Prayer of the Inadequate White Woman

(On Pentecost – for the Generations of Slaughtered and Oppressed)

You shouldn’t have to shout to be heard.
I will be quiet.
You shouldn’t have to speak time after time after time.
I will be your voice when you want to rest.
You shouldn’t have to state the obvious that your life matters.
And that it is in danger.

You shouldn’t have to say, “I forgive you,” to those of us
trying to do better.
You shouldn’t have to endure.
You’ve already pointed the way.
Thank you.

God of unchanging love, kindle in me the willingness
To be disrupted, the energy and courage to act, the grace
To make mistake after mistake after mistake
So others may know peace.

God of comfort and God of disturbance, make me worthy
Of my pretty words.

A Pandemic, A Poem, and a Pose

Hello dear friends,

There are pieces of paper all over my house, stuck in the desk drawer and various books and sections in my planner with short lines, notes to myself about some profound essay I want to write about this pandemic. There’s the personal angle, “I don’t want to go back to normal. Normal wasn’t working. Normal will never come back. We are all going to be changed. I hope anyway. I hope I learn something and change. How will I change?”

The parenting angle. “We are NOT OK! (Yes, we love having more time with our kids, its precious AND we are not ok.)

There’s the social justice angle. “This pandemic exposes yet again the disparities in access to health care, and ‘good outcomes’, social support and economic privilege, that run sharply along the divisions of race, class and martial status.” And “How are we profiling people in masks? Are Asians paranoid? Black men up to no good? Are you sick?”

The ecological justice angle. “The Earth is so happy! They sky is so clear and air so fresh. Can all this finally help us, help me, address climate change?”

Then there’s the spiritual / religious angle that runs akin to the aforementioned personal angle, “We are an Easter people. Resurrection is transformation.” (I swear I thought of this before my rector said it.) “Lament is a sacred tradition. Don’t dismiss or bury your feelings. Don’t let your optimism hurt others. Don’t try a spiritual bypass.” “Now is the time for Benedictine steadiness and conversion. Stand in this time, these feelings, this unknown and grow even if, especially if, you do not know what direction that will take.”

So many thoughts and emotions. Which is, I suspect, exactly where you are too. No conclusions, no inspiration beyond responding to the circumstances of each day with as much breath and patience and love as possible held in conversation with tension, anxiety, and overwhelm.

And this. Yoga, art, books, television. And poetry, which seems to be how I spill out emotion these days. So here’s a little poem followed by a restorative pose I recently learned from Amy Ippoliti’s newsletter. May it feed you well.

What I won’t do on the Sabbath.

I can tell you what I won’t be doing tomorrow.
I won’t be checking social media.
I won’t be going to church, in person or online.
I won’t be sitting in front of the TV all day
Or washing floors or cooking elaborate meals.
I won’t be catching up on email.
I’ll try not to have a to-do list of relaxing activities.
I might dig in the dirt or paint a pot.
I guarantee I’ll look at the sky.
I might walk in the woods.
I hope I remember to build a fairy house and say a prayer.
If I had any confidence I’d sketch something beautiful.
Maybe I’ll call a friend.
I’d like to write an essay.
I want silence or an audiobook – or a real book.
I’ll drink my tea without doing something else like reading or working.
Just me and the tea and a window.
I’ll give space for fear and grief and exhaustion to
Come out of confinement and manifest as simmering pain in my bones.
Tomorrow I will practice social resistance through rest.
Or maybe, one day, perhaps tomorrow, I’ll expect less of myself.

Delightful Restorative Pose

This little bit of deliciousness is perfect for when you need to rest, or when you want to nap but your nerves are too jittery to let you sleep. It’s also good for whenever the mood strikes you. It’s pictured using a chair and yoga props and can just as easily be done using the couch, a belt, and a pillow or stack of blankets.

You will need:

Chair, 2 – 3 blankets, Bolster (or a firm pillow or several folded blankets to make a stack), a strap

  1. If possible, find a quiet space. Otherwise, try it with your kids running around anyway. (I will, too. If I can remember.)
  2. Place a folded blanket on the seat and back of your chair. This is to cushion your legs and keep your feet warm and can be omitted if using your couch.
  3. Place a bolster, stack of blankets or firm pillow up against the chair or couch.
  4. Sit on the bolster and place a strap or belt around your shins. I find this to be a key element in the relaxing nature of this pose because it helps the energy maintain a connection to the midline, which my body always needs. If you give it a good try and come to the opposite conclusion, remove the strap.
  5. Swing your feet up onto the chair or couch and lie back on the bolster.
  6. The edge of the bolster, cushion, or blankets should be at about the base of your shoulder blades so your chest can open. If this is too deep place a small towel under your head or another folded blanket under your upper back to reduce the angle. Cover yourself with an additional blanket for warmth if you prefer.
  7. Stretch your arms overhead and close your eyes.
  8. Breathe.
  9. Stay here for as long as you like.
  10. When you are ready slowly lift your legs off the chair and carefully roll onto your side before coming up to a seat.

Be well, my friends, in whatever way that looks like to you.

Love,

Melinda

Photos © Melinda Emily Thomas

An Invitation

Hello dear friends,

Welcome to this crazy new world of pollen and an epic virus. I don’t even know where to begin. There’s such dissonance between the springtime rhythms of blossoming and the call to shelter in place and practice social distancing. That’s a winter energy. Still, I am grateful that we are, at least in North Carolina, for the time being experience good weather and are still allowed to take walks and be outside as long we practice appropriate social distancing.

Social distancing, while accurate, is not a term I like. Christine Valters Paintner has reframed this as “compassionate retreat.” I like this because it suggests an action that comes from a place of love instead of a place of fear. We retreat out of respect for one another. We retreat out of a recognition that if one of us suffers, we all suffer. We retreat not in the sense of an army leaving a battle but in the sense of taking a step away from our usual modes of being and opening to something new. 

For some this compassionate retreat is a welcome respite (hello my fellow introverts!), for others a terrifying place of isolation and anxiety. Whatever our circumstances, we are all, as a global community, thrust into the unknown and forced to live more fully in the present.

On a personal level, I oscillate between periods of exhaustion, anxiousness, and disconnect as my mind struggles to comprehend the situation. It feels akin to the months after Cole was born when the immediacy of caring for a wholly dependent child plunged me into a state of overdrive with very little time to process all the ensuing emotions. Balancing my many jobs, which I am fortunate to be able to do from home, with schooling, entertaining and caring for Cole is a challenge. 

And yet, there is much to savor. I rather enjoy working from home. And it’s a treat to be more a part of Cole’s days. He has a whole life in kindergarten that I am not privy to. I try to remember this when he calls “mama” for the millionth time in an hour and when we get on each other’s nerve and lose it by mid-afternoon (or earlier). We’re doing more FaceTime with the cousins. 

So that’s just a little about where I am. I don’t really have anything of note to say as I haven’t had enough time to sit with it all. What I do have is an invitation. 

This Friday, April 3rd, I will turn 40. I was supposed to be in Boone with a friend. That of course will have to wait. In its place, I’d like to celebrate my birthday with YOU. From a place of compassionate retreat of course.

Ten years ago some friends and I spent our Friday evenings doing advanced asana together. When Hannah turned 40 she tasked us with doing 40 backbends. This remains a pinnacle life experience. When Mike, our host, turned 40, he set up a practice with our entire community and collected donations to support the food pantry. 

I’m drawing inspiration from both and THIS SATURDAY at 10:30 or 11 I will live stream a yoga practice from my living room. I won’t make you do 40 backbends but we will do something like 4 backbends held for 1 minute each, or a 40 pose sequence. Something kitchy but meaningful. I’m still working on that part. I’ll also post a link where you can donate to Dorcas Ministries. Their food pantry and crisis ministry are in high demand. They are good stewards of your money and your gift will go a long way to support the growing need in our community. 

I will post all the tech details on Friday. 

I’ve also created a page on my website with links to a few resources. There are a couple of audio practices I recorded years ago as a well as a video that was filmed as part of a pitch for a book project (more on that another day). It’s just a little something to guide you through your practice since in person classes are not available at this time. 

So, stay tuned friends, I’ll connect with you again on Friday. 

Be safe, stay well, and know you are in my heart. 

Love,

Melinda

Photo © Melinda Emily Thomas

No Apologies, Please

I was working from home last Friday when I heard mens’ voices. From the safety of my upstairs window I peered through the blinds and watched them open the gate and enter my courtyard.

I walked downstairs. I opened the sliding patio door and stepped outside.

They were surprised to see me.

The tall man introduced himself as the head of the homeowners association, the other a landscaper. They are going to cut down the bushes – including the Rose of Sharon I just pruned which is getting ready to bloom – so they can repaint the fencing. He looked with distain at the toys on the ground and my flimsy metal patio furniture and scolded me for things which cannot be seen from the street or any other vantage point unless you are standing right up at the fence looking in. A fleet of plastic trucks harming no one.

I looked up at him, my heart pounding, my voice quaking. “Please leave.”

“Excuse me?” he said.

I pointed to the still open gate.

He looked down at me. Down because he had to. And maybe because he wanted to. “I will leave and I will be polite about it,” then said that the fenced in courtyard–visible only from my windows, accessible only by my door and the four foot tall gate–is a common area and tiptoed just at the edge of saying that as a renter I have no right to expect such a thing as privacy in this outdoor space.

“You could have knocked first.”

“How was I supposed to know you were home?”

“You could have knocked. You could have noticed there was a car in the driveway.”

He agreed to knock in future.

I felt acutely small. A speck of a thing easily picked up and pocketed or swept aside. I wished I were taller, wider, stronger. I wished I’d felt cool confidence instead of hot trembling.

But I used my voice anyway. And for that I am proud. As I saw on an Instagram meme, I will not apologize for the space I inhabit. I will not let my first and last words as a woman be, “I’m sorry.” There is a time and place for apologies and amends. This was not one of those times. 

I was civil. I will said please because my parents taught me that manners respect the dignity of other people. I cleaned up the toys. I wrote to my property manager.

Later that night, inspired by the fierce-woman-fire-poetry of Amanda Lovelace, I wrote this:

I spend so much time
wishing
I were
lighter
with
fewer inches
around the middle,

except for the moment
of truth
when you looked
down at me and said
I had
no right
to say,
Please Leave.

Then.
Then, I
wished
I was
HUGE.
A fire giant,
a warrior
tattooed in ink
and feathers,
or lipstick.

I will
not apologize
for taking up
space
behind this fence,
or
any fence.

I will
not apologize
for telling,
not asking,
you to please knock
next time
you
want to
enter
this property
I do not
own
but pay for
with
every cent
so my son
has a place to play
and I
have room
to
b r e a t h e.

May you know how to say please and still inhabit your own space, without apology. Without fear.

With Love,

Melinda

Photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash

%d bloggers like this: