the good people

ah, the tender vast space between myself and the good people.

i generally don’t use the terms good, bad, right or wrong with any seriousness. this is an exception. i’m going to use ‘good’ in the simplest sense here, shamelessly, because i was just really good for like 4 days and am thus a bit exhausted. proceed at risk of gross simplification.

i just spent a few days with one of my sisters and her husband. they are ‘good’ people. friendly, brilliant, hardworking, and nice to others because they genuinely want to be.

i, on the other hand, am more of a visitor to the experience of being a ‘good’ person. when it happens i feel like a different self, a self that aligns with what i imagine actually-good people feel like most of the time.

i used to strive for good with virgo zeal. a pedestal-worthy good – selfless and kind and working for justice and honest and hardworking and knowing-how-to-do-things.

in addition to my sister and her husband, i happen to know lots of people who are good in this way most of the time, and still let me come around, so i have reference points and observational wisdom to bear. (my best friend is good!) i sometimes feel like i live in a forest of people on well-earned pedestals who all manage to still be interesting.

i want to document this because i suspect the tipping point of whether humans deserve to continue our existence on this planet is somehow linked to the ways in which we are good. not just good out of some obligation to others, but the good that grows wild because it feels natural and right.

it feels like this:

a) without thinking about it, hours pass in which i make decisions where my concerns are not centered, not even necessarily present.
b) there is something that needs to be done, i do it.
c) if i don’t know how, i figure it out.
d) if there is a best way to do it, i aim for that, even if no one else will know.
e) when the task is done, i don’t sit around feeling proud of it…i look for the next task that must be done.

i can do this for hours, even days.

but so far i can only really do this when i am in auntie mode or, occasionally, in love. with my sister autumn’s family, this good self comes out easily.

i notice it, usually in retrospect, because it’s not how i am usually wired. i find myself having just done a lot of helpful things and just feeling alive and present and happy.

my norm – which fortunately also feels alive and present – involves shamelessly thinking of myself a lot of the time. i don’t know if it is even possible to be good in the way i mean and have a blog. i think deeply about my comfort, my joy, my pleasure, my learning.

i think about what is a fair contribution from me relative to others in terms of effort towards whatever tasks may be at hand. i get bored, my mind wanders. i start writing blogs on being helpful instead of being helpful. even when it comes to chores around my own house i have to turn it into a musical costumed event with wine (‘presenting and i daresay toasting adrienne as domestic goddess’) or i just can’t really apply myself to the task.

when people ask me for help, there is still an inner voice like, ‘do i have to?’ i would rather not be asked to do something good…just let me do it on my own. i like my good acts to be inspired, not obligated (more on this later).

but i also rarely initiate goodness.

and then, when i am good, i usually want thanks or praise for it – see how good i am? is anyone watching me be good here? cause otherwise i would rather be watching louis or archer.

i accept and love who i am. i share an astrological sign with mother teresa, so this acceptance has been a journey. but i would love to be a more generally good person. so i am really interested in what has pierced my self-orientation here in my mid-30s.

(i’m dramatizing, i am. i hope.)

but when i land in rural minnesota for my monthly visit and move into the rhythms of that two-full-time-job-three-kid having household, my good self emerges. my source of joy shifts outside myself. being helpful, doing what’s needed, being present with the babies, all of this suddenly becomes enough for a life. janelle monae starts singing ‘to be victorious, you must find glory in the little things,’ and it feels like it could sustain me indefinitely.

what i know as clearly as i know the ‘good’ feeling is that part of how i can be so good this one week of each month is that i leave. i don’t have the capacity yet to be that good all the time. i visit good, then go home and go about my life being…not bad, but more just thoughtfully middling.

as i mentioned earlier, i don’t really do anything out of obligation. i tried being good out of obligation for much of my 20s and it was a mess – everyone within silent-resentment range of me could feel me suffering the sacrifices.

but the good i get to visit now is magnificent in part because when i am in it, i am doing the only thing i could even imagine wanting to do in that moment. it feels like an appropriate use of the miracle of my life.

i am in a real exploration of how to bring this passionate goodness into the rest of my life, with people over the age of 5 and not related to me, in places that don’t look and smell like rural fairy forest heaven.

because it feels like life force in my body, and why humans are here – to be living embodiments of love. to be good.

i would love to hear experiences others have with being good – when does it happen, who inspires it, where and why, and how is it sustained?

it is a simple thing, but it might just be everything.

Reflections on miracle work

The most important things in life are breathing, sleeping, eating, and letting go of what you don’t need.

It really works to use the right words for the situation. ‘Yes’ ‘down’ and ‘open’, for instance, are great words, chants, guides for a birth.

Love at first sight is possible, in context. When I first saw her, I saw my whole lineage in her strong body swimming through the tub towards her mama. I started crying because love opened me.

There are ways to be strong even when you can do nothing on your own, even when you need many hands to hold you. This child has dignity, as do her strong and vulnerable parents.

The most radical gift one human can offer another is encouragement to listen to themselves, their bodies, their own knowing.

The beauty of children encouraged to feel – it’s a perfect tender beauty. Watching my nephew and niece fiercely miss their mama as she attends to their new sister, and be able to say so, is emotionally thrilling.

Some feelings are so big they require me to go outside. I keep going to bring in more wood so I can smile in the snow and let my body move around all this massive love in my heart.

Anxiety is not useful in miracle work.

It takes about two hours to heat enough water on a stove to fill a birth tub and have it around 96°.

An apron with pockets is a great uniform for a birth.

Delegation, done well, is an act of kindness. People of all ages and abilities long to be useful.

Patience is a gorgeous feeling. To actually feel unrushed at a cellular level, not urgent in your soul, is healing.

There are so many things we don’t understand. Lately I’ve been worrying about mortality, beginning to feel rushed and anxious about my life and my philosophies. But the patience generated as the baby was coming was a balm. She didn’t know where she was coming to, but still it was time to move beyond the known world. It was an active patience, she was not pushed only, she was working too, finding the way.

I have to think on this more, this active patience, doing my work in abundant time, with a respect for ripeness.

For the moment I am inspired by remembering my central work is like hers, to breathe/meditate, to sleep/rest, to eat/nourish, and to let go/have faith.

Welcome to my new teacher, Mairead Irene Brown Conway.

love letter to the babies/they are all ours

they are all ours
don’t let the sickness infect you
that division
that says these children matter
these don’t
they are ours,
holding guns children
sweat on brow
death in their eyes
they are ours
freckles, hair flopping
running from the teacher’s son
death in their eyes

they come from our bodies
from our hard work
from our dreams
from our desires
and they need us to hold them close
so they can become themselves

they need us in the wilderness
however it appears
within and without
to be that greater love
to answer every question
without violence
to cover them with those kisses
that cause them to giggle
that let them know
from the cosmos
they found a place to belong
on this earth
in this time
in these hands
they are all ours

dear babies,

i cannot sleep, thinking of you.

i went and looked at all your pictures, videos, those beautiful faces, hearing your forming voices lifting all of your questions and demands, your expectations and futures bursting off the screen.

i have spent my life wondering about good and evil, heaven, hell, life on other planets, justice on this one. i have sought the cause, the root, the place to put blame. i have spent millions of hours developing theories about all of these things, and building my fury and grief, weeping and wanting to know what could make the world good enough for the possibility of you.

and then you came. from other wombs and other stories, but i knew you were also mine. i held you in my arms for the first time, felt your weight upon my chest, the shape of your whole fluttering life becoming solid in my hands. and i realized my ideas and theories would never come to life soon enough. to love a child is to know the limitations of time, and the horror of being in a particular moment of time, a hollowed out age where babies are collateral damage for borders and egos, among other things.

everyday the world reminds me that i cannot protect you. i don’t know if protecting children has been possible yet on this earth. i just believe that what we do, or allow to possibly be done, to our babies, in this world, at this time – that is the measure of our humanity.

it’s quite possible that this is the purpose of our evolution, to reach a point where we do nothing which takes away from childhood, that protecting childhood is how we grow healthy societies. that the safe unfolding of children into adults shapes every aspect of the worlds we build.


but now? even as a warning i can’t whisper the horrors of what we allow to happen to you. some of us, we do our best, but we are all traumatized, living in a competitive society where violence is normalized and vulnerability is shamed.

how many of us were taught how to live with a switch or belt on our backsides? what world does that create? the small violence opens the door, the gateway drug of violence as control and discipline, it is intoxicating.

and every hour there is more. it is a more thoroughly interconnected world – we cannot pretend we don’t know the violence, genocides, and injustices happening in our cities, in the country, around the world. we cannot even pretend we are not fascinated by, obsessed with, the violence. it is our news, our movies, our music, our video games, our foreign policy, our right, our sickness.

baby boy, baby girl, we who hold your future in our hands are woven into the fabric of violence which is suffocating our species.

so we must do the impossible, and liberate ourselves.

i won’t be defeated by the immensity of the task – my love is unconditional. especially when the conditions are violence, abuse, trauma and scarcity. that is the state in which i give you my heart. love is what i want to be best at.

i don’t want to use the words promise or try with you. i want to give you things that are solid, values that won’t falter under pressure, and a safety that you can create and hold for yourself.

i want to love you without error, i want nothing of my pain to be part of your life, only my devotion to you, my brilliant love. i want you feel and taste the freedom of safety. i don’t want you to worry, to feel scarcity, to live your life in a constant state of defense.

because i long for what you are and what you are becoming.

so – i turn away from anything that could hurt you.
i seek out violence in myself and attend to the wounds that cause it.
i generate compassion in myself, particularly with those who hurt or wrong me.
i turn away from those who live defensively, and turn towards those who let love guide them.
i learn new ways to handle conflict, no matter how much harder they are than giving into anger and fighting.
i conjure up change in myself, my greatest self, to be worthy of you being in my life.

you are recreating me. i love you and i am so grateful for you. i will give my all to make this a world worthy of the miracle of you.


they are all ours
that is, why we are here
to hold them close to our hearts
let them run fingers
over the tips of the wheat
lick sunlight from their palms
and find the place without nightmares
in our arms
before dawn

they are all of them ours
our karma and creators
the only test
for our species
over and over given
the air, the food, the water,
their skin, their unique way
their smiles

their smaller hearts
pounding inside our bodies from the moment
we are born
they are ours
they are all of them ours
they are all ours


i woke up this morning and was lost.

for the past 10 days i woke up in a room of windows that looked out on the woods, usually to the sound of my babies’ feet hitting the floor above me, or them bursting through the glass door separating my futon guest room from the kitchen, seconds before they jumped in the bed.

my sister is pregnant, and i am her doula. part of my commitment to her is visiting a week out of each month to support with kids/house/life – our sister april is supporting my travel, so it’s truly a sister-doula experience.

after the kids had me awake, we would have breakfast, and then spend the day looking at pictures of lava – nephew’s latest obsession (his first was the moon), drawing pictures of lava, going outside to play, learning together, processing boundaries, asking and answering questions, watching wildkratts and super why, posing for my camera, visiting their nona (my brother-in-law’s mom) who lives just through the woods, having bath time, reading stories and then i’d sing them to sleep.

when not with them, on the days they had school/daycare, i would write, cook, load up firewood for the fire, and, more often than not, find myself looking out the window and realizing i was missing the babies.

each time i visit them, my love for them deepens – deepens the space for love inside of me, makes me grow in order to be an adequate adult in their lives.

they are both so smart, so emotionally open and curious and testing everything…with the whole world before them. and they have so many adults around them who love them, the only privilege i have seen have universal positive impact in the world.

i thought my doula work, and even my auntie work, was about what i could do, be and give. but it’s also about what i need to learn right now, as a human – to listen, to feel, to be honest, to be gentle, to be radically committed to curiosity and seeking what is unknown.

when i am away from them, interacting again with adults and seeing where the lack of love leaves it’s ruts, patterns and wounds, it floods me with this level of compassion that feels like an awakening.

we were all of us children once. every single one of us. it’s so simple, but when i look at each person that way…it takes away my breath. it’s so beautiful to see people this way, as children, who sought love, who seek it still.

which makes me think of all these people who want to do right by their children, who want to leave their children something better than they had. this aspect of humanity that is about future generations – it feels so visceral to me right now.

as usual, on these first days after awesome baby immersion, i’m lit up and all the paths in my mind lead back to them. i am longing for them, with every known sense and some that feel new and unknown.

and what a blessing, what a gift – to love this much, to know such longing.