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.

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.

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.

 

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.

Are You Safe? Decision Fatigue.

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I was at a training last week and it was held at a facility next to the psychiatric hospital. A person came up to me and asked “Have you ever been in that place (the psychiatric hospital)? I’ve heard horror stories about what goes on in there” I nodded and responded that I had, in fact, been in that place but did not go into details as to why. That story is long and winding and not appropriate for that interaction.

But, if you follow this blog at all, you know that my life is replete with mental illness. Psychiatric hospitals don’t scare me. I think once you have spent a few Christmases in certain places, they lose some power over you.

I talked to a friend later that evening and told her that I often get mistaken for “The white girl that had a pony” Before I go on, I know that having a pony does not mean you had a good, perfect, or even okay life. It’s just an expression or joke that fit the conversation.

What I also learned at this conference was the concept of decision fatigue. This is not the decision fatigue associated with what to wear or what to watch on television. This is the type of decision fatigue related to “Are you a safe person to share these parts of me and my story with?” “Are you going to judge me if I tell you about me?” These questions are constantly swirling in my head because there are real life consequences to sharing something with someone and having them think differently about you.

I know this from experience.

When I learned about this concept I had a profound “Aha” moment. I am constantly assessing the people around me for safety. I have been known to ask directly if someone is safe to share information with. The truth is, it is human nature to make assumptions about the people we share time with. It is also human nature to judge people based on their life experiences.

I have stacks of letters related to my grandmother’s struggles with mental illness in the 1960’s and make no mistake, she was a warrior. The horrors she endured due to ignorance were unbelievable, barbaric, and inhumane and many of these treatments are still happening today.

One could guess that being a therapist was the only real logical place for me in the world.

I know that I was born to tell the truth. my truth. It is the way I make meaning out of the things I’ve experienced, learned, and endured. I stopped trying to figure out why I am built the way I am and now I just flow with it. Telling my truth is when I feel whole and connected to my divinity. It is also why self-censoring is so unbelievable exhausting for me.

I did not have a pony. I’ve spent a lot of my life in prisons and psychiatric hospitals. Those places do not scare me because those places are filled with humans, just like you and me. I think sometimes we forget that.

This is part of my truth (an abridged version) and as the great Brene Brown says:

“When we can let go of what other people think and own our story, we gain access to our worthiness—the feeling that we are enough just as we are and that we are worthy of love and belonging. When we spend a lifetime trying to distance ourselves from the parts of our lives that don’t fit with who we think we’re supposed to be, we stand outside of our story and hustle for our worthiness by constantly performing, perfecting, pleasing, and proving. Our sense of worthiness—that critically important piece that gives us access to love and belonging—lives inside of our story.”

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.