Max, my son, was named after the boy in the wolf suit in the Maurice Sendak story. From the moment I first felt him move inside, I somehow knew he would be my wild thing. And I loved him and his untamable spirit with every bit of my soul. No other name would do.
Where the Wild Things Are is one of my all time favorite books. I loved it as a child. I loved it as a teacher. I love it as a parent. And now, I cannot believe that they are making a movie out of it.
What is life if it is not an epic journey in a boat we create out of hope and fear? Who are we if we are not all sweet tender children in wolf costumes, angry and imperfect, but authentic, taming our monsters and loving them all the same, embracing our fears and then setting sail back home to ourselves to our hearts to everyone who loved us exactly as we are,fierce costume or not.
I cannot wait.
Thirteen miles in three and a half hours. By some ancient standards that might be making good time.
This is what I think as I sit in traffic, inching along on a very small stretch of a 300 mile quest to Connecticut. These thirteen miles are neither here nor there. They are somewhere in between, but they are exactly where I am and I am simply there.
There is a lot to see that maybe I would have missed at 60 plus miles an hour. Even on the Delaware Turnpike…at night…in the dark of the new moon. There is a lot to see even though its not remarkably different. But it needs to be seen I suppose. We all need to be seen.
There is some reason I am here, I tell myself. And I mean it. And I feel not impatient, even as I am a little achey. Somehow knowing that I am exactly where I need to be makes it peaceful if not perfect.
So, I play my ipod, a silly Russian roulette, spin the wheel and let the Universe decide what songs we will hear. I discover that the Universe prefers Ry Cooter and the Reverend Gary Davis and Pavement which I think is kinda funny given that I am stuck on a long black stretch of Pavement and this is apparently what I am meant to see.
I giggle to myself when I see a sign warning us to slow down for the construction. I wonder if we really could go any slower, me and my fellow travelers. Then I learn we can, and we do. Thats when it occurs to me that once upon a time someone might have thought that having gone 13 miles in 3 and a half hours was making good time. Its all relative.
There is no exit. The metaphor is not lost on me. We are all of us trapped here–on this stretch of a journey that some might say is painfully slow but maybe is the right speed afterall.
I am thankful there is no Pollyana ending. I have not found any greater meaning in the traffic. I didn’t find a long lost friend in the car next to mine. There was no missed accident, at least I don’t think there is. I don’t have any aha moments that explain the traffic, the slow car, the endless stretch of wet dark pavement. Whatever I needed to learn is subtler, simpler and I am not sure I can even articulate it.
I am here. Nowhere else.
I am somewhere in the dark. Stuck like so many. Creeping along and moving but always exactly where I am. I am moving, always moving. I feel my chest rise with every breath. I feel my leg tap out the rythym of the song. I feel my arms stretch up as I try and relieve my tired back.
Thirteen miles in 3 and a half hours. By ancient standards I was making good time.
If I had more than 5 minutes to write I would write a story about emptiness. About how hard it is to clear out all the junk and just sit. How the minute I feel that empty feeling I feel the need to fill it–with what…with chatter, with stuff, with something distracting, with color and music and flashing lights.
If I had more than 5 minutes to write I tell a fable about a girl who is trying to stop doing and create wide open spaces in her heart. A fable about what happens when you don’t rush to fill it with something comforting but let the universe instead decide how to fill the open spaces. But maybe it wouldn’t be about a girl. Maybe it would be about a bowl. Or a ditch or a cow.
If had more than 5 mintues to write I would spin a tale about how the universe abhors a vacuum and will fill it up with love if we just are patient enough. I would reflect though that we often are even quicker to fill up the hollowed out places in our heart with junk substitutions for the love the universe is cooking up for us because the emptiness just feels so…empty.
If I had more than 5 mintues to write I would confess that I feel chained to the constant practice of emptying my life–that I am so unpracticed and I am so quick to clutter, clog, fill. That I am realizing that I am being given practices every day, that so much of what I see are challenges are just opportunities to practice letting go, being empty, sitting still. That every day I do it for a little longer. That it makes me uncomfortable and weezy and a little dizzy but I am doing it anyway.
I have a friend named Kaiya. She is a healer and a tender and wise old soul. When I met her, I recognized her instantly–a kindred spirit, a long held sister. There are times when I believe we have been friends for lifetimes, that centuries ago she whispered ancient healing secrets to me as we huddled around a campfire.
Kaiya and I are both mug snobs. That is, we are extraordinarily picky about the vessels from which we drink our tea. They must have a certain weight, a certain size, a certain curve to fit our hands. This Christmas Kaiya gave me the perfect mug. Handthrown, it is as though the potter knew the shape of my hands when she formed it. The colors are clear and bright, and spoke to me of gentle bays and sandy shores, the kind that I know hold me when I let go of my fears. The weight is just perfect, substantive without being burdensome.
But what is more important about my mug is that Kaiya made it magic. She filled it with unconditional love an endless supply. When she gave it to me, one late December eve, she said in a voice juicy and soft, “When you are feeling a little hurt, a little lonely, a little sad, drink from this mug and take in my love for you.”
For weeks everything I drank, water, tea, juice, wine–I drank it out of that magic mug.
When I am feeling undone, when I am weary, when I think I can’t face the morning, sometimes the idea of a steaming hot cup of Chai out of that magic mug is all I need to settle my wandering heart. A sip of tea from Kaiya’s mysterious mug and suddenly the slog, the daily grind, the mundane and difficult, it all feels doable. And I can take another step.
I have often wondered about the power of Kaiya’s mug–not where it comes from but rather what would happen if we all had a cup like that. I wonder what a difference it would make in the world if everyone felt cherished in one way or another-if we all felt we could drink from the well of an ancient unconditional love.
And I wonder what would change if we each through our intentions could change simple objects like plates and cups into vessels to pass on love. What if we could turn every touch, every handshake from a routine gesture into a transfer of joy or hope or support. I wonder what would shake loose and what could be let go and what would suddenly become easy.
This weekend, exhausted and turned inside out in the wash, I stumbled downstairs to my bookcase and found the Alchemist. I hadn’t read it in so long and I had the feeling that if I reread it I would learn something I desperately needed to know.
The Alchemist is one of those books that feels different to me each time I read it–its lessons so rich I think that I could read it a thousand times over and each time take something different. And after several nights, having circled back to the end once again, what I am know is that even as I follow my path, in search of my destiny, whatever that may be, my greatest treasure is always right here, under my pillow, in my heart and that with every difficult climb and stumble I may see it more or less clearly but it is always right here and has been right here. If I follow my rainbow in search of my pot of gold it will lead me back in a circle to big ol heart, cracking wide open and tender. Stumble, trip, discover, over and over again…in search of treasure buried deep in my heart…but the journey is well worth it.
And speaking of treasure, here are a few things that have made me feel as though I have just found a leprechaun’s pot of gold:
This song, with this lovely video by way of my dear friend Jen
This magical place that I know I will end up at one day to train my healer’s hands
This recipe for good old fashioned comfort food
This child who’s laughter never fails to undo me
This team, that never fails to delight me, even when they lose
This cider, which is like liquid gold to me
This new band which I can’t get enough of
Happy St Pats to you.
Sometimes the most revolutionary thing you can do is stop trying
Stop trying so damn hard to be clever, to be loveable, to be worthy of friendship, to be cherished
Stop working to fill the potholes and empty spaces in the heart with community
Stop striving to get needs met, stop setting up the conditions for it to all come together
Sometimes the most revolutionary action is simply to sit
That we will be loved anyway
That just getting up in the morning and going about our daily business is all that is needed for kindness to flow in
That our needs will be met in the most surprising of ways and those that don’t get met will keep
That love doesn’t need to be earned and that it simply is and will be without any effort.
Sometimes that most revolutionary thought is that you don’t need to kick to be carried, to float with ease in the arms of the world.
Sometime the most revolutionary cry is
I AM ENOUGH.
Can I open my arms to embrace this revolution? Let it seep into my bones? Can you?
This was the scene at my house yesterday evening.
The mother (that would be me) was hunched over her computer, paying bills and trying to solve yet another money issue.
The Boy: Mom, is this a permanent marker?
The Mom: Um…show it to me?
The boy thrust the marker in front of his mother’s computer screen. She did not look at the child-just the marker.
The Mom: Nope. No babe…Its not permanent
The Boy: Oh thank goodness.
The Mom: Max…why thank goodness?
And then she looked..
Thank goodness nothing is permanent.
Today is the 1st anniversary of my divorce from Juan. Its both hard and easy to believe that a full year has passed since the courts made it official, since the judge signed the papers, since I was able to let go at another level. Of all the stories I have written about loving Juan and the process of losing him, this is my favorite. It seems appropriate to post here again. Its made it into a couple of my best hits compilations. Apologies to those who have seen it before and don’t want to read it again. New writing is coming soon. I promise.
It was an unusually warm April day. We were standing in the park. It was a Saturday but we were working–the way people in Washington, DC do. But because it was Saturday we could give ourselves a break from the relentless pace and walk around the block. We stopped in the park and stood about three inches away from each other and talked, the way we had been talking for months, about life and family and justice and my married lover and movies. Suddenly the skies opened up and it started to pour. I barely heard him over the thunder. “You know I love you, right?” he said. “Yes” I said, slipping my hand into his. The next moment before we kiss stretches infinitely out before us. Spacious. Open. At that moment everything in my life changes.
He slipped the key into the lock and it turned. We couldn’t believe it was ours, this house. It felt like a palace. After the studio apartment where he spent almost every night and then the one bedroom basement in Mount Pleasant that we shared, the openess seemed like a metaphor. Our whole lives lay out before us–full of possibility and hope. He rolled around the floor and I took pictures. We dragged in paint cans and ladders along with a suitcase full of dreams and made love on the drop cloths.
I was rolled up in a ball–scared, terrified. I was eight months pregnant and I realized that when I had this baby he might just love it more than me. I had never been loved so deeply before in my life and for the first time ever I had felt rooted and at home. I was scared, so scared that it would all start to shift away from me once there was this little person around–this child I so desperately wanted. I would become second in his eyes. I would fail as a mother and he would love me less. The tears started to drip off my chin. He wrapped his arms around me and promised me it would never come true. He would always love me. Always. And I knew he was right.
The day they placed Max in my arms. I knew I had it all wrong. He would never stop loving me.
There are endless stretches of no sleep. There are short words. There is postpartum depression. There are chores that don’t get done. There is frustration. There is unhappiness that creeps into every corner of the house. There is a child that consumes both of us and leaves so very little left. We have nothing to give each other.
But we try. We rally and laugh and delight in this child we created together. We hold hands and share our stories of him. We find our way back to each others bodies at night. We tell ourselves that love will get us through, that we are a team. We make plans and we dream. We convince ourselves it is going to be OK.
But work is hard. Life is hard. There is so much falling apart around us we don’t know how to start holding it all up. When we go out for dinner we are so tired we can do nothing more than stare at each other.
We love each other madly even though it is beginning to feel that love may not be enough.
The day he tells me he is leaving me, everything inside my body goes cold. I can’t breathe. Everything stops working and then starts working in reverse. And then stops again. The walls that just five years before had seemed so widely spaced are closing in on me. Our two year old was sound asleep in his room. How did it come to this?
We could figure this out. We always could figure it out. I beg him. Lets figure it out.
Nine months later, the air is so heavy in our house I cannot breathe. “I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how to stay. I can’t do the hard work. I can’t figure it out,” he says. “I can’t believe this is us, falling apart this way.”
We are sitting three inches apart from one another. “You know I love you, right?” he says to me as he pulls his hand from mine and gets ready to walk out the door. “Yes,” I say but I am not sure he hears me. He kisses me too quickly and in an instant my life has changed again.
I have everything I wanted out of this divorce settlement. There was no fight. It is sketched out on a napkin at a Lebanese restaurant. We promise we would be our best for each other, for him–the only one each of us truly knew how to love at this moment. After years of disappointing each other so deeply I wonder if this was yet another empty promise. I try to so hard to forgive–to forgive him, to forgive myself, to forgive love for not being enough.
I need to bring my marriage certificate to court on Friday. I finally bring myself to dig it out of my files. Sometime last year I had moved it from M for marriage to D for divorce. I pull out the file. There is only one certified copy left. I need a certified copy for the court. I make a mental note to write the County and request another for my file. And then it dawns on me that this is the last time I will never need a certified copy of this document ever again. I don’t need to write the County. I put my head in my hands and the reality of the last 4 years hits me like a truck.
I move in and out of my day. I am so blessed. My life is a good one. I have beautiful friends, I have not been without love for one day in this whole journey–not one. I laugh every day now–genuine hearty spontaneous belly laughs. I wrap my arms around my dearest girlfriends–soul sisters who understand my heart and giggle with me until 3am. My life is messy but I am bowled over by the stark beauty of it. I am better for this journey I have taken. I am wiser and slower and kinder and gentler. I know that I would not have this–this community, this love of life, this appreciation for slowness, this knowledge of the depths of my heart had he stayed and pretended, but I can’t help but say to anyone who will listen, “I don’t recommend divorce. I say stay. Stay. Stay.”
I sit and play my guitar but my fingers don’t want to work on this right now. They want to twine themselves in the hands of someone I once thought I would never live without. I stop and don’t even notice that I have. ”You’ve stopped” my friend says. “Sorry” I say and I mumble something about how I was frustrated with myself. ”I want to start again”. The metaphor hits me like a ton of bricks. I want to start again. Yes–I want to go back to the moment in April when the air hung hot and the thunder clap almost drowned him out. Before I knew how it would all turn out. I want to rewind the movie and play the beginning over and over again.
Despite the thousands of ways he has found to disappoint me, I still love him.
I can’t live with him anymore. I don’t want to.
I remember this fact and look at my friend. I look at the guitar in my lap. I think about the richness of my life, about the gorgeous details in this tapestry that is my life. It all turned out exactly as it should have. I have everything I need.
So I pick the guitar back up. I apologize for my bad mood and rotten attitude. For the somewhat wasted lesson.
My friend launches into a spiel about how its the middle of the second period and there is another period and a half to go and you might be getting your ass kicked but you still have to put your head down and tough it out and play and hope you learn something for the next game. I want to kick him out so I can have a good cry but I know that he, with his icehockey metaphors, is right. Wait for the final buzzer I tell myself. I put my head down and I play so soft thunder would drown it out.
He plays Tom Waits. And then he plays another song–a song I believe I have known since before I was born. He knows I love it and he wants to cheer me up and he does– a little. I hug him–it is time for him to go. I tell him as he packs up that Friday is the day. “I know” he says. “Its hard”. There is nothing more to say than that–and I silently thank him for not trying to say more.
I sit in the dark and wrap my arms around myself. I breathe in and out the truth–the honest truth. I love my life, with its ups and its downs. I love the strength I have discovered in myself. I love my friends, my urban family and the rhythm of this community we have created with shared meals and Eric’s homemade key lime pie and Jackie on my cell phone and Stephen in my office making fun of me. I love Barbara with her laughter and Jen with her schemes and Jeff with his music and Cathy with her cup of coffee and the kids begging me to stay for dinner or take them to icecream. I love my housemate with her fancy salads. I love my job, even when I have to fight with my colleagues. I love raising Max more than I have loved anything else in the world. The truth is I am giving birth to a life that I love more than anything I have ever loved and I couldn’t do it without losing my marriage.
And I know, honestly, that I would walk this path over and over just again to sit here in this moment right now. The moon is full and I am incredibly happy even as I am sad.
“You know I love you, right?” I whisper to noone in particular–to the moon, to my sleeping son–to myself. I feel the words vibrate around the room before they finally settles on the couch next to me and slip between my fingers. The moment both stands still and passes quickly. And I tumble on, head over heels in love with whatever will come next.
For the last 4 years, since becoming a single parent, I have always felt as though I was within something like 20 paces of falling off the edge of the cliff, the cliff that marks my the boundaries of sanity.
At first it felt scary, to be so close to falling apart. But then I realized that 20 paces is really quite a ways a way. After awhile it felt quite comfortable. Even as I knew that it could all unravel quite quickly, I knew that it most likely wouldn’t.
There are times when I move closer, within 10 paces or even 5 of the edge. Those times initially felt scary too. The wind is stronger here and I can smell the dangersous dropoff but I have survived moving so close so many times that it feels old hat. I know 5 paces is still 5 paces and one step backwards is all that is needed to get me back to 6.
But lately, the last week or so, I have been perched with my toes curled up against the edge, gripping with every last bit of strength—channeling it all down to the tiny muscles in my pinky toes. Its not a trauma that pushed me to the edge. Instead I am just the daily business of keeping it together, through winter, through Max’s latest bouts of separation anxiety and the flu, through the battle with a house which is slowly falling apart, dissolving into a pile of broken toys and popcorn crumbs and dirty laundry and dust, Four years of trying so hard to do the work of two parents, to build a community that fills the holes in our hearts, of striving and working and being solution focused. Its got me worn out and in my exhausted stupor I stumbled like a drunk to the edge where I stand now, holding my arms out for balance and crying out “Whoa…”.
The other night as I was dropping off Max’s playdate, and running to the store to pick up the M&M’s Max needed for a graphing project, I thought if I don’t ask for help I am going to fall apart, literally, figuratively. Asking for help is hard and while I feel I have pushed past all my fears and the taboos that I carried, I still wince when I need to ask.
And truth, unlike the help I needed in the past the help I need now makes me feel so much more vulnerable. I didn’t need a babysitter. I don’t need someone to cook me a meal or give my kid a ride. What I need is a hug from someone who loves me, who sees me, who isn’t trying to change one bit of me or hope that I am someone other than I am. I need someone to appreciate me, celebrate me, tell me why they cherish me. Oh…and I need someone to sit on my couch and drink a glass of wine while I clean, cause I need to restore order to this house and I have been having a hard time settling. I need someone to help me settle.
I wonder if I can whisper wishes so precious and vulnerable out to the world? Can I ask my community to fill in this way? Even just a few people–my closest and dearest friend or two? Is it too much? I know these are needs that so many of us have unmet. If I ask, do I give permission for others to ask too…Do I open up a door where we all start unsurfacing our most vulnerable needs exposing them to the air where they can be met? Or… do I risk creating resentment and hurt during a time when everyone is so stressed, by the economy, by illness, by their own demons that feels so much bigger than my exhaustion.
Post script: I wrote this piece last week but never posted–The frantic pace of being stuck kept me from making it to my blog. And then I asked. Not wide and far but within a very tiny circle. And like a magic carpet that request swept me away to safety. I will continue to ask, because I know how easy it is to know that perch and when I am ready I will write what I learned along the way.
My life is full of magic. Just ask St Anthony. When I was a little girl, I lost everything. My father still talks about how I lost my blazer in 4th grade. I lost my homework, I lost my money, I lost my way. I spent a good portion of my early life looking for things. In college, my roommate Cindy would tell me it was time to go to dinner a full 10 minutes early because she had to build in time for me to locate my id and dining card. Somewhere along the way, in desperation of some sort, someone taught me the St Anthony prayer.
St Anthony, St Anthony…please look around, Something is lost and Can’t be found…We are looking for (insert name of thing we have lost here)
This frantic looking for something lost, sometimes it feels as though it is my destiny, or maybe my curse. I am a seeker. Always looking for something that has slipped through my fingers. Always thinking that the thing I need is somewhere else, somewhere hidden, somewhere far away. Over the last few years I have found the St Anthony prayer to work remarkably. I don’t know whether it is a little trick which triggers my brain to remember exactly where I put the lost thing, or whether it is truly a magic calling spell or whether a lovely saint with a bald head and the baby Jesus in his arms intervenes…but does it matter? For now, no matter what I have lost, it turns up no sooner than the words to the prayer slip out of my mouth. I have come to believe that the magic is that I am starting to trust that it never was really lost to begin with. It was always exactly where it needed to be and I just needed to open my eyes to see it. The St Anthony prayer is the key that unlocks that faith in my heart and opens my eyes.Lately I have been spending lots of time looking for other things I thought I had lost: the meaning of it all, love, my sanity, balance. I feel like that woman who is frantically looking around for her glasses which are right on top of her head. Seems like a little trust is in order…Trust that these things are right where they are meant to be and that all I need to do is open my eyes and I might just see them. The lesson is stop seeking and simply look. Its always there. Right in front of you.