Commusings: While We Know & Can

May 10, 2024

Dear Commune Community,

“If the young knew and the old could…” I am paraphrasing Freud. I believe I’ve said it slightly more poetically, but no matter.

I find myself currently inhabiting the strange liminal space between old and young, between knowledge and ability. At times, I yoke the two. And, on other occasions, I not only lack the flexibility to tie my shoe but I forget how.

I am both the son of living parents and the father of three vivacious daughters on the cusp of flying the coop. I am in the in-between — sliding into early autumn, harvesting the experiences of life and trying, like nature does so gracefully, to select for the best of its lessons.

At a recent dinner in Topanga, a marvelous group clustered around the long communal table. We flipped a question around clockwise: “What are you most proud of in your life?”

Each of us took a run at it. Schuyler is not one usually given to grand statements, but when the proverbial peas were passed her way, she offered something quite unexpected.

She said, “I am proud of breaking the cycles of trauma that have been passed down my family transgenerationally like a baton.

She paused and then declared, “The abuse of power ends with me.”

Thirty-six years in, she still surprises me.

• • •

It was Christmas Day, 1984. I was 14. My brother, Eric, was 8. We woke up early to the shouts of our parents scrapping in the kitchen. We snuggled on the shag-carpeted stairs in our jammies, snickering and poking each other. We took a masochistic delight in eavesdropping on our parents’ arguments.

And then my father bellowed, “Well, if you’re going to leave in June anyways, you might as well leave now.”

And she did.

As the eldest son, I was utterly convinced that I could save their marriage. I thought it was about me. Of course, I couldn’t. Their divorce was as acrimonious as any Hollywood screenwriter could depict, replete with custody battles and courtroom testimonies.

My inability to salvage my family led to a profound resentment of my mother. I punished her with silence. In the poker game of life, eventually she “saw” my silence but didn’t raise the bid. And that’s where our relationship loitered for over a decade. Our estrangement wasn’t a roaring fire. It was a doused one – cold and damp.

At 17, I met Schuyler. I sought in her an absurd collection of archetypes: lithe nymphet capable of whimsical handstands, proficient feminist bread winner, occasional wanton Jezebel, but, more than anything, I sought in her a nurturing mother.

Schuyler, perhaps unwittingly, accepted and thrived in all roles. (We’ll see how she does as my nurse.) My great love shepherded me through my faithless adolescence and into a clumsy form of manhood.

Our nuptials reunited my family and prompted a painfully protracted thawing. Eventually, I changed my relationship with the relationship. It was never about my mother not loving me. It was about her loving herself – and, in turn, me loving myself.

Eventually, my mother and I met in the field beyond right and wrong and mended the fence behind us. We now enjoy a wonderful repartee. I’ve just interviewed her for the podcast about the work she’s doing to foster common ground between Palestinians and Israelis. She is teaching a course at my embattled alma mater, Columbia University, titled “Peace Keeping and Negotiation.” She commutes two and a half hours via train and bus at age 80 to broker peace and understanding. I’m proud of her work.

Last December, Gabor Maté and his son Daniel came to Commune Topanga to teach a unique weekend program titled “Starting Fresh.” They were joined by a group of extraordinarily courageous parents and adult children looking to heal their relationship.

There may be no relationship more complex and fraught then the one between a parent and an adult child. The passage of time can heal — but it can also ossify. Over time, we pile up shame and guilt like masons laying bricks. A decade later, there’s a wall between us and the people we are hardwired to love and protect.

This workshop provides the tools that I didn’t have to address my relationship with my mother. While I am fortunate to enjoy a fulfilling relationship with her now, I often reflect on the Mother’s Days we never celebrated and the pain I inadvertently caused. I know that if I had experienced a workshop like this 40 years ago then my life would have been different.

If you are looking to start fresh with a parent or child or you know someone that could benefit from this program then please sign up for free or share.

This program offers the opportunity to heal while we still know and while we still can.

Here at [email protected] and waxing and waning on IG @jeffkrasno.

In love, include me,

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