Wednesday, January 3, 2007


Frustration is a dangerous thing. We feel thwarted. We feel unresolved. We feel inept. I imagine frustration is an emotion meant for us to launch more deeply into a place of power-- it's an emotion of predation. I imagine a frustrated predator will run down its prey with greater ferocity and intensity. (Gotta eat.) Except when you're a parent-- frustration can make us prey on our children. And if we're out of touch with our judgement, our children become our victims.

My brother screamed at his daughter this past new year's for no good reason. For that moment, he thought he had a reason, but when you look at it, it wasn't a reason that had anything to do with parenting his daughter. He'd been on the edge all weekend. And yet, for that moment, his authority and control were the only things important to him. Even above his compassion and wisdom. And yet, I don't know a parent who has not felt so out of control they took their frustration out on their children.

• I had a habit of falling and scaring my knees as a child. I was told by my mother not to play until my knee healed. But as my friends played dodge ball, their invitation to me was so intoxicating, I played, fell and reopened my wound. My mother screamed at me and slapped me, causing me to pee in my pants. She regretted it intensely and nothing like it ever happened again.

• I lost my temper at my daughter many, many years ago after she crossed a street without assistance. She was 5 years old. Her mean tempered teacher kept her after school knowing that she would miss her day care escort because she wanted to "teach her a lesson." My daughter became afraid I would not find her and ran to catch up with day care escort crossing the street against the light alone. I did not hear the whole story until after I screamed at my child so severely I made her cry, forced her to endure at least an hour of fear at the loss of my love. People tell me that it was because I was afraid for my daughter. But at the time, what I remember most was feeling embarassed and out of control. Feeling helpless and hating it. I was immediatly regretful and when I got over my shame, I hugged my daughter a long, long time hoping I could erase her pain with the heat of my heart. I believe even now, her image of horror is my angry face screaming at her, and her feeling nothing but helplessness and that special anxiety that befalls us when we have no choice but to endure being victimized. (Needless to say, I filed a complaint on the teacher, who clearly had frustration issues of her own.)

My brother put my niece through just that horror. When my family attempted to interfere, he uttered the chant of all parents who feel that abuse to be an entitlement "These are my children, and I won't be told how to deal with them." And there are parents who genuinely feel this way, not just in the heat of a moment of a loss of judgement or control. That's why we have Departments of Children and Families. It is our obligation to step in when an angry parent (or teacher or guardian) is NOT parenting, but are instead spilling their frustration onto the most helpless members of our community. My mother's calm and wisdom eventually prevailed and my brother talked things through with his daughter, but I can see by the hurt in my niece's eyes, that he wounded her deeply. Such wounds, if left untended, can fester and infect the soul. Maybe next time, we can talk about healing.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

On Gerald Ford's Fall

Should it be deemed

an irony or an

homage that on

the announcement of the death

of President Gerald Ford (1913-2006)

Fox television burst out of its newscast

with Homer Simpson falling down a flight

of stairs?* Will history require

that Mr. Ford’s tumble

down the stairs of Air Force One should define

his mythology? Or will the Fox’s spin

:Ford-- Healer of the Nation’s Wounds:

prevail? Neither history nor Fox News

will record that on December 26, 2006

a sudden and permanent burst

of empty opened in the heart of Betty, on December

26, 2006 sons and daughters logged each frame

of moment like an image in a family album as their

indefatigable father wearied

and fell

into history’s capricious arms. Neither

Fox News, nor posterity

will rise and recognize

this as the moment

worthy of defining


C. Seda

Sunday, December 24, 2006

A Hopi Tale

Raise your hand if you're familiar with the Hopi. Anyone? Anyone?

I studied them many years ago in a sociology class. Culturally they value harmony above all else. They lived where no other tribes or peoples cared to make their home. And because they lived where no one else understood how to live, they lived with a remarkable degree of peace. (That's probably a very serious oversimplification, but so are all efforts to encapsulate the long history of a people in a single stroke of sentence.)

They broke apart and redistributed as a people many, many times throughout their history. Frank Waters (1963) described the inherent lack of a "national" identity as a "weakness," but I think he was just underestimating the unique power of confederation. It's a form that seeks NOT to allow too much power to accumulate. Anathema to the European inspired mindset. At some point in history, when the Spanish were attempting to dominate the Hopi, in a remarkable act of cultural conservatism, they attacked the villages that were allying with the Spanish and redistributed the women and children to other villages (Rushforth and Upham, 1992). They did not confront the Spanish (an outside and hostile force), but their own community. Unexpected among a people who sought to avoid conflict. But then, Europeans habitually underestimate indigenous peoples.

Why am I blathering about the Hopi? (For an American audience, there must always be a why.)

I consider a good friend of mine who is regularly angered at forces outside of herself, but will not take the step of looking within her soul's own community to consolidate her harmony. She attacks and attacks and attacks the world, and then blames the world for deserving the attack. Her mind writhes in anger for hours, sometimes days after the offense-- reliving, and reliving the moment of anger, imagining ways to make the perpetrators pay. I picture her sometimes at the edge of a crowd shouting "Guillotine" as this or that former dignitary loses his head. She has, in times past, taken offense at me for not supporting her in her anger. It has made me the enemy more than once. At another time in history, she might during a fit of bitterness be the person who turned me into a privy council for not being passionate in my patriotism or sufficiently outraged toward a common foe. One day I'll ruminate on the relationship between rage and blood sacrifice. Or maybe not. Seems a given. There's a regret component, too- it's an antidote that inevitably comes too late to save the innocent.

That's when I consider the way of the Hopi-- to cultivate nourishment where it seems impossible to grow, to keep their alliances flexible and amorphous, preferring to yield and absent themselves than to release wrath, and when wrath is the only option available, preferring to annihilate a segment of themselves than to attack a neighbor.

Raise your hand if you're familiar with the Hopi. Anyone? Anyone?

This one's for you Sheryl

Never thought I'd be much interested in the whole blog phenom. Strikes me as publicizing a diary. On the other hand, how many opportunities are there for the common man to speak their piece? On the other hand, there's so many people who think they have something to say but all they're doing is generating narcissistic drivel. On the other hand, history is made of collecting narcissistic drivel and seeing what we can learn from it. The big difference is some write more beautifully than others, and with a more greatly expanded point of view. It takes some people generations to be heard. (Herman Melville was never renowned in his time.) I actually think slow cooking works as well for ideas as for food. Of course then you have to wait longer to eat.

This blog thing-- that immediacy of audience I think really does effect the slant on your writing. On the other hand, it does require you to be especially aware of what you have to say and how you want to say it.

The only bottom line I can find on the above particular piece of drivel is that we're all trying to figure out how not to look like a fool. Well, there's more to it than that, but that's my conclusion for the moment, unless I want to continue finding reasons to say "on the other hand."

Anyway, this blog is for Sheryl, whose passion to be heard has made her a marvelous, though underrated, poet. I think of her as a Chicana Hermen Meliville. Underappreciated in her time, but I believe hers is the work that will sing down through the generations, while others who consider themselves great in the today of things become tucked away in a Wikipedia definition 7th graders happen upon when assigned to write bios about obscure writers from the turn of the 20th Century.

Well Sheryl, now I have a place to post my undigested narcissism (which by the way is a hard word to type) and hope that it makes a connection in the out there. And if it doesn't... what the heck. I'm in the game.