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16 September 2018


or, what I learned about love from Lakota parents

Love deserves two posts. I write a lot about love because it is such an incredible force. Because it binds us to each other and cosmos. Because it makes us strong. Because it may be the very best humanity offers the world and each other.

I’ve learned a lot about love from the Blackfoot and Lakota people. Spending time not only with their home lands but with their children has made me both a better lover and better mother.

One of the most meaningful things I learned about love from the Lakota is borne in their name for children: “little sacred ones” or wakanyeja. I remember being taught that children and elders are closer to the spirit world, and so they are more sensitive than we “grown ups,” middle aged people. Professor Red Shirt writes that, "as long as a small infant has a soft spot on its head, it is sacred. It is through that opening that Tunkasila communicates with that child."

Kevin McKenzie, Cree & Meti; NMAI 2017

In the Christian way we are taught that before we are born an Angel takes all through cosmos and shows all the greatest mysteries. Then the Angel presses the finger to our lips creating the divet over the upper lip so that we will not tell all these great unknowns to everyone when we are born, but get to experience them and live them—find them out all over again through life. Some say the older we get the more we forget what the Angel showed us. But I think the idea was that deep down inside we would know the mysteries, so that when we experienced them our intuition would leap up and recognize them—THIS! This is it! And we would stay on the path that brought us to that moment. We would find our way back to Source, back home.

But in too many Christian traditions, children have not been treated as “little sacred ones,” often their sensitivity is beaten out of them with words and hands—instead of revered and learned from. Instead of hugging our children and holding them so they do not need to cry, we tell them to buck up, shut up, with hands and words.

As an HSP, I have a different perspective on the strengths and purposes of sensitivity. Because, like a child, I am still deeply, highly sensitive. Not only does it make us more aware of the world we are in, the feelings and experiences of the living beings around us—it makes us more aware of the Spirit world here with us now. The sacred in the mundane. Some of us have visions or dreams, others pull down great insights about life and cosmos in every day conversations, colors, weather, from animals or art. Our sensitivity makes this possible, makes us awake to communications on both axes of the medicine wheel. Children and elders are closer to that spirit world, we are taught, and they have access to this wisdom more directly, more seamlessly, more readily than adults. Because as we harden, we create walls to all kinds of things, not only pain or struggle.

And while I am HSP, and hold onto that sensitivity, still I find myself hardened by the world: Cynical or low on faith, sometimes more than others. Beat down, tired of the hegemonic world I live in that places so little value on the things I hold most sacred, beings I most honor.

So, I think we are meant to learn about love by loving our children and our elders—who we are asked to love better, with more awareness, with more energy, with more dedication, with our higher selves. We are asked to be our best selves as we love our elders and our babies. Compassionate, empathetic, without walls of any kind. This in itself is a great gift.

But I think there is yet more to learn from our little sacred ones. I think the sacredness of our children, and the love we are asked to give them, helps us keep cosmos closer to us, keeps us closer to the Spirit world where we can feel, know, experience our interrelatedness, our inseparable connection to all of life. Loving them well reminds us how to live like children and elders: closer to Spirit world.

One more infinitely meaningful thing the Lakota offer that makes my life more significant. Pilamaya ye, Lakota people. May this post honor you and your ways.

three of the sweetest little boys I know

11 September 2018


or, how raising a boy taught me what I deserve

One of the Lakota values is pure and simple love. In some languages there are as many words for “love” as the Inuit have for “snow” and the Hopi have for “sand.” Because there are just so. Many. Kinds. of love.

I would like to be all lover, but I’m not. I’m half warrior. As in all things in life, there is a time to love and a time to fight. I like to keep those spaces discrete. Keep fighting in the ring, or the world—as need be. And keep loving in my home, in my close relationships, but sometimes also in the world—as need be. Sometimes we give our fight love, and others, we fight for love. Both are necessary. Both are difficult.

I have been single a long time, punctuated by some incredible romances, one marriage that didn’t work, and a few men that fell in between. Now, I have an incredible, beautiful child. A Boy. An insightful, curious, imaginative, intellectual, deep, mixed Boy who started talking about the same time the #MeToo movement was born. A few weeks ago, we were walking along and he said, “mama, what’s the easiest thing to do?” I’m his mother; he is my baby who I grew, carried and birthed. And there is nothing more innate, more hard-wired in humanity than the need, survival need, to connect. So, I said, “to love!” He replied,

            “Oh, no, mama! Loving is HARD!”

Not for nothing, the kid is right. There is nothing more hard-wired than loving. But there is also nothing more difficult.

I’ve dated a few men in the last few years, most have children, all were black. One of the things we talked about was how I’m raising my white-black-red son, and how I’m preparing him for the world. How do I give him love, and what kind of love at home prepares him for the world? And that’s a big question, because I have a lot of responsibility on my plate to prepare a brown child for a world full of cops and neo-Nazis, but also to have relationships with women (if he’s hetero) that will be mutually supportive and healthy.

I feel pretty strongly that as his mother, I set the tone for all of his relationships with women. I would like him to feel safer, freer, and unbound by the toxic masculinity that makes messes of love in so many forms for so many, and has for at least 10,000 years. I want him to have all his feelings, not only anger. And I want him to feel free to express them with me so that when he goes on to have intimate relationships, he will feel safe and secure to share his inner world with the people he loves, or wants to love. If he cannot, intimacy will be hard to achieve, and that is a lonely life. Emotional, psychological intimacy and trust are bound up in one another. And they should support each other. This requires vulnerability. So, he is safe to be vulnerable with me, and explore whatever he feels vulnerable about. If not, his shadow can grow and become a demon that he will not be able to love and therefore live with.

Too many of the men I have dated, have wanted me to be tougher on him, some called it “tough love,” others called it “preparing him for the world,” yet it was never because he didn’t respect me, do what I asked, behave well, or had somehow gone out of bounds. It was “because he’s a boy.”

I’m calling bullshit. I think this thinking is part and parcel of toxic masculinity. And I think it actually ruins our boys for the world, for the ability to know when to fight and when to love. Here’s why.

When we feel loved, we feel safe. When we feel safe, we can be who we are, take risks, explore ourselves and the world. Love makes us courageous. Love urges us forward, it powers us for the fight through self-knowledge, confidence, having safe places to explore scary thoughts, feelings, patterns, experiences. Knowing someone has our back makes us MORE willing, not less, to go out into the world for the fight… for the work… for the risk.

Letting my son be vulnerable at home while knowing he is safe and loved no matter what IS what prepares him to go into the world to be courageous and strong when he needs to be. He will know himself, he will know he is loveable, he will know his strengths and weaknesses, he will be friends with his shadow self so that his shadow doesn’t overtake him. And in that process, if I reflect some insight back to him about himself, or try to teach him something, he will know he is loved and accepted, NO MATTER what, so that he can accept that new insight, without feeling defensive or angry or unlovable. But even that, is not really my job. My job is to help him know himself. Help him know that no matter what he learns about himself, he is still loved, so that he can face his own demons. Let him know this is a place to be free. Because he is safe. When he can explore freely, he will be ready to face the demons in the world.


It was during a time when my marriage was falling apart that I realized attachment theory (children and parents) applied to intimate, romantic love relationships. If we ask for something without response long enough, we will stop asking. We will detach. Babies will die. Adults will move on. We will find another source for connection, closeness, the give and take that is love. And so have I. I ask for a safe space. I ask for love. I ask for intimacy and vulnerability in my love relationships. You will feel safe to be, to show, to explore all of yourself with me. And just having me there to do that with you, will make it possible for you to grow yourself in the way you desire. And for me: the same. Let me feel loved, safe, that I can say anything to you, show you my shadow side, show you whatever is there. Because If I can show it to you, I can face it myself, and I can also grow to become who I know I am meant to be.

When love at home makes us feel safe, we can take the risks that make us strong. We become courageous enough for the fight in the world, for the love in the world.