesler Stein
Dance for yourself
like you want to dance for him
When you move as a river
touching your body with delight
Know that you are touching
eternity herself, the Divine Goddess
When your hips unleash
a torrent of sensual bliss
Know that you are creating
flames to warm the earth entire
When you quiver with electricity
and beckon him to come
Know that you are connecting
with your True Divine Nature
Yours, not his
When someone asks, "What are you?,"
As we discuss the spiritual and the sacred
I will now respond, "I am all religions."
God/Allah/Hashem teaches me love
Showing up as Jesus, Divine Mother, and through
the nourishment of prophets and saints.
Buddha teaches how breath allows this love to flow through me
A blessed gift from the universe, from my ancestors
From the fusion of Shiva and Shakti, from the dancing fae.
Mother Kali, Mother Earth, Holy Spirit
The rising tides, the frozen lake, the flowing river
Dragon's fire and dragon's flight all protect me.
I am the child of them all.
The prayers are building blocks, not scripts
And my poetry doesn't have to rhyme anymore.
The spirit within me is no longer shades of grey
On some continuum in the middle of a black and white world
Spirit is all the colors, all the reflections, all the experiences
Spirit is all the feelings, all the sensations,
Spirit empowers the transformation of tragic pain into splendid art
Spirit does not belong in a box, on a scale, or with the laws of men.
For decades the Pharisees told me not to indulge in this buffet:
That faith is not a cafeteria and
The salvation of my soul depended on eating what I was served.
I grieve those years I almost listened and I celebrate the victory within
The inner light is a rainbow prism sparkling from ruby slippers
Carving a path, guiding me home this whole time.
Speak the truth
Even when your voice shakes
I've seen the meme
I've noticed the posters
And I've wretched inside.
So much easier said than done.
Taking a breath
I share my variation...
Breathe into the center of my being
Breathe and find my truth
On the exhale, allow doubt to release
Let fear begin to soften
Exhale the lessons learned that
My truth doesn't matter.
Be gentle if some of these blocks remain.
Trust my journey and
Allow these tendrils that silence me
To fuel my intention
The doubt, the fear, the negativity
Let my body know the innate
Specialness of my truth
How she needs to be shared
She wouldn't frighten me if she didn't.
Ride the waves of doubt
Play in the rain of fear and
Navigate the brutal rocks of negativity
Breathing all the while
Breathing like a lion and
I will roar like a tiger
Speaking my truth to the ages
Dancing with the consequences
"Brave Girl" mixed media: acrylic on canvas with photographs featuring Sister Henrietta Ritter, HM one of my kindergarten teachers and first movement facilitators on my left wing, representing the lineage of bold female teachers who came before me. This picture was taken in the 1920's when she played in a professional basketball league, recently gifted to me by another member of the Sisters of the Humility of Mary (Thanks Sister Joanne). On my right wing is Alicia Hann, one of my Dancing Mindfulness training students and emerging leader in our movement. She represents the boldness of female students I have the privilege of teaching. I am in the center, lifted up by the wings of integration given to me by my students and my teachers, flying me towards my greater purpose of helping other brave girls heal. Thanks to my cousin Danielle Realty for recently giving me an ornament with this phrase "Brave Girl" embossed upon it; the concept has given me a great deal to ponder!
Dr. Jamie Marich
Curator of the Dancing Mindfulness expressive arts blog: a celebration of mindfully-inspired, multi-modal creativity