I don’t mind telling the 6 or so of you who still pass this way that I have a lovely family therapist. I started seeing her when Juan told me he was leaving me and she eased our family through our various transitions along the way. She is a resource for me on parenting, a partner who has helped me reframe my thinking about our experiences, a guide to understanding how hearts and lives break and heal, a problemsolver who helps me tease out solutions that work and a teacher who has helped me learn to build fences where they are needed and knock down stone walls where they block out the light.
She recommends books for me and sends me to go see movies. And she buys me nail polish with wonderful names like Abundance and Brand New Skates so that I may always look down at my feet and know where in what space I am planted. At the end of each session we hug tightly, giggling as the rest of the office looks on in shock. I am not sure that we are behaving properly for a therapist and her client. We don’t care. Its much more fun this way.
Today I walked to therapy feeling glorious and full. The air was warm and humid–the kind of air in which smells are intensified as though put through an olfactory microscope–blown up bigger than life. The light breeze that blew brought in all sorts of wonderful intense smells–the mulch from the garden beds, sweet spun sugar from newly baked cupcakes at the bakery, jasmine and peonies and hamburgers and Thai food. Car exhaust. Sugary soda spilled on the sidewalk. More mulch more heavenly mulch. As I walked, I honestly considered whether my visits to her office were needed anymore. I am doing so well, everything in check. Its expensive to keep coming, even when the intervals are so spaced out, even though its covered. And I am so deeply happy, even as I am frustrated, angry, sad, lonely and broken sometimes. I am healthy now. I feel whole.
It has been a long time since we last met. She asks me how I have been and all I can say is fine. How do you capture 6 weeks of heart work in a few minutes. So I tell her fine (honestly)–even as I know I am lying (honestly). I feel a storm, swirling like a thunderstorm developing suddeny on a hot summer day. I feel it rising up from my gut–a breaking open in the safety of my big comfy chair.
Actually…there are moments when I feel so unsupported, I tell her. Moments when I feel so terribly alone–when I am doing this all, keeping it together, being healthy and good and strong and it costs me so much to not fall apart. I am a levee constantly in danger of being breached, straining but still strong. It is exhausting and hard to focus when I am working so hard just to maintain–to get lunches made, and beds made, and homework done and baths drawn, and dinner cooked, and cupboard stacked and boo-boos kissed and litter boxes emptied and trash cans left at the corner. The laundry never stops piling up, no matter how much I do. The dust builds up causing me to sneeze before I am there to do it again. The fridge is never cleaned because while I start I never have time to finish. I never have time to finish anything because I only have time to start. Everything is started and rarely finished (I rage). The to-do list is too long and everything is twice as complicated as it seems and stuck–it gets stuck. I have so many dreams…so many things I should be doing to move those dreams forward…I know what I need to be doing but I can’t do them. No one can help me with these things–they are my path and my journey and I am alone right now–I am supposed to do it alone. I can’t do it on my own but I somehow keep managing to do it part way–to almost do it on my own. Because its so much and while I have long given up on beating myself up for not being able to do it all–the fact remains that when you don’t do it all–a lot doesn’t get done. And it costs so much for it all not to be done. So much is sacrificed. And I am so so tired. And how are you?
I pause for a minute, surprised.
I am surprised (I say) because I am really really grateful. I am grateful for the help that I have–for my dear friend who covered for my babysitter who needed to go to the doctors today and for the people who drive Max here and there while I work. I am grateful that Juan shows up two nights a week so I have time to work late, and write, and do errands without a fight. I am grateful for my job, a place where I feel so exquisitely loved and appreciated, even though I no longer feel passionate about it. I am grateful for my home, my community, my old cat who wakes me up every morning at 6 with kisses unless I ask her to wake me at 7. (She really does). I am grateful for my friends who cook for me and pour me wine and invite me to the most delicious conversation. And Oh how I am grateful for my son who is healthy and kind and growing up into such a lovely young man with opinions and interests and an awareness that is inspiring. I am grateful for all the beauty in the world for the smells and the flowers and the snow and the yummy yummy food so WHY do I feel so f**king ungrateful and resentful?
There is nothing left for me to do. (I am almost yelling now through my tears). I have grown so freakin’ much–I am so strong now. Most of the time I get by just fine. I breathe. I check the evidence. I don’t globalize. I see each situation through three or four different lenses. I reframe. I see the positive. I count to 10. I lower my standards. I prioritize. I count my blessings. I accept. I love unconditionally. I let everything go except for that which is right in front of me.
But it doesn’t change my circumstances.
THIS IS MY LIFE. (I am almost out of breath). I am a single mom with a busy job and not a lot of resources.
THIS IS MY LIFE. I am in the middle of a transition which is unfolding painfully slowly and my not unfold at all because momentum is something that just doesn’t seem to exist in my life.
THIS IS MY LIFE. It is not changing and I don’t know how to change it anymore. I don’t know how to fix it because I don’t think it can be fixed and honestly (I say accusingly–to whom I wonder?) I don’t think its needs to be fixed but this life, my life, my sweet gorgeous, messed up, totally rotten, joyous life–its exhausting and hard and too too too much sometimes. It comes too fast. I don’t seem to have time to enjoy it even though I savor it so sweetly–it is gone before I can truly process and metabolize its taste.
When I sleep–it costs me dearly. When I play, it costs me twice as much. When I try and move in a new direction I feel blocked, stuck, lulled. (Where is the girl with the bowl I wonder?)
You’re right she says. And we sit for a few minutes.
And as we start to talk I am at peace again. At peace because I rode out the storm in a safe harbor. At peace because I let it just wash over me and didn’t fight it. At peace because at the end of the day I AM right–on all counts. At peace because I know I have just spoke the universal rant of mothers who are trying to hold it all together and who are tested, challenged, called to learn through our own unique sets of circumstances. At peace because at the end of the day, I know deep in my heart that this is my path and there is no other place that would be better for me right now.
I wish I could tell you that she had magic words of wisdom that knit me back together. If she I would share them with you, I promise. But she offered me a space where I could break myself open and simply be imperfect and broken and resentful and full of rage, angry and tired and lonely despite the blessings in my life. Where I could be without worries that I have hurt her or alienated her or annoyed her or simply brought her down. That is a gift. It is exactly what I needed: to come unglued and then the gingerly rearrange myself again.
Tonight I am working late, sitting at my computer as the sun starts to fade, sitting here in the knowlege that life is hard, exhausting, and challenging even as it is fascinating, beautiful and holy. There is no way around it. Life is something we must bear–its beauty and its pain. And we bear it breath by breath
In this quiet space with no ringing phones I can hear my heart whisper to me that this grind, this exhaustion, this holding it all together, it is part of my curriculum, my perfectly planned journey to learn what must be learned. And what must be learned (for me at least) is this.
Step 1. Go to the mountain. (Make the world my mountain)
Step 2. Pick up your bowl.
Step 3. Breathe. Trust. Surrender.
Step 4. Repeat
Six months after my husband left, it had become clear that he would not be contributing the money he promised to help pay for childcare and “Max-related” household expenses. He was not going to contribute to the mortgage to pay for the house we held in both our names, even though we had taken out equity in the thousands that had largely gone to Latin America to help his various family members. He was not going to be contributing at all because he couldn’t.
For six months I had been spending as though I had all that he promised. We had no savings. All our cash had flowed out to buy my husband a new van for his business, to address a huge family emergency he had. Once upon a time, when two incomes flowed into our house, we were able to get by even in times like these. The problem was, I was still stuck in that now irrelevant and practically ancient time and I was drowning in anachronisms.
I was living in a beautiful, relative well-off community and week by week, we were getting closer and closer to hungry. The checks to the babysitter bounced. The pre-school called me about the tuition payment checks that had been returned. Going to the ATM became an exercise in faith, and deep breathing to manage the stress. Colleagues left $20 bills on my chair because they noticed I hadn’t eaten lunch in days.
One night, in desperation I went up into the attic. I sorted through Max’s baby clothes, the ones I had been saving in case we had another baby, and put them in a pile for consignment. In one fell swoop, to take care of the child I had, I let go of the dream of a child to come. “Let’s be honest,” I told myself. “He’s not coming back. No partner. No new kid.” The light bill needed to be paid.
One Saturday night when I had truly hit bottom, I dragged out the change jar that was tucked in the kitchen closet. The jar where for 10 years Juan and I thrown our spare pennies and nickles, tossed them in as an investment in dreams down the line. When Juan and I were younger and poorer we would dig through the spare change jar for quarters we would use to order a pizza or buy ice cream in a romantic sort of “young and struggling” gesture. Yet no matter how struggling we were, even during those lean times, we never had to empty it. Not once.
I dragged the jar into the car and took it to the CoinStar machine at the grocery store where I turned it upside down, watching every last penny spiral into the well. When I got the receipt, I turned around and went in and used it to buy groceries. And I tried not to think about the empty coin jar in the cupboard.
What is surreal about this experience is that I had a job. A good job. Sure it was a non-profit job, but I was working for a decent salary. But still, no matter how I eventually cut my expenses to the bare bone, it was not enough. No matter how much I made, no matter how much I trimmed from our budget, it just wasn’t enough.
Its taken me years to climb out of that place where I felt so on the edge of financial ruin. It is still tighter than I would like and I am not nearly saving but bit by bit I have found a way to get by with what we have now. Yet, money continues to be one of the biggest stressors in my life. I know I am in good company here.
And I continue to bury that panicked feeling, the feeling that I was standing with one foot off a cliff, that I was dangling by some imaginary tiny thread over a slippery slope that would lead to my destruction. I have kept it stuffed down and far below. I do whatever I can to keep it at bay. I don’t ever want to touch that fear again.
A number of things are happening in life right now that are leading me to consider what would happen if I had to make due with even less and it has brought that fear screaming to the surface. I am toying with dreams that would require investment in tuition or an eventual shift to part-time work. “What would it mean,” I wonder “if I were to try some sort of grad school, part time, at night?” I do the tuition calculations, think about what it might mean to my income and work and suddenly I am back in that place, remembering the feeling of failure, of fear. The memories come flooding back. I can’t imagine ever going back to that place willingly. I slam the door shut.
The other day I sat to talk to a stranger at the part-time graduate program I have explored. I was sitting with her because I wanted to make a financial plan to get to school one day in the future and I needed information and ideas. She had so very few concrete solutions for someone as broke as me, we were both a bit frustrated with the course of the conversation.
What she did offer was a lecture on faith. She told me that I would have to take a leap and trust that the net would appear. She told me that as much as I wanted to see it all planned out there was no way to do that and I just had to see what would happen. Just jump she said.
Suddenly I remembered the baby clothes and the CoinStar in the grocery store and the fear and loneliness I felt as panic swelled and I thought about dashing out the door while she spoke to me of attracting abundance. I had no choice then, but would I ever take Max and myself through that again. I stared at her blankly with tears brimming. “Don’t you understand how much faith it has taken me to even get to this place?” She was so kind I chose to keep my next utterance to myself, “I may lack alot, but don’t you dare insuinate that I have a lack of faith.”
If I am being honest, really brutally honest, a lot of my story about the last five years does have to do with that word: LACK. Lack of money. Lack of time. Lack of patience. Lack of clean clothes. Lack of sleep. Lack of physical affection. Lack of a partner to support me. Lack of Vitamin D. Lack of energy. On many days I have taken all this lack for granted and I have stopped thinking about it in a conscious way. I shrug off the voices that come up complaining of want. I convince myself that I am a “glass half full girl” , that I concentrate with cheeriness on what I DO have. I share what time, money, energy and hope I have with joy.
But even though I can silence the whining voice, and tell myself I am grateful grateful grateful, I see that “the lack” is looming. I am trying to constantly make up for not having enough, for not being enough. I am apologizing always for what is not there. To myself, my son, my office, my friends, my family. It is insidious how “Lack” can sneak into our worldview when we are trying to live a life of gratitude.
Of course, when I take a step back, when I am at my wisest, most peaceful place, I know that I dwell in a land of
abundance. I am most very grateful for all we have. We have an abundance of community and love that surrounds us. We have an abundance of cats looking for warm laps. We have an abundance of interesting and free places to explore in an amazing city. And we have an abundance of kindnesses shown to us on a daily basis, so many that I can weep sometimes to think of them all. We have an abundance of silliness and laughter and joy, an abundance of friends willing to break bread together, and abundance of hugs, of inside jokes, of campfires and music and wonder. There are countless miracles unfolding in my life–big and small–most of them arising from a random act of kindness. We have so much. I am truly blessed. Really.
I know that Max and I won’t starve as long as we dwell here.
But, as disappointing as this may be, to me and anyone else who imagines me a better person, this is not the default position of my brain. I wish it was. Of course, there are moments, like when I am listening to a friend play music or when Max is laughing or when I am sitting at a table with friends, I sink into the fullness of my life, feel its softness and ease and joy and abundance. But, most moments,well, I have to walk myself through the paces to get here, to remind myself how rich we are.
Truth is, it is why I write about my community with such relish. It is why I want to recount the miracles I experience. It is why I tell my stories of joy and sweetness and laughter over and over and over again. Writing helps me remember. Telling the stories convinces me that we are not drowning, that we are in fact, afloat in a wealth of good things. Writing calms the fear.
And the thing that undoes me more than anything, is that I know that perhaps the graduate school lady is right. Perhaps the most important thing I am lacking right now really is faith. I can’t stand that that might be true.
I need to make a major shift here in my soul and is a shift I don’t know how to make. If I am ever going to put that fear, that mind-numbing, sob-inducing saber toothed monster to bed, I am going to need to shift something. It is more than endlessly counting my blessings. It is more than saying the litany of all that I love about my life, like a rosary. It is more than waking up grateful and going to sleep grateful. I know because I do all these things, and still, at the end of the day when it comes to making big jumps I cannot believe that if I let go one bit of my sweet little spot on the cliff here, that it will be OK, that I won’t be dashed to smithereens on the rocks of circumstance, dragging my sweet son with me. I know this goes against everything I want to believe. I’m just sayin’.
Can it be true that I lack the skills to let go of the story of lack?
There are people in my life who don’t have this world view. They expect good things to flow their way. They ask for what they need and they always seem to get it, one way or another, with work, always with work, but also with ease. When insurmountable troubles or unbelievable opportunity comes their way, they always seem to have someone rush in with a check or an scheme or a helping hand. Yes, they work their butts off but the stars seem to line up too. They tell me that the stars always line up when you dwell in a place of abundance. To be honest, I am not sure even what it MEANS to dwell in abundance. I feel so silly to be so ignorant, like the one pre-teen girl who doesn’t know about the mysteries of sex, who is trying to follow the teenagers giggling gossip about the weekend before. WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT I want to scream…but instead I hang my head shyly in shame for not knowing about what they speak.
Every circumstance is our teacher. And I know that this is the lesson that is being placed before me now. I am, bit by bit, taking steps that might open up new ways of being, even though it scares me, frustrates me, leaves me completely undone and bewildered.
Let me whisper this. I think that as scary as it was to be on the edge of financial collapse, it is even more terrifying for me to leave behind the story of lack. It is an uncomfortable story but I knew it well and it explained so very much, and gave me so many excuses. A mentor and dear friend looked into my eyes once and told me that making this shift in my worldview honestly, would be the most challenging thing I have ever had to do. At the time I thought she was crazy, how could shifting to a life of abundance be terrifying? I am beginning to see what she means.
The other night when we returned from our Sunday family dinner, Max was undone. It a full weekend of lights and latkes, hockey and treehouses, Grinches and pancakes and too much sparkling apple cider. He was tired. But it was more than that too.
This time of year seems to stir it up–the sense of what we don’t have. Is it the Christmas list making? Or is it the darkness that descends way too early and lasts way too long? What is it that brings up the greatest longings? The biggest needs and wants?
He sobbed in the kitchen trying to explain. “I hate that you guys divorced. I hate that Papi doesn’t live here. I hate that I don’t get to see my dad except for a few hours a week.” (I know baby, I hate it all too). “I hate that I have no brothers and sisters. I hate that I feel so left out. I hate that I am the only one without a dad at these things.”
It all started when Max got his feelings hurt by someone he adores. When he was literally shoved into a corner. It happens, the shoving, life is full of unintended bumps and pushes. They in and of themselves may be no big deal but they can bring up the deepest of wounds, can stir up dragon and gremlins.
Long after he had fallen asleep, cried out and complete, I too grieved all that we have grieved over and over again and wondered how in the world to stent a broken heart? This unhealed wound, this sense of being not quite whole, makes him so vulnerable. And nothing undoes me like this, his pain exposed.
There is something about the holidays that make it worse. The endless Christmas specials with their perfect families. Just recently, we saw not one, but two stories with a magic happy ending when mom and dad got back together and families reunited just in time to open gifts.
I have spent much of the last few years knitting us a tribe, patching together our broken hearts with a community, filling the empty places with laughter and food. Inviting ourselves in to other people’s families and claiming them as our own. We have created something beautiful out of something that was broken and that is a miracle. But it can’t replace that that bright shiny big family Max always wanted, or dare I say it, that I always wanted too. I need to keep reminding myself not to attach labels or expectations to this that we built. For while this community is many things, it is also not many things. I can lose the joy of it while I point out everything that it isn’t.
Tonight I curled up under covers in Max’s red bed and together we talked about the pros and cons of being an only child in a house with a single mom. There is no one to play with when Mom does her chores, her work, the cleaning and laundry. There is no one to pinch hit when mama is busy which makes him feel lonely and a little bit unsure. The house can feel big and empty and life can seem like too much with just us chickens. There is noone to interrupt us while we read for hours on end together–books out loud, one more chapter, why not? There is no one to take away his mama when he is sick or sad or simply just needing the attention. This bed can feel just the right size for a boy and his mom and two favorite books. Truth is, nothing is all one thing and every family can feel broken and whole all at the same time.
Our family at the holidays is a meditation. About seeing. Not what is missing but what is really there, right at this moment–ugly, beautiful, broken but real, and shiny and full of goodness. Our life is a meditation about not comparing what we have against check-lists that promise unending happiness but always disappoint. As I lay in bed long after little eyes had closed, I wondered about how to move him from longing and grief to gratitude and appreciation. I know that it starts with me and my practice. Somehow it always does. He learned to speak by emulating me. Maybe he can learn to let go of wanting by watching me too. And yet, tonight, I light a little candle on my altar, say a prayer to the universe, to make it a tiny bit easier, a little bit smoother to let go and want nothing for Christmas but what I have so that he too can learn just how whole he already is.
Before I post again, I needed to stop to offer a huge thank you to the many people who have stopped by this blog, emailed, called, or facebooked in the last few days. Your kind, loving, beautiful words are a gift.
The overwhelming emotion for this week has been great gratitude for the gift of Jenni that we all shared, that indeed we all continue to share. Jenni lives on in all us, whenever we reach out to stranger, whenever we are courageous enough to be raw, and real, when we speak truth to power, when we find humor, grace and beauty in the most difficult of situations. Jenni lives on when we hug our children, when sing at the top of our lungs, when we make our art (whether it is with paper, dance, music, paint, fabric, clay or words). Jenni is with us when we cry at night, when we worry about our babies, when we contemplate the suffering in our homes, our communities, the world. Jenni is with us when we giggle with our girlfriends, when we pour “a cuppa” and sit for tea with our sisters, when we tell our stories over and over again in the hopes that we will find healing there. If we follow our stories, we will find as that in the end, there is only love–love so big and messy and wide and deep. That was the lesson of Jenni.
I have been holding a small moment of silence over here for Jen, until she be laid to rest. But now it is time to keep doing what Jenni and I enjoyed doing together–writing, connecting, watching, witnessing, living and growing.
I will. I will. I will. Everyday I will.
My keyboard is missing a “g”.
A few weeks ago, when my friend Anne was visiting, Max and her daughter were running around the living room while I typed away. They were playing a game that involved a magic wand made from a stick they had found in the yard. Something slipped, and the wand flew out of Max’s hand, landed on my computer and suddenly there is a big hole in the middle of my keyboard. It was no one’s fault. There was no one to blame.
And so it goes. Isn’t it true, that life comes at us this way. We are going along and suddenly, without warning, a hole appears right in the middle of something that until that very minute felt…well whole. Suddenly, things that felt so easy and natural, like typinG thinGs become a little bit harder. And we don’t know quite what to do, what to make of it. We work around it. We try desperately to glue the “g” key back. We just give up and close up the computer.
Why the heck am I talking about my missing G? Only because it is missing and I feel its absence. And because its a metaphor. Because writing about the real stuff, is too raw right now.
The friend I used to talk to everyday who is transforming into pure love, moving from one world to the next. I miss her voice. The friend who shared my home, who has left to build her own. I miss her touch. But more than that, so many of the bricks, the ones who formed the foundation of my life as a single mom, they are shifting. I feel a dismantling but, its not destructive. More like creating space for something new to be born.
But I miss them. I miss them all. Even as I applaud whatever positive is moving them from our orbit, I miss them. Even as I mourn whatever difficulty pulls them away I let them go.
It is scary and hard. I wonder how they hell I am going to to keep typing without the “g”. With this big hole in the keyboard of my life. I wonder how I am going to keep writing my stories. But look! I am doing it. I am doing it. I am somehow, nevertheless, quite certainly doing it.
I am swimming in words. They trickle down and slide down my forehead, blur my vision, drip down my nose. Words are streaming down on me these days, like the heavy October rains. This is what happens when I don’t write.
Three weeks ago, I decided to take a break. Not really consciously. But I decided it would be OK if I didn’t write because I felt it was time to turn my attention to other things. Not big things. But important things. After a summer on the go, after years of prioritizing my social life over my home, after weeks of birthday celebration, my intuition told me that I needed the slowness, the easiness, the aloneness of simply just living. Not writing about living. Not thinking about living. Just washing dishes. Packing lunches. Taking walks. Reading to my boy. I told myself I would write if I had time, but no pressure. Just for a week or so. The blog would hold.
And then my internet broke. I guess the universe thought I needed a bit more of a break than a week.
Its been most wonderful, this respite. It was so nice letting go of that judging voice that says: “OK girly…get to your computer and write something.” I loved being able to silence the little supportive but annoying voice that said, “have you made time for your morning pages today? If you want your writing to grow you need to spend time writing”
I spent my extra minutes feeling on top of the bills, cleaning the dishes, not feeling guilty about a thousand other things that seem to pile up while I sit here at this computer. I even made some progress at learning to play the F-chord. Its been a productive time here at chez Meg.
But sometime late last week, I noticed that suddenly words were falling around me in the supermarket. They were chasing me in the car. They were piling up like the dirty laundry that was no longer littering my bathroom floor. Random phrases became stuck in my head like songs. I would repeat them over and over again. I missed writing. Really missed it. I kept telling myself, you don’t need the internet to write. But I had equated not having the internet with not writing and it felt good to be on vacation, even as I found myself falling slowly apart.
I am glad to say that today my internet is back and my self imposed hiatus is over. The technician was 4 hours late but here I am, better late than never. I am happy to be at the computer again.
I am awash in words that don’t yet make sense–there are so many stories, none fully formed that are begging for me to play with them.
Mostly, I just wanted to say HI. This is me waving. Shyly, perhaps. But it sure is nice to be back.
Sometimes life feels like a merry-go-round.
Same dreams and ideas
Same excuses for why not
Same exercises to unstick oneself
Same ambivalence, frustration
Same questions without answers
Its one big long walk around in a circle, over and over and over the same terrain
Same damn walk in the same familiar woods
Does this mean that I am lost?
Or does it mean I am found over and over again?
Or does it simply mean that this place, this walk, this life, this small patch of earth I tread upon is where I am right now?
Maybe it means nothing at all but this.
I am running out of stories…
I am running out of hope…
I am running out of excuses…
I am running out of breath.
I am indeed running and all I have
is this the pounding of my footsteps along the same old beaten path
Its the soundtrack of my life, these footsteps.
Once upon a time I went to walk a labyrinth. It was made of stones in a mowed meadow. I visited this June after weeks of summer rains. The grass had grown. The stones had sunk into the mud. It was not clear, anymore, which way the path really went. I literally walked around and around the same path over and over again,–stuck in a circle never moving further in or out. Breaking all my expectations about labyrinths. Just going round and round and round.
I would have circled for hours in the same funk I can touch right now. But I got down on my hands and knees and felt the way, felt for stones, hidden or buried, that might point the right way. I couldn’t see the path but I knew that with my nose down on the ground, with my knees dirty, with my perspective shifted I might just find it. I did. I crawled all the way into the center of that labyrinth that day.
On my knees in Silver Spring, in the mud and grass, feeling along for the slight turn of a stone to show me the way to go next. I may write about it more concretely one of these days, the fact that I have identified a dream but I am flummoxed about where to go next. I may write about the need for a practical solution. For for now I write about being dizzy and going round and round in the faith that one day I will naturally simply know where to go next.
“Its all bullshit”, I said as I slammed the pots into the sink. Tears dripping down my nose. Nothing had happened, so the tears seemed absurd, but maybe that was the point.
Big shifts are taking place in my heart but they are so small. They are the kind of changes that can only be captured by the words…”and then she grew up”. I am finding that unlike the divorce or learning to parent, or discovering my community in this round of the adventure there is no drama. There is no crescendo or aha moments. There is no story worth telling. I keep asking her, my teacher, WHAT DO I HAVE TO DO. She smiles at me and says this time there is no doing.
This time there is just me–learning to feel unconditionally loved–learning to love myself as fiercely as I love my tribe. Learning to be my own rock without letting that rock become a wall. Learning that I can drink my fill from a bottomless well–there is no needing to ask permission or earn my way there. Its is there for me–and it is there for you too.
Learning to receive love…Its not about doing anything at all. Its simply about being.
This can be excruciatingly difficult. And I can’t explain why. Giving up all the stories about why I can’t or don’t deserve or shouldn’t try…Giving up the conditions…”I will be lovable/worthy/accepted when…”, it can set a girl in a tizzy. Its a series of explosion that is knocking down a life time of rules that somehow made it all safe–that set up the game–and gave me a plan. Its pushing my buttons. I am resisting in every way I know how.
Getting rid of the doing as a condition of being loved. It can drive a girl to exclaim that its all bullshit and slam some pots into the sink and wash them.
And then, with tears and pots both dried, there is nothing to do but admit its probably not bullshit afterall.
Sitting in meditation a lot here this week. And simply settling into a practice of doing nothing big or bold or magical but rather simply what needs to be done–Folding the laundry. Sweeping the floor. Paying the bills and shredding the papers. Shopping for groceries and putting gas in the car. Returning the library books. Going to the pool and coming back home again. Going to work. Eating. And kissing Max goodnight.
And noticing, tiny, almost imperceptible shifts that feel like earthquakes…
How do you open up to the love of the universe? How do you stop the endless tap dance that insists we need to hit the performance marks to be loved? How do you give yourself permission to settle into the lap of the world and be held? One breath at a time. Just one breath at a time.
I have been in a bit of a funk lately. I have been banging around and grouchy and feeling stuck and unsure and not quite clear on what’s next. I have been feeling so powerless.
For so so long, after Juan left and I became a single parent, the goal has been simple: Survive. Just get through it.
And then, the goal was different, but simple still: Get through it with joy. And great love. And gratitude. And peace of mind.
Learning to do both of these things rearranged the furniture in my soul quite a bit. I learned a lot about relinquishing control, riding the waves of life as it came at me, going with the flow and acceptance. I learned to breathe through whatever came and to not focus too far into the future. I have learned to let go of control and to appreciate the unexpected gifts that come when it all goes wrong. These have all been good lessons. I am happier for having learned them.
But something else happened in that healing from the divorce. An unintentional consequence of my exuberance to let go. If you would have told me even 6 months ago that I would be saying this now, I would have told you you were crazy. But now in the light of day that comes when life is stable and normal and calm I can see it plain as day. I got used so used to giving in I somehow crossed a magic line. Somehow I equated acceptance with feeling powerless and I got so used to the feeling, I actually started to believe it was true.
As anyone who has been through a divorce can tell you, it is an exercise at realizing the limits of one’s power–or to be more accurate one’s power to control the outcome. Slowly but surely I woke up to the bitter truth that I was powerless to save my marriage and my vision of how it would all be. I could try and try, but no matter what I did, we had no happy ending. No matter what I did, or what I said, this horrible thing was rolling along anyway. I felt deflated by the process. Over the course of the next several years there would be financial problems I couldn’t solve, because they required my ex-husband to do something he didn’t want or couldn’t do. There were these moments when Juan promised to come spend time with Max but didn’t show and no matter how I flung my mama bear body, I couldn’t stop the waves of grief and hurt that crashed over the tiny boy’s heart. So much has come at us, Max and me, so much that we couldn’t control, I just stopped believing that I had any power to do anything other than react. We lived in the moment, breathed, did the best we could and we survived, laughed and loved.
I have spent the better part of the last 4-5 years reacting. Riding the waves and rolling with the punches. I have done it with grace if I must say so myself but I somehow lost touch with the confidence I once had–the confidence that I could actually make something I want to happen…well…happen.
The fact that I would ever allow myself to drift in this direction is shocking to me. I am honestly baffled. I am confused about how a woman such as me would arrive in this place of feeling so unable to do more than get through each day. I had no idea it was happening and yet, here I am, with eyes wide open, realizing that all this time that in an effort to save my sanity I lost my sense of power. Perhaps I even willingly let it go.
There is a fine balance, I am learning, between feeling I need to be in control and feeling powerful. There is a difference that is subtle but critical. Needing to be in control attaches to outcomes. Power however derives from the deep knowing that what you do matters, even if it doesn’t lead to the outcome you had hoped.
Power is the belief that its worth trying. Worth doing. No matter what happens.
It took having a dream, and deciding to make it true to bring it all to the surface.
And so now, there is some more rearranging of soul furniture to do. I need to touch that power again, and practice feeling powerful, even as I stay rooted in a non-attachment to outcomes. This feels like tricky spiritual gymnastics, a subtle dance I am not sure how to master. I suppose it’s an exercise of swinging between the extremes, practicing, until the balance is found.
I am not yet sure about how to reclaim my power. What do you do to claim yours?
Say yes to adventure, even when you are not quite sure how to start. Say yes to the journey because maybe, just maybe declaring the start of the trip will somehow make the path appear. Say yes, because until YES is bellowed loud, it seems like it all could get canceled anyway. Say YES because YES reveals how we tell ourselves no all the time.
No sooner than I came out with my healer’s dream, I found myself a little stuck.
Now what? I wondered.
And suddenly, in the treatment room, during my own acupuncture session, the what appeared. My healer’s journey starts with myself and with a wound so big and huge that it threatens to swallow me and my sweet little dream up in it.
Its the wound that I keep so neat and tidy, underneath a flesh colored bandaid. I have hidden it from so many, especially those closest to me. I have covered it over so neatly and prettily that I was able to ignore it, pretend its not there. I fool everyone around me too.
Saying yes and deciding it was time to start making things happen is what ripped it I wide open.
Its the hurt that comes from my belief that I won’t get my needs met. It is the ache that results from the belief that I will always need to settle for something almost nice enough, and be content with it. It is the soreness in my heart where I tell myself that I should take my portion of happiness however small and say, “Thank you very much”, That I should not ask for too much (that I won’t get it anyway) and that good girls aren’t greedy.
For so long, I have been afraid to ask for too much. Afraid because I thought that I wouldn’t get it anyway and the disappointment would be crushing. Afraid because I thought that I would be scorned, laughed at, ridiculed for daring to believe anyone would give me what I need. “Can you believe she thought she was so (deserving, smart, lovable, worthy?” I hear them chuckle. I am afraid that if I dared ask for my dreams to come true, the abundance in my life, the goodness and richness and beauty would all evaporate. So I sat in gratitude for what came my way and told myself not to dare think about asking for one stitch more.
Over the years, I have disguised this wound from so many, and even from myself. The wanting and the believing that the wanting will never be satisfied left me feeling like I had a giant hole in my gut.
I have mis-used the language of Buddhism to console my little wounded heart and to keep it in check. I would think about desire and suffering and attachment and translate their lessons as “Don’t bother to dream too big girl” I tell myself. “Those dreams are not for you. Give up your wants and desires. Simply say thank you for what you have.”
In an effort to swallow disappointment I stopped asking for what my heart wants and needs, and I called it “contentment”. In order to prevent myself from being attached I gave it all up and told myself I didn’t deserve it.
Teasing out the difference between this burying of my dreams and seeking true contentment seems to be my work right now. To be honest it seems like messy stuff and I feel as though I am stumbling along gracelessly.
Yet, I believe it is possible to live in the moment, awake and present to whatever that comes my way, to find joy and happiness in the messiness of now without promises of certainty. But I also believe that living this way does not mean that I need to turn a deaf ear to the whispers of my heart, the ones that beckon me on journeys, and call me toward my dreams. I can play in their possibilities without attaching to them. I can chase the butterflies, without attachment to catching them. I can ask for what I need to start this journey. I can ask and I can believe that it will show up without being attached to what that looks like.
I know I am brave enough. (she says with a gulp)
I think it starts with YES.