It Takes a Village: The Courage to Ask for Help

My 13th bowling birthday party: Me, Tak & Jazzy J (June 1995)

My 13th bowling birthday party: Me, Tak & Jazzy J (June 1995)

August 17, 2015 - I was raised by a village. When I was 6 years old, my dad moved back to Trinidad and my mom raised me as a single parent. That was the same year we joined The Community Church of New York, a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Previously we attended The Riverside Church where I was also baptized. To explain what UU is...it’s basically the everything bagel of religions. We have Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans, Atheists, Agnostics - everyone is welcome. Each UU congregation is different - some are more traditionally religious than others. Mine was very liberal and progressive but I wouldn’t describe it as radical. Located in Murray Hill, it’s still a great, diverse place to raise your kids. The main Hall of Worship is very traditional with cushioned seats bolted to the floor in set pews with a stage at the front where ministers make announcements and preach and are flanked by busts of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Margaret Sanger, Albert Schweitzer and Mahatma Ghandi as well as banners representing major religions from around the world. 

Wearing my UU chalice in the Spring of 1996

Wearing my UU chalice in the Spring of 1996

When I was 13, it was time for me to go through my Coming-Of-Age ceremony. Although I had attended church school (and other activities and outings) regularly from the age of 6, I was the only 13-year-old at my church so I went up to Fourth Unitarian Universalist Society, near Central Park. I knew about this “Society” because I was in middle school with one of member’s sons, J, who was also good friends with my mom. Later we discovered a photo of us at around age 3 or 4 at church school at Riverside Church before our moms had met. At Fourth UU, the pews were moveable and often placed in a circle for worship. It was a smaller congregation and had a homier vibe. Other non-UU kids were excited to be able to play basketball there and other fun things not typically associated with church.

My graduation from 8th grade: Grampy + Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley, my mentor (June 1996)

My graduation from 8th grade: Grampy + Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley, my mentor (June 1996)

Our Coming-Of-Age group had 2, sometimes 3 girls and 3 boys. We had two group leaders, and every Sunday we would all meet to talk about our belief system and other religions and white privilege and all the sorts of things a “hippie church” would have you discuss as you enter “adulthood.” Sometimes we met at Fourth UU, sometimes at All Souls (a really God-centric, traditional, large and diverse UU church even further uptown). Throughout the year we went on "Cons," mini sleep-away conferences for Teen UUs in NJ and Upstate NY. Typically everyone smoked cigarettes except for those kids from NYC. We also each had a personal mentor we met with to discuss our belief system/credo. Mine was Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley who became my friend and even gave me her bible from seminary which I have yet to read. At the end of the year, the boys and girls were split up for our rite of passage ceremonies. These were created by us, our mentors and our families. The boys stayed at Fourth UU and did things like get their feet washed by their mentors. The girls, on the other hand, had what felt like a real adventure.

Maine, Summer 1996

Maine, Summer 1996

We went Upstate (or somewhere in "the country"), and it was beautiful. It was me and E, our mothers, her mentor (mine couldn’t make it) as well as one of the boy’s moms who was going to lead us in a Wiccan ceremony. It was so green and lovely and there was a wandering cow roaming about. At night, we all sat around a fire and made clay sculptures of our fears and later went to the pond and symbolically and literally threw them away. We also danced around a fire to the moon and the goddess. The moon was so big that night. In our separate tents, E and I were to write our feelings, hopes and dreams. I wrote, "When I am faced with a problem, I either react in two different ways. Depending on the challenge, I may prove that I am fearless and dispose of the problem. Other times I will look for someone else (my mother) to get rid of the problem." (My Coming-Of-Age Journal, 6/1/96) I was by myself a good long while until I found a tick and got my mom to get rid of it. When we got back to the city, there was a party, full of women, at the boy’s mom’s apartment where we were given gifts and were celebrated. I remember always wishing that I had gotten the “Clueless” DVD gift instead of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Later on we each wrote up and read our Credos to our congregations during a special church service. 

There are many other instances of my UU community village raising me on overnight nature retreats, Special Friend Sundays, marches, parties, church school activities and play dates outside of church. They are actually too numerous to list!

Little Lentil Landscapes II: The Shame of Womanhood, Watercolor, 12" x 16"  May 2014

After I had the miscarriage last April, although at first I was ashamed, at the first sight of the blood, that D and I had told over 100 people we were pregnant at 8 weeks and then lost the baby at 10 weeks, I was relieved. From the email I sent out, people wrote back their condolences. For those that wrote those 7 key words - Let me know how I can help - I wrote back. We sat a radical Shiva for the next two weeks. Friends brought groceries and dinner and sat with me in groups, one on one. I shared variations of my radical miscarriage story and they in turn would share theirs, if they had one. Some had many. Others knew they just wanted to feel with me and be with me even if they couldn’t personally relate to having a pregnancy loss. Friends appreciated being told how they could help and that there was something they could actually do to provide the support that I wanted. The months that followed, when the visits stopped, were particularly difficult as I fell into a postpartum depression until the end of November when I found out I was pregnant with V. Even though I was pregnant with our Rainbow Baby, feelings and emotions are complicated.

Little Landscape I, Watercolor, 11" x 14" May 2014

I knew with this birth/labor/postpartum I would need help. I made an announcement at rehearsal, my radical community village, which I’m so blessed to have and be apart of, requesting help. I started to make a list of people who I felt comfortable with coming and helping out as well as the kinds of food I’d like to eat. The three godparents, D, A & J went above and beyond! Not only did they help us to purge and make this into a home and me, to finally feel like a human being at home, they organized and hosted the baby shower. After D (the papa bear), they were the first ones to arrive and help me labor, feed me, give me sips of coconut water and then take care of all three of us after the birth by making us meals, washing the dishes, sweeping, cleaning up the kitchen and eating areas, shopping for groceries, doing the laundry, and folding the laundry besides entertaining us with songs, music and friendship. D (papa bear) was also doing so many of these things and was in charge of my placenta smoothies (which I miss so much). They stayed from Thursday when I went into the "early" labor until Monday morning (V was born Friday morning).

Little Lentil Landscapes III, Watercolor, 12" x 16" May 2014

A has been in charge of a (short) list of some friends to help us out and created a schedule for visits, food drop offs, etc. The last few days (and week) have made me see that I need to tap into my Courage Reserves and put this Big Ask out there: Hello Village, will you please help us? Someday we will need babysitters but right now, if you live in NYC and are willing and available, are you able to: drop a meal off, do a load of laundry or pick up some light groceries? If you can do one or more things either one time or on a weekly or monthly basis, please send me an email and let me know (I’ll also put you in touch with A. to add you to the roster of helpers). If you’d rather buy us something, our registry is going to be open indefinitely with things that we need and would be so appreciated.

dawn@dslookkin.com

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

xo

The Face Box

I moved my art supplies and a makeshift desk into the baby's room so that I can paint while the baby nurses because...

I moved my art supplies and a makeshift desk into the baby's room so that I can paint while the baby nurses because...

Yesterday I woke up and in a sleepy ramble, told D I wanted to watch The Social Network and that I wanted to “friend” Jesse Eisenberg, the actor that plays founder Mark Zuckerberg. You’re weird he said. Did I dream this? Or maybe it’s because I’ve been on the Face Box every single day, all day long since giving birth and before, and a decade before I even met D.

+++

...this is what my actual art desk looks like! The Messy Desk + cat! 

...this is what my actual art desk looks like! The Messy Desk + cat! 

I attended Smith College, one of the original Seven Sisters all women’s colleges, from Summer of 2001 to Spring of 2005. I was accepted into the pre-orientation program, Bridge, for Women of Color before they started allowing caucasian students to be in it. This changed my senior year, the same year I was a Bridge leader/mentor. When I first visited Smith in 2000, they didn’t allow Asian students to be in this program, let alone hapa/multi-racial/multicultural students so things keep changing. If it weren't for Bridge, I'd only have a handful of Smithie friends that are Students of Color because there are that many white students there. As it turned out, the majority of my friends were Jewish. I majored in Studio Art and Women’s Studies and sang with the Glee Club, The Chambers Singers and Groove, the a capella group, of which I'm one of the original members.

I often say that Smith is an institution of complete privilege and luxury but that the students come from all different backgrounds. I was able to attend because I had a very generous financial aid package since I was raised by a single mother, who at times worked three jobs to send me to my various elite private schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights. I also received annual art scholarships from the Unitarian Universalist Association and an annual scholarship from Green Point Bank as well as others. At the same time, although I didn’t have a lot of money, as didn't a lot of Smithies, once you are accepted and enroll at Smith you enter a special club (although we had no sororities). Even if you are a Student of Color and are the token student in class and deal with some form of bigotry every day, we all received some benefit from being enrolled at one of the top women’s colleges in the country with a long history of powerful and influential graduates from Gloria Steinem to Julia Child to Sylvia Plath. So despite all kinds of wonderful and horrible experiences one might have at Smith, you leave with a degree and a network of women all around the world who always have your back.

The co-sleeper/baby stuff caddy and where I nurse - so glamorous I know! 

The co-sleeper/baby stuff caddy and where I nurse - so glamorous I know! 

Why am I writing about my alma mater like this because seriously who cares? Well it goes back to Facebook...the first time I saw “The Social Network” it was surreal. Almost everything they talked about in the movie had happened in real time for me since Zuckerberg’s first beginnings for Facebook started in the Fall of 2003. That was when I started my Junior Year Study Abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Osaka, Japan. For the rest of my time at Smith, including my Senior year, I lived in a “house” called Chapin House in the center of campus, a really nice dorm with beautiful views of the pond, a large living room with a TV and a grand piano, it’s own laundry room, dining room and it’s own kitchen and housekeeping staff. For my work study, I chose to assist the housekeeper which led me to the discovery that with showers and bathrooms, gender, class and ethnicity didn't dictate how gross and dirty you can be. I'm not sure how I ended up in this House - I requested Tyler House where I completed my Smith Summer Science Program when I was thirteen. Chapin was known to be a "nice" (read: white, mostly affluent) house and those that lived here were early acceptance students. I applied to too many colleges because I didn't know who would give me the best financial aid package and got my final decision certified by the midnight deadline (it was between Smith and Hampshire College). Before dropping out, Margaret Mitchell lived at Chapin and the staircase inspired the one in the book and the film “Gone With the Wind” (a little misleading as the staircase was not fancy at all but whatever - HOLLYWOOD!). I too had a LiveJournal and would update the interwebs on my love life and Feelings. I remember “Hot or Not” and even clicked through rating people’s appearance because that’s what you did at 3 in the morning in college. I had active MySpace and Friendster accounts. After Harvard and the other Ivy League schools, Smith also got the exclusive membership to Facebook. I remember when you had to be enrolled at a private college to get invited. And then any college. And then anyone.

These things help: drying rack, changing table, garbage pail. 

These things help: drying rack, changing table, garbage pail. 

Things just get so metta. If it weren’t for Facebook, would you even be reading these words right now? This social network machine is bizarre and twisted and a really false sense of self and how we interact with one another. Besides Candy Crush, Farmville and other evils of the internet, it does connect us. Last year when I made my first post for My Radical Miscarriage Blog, so many people wrote me with their stories of heartbreak surrounding their miscarriage, their stillbirth, their abortion, getting raped and how, sometimes, I was the only one they confided in because I had the courage to share my story.

My plant babies all grown up. 

My plant babies all grown up. 

It was emotionally overwhelming for me to read these stories, some from people from high school who I never talked to before and others from my closest friends. Sharing what I was going through with my pregnancy loss felt so intuitive to me, like an obsessive storytelling regurgitation that I didn’t see it as being brave or courageous but that’s what it was and that’s what it is. I can embrace that because my story is my truth.

So to Mark Zuckerberg I simultaneously say fuck you and thank you for making us so dependent on this evil thing called Facebook and for bringing together radical communities to bridge injustices and experiences and truly change this world into the one we want and know it can be.

xo

(*Editor's note* I take back what I said about Mark Zuckerberg - I just read that he and his wife had 3 miscarriages so I'm feeling a lot of compassion towards him today. Also, I "friended" Jesse Eisenberg.) 

New Old Friends

I thought it was time to dedicate a post to all the new friends I've been meeting and making in the past four days (and some longer than that). To new friends everywhere - remember, a friend is first a stranger.

Thank you to:

Steven, who owns + runs an antique vintage art glass + Scandinavian ceramics neighborhood shop/installation on Hudson that's been there for 17 years (!), his shop that I've walked past many times, but this time I went in, who, after talking about my love of elephants and inquiring about them (investments someday to be mine!), gave me this tiny, heavy elephant which I now carry in my pocket every day. 

my little friend

my little friend

Sarah, who recently joined the choir, with whom I've begun an email-pen-pal-writing-adventure before even having spoken in person, and then only speaking for less than two minutes a week or so ago, who herself is an incredibly creative, brave + talented writer + person and inspires me with her writing and thoughts and feelings.

Succulent has a new home with new friends!

Succulent has a new home with new friends!

Nicole the artist (+ baker + florist), at the flower shop on Hudson (near Perry) who, whilst I was checking out the succulent air plants (and subsequently purchased one), gave me some flowers after I told her my story which I then gave to Rita whose birthday we were celebrating later that day.

Ranger Bob who was sprinkling seeds on a square of grass + tree, "thumbelina park", on 25th St & 8th Ave as I was bicycling by, one of those divider green squares, who, after I asked what he was doing and showed an interest, appointed me on the spot to Ranger Dawn by us holding up our right hands and repeating "I do solemnly swear to do whatever the hell I can to make this into a park".

           subway elephante

           subway elephante

(Another) Steven, the photographer, on the subway ride home from Boozy Birthday Brooklyn with Louise + Ali (+ Brook!), who asked what I was painting (photo at right) and with whom I had a swift ride home due to pleasant + friendly conversation.

Amy, who I met possibly one or even two years ago at The Brooklyn Free Store, and met again at a party on Saturday night and she remembered me and thought it was serendipitous we should meet again because after I told her my story, told me that she is curating her first art show (which is extremely interesting!!!) and has some elements of focusing on pain and invited me to submit my work now or in the future.

Ruth, who I've known a while through Community, gave me gifts of laughter on the retreat last weekend, and who last night gave me one of her handmade journals (which will be my next Dream Journal, I told her).

Ruth Miller's handmade notebook pour moi.

Ruth Miller's handmade notebook pour moi.

Is it serendipity? Is it synchronicity? Is it fate? Or is it just life? Is it about being open to life and everyone and everything in it? Is it about believing in the impossible or in limitless possibility? Is it about being open to change? Is change inevitable? Is it about a deep unknown need for human/life connection? Or is it about love?

love love love love love yes yes yes yes yes yes love love love love love yes yes yes yes yes
— Rita DeCassia, Healer + Multi Linguist

p.s. joy comes in all sizes.

meow!

meow!

The universe are my friends + family and the universe provides.

4.8.2014 Tuesday 10:29am

This was some song suggestion on my Spotify radio and it speaks to me. It’s catchy, it's poppy, it feels good, I like it, it says something else, something different than what the songwriter intended. It speaks to my baby that I lost. It speaks to the different people inside of me, inside of each of us.

I went to search for it on Youtube and this polished music video was the first in the results with close ups of girls in short jeans and their boyfriends' touching their legs. I don’t see that when I sing and hear and feel the imagination and emotion of the song. When I first hear it, I see Elton John and then I see myself and I see joy and the possibility of joy. The second video I find, has this hipster-looking band in a sound studio, more goofy, more honest. These attractive dudes jumping in the mud and being - NOT silly boys - but silly human beings. The sound quality is different, more open. And that’s the one I post to Facebook:

We're gonna make it 'til we get sick/Stop talking about it. Let's burn again!/...Peaceful and lazy it's all I wanna be/There ain't no time to waste Let's burn again!

Please listen/watch it here: Let's Burn Again

** Disclaimer: I am very much aware that this song is very blatantly about sex. From the lyrics alone I understand that this guy has reunited with this girl and he wants to get it on with her. But when I first heard the song I didn't know all the lyrics, I never comprehend vocal lyrics ever, and because music is art and art is interpretive, I made it into something else, something for me, and found new meanings in it. To me, when I sing it, it's become a love song from me to myself and my body. So here we go...**

11:48am

Sometimes it feels as though my whole life has been leading up to this point. Do we have a purpose? Do we need a purpose? I feel purposeful.

I feel good and it feels good to feel good.

Since my shower, my new morning routine - wake up, shit, drink my water, journal in my Dream Journal (which is now expanding to the Everything Journal as I traverse this Waking Life) - and then my glorious shower - I’ve been listening to my Energy Playlist. Yes, it feels good to feel good. But I’m also exhausted. Last night S came over joyfully unexpectedly. We haven’t seen each other since my wedding celebration last September and I had so wanted to tell her about the pregnancy and share the joy together. But yesterday morning I knew and told D and journaled that I needed to tell her about my miscarriage. I called her late last night on the way home from work and eating dollar pizza with R... I texted, “Hello! Call me ok? I have important news to share. Love you xoxoxoxox”, She called and we talked and then I told her. And then, as serendipitously as so much has been, she was on 24th and 8th, just a few blocks from me so she came over, and like so many of our reunions with a gap of months or years, it’s like we were never apart, we can talk about anything - these are true friends. We talked and hung out from 11:30pm - 3am. I couldn’t believe it. She had to leave but we just kept talking. And then this morning I woke up, on my own, without an alarm clock at 9:30 in the morning. I couldn’t believe it. And a few hours later, as my Energy Music is playing and I’m singing along and dancing and getting so close to eating, to making my healing sustenance and eating it now, I’m so exhausted. The crying is exhausting. The thinking is exhausting. The talking is exhausting. The feeling is exhausting. Living is exhausting. I keep saying, Death is only hard on the living. I’m sure it’s somebody’s quote but now it’s mine.

I look to see who has liked this photo of mine that I posted on Facebook. A photo of my chopped veggies, some even from my window sill garden (I’ve never had a garden before) and eggs and my potato and three avocados that I’m trying to seed and it’s happening. The caption is, Feeding myself and my babies.

Who and what defines what is means to be a mother, to be a parent, to be a caregiver? I see who liked the post, feeling good that people like it and I see they are all my friends, all my friends who know, who shared in my joy and share in my sorrow. Friends from work, my beloved, a friend from Occupy, a friend from The Choir. And I sob. I start to choke on my food and only stop myself from crying so I don’t. So much of this is feeling overwhelmed by people’s love. So many know. So many know. And so many are here for me. In many ways this is a solo journey that I’m on, and a dual one with D and we’re also flying here with hundreds of people and thousands more as we read blog posts about loss and miscarriage and our similar stories and even the different ones, rise to the top, we sift it out, we find our stories in the words of strangers - but aren’t they our brothers and sisters? Gaia, Mother Earth is our mother and we are all her children, all living things and creatures. And then also, Gaia is a baby, a child in the ever expanding universe. As Neil DeGrasse Tyson loves to say, we are the dust of stars. We are the pollen on this planet, the planet is the flower and we are special and not so special but we are unique because we are alive and we are here. We are perfect.