Inspired by the photo above, I wrote the following piece of narrative fiction.

It’s 1948 and I can barely believe my eyes, let alone my heart, as my driver navigates through a neighborhood on the south side of Chicago I’ve never been through before. This isn’t our usual route to the newspaper but I trust he knows where he’s going and why. I assume there must be some sort of public protest happening and is the likely disruption to our normal routine. The housing situation is, I fear, a much bigger underlying issue, and one that we as a community are uncomfortable, at best, in addressing, let alone acknowledging.  While I’ve never spoken this out loud to my father, I have relished numerous, and rather clandestine, discussions with Albert on race and its probable impact on the lives of so many in the Black Belt. 

My stomach lurches into my throat and I think I might be ill as my eyes are drawn to four small children seated as neatly and cleanly as they can be on a wooden stoop not ten feet from my car’s side door. Planted in the patch of dirt directly in front of their sidewalk is a 3.5’ tall wooden post with a signboard stapled to it and the words “4 CHILDREN FOR SALE/INQUIRE WITHIN” painted in bold black letters. 

Dear God, what is the meaning of this? I simply cannot believe my eyes have given me correct information and I insist we circle the block once again so I can confirm — or better deny — what I believe I have seen. Those four sets of eyes looking back at me looking at them as my shiny black car and clean window easily moved past their planted position of inquiry. 

My heart pounds and my palms perspire in this misleading heat of a late September summer day, knowing the weather will turn on us in a moment and the harsh winds of winter will whip through these dirty narrow streets, knocking down signposts and exposing the poverty that seeps through the very brick and mortar making up the neighborhood. 

My eyes widen and I catch my breath before it escapes my gaping mouth. They didn’t lie to me, my eyes. Here they are again, or still, for I am the one who has come round again, to bear witness to that which is unbearable to imagine: four beautiful babes ranging in age from two to six, the oldest a beautiful shoulder-length brunette girl with her arm around her little sister, a deep golden blonde head of hair spilling across her shoulders, but bangs clearly cut by her own unpracticed hand. She can’t be more than five and she is looking down and over at her just-younger brother, perhaps three, in his dungarees and no shirt; I’m guessing he doesn’t have one or he would be wearing it, his brown hair tousled to the best of a mother’s ability to tame the wild sweetness I see in his left arm wrapped around and pulling close to him their youngest sibling: another boy, whose two-year old heart looks endearingly at his big brother’s face with a trust I have never personally experienced.

I insist on stopping the car and climb myself out of the back seat, my gloved fingers clutching my patent leather purse, hat pin securely in place. I approach the woman in the floral print dress standing above her children, I imagine holding their hearts for as long as she possibly can, and ask if we may speak privately for a moment regarding her sign. I see her scanning me top to bottom, the way her eyebrows lift at the sight of my ensemble, taking in all it might mean and also the dissociation from all of me and what I represent. I am foreign currency on this street. 

She nods her head slightly in agreement and we step inside the walk-up. I am not prepared for the dirt to accompany us in the way that it does, is just present on and over every item in her sparse and tidy apartment. I catch my breath for the third time this morning before it exits my mouth and transmute it into words that tumble out of me faster than my YES I said to the new shoes that are holding me up, supporting what feels insupportable.  

“I will pay you to keep your own children. Please. Name your price.”

And it is done. Her mama heart bursts open and cleanses the dusty air with love overflowing, mingling with my own happy tears, uncertain what this all means and will mean, but knowing my heart has led me here and shown me the most important purchase I didn’t know I needed.

To Thine Own Self Be True

“This above all: to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day
Thou canst not then be false to any man
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!”

— Polonius in William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Act I, scene iii

But first, who is this: my Self to whom I am meant to be true? 

Surely the night that follows the day and then the night again is led by that Truth, which Truth I trust is my Self. And said Truth, when followed, is True North. 

I see: I am my own True North. 

How to locate her in the vast array of brilliance shining above and around me? Where do I cast my eyes to find her particular glimmer that upon seeing will be instantly-recognized and from which all lines will be drawn outward? 

Polonius reminds me I have a season of blessings in which to see, to pinpoint, to pattern my compass to Her. My karmic energy is vast and all-inclusive, my pendulum swings as big in my learning and grieving, as in my abundance and giving. 

The unicorn, like a stallion arrayed in a cloak, whose Pantone shade falls somewhere between Rubine and Rhodamine, watches over and envelopes me, its opalescent coat shimmering in the distance as I align my heart’s beat to her hooves’ deliberate steps and pauses. 

I gently and easily move my Self from the vast lapis lake, dropping off fear as I fill to overflowing the Courage I take with me to the top of the massive mountain range, where I find the mirror of Me reflected back in the rock’s golden Face, her eyes’ blue are remnants of the lapis left behind mere moments ago. Butterflies of recognition flutter from my midsection, no longer mistaken for or labeled as anxiety, my Sacral Chakra — overwhelmed with delight — takes flight, and I am atop the ancient wall (perhaps Jerusalem?) whose location is entirely inconsequential to what matters: my location on and to the wall, to the Grief itself. I see both sides now, my Courage (Strength) and my Matter (Abundance), sides of the Self that is Me. 

To mine own Self, to my Courage and my Conviction, to my Matter and my Meaning, to my Love and my Loving, I will be True. My north is my present moment. 

It is safe for me to spread my wings. 

My wingspan is wide and vast and here to hold.

My Self is Love contained within the span of my reach, my wings, my heart’s beat, my bigness, my seeing of You.

It is safe for You to be held within my Self’s Loving. 

My Self is found. 

My Love knows no reach. 

My Span contains for You. 

Between Rubine and Rhodamine:

My cloak waits to cover You. 

Lapis. Love. Lift. 

Letting go of that which no longer serves or sits in me. 

Letting go of the old, the other, the onus.

Opalescent unicorn of Self shining and lighting the way.

Feminine Primary Matrix cut and reconnected to the New Feminine: to my Self’s Own line of freshly-birthed ancient connection.

My blessing season stretches heart-and-year-round. 

I Believe In Magic

I believe in magic.

And moonlight.

And the witchery that is womanhood — the BEING of a woman. I’ve seen it written that “we are the granddaughters of the witches they forgot to burn,” and I sometimes wonder why (women) — why (I) am so overlooked, so talked over, dismissed, talked about, told I intimidate, told to tone down, told I’m too much, had my words — which I weave out of and from the magic in me — the magic that IS me — taken, consumed, and used, to transform (his) very world, and then witness the credit for said total transformation claimed by a him and not the potion my Love brewed and which he guzzled down, while his eyes consumed me. 

I believe in magic.

And moments.

And with meaning, I stepped onto the North Carolina coast at midnight on May 27, 2021, and there she was in full view, the oceanic pull of her splendor casting its luminosity on me was instantaneous. Overcome with her beingness, of being in her presence, of my Self awareness in all of my own beingness, I burst into tears. And my tears mingled with my bigness, for which my Being is the sacred container holding all of Me.

Moonlight is magic. 

I believe in magic. 

And the magic of a seed, planted in a row, underneath a taut string, stretched from pole to pole, stretches beyond its original container and grows and grows, giving greenness and good-ness, and the garden glows with the abundance of what started in a simple and small buried shell. 

I believe in magic.

And in Me. 

And the bigness of my Love, of my container and my capacity to hold not just for and as Me, but for all those who have, and have yet, to pass through the magic of my Loving, of my Knowing, of my Holding. What does this magic of Me feel like? 

My magic is me no longer overlooking my Self, no more staying silent while words and worlds are being discussed over and around Me; I will not dismiss my own inner witch or her ways; if I am to be talked about, it is I who will do the talking, and “intimidation“ is yet another iteration of the age-old hunting and burning for that which you are incapable of experiencing. Tone up, not down. My muchness IS my magic.

To experience the moonlight, just step with intention onto her shore. She is here to flood and to cover you with every shimmer of her splendor, illuminating beautiful You. 

I weep at the potency of my own spells. 

2020: A Personal Review

1. Like Rip Van Winkle I awoke in February-ish after a long (not) sleep — which sleep is 2019 in review, which was the year I released (not by choice) more than half the blood in my body. Doozy of a year that 2019, but I’m here to review 2020. And it was in 2020 (after aforementioned almost died in 2019 when I couldn’t walk from my bed to my sofa down the hall without the wall’s assistance and a four-hour nap on arrival) I laced up my runners again. I exhaustingly ran one mile, took a nap, and two days later ran it again. I must have run that beautiful mile with a nap fifteen times! Then I woke up and ran three miles on a Monday in June. My naps got shorter the farther I ran (but I’m not sure the correlating factor wasn’t the homegrown hugs and fresh garden produce I was consuming on the daily). And suddenly it was September and I was bent over weeping while full-out living at the base of a mountain on which I had just run FIVE miles. In October I decided to run 13.1 miles. I didn’t run them, but I decided to. It was a good year for empowering and powerful decisions. Socks were an unexpected major theme of 2020 and consumed not a little of my online content and crowd-sourcing solutions for my blistered toes. 

2. Another decision — profound and powerful in its creation moment — in March, which I’ve always known comes in like a lion, delivered details to me about my parents’ (then) current situation, which details (dad’s cancer diagnosis was our Christmas gift in that 2019 year I’m still not reviewing and his journey with it was already very much underway, mom full-time giving and giving and giving and getting I could see not enough in return) initiated a divine download and I decided (or was it already decided as things divine often are?) I was moving back home, back east, back in with my parents, back into the home and the hearts (my own at the fore) that have received, held, and helped to heal me more times than one Arminda in one lifetime might reasonably expect. And as my Self, for the first time in all those times, I came home, covering 2,458 miles to get here, wearing no socks at all.

3. Weeding, seeding, growing, (re)planting, watering, weeding (always with the weeding), cultivating, mulching, harvesting, cutting back, then the dying. This, the life cycle of our garden, the garden about which I cannot write right now without weeping, could be the simple summary of my 2020. For my dad, the master gardener, I donned gloves fitted for my small hands, and went to work. I cleared brush, I pulled weeds, I laid a brick pathway, I moved dirt, I dug holes, I watered the entire greenhouse, I hedged potato mounds, I created new beds for planting, I built a retention wall, I hauled yard waste, I organized by color, size, and shape, I took instruction, I wore out my first pair of gloves, I spread mulch, I measured rows, I planted sweet peas, beans, chard, tomatoes, peppers, squash green and yellow, cucumbers, flowers, flowers, flowers, flowers, and five more pepper plants we definitely did not need but he needed them planted. I placed the first green bean in his unresponsive fingers, on the underside of the surgical tape securing a needle whose purpose was to deliver nutrients that bean (could but) would never give to him but so desperately wanted. I took a picture of that bean in my dad’s hand. I still have that picture. 

4. Being alive and sad and happy and running farther than I have ever run, while wearing socks when I decided to wear socks. I got all the way up to ten miles in one consecutive run. I did those ten in December 2020. I’ve never felt so alive and fully wholly conscious of my aliveness, of what my body did in its own behalf — how it regrew itself from the inside out — just so it could support my decision to be alive and sad and happy and running as far as I want — all at the same time. Good times, 2020. Good times. 

Planked Awareness

The aged wooden planks beneath my sandals reverberate just enough with each step to ignite my almost anticipatory sensory system, which is apparently the factory default setting in this body of mine. Sounds, smells, every leaf brand new to me as if for the first time, although I have been walking this same boardwalk plank through this ever-shifting bog garden for at least as long as many of these trees have been stretching toward their crowded skyline. 

I lean over the edge of the railing, putting as much as possible of the presence of the boardwalk behind my direct line of sight, minimize other visitors whose presence is audibly known, and initiate a manual fade on that feed line taking more concentration against my already-bogged sensory system. I’m looking for the knobby knees of the Bald Cypress trees that have gathered here, collected themselves into their own community amongst the ducks, the almost-always shallow side swamp to the larger but still-connected lake of some collective committee’s making, and down-stream and almost hidden from the other deciduous, but dirt-dwelling trees. 

I smile out loud and my laughter bounces off the nearby bamboo, dense in the aggregate knowing of its usefulness amidst any negative (and obviously completely false) rumors that sometimes get dropped by a passing robin too self-absorbed with his own shade of red to be bothered by what his beaked notes might mean to the wide-open ears of the bamboo below.

Next to me (and invited into my self-constructed cone of connectivity) on the elevated boardwalk, as I lean into my lean (those cypress nodes are consuming all of my attention), Curt points to a beautiful tree above my head and asks whether I know its name, his tone clearly indicating he is not asking, he is teaching. I do not recognize what appears to be a beautiful evergreen foliage, delicately interlacing her way through the intricate and interconnected branches of the treetop she calls her own. 

His grin immediately fills all seven acres of this luscious green garden space as he announces, “It’s the Bald Cypress!” 

My delight and my shock startle the birds in the branches above. I am immediately aware that this anticipatory sensory system I call my own has failed to focus on the two necessary parts of one self-sufficient ecosystem. The Bald Cypress’ knees so captivated me I did not overlook, but actually under-looked the very creation of this majestic multifaceted dweller on earth or underwater achiever. I am internally brought to my own knees, my sensory system recalibrating in real-time, coding my newly-propagated desire to always look in as many directions as the cypress stretches itself: up, down, around, under, and over me. I shift my lean back into full-standing alongside the Bald Cypress, my sandals exit the boardwalk planks; I leave only the remnants of my laughter to contribute to the aging of the planks.  

Transcendent Love

The music begins to play softly in the background, like the perfectly-picked soundtrack to my beautiful life. I close my eyes and drop. . . down . . . into my heart, my holding space for all things and for nothing, where I see everything because I have closed my eyes to the nothingness. It all drops away, the thoughts I am so attached to keeping and believing. In their place I substitute nothing but my breath. I am with the I am. Nothing more. And it is the everything.

My attention is brought back into the now with the crinkling of paper, the forced skidding of my laptop being pushed aside, the weight of an object’s placement on the desk next to me. Opening my eyes I see my beautiful mother “quietly” placing a bag of Bojangles’ seasoned fries onto my desk along with a large cup of their sweet tea, Love’s offering on full display. I smile at her and choke back the immediate tears that surface with my thanks. She smiles back and gently closes my office door behind her as she leaves me to my meditation and my sweet tea. 

At this season of our lives, my mother and I are like Rumi and God: “like two giant fat people in a tiny boat. We keep bumping into each other and laughing.” Roomies as we two are, bumping, seeing, and loving each other couldn’t be easier or more joyful. 

I had an understanding, a knowing, with my Self fourteen months ago when I drove across the country from LA to North Carolina to move back in with my parents: that for the first time in my life I was coming home as my Self. Returning here to the very home that saw me through the (self-created) trauma of moving to a brand new state as a fourteen-year-old, and the blame I attached to my parents for my upheaval and upset, and also to the home and the arms of my parents that held me and my three-year-old daughter at our exodus’ end in leaving the abusive marriage my Self barely survived. Fourteen months ago I came home again with my arms and heart wide open wanting and needing nothing more than to hold and Love my parents through my dad’s cancer journey, none of us knowing where his journey would lead us, but knowing we would arrive together, our wide-open Self-recognizable hearts intact. 

I hold precious and close to me these fourteen months now of my mother’s Love: my Love for and with her, as well as her Love for and with me. We two: hearts full of the nothingness and the everything of nothing but Love. 

My mother doesn’t drink sweet tea. She doesn’t believe anyone should drink sweet tea. It is, for her, an insult to God to partake of this substance that is hurting or harming these our physical temples housing our hearts. 

What my Self no longer believes bumps into my mother’s Love bumping back into me with random gifts delivered silently to the soundtrack of my beautiful life: a paper bag filled with my favorite seasoned fries crinkling and the thumping down on my desk of a vat of sweet tea (my own reusable straw inserted in its lid) while my eyes are closed and I meditate in the corner, opening them to see the vision of my mother’s Love hovering. 

My heart captures and honors this vision of Love transcending the beliefs we have been so attached to keeping. I smile and giggle as I tuck it away into my heart’s cavernous nothingness, holding it for the always, the everything, the I am. We two, my mother and I, are here in this space, this Love, these our hearts, sweet tea and tenderness very much intact. I’ll definitely take fries with that. 

Grief at the Opera

Meditation is for me like going to the opera: I am there to be quiet, to listen to what is being said without trying to understand any of the words, because I don’t actually speak the language in which they’re singing, and the words I don’t comprehend and their accompanying music simply penetrate my heart, which heart completely understands all that is meant for it to receive!

Grief joined me in my meditation this morning. She’s never participated with me in that space before so I was surprised when she showed up in such a loud, elbowed her Self onto my lap way, which immediately had me thinking I might need to shush her before she disturbed anyone else who might be occupying the same space as now we two. 

But I didn’t shush her. I let her be. And she was loud. She was crying, quite suddenly, without seeming provocation or insult. And not knowing anything but my heart’s impulse, I held and rocked her in our shared seat now obviously and perfectly designed for two.  

Our rocking subsided with the chiming of Tibetan bells sounding the completion of this morning’s allotment for meditation. I raised my arms in my daily salutation to the Sun, just one offering today and not my usual three, finding my hands instead gently holding my heart, feeling therein both the Lift of Light and Grief’s weighty presence. 

She has not wandered from her self-claimed spot in my lap and when I open my mouth to speak it is her voice that reaches the surface first, mingling breath with air, formulating words, instructing me (and anyone else who will listen) that she is here right now and not without purpose. 

“Love is,” I heard said yesterday, “an uncontaminated mind.” Grief tells me she is uncontaminated; she is Love. She is not sadness, although often mistaken and misidentified as such. 

We walk together, Grief and I, constant companions, these five years and adding now, in the relationship I created and continue to grow with my daughter. When she (my daughter) moved too far from my heart’s center and contentment — but completely anticipated, known, and necessary that she would — my heart permanently bifurcated. This, my heart, now holds (as if it can be contained) an unlimited supply of equal parts Love and Longing for this Precious Soul of my own making, whose embodiment is my actual heart walking around planet surface on her own plane, having no connection to me other than the literal heart-to-heart connection we share because my body made and delivered her body into this world. My cervix holds with tenderness the scar her own heart’s footprints left behind in her passing through me: a permanent tattoo honoring and marking the Grief, the Love; they are the same. 

The uncontaminated space the opera of my meditation opens and invites is this Understanding: Gratitude and Grief, Love and Longing. I used to think I/She/Grief was sad. And now I don’t. I am, as Ram Dass says, just “infinite unbearable compassion.” Grief agrees with me as she wraps her arms around me, rocking me gently, as her tears gently caress my face with their tenderness. 

The Great Alone: A Fringe Reader’s Review

Kristin Hannah is a very popular author. I tend to read on the fringe of that popularity awareness spectrum. I do not typically navigate the same reading trends and lanes as all the other people out there reading. And by “all the other people out there reading” I mean most of the people, and would include in that list all of the people that I know personally. I stumbled across a much-recommended historical fiction novel — The Nightingale — set during World War II. Admittedly this is my weakness, the kryptonite of reading genres for me. I downloaded the Audible version and was transported so quickly to 1939 France that I barely had time to grab my head scarf to avoid detection from the German soldiers as they descended on the countryside. 

Yesterday I finished reading my second Kristin Hannah novel, The Great Alone. Is it historical fiction if it’s set in a time inside of my own lifetime? Strange consideration. Let’s say this one is NOT historical fiction. It’s just set in the 1970s in remote Alaska. Spoiler Alert: there’s a murder committed. Bigger spoiler — because I’m not writing any of these meandering and meaningless thoughts to protect you from the fictitious plot of a book whose reading I will never get back my time — the murder of the man is committed by his wife. There that’s out, now let me tell you some more details.

Said murderee is a Vietnam vet with severe PTSD. He beats his wife like no rug should have to tolerate and blames his erraticism and bad behavior on things like the weather and yeah, that’s about it. The weather.

The murderer is his wife and the mother of their only child, a daughter. Never ever, not once, in their probably 20 years together does she resist, complain, fight back, or even leave. Until the day she kills him. Two shots with a rifle into his back.

Why? What triggered (intentionally used that word for dramatic effect) her to suddenly explode (another intentional entendre) and very deliberately kill the self-proclaimed love of her life? 

Kids. Am I right? A mother’s love — there’s nothing to compare it, except of course, only all the mothers’ love on prominent display daily, from the Grizzly watching out for her cub to the beaten, trodden-down, misunderstanding love mother in this made-up story that could be as real as you and me. Her husband was beating her daughter in front of her. Why? Beating her because she said out loud she was pregnant. Love caused that. This is a love story, no doubt, any way you peel back the chapters or pile them on top of each other. Love keeps showing up like it’s the through-line giving oxygen to the very pages on which the story is written. 

Love: the messed up and completely impossible to understand abusive kind.

Love: the fill your whole heart until it spills over and leaks into your every corner for your child kind. 

Love: the young, tender, sweet passing notes in class and sneaking out at night for a breath of you young and innocent kind.

Love: the fierce and large wrap you in my arms because my heart is big enough to hold this whole town kind.

Love: the no matter what you say or do I will always love you kind.

Love: the weathered and wisened and regret-filled rear-view awareness while looking at what’s right in front of me after all these years kind. 

Love: the I can’t explain what or why you behaved in the ways you did but I forgive you kind. 

Love: the natural ebbs and flows of that which surrounds, protects, and provides kind.

And I am here for love. Always. So there’s that endorsement from me.

But Kristin, I am no longer here for your storytelling, for your doom and your gloom, for your foundation of, and dependence on, grief, hardship, tragedy, death, despair, and darkness to turn every page. Seriously. No relief. And it got to be comical. Can we even end the story without another maddeningly dark plot twist at the eleventh hour? No, apparently we cannot. So with approximately one chapter remaining, our heroine — the surviving daughter whose life was saved by her mother’s murder of her father — is thrown into JAIL for a late-life confession by her DEAD mother for the killing of her also very dead husband. 

Was it murder? Yes. Justified? Also yes. In the end did I even care? Not a damn lick because I just wanted out into the real world where Love lives in, as, and through me. 

But if you’re looking for a good World War II recommendation I will hook you up.

Three Pine Trees

Find the gap. There it is. Heart open. Flooding my Self with Me. It’s only ever been me. I am what is. Flood with Love. I am Love. It’s only ever been me.

My thoughts drop away like sap in the old pine tree. 

There were three pine trees planted in a row along the backyard perimeter between our property and the neighbors who lived behind us, whose property sidled up next to ours. On the other side of those pines looking over into their back lawn was a very large animal pen. It was long after I was repeatedly assured, and long after we had moved away from that house when I was 15, that I looked back to understand and finally accept that the animal who lived back there in that very large cage, and who was often running around free in the yard, was not a pony but was, in fact, a larger than life Great Dane dog. As a little girl I was never too big for my daddy to carry me around and lift me up and into wherever I needed to go. So through my Lilliputian life perspective, that animal next door was definitely a horse, and since horses were not to be approached without adult supervision, I was always on-alert while playing in our vast backyard arena. 

Behold the three pine trees. It was obvious to me and my brother Nathan that no horse could possibly get to us if we were anywhere inside the protection of the pine trees’ branches. We could barely get to ourselves inside those branches’ hold! The carpet of needles blanketing the ground beneath the behemoth body of three was a century-thick of plushness. Being the thinker ahead of such awful potential tragedies as I was, I surmised a safe landing would be ours if either of us should calamitously fall from our perches high in the trees’ embrace, assuming we could somehow first gracefully fall down through the jigsawed branches we had so carefully climbed up. Our perched positions lacked nothing our imaginations could not create in real-time. Watching the whereabouts of the not-a-pony on the prowl was evident from the sticky tracks our fingers’ binoculars imprinted around the perimeters of our eyes. Shouting “Land-ho!” from the crow’s nest of the pines signaled the re-caging of the not-a-horse next door and our day’s journey’s end as we retraced our sappy steps down the mast and trudged back home for supper.  

Always shockingly to me, the one person who consistently lacked all appreciation for our careful planning, considerations, executions, and possible consequences of aforementioned actions was our mother. Every single time (and these times were many) we navigated our way up and down the pine trees’ branches and adventured our way back home at the end of a long day escaping the never-imminent threat of a horse that wasn’t a horse, she (our mother) was displeased. “SAP!” was her complaint that landed on deaf ears as we dove deep into our pockets full of pine needles, pulling out our spoils of battle we carried home, hearts open, flooded with the love of Self, the stickiness on the ends of those needles reminding me that I am stuck to the creation of another adventure tomorrow. I created the adventure of life I truly lived today. My pine-scented pillowcase, the welcome recipient of my hair’s lingering memories, cradles my head in its plushness, as my thoughts drop away like sap in the old pine trees. 

Axis of Power

I never believed or thought anything about my hair except it was long and I liked it that way. Sitting next to my husband of under two years watching the holiday movie, The Family Man, starring Nicholas Cage and Téa Leoni, I was absolutely smitten with Leoni’s entire on-screen vibe, adorably short hair, included. I spoke my affection out loud, “Wow! I love her hair so much” and like whiplash from being hit from behind, my world’s axis was grabbed by its throat, my flailing hands scrambled to pry away the fingers of the perpetrator, too alarmed to admit the only one present and beside me all along, was my husband.

“You can never cut your hair,” was the coolly, leveled-at-me one-line throat punch I didn’t see coming. Assuming he was joking, or playing with me a little bit because of course he liked my hair, but it was my hair, up until that moment that it wasn’t. There had been a transference of power, of ownership, of axis, and I had not known my body was the battlefield and the bounty in one. “What do you mean, ‘I can’t ever cut my hair’?” I bandied back, skipping my words over to him, keeping my lightness and heart holding onto that which I believed to be mine, never not for a moment until this moment now ever considering the possibility I possessed something that could or would be taken from me. He did not skip with me, nor did he hold my hand while I was playing right there next to him; his words sliced with a razor’s edge, “Your hair belongs to me. It’s part of our prenuptial agreement. You can never cut it.”

(We have no such thing and never ever not for a moment of breath coming out of me was spent on my hair’s discussion or to whom it belonged or didn’t belong, over who held the rights to its length, style, design, or its color, all of which were hanging in this unbalanced breathless space between us and next to me here on the sofa, Téa Leoni paused on the screen in front of me, adorably short hair on semi-permanent display).

I didn’t know I could stand my ground, hold my position, resist his infiltration. These were not the lessons taught or the tools, like scissors, I had been shown how to use. I didn’t want to cut my hair, had never wanted to cut my hair, had cried for days in the second grade when my mother traded me a sucker for a haircut (my sister betrayed me, used her words to convince me this was a great idea, a beautiful outcome guaranteed, and when the deed was done and I stood looking at my shorn head in shock, she claimed the sucker as her own even though the hair stolen was mine and had nothing to do with her; she had not grown it, it did not live on her head, no loss was living in her heart) and suddenly not being “allowed” to do so was my body’s axis being forcibly removed, transferred, claimed, pillaged and my hair’s destiny was now someone else’s plunder. And the rapist and pillager was sitting right next to me.

Never to not be right next to me ever again for any and for all visits to the hairdresser who was no longer mine to claim because my hair was no longer mine to have and to hold. Rather, the self-appointed general assumed his power pose with a half smile (reserved for the lesser ranks) on his salon-facing face, orchestrating, visioning, and directing the handling of each lock I had loved. Bound in the black smock of complicity, my neck held, but not supported, in the sink’s cradle, my scalp burned, the flames stretching, reaching, licking the entire circumference of my skull, the shame I felt smoldering inside showing itself only briefly with one tear’s escape down the side of my face not facing his, while my tresses were transformed into his vision of a great idea, of beauty guaranteed, was to me an unrecognizable mass of Barbie. Bleached-blonde. My Self muted in this his strategic coup against my crown. Shame became my shroud, my sense of Self buried deep beneath the public-facing Barbie hair head held by him, proudly parading his trophy (wife) through one multiple of five years, the scalping, like an honor killing, repeated every 3 months, always standing in his power pose over me: bound, held, and burning for his pleasure, in spite of my ever-present pain.

And in the morning of the fifth year I saw my Self in the mirror and She said to me, “I miss you. I love you. You are still here. I see you.” My tears like a raging river washed clean the battlefield of the body (turned bounty) I occupied and I staged my own revolution: my reclamation of Self. And the lessons I had not been taught were instead forged in the fires of my quarterly burnings, branded on my heart, and I brandished my Love of Self like a pair of deftly-wielded scissors and cut my Self out of that five-year fealty, leaving only those Barbie locks — belonging never to me — in my wake, waking in the sovereignty of my own shorn head and the axis of my own power restored.