When I was a little girl, I used to dream of flying. I dreamed I was running along the top of the hill behind my elementary school, the hill where we used to go sledding, and that I would throw my body into the wind and it would catch me and I would fly.
I loved that dream. Every now and again I have a similar one. I dream that I am running and that I throw myself into a void, off a cliff, into the wind and I am lifted and that I soar.
I thought about this dream all day today as I contemplated this big word of the day TRUST. Ever since I was a child trust has been my own person Mt Everest, my own Rubicon, my biggest worst.
It is amazing to me how trust is so multilayered. How we can trust someone with our bodies but not necessarily with our thoughts. How we can trust someone with the key to our home, but we are not sure we will ever give them the key to our heart. How we can trust someone with our safety, but not necessarily our souls.
How we can trust a little and convince ourselves that we are trusting completely.
What does it mean to love fearlessly? Truly fearlessly. To really trust completely. Do I trust anyone completely? Do I even trust myself completely?
I think if I did it must be like flying.
I think it must be jumping into the wind and knowing that I will be carried.
I think it is the trust that the wind is strong enough to lift me.
In my dreams I never test the wind. In my dreams the air does not need to assure me that it will catch me. In my dreams I leap unafraid and I soar free. In my dreams I fly and I am carried to places I had no intention of traveling to but I trust the currents and the air and I know where it is going is somehow right–always right. And I know that my landing will be soft.
I know I am being called to fly. I feel it, the currents beckoning to me. All that is left is for me to throw myself on the mercy of the wind. And it comes down to this–whether I can lift my arms and trust the unseen forces to lift me higher and higher into the life I am called to.
Whether I can trust.
I have been trying to write for days now about the experience of turning corners, of coming back home, or starting to grow a little lighter. I have been trying but words have been escaping me, so profound and deep and yes scary this experience is, this coming home to myself. I don’t know how to write about something so big.
I stayed for days in a dark quiet place, knowing that the reason I was there was that I was facing a great big fear–the fear that is my great foe, the monster that lives in my closet and hides under my bed. I felt that if I could stay there in the dark and not hide under the covers, if I could stare her down, sit with her and maybe get to know her that maybe I would just finally get rid of her. And so I did. I sat with the fear of being abandoned. I sat with the fear of being left vulnerable. I sat and I sat. And I felt the fear flood me and fill me and rise up into my throat. I had no energy for triumph or overcoming. So I just sat.
And then, the day after the full moon, as the moon started to wane, a tiny light started to grow in my heart. A light that allowed itself to spark when a friend invited me out to a swanky party and I allowed myself to say yes. Coming up for air and being with my dear ones, allowing them to express their love in the simplest of gestures–shared scotch, stolen conversation, a late night walk–it a gave me peace. It whispered to me that I knew the way home. I did. I really did.
The light grew stronger over the weekend as I sat at the pool, flanked by two of my favorite guys. One who brought me a latte, fresh from the coffee place down the street, another who loaned me his magazine, played with my child and brought me bottled water. I noticed that though I had not left my chair for hours, all my needs were met and I felt held, cradled in the simplest manner, like a child.
It grew the night I ate two dinners. One with my child, his friend and mine. To strangers we must have looked like we were a family on a Sunday night outing but we were pieces of three families merged into one. We were family–just not the nuclear kind. We were my family. We were out but I felt at home. Later that night I ate the best steamed mussels I have had in a long time and salad from a neighborhood garden, roasted asparagus and ripe yellow tomatoes–I was not hungry for food but I was for the love with which it was prepared, the pleasure with which it was plated just for me, there spontaneously. I ate it with a side of laughter and a bit of girl talk and felt a bit brighter all the while.
Two days ago I sat at an acupuncture appointment and told my partner in healing, my beloved teacher and guide about my descent into the fear of abandonment and my humble return home. She sat quiet for a moment, contemplating what I had told her and then she asked me to think about something while she left the room. She asked me to think hard and to answer from my deepest darkest place. She asked me if it was OK to be needy.
By the time she got back tears streaked my cheeks. I wanted to say yes, for when crisis has rocked my world, I have appreciated those who sheltered me and took care of my needs. I wanted to say yes because I loved to be there for those who needed me, their neediness was not a burden but a gift to me–a gift that allowed me to be my best self.
But I couldn’t say that it was OK for me to be needy. Because in the end, I want to believe that I, and I alone am all that I need. Needing others, allowing them to love me meant that maybe they wouldn’t and I would go without. Incomplete.
I wanted to believe, I needed to believe that I could do it all on my own–that I would never need to depend on anyone again–that I would never need fear abandonment. That I could pull the covers over my head and make the monster disappear.
She looked at me with great love in her eyes but her voice was stern and strong. She essentially said this: Meg, when you give and give and do not allow those who love you to give back to you, when you take care of the needy but do not allow yourself to be needy in return, you rob your community and you set yourself out of balance. And the universe is going to kick you in the ass to set it right again. You need to receive love and if the only time you are going to allow yourself to be loved is when you are recovering from a crisis then you will be hit with crisis after crisis. Its just that simple.
The thing you need to do to heal is simple but not easy: Allow yourself to be loved.
Allow yourself to be loved.
It is so easy for me to love others, it is so easy for me to see the beauty that they bring to the world and to appreciate it for the rough, cranky and imperfect gift it is but frankly if I am completely honest I have a lot of doubts about whether they will love me in return. Not because I don’t see myself as loveable but because, perhaps I doubt whether I can count on them to rise to the occasion of loving me completely.
I trust myself to love them, but I do not trust them to love me back. I dance around the doubts, while I make excuses for my dear ones–all the reasons why love, fearless true love is hard. I tell myself all the reasons why I shouldn’t expect it while I prepare myself for disappointment. I tell myself how hard it is for them to see me completely. I compensate in my mind and in my heart for all the ways I anticipate that they will let me down.
I really sell my dear ones short.
And yet, every time I need them so many of them rise, rise, rise to the occasion. Not all of them mind you, but the good ones. The ones I call tribe. They always do in the smallest and simplest of ways. A shared drink, a sweet song, a movie ticket, a tea, painting my toenails, making me a salad, making my bed, bringing me a latte, loaning me a book, telling me a joke, sending me an email, a phone call, a secret whispered message while lighting a candle for me. There are the big ways too–the ways so big, and wide and open. They rise, they always rise.
And if I am honest, they rise everyday whether I need them or not. And maybe the one who fails to see completely is me. Maybe it is I who fails to see them and how they would cradle me if only, if only I let them.
And it is this, this simply complex and impossibly easy thing, that is blocking me.
As we talked, as I struggled to wrap my head and heart around her words, as I struggled to understand how I failed my loved ones by not allowing them to love, the most amazing thing happened.
Over her shoulder a rainbow appeared. It stretched fully across the horizon and filled the picture window. I stopped her mid sentence and told her to turn around. We both walked to the window, with mouths agape and gazed at the rainbow. And then, we witnessed a second rainbow hover over the first. It was a miracle, nothing I had ever seen. It was brilliant. It was perfect.
That pair of rainbows stayed with us through the rest of my appointment. As she took my pulses and inserted needles. As I lay on the table, I gazed out the window at its brillance. It was a message, a punctuation mark, a song, a miracle. It said YES. It said WHAT SHE SAID. It said TRUST. It said OK, DAMN IT IF YOU NEED A SIGN HERE IT IS.
As I drove home I was sure that I was changed forever. And in some ways I suppose I am. But in other ways I see how this fear is sticking with me still, how stubborn I am. How hard it is to let go of fear. How this journey does not end at the rainbow, but how the rainbow is just the beginning.
Tonight, the one who loves my child so dearly got another lecture from me about how he needs to let me know if its getting to be too much, this adoration, this affection, this responsibility. He looked at me with patience but I could see he was tired of this conversation and I saw in his weary face how I was selling him short again. How I was doubting how much he could love. How I failed to see him with his big heart for what it was–big and wide open. How scared I was that his love for Max would change. How scared I was that if we asked too much of him, his love for us would change.
And I asked myself, can I trust my dear ones to love us completely? Can I trust them to see me and still stay? Can I leap unafraid into their arms? Can I really do that?
And I thought about the phrase, FEEL THE FEAR AND DO IT ANYWAY. And I wondered if I could? Really. What would it cost? Everything and nothing and everything again.
I don’t know how to end this post. Because I don’t know how to write about coming home. It don’t know how to write about something that feels so big and scary and beautiful and bright. I don’t know how to end something that speaks only about beginnings.
So I will just begin again. And begin again. And again.
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, unremembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always —
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flames are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.
-TS Eliot, The Four Quartets
I am so out of tune.
The whole world is waxing, growing more yang, full, ripe and bright. As we march forward to the solstice the days stretch infinitely long. As I looked into the summer sky I saw a moon growing fat and fire flies dressing up the lawn with their shimmers. It seems as if the whole world is getting ready for a party, a celebration, and explosion of life.
But I am waning, growing yin, dimmer, diving deeper into myself. I am touching dark places of my heart. The places where the shadows lurk. The places where I am still and silent–where the air is thick and heavy and smells a little like cedar and crushed pine needles.
I have not gone quietly to this place. I have fought this whole waning cycle. I have kicked and screamed and railed against the rain, and the cold and the quiet. I have yearned for connection and have reached out into the darkness pleading for the light and the energy and the bubbling up of joy. I wanted to sing in the sunshine and dance and blossom and expand and I fought the contraction with every ounce of energy I had.
Then, yesterday I got some upsetting news. Its news I don’t want to write about here only to say that it was distressing and stressful and opened up old wounds, wounds I thought I had long ago healed. I found myself reliving abandonment all over again–the feeling of losing my heart, the panic of losing control. I felt vulnerable and weary and alone. And suddenly I embraced the yin for there was nothing I wanted to do but go away and pull the covers over my head, drink chai tea and slip away into the dark of a new moon night. It was as though my soul knew I needed this quiet to deal with what would happen and was preparing me for it all along. It all suddenly made so much sense.
I am swimming in the yin, letting it wash over me. I am grateful for the silence for it asks nothing of me. I am counting my breaths now, keeping my heart focused here on the now for it is all I have afterall. It is all I can do, just breathe, and I have noticed that my breathing, even in this space, can sound like music. And I am thankful for the absence of noise, community, busyness and bustle.
The distressing problem will be solved. I am not worried about that. The wound on my heart, the one it opened up–it will heal, I am certain of it. And the seasons, they will turn again. Of that I am sure.
It may be days, or weeks or months but I will expand again. I will be yang and joyful and bright. I will light up the sky like a June moon. But for now I am a waning moon, growing dim and letting the world rest and be still.
Last night I sat with a powerful woman drinking coffee in an anonymous strip mall. It could have been anywhere in America but it was halfway between where she and I were. A place to meet. And I we sat and talked she told me stories and I remembered some of mine.
I remembered being pregnant with Max. I remembered how tired I was, how much work it was just to be. How the simple act of walking from one place to the other would require me to rest, put my feet up, retreat. I remembered how on one hand I was doing nothing to actually grow this child and yet how I was doing everything to grow him. How this very creative act left me with no energy for anything else and yet…how it felt so strangely not me.
I remembered the not knowing, the fear, the waiting. I remembered the feeling that the end would never come or that rather I had no idea what the end would actually be like. How would I be as a mother? What would this child be like? What would it be like to cradle, nurse, nurture this child? How would it impact me as a woman? How would it impact my marriage? The answers to these questions were imminent but nevertheless hidden, unknowable, unfathomable.
I was changing before my very eyes, but at the same time I couldn’t see how. It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once.
I was changing before everyone else’s eyes and friends and strangers couldn’t help but comment on the changes. The shape of my belly, the look in my eyes, the thickness of my hair. They all saw the changes but we all acknowledged these changes to be temporary. I had no idea what would come next. How life would be forever changed by this journey I was on.
I remembered the day that I sat in the airport and thought my water had broken. I called the midwife from my cell phone trying to keep calm. I was only 5 and 1/2 months along. She was calm and cool even as she told me the news. It could have been my water…But it could also equally have been a simple, small, harmless infection. I asked her what I should do–Should I get to the emergency room? Rush somewhere to save my baby? She said, “No”. There was no use in rushing. If my water had broken there would have been no saving. There was nothing to do but get on the plane and go home and sleep, hope that labor would not come. In the morning they would check me. A good outcome was all in the hands of faith–out of my control.
Pregnancy–this metaphor has sat heavy on my mind as I think here I am, pregnant again. Not with a child, but with a new life. I am in the words of my dear friend drinking her latte, “pregnant with myself”, pregnant with this next phase of my journey. I am pregnant with a life I cannot see, I cannot touch though I feel it stir inside me now and again. I wonder about it but now its out of my hands, mostly. I try to picture what it will look like, what it will feel like to hold this life in my hands and I know that there is no way I can imagine it, no matter how hard I try. I might as well just rest with my feet up for the process of getting to here has exhausted me so. I am doing nothing and yet I am tired. I am so tired. I have no energy left for anything else. Not for writing or playing my guitar or even gardening today. I am just so tired from the act of creating myself anew.
I think tonight about how so many generations of women spent their whole lives in the cycle of pregnancy, birth and the celebration of new life. I realize that now I am not that different, that none of us are. And while birth control or choices about family size have changed the physical realities of pregnancy, if we are honest we are in a constant cycle if only metaphorically–pregnant with possibilities and dreams, birthing of one’s self, creativity, and celebrating a new life, new growth, new beginning. Of becoming new again.
I have a love/hate relationship with my yard. It is overgrown and choked. I frequently describe my house to people arriving at the house for the first time this way. “It is set on a corner lot–the one that looks like the setting to a Stephen King novel”. Interestingly enough, everyone always finds the house without much more information than that.
But I love my yard for all the potential it holds. The garden was once beautiful and serene. You can see the outlines of a Japanese contemplative garden. But that was many many years ago. Over 18 years ago, the couple who lived in our house divorced. The husband was left with three small kids. He stopped working in the garden. Juan and I had plans to tame it when we bought the house but somehow we never could quite get on top of it. And then our own stuff got in the way and the yard went wild once more.
The yard is to me too much a metaphor for single parenting.
Several times over the last few years I have made attempts to get a handle on this yard of mine. I spent days in the yard thinking that if I could somehow figure out how to make the yard nice I would get a handle on going at it alone. One year I spent hours after work pulling out Japanese honeysuckle that had completely taken over a bed of azaleas. Another year I spent days with pruning shears trying to tame the 50 year old bushes in the yard. There has been some progress made. Its not obvious to those passing by but I can see it. Small little progress.
But the lawn…well the lawn is another thing.
Juan always mowed the lawn. We both gardened but he was in charge of the lawn mower. In fact, the first year we moved into the house he asked me to buy him the big old gasoline powered monster for a gift. No joke. He really wanted it. Whenever I would offer to cut the grass he would look at me with horror as though I had asked him to give up his only child. “No…of course not,” he would stammer.
The first year he left I let the grass in our yard grow wild. The thought of dragging out the lawnmower and trying to make it work left me in fits of tears. A few times my neighbor across the street took pity on me and cut my grass while he was cutting his own. Once Juan came by and did it while I was at work. But for the most part, the grass grew wild all summer. The second year after Juan left after the rains had passed I dragged out the lawnmower. I couldn’t get it to work. I tried and I tried and I tried some more. I changed the gasoline, I pulled on that rip cord with all my might but it was a hopeless cause. I called a friend’s husband and asked him to come over and help me get it started. He said he’d be right over but he never showed. I asked Juan repeatedly to help me start it up. He would mumur something about coming over to cut the grass but the grass went uncut. It grew up to my waist while I twisted around in my own mechanical inadequacy.
And then one weekend I could take it no more. I bought one of those old fashioned push-style no-need-for-gas-or -electricity-or-anything-but-muscle mowers. I put it together all myself. And I cut my grass. All by myself. I did it once just to prove I could do it. And then, I put that mower away and let the grass grow.
This year, my yard feels too much like a metaphor–a metaphor for how I sometimes feel–overwhelmed, chaotic, barren in some parts, choking in others. It is alternating patches of scorched dirt and knee high grass. It is a circus of abundance and starvation. It is a mess.
This spring while I was busy feeling sorry for myself, I did not step foot in that crazy yard of mine. I pretended it didn’t exist, preferring to spend my lazy Saturday afternoon’s in my friends’ more calm and manicured havens.
But coming back from Puerto Rico I had an itch to start to return to the routine of my life–to the little things we do that may bring calm, peace or incremental progress. I took today off and spent the morning at the MVA righting all the small things I had let go in the world of my car. And then I took out my mower and made for the back yard.
I made only incremental progress. Mostly the weeds just bowed down. I had to pass over the same area ten times just to get a little bit cut. But I kept on going little by little. Truth be told, it looks like the yard had a haircut kind of like the styles that Max gives himself. Tufts sticking up here and there at funny angles. Long in some places. Way too short in others. But I did it and it is progress, however small.
As I passed that mower over the grass I was amazed at how calming it was for me. To be so focused entirely on simply cutting the grass. To not be thinking about anything else but shortening the grass, shooing away mosquitos, and pushing, pushing the mower. It was a relief. It was a rest. It was a meditation. The meditation of the ordinary.
Sometimes I wonder if when I chose BLOSSOM to be my word for the year, I jinxed myself somehow. BLOSSOM is such an active and exhilarating word. It set my mind on extraordinary things and perhaps in the process, the small things seemed so…well…small. Perhaps it pushed me a little too close to the edge of my life. Perhaps it set me up for waves of disappointment.
In any case, I have been set right, at least for now. As I done my straw cowboy hat as protection against the blaring sun, I am content not to blossom but simply mow.
I am home now. Home to the simpler pleasures of my life. Home to the splash of the kids in the pool, to the sweet kisses of my boy, to the heat of a summer that snuck up on us while we were waiting for spring. Puerto Rico allowed me to hit a kind of re-set button, to hole away and devout myself entirely to my paid work, to do some different things and in the absence of routine or ritual to see what was really important in my life.
I came home hungry for the simple things–for Max’s hugs, for trips to the grocery store. I came home hungry for the rumpled sheets on my bed and the sound of the birds outside my window.
Somehow all the other stuff that I had been feeling this spring just felt so far away and I was grounded again.
Last night, after a spontaneous dinner with my across the street neighbors, I went to the local American Legion Hall. My friend’s band was playing at a luau party and pig roast. It was a private affair for American Legion members only but I was able to get in by saying “I’m with the band”. Even in an American Legion hall it still held cache.
We drank $5 pitchers of beer and cut up the dance floor. At 38, I was the youngest one there. Most of the couples cutting it up were well into their 70s and I just basked in the glow of them. I wanted to talk to them to hear their stories but as they gazed into each others eyes I knew that they had no time for me, they saw only each other and the lives that stretched out behind them and the lives that stretched out before them for whatever months, years or decades they would have together.
Later when the band broke down, I stole away for an impromptu gathering at a new friend’s house. I was exhausted, all but curled up on the sofa, listening to the music played live as a child would, having it lap over me and all but lull me to sleep. But it felt right to hear it wash over me. It was right, just as my life is right, exactly as it is.