Love Loudly – Nathan Miller

Love Loudly

The phones are ringing, but nobody could answer. The other line crying and pleading to hear an answer, a whisper. Souls walking along where other souls once were, silence organized with constant ringtones and text tones echoing in ears, nobody could answer. Nobody was there any more. Names like paper, torn and shredded and somewhat pulpy, needing sorted and pieced together with trembling hands through watering eyes.

Beautiful, beautiful faces of our family, our friends, our lovers past or future, are silent now. No more of flushed damp faces glowing of colors in the lights. No more smiles while eyes closed, moving free to that internal happy memory or place of contentment in pulsing symphonic mindfulness.

Our faces, our hands, drenched dripping in the blood of apathy and propagated hate. Walking we leave a path, breadcrumbs to our pain. A militarized people is a terrorized people, and a terrorized people are a fearful people. To have hope is to have endured hurt, but in order to heal fully voices of those must be heard. How loud can voices be that can no longer speak? Must life conflict with liberty so? Must liberty conflict pursuits of our happiness?

Like endangered species and birds, we’re confined to our sanctuaries. Threatening violence pounding on our doors, clenched fists, knives and ammunition penetrating rattling our wired weak cages. Penetrating rattling our weak bodies.

To my lover, Orlando, I can see you still. I still hear your whispers. I still feel your breath on my neck. May my love for you elevate you. May our love, and ability to love, wrap us all, and begin to heal from this hurt. You may not be able to speak anymore, I will speak for you, with you. We all will speak for and with you, concerted to end your insufferable sorrow, our insufferable sorrow. Love cannot be contained, caged anymore. We need to love loudly. We must love so loud it will deafen hate. We will love so loudly, all will know you, all will be with you, and all will remember you.

Female Cannibalism

IMG_9285.JPG“I am not a pretty girl,
That is not what I do.
I ain’t no damsel in distress,
And I don’t need to be rescued” – Ani  Difranco

When I was twelve or thirteen, I ran with a squad of girls around the lake where I grew up. There was one girl, from out of town, (she’s not on my friend list so I’m not talking about any of you) but she wasn’t very nice. If we talked to boys, she would call me conceited or that I thought too much of myself. I distinctly remember learning the cardinal rule of female cannibalism: Shut up, you’re not as great as you think you are!. I really didn’t like her but I think the other girls did. She wasn’t very nice and she made me feel awful anytime I said anything. I tolerated this relationship for much of my childhood.

The truth is, woman are socialized to cut each other down. We are taught that there are limited resources when it comes to happiness, success, and love. This is bullshit. My success does not take away from your success. My looks do not diminish your looks. My happiness does not take away from yours. My love does not cut into anyone else’s love. In reality, there are no limits to success, happiness, joy, attractiveness, and LOVE. All we need to do is stop eating each other alive and cutting each other down. We can work on supporting each other. I can stop being jealous of something I don’t even want. We all know the twinge of jealousy when someone gets hundreds of likes on a post.

WHY AM I JEALOUS OF YOUR PREGNANCY WHEN I DON’T WANT CHILDREN!!!!

I am jealous because I was taught that your happiness and joy take away from mine. It doesn’t and I am so happy you are happy (or at least you appear happy on social media).

Always remember, you are definitely as great as you think you are. Actually you are so much more incredible than you think you are and that doesn’t take away from my greatness one bit.

Love.

(thank you Shelby for being the best writing partner and calling me out. I love you)

Dancing With A Limp.

I’m out of words. I write then I read and read and read and read and then I write. I’m preparing for a silent retreat so it makes sense that I’m running on empty with words. But, here are other people’s words. When I read poetry, books, or quotes that resonate with me or validate me on a visceral level it’s as if the person crawled through the pages an offered a warm hug. We can always use a warm hug and a “me too”

Hugs.

“You will lose someone you can’t live without, and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly – that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.”

–Anne Lamott

Wild Geese – Mary Oliver

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.”

Death With Dignity – Sufjan Stevens

Spirit of my silence I can hear you
But I’m afraid to be near you

And I don’t know where to begin
And I don’t know where to begin

Somewhere in the desert there’s a forest
And an acre before us
But I don’t know where to begin
But I don’t know where to begin

Again I’ve lost my strength completely, oh be near me
Tired old mare with the wind in your hair

Amethyst and flowers on the table, is it real or a fable?
Well I suppose a friend is a friend
And we all know how this will end

Chimney swift that finds me, be my keeper
Silhouette of the cedar
What is that song you sing for the dead?
What is that song you sing for the dead?

I see the signal searchlight strike me in the window of my room
Well I got nothing to prove
Well I got nothing to prove

Image from: Her heart tied to a red balloon. herheartonhersleeve-blog.tumblr.com

Love.

Eat, Pray, Kalamazoo.

I drive a lot for work. I wander between podcasts, audio books, and music. I pick my poison when I start on my way. This week I’ve been listening to excerpts from one of my all-time favorite memoirs, Eat, Pray, Love. Call me cliche, say what you will about this book but the first time I read that book, I found parts of myself that were hiding. It was one big permission slip.

The first time I read the book, I was at a job and a university I hated. I knew in my bones that I needed to leave but I did not have the courage to quit this thing I dedicated my young life to. It’s weird to think how rigid my thinking was then. I laugh when I think that anything will ever go as planned. The first time I read the book, this quote brought me to my knees:

“I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door, without causing any fuss or consequences, and then not stop running until I reached Greenland.”

Today, on the road, I burst out into gasping sobs when I heard this piece:

“My thoughts turn to something I read once, something the Zen Buddhists believe. They say that an oak tree is brought into creation by two forces at the same time. Obviously, there is the acorn from which it all begins, the seed which holds all the promise and potential, which grows into the tree.

Everybody can see that. But only a few can recognize that there is another force operating here as well—the future tree itself, which wants so badly to exist that it pulls the acorn into being, drawing the seedling forth with longing out of the void, guiding the evolution from nothingness to maturity. In this respect, say the Zens, it is the oak tree that creates the very acorn from which it was born.

I think about the woman I have become lately, about the life that I am now living, and about how much I always wanted to be this person and live this life, liberated from the farce of pretending to be anyone other than myself. I think of everything I endured before getting here and wonder if it was me—I mean, this happy and balanced me, who is now dozing on the deck of this small Indonesian fishing boat—who pulled the other, younger, more confused and more struggling me forward during all those hard years.

The younger me was the acorn full of potential, but it was the older me, the already-existent oak, who was saying the whole time: “Yes—grow! Change! Evolve! Come and meet me here, where I already exist in wholeness and maturity! I need you to grow into me!”

And maybe it was this present and fully actualized me who was hovering four years ago over that young married sobbing girl on the bathroom floor, and maybe it was this me who whispered lovingly into that desperate girl’s ear, “Go back to bed, Liz…” Knowing already that everything would be OK, that everything would eventually bring us together here.

Right here, right to this moment. Where I was always waiting in peace and contentment, always waiting for her to arrive and join me.”

It took the air from my lungs because it is my truth. The truth is we believe that there is a finite amount of love, joy, and happiness in the world. We believe that your happiness steals from my happiness, It is ludicrous. There is enough of all these things for all of us. We each have our own paths, My happiness was never for you and your happiness was never for me. But, it is hard for people to celebrate one another without reflecting on their own deficits.

I wonder what your future self is pulling you towards? I wonder what you are growing into? I wonder where this world will take me. I wonder and trust and hope and fear. Trust yourself, trust the wise inner voice, trust the divinity inside of you. Don’t let other people quiet that divine voice pulling you into a beautiful future. It’s not their path. It’s mine.

Love.

But, Can You Love This Much?

I think a lot about spirituality, physics, and religion. I have wonderings (a new word I picked up) about divinity and love. When asked to distill my faith down into a simple sentence it goes like this: But, can you love this much?

When I’m faced with a person living counter to my values in such a way I feel enraged, I challenge myself and say but can I love this much?

When I’m faced with a horrific story and feel compelled to run away or shut down, I challenge myself and say but can I love this much?

When I look a homeless man in the eyes and feel a sadness that could fill the universe, I challenge myself and say but can I love this much?

Love, like Mister Rogers puts it, “Is a verb.” Love is the unconditional acceptance of common humanity. It is the thread that ties us all together. It is my prayer, my challenge, and my purpose.

Some days with some people, I literally have to say out loud to myself: But, can you love this much? I wish I could say it always works and I always find the best in what I believe to be the worst places but I don’t.

That’s when I ask myself: Sissy, even with your faults, even with your mistakes and scars and losses and fears: Can you love yourself this much?

Love.

When My Neighbor Died.

We bought our dream house four years ago. This is not to brag but rather quite an accomplishment from our previous digs only a few years before. You see, in 2010, when my life imploded, we lived in, well, a house broken into different apartments. At one point, Homeland Security raided the house. At another point, the man in the apartment under ours died and no one discovered the body for a week. My husband got a staph infection. Our friend Shelby was the only friend that would come in and hang out. It was preferred that we meet other people at their place.

Then, as life does, our life came together beautifully and we found a 120+ year historic home with a zen garden (that required a lot of work to become a zen garden). I love this house.

When we moved in we were greeted by a gruff looking kind man. He brought over a case of Miller High Life, which to him, was an act of kindness similar to a pie. He welcomed us to the neighborhood. He was full of life, jokes, and adventure.

Then the dogs and the fence.

Our neighbor had a dog when we moved in. His name was Earl and when people say owners look like their dogs, they really nailed this relationship. I believe Earl was our neighbor’s spirit animal. Then Earl died. This was devastating.

A few months later, they rescued two new dogs. One, Lucy, a terrier type with a hook nose, made our dogs crazy. They would have destructive fights at the fence. I would end up in tears. We tried every different way to stop these fights. It was frustrating and I grew to hate those dogs. I would side eye Lucy when she’d sneak that hook nose through our front fence to say hello. Her bark, it was like razor blades.

Then, a few months ago, I came home for lunch and the police were parked outside our neighbor’s house. They wouldn’t tell me what was happening but I was not leaving until I found out. Eventually, a family member came out crying. I asked what was happening and she tearfully stated that our neighbor had died unexpectedly in his sleep. He was only 50 years old.

I shared this news with my husband. We coped by blaring Bob Seger on our turntable and attended the funeral. We learned at the funeral how close he was to his grandchildren. This answered the always puzzling question about why he wore a baby monitor on his belt.

His wife is moving this weekend. They close today. A new, younger couple, is moving in. They don’t have dogs but they want dogs. The fence will probably still be a problem.

But, now that I have the longview, the fence was never that big of a deal. I would love to look at that hook nosed dog and have fights at the fence if that meant we could still have our handy, kind, funny, neighbor.

During the frustrating fence wars, I forgot the one truth of life, it all goes away. The only truth is change and loss. Damn.

Love

The Shadow Side of Womanhood

“Across the broad continent of a woman’s life falls the shadow of a sword. On one side all is correct, definite, orderly; the paths are straight, the trees regular, the sun shaded; escorted by gentlemen, protected by policemen, wedded and buried by clergymen, she has only to walk demurely from cradle to grave and no one will touch a hair of her head. But on the other side all is confusion. Nothing follows a regular course. The paths wind between bogs and precipices; the trees roar and rock and fall in ruin.”

Virginia Woolf

I read a lot. Like, a lot. It is where I find refuge and peace of mind. Yesterday, I was working on developing a curriculum when this quote landed in my lap. It has been heavy on my mind for a day now. It captures, in such a concise manner, the complexities of womanhood. Although, gender is certainly not a dichotomous construct. For those of us that identify as a woman and fall on the shadow side of the sword, the world can feel like a confusing place. My life has never followed a regular course.

I do not assume that the women who follow cultural rules and societal norms have an “easy” life. We all suffer in one way or another. But, this quote resonated with me because it captured a feeling I have not been able to put into worlds. I believe I was born on the shadow side of the sword. It is just my truth. I never felt “like me” when I conformed to the cultural rules and norms. Believe me, I tried.

It’s complicated. We do look to each other and ask “Do I make sense?” and this quote answered. “Yes, but that doesn’t make it any easier.”

Learning as we go.

Love.

Only A Monster Could Love Me.

I teach a mindfulness class. Inevitably, after the first class a few people drop out because they  had some misconceptions about what mindfulness meditation was. Mindfulness is just partly  breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth.

The primary component is noticing how you are feeling and noticing the thoughts you are having in this moment. This is a practice that many people have spent their lives avoiding. A lot of people are out of touch with their thoughts and feelings. When I ask them to pay attention it literally scares them.

This is called back draft. Sometimes when we open our hearts to our thoughts and feelings they can feel overwhelming and frightening. This is because we are trained to follow the rules no matter how we feel and what we think. This conditioning is hard to break and for some potentially impossible. We just go through the motions of our lives never having really lived. This happens so much more than people realize.

Further, some people have their wires crossed. For some of us,  the people that were supposed to love us and keep us safe did not do the best job. This can lead to shutting off our emotions completely or thinking that love is unsafe. This means that when I try to extend love or compassion to you, you will literally be repulsed by me. It is how some people stayed safe. Some people literally feel unlovable. If you try to love them they will think something is wrong with you. “After all, only a monster could love a person like me,”  they think.

What also breaks my heart are the people that do not even realize that they were abused/traumatized as a child. I once asked a person if they had any history of abuse and they stated that they had not. Some time later the person recounted the violent psychological and physical abuse they had endured. When I questioned why they denied having been abused they reported “I thought I had a normal childhood” No, that is not normal and it certainly impacts a person’s ability to be present, vulnerable, and connected in their lives.

I write this in the midst of an opioid epidemic. When the pain is too much to bear, we find a way to make it bearable, even if that means slowly killing ourselves.

Love.

I Lost Ten Pounds!

This post has nothing to do with weight loss. The scale is not even in my bathroom anymore. It never had anything nice to say. This post is about a conversation I had this week with a sweet friend. I would describe her as a divine gathering of stardust. She is the kind of person that the moment you meet them you just know they are special and you want to know them more.

Anyway, she asked how I knew to start this blog. That was a fantastic question. The truth is, I wanted a place to tell the truth. I wanted a place to gather my thoughts and observations about my life experiences. I also wanted to talk through some of these things with a community of people.

I was never concerned with how many people actually read my words. I just wanted to lose the weight of the thoughts in my mind. When I share a truth about life experiences, it feels like another pound of pretend is off my back. It feels like “well now that’s out there” and I am free from pretending like it’s not part of my story or part of what I value.

Elizabeth Gilbert opens her memoir Eat, Pray, Love with the quote “Tell the truth, tell the truth, tell the truth” I get it now. I get that telling my truth has nothing to do with you and it has everything to do with me. I am a bit more free with every truth I tell.

We live in a culture that shames our scars. We are expected to be fine or okay all the time. These expectations are devastating for a lot of people. Life is hard for us all in one way or another. No one gets out without a few scars. Too many of us spend so much time adjusting our images to hide our scars and our stories to make them more palatable to the masses. I have no desire to be palatable and every desire to be real.

My husband’s poppa asked me early on in our relationship “You are real, huh?”

Yes, I am real, I’m messy, I’m scarred, I’m held together with string, I’m confused most of the time, I think rodents are particularly funny, I would only eat pizza if I were single, I love with an exhausting intensity, I care so much, and I’m beautiful.

Love.

 

I Never Needed A Makeover

A friend of mine is in town for the week (I love her ) and we were talking last night about a time in my life when I (significantly) lacked confidence and what that felt like. Honestly, I think we all struggle with confidence from time to time but there were times when I thought that I was just not good enough at anything.

This post makes me so sad for the person I was.

There was a time in my life when people would tell me how to dress, how to do my hair, or what I should act like or talk like. My laugh was too loud and my opinions were too much. When I shared these stories with my friend, I could see her sadness and that made me sad. It’s just not nice to tell people that how they are in the world is wrong. I never needed a makeover, I was good enough, what I needed were people that love me just the way I am.

If I want to wear sneakers with a dress, I will do just that.

If I want to laugh out loud, I will do just that.

If I want to share my opinions on issues that are important to me, I will do just that.

I was doing a training with adolescents last week and a table of young women were asking such incredible questions. One young lady asked why I did not have children and I answered that it was complicated. She looked confused and made some guesses that were sweet but incorrect. I summed it up like this:  it takes a lot of courage to live a life true to yourself and some people will never understand or agree with some of your life choices and that’s okay. If you pause and consider your life honestly, you will know what an honest life for you looks like for you. It’s scary but it’s worth it. It is so worth it.

When I was in first grade I wore fake glasses without lenses to school because I thought they looked cool. This is who I am.

Why is this such a radical way to be in the world?

If you are struggling with confidence and the people around you are always picking you apart, you don’t need new clothes, you need new people.

Love.