Reflections after the flood

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At the ranch the dry Colorado soils have already absorbed much of the torrential rains we have received over the last week and life is getting back to normal. But for many people who have lost loved ones and have experienced or continue to experience destruction to homes, farms and crops, it goes without saying that life won't be back to normal for some time to come.

Many of us seek grounding and a sense of continuity through our connection to nature over the seasons and through the years. So what does it mean when the very ground beneath us begins to crumble? Unpredictable, destructive acts like the Colorado floods can contribute to a sense that the world is not safe. And if we can't feel safe at home on earth, where can we? And, as parents, how do we create safety for children in a seemingly dangerous world?

The Buddhists have a notion of basic goodness, which is the idea that the world provides us with air to breathe, water to drink, and sunlight for life to exist. Even in those moments when our emotional pain is intense, there is still the ground and the pull of gravity to keep us firmly anchored (grounded) to the earth. This isn't to say that the world is perfect but simply that the world supports us by creating an environment in which we can live.

Parenting experts know that just as the earth is not perfect in its ability to provide for everyone on the planet at all times, neither are mothers perfect in everything they do for their children. British psychoanalyst Winnicott famously suggested that while mothers can't be perfect, they can be "good enough." Mothers and other caregivers can get it wrong some of the time and still establish a trusting relationship with their children. Winnicott even postulated that those times when the mother cannot provide exactly what the child wants actually help to build a sense of resilience and an ability to handle adversity.

At times this year it it has been hard to grasp at a sense of basic goodness or to believe that our home is indeed good enough. Yet through these challenges we may be learning about our own resilience. Moreover, the way we move forward helps the young people around us learn that they, too, can move forward through adversity.

And now as the skies clear and the waters begin to make their way once again toward the Mississippi, I start to regain the ground beneath my feet. Once again I feel the pull of gravity. I breathe in the fresh air and watch as the plants and trees soak up the new sun and show their brilliance to the world. I am reminded of our resilience as individuals and a community, our ability to pick up and carry on rebuilding old lives or creating new ones. I see the wisdom in creating--not a perfect life for myself or a perfect childhood for my son--but a life that is good.

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