I feel coveted and sometimes admired, but nothing else, never held. I also don't hold, just space and frequencies, probably, also responsibilities but not hands or faces or give hugs and kisses. I've a lot to learn A lot to give A lot to receive. ~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
I wake up wrapped in a hidden grief. A grief so big I’m grateful it’s hidden. The personal losses and changes, along with the national and global might take lifetimes to process and who even knows what is left over from other lives. It truly does seem to be too much and yet, here we are, here I am, here is Life- an undeniable and indestructible force.
~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
I feel like I move through quicksand to return to you Grasping, climbing again and again... ~ These tiny spurts of running These tiny words of poetry They may all amount to something A marathon or a book Or just may be tiny spurts So I don't sink into the sand To say at the end I never stopped grasping. ~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
Tell me how much you love him
Tell me how much you want to leave him
Tell me how he hurts you
Tell me how he loves you
Tell me why you’re afraid to stay
Tell me why you’re afraid to leave
Tell me why you fear you’ve been replaced
Tell me what you still want with him
Tell me how hard this has been
Tell me how this love affair began
Tell me how he holds you back
Tell me how he lets you drown
Tell me how you hold yourself back
Tell me how you let yourself drown
Tell me how you suffer
Tell me everything until there’s nothing left to tell
Tell me everything so we both understand and can move on.
~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
What do you do when the world, at least as you knew it, is ending? How do you grieve that?
For me, a white cisgender woman, it started to end globally on November 9, 2016. I went on a bike ride the day after election night to my usual spot— an “island” on the Mississippi River. Before this day, I’d go there to reflect on my personal trials or to escape them. However, there was a new kind of angst— not only the weight of my personal life on my shoulders, but the collective life. It is not that I did not care before, this just felt different.
I wish I could find the words to express where I find myself now, 6 1/2 years later. I’d like a story or fable that would help me frame it, or to write my own if I could focus long enough and stay motivated. What I do know, what I am beginning to feel is there has been, and is, a lot of loss personally and collectively, a collective reckoning and grief process.
Our primitive brain likes to make it one thing because then that one thing can be fixed, managed or contemplated easily. But we are not in primitive times. These are complex times. We are complex and to think in this way is difficult, but necessary. These days, the loss isn’t just A, B or C, it is the whole damn alphabet and then some.
Just in my own life, I am started to comprehend the losses and how each one intermingles and connects to the others, and as they do their capability of fully sinking me is real.
The sinking has been happening. As I reflect I see I’ve sunk many times. As a teenager I wondered how could one person, still so young, cry so much. As a 50-year-old it is starting to make sense as I am sinking like that again and again.
Yesterday I could not find one think to pull me out. Then my husband asked if I wanted ice cream. In the ice cream line I found myself smiling, then I asked him if he tried the frozen peanut butter cups. Later a stranger approached us, happy and friendly as can be, and asked how we made our “love it” treat. Before this, I watched a small child look up at her older brother, saying “again” over and over to pick her up as she squealed. Once we got our dark chocolate with extra peanut butter ice cream, we sat on a bench outside and I saw the sliver of moon. I didn’t really eat my ice cream because the point was not the ice cream.
On the way home, Neil Diamond’s Hello Again came on shuffle. I cried again, a deep, hurting cry as if I was in physical pain. I said to myself: it’s my mom. She was and always will be my first experience here on Earth as me, Nikki DiVirgilio. Nothing will ever change this. And she, my first experience, has dementia and I miss her. There is a hole in me. There are several now, but she is at the center of them all.
It is weird for me to state this and experience it to be true. My relationship with her has always felt like a loss, but what it is now feels like that sliver moon, it is all that is left and what I had with her was more than I realized. She was a best friend, someone I called to vent to, someone I hung out with. Someone who created a million and one beautiful experiences and distractions for me, for us— vacations, cabin getaways, shopping, lunches, going to the “new” place and buying the “new” thing. Over time all of this became hollow for me, but now, sinking into nothingness, they were the things that kept me afloat. These were the days. That was my mom.
When I woke up the next morning, after several days of sinking, I didn’t care much about anything (balance, right?). I wondered what was the point, especially after reading a Twitter thread stating a very real possibility for the 2024 election. It’s not good. It’s bleak, and it seems the world, including my own, is over in the way I knew it. I don’t really know 1) how to navigate these times or 2) how to grieve or if I even can fully. But the sweater I bought was on my front step. I opened it, tried in on to make sure I loved it, and instead of folding it, tags on, saving it for a special occasion, I took it off, cut the tags, put it back on and decided today is the special occasion.*** 🌙🍦
Be well during this time,
~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
***snippets from a memoir I’m writing…well, several actually.
The moon turned to snowflakes
The night a woman’s rights were taken. ~ a dream I had
That was the dream the night before RvW was overturned. The sun, to my left, and the moon, to my right shared the same panel of sky. I stood in a boat, on the ocean, near the shore. I was mesmerized by the moon, for the sun was just a faint, dull circle shrouded in gray haze. The moon, also shrouded but not in haze, but within a shiny half black and silver cavern. I could not take my eyes off it. And then the moon crystallized, transforming into giant, majestic snowflakes. A mist began to overtake land and sea, and the tide turned; chaos ensued and I had to get to shore. But the point was the snowflakes.
At the request of a therapist, I’m again, picking up the book, Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. I reread the introduction. In it she lists symptoms of a woman who has lost her Wild. I have the majority of them, but this one captured me: “…or intertia because that is the safest place for one who has lost her instincts.” I opened my journal and wrote: I have lost my fucking instincts! Last time I truly had those was in my early 20’s. I was with a child, but without a man, and not tainted, domesticated or yet fully reactive to my childhood trauma.
Not only have I lost my instincts, I’ve lost my creativity. It reminds me of season 4 of Stranger Things. Eleven has lost her “superpowers” (of course given and rediscovered to her by “man.”) Like a miner I am digging, seeking in the dark where I lost my superpowers. Was it one event or the slices and cuts of many….? I am also asking, is it too late? In Stranger Things, they keep seeking, digging and fighting and face the darkest spaces and entities just to understand, restore balance and help the people.
The reading of “Wolves” is naming the longing, the awakening of my Wild and also the resistance and push back to what oppresses it. I’m seeing how deeply I have blamed myself for the inertia that caused the weight gain, the depression, the silence, the relationships I am still in and the books I’ve still not written. I’ve been domesticated, altered and suppressed by the patriarchal culture— maybe not specifically and overtly, but generally, collectively and covertly. Inertia, then, was and often still is my safe place.
But I am awakening, beginning little by little to open my eyes, seeing the oppressor for what it is and seeing the impact it has had on me, on everything and everyone. Yesterday on my walk, I took the “short cut”, over a wooded bridge across a marshy area. I stopped and noticed the red-winged blackbirds in the reeds, the cattails bowing like patrons at a queen’s parade and the water, murky with green algae film. On the surface it looks stagnant and toxic— inert. But, who or what but Life itself knows what is present below, what organisms are a vital part to all of Life.
I have become swamped. Heavy, murky, seemingly lost my way and can barely move. Within my own inertia a self has been formed, a self safe and hidden in the murky waters, afraid to move too far from the swamp. Stay too long, naturally toxins, disease and self-defeating behaviors flourish. But open my eyes and really see where I am and start to smell the stink of unmoving water and start wiggling my fingers and toes, and becoming mesmerized, not by something more in some other place beyond myself as I did in my youth, but mesmerized by what I know is already present, and becoming the snowflake inside the moon. 🌙
~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
Torn. Stolen from protection, the land, the forest tops. Seclusion, like winter but with A/C, not heat. Summer is here and it can feel like a burden, heavy to some, a comfort to others. A mismatch to balance, to life, to relief.
These are just words coming to me about the heat, and the imbalance maybe I, maybe others are encountering, putting us dangerously close to suffering.
Today’s word (Father’s Day) seemed to be suffering. I found myself using it a lot. I felt my usual suffering again, and I believe I can label it now. Before it was only a suffocating experience. I suffer when the (perceived or otherwise actual) burdens of my family fall upon me, brush up against me and cause me to burn and be swallowed. I lose myself in it— a pattern conditioned by the relationship I had with my mother.
I was conditioned to live and breathe, therefore be burdened by her drama, her life, her everything. Specifically, but not only, with her frequent hospitalizations. Each time, I feared and truly believed— this is it. She’s dying. I’m going to lose her. I was shredded by this each time it happened, along with the deep desire to fix her, console her, love her, train her to be more like me and give a goddam. None of this worked. Just the ripping occurred.
Recently, my mom, near 80 and in memory care, caught COVID. She had fallen and was rushed to the hospital with a 102 temp. The ER doc told me he was putting her on oxygen and would be admitted. This is it, I thought. She’s dying. I’m finally going to lose her.
Nurse called, “We are discharging her. Oxygen levels are normal. She’s eating and looks great!” Of course, I thought. Of course she is okay. I was relieved, but I also remembered the days when I was angry by the nurse’s words. I was angry by what my mom put me through, and then she’d just be fine or it was just a drug run and meanwhile I was shredded into tiny bits.
My mom called me when she was out of the hospital. “Hi Mom! How are you?”
“Of course you are mom. You’ve been through a lot. You have COVID, you were hospitalized….”
“No,” she interrupted, “I’m depressed because they told me I can’t leave my fucking room. I have to quarantine.”
Of course….she’s fine.
At the time of this call, I was at ‘The Rock.’ The rock is an actual large boulder that sits near the Mississippi backwaters. I go there and sit on it when I need some guidance, stability and security. When I hung up the phone with my mom, walking away from the rock, a flash of insight said: you are the rock. I took absolutely no pleasure in this. Being the rock was a past, sad story I no longer wanted or needed. I pushed back on the insight and said: I don’t want to be the rock. I want to be nurtured and cared for for once.
The next day, and for several days thereafter, I did not leave my bed. I was overcooked. Done. Depleted. Overburdened. Torn. Stolen from the protection of this need to be ripped to shreds by the experiences of my people, because of course it wasn’t just my mom’s experiences that ripped me apart. It was my family members, those I love most and also the humans on this overheated planet. I needed shade and the shade for me was the bedcovers. Under that shade, I shut down and released the heat through my salty tears that fell and fell and fell.
Once I cooled off and could move around again, I understood I no longer had it in me to keep putting my tiny burnt pieces back together again. I had to decide to stay together even when my people, and the world seemed to not. This kind of suffering was all that I knew to do. I did not learn another way. I was not shown another way or was my younger self told me these are not by burdens to bear.
My energy worker Ed, when I told him this story, said, “What if your mom had said to you, ‘I know you are scared, worried and concerned about me but I am not your responsibility. You don’t have to take care of me. I am going to take better care of me so I can take better care of you.’ “
I was so burnt out, so conditioned I didn’t even know those words could be said. But just hearing them from Ed felt like cool water, and calmed me down.
So when the heat of this life, of the people I love and this land I also love, brush up against me too close, I will know I am caring. I am attending. I am listening. And, I don’t have to be scorched to do so. I can find shade under the treetops. #savethetrees 🌳🧊☀️
~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
*This is an excerpt from one of the memoirs I am currently working on.
What does it mean to be a witness to the atrocities that surround us, sometimes overtaking us?
In my small therapy office I am witness to the journey of those who go to the deeper wounds, and to the majority who only need to stay on the surface to feel the pin pricks and enormous jolts coming from their lives.
In my personal life I am witness to the wear and tear of a, mostly inactive, body that leans toward comfort and rest and eats what soothes the tender ache. It’s caught up to me now— the medications need a pill organizer.
I witness the decline of my mother and father, and my two daughters making a life outside of the family home.
And then I, along with the majority we, witness the daily, sometimes hourly, onslaught of news stories that haunt, disturb and tempt to take away any belief that life is secure, safe and hopeful.
We bear witness to a lot.
I don’t know that I have a remedy to process what we see, hear and experience, but I want to name it, even so.
We witness a lot.
And what do we do with it matters. A lot. Do we digest it? Internalize it? Ignore it? Deny it? Fight it? Become paralyzed by it? Mourn it? Disease, label and justify it? Politicize it? Analyze it? Mostly we just keep living our lives with it. Some of us wonder what more we can do. Others get out and do it.
A long time ago I went to the circus and witnessed the elephants parading around in a darkened arena while dressed up humans with whips led them. I never again went to a circus. The witnessing of the elephants “living” in an unnatural way was enough for me to make a clear choice not to participate. But I didn’t do anything more. I did not protest at circus doors or go to an elephant refuge. Then, not attending felt enough of a protest.
So why is it then I can continue engaging in a life where I am, along with countless others, parading around in unnatural ways, succumbing to a way of life that is not of us, not of me? Why aren’t I protesting in some way? Why am I not refusing to show up and participate in this unnatural way of living? What happened to me? What happened to us?
There’s words and phrases for it— capitalism, patriarchy, internalized misogyny, colonialism, white supremacy… you name it— we are not only swimming in it, we are drowning. We have lost our way.
I look back upon all that we’ve said yes to, at least since I was born in the 1970’s. Food coloring, additives and processed non-food. Bottled water. Coffee shops and fast food on ever street. Gas. 9-5’s. I could go on…..
As a child I said yes to Oreos and Ho Ho’s. When I got a little older, and was continuously bullied, I said yes—yes, I’ll hide. Yes, I’m too much. Yes, there’s something wrong with me. Yes, you’re better and I’m insiginficant. Then I said yes to alcohol, Newports, boys and sex. Then I said yes to kids, marriage and a mortgage. Some of the yes’s should have been no’s— but it was too late. I’d been programmed, traumatized and neglected.
Now, I’m 50. I got through the pandemic (for now) and I’m witnessing what I have done. I am witnessing our culture and what it has us do. I sense all of it is enough to not only leave the circus but get off the circus grounds altogether— but how, and to where? Which cause will I protest, show up for? Which cultural, repressive institution will I leave?
All I think about lately is a cottage in the woods— fuck it all, eat mushrooms and berries and sit among the trees and the ferns, touching moss— live like the hobbit or the fairy tale old lady I know that I am.
I wonder who I could have been had I not said yes to it all. Who we might have been. What if I had said no, that’s not for me. Or no, we could have cried, this is not for us! This is who I am. This is who we are.
What I want to be a witness to now is a new cultural uprising for us, for me, for we. 🌲🌿🍄
Note: This is the first blog I have written in over a year. I sat down with a pen and paper, planning on writing something else, but instead listened and what I wrote above is what came through. I hope it reaches someone, in some way and I hope to return to this space more frequently.
~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
I don’t understand why any of us are cruel
It’s super bowl Sunday
I drive to the store. Not for snacks, but for donuts and coffee.
I think of my mom. Likely not an actual lover of football, although she claimed to love the Vikings. But more like just wants to be a part of life, of whatever is going on.
Today she may or may not have the super bowl on. And if it is, she won’t watch.
My mom has dementia. She sits alone—except on the days some of us in the family get to visit her.
I reminisce about past super bowls. It was all a party to her. I cry for the woman she was. The woman I lost.
I get my coffee. My donuts. I find when I get home, I don’t want them as much as I did before the tears fell.
Walking through the front door of my home, I understand I feel, something I have noticed lately. I feel. Tears fall, and not from a place of pity for myself or cyclical suffering, but from somewhere real.
Driving home from the store, I understand I can feel something other than what has come from a 33-year relationship (perhaps, we will get into that another time).
The year 2021— it said to me: I will be bittersweet.
Already, it most certainly is 🌸
Who protects the children? Who shelters the sacredness of childhood?
This duty falls upon the parents/caregivers.
And yet, as the quote above states: It is in the homes and in childhood that the wreckage of human life begins. I would say it is also in schools and religious institutions.
I come out strongly suggesting this because this wreckage is what I care passionately about. My passion was reignited last week as my daughter shared an experience she had. It triggered experiences and emotions still unprocessed from my childhood.
A family member had compared their daughter to mine, and not in a positive light. This has happened before when another family member did not want their daughter to be around mine because they believed she was a bad influence. I recall the time, as a young teenager, I was forbidden to step foot in my friend’s house because her parents believed I was a bad influence because I dated black boys. I remember how this hurt me, and it wasn’t the first time. It was a reoccurring theme that somehow something in me threatened the adults and they didn’t want me rubbing off on their kids. Absurd!
I can say that now, but at the time I felt like a defect. I felt ashamed. I felt judged. And, I felt angry. The anger I felt was about the injustice I was experiencing. These parents who judged me did not know me. They never asked me questions. They did not spend time with me. I was instantly forbidden fruit based on a few choices and behaviors.
My daughter is being judged in the same way. The family members who chose this behavior do not know her. I’ve yet to see any of them sit down with her and ask her questions about who she is or how she is. Or have they sat down with me and asked about what is was like to raise her or how I raised her. And somehow, as parents, they believe they won’t deal with the behaviors they think they know about my daughter and if they do, they rather it be due to the negative influence of my daughter. How ignorant!
What is forgotten, what is not done is to look wider and deeper at the reasons behind so called negative behaviors and influences. Why might someone act out with “negatively”? Why might a child/teenager self-harm? Use drugs? Do we think they are just a defect or do we just blame the bad influences? Or do we consider they are acting out unprocessed traumas that occur within our own homes? Our own toxic environments? Acting out the wreckage of their childhood? Not usually. Instead of adults putting this together, adults project their fears, ignorance and their own unprocessed traumas and emotions at the children and make them the problem. How unjust!
For example, say a young girl lives in a home where a parent abuses alcohol. I know this home. My mom was an alcoholic. It sucks. It damages a child. It creates patterns that can destroy a life. The child might point out to their parent that they drink too much. Instead of the parent listening, the parent feels disrespected. They believe the child has lost their rightful place in the family hierarchy- to be seen and not heard; to respect their elders. All non-sense!
Why should a child not be able to claim their childhood? Why should a child respect a parent who is not protecting their childhood? Why should they not proclaim: I matter. My childhood matters. Why should a child not plead to their parents to protect the sacredness of their childhood? More sad, why should a child have to?
Kahlil Gibran on children said:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
We cause the wreckage when we see them as our possessions and believe they are less than. We do them a great disservice when we do not see them as souls, as a spirit within a body that have their own path to follow. When I was judged, yes, I felt hurt, but I also knew there was nothing wrong with me. I sensed both my humanity and my spirituality. I understand we are dual- both material and spiritual. We are made up of our childhood environments and our larger society that create our psychological experience and we are spiritual- of spirit- composed of high vibrations of energy that are constantly evolving.
I have no doubt the vast majority of us who are parents are going to fuck up our kids. I thought I was a good mom because I didn’t abuse alcohol like my mother did, and provided a mostly stable environment, but I brought them other traumas. This is bound to happen because we have unconscious realms of darkness within us that hold old conditioning and beliefs. But, there is hope. We can protect childhood!
Here is what we can do: We can 1) commit to our own inner, self-reflective work and practices. We can and must commit to our own healing. And 2) repair the harms we have caused with our children. To do this, we must be open and respect their experience enough to openly listen to them. We must give them safe space to air out their grievances. Recently, my kids sat down with my husband and me and told us what it was like to grow up with our marriage. It was brutal to hear. But it was and is my duty to listen, to repair and commit to healing.
It is time to end fearful, ignorant parenting based on a hierarchical mindset and unconscious psychological patterns. Instead it is time to begin conscious, mindful parenting, which is a combination of reparenting ourselves with honesty and compassion and our children the same.
~The Soul Reporter