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 Dogs Will Be Okay.

I have been reading the book Altruism by Matthieu Ricard on and off for months. It is a nine-hundred page book that outlines, with substantial research,  a scientific case for altruism. This book serves as a respite for me when the days seem dark and people seem cruel. It is a dense read so I can only concentrate in fits and starts.

The stories from the book that grabbed my heart today are:

A kennel guard found three dogs in the kitchen after escaping their cages in the night. He made sure to lock their cages even tighter the next night. However, the next morning, the dogs had returned to the kitchen to feast. This perplexed the guard so he set up watch. When the lights went down and the place was closed one dog had figured out a way to unlock the kennel. Instead of going on his own to the kitchen, he opened the cages of two other dogs and then they headed to the kitchen together.

The next story is simple. One dog was disoriented in traffic and likely to be hit when another dog grabbed him with his teeth and pulled him off the road. They both survived.

In the end, at least we know the dogs will be okay.

Love.

She Loved It All.

A few years ago, I read a story that hit me in my guts. A woman, about the age I am now, was dying of breast cancer and her husband was documenting her fight through photography. In the pictures you could see the pain, suffering, and fear in her eyes…but you could also see how much he loved her by the way he captured her experience.

One of the last days of her life, her husband asked her what her favorite part of her day was. This being a day spent in intractable pain in a hospice bed staring death in the eyes. She answered “I loved it all”

I loved it all.

Yesterday, my birthday, I was surrounded by so much love it took me out. I talked to my dearest friends on the phone, received beautiful texts, and Facebook oozed with love. But, one person made me feel badly and that brought me to tears. It’s crazy how powerful perceived rejection or dismissal can feel even when I was saturated in such love.

I called my brother – a warrior. He is the only person that can talk to me in the way that he does. It’s magical. The love I have for him is beyond unconditional – it covers all space and time. He is my courage and my heart.

I told him how I was feeling and he reminded me, in his way, that more than enough people love me. I immediately stopped crying – he was absolutely right.

I am loved beyond measure.

I danced my heart out later that night with people I love beyond measure.

And, about yesterday, I loved it all.

 

This Is Not My House.

“I’ll never know and neither will you of the life you don’t choose. We’ll only know that whatever that sister life was, it was important and beautiful and not ours. It was the ghost ship that didn’t carry us. There’s nothing to do but salute it from the shore.” – Cheryl Strayed

When I don’t have the words to convey how I’m feeling, I scour the world of my literary heroes and swim through poetry and prose. I had a dream last night that I was living a life much different than the life I have. It has me reflecting on how one choice leads to this and one event leads to that and how the winding road of life with it’s twist and turns lands us in this place.

It’s curious how that happens. It can begging someone to love you and they tell you no and you think in that moment you will be broken forever and a few short weeks later realize that their “no” was the greatest gift you’ve ever received. It can be one seemingly inconsequential choice of walking down a hallway at a certain time and you meet the person that holds your heart. It can be answering a text. It can be deciding to go to the bar. It can be deciding to drive. It’s all the seemingly inconsequential choices that make the greatest impact on our lives.

We just never know how one thing leads to another and how one turn this way leads that way. What if just one of the million of decisions and events had went differently.

We’ll never know but sometimes it’s curious.

The Blue House – Tomas Tranströmer

It is night with glaring sunshine. I stand in the woods and look towards my house with its misty blue walls. As though I were recently dead and saw the house from a new angle.

It has stood for more than eighty summers. Its timber has been impregnated, four times with joy and three times with sorrow. When someone who has lived in the house dies it is repainted. The dead person paints it himself, without a brush,  from the inside.

On the other side is open terrain. Formerly a garden, now wilderness. A still surf of weed, pagodas of weed, an unfurling body of text, Upanishades of weed, a Viking fleet of weed, dragon heads, lances, an empire of weed.

Above the overgrown garden flutters the shadow of a boomerang, thrown again and again. It is related to someone who lived in the house long before my time. Almost a child. An impulse issues from him, a thought, a thought of will: “create. . .draw. ..” In order to escape his destiny in time.

The house resembles a child’s drawing. A deputizing childishness which grew forth because someone prematurely renounced the charge of being a child. Open the doors, enter! Inside unrest dwells in the ceiling and peace in the walls. Above the bed there hangs an amateur painting representing a ship with seventeen sails, rough sea and a wind that the gilded frame cannot subdue.

It is always so early in here, it is before the crossroads, before the irrevocable choices. I am grateful for this life! And yet I miss the alternatives. All sketches wish to be real.

A motor far out on the water extends the horizon of the summer night. Both joy and sorrow swell in the magnifying glass of the dew. We do not actually know it, but we sense it: our life has a sister vessel which plies an entirely different route. While the sun burns behind the islands.

 

I Met Someone.

“And jump in
Oh well whatcha waiting for
It’s all right
‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown
(So let go) yeah let go
And just get in
Oh it’s so amazing here
It’s all right
‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown” -Frou Frou

I made a new friend.

I often hear people say that it’s hard to make friends as an adult. This has not been the case for me. Wait for it…

I understand that I don’t have kids and that gives me a lot more time which is usually the immediate and reflexive response when I say I like to make new friends.

I am genuinely interested in other people. I LOVE hearing peoples’ stories and why they do what they do. I ask a lot of questions and listen intently to responses. I want to know more – always. I want to learn about you, the universe, the brain, and anything else that the world offers up to me. Please, tell me everything.

A Sissy Beard reader and commenter asked me “Why not let go?” after I wrote the I Hate You? post. I thought about that comment a lot over the last few days.

Basically, it’s hard to let go of people and relationships. I invest my heart and soul into my people and pulling out of relationships takes a great deal of consideration and contemplation. However, these last few months have offered up a lot of valid reasons to pull back. Politics are personal to me. I have spent my life dedicated to teaching compassion and love. It is why I do what I do.

When I was four years old I called my great grandmother a racist when she made awfully insensitive comments during Donahue. I literally followed her into the bathroom to talk to her about why what she said was hurtful. She asked me to leave the bathroom which was her right, I guess. But, she was racist and this conversation went on the rest of her life. I imagine that she delighted in our time together. Right, wrong or otherwise: I was born this way. No two ways about that.

Can I be a bit self-righteous? Probably my fatal flaw.

Compassion and Love are the most important values in my life. These values guide my decisions with conscious intention. I consider compassion and love when I decide how to spend my time and who to spend my time with. I teach a course in valued living. This forces me to be consistent with who I am and why I do what I do. I think we should all consider what we value and what matters most to us. When our values guide our life, we are much happier and more fulfilled.

That being said, I am letting go in the ways I know how. I appreciate the comments and readers. I started this blog with the intention of having conversations like this one. I think about the comments, messages, and texts related to blog posts. I think about them a lot. I appreciate any energy someone puts into reading my words.

Anyway, I made a new friend and we had a coffee date this week. She teaches mindfulness and compassion. She teaches courses on meditation. She asked me to sub and teach one of her courses. I really like her and I’m glad we crossed paths. I look forward to how our friendship will grow and how I will learn from her.

You guys, I met someone!

This new relationship reminds me that life comes together and falls apart at the same time and it is what you focus on that matters most. There are relationships in my life that are pulling apart and there are relationships that are coming together. “So it goes” – Kurt Vonnegut

Love.

Dear Josh.

Dear Josh,

This week has been tough. Honestly, it’s been hard since the early hours of November 9th. I’m worried about the world and the country we both inhabit. It was brought to my attention that I am focusing on the fear and not on the love. I did write a post about hate yesterday so there is some proof in that pudding.

So, today, I will focus on the love.

I have written to you on this blog before. This blog was largely inspired by you and our millions of conversations about the ways the world works. However, the previous posts were written about you and Nathan and you and Bryan but never just to you.

Meeting you changed my life. It’s curious how people are put on our paths. I know I’m much more spiritual than you but believe me when I say, you are my soulmate. Before I met you, I struggled so much with insecurity and trusting my own voice. In the first moments after meeting you, with your blonde hair and dew rag, I knew that something special was happening.

It happened instantly. We were best friends immediately. It’s like we knew each other our entire lives. I can’t even point to the moment where we transitioned from casual friends to best friends. Maybe it never existed.

How do you thank someone for seeing the real you and loving the real you or more, introducing you to the real you? Well, I’m not sure but thank you is all I have at this moment. To be loved for who you are is the best gift a person can give you.

I think you are phenomenal and courageous. I am so proud of you and what you’ve done with your life. I am a better person because I know you. I could tell the thousands of stories of the things we’ve done or the times we’ve shared but those belong to us. Honestly, those stories could fill a book more than a blog. I don’t have time for that.

Cheryl Strayed says “Let your friends save you” I do and you did.

Why am I saying all of this today? Because people think activists and feminists are angry and scared (well, sometimes). They think we stomp around in our combat boots hating men and screaming “Fuck the world!” (got me there)

But more often than not, we love hard. Activists love so hard and big that sometimes it takes our breath away. We believe in love because love has saved us and we know that love is the only way to be. We fight for love and justice.

To quote Cornel West “Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.”

I am writing this with selfish intentions. I need to focus on the bonds that sustain me in these trying times. I need to focus on the loving connections and the people that accept me. I am writing this to remind me of the people I carry in my pockets and in my soul. I am writing this to refuel and recharge and to remind myself that even if this all burns we have our people.
On Sunday, Bryan and I walked by two elderly ladies getting out of their car to go to the rally. One was using a walker and the other was shuffling along next to her. I pointed to them and told Bryan I was looking at my future. I told him that Josh would be using the walker saying: “Seriously, Sissy do we still have to do this, it’s too cold for this shit”
I miss you everyday.
Thank you,
Sissy
Love.

I Hate You?

I don’t like the word hate.

I’m currently finishing a psychotherapy training and the current module is on forgiveness. This is decidedly the most challenging thing for humans to offer themselves and others. I’ve written about forgiveness before and I’m not going to go into that today.

However, during the meditation part of the module the thought struck me that I struggle because I want some people to be different than they are so they can stay in my life. Culturally, we’ve entered a season where our values are brightly colored on our sleeves. We all feel right in what we believe. The rifts are growing. The violence and fear are turned all the way up. And, some relationships are being tested in ways they’ve never been before.

I read the comments on news articles and squint as if it will change the words I’m reading: You think all Muslims are terrorists? How can that be? You think that LGBT people should be turned away from business or care? That can’t be the case? You want to close our homes to the suffering and dying refugees? I don’t understand this.

I scratch my head at the idea of giving up an already weak public education system to a person that is categorically unqualified.

I tilt my head as my dogs do when I give them an unfamiliar command.

Are you sure we want to live this way?

I cannot fathom continuing to pillage the earth when she is telling us, not so quietly, to stop or we will soon be without a home.

I look at social media and think “Is our president really calling the country haters?”

I do not know how to talk to some people anymore. Literally.

I hate you? No.

I hate this.

I resent them for being who they are, when I ask to be accepted for who I am. I feel anger towards them and towards their values. This is hypocritical of me. I cannot expect that we are all going to fit together in times like these. I was confusing things. I don’t hate these people. I hate that because of who I am and who they are, we can’t be what I want us to be.

I have this image of life as it should be and it never quite maps onto life as it is. This discrepancy is what causes me pain. This discrepancy is what I hate. I think that might be true for most of us. I wish things were different but they are not. I wish that we all fit together but we do not. I wish we agreed but we do not.

I still believe in basic human goodness. I will always believe that whatever the question we should continue to try our best to find our way to love and be love.

But, I think fear is driving the boat and that’s never good.

How can we work on forgiveness and healing? I don’t know that yet.

Under the hate, under the anger, and under the rage, is a deep sense of sadness. A dark cavern of grief for the way things are. It feels eternal and it whispers, “I don’t recognize you anymore”

The 35th Year: My Eggs Went Bad!

“Kind people are brave people. Brave is not something you should wait to feel. Brave is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.”
Glennon Doyle Melton, Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed

I’m on call for the month of February. This means I’m stone sober all month. It’s been a minute since I’ve experienced life in technicolor. And, it’s in the early part of the Trump regime so there’s that. It hurts all over.

More importantly, I’m heading full speed towards 35 years on this blue orb and with each day, I learn more about me and more about life. It is glorious.

When I turned 30, my supervisor at the time told me that 30 was great but 35 was her favorite. I see now why she felt that way. With each passing year of my thirties, I grow more confident in who I am and what I want out of life.

Growing up, 35 felt like a scary age to be a woman. This is the age where our baby bearing years are “high risk” and we should have made that all important decision of starting a family by now. Lucky for me, I’ve started my family and it does not involve invasive tests and long needles. I will not be having babies so 35 is not going to be an at risk year for me. I think (good and loving) mothers will save us all but I am not part of that tribe. Actually, my tribe includes some wonderful mothers but being a mother is not required for admittance.

Thirty-five Years

The biggest lesson of my life thus far: You do not get to be in my inner circle if you do not make me feel safe and valued.I  teach people about healthy boundaries all day. They look at me wide eyed when I show them the rings of trust around me and them and where people belong. To be in my innermost circle, you must demonstrate that you are safe, loving, compassionate, and trustworthy. If not, you get moved to an outer circle and moved to another outer circle and so on.

My space is sacred, and so is yours, and we should all treat it as such. My time is the most valuable asset I have and I will not waste one minute of my limited time on this planet convincing you that how I feel matters – you get or you do not.

I will not mince words on human rights or my own worth.

The next lesson I’ve learned: Tough times make you tough and the tougher the times, the tougher you get. My skin is leather. If you think you can put me in my place or shut me up because we do not agree on something – you can keep moving. Trust me, you cannot say something to me that hurts more than what was dished at me not too may years ago. Or, there is this interesting thing people do, they try to withhold their love in an attempt to get me to change my mind or quiet down – I see you and I know what you are doing. This does not work, ever. Because love is given freely and unconditionally or it is not love. Please take yourself to an outer circle or right on out the door.

The final and most beautiful lesson: My inner circle is filled with the most beautiful souls. I love you and will fight tirelessly for you. I will give you all my kisses and all my hugs. I vow to love you unconditionally as you have done for me during the darkest hours of my life. I will continue to laugh with you until my stomach hurts. I will not judge you or give up on you. I will hold on to you for dear life and you can do the same for me. I value each of you as I value my own breath.

Finally, I am super in love with Glennon Doyle Melton right now. You should check her out and Rupi Kaur, nayyirah waheed, and Yrsa Daley-Ward. I rub their words on my wounds and they leave beautiful scars. The world is a mix of dark and light.

In conclusion, my eggs may have gone bad but my life is oh so good*

Love.

“I didn’t leave because
I stopped loving you,
I left because the longer
I stayed the less I loved myself.”
Rupi Kaur

*save for all the terrifying political shit going on