Rumi’s Field

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
— Rumi

I am standing in the field of which Rumi writes, a field in which wrong and right do not exist and in their place exists something else entirely, perhaps it’s only Love. 

I am standing in the courage of my own conviction, the result of having shed the old patterns of outside authority, of having shakily let go of some others’ (some men) outside of me always knowing what is best and better for me than I know for me. 

Here in this field I am speaking, being, living my own authority. I am the knowing and the deciding and the doing. I see only so far as the headlights’ beams of my inner vision reach and it is far enough to move my Self forward, moving the casting light with me as I step and steer by my own choosing, here in this field of Love. 

The voice which I alone understand, which voice speaks the language of my heart, comes from deep within and I cast a line, hoping to secure my courage here in this field where Love resides and presides. Am I allowed to drop anchor in Love’s Field? Whose permission should I obtain? Is there a he here to tell me?

There are voices on the outside, voices that are not in or from the field, voices that reside in the luxurious judgment seats of wrong and right. They are loud, these declarations and condemnations against and for my comings and goings, my being, and my feeling. 

I remember Rumi promised to meet me “beyond [those] ideas,” and hear his weighted word in the delivery of an idea and then I feel the tug of my anchoring line, a reminder that their declarations are only ideas, theirs and not mine. 

My location in the Field is closer to its edge than I prefer. But I am IN the field and from this vantage point I can still see the inroads of my own Courage intersecting with the deeply-grooved dead-ends dug up over four decades of all the his’s declarations. Is Rumi here to meet me?

I grab my secured line and hold tightly, gently placing hand over heart over hand one beat at a time, one tug and then the next, and slowly pull and navigate my Authoritative Self closer to Center, closer to the Field’s Center, closer to the Great Heart of the Universe, closer to Love. Rumi is not here. He never meant to be.

Here is where She has been waiting all along: only Love is here. 

Burned To Shine

Is there someplace where it is said, First the burning, then the shining? Maybe that place is only in my head, so I’ll go ahead and claim it as my own unoriginal thought. Viktor Frankl definitely said, “What is to give light must endure burning.” 

I had it all. I mean I really had it all. And I burned it right to the ground. No regrets now but certainly not the case during that 10-year combustion phase.

Burning. My burning. It’s interesting in retrospect. 

What is the all I had and consciously chose to burn? I was given the “keys to the kingdom,” as it were: all the knowledge — the literal knowing — of right versus wrong, good versus bad, purpose versus pleasure. I was handed the script for living (if you consider the accumulation of good marks while living being tallied toward the greater reward to be awarded after dying as living), told which part was mine and memorized my lines long before the director said I needed to be off-script. I’ve always been an overachiever like that. 

The all I had was the idyllic description taken straight from the script — it was scripted perfection, honestly, and I never needed or asked for a line prompt; it’s as if I was born to play my part. Is that type-casting? (Something to look into.) I was a natural; the embodiment of method acting, I read all the books, answered all the questions, studied my mentors’ every moves, and demurred and deferred to every single man just on-cue. I said Yes when my body would have had me say No. 

My relationship and relatedness to all the other players was strictly professional; I kept it that way intentionally and without realizing it. I could not break character for fear of being recast and replaced by someone else willing herself to perfection. I was perfectly obedient. 

Until I wasn’t.

One line at a time, scribbled on and removed from the script, I set a little match. I never burned the entire script; it would have caused too big a flame, would have attracted too much attention. I would have been kicked out of the cast in front of everyone. That burning would have burned me, burned others close to me. I was never an inflictor of wounds, not knowingly. I chose to burn from the inside out instead. My wounds were my own to tend. But their infliction? Whose were those?

I recently read an account of the very young Judy Garland on the set of The Wizard of Oz and I understood how large a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio loomed above and around her in the real-life body of a Mr. Louis B. Mayer managing and controlling her every move, her very voice, touching all aspects of her performance as if it were for him, alone.  

Personal performance notes I took to heart: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light” (Luke 13:11). And I understood I was meant to give light, not to hide it under a bushel or under a marquee not of my own making. I slow-burned my all to the ground because my on-demand rote performance wasn’t life or light-giving. First the burning, now the shining.

I’m taking my encore performance: I was burned to shine. 

Hallelujah

A deep deep inhalation followed by a full-breathed exhale — the all at once kind, looking like the wind emoji and wondering if this is what is meant by life imitating art? My wondering takes me underneath the exhale, curious if I can name it, say out loud the source of this Hallelujah’s inception. I know there is power in a name. I remember that “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19), and if Mary kept her things to herself, should I, too, keep mine? 

My full-breathed exhales are my Hallelujah Collective, a chorus of sorts, and much like Handel in his writing of his own Hallelujah Chorus (much better-known than my own), “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself seated on His throne, with His company of Angels,” I know my exhales are full of the god in me accompanied by my own company of angels surrounding, lifting, and lighting my next breath forward. 

Notable Hallelujah’s:

— Every time his touching of me stopped. Always temporarily, but stopped. In those moments I exhaled.

— 9/11 peace accord with my Self, the confirmation that we two, she and me, would remain standing but on separate ground from him

— He agreeing, without dissertation or discussion of any kind, to my having full custody of our co-creation, my whole heart, my girl

— The signature from a credentialed-stranger, publicly decreeing a legal unbinding on the outside of what would take more years apart than ever together to undo what twisted up and bound my inside beliefs

— A name, my own from birth, restored as patronymic for only a small fee + the paperwork

— Another signature, many times repeated, binding me to a home, a place, a mortgage, my own alone

— Dance recitals, voice performances, graduations, life moments complete with staged photographs to capture forever the unbindable and impossible to capture love for this precious daughter

— Graduate work with my own heart, Spiritual Psychology, reviewing, revisiting, forgiving, reimagining, and reinventing my own breaths and transmuting them one at a time into my own Hallelujah Collective, here to be treasured, acknowledged, shared and seen. By me. By you. For the heavenly seeing of the god in me bowing to the god I was, only always doing the best she could.

And look at her now: breathing.

Hallelujah. 

The Enemy In Me

The dictionary defines enemy as “a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another; an adversary or opponent” and enemies as “persons, nations, etc., that are hostile to one another.”

Enemy feels so harsh inside of me, the insistence of one’s existence in relation to me a sucker punch directly to my gut and I resist the very thought of identifying anyone I know as one! But hostile? I can relate to that. Hostile is only “opposed in feeling, action, or character; antagonistic: as in hostile criticism.” Hostile is also defined as “not friendly, warm, or generous; not hospitable.” Hostile is gentler on my stomach than a sucker punch; merely the bloated discomfort from overeating combined with inactivity on Thanksgiving. 

Reflecting on the dictionary’s definition of hostile, my insides start to churn, my tummy hurts, my body constricts like the snake coiling around its own centermost point and I know there at my own centermost point I have found the enemy: residing inside of me.

I understand why it feels so harsh, that sucker punch directly to my gut, because my adversary is me. For a lifetime of choices, decisions, actions taken all in the name of forward movement, achievement, and accomplishment on the outside, my inside opponent was running interference and spreading counterintelligence to the very same body that was being given entirely different direction. I am a walking contradiction, living in opposition to and as myself. 

I didn’t know. I didn’t understand or comprehend how stealthily I was working my own subterfuge whose eventual success was my own demise. It’s two opposing forces simultaneously advancing but their meeting halts them both and no one moves ahead. No one wins. 

That upset inside of my gut was my lighthouse in the approaching storm, warning me of impending danger, even death, if I didn’t alter my course. But the course I had set and was navigating on autopilot seemed immovable and perfect in its path. 

Rumi says “The wound is the place where the light enters you,” or if you prefer Leonard Cohen’s version in his Anthem lyrics, “There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” Suffice it to say I cracked; I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. I heeded the light warning me to steer clear of the rocks and by way of that redirection I exposed Rumi’s wound. 

I licked my wound for a long time, and by “long time” I mean YEARS. To be fair, I am not a professional and didn’t know the severity and depth of my wound. I was treating myself for a scrape with a bandaid but had a gaping head wound in need of specific and guided attention. 

My recovery has been slow and not always visible. I have suffered numerous setbacks. I have not always seen a way out or a way forward. I have been often at odds with my enemy within, one or the other of us discounting the voice that wasn’t our own. I have learned to speak a new language and now claim fluency, practicing its use every day. I am still healing. I am friends with me.

The Right Man

When the one place I’d been taught my entire life to feel the most secure, safe, and certain suddenly became uninhabitable for me, I wanted an exit plan that would ensure the love of those I was inevitably leaving behind remained intact. It’s taken years to navigate, but based on the security, safety and certainty on which I stand today, I feel nothing but gratitude.

I was raised inside of a strictly dogmatic theology: right and wrong, black and white, good and evil were as clearly defined for me as the ten words on my weekly second grade spelling test. And just like the learning of my weekly vocabulary words required writing sentences for a grade to be sure I understood every word’s derivation, pronunciation and correct usage, so, too, did my parents and Sunday School teachers require a regular repetition of concepts, scripture stories, and commandments. 

I was the poster child for GOOD GIRL. I made every decision only through prayer; I participated in service opportunities at Olympic athlete levels; I turned every frown upside down and changed it to a smile; I quoted scriptures as off-handedly as the ABC song; I was a youth leader, showing my peers through my example exactly how easy it was to live righteously; I taught Sunday School for every single age bracket the packed Sunday service schedule could allow; I served a full-time mission. In Russia. I learned Russian to teach the Russian people in their own language everything I was told I know about God and Jesus Christ and the salvation of your soul. I know all about your soul, where it came from, why it’s here, where it’s heading next, and what you can do about it. I baked my own bread, could sew my daughter dresses, married the “right” man, kept a spotless house, served others without ever once thinking of myself, studied my scriptures, taught the 5 year-olds to be like Jesus, taught the 25 year-olds to believe in things unseen, taught the 55 year-olds to be less judgmental. 

The right man I married stopped attending church. No one at church asked why. They all made righteously safe assumptions about his whereabouts — must be at the hospital, obviously making rounds, so studious that one, God bless him. 

The right man I married yelled at me when I spoke to him without invitation, when I entered his (our) office unannounced — the computer and his access to porn lived there in the dark, when my (our) daughter cried — “Make her stop, goddammit!”, when his laundry wasn’t folded to his liking, when I wasn’t to his liking, when I weighed only 90 pounds and couldn’t feed myself or my baby or him but he wasn’t going to take care of me, do you hear me?

He wasn’t. 

Happy Anniversary

I got married 24 years ago today on October 10, 1996. 

Waking up on that Thursday morning for a 10am “I Do” moment could not feel more vastly different from how I felt this October 10, 2020 morning. 

24 years ago I was nervous, second-guessing myself, nauseated, and just this side of a panic attack. I paid NO attention to any of those screaming, waving, jumping out of their seats red flags my body was throwing directly at me. Instead, I dismissed my nervousness as the “cold feet” everyone apparently gets on their wedding day; I ignored entirely my doubts as inconsequential and, while quiet, not a voice that mattered; the nausea was clearly related to my nerves and, therefore, part of my cold feet; and the panic attack that wasn’t — well I wasn’t listening to my own still small voice so why would a flaming panic attack stop me from stepping ahead? 

Self-dismissal on every level: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, was the way I lived my life 24 years ago, bypassing, dismissing and outright ignoring every indicator my body’s life navigational system came equipped with to operate.  

Vehicles (and bodies, I discovered) do not hold up well over time when their messages and indicators for service and attention are ignored by those using them to function. I had already made it abundantly clear to my body that I do not listen, pay attention to, or respect its voice. Every indicator it gave me over the years I ignored. I was definitely not providing regular service, check-ups, check-ins, or care for my Self. 

My body (physical, mental, emotional and spiritual) carried and sustained me for three strenuous years after that 10:00am on the 10th of October “I Do” before no longer giving me the option of a red flag. It was as if my license to drive my Self had been revoked. No questions asked. My physical system just shut itself down in the summer of 1999. While medical doctors determined symptoms, I was something of a conundrum; no one could ever diagnose exactly what would “fix” me on the physical level. 

After two more years of struggle, and for the first time in my life, I was finally hearing the quiet message my body was sharing with me and I understood its meaning. My fix wasn’t going to come through any prescription; if I wanted to heal physically, I would need to heal my relationship with my Self on all levels: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. 

October 2001 — just five years after “I Do,” I said “I Don’t” and embarked on a journey of Self listening, learning, and living. My healing journey has taken me through every level my body has asked me to explore and to align: physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Living in integrity with the wholeness of my Self has replaced the unhealthy and unsustainable system of dismissal I used for the first 30+ years of my life. I pay attention to every message my body is no longer screaming at me because I’ve repaired our relationship and slowed down to listen to my Self. 

Today I only ever say “I Do” to that which my whole Self and I agree is in alignment with the truth of who I am. 

Cloud Gazing

Cloud-gazing is a time-honored portal of childhood and I have accessed this portal throughout my entire adult life — each time I need entry to another place or even moment in time. Sometimes I look beyond the obvious elephants and ships on the ocean to what message the image might carry for me in this exact moment of our meeting. What is it this bunch of balloons needs me to see, remember or to do as our paths cross only once moving away from each other faster than we are toward. If the balloons drift past too quickly for me to comprehend or to divine their meaning, I know a dragon or a butterfly will shortly be along to tell me again, as often as need be for me to remember. Until the next time I seek solace in the itchy grass beneath my neck and embracing my legs, each blades’ edges reminding me to be here now, to look around while being grounded. What message is here for me this time? And for what purpose will I return again and again — my lifetime membership to this playground of possibility renewed automatically with each use of the portal. 

He wasn’t much for dreaming or for cloud-gazing that man to whom I said, “I do.” He wasn’t much for anything or anyone not expressly connected to his own advancement or to his cloudless story of his own creation. He was easily provoked and always disgruntled. The tea leaves’ reading he pursued was dark and alone. Invitations to join him in agreement, pity and emotional poverty I readily declined. My sky still filled with clouds and my ground still covered with grass. His sky was always dark and stormy and his ground was no place I wanted to willingly lie down and get wrapped up. But I felt trapped, held by the gravitational pull of covenants and commandments, the seal of others’ disapproval and disappointment, the obligation of procreation and parenthood.

He disowned his own grandparents. 

Made it legal, got a notary public to sign and seal the letter of declaration in his own handwriting. He told me to sign my name, as if this were mine together with him, this burden of story and dark clouds and wanting that which he thought should be his, entitled by way of internal suffering. To exist in his orbit was to co-exist with a reckless child, out of control, lacking any sense of personal responsibility or decency toward others. Only ever MINE I DESERVE THIS YOU OWE ME I DID THIS ON MY OWN I DON’T OWE YOU ANYTHING and so on. Exhausting. Always.

I refused to sign his letter. An isolated act of independence. One that did not go unnoticed or without punishment, retribution, retaliation. Always his clouds conjured payback because his storm was always keeping a scorecard. His ground is strewn with hard objects against my bare feet; I always step with caution on that ground. I’ve been injured so many times when I skipped lightly, mistaking rocks and gravel for fresh grass.

His mother didn’t know to tread any way but with love. I can imagine the depth of her pain when the phone call came from her own mother — and not from her own son — about the notarized letter she had just received in the mail. 

I had two notifications of the receipt of that letter I did not sign:

1. A package in the mail containing a beautiful one-of-a-kind matryoshka we purchased in Russia for his grandparents. There was no note included.

2. A phone call from his frantic mother certain there must be a mistake, a misunderstanding, a message she never received. 

His retribution for my not signing: explain to her myself the mind of her own son, which gets its directions from storm clouds, stony ground and a life story whose past, present and future are as dismal as the dark-inked signature of the notary.

My portal to that other place is well-worn and the clouds in my wished-for sky never see the storms that can’t escape me. 

Let Go

The pain screams louder than my tight-faced silence. I can’t catch my breath. Forget sneezing; I cry just at the thought. I find relief only in a hot bath; the water holds my body afloat and without any pressure from any direction my body is free, floating and pain-free. I love my time in the tub: napping, dreaming, singing, smiling, pondering. 

Ready to remove myself from bliss (the water temperature had become tepid so obviously time to move out and on to warmth somewhere else), I pushed gently with my outstretched toes against the end of the tub to propel my entire body into an upright position. Well-before I could be upright I first had to come back into bodily contact with the tub wall. The pressure/weight generated by my tiny toes was enough to create full back contact instantly. And in that instant my back screamed from the agonizing pain and I cried out in response: I am so sorry you’re hurting! What do you need from me? What do you need me to know? How can I help you? Talk to me, please.

And Pain whimpered, “Just let go.” 

Anxious to appease I begged for more information, Let go of what? I’ll do it; I’ll let go of whatever you want, just tell me what it is. 

No verbal response, only short measured breaths because breathing is hard when it’s so painful to do. Lingering not much longer I eased my way up and out of the water, still questioning what was mine to release, to let go. Going back through my chain of events, seeking direction, inspiration, a clue. Where and why had this pain begun at all? I had been quick to blame, I realized, quick to judge a building of a retaining wall on this back of mine. But in review I could easily see there had been no “incident,” no cause; just a moment of bending over to lift cut azalea branches from the ground — a moment among many of proving I can do all of this by myself, of showing I am doing all the things, all the time, all alone. 

But for what? For why? For how long? So many years of being in my masculine, of being the one and only one to consistently show up on my own behalf, to be in charge, responsible, providing, nurturing, loving, feeding, clothing, driving, talking, counseling, cleaning, cooking, disciplining, working, ordering, organizing, managing, responding, learning, teaching, volunteering, serving, traveling, entertaining, supporting. All while emphatically stating, nay declaring, “I don’t need a man. I don’t ever want to need a man again. I just want to want one. I only want to need to share my life with a man because I am whole and complete all by myself.” And I meant what I said because what I said made sense to me. It calmed and appeased that afraid place inside me that was so hurt and repulsed by my having needed and been hurt, abused, scorned and made to feel wrong for it. Those are deep places in my body that remember. 

Oh my I remember now in this moment as I write. I remember that other moment of needing my husband to see me, to hear me, to care for me because I couldn’t take care of myself and he said NO and I stepped outside to breathe the sunshine’s inspiration and that breath triggered a sneeze and that sneeze was larger than my sadness and at the top of the sneeze my heart popped and that’s where this pain lives — right there in the ribs Adam donated to my Eve. Those ribs we were meant to have as equals, as partners, as much as a needing can be had; it’s written right there in my ribs surrounding and holding my heart. Is this the “Just Let Go” my pain keeps telling me? 

In that bending over for the azalea branches the popping reminder of who I am and have always been? I am the Feminine: receptive, loving, graceful, beauty, divine and don’t need to do all the doing because sharing ribs, sharing spaces that hold our hearts is necessary and sharing me is needing you? My wanting to share myself with you is my needing you. I can’t do and carry and lift and manage and plan and execute and organize and drive and dictate and expect and operate and haul. Those aren’t mine to do. They’re mine to receive. You are mine to receive. You are mine to want and to need. I want to need you. 

I need you and I love how that feels to see and to say that with my outside voice repeating what my heart from inside my Adam’s ribs whispers to me, “Just let go, Arminda. Don’t hold onto what’s not yours.” My pain, my ribs, my heart holder beats, “Let go and receive, Let go of the wall, the water will hold you; it’s what water is meant to do: surround and hold you afloat.”

Yes, I’m saying YES to that. 

The Science of Hiking

I used to want not wanting. I say I consciously chose that path, but it was more my path by default. 

The Default Experience explained in Scientific Methodology:

The What

The Who

The When

The Where, and

The Why

WHAT: raped for first time

WHO: my husband

WHEN: my wedding day

WHERE: queen-sized bed, standard white sheets, dark drapes drawn, DO NOT DISTURB sign dangling

WHY: he never told me why

5.5 years of being his rape and pillage pet project on daily repeat because you know the song eventually gets old after playing it 3-5 times a day. At least I got tired, or woke up to being played so often. I stormed out of his record store. And by “stormed out,” I mean packed the one thing of greatest value we didn’t share anyway and with her tiny 3 1/2 year-old hand in mine we flew over the Rockies, the sunflower fields, the Kansas that never ends, Huck and Jim’s mighty Mississippi, and the ancient Appalachians and landed home again.

Of course I chose not wanting to be touched, not wanting to be seen, not wanting to be objectified, not wanting to be wanted in any way by any him. Not anytime. Probably not ever. 

But not ever didn’t last forever. I hiked my own Appalachian Trail with every therapist visit, with every non-existent child support check I wasn’t cashing, with every plea on behalf of her tiny hand for involvement, engagement, or interest, with every late night luxury cry session only when I knew those tiny hands were asleep. 

I may only have been at trail marker 749 when I said yes to a dinner. Marker 853 brought yes to a boyfriend, a relationship, co-hiking for maybe a few months on the trail. As the miles passed I replaced socks and boots, tended blisters and sores that couldn’t be avoided, hiking buddies who stayed a short while and others for longer, but none who wanted to complete the journey with me. And none with whom I wanted to see the view from the top or with whom I want to share stories and laughs on the return climb.

I keep looking, wondering where he might be — that elusive partner with boots already laced, already on the trail, no preamble needed, just fall in-step next to me because next to me is where he chooses to be and on top of me is where I choose to share me. No scientific experimentation required for later unpacking. Please — just carry out what you carry in, with only the added heart growth guaranteed from healthy exertion. 

Scientific Method

I used to want not wanting.

I say I consciously chose that path, but it was more my path by default. 

The Default Experience explained in Scientific Methodology:

The What

The Who

The When

The Where, and

The Why

WHAT: raped for first time

WHO: my husband

WHEN: my wedding day

WHERE: queen-sized bed, standard white sheets, dark drapes drawn, DO NOT DISTURB sign dangling

WHY: he never told me why

5.5 years of being his rape and pillage pet project on daily repeat because you know the song eventually gets old after playing it 3-5 times a day. At least I got tired, or woke up to being played so often. I stormed out of his record store. And by “stormed out,” I mean packed the one thing of greatest value we didn’t share anyway and with her tiny 3 1/2 year-old hand in mine we flew over the Rockies, the sunflower fields, the Kansas that never ends, Huck and Jim’s mighty Mississippi, and the ancient Appalachians and landed home again.

Of course I chose not wanting to be touched, not wanting to be seen, not wanting to be objectified, not wanting to be wanted in any way by any him. Not anytime. Probably not ever. 

But not ever didn’t last forever. I hiked my own Appalachian Trail with every therapist visit, with every non-existent child support check I wasn’t receiving to cash, with every plea on behalf of her tiny hand for involvement, engagement, or interest, with every late night luxury cry session only when I knew those tiny hands were asleep. 

I may only have been at trail marker 749 when I said yes to a dinner. Marker 853 brought yes to a boyfriend, a relationship, co-hiking for maybe a few months on the trail. As the miles passed I replaced socks and boots, tended blisters and sores that couldn’t be avoided, hiking buddies who stayed a short while and others for longer, but none who wanted to complete the journey with me. And none with whom I wanted to see the view from the top or with whom I want to share stories and laughs on the return climb.

I keep looking, wondering where he might be — that elusive partner with boots already laced, already on the trail, no preamble needed, just fall in-step next to me because next to me is where he chooses to be and on top of me is where I choose to share me. No scientific experimentation required for later unpacking. Please — just carry out what you carry in, with only the added heart growth guaranteed from healthy exertion.