Mar 112015
 

Hello friends. Got this letter in the mail. Please meet my new favorite person in the whole wild world—Rachel. Warning: a bit of profanity ahead. To me it is perfectly placed, exactly right profanity—but I am just telling you so you’re ready.

Love.

*****************************

G,

I have been writing this thank you card in my head since July. Your blog post “Your Body is Not Your Masterpiece, Your Life Is” changed my life. That make sound a bit dramatic (not too surprising with my personality) but it is 100 percent true. I have been working for years in therapy to find peace with my body. I had been working and working and trying and trying and together, my therapist and I have made some progress. But a few days before your post, I experienced a pretty major setback and felt pretty torn up inside. I had worked so hard and it felt like my battle with my body was in full swing. And then—and then, sweet G, your blog post landed like magic in my inbox. Paintbrush! My body is my paintbrush and my LIFE is my masterpiece?! Tweet: My body is my paintbrush and my LIFE is my masterpiece! @momastery http://ctt.ec/fIfJf+ Something about your words just moved me. Literally moved me to tears, moved me forward on my journey, and moved me towards peace in a lifelong battle. It was like I had been humming a tune with no words in my head, at times it was so quiet and all the nasty voices in my head so loud, I couldn’t hear it. With therapy, I worked on quieting the nasty voices and listening carefully to the music and humming along. But G, your blog was like hearing the words to the song for the first time. Your blog gave me lyrics to the music I had been trying to write, language to hold onto when the battle felt fierce. THANK YOU. That doesn’t even seem like anywhere close to what I want to say—like it’s a tiny fraction of how appreciative I feel.

“Paintbrush” has become a special term for me. It’s my mantra. I meditate on it and repeat it to myself every time I do pretty much anything. I say it to myself at the gym when I am celebrating my body by using it, I whisper it to myself on the way to first dates. It’s my thing. In fact, on the day I first brought your blog to my therapist, through tears I exclaimed, “My body is a fucking paintbrush! It’s MY paintbrush! I am going to dress up like an effing paintbrush for Halloween!!” So enclosed, please find a photo of me dressed up like an effing paintbrush for Halloween. Thank you so much, G—for so much.

Love totally wins,
Rachel

paintbrush-RB

With her letter, Rachel also sent me a copy of the book Tattoos on the Heart, along with this postscript:

Tattoos on the HeartBooks are pretty much my favorite ever. So my favorite way to say thank you is to pass along special books to special people. I hope you enjoy this one. Father G is an inspiration. Homeboy Industries is an incredible agency that teaches former gang members to find the love they have been missing…inside themselves. (I have no affiliation with them, I am just sort of a stalker of Father G’s amazing love from afar and, since I am a social worker in LA—he is a bit of a rock star to all of us working with the underserved.)  Father G’s book is one of my favorites of all time. I read it over and over, listen to the audio version like it’s going out of style, and cling to his words (like I do yours) for strength and inspiration. A priest who devotes his life to teaching gang members to love themselves and each other and writes to us all about it? Brutiful! I hope you enjoy.

“Here is what we seek: a compassion that can stand in awe at what the poor have to carry rather than stand in judgment at how they carry it.” – Gregory Boyle 

Rachel: I read it. Then I read it again. Then I begged everyone I know to read it. It is now one of my all-time favorite books and Father Boyle is one of my all-time favorite humans.


Mar 042015
 

Last night I was in my cloffice finishing something up and I heard my girls start fighting for the seven millionth time. They were yelling at each other and their voices were getting louder and louder and I just got so pissed. I felt so DONE. I was so tired of their fighting that I totally forgot that peace begins with me and I lost it. I just lost it. I stood up and RAN out of my cloffice with such fury that I bashed my toes against the wall. And it hurt like a mother. It felt like a FIRE had just started on my foot. The pain traveled all the way to the top of my head and my entire existence became stubbed toe.  I looked up at Tish who had just walked into the room and I let out the F-bomb. Loudly. In her direction. And then with my most terrifying monster voice I growled. GET. OUT. GET. OUT! She immediately started crying hysterically – she thought I was dying – and she ran out. I let her go and I crumpled onto the floor.

This really would have been bad enough, but I had more damage to do. Because I was angry and exhausted and a little embarrassed and so it was important for me to make sure everyone knew this was NOT MY FAULT. It was THE FIGHTING. It was THEM. They did this to me. So I picked my bashed toes up of the ground and I limped out of my room and I found both my girls huddled and crying in the hallway. And I looked them right in the eye and I said: Do you SEE WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FIGHT LIKE THIS? BAD things happen. I got HURT.

And they looked at me with the saddest eyes I’ve ever seen because their mommy was hurt and it was all their fault. And I looked back at them with the saddest eyes because my girls were hurt and it was all my fault. And I should have grabbed them right then and there – but I couldn’t say sorry yet. I just couldn’t. I was so tired. I just wanted everybody to feel as bad as I did for a little bit longer.

So I went back to my room and shut the door and sat on the floor and held my foot and rocked back and forth there for a while. My toes didn’t even hurt anymore. I just held them in case Craig walked in. He needed to think I was hurt badly. I needed a good excuse. And Craig did walk in a few moments later – holding a frozen bag of broccoli. And he sat down on the floor next to me and silently held the frozen broccoli on top of my foot. I’m pretty sure he knew I wasn’t hurt all that bad. But still. The broccoli was grace. And grace is what makes a girl ready to apologize.

So after a few minutes I stood up and walked out of my room to find my girls again. I wiped their weepy eyes and I grabbed their teeny hands and I asked them to follow me. They did, because they still trusted me. We curled up on Amma’s bed and Craig came in, too, and I kissed their soft, soft faces and I said: I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for scaring you. None of that was your fault. Sisters fight. It’s normal for you to fight. Mommy hurt herself and she was angry and she lashed out at you because she wanted someone to blame. You weren’t to blame at all. I’m so sorry.

And they cried and promised that they forgave me and I rocked them like they were babies again, because they were. And then I looked up to see that Chase was standing in the door, taking a picture of us. And I said, “What are you doing?” And Chase said, “My homework for photography class is to take one picture that represents my family. This is it – with all the apologizing and hugging and crying and forgiving. This is us.”

Yes. This is family: With all the apologizing and hugging and crying and forgiving — a place to practice giving and accepting grace. Tweet: Family: With all the apologizing, hugging, crying & forgiving-a place to practice giving & accepting grace http://ctt.ec/6dDI9+ @momastery

Family pic

So, there you go. This is Us. Us is Grace. And Grace is good enough for Us.

*When I put Tish to bed she said: Mama. That sure was an overreactment of you, wasn’t it?

Yes, Yes it was. I said.

Mama – you said the F word.

Yes, Yes I did. I said.

 

The Melton Family Poem
Grace for you,
Grace for me,
Grace for her and him and we.

Feb 272015
 

ATTENTION PEACE TEACHERS! (Ministers, therapists, parents, lovers, teachers, sisters, brothers, artists, all the people!)

Dress Seen Round the World

Okay: The dress seen ’round the world. This one, the one that some see as blue and black and others see as gold and white??? Everyone is posting about it and insisting that the way they see it is THE WAY IT IS and the whole thing is fun and funny and awesome and also I JUST DON’T WANT US TO MISS the opportunity here!

This dress is the BEST peacemaking tool I’ve seen in a while.

One of the first things I learned about good teaching is that in order to teach a new concept- you DON’T START BY TALKING ABOUT THE CONCEPT. You show people something concrete, let them see it and touch it and discover it- THEN you attach a concept to it. Like- if you want to teach someone about the properties of water- you first let an ice cube melt in her hand. If you want to teach her about affection- you put a puppy in her lap. Etc.

I (and so many of you) want to teach people that the greatest opportunity in the world is not to convince others to see things your way, but to try to see things a new way. Whenever anyone says to me – Well, you know- I just tell it like it is – I know they’re not ready for serious peace-making. Because peacemakers know that NO ONE TELLS IT LIKE IT IS. We can only tell it LIKE
WE SEE IT. Tweet: Folks say-I tell it like it is. Truth: No one tells it like it is-we only tell it like we see it http://ctt.ec/Vv692+ @momastery #TheDress

And so the most effective truth tellers say “Can I share how I see this? And will you share how you see it, too?” And they know how to hold space for both perspectives. They do not feel the need to judge who is right and wrong, necessarily, because they know that two opposing perspectives can both be true. And/Both. Peacemakers know that  THERE IS NO IT! There are only millions of different perspectives of IT. And so instead of worrying about MAKING people see things our way- we can just explain our perspective- and then be curious about other perspectives. Instead of digging in our heels and judging and convincing, we can just get curious and learn from each other. I call this staying open, and it is just a really wonderful, hard, exciting, interesting way to live.

But this AND/BOTH of truth is a HARD CONCEPT to teach. And so we need something concrete to use as a jumping off point – a teaching tool. The dress thing is IT!

Last night my family sat down with this dress and half of us saw blue and black and the other saw gold and white and at first we COULD NOT BELIEVE IT. NO! NO! NO! we all said. IT has to be one or the other! Half of us are right and the other half are wrong and we are not leaving this screen till we figure it out!! It was kind of hilarious and stressful and honestly a little upsetting at first. Learning, REAL learning is always a little upsetting at first.

But then, after a looooooong while – everyone had to agree: oh my gosh. Maybe none of us are wrong. Maybe we actually just LITERALLY see things differently. And maybe that’s not awful. Maybe that’s AWESOME. Maybe your experience of this dress is as valid as mine is, even though our experiences are different. Weird. So weird. So cool. So weird. My kids said sooo weird forty times.

And then my girls attached this concept to a fight they’d just had about sharing space in their rooms. Tish said: Maybe we were just seeing things differently. Maybe we were both right. And then Amma was like: HECK NO – I WAS RIGHT- but whatever, she’s a tough nut to crack. Still, progress.

Then later that night- Craig and I used the  And/Both dress experience to discuss an impasse we’ve come across recently. I said: tell me how you see it. He told me and then I said: this is how I see it. Our perspectives were so different. We didn’t solve anything, but we did hold space for the paradox- for the AND/BOTH of him and me. We hugged afterwards, which was nice. The hug, and the whole experience –reminded me of this poem by Rumi that I love so very very much:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field. I will meet you there.

–Rumi

This dress points to that field! Save it! Use it when you need it!

Thank you sweet internet.

 

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