The call display said Montana, and I almost didn’t answer, I don’t know anyone from Montana. The call was from a father that I didn’t know. A father that I will never meet. He told me his son was dead, and for a moment I had to think which dead son is this, which dead child is this about.
Then I understood.
This was Kevin’s father. Kevin who was dead. Kevin, the young man who made a small party my son’s first birthday in Arizona, far away from home. Kevin, who arranged for a decorated ice cream cake and twenty candles. Kevin who ordered pizzas with everything that Graham liked on them. Kevin who took pictures of Graham blowing out the candles and sent them to me because he knew how sad I was about not being there for his birthday. That Kevin who took care of my son when I could not. That Kevin who within six months of the party had relapsed, and shortly after had died.
I had sent his phone a text after he died. More of a prayer in text form. It read something like I’m so very sorry, and thank you. I was so sorry he had died, and still so grateful to him for taking care of my son. I sent it, and like a prayer, I never thought anyone would ever know about it.
I do understand that to his father when he finally got his dead son’s phone that my message would be a mystery. I imagine how many times he must of read it before he worked up the nerve to call me and ask just what I meant texting a dead person.
Today he called and we found out about each other, although we never even exchanged names. I told him that I was so sorry, that his son had been kind to mine, and kind to me, and how much that meant to me. I told him that my son was still alive and still clean and sober. I don’t know that was comforting or painful for him. I think it could be both. Maybe I should have said in October my brother, John, and many years ago my father, Alan died of the same disease his son did. Maybe, but that’s not the same as a child. Nothing could be that.
He seemed content enough to have his mystery solved and we said goodbye, and then I sat there and cried for all of us, for those who have died, and for those of us who loved them. I cried, because there is nothing else I can do for Kevin, for John, for Alan, for any of the dead ones.
For the families and loved ones left behind, sorry is not ever going to be enough. Sorry can’t heal the kind of pain this is, but is all we can do. We say sorry and we then hold space for someone’s pain. We say sorry and we hold space in our words, in our actions, in our lives, and in our hearts for them. We let them feel their pain without judgement. We surround them in as much love as we can. This is what we do for the living,
because there is nothing more we can do for our dead.
Me and Shrek (who needs hair when you can have green?), we’ve got layers, and no I’m not a cake or a parfait, I’m a fecking onion with lots of layers, and sometimes if you peel them back your eyes leak a little, but basically we all want the same thing, to be loved, not to suffer, to feel happy – and to get good and grumpy from time to time.
Shrek: For your information, there’s a lot more to ogres than people think. Donkey: Example? Shrek: Example… uh… ogres are like onions! [holds up an onion, which Donkey sniffs] Donkey: They stink? Shrek: Yes… No! Donkey: Oh, they make you cry? Shrek: No! Donkey: Oh, you leave ’em out in the sun, they get all brown, start sproutin’ little white hairs… Shrek: [peels an onion] NO! Layers. Onions have layers. Ogres have layers… You get it? We both have layers. [walks off] Donkey: Oh, you both have LAYERS. Oh. You know, not everybody like onions. CAKE! Everybody loves cake! Cakes have layers! Shrek: I don’t care what everyone likes! Ogres are not like cakes. Donkey: You know what ELSE everybody likes? Parfaits! Have you ever met a person, you say, “Let’s get some parfait,” they say, “Hell no, I don’t like no parfait.”? Parfaits are delicious! Shrek: NO! You dense, irritating, miniature beast of burden! Ogres are like onions! End of story! Bye-bye! See ya later. Donkey: Parfait’s gotta be the most delicious thing on the whole damn planet!
Also I want something safe, and strong and solid, probably not an ogre, but I’m not saying absolutely not. I want a shoulder that I can put my head on when my life feels out of control (generally life is just fine, it’s me who gets lost) I don’t want to be rescued, not really. I do want something that feels safe.
I feel like a Matryoshka Doll. Layer after layer of a hard wooden, brightly painted shell each covering another inside it with a firm, smooth and solid layer. The biggest with a smile permanently painted on. Life gets difficult? Snap! On goes another smooth, hard, smiling outer layer. People are unkind? Pop, pop on goes a couple of smiling layers. When I’m alone I think about taking off a layer or two, looking at the small doll at the center.
“Beauty comes in many forms–and there is no form more beautiful than you. Just exactly as you are, this minute, right now, without changing a thing…you are beautiful. Beautiful enough to take God’s breath away. You do believe this, don’t you? Oh, you must. You must. How can I believe in my beauty if you don’t believe in yours?” ~ Neale Donald Walsch
Isn’t that great? I need to have it tattooed on my forearm.
I grew up learning to gauge other’s emotions and adjust my behaviour accordingly. I hid my own feelings and learned to ignore them. I was told, and believed, that no matter what I did, whatever path I would follow I would never be quite good enough. I could twist, conform and mold myself to make others like me, but really, it would never work. I wore masks, layer after layer of hard, resilient masks, all nesting over another. What I wanted, who I was, what I was passionate about disappeared under the layers.
“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.” ~ Jim Morrison
Inside. Way inside there is that little doll, but the light is dimmed from all the other layers and it’s difficult to see, to feel what she really wants. It’s easier to retreat inside, to not do the work needed to live without the safe, nesting layers. It’s never convenient to do this, there are always more reasons to stay where you are, to stay within the boundaries and roles that have been assigned to you.
Despite this. Despite the layers we all wear, and the roles we all are assigned, despite all of this, we are only meant to be ourselves, that’s all. We, in theory, have the ability to release the pain, to remove the masks and to look into the darker parts of ourselves.
Those who will not slip beneath the surface of the well of grief, turning downward through its dark waters to a place we cannot breathe.
Will never know the secret water from which we drink, cold and clear, nor find in the darkness, glimmering– the small, round coins thrown away by those who wished for something else
– David Whyte
We have been raised to ignore the dark parts of ourselves, the parts about us we don’t like, the parts that we would like to pretend don’t exist. We want the world to see only what is good in us, only the bright shiny outer layer. Except that’s only part of us. The dark and hidden parts, the shattered and broken parts, the really ugly and shameful parts are as important as the bright, shiny and happy parts. Perhaps more important. If you’ve never suffered, you can’t know empathy. A broken heart is more open, feels more, is better able to love.
“Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in.” – Leonard Cohen
So what do I want? The same as everyone else, I suppose. I want to be happy, to be free from suffering. How likely is this? That depends I suppose on how attached I get to certain desires, and how open I am to accept and appreciate what I already have. So in the end, I’m okay if Viggo doesn’t show up on horseback, and the firemen don’t show up shirtless looking to rescue me. Well.. mostly okay. I think actually I’m okay with where I am right now. I may even like myself a little more, and maybe I’ll take off a couple of those Matryoshka Doll layers and get to know better the not so shiny and slightly cracked and broken parts of myself, because that is where the light gets in.
You know those gauzy, flowered, rainbowy memes with inspirational words about letting go? They show you the beautiful moment when you “Let Go”, and then you grow wings, start floating, have the sun shine out of your arse, and you dance off to the ‘happily ever part‘ of your life where there are soft focus wildflowers, pristine beaches with sunsets and unicorns. You know, those memes.
Yeah, I hate those.
I hate them. I hate them because they promote the idea that all you have to do Sweetie, is just Let Go and then your life, relationships, pets, kids, will be forever wonderful and well behaved, your skin will clear up, your stomach will flatten, and daisies will sprout wherever you place your perfectly pedicured bare foot as you stroll in your whispy white dress, with your long fabulous hair flowing behind you in the perfect breeze. It is also rumored that once you Let Go, you will find true love, probably on said daisy sprouting beach with the beautiful sunset and dancing unicorns. Puppies will love you. Friends and family will finally realize your true worth, how you’ve always been right, and how your version of every story was the one true version, and they are overjoyed to morph themselves to your new enlightened view of the world. I may be exaggerating ever so slightly, or maybe not.
Right. Except all of that is bullshit.
We really (really, really) like to hang on to stuff
For more on the Social Mammoth read here, it’s awesome.
First off, Letting Go is really fucking hard. Letting go is not a one time activity that precedes you getting everything you want in life, you being happy all the time, and finally figuring out just what you are meant to do here. Nope, letting go is something you have to do over and over, (and over and over, and over… you get the idea).
Then, just when you’ve finally let go of the rock, the thing/comment/relationship/thought process and you’re standing there thinking, well this is great, now what the hell am I going to do? And then, as if by magic, something else pops up and you decide to pick that up and cling/carry/lug it around instead, or you look back down at the thing/comment/relationship/thought process or whatever it was that you put down and decide, well … really, it wasn’t so very bad, and you pick it up again and drag it around some more. Later, sometimes years later (and sometimes never) you realize that you’ve been carrying that thing (etc) again and you had no idea, and that was why it has been so darn difficult to get around, to do anything because you got this rock that you’ve dug your finger nails into and cortorted your body, mind, heart, and/or soul around to hold on to. Then you have to go through the process of unclawing your fingers, uncontorting your body/mind/heart/soul to put it down again – and that’s a scary thing to do. After you put it down, what then?
oh look, a quote on a butterfly
I love this quote. I use it often in my yoga classes, but the thing I like to add is that you have to keep right on walking into that darkness, that unknown, one step after another, and sometimes you find solid ground, sometimes you fly, and sometimes, more often than not, you fall on your face, get up and step again.
I love this scene from Indiana Jones, his Leap of Faith. There’s this terrifying moment when he steps out into nothing, and then finds the invisible bridge. Here’s the thing about life, Indiana Jone’s bridge appeared after that first step, for those of us not in a movie we have to keep taking the next step out into nothing, over and over again. It’s not a one and done kind of thing, you have to keep stepping out into the unknown, into the very thing that terrifies you. This is the letting go and moving on is part of growing up. He could have just clung to the cave wall because it was safe, and never even attempted to step out. He didn’t because this is a movie, and Sean Connery was going to die, and well, he’s Indiana Jones, and that’s what he does, but those of us walking in more ordinary shoes, in less dramatic lives will cling to the wall and not step out, even to save ourselves (or even Sean Connery), even if the place we are clinging to is awful, and painful. We cling because the known, even if the known is awful, is more attractive than the unknown, and that’s were we get stuck.
Letting go is not being apathetic, it is not weakness, it takes tremendous strength to let go. Holding on to resentments, justifying bad behaviours because of things you cling to, THAT is what’s easy, and also what’s childish. Withdrawing, running away, hiding, manipulating, sulking THAT is what children do. Letting go, and being right here, not rewriting the past, or scripting the future, but being right here, right now, being fully present whereever you are now is hard, really hard. Replaying the past or fantasizing about the future is so much easier. Having those conversations in your head with people, you know the ones where you sound really clever, and you ‘win’ whatever winning the conversation looks like to you. Those conversations where you get to say that really clever thing you’d wish you’d said, or unsay that nasty thing, or where the imaginary version of the person you’re fantasy talking to, starts doing and saying all the things we wish they would, and you know that all you need is for that to happen, and then you can be happy.
okay, it’s got a pretty tree, shoot me
The times when we are uncomfortable are the times that we need to stay right HERE, as Pema Chödrön says to lean into the sharp points, be fully present with the discomfort. What we generally do when faced with being uncomfortable is dash for the nearest and easiest distraction, our phone, the tv remote, the car radio (see video and lyrics below), food, drinking, pouting, withdrawing, lashing out at someone. Again a child’s method of coping, the equivalent of putting our fingers in our ears and saying la la la la I can’t hear you. Grow up will ya?
… I hate this car that I’m driving There’s no hiding for me I’m forced to deal with what I feel
There is no distraction to mask what is real I could pull the steering wheel
I have these thoughts
So often I ought
To replace that slot
With what I once bought
‘Cause somebody stole
My car radio
And now I just sit in silence
I ponder of something terrifying
‘Cause this time there’s no sound to hide behind
I find over the course of our human existence
One thing consists of consistence
And it’s that we’re all battling fear
Oh dear, I don’t know if we know why we’re here
Please stop thinking
I liked it better when my car had sound
There are things we can do
But from the things that work there are only two
And from the two that we choose to do Peace will win
And fear will lose There’s faith and there’s sleep We need to pick one please because
Faith is to be awake
And to be awake is for us to think
And for us to think is to be alive a
And I will try with every rhyme
To come across like I am dying
To let you know you need to try to think
Of course the idea of behaving like an adult is associated with being no fun, stifling, stunted, repressed, we are encouraged to ‘not grow up’ ‘find our inner child’ and while the innocence and the creative openness of childhood are great sources to draw from, the pitching a tantrum, sulking, pouting, lashing out parts of normal childhood delevelopement are not. Don’t get me wrong, I love kids, and am often accused of being one myself – “what are you, like, Twelvemom?!” But childish ways of dealing with frustration are not okay.
So put it down. Whatever that thing is that you are carrying, put it, the fuck, down. Tell yourself you can always pick it up later and see if you want to carry its weight again, that you don’t have to put it down forever.
Imagine you’re swimming, and your beloved thing to cling to is a large rock – it’s a metaphor, stay with me here. You can absolutely keep swimming and carry that rock of yours, but it’s hard work, and you don’t get anywhere fast, and if you really look you’ll see that all your managing to do is to tread water furiously enough keep your face far enough out of the water to breath. Fun, right? But that’s what we do, and we wonder why we’re not moving, we wonder why life is so fucking hard, why no one is behaving in the way we want them to, why nobody has even noticed our awesomeness. You’re treading water with a rock pal, that’s why. DROP THE DAMN ROCK, really, really. Let go. See what it feels like to swim without it. You can always dive back down into the muck at the bottom and wrap your arms around that rock again, sometimes you won’t even notice you’ve done it till you notice how hard it is to swim again, and then you have to let go all over again, but maybe this time it’s a little easier
The thing about letting go, getting back to my irritation with those sunset, wildflower, ocean memes, the thing about letting go is that is not a one time life event, credits roll, couple walk off into to sunset holding hands, life solved, and Boom you done. Don’t confuse your life with a movie, or worse yet and butterfly/unicorn meme. Letting go is something you have to do over and over again. You have to keep stepping out into darkness, into nothingness, with nothing but a little faith and a shitload of courage. Indiana Jones on that bridge. Life is movement, life is growth, standing still is stagnation and death.
Keep taking the next step, yes, I know it’s terrifying sometimes, Do. It. Anyway.
I know you don’t want to move, that want to stay where it’s safe and comfortable, , Do. It. Anyway.
I know you have absolutely NO idea where you will end up – Do. It. Anyway.
Put that shit down and walk (or swim, or step on invisible bridges depending on your metaphor of choice) dammit, keep going. It won’t always be this hard, sometimes, but not always, and the more you let go, the more you step out into nothing and see that the world does not actually stop spinning, that everything does not completely fall apart, that the rewards of moving forward far outweigh the risks of staying still. The more you do this the easier it will be to trust that things will work out, and it’s okay if you don’t know what that will even look like, it’s okay, really.
So while your embracing the openness and creativity and the possibilities of being child-like, be sure you’re wearing your big girl/boy pants and not also indulging in child-like tantrums, sulking and seeing yourself as the centre of the goddamn universe, and while you’re there, put that shit down, with love of course.
A repurposed necklace, the charm is mine, the cord was part of a gift from someone I loved (the original charm, it went the way of the love – gone)
I can’t find the right words to describe this. This feeling that comes when I least expect it. The feeling, as Rilke would say, of pushing through solid rock.
It’s possible I am pushing through solid rock in flintlike layers, as the ore lies, alone; I am such a long way in I see no way through,
and no space: everything is close to my face, and everything close to my face is stone.
I don’t have much knowledge yet in grief so this massive darkness makes me small. You be the master: make yourself fierce, break in: then your great transforming will happen to me, and my great grief cry will happen to you. ~ Rainer Maria Rilke (Translated by Robert Bly)
“Our greatest glory is in rising every time we fall.” Rising. I’m working on that, because I fall a lot. I fall all the time. And I rise, I do, but it’s exhausting
There’s a hollowed out feeling when I think of you, there’s sadness and anger too, but mostly I’m hollow. I can usually distract myself, with sleep, with TV, with work, with art, with words, with movement, with anything handy. The thought of actually sitting still with myself still overwhelms me, so I move, or I sleep. When that doesn’t work, when you bubble up unbidden, on those days, I run the same circles in my head, the same tight circles that loop back on themselves and spin faster and faster. I tell myself I’ve been an idiot once again for loving people who leave, for banging my head and my heart against your rock wall, constructed to keep people like me out. I sometimes think a different version of me might have been enough, could have make it through your emotionally unavailable barracks, but that’s not true. Occasionally I feel like throwing a rock, a brick, or smashing a plate, perhaps that would at least get your attention. I won’t, but the thought remains attractive, if only for the moments I pick it up and hold it, pass its weight back and forth between my hands.
You huddle in, becoming
the deathless younger self
who will survive your dreams
and vanish in surviving.
– Self and Dream Self excerpt, by Les Murray
It’s not just you, of course, it’s been a brutal fall. Somedays, all of its hurts lay on top of each other and weigh me down. I thought we were connected, but we weren’t, that was me telling me stories and you telling me your well practiced lies of convenience. That level of connection, of honesty, was the last thing you wanted. At my core sits a small hard bit of certainty that if I love, you will leave. My head and my heart know somehow this is not correct, but my bones know that it is so.
Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That is how the light gets in.
– Leonard Cohen
There isn’t a light coming in, at least right now. It’s cold and it’s dark and it’s empty. He also said “The Heart beneath is teaching / To the broken Heart above”, maybe that’s what this is, healing.
“Into the pit” – aptly named
I don’t think you’ve ever allowed yourself to be opened, to let someone break your heart, your shell is too hard, too thick, too well formed to allow that to happen. Or maybe you did, once, and then swore never again, and that is why you remain frozen, hard, hidden and clinging to that past trauma that you will never release. You turn your focus on yourself, withdrawing into your shell if anyone gets too close, only pretending to connect, to engage, to care. If that doesn’t work you manipulate, gaslight, play controlling games, run tests, that will always set you up as the winner. You don’t know how to live openly, you don’t know what it is to fall, and to rise again, only to withdraw and hide. There is no glory for you, only more hiding, more controlling, more walls.
Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall
I do know the feeling. I once had walls. They had a hollow sound behind them, but they were solid. With them in place I could play happy, charming, funny, but was just acting. Taking the walls down was excruciating, and also exhilarating; still, there are days I wish I still could hide behind my walls.
And so, I’ve fallen, and risen, and fallen again. I’ve fallen into this mess that I have to push through (not go around, not go over, or go under). I will, push through this.
10. The cold way you looked at me (the warm affection in your eyes).
9. The way you’d protect yourself from me (the way your arm moved to protect me).
8. Waiting hours for you (the way you greeted me).
7. The way you made me cry (you made me laugh).
6. Your lies of convenience (your lies of flattery).
5. The part of you that understood me and then left (the part of you that understood me and seemed to want to stay).
4. The drive-in (sneaking into movies).
3. The plans you never meant to do (the future plans we talked about).
2. Waiting for your call (your goodnight texts).
1. Blowing cigar smoke in my face.
The truth is my struggles, my demons, all come from, and aim directly at the very things I am most insecure of, mainly not being lovable, being abandoned, and when they strike up the band and start to play my thoughts and emotions get sucked into that spinning wheel where no good ideas ever emerge. Don’t believe everything you think, don’t believe everything you think especially when you are tired, hurt, raw, emotional and generally broken up inside. Those are the times when throwing the rock, or smashing the plate seems like the best idea ever. Those are the times where you, as Pema Chödrön says, have to lean into the sharp points, the pain, and the discomfort, even when, especially when, this makes it hurt even more.
Which means this won’t last forever. I will emerge. I might even grow a little. Maybe not today, today is pretty awful. Today I am pushing through solid rock. Maybe another day this won’t be so heavy. At some point you do free yourself, and take your power back – flaws and all. Someday.
The Highlights, The Lowlights, The ‘No Lights at the End of the Tunnel’ Lights
Mood Swings: MORE moods, MORE often, ALL the moods in ONE day, ALL the moods in ONE moment, Ten moods for the price of One!, BUY ONE and get 3 Bazillion FREE moods, ‘Happy Roller coaster moods’, ‘Sad Roller coaster moods’, ‘Happy/Sad/Mad Roller coaster moods’, ‘Roller coaster without a seatbelt moods’, ‘Roller coaster without a seatbelt and a broken rail moods’, ‘Completely overworked roller coaster metaphor because you couldn’t come up with anything else, so just sod off will ya’ kind of mood.
Tears: Sad tears, Happy tears, Mad tears, ‘Happy/Sad/Mad at the same time’ tears WITH boogers, ‘Stupid love song comes on the radio’ tears, ‘Drive by that restaurant you had that date in’ tears, ‘Friends being nice to you’ tears, ‘Nobody will ever love me’ tears, ‘Rejection’ tears, ‘Why I am watching this stupid fecking movie’ tears, ‘somebody ate the last slice of pesto pizza’ tears, ‘why didn’t I buy the stupid waterproof mascara’ tears, ‘we were suppose to do that together’ tears, ‘we were suppose to ride the roller coasters together, dammit’ tears.
Communication: Stupid texts, ‘Happy/Sad/Mad’ texts, ‘completely overworked roller coaster mood metaphor’ texts, ‘Foot-In-Mouth’ texts and emails and words coming out of my mouth (around my toes), cell phone glitches, computer glitches, music glitches, ‘omg, ALL the fecking spreadsheets’ glitches.
Appearance:Hair: Lord. In all the wrong places, in “honey, you should really get that waxed’ places, in the ‘feck it, I’m just going going to grow the hair on my legs and wear long pants because no one will ever looks at my legs again’ places. And Very poorly behaved hair in the proper places. Skin: ‘buying ALL the kinds of cream in the Beauty aisle’ skin, skin doing all the wrong things on all the wrong places.
Indignities: People having ‘banal conversations below your waist whilst your (unwaxed) legs dangling in the stirrups’ indignities, ‘little cough now dear’ indignities, ‘this will only hurt for a moment dear’ indignities (also not true), ‘the whole fecking reason for all the indignities evaporating in one phone conversation about too much drama’ indignity.
Food: Doughnuts for breakfast, cereal for dinner, ice cream for dinner, pizza every damn meal because I just feel like it, okay?! Cake, because Cake. Chocolate, dark chocolate, dark chocolate truffles with fancy expensive tastes added stuffed in my mouth three at time, dark chocolate with pizza and ice cream by the fist full while watching television that makes me cry, chocolate on the fecking tissues because apparently I can’t stuff chocolate in my mouth and cry at the same time without making a mess and wasting chocolate.
Allie’s images are brilliant, she manages to convey a wide range of emotions with a few lines and still manages a sense of humour. I’m working on the sense of humour part.
this one’s mine, computer generated
So yeah. It’s been a ride. An overused roller coster metaphoric kind of ride. It will pass. Retrograde will end, I’ll figure out the menopause thing. All of this will pass.
Place your feet on the floor,
one after the other.
Stand. Walk. Wash your face.
Rise and Shine.
This is not over.
You are not over,
you are only just beginning.
There are no fat ladies singing,
the credits have not rolled
your movie has only just started.
You have words to write.
There are breezes lifting kites, blowing leaves
that need to be noticed;
there are songs
that need to be heard.
Drag your pen across paper.
Write (dammit). Write despite of your broken hand,
in spite of the lifeless fingers.
with your teeth if you have to.
Get the words out.
Write about fire, stars, water,
Just write (dammit).
Do not give them your power.
Do not give
One. More. Moment to those
who called your hopes and fears drama that they didn’t have time for.
Do not make yourself small for other’s comfort.
Stand. Defy gravity, even as it pulls you to the earth.
Stand. Inhale. Exhale. Shine.
your messy, dramatic, beautifully flawed, your lovable self.
You are who you love,
You are not who loves you.
On a cool night walk to the beach and make a fire
burn the letters. Take
the card you have clung to and
Give them to the fire.
Burn them all
Get up. Look up. Walk away.
Look at the stars, borrow as much light as you need.
Listen to the waves.
Walk into the arms of your friends.
Let go. Let go.
Let the rest go.
Walk into your garden and
plant a new seed.
Stand. Shine. Watch it grow,
watch it defy gravity.
Pull the weeds.
Burn them. Burn every last weed
(like the card, like the words, let go, let go, let go)
that would choke your seed, steal its light,
hinder its growth.
The world will tell you to stop,
to dim your light.
There are people that need more light.
on chocolate, on love, on every moment of your life.
Deeper than you’ve ever dared.
Place your feet on the floor,
one after the other.
Walk into darkness, into nothing and
trust each step you take.
Save your own life. One breath,
one step, one word, one seed
at a time.
There is no other moment.
There is only right now.
Get up. Stand. Walk. Shine.
Be that which is you, and only you.
You are enough.
You are what you love.
It’s been a challenging week. The details I’ll leave for another time. I can be, veryoccasionally, a ‘well adjusted and functioning adult’ but more often than not I’m a ‘flying by the seat of my pants making this stuff up as I go along’ kind of person. I have some healthy coping mechanisms, like yoga, art, wonderful friends, and music, and I have some not so healthy coping mechanisms, like not eating, not making the bed, talking to inanimate objects.
Here are my top 10(ish), or maybe 15 coping mechanisms for the last week, in no order what so ever:
took out a live wasp’s nest, with a bat, during the day when they were around, it was a Lieutenant Dan kinda moment
allowed myself to chew off exactly 1 fingernail, my left pinkie, it looks dreadful, I’m only allowed to chew another when my pinkie grows back
curled up on my couch with my daughter, ate pie and ice cream and watched animated movies (The Incredibles and Wreak It Ralph), cried in a somewhat dignified manner
curled up on a friend’s couch and watched movies (Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind, Sliding Doors), cried in a rather undignified manner (waterproof mascara that can hold it’s own through a hot yoga class crumbles and runs down your face if you cry long enough, especially the undignified type of crying)
reached out to friends, cried, and laughed and made horribly inappropriate jokes (inappropriate humour being a major coping mechanism)
made art, did not cry on the art (involved quick tissue reflexes)
talked to my steering wheel, cried on my steering wheel, sung to my steering wheel, drummed on my steering wheel; my steering wheel knows all my secrets
talked to my dog, talked to my cat, my fish, my garden, the lizard, but not the snake, the snake doesn’t listen
sang and hummed to myself, a lot, I mean for hours, I think the dog liked it, but it’s so hard to tell with him
didn’t make the bed for 3 whole days, also picked clothes out of the dryer instead of folding and putting them away
did yoga, got sweaty and breathed deeply, felt MUCH better afterwards
various forms of retail therapy – expensive yoga pants that make my ass look fabulous, little balls to roll away the tension in my neck, dark chocolate with cherries, so far….
narrowed my diet to pie (now gone), toast, coffee, and the odd bowl of cereal (lost 5 pounds, I do not recommend this diet)
played sudoko on my phone for extended periods of time (which I justify as a exercise for my brain)
poetry, lots of poetry, because I’m a word nerd – a small sample of poems below
I will live, have lived through worse, so I’m pretty confident “this too shall pass”, but I keep wondering when will I finally become that elusive “adult” who has all this junk figured out. The one who can balance a cheque book (who knows where the damn check book is), plan a menu that doesn’t involve the microwave or popcorn, gracefully juggle work/family/life/the universe and everything, always have clothes on the right way out, has a happy well adjusted marriage, never puts their foot in their mouth for weeks at a time, or overreacts in dramatic and super embarrassing ways, and never ever has orphaned socks? You know that mythical creature known as the well adjusted, mature adult. I’ve heard of them, even think I’ve spotted a few, but ultimately those ones turn out to be just as flawed as the rest of us.
And so it goes.
Life, crammed full of messy, undignified, embarrassing, humbling, glorious and sacred moments, full of enough sorrow for us to appreciate joy, and enough ugliness for us to appreciate beauty, and gratitude, because in the end it’s a beautiful world, full of kindness and love.
crappy picture, but I made this
Swung for love,
sound earth and sky’s embrace
green willows as my garland.
My sadness, in degrees does soar away,
and whispers back again.
My heart belonging
to faraway horizons.
Time so briefly spent in tumbling clouds
divides more wide than from tides to moon,
but still my flight will not wait
as I swing from sorrow
and back again.
made this too
do not think
that you can
for I am only
in a world
Enough. These few words are enough.
If not these words, this breath.
If not this breath, this sitting here.
This opening to the life
we have refused
again and again
– David Whyte, Where Many Rivers Meet
This being human is a guest-house.
Every morning a new arrival.
A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.
Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you
out for some new delight.
The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.
Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.
– Say I Am You: Poetry Interspersed with Stories of Rumi and Shams, Translated by John Moyne and Coleman Barks, Maypop, 1994.
Love After Love
The time will come
when, with elation,
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror,
and each will smile at the other’s welcome
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you have ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
– Derek Walcott, Collected Poems 1948-1984, New York, Farrar Straus Giroux, 1986.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.
We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.
Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me, so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.
This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.
Literally thin-skinned, I suppose, my face
catches the wind off the snow-line and flushes
with a flush that will never wholly settle. Well:
that was a metropolitan vanity,
wanting to look young for ever, to pass.
I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
nor anything but pretty enough to satisfy
men who need to be seen with passable women.
But now that I am in love with a place
which doesn’t care how I look, or if I’m happy,
happy is how I look, and that’s all.
My hair will grow grey in any case,
my nails chip and flake, my waist thicken,
and the years work all their usual changes.
If my face is to be weather-beaten as well
that’s little enough lost, a fair bargain
for a year among the lakes and fells, when simply
to look out of my window at the high pass
makes me indifferent to mirrors and to what
my soul may wear over its new complexion.
I love this poem, and one day I hope to have that time among the lakes.
Perhaps even more now that I am weathering. My hair is going grey, my waist thickened, and my face, while never pretty, is showing the years in various lines and wrinkles.
I was never a pre-Raphaelite beauty
nor anything but pretty enough to satisfy
men who need to be seen with passable women.
That’s me. Never the attractive, pretty, or sought after one. I’m at peace with being somewhat plain (except for the unruly hair), there are worse things, much worse things. Perhaps I’ll be the type of woman who looks fabulous at 70, but a life of being average looking, a life of more than a few difficulties has given me some insights.
Eat the damn cake, because you know, it’s cake.
Hug people and tell them they matter, because people do matter, and often need to reminded of this.
Hold on to what you love. Let go of what hurts you. Seems easy enough. Still working on this one.
There are no knights in shining armor, you have to rescue yourself. I used to dream of being rescued, of someone loving me like Neruda wrote in his poems, now I’m okay with reading his poetry to myself, and taking care of myself.
What other people think of you is none of your business, so try not to care so much about that. Still working on this one too.
Every day alive is a gift, don’t waste it. It’s been 14 years and 2 days since my friend Cathy died. My friend with three kids the same ages as mine. Every year I get with my kids is icing, is precious. Every spring, every holiday, every damn day. I try not to forget this.
There is such a thing as a free lunch. Sometimes you get the lunch, and sometimes you give someone the lunch. That’s how life works.
Kindness, it really is the new black. It goes with everything.
When things get uncomfortable, try not to reach for the first, or second, or third distraction. When you feel rotten, feel rotten, don’t wallow, but don’t push it down and pretend it doesn’t exist. Lean into it, and when you’re ready let it go. Lean on your friends, and let them lean on you. It’s how we all get by, with a little help from our friends.
It’s not a huge amount of knowledge, but it’s what’s I’ve got right now. I think maybe if I had had an easier time of it, if I was ever seen as beautiful, or wealthy or any number of things, that I might not have had my ego kicked into the dirt enough times to soften it, to soften me, to weather me. This is a good thing I tell myself when I look in the mirror and see every single year on my face, around my waist, on my belly and on my thighs, and I then I channel Anne Lamott as best I can
“Your problem is how you are going to spend this one and precious life you have been issued. Whether you’re going to spend it trying to look good and creating the illusion that you have power over circumstances, or whether you are going to taste it, enjoy it and find out the truth about who you are.”
― Anne Lamott
So, another year older, and I’m still walking and breathing. I’m happy, most of the time, and grateful, so very grateful for what I do have.
“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
Your ego will fuck you over, worse than any person or situation ever could
A quiet morning with a good cup of coffee is worth getting up early for
Sunshine is a beautiful gift too often taken for granted
Your feet are really important, take good care of them
Every day that you are alive is a gift, try to remember that
Love is unconditional, liking is another story
Be kind, to everyone, period, really, this is THE thing that will see all of us through our short time on this planet
We live on a planet first, countries later, and lastly homes, try to behave accordingly
Feed people, care for them, not just on holidays, every single day
Smile. Make eye contact when you do it. Do it a lot, everyone will feel better
Show up and do what needs to be done, do more than needs to be done. Do this every day
It’s best if you don’t get everything you want
Keep moving, your body, or mind, your soul at whatever speed is your own, stagnation is death
Carry others when they cannot carry themselves
Do good, not for any reward or recognition, but because that is why we are alive and on this planet
Look around you, the world is full of beauty and of gifts that you are not noticing
Listen to people, turn off your own running monologue and just listen
Dance, whatever dancing is to you. Open your spirit and enjoy yourself
Listen to music you love, everyday, it will feed your soul
Be alone and be quiet.
Everyday work on loving the person you are right now, not the person you want to or wish to be. Love yourself, right now, grow from there
Forgive yourself, forgive everyone else, for your own sanity
No one thinks they are the bad guy, everyone, EVERYONE is doing the best they can
Let yourself love an animal, let yourself love something that will die before you.
Let your heart get broken, over and over again
Stay open and vulnerable, even when it hurts, especially when it hurts, this will open you to the beauty of the world
Fight for those who cannot, lend them your heart, your voice, your strength and your love. One day someone will stand and fight for you
Speak your mind with love
Laugh!! Everyday, many times. Your sense of humour will keep you sane. Never take yourself or your life too seriously to laugh at. Laughter keeps the importance of things in perspective.
Surround yourself with people who love and value you. Stay away from those who do not, they will suck the joy out of your life, don’t give them the opportunity.
Do others the honour of seeing your real self, your scars, your warts, your self loathing and your unspeakable beauty
Love and honour something greater than yourself
The world is not here for your entertainment, you are here to do some good in whatever form you can manage
People will not behave as you like, this has nothing to do with you
What other people think of you is none of your business
Resist absolutes, judgements and black vs white, and good vs bad thinking, it’s lazy and will not serve you
A person’s skin colour, gender, sexual identity, social status has absolutely NOTHING to do with their value as a person
Be mindful of your own biases
Everything begins with your thoughts, your actions, values and character all grow from your thoughts, make them worthwhile
Change happens, always, get used to it
You will change, this is a very good thing, try not to fight it too much
Read. Read. Read. Read everything you can, you are blessed to be able to read and to have so much available to read, do not ever stop reading, it will make you a better person
Be passionate about something, live your life in a way that expresses this passion
You will get hurt, you will suffer in your life, this is not optional. Use it to make yourself kinder, softer, more empathetic so you can be there for the next person who is suffering. Don’t let your hurts make you hard and bitter.
Get out of your comfort zone, regularly, this is where you learn and where you grow
Make mistakes and spend your time learning from from them instead of beating yourself up over them. Mistakes aren’t optional, what you do with them is up to you
Nothing’s good or bad that thinking makes it so, decide how you want to think and then do it
Practice moderation, and then truly enjoy the things you love
What a person says and does says everything about them and has nothing to do with you
Remember always you are precious beyond all measure and loved no matter what.
So this. I’m riding my own personal crazy train right now. One of my own making, from the full steam ahead steam engine that burns red hot, fiery coal 24/7, through car after car full of personal baggage of all shapes, sizes, weights and colours, to the caboose that can only look back and wonder what, the fuck, was I thinking?
Aside: I did quit that job, and I LOVE the job I have now, the rest, it’s a work in progress.
This quote, and a few dear friends are currently what is holding me together. Also, quite a bit of chocolate, and singing to very loud music in the car, off key, every single time I drive. I’m not kidding, tonight is was Taylor Swift’s Shake It Off. This guy does it better. Yesterday it was Eurythmics, Smiths, and R.E.M. all day.
I used to think that when I turned 20 two major things would happen. 1. I’d be given the ‘adult handbook’, and 2. my skin would clear up. You know the handbook that ALL the grown ups had. The one that gave you the answers to life. No more teenage and young adult angst for me, I would finally have the ansewers, and then BOOM, I would figure life out and become a happy, well adjusted financially secure adult. Apparently there is no such book. You can imagine my disappointment at having to figure things out for myself, and don’t even talk to me about my skin. Honestly, how does anybody figure anything out? I am a hot mess with passable hair on a good day, and on a bad, I shove it into a pony tail.
My ego took a hit last week. It was not pretty. I wasn’t so pretty, except for my hair, I had a good hair week, so it wasn’t all bad. I was just mostly bad. I may have got a little crazy, or as I like to say, super sized extra crispy crazy with side of hysterical hot sauce. Yep, I’m a grown up, and I still cannot figure this stuff out. My brain has this section I call the the hamster wheel section where all my crazy ideas spin faster and faster. I’m not allowed to go there without a friend.
how do they know?
Fortunately, I have great friends. I spent tonight drinking pop, diet pop even… from a Wonder Woman glass, eating chocolates and watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding with a friend, and then confessed all my crazy thoughts and actions and, she still loves me and sent me home with cupcakes and a fortune cookie that said “Be willing to admit you may be wrong, you’re only human”. That’s love for ya.