Together we play a game of chicken Russian roulette even— eventually the bullet kills us Moth to flame—you say it all the time— eventually we burn Bait-and-switch—what are we selling that we won't be giving
Game of Chicken Your freedom or mine Certainly not ours together
You go your way I go mine Now we collide Toward death or to freedom Or are they the same
What gives and when We are at the edge Which one of us will swerve Or will we, at the end?
Evolution moves slow and steady.
I once believed I could clear wounds enough to transcend my upbringing—
To not be my mother.
What cleared are protections that made me function and survive.
My daughter said to me: I like seeing you struggle—
A once controlled and efficient mother now stumbles a bit.
Bring on the staggering
And the unease of failing
And seeing the apple does not fall far from the tree.
It is true some improvements were made
Maybe I'll see more as I age
But for now I acknowledge evolution is slow
And at least it is steady.
For we are not efficient machines
We are human with hearts and needs
We store treasures from ancestors and thieves.
~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
I feel coveted and
sometimes admired, but nothing else,
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.
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
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 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. 🌙
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.