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.

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.

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.

 

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

Salt – nayyirah waheed

As the headlines once again read “massacre in this land” and “let’s remember those lost” I find myself crawling into a book of poetry to find solace.

Full disclosure: I’m developing compassion fatigue and feeling a little disoriented. I also can’t shake the heaviness in my chest that asks “what next?” This is not healthy for me so I’m wrapping myself in someone’s beautiful words like a warm blanket on a cold world day.

If you haven’t heard of nayyirah waheed, I hope you give her a read. She organizes words like no poet I’ve read before. As anyone that follows this blog knows, I am a lover of poetry and she is my newest love.

The following selections are from her collection entitled “Salt” and it’s exquisite.

 

 

can we speak in flowers. it will be easier for me to understand.

– other language

 

I knew you before i met you

i’ve known you my whole life

– nafsi

 

she asked

‘you are in love what does that look like’ to which I replied ‘like everything i’ve ever lost come back to me’

 

i am such a sensitive summer thing.

i found flaws and they were beautiful

-ugly

 

 

if i write what you may feel but cannot say.

it does not make me a poet.

it makes me a bridge.

and i am humbled

and

i am grateful

to assist your heart in speaking.

– grateful

 

 

if we must

both

be right.

we will

lose

each other.

– exile

 

 

i will tell you, my daughter

of your worth

not your beauty

every day. (your beauty is given. every being is born beautiful).

knowing your worth

can save your life

raising you on beauty alone

you will be starved

you will be raw.

you will be weak.

an easy stomach

always in need of someone telling you how

beautiful you are

-emotional nutrition

 

Love.

Salve For My Wounds.

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voice behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life that you could save.
Mary Oliver
The Journey

Pablo Neruda: The Great Lover of Love.

I love poetry. Love, love, love poetry. I was having drinks with a friend years ago and we both agreed that the world would be a better place if we all read more poetry. He recited T.S. Eliot from memory and I responded with Maya Angelou and Pablo Neruda.

We shall not cease from exploration. And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. – T.S. Eliot

NPR reported today that there were newly discovered works from Pablo Neruda. They’re unsure as to whether or not he wanted them shared and usually I think that we should respect the artist and keep what might have been intended to be private, private. This is why I felt so uncomfortable with Harper Lee’s, Go Set a Watchmen being released.

But, I can’t deny that I am extremely excited to read the newly discovered works of Neruda.

Let me share with you some of what was released (courtesy of NPR)

“Never alone, with you

over the earth,

crossing through fire.

Never alone.

With you in the forests

finding again

dawn’s

stiff arrow,

the tender moss

of spring

With you

in my struggle,

not the one I chose

but

the only one.”

That poem reminded me of one of my favorite poems of Neruda’s (both about his wife):

Sonnet XVII

“I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way than this:

where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep. ”

Pablo Neruda

Love.

 

This Poem Is Stalking Me.

If it is possible for a piece of art to stalk you, this poem would be an example of that for me. This poem finds me on a regular basis.

It repeatedly shows up in blogs or articles I read, books I read (Wild), people literally bring it to me in hard copy (this happened today), it is presented on all forms of social media on a consistent basis. Don’t get me wrong, I love poetry and I love Mary Oliver. I also love Pablo Neruda, Maya Angelou, e.e. cummings, and you get it what I’m saying. But, I never see Alone by Maya Angelou (my favorite poem of all time).

WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME MARY OLIVER!?!

A Summer Day

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention,

how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

—Mary Oliver