You Matter

 

 

You matter. You have always mattered. Let the dust settle that contains all the reasons you thought you didn’t matter. Ah!–there is your gem self! Welcome home, my love, welcome home. 

Here’s a self-friendly compassionate perspective to help you shift:

  • My clients are wonderful-hearted people who can be so very tough on themselves because they still believe the “error” messages they got ten, twenty, fifty years ago. As kids, one of the most hurtful things that can happen to us is when the important adults in our lives don’t explain to us what is going on in difficult situations. As a child we get confused and start to believe things like “I don’t matter,” “There’s something wrong with me,” “If they find out who I really am they won’t like me.”  
  • Meanwhile, what’s really going on with the adults are things that are totally out of kids’ control, like parents being mean, rageful, distant, anxious, having affairs, depression, being neglectful, losing a job, reacting to a death in the family, illness, parents having unhealthy relationship patterns, and being abusive emotionally, physically, or sexually to their kids.
  • Our internal critics–the “tapes,” the peanut gallery, the mean voices–these critics all got “hired” by you as a kid when the only way to make sense of a hurtful situation was to start believing these “error” messages. Kids can’t handle not understanding a difficult situation, and in the absence of a grounded adult offering help, support and understanding about life’s difficulties and especially taking responsibility for their actions as caregivers, kids have to make some kind of meaning in order to stay sane. If an adult isn’t there to take responsibility and explain to their child what is going on, then what all kids do is to take the blame onto themselves and begin to believe that there is something wrong with them. That’s just how the psychology of children works. Kids have to make some kind of sense of things in order to stay sane, and even if it’s the wrong message that’s better than no message at all. Because to not have anything make sense on the one hand, or on the other hand to clearly realize that a parent is out of control somehow, that would be utterly terrifying. In the bind of loving the person who is causing the hurt, kids blame themselves, not their caregivers. That’s when as a kid you began to point at yourself and started to believe you were not enough, didn’t matter, were faulted. At the time, you simply couldn’t afford to believe that parents or caregivers were being hurtful, or neglectful, or out of control, because that would be too frightening.
  • Here’s the good news. You can look at it this way–when your only option was to start believing the negative messages about yourself in order to survive, you also did something else really important: You put your Wise Self, your unique Gem, away on a shelf and you did this to keep yourself safe. Now is the time to let the dust settle and come home to who you have always been. It’s time to begin to take yourself off the shelf and be you!
  • Something that might sound odd at first but that really helps is to sit quietly and actually thank the negative voices. You might say something like, “You just don’t want me to get hurt, and that’s the only way you know how to do it. Thanks for trying to protect me.” This often brings some settling and calm. Then notice who is doing the thanking. That is your Wise Self, being generous to your kid and to the security team of negative thoughts that was the only option you had to deal with the pain. And when you are seated more in your Wise Self, and in the self-compassion and generosity to yourself, you start to come home to you and that just feels so much better!
  • Then give yourself a little hug, each hand on the opposite upper arm, squeeze, and breathe, 
  • Even if you feel the release for just two or three seconds, even if you begin to believe in yourself just one-hundreth of a percent, even if the voices come back three seconds later, that is enough! Congratulations, you have started to come home to You, to make a new neural connection which you can continue to build on as you discover yourself as an Amazing being.

Send You Love In The Morning

One of the first songs I ever wrote arrived in my heart and mind when I was on a wilderness quest in Death Valley many years ago. It’s called Send You Love. You can find the words below. I send you love this morning! Please remember you are a unique and amazing being. Let’s keep supporting one another during this challenging time.

  • Watch a short snippet of me singing Send You Love in a recent live performance here: WATCH HERE
  • Listen to the complete song on my first album Finally Home on Bandcamp
  • Explore my music website at kathleendunbar.com

 

Send You Love
By Kathleen Dunbar
Copyrighted by Kathleen Dunbar

Send you love in the morning
Send you love when you open your eyes
Send you love in the morning
Send you love when you open your eyes

Send you peace in the evening, my dear
Send you peace when you’re closing your eyes
Send you peace in the evening
Send you peace when you’re closing your eyes

Send you hope in the darkness
Send you hope when you are alone
Send you hope in the darkness
Send you hope to welcome you home

Send you joy in the spirit of love
Send you joy with arms spread out wide
Send you joy for you just as you are
Send you joy from all that’s alive

Send you love in the morning
Send you love when you open your eyes
Send you love in the morning
Send you love when you open your eyes

 

Take a Free Virtual Tour of 12 Famous Museums from your Couch!

While you are at home during COVID-19, take a tour of a famous museum! Here are 12 famous museums that offer you free virtual tours of fascinating exhibits that you can enjoy from your couch! Follow the link: Take A Virtual Museum Tour

If You Fall

 

If You Fall

Rest all the way down
through the bottom of the pond
and its gravel nibbled by the fishes.
Go past to where
the moist soil rests like leavened bread
upon the crockery of the bedrock earth.
Beneath the plates of ancient seas and poured volcanoes
put yourself away
into the lower cupboards of time and gravity
until you feel the pulled pulse of all your atoms
begin to agree with the atomic signatures of all things.

The rabbit comes out of her hole,
no one’s dinner
at the moment;
this evening the sky a deepening blue
held in the rabbit’s eye—
her nose a delight of twitches
for the tender grasses
and the medley of the toothwort
and plantain.
The twin white starflowers of the mayapple
nod beneath their umbrella leaves
and release sweetness
into the rising evening wind.
Rabbit sits upon
the cushions of moss
plumped by an earlier rain;
the air is washed;
no toothed thing is about
that would end a rabbit’s dinner for good—
for her at this moment
there is just a noseful of delight
while her ears are listening.

We are always waiting for death
in some form
and hoping to eat our dinner in peace.
The rabbit cleans her face with her paw,
ladylike and nibbling grasses in between.

Go down below the dreaming, aching brevity of humans,
begin to feel the agreement among all things
that those prayers given at the center core’s throb
are holy.
Everything else knows this—
we are the only ones
who fret whether or not
to give our prayers
or how to give them,
worry if they are enough
or turn them off
like a switch
as if that could be done anyway.
Look how the young rabbit prays
while nibbling;
the elderly rabbit
a bit threadbare and lean
but alert and intelligent
offers a different prayer,
more brief, as the fox arrives.

Does it turn out okay?
The way is full of holes.
Your old shoes never fit well anyway
and it hurts to stumble.
My dear, you’ve done the best you could
given all the odds.

The prayer of that which is all-the-way down
returns upward to you.
If you fall
you will meet it.
You might as well let yourself be loved.

© Kathleen Dunbar

The Battle

The Battle

Here is a free verse style poem I wrote when I was sixteen years old. Here also is a photo of me, teenage Kathleen in my favorite forest green fedora hat.

At the bottom of this article you will also see a photo of the poem printed in the first literary journal ever created in my high school. I couldn’t believe there had never been a literary journal, so I created one! I called the journal Methinks. The cover illustration of the first edition portrayed a cartoon man with a large nose sitting on a stone with his chin on his fist—my version of Rodin’s The Thinker.

I made myself the Editor and I gave my friends the jobs of Secretary, Treasurer, and “Staff.” I figured those positions would look good on our resumes when we graduated and went off to college or began looking for jobs. I solicited poems from all my friends—many of us were the weird literary types, and this journal was a way for us to shine.

I was told by the principal’s office that I needed to supply money for the paper and the mimeograph ink. For those of you not in the know, the mimeograph is an ancient technology which rendered damp pages of copy laboriously turned by hand from a drum. The fresh pages needed to be handled carefully or the ink would smudge, a lavender variety of ink redolent of a chemical perfume known to school kids in the seventies. I promptly organized a bake sale on the town square which paid for two editions of ink and paper.

My favorite high school English teacher was Mr. Toth. As an adult, I’d searched in vain for him for many years, but back east Robert Toth is a common name—there were 40 Robert Toths in the phone book in Ohio alone, and I wasn’t sure he even lived there anymore. In more recent years I looked him up on the computer, but he wasn’t a person who put himself on Facebook or had a web page. His whereabouts remained a mystery to me.

Out of the blue, one day a few years ago Mr. Toth found me on the internet! He’d been cleaning out boxes and found some papers I’d given him as a teen. He decided to search me out. He googled Kathleen Dunbar and was lead to my music website. He knew he’d found me. He emailed me and we were soon speaking on the phone.

How strange to be asked to call him by his first name, Robert. He told me that when he was in bookstores, he’d look around to see if there was a poetry book by me—he was sure that I would become a famous poet! How very, very moving it was to hear how this man had held dear my gifts for all these years!

It was a delight to be speaking with him at last! I had always wanted to thank him for the worlds he’d opened up to me, and now I did. One was a world of literature. He knew enough about writing to help me on my path as a budding writer. Another was a world of human relationship in which a sane adult encouraged a creative young person, and importantly, as all great teachers do, in this process and without making a big deal about it (which my teen self wouldn’t have liked) he helped me to value my vision and myself. In our phone conversation I told him about the very toxic and dysfunctional home I gladly left every morning to lose myself in classes at high school. (High school was no picnic either, but it was better to be in the DMZ than the active combat zone). He was totally surprised to hear my home life had been difficult as I’d never told anyone that at the time.

Soon after our conversation I I received a thick envelope in the mail from Mr. Toth (I still can’t think of him as Robert) which contained the literary journal Methinks I’d created as well as some poems and reports. One of the poems I put in Methinks is the one below. The first person I’d showed the poem to, along with some other writing, was Mr. Toth, with a note that said, “I don’t know if you want to read these. They aren’t that interesting . . . but here they are.” He’d read this note aloud to me in our initial phone conversation, and chuckled. He told me when he read the poem all those years ago, that at first he found it hard to believe a sixteen year old in a small country town had written it. It crossed his mind that I’d stolen it from somewhere, but he knew me well and trusted that the work must be my own. He turned his astonishment into mentoring me as a writer. What I took from that mentoring was a belief and confidence in my own gifts, and a better ability to bear the difficulties at home and later to navigate the world of my adult life. Mr. Toth had believed in me. To be believed in is profound medicine, which continues to act as both vitalizing tonic and healing agent. Mr. Toth was one of those teachers whose support not only made life bearable, but worthwhile. There was a place, at last, for Kathleen.

I had begun at the age of three by making poems that rhymed. When I was fourteen I received a copy of Laurence Ferlinghetti’s A Coney Island of the Mind. That book set me upon the path of free verse. I still write poetry in free verse form, but I came full circle and returned to rhymes as my singer-songwriter self in the creation of my original songs: You can find my americana music at kathleendunbar.com and my ambient/world music in which I “create” a language at bluelilah.com

Many good hearted souls have helped me believe in my ability to write. This is the story of one of them. Thank you, Mr. Toth, for being part of a foundation of aliveness for me, for seeing my poetry as a doorway to a life of creation, and helping usher me through it.

Here, then, is young Kathleen’s poem.

The Battle

Arrows of white light flung
from afar from the bow of the might orb,
darted between the tender, green
leaves, and fell, broken shafts, upon
the forest floor. So quickly did those
piercèd arrows fly that one could
not perceive their movement, but
saw only the brilliance of their
fiery flight, whence the earth,
steaming before their furious flame,
bore them in her dark side, a wounded
warrior.
Roaming among those arrows,
I did not smell the rage of battle,
nor did I feel the sting of fiery arms.
The mist of combat was not choking,
but moist and wet, and soothed
the heat of battle that the barrage
of arrows brought.
I sat, and, amid this raging
battle, I slept.

© Kathleen Dunbar, age 16

Japanese Tea Garden

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Japanese Tea Garden

I spent many years going to the
Japanese Tea Garden in
Golden Gate Park, writing poetry
and observing people. Over the
years I wrote down some of the
interesting things I heard people
saying—the quotes in the poem
are what people actually said!

The girl says, “I need sugar.”
Her mother in a loud voice says,
“You don’t need sugar. You want sugar.
You need air and water and food.”
“And sleep,” a smaller girl says,
a little sister.
“Yeah, you need sleep.”
I watch the furrow of the brows
in this family
from larger woman to smaller girl,
a field of worry.
I say to myself,
“You need love.”

Parents in the tea garden, to children:
“You can’t make too many wishes at once.”
“You don’t want to play in old water. It’s yucky.”
About the fortune cookies:
“There’s a little story inside.”

As a child I was frequently in trouble
for playing in water,
yucky and clean.
I immediately want to make “too many wishes.”
In fact I have begun long ago,
am always in the midst of them,
they are as familiar as prayer beads.

Two middle aged ladies are served
tea and cookies.
Their eyes light up!
The plump lady
leans conspiratorially into her friend’s shoulder.
“If you break it, all the calories fall out!”
They laugh out loud
having lived enough life
to let their laughter be heard.
Her friend smiles.
I like them.
They are two reasons to get older.

A couple pauses as they cross the stone bridge
deep in conversation,
then they stand in front of the shrine that rises
in orange and black above the plain garden of stones.
She is even more in earnest
contemplating the wooden tower to the gods.
Who doesn’t try to make sense of it all?
She says, “You remember the tomato?
She married the tomato’s older brother.
He was a brilliant physicist.
He really lost it and became a monk.”

A little family at the tea garden
sitting on the “front row” –
just above the pool –
throwing wish pennies in
the father says to the son,
“Do you want to be superman?”
The son says,
“Nah,
that’s not a job.”

Now the Russian boy sings happily
in a thick accent,
“Oh, we had bad luck!”
a far away country melody
as they fish his sister’s purse out of the goldfish pond.
His aunt climbed right over the counter
and perched on the base to the awning pole,
leaned over the waters
and pulled it out.
No one fussed in that family.
An accident.
Much less worse than some things
that happened
back in the old country.
The father patiently squeezes the water out of everything.

A woman is saying to a man
next to me:
“I gave you a hot bath
when we lived on Taylor Street.
Where the spirit lived.
After that party.
I came home and made you a hot bath.
I poured you a glass of beer
and the spirit made it shatter.
All those beautiful glasses that they don’t make anymore.”

A small wriggly boy
leans far over the counter
and says excitedly,
“You can corral fish, you know.”
A fish cowboy in the Japanese Tea Garden.
His mother moves his teacup away
just in time.
“Tell me about it,” she says.
I sigh.

A student with glasses
and an impossibly long orange scarf
says to her friend,
“I’ll go home and make some pudding
and have that soup and do my notes.
I’ll put some more chili in that soup!”
That simple.
They are very young.
They leave.
The stools emptied of them
fill with an old couple.
He waits for her to sit
before he does
as he has unnumbered times,
a habit of kindness.
They look out at the pond
and she says,
“It’s going to be our anniversary.
What are you going to give us for our anniversary?”
“I don’t know.
It’s going to be forty-eight years.”
They eat the cookies
and drink the tea
and say not one word more.

A woman to her child,
“My fortune says
‘If your desires are not extravagant
they will be granted.’”
Her little girl has pink socks
with sparkles
and stars
and frilly lace.
Her mother has sensible shoes.

Man to child, “You like adventures?
I like adventures too.”
For a moment
they are the same age.

My heart has filled up
like the pools
with all that these people
are seeing and saying
and wishing
and feeling.

Why do I ache so much?
I have frequently been known to make too many wishes,
throwing them ahead of me
into the extravagant mess of life,
the clear and the yucky waters.

I have been naked without love.
And I have been loved—am loved,
so that when my beloved
hears my yelped ouch
as I grate my tender fingertip
along with the carrots
he calls out from the steamy bathroom,
“Are you okay?”
and I know
that I have already
won the Lotto.

Before I go back home
I see another one of us:
That child is going to make a wish.
There is the wish-posture!
Everything in her being is expectant.
There is the holding of the breath,
the choosing—which side of the bridge
to throw the penny from,
which pool more lucky?
I know the upraised urge and launch
as the sudden metal bone of the wish
goes splashing into the pool,
the pause after – it’s done.
Seriousness,
then the smiling.
The moment after
the world is different:
it is wished in.
Will it come true?
We are all already nibbled on by the fishes.
She walks away looking back,
ripening a little.

We throw ourselves
ahead of ourselves
all the time,
our hearts sing a song
beyond us
not so much about
health, wealth, love
(the usual culprits)
but really about the more extravagant stuff—

the attempt to keep
being here
in the messiness,
the yucky
clear
magnificent
stumbling
miracle.

© Kathleen Dunbar

Photo by Kathleen Dunbar

What Did You Dream Last Night?

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What Did You Dream Last Night?

The rain was coming. I was soon to marry a man. However, an attractive woman appeared in the crowd at the coffee shop, and I thought, hm, I’ll marry her! Both the man and the woman were shining creatures, like small bright airplanes ready to take off, or scarves flying loose and high in the wind.

The window of the coffee shop took up an entire wall. Outside was a narrow street and buildings of old gray stone. There was a view to a woodland. The first drops of rain fell upon the street and in the woods. In my own body I felt the delicious holding-in before the release. I could feel the trees out on the wood’s verge also holding very still in the last moment of anticipation before opening to drink the rain.

The door of the coffee shop rang its bell and I turned to see a bewildered individual enter and make his way inside. He wore a coat softened with wear and the beginnings of the rain. His thin straight hair hadn’t been combed. It took me a moment to realize that he was presenting himself to me: his soft coat and his eyes, and something else: He held out his hands to me, both of them, palms downward. At first I didn’t understand.

The shop was crowded with people talking and waiting for their coffee drinks, faces and bodies expectantly turned towards the espresso machine. He’d threaded his way through the people and stood looking sideways between two energetic types. He looked up at me, beiA-What Did You Dream Last Night 11-29-14ng slightly shorter than my own six feet.

Something about this fellow, and all my thoughts of marriage—which seemed like a fun dash through life—fell out of my head. I knew without asking that he’d found me through a kind of physical intuition, like following the furtherest tendril of a plant back along to its root, and here, he had come to that vigorous source—me—as though we were kin.

He smiled, and waited for me to look at his hands.

The thing that shifted me, that took me from the world of the air to the ground around me, were his eyes. They showed me his inward world, and what I saw gave me a frisson of fear—here was a weary angel sad for the need for a coat in a town of stone and damp, and also a human creature given eyes to see who had used those eyes for all they were worth and found them wanting. He was on the knife edge of something momentous, and he had come to show me. He had an air of shock about him, but also relief. And he seemed to offer kindness, if I wanted to take it.

I looked closely at his hands, out-held, palm down, and by that reflex we have to mirror another’s gestures, I held out my own hands and looked at them. I gasped! Out of the ends of my left middle and index fingers something protruded. Tough little stems growing right out of my finger ends. Without a word he gave a little gesture, a “me too” of emphasis with his hands, and I saw that the both of us were sending out green shoots.

I was horrified. What was happening to me? With an instinct for the worst, before I knew it I’d taken off my shoes. My feet, normally pale with their unsunned days, had gone red—the veins, bright and swirling, showed clearly through the skin. My feet looked like pot-bound plants, when the gardenerA-What Did You Dream Last Night 11-29-14 has at last struck off the pots to find them a larger home to root.

I know I panicked at first. I don’t even remember leaving the coffee shop, or the hours afterwards. While I could still walk and get about, before I was completely transformed into a tree—for surely that was what was happening—I had to find the place I wanted to root, to remain. Losing the ability to move my body, I still wanted to move my eyes—I actually believed it mattered what I would look out and see. In short, I wanted to have a view. I didn’t remember seeing in the face of my kindly friend that he knew, and was trying to show me, that soon the eyes wouldn’t matter either.

I stood still on the street at the edge of town. The rain had paused, but the cool wet of it went deeply and refreshingly into me as I breathed. I thought of a beautiful country I’d seen in dreams: large old spreading trees tucked in a narrow valley, where a river poured itself over huge stones. Then immediately I was drawn to the mountains of another dream-place, where the pines stood and sighed out of the old sand of risen seabeds. I was searching my mind madly for the right place, when the still small voice said, no, none of those—you must go to—Colorado! I was an aspen, don’t you know. Colorado has miles of them.

My rational mind didn’t want to go to somewhere as “commonplace” as Colorado if I could go anywhere of my own imagining. But the wise voice knew better. I saw a little ridge that fell down at its end into a canyon. Across the wA-What Did You Dream Last Night 11-29-14ay the wall of the mountain rose to a great height. The air was full of unrained rain, the clouds as yet not letting down their water, but as full as they could be before letting all of it go.

I am sorry to say that I was unkind to my tree-kin man. Caring only about my own fear, I ran off and left him. It makes sense to me now that he didn’t speak—perhaps he’d already lost the ability to do so, or if he hadn’t, what words could possibly express this change! I had been terrified when faced with no choice in the matter. But as the dream ended the scrambling terrified energy of my mind began to lift up and off me as I settled down onto the mountain ridge, and the rain began to fall gently upon me. I woke and began to retell the tale to myself, as one does with dreams, bringing it from the depths of the magic land, like a rough gem unearthed which points to the mystery of the whole treasure. And I began to wonder: the tree man had been excited to see me, and kind, and I’d missed that in my panic. I realized he knew enough to surrender, and to invite me into the mystery, a real zen koan of a place. An enigma . . .

. . . out of sorts, but curious, I got out of bed, opened my computer, and looked up a place I’d once travelled to, in Colorado, a place called Crested Butte. I’d hiked near there—all this in the waking world mind you—on the top of the world one late spring. I’d walked through meadows of blue lupine, and stopped to drink water near a patch of white albino lupine that tumbled over both sides of the path. Tired out after miles of walking, and needing to get to my next destination to sleep, that long evening I’d driven through an aspen grove that lasted miles upon miles, and remembered what I’d read in the guide-book: That such large stands of western aspens are a single individual grown from one seedling. One such forest in neighboring Utah is estimated to be 80,000 years old and among the oldest known living organisms on earth, and is the heaviest living organism at 13 million pounds. The roots send up shoots that live up to a hundred and thirty years, when they die and are absorbed in the forest soil to nourish the roots, and other shoots are sent A-What Did You Dream Last Night? up. Fires may destroy the surface trees, but the roots send up new growth and the forest lives both under the ground and in the living air once again.

We are individual raindrops in a storm of melted air that is eventually taken to the sea, where we are both the drops and the whole. We are, too, the trees upon the mountain in a fling of color and trembling and white bodies full of birds, and we are the one root that holds them all, and we are the mystery out of which all this beauty comes. So, it is good to drink coffee, to marry and to fall apart if that’s what helps us learn, to desire and wonder, and walk where our feet take us and talk madly and quietly and angrily and kindly and sometimes not at all and to use our limbs and hands to live this incredible thing that is life. And in the end to fall back into the earth after the wild beautiful riot of the body is finished.

We are the rain and the rained on. The body and the source. And so, I think, I was visited with an angel in my dream, with wild shoots growing out of his finger ends, kindly pointing the way.

Photos by Kathleen Dunbar

For a song about becoming a tree, try this one from my CD Finally Home. It’s called “Sweet Rain” and you can find it on Bandcamp or kathleendunbarmusic.com

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