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. 

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.

Dirty Fingernails

The tips of at least eight of my ten fingers hurt. I have dirt wedged underneath all ten fingernails, as if I’m giving a (dirty) finger to manicures and personal hygiene and memories of manicures in a long-ago lifetime pre-2020, that was only like last week in real time. My forearms look as though a cat with all its claws and I were in a tussle and the cat won. I keep sneezing. Flying bits of this pervasive creeping weed keep launching themselves into the corners of my eye, assuming my ductwork will activate its system to work them out. My knees are dependent on the memory foam cushion double-wrapped in a trash bag plus pillowcase to protect their tenderness. My inaugural bath of the gardening season was a necessity for dirt’s removal and my body’s functionality, rather than a luxury soak, although one day I’ll luxuriate instead of nap in those not quite deep enough tepid waters of my tub. You know what? It’s actually all ten; they all hurt. 

One year ago I was digging holes exactly 24 inches apart; we used a yardstick for consistency and the gardener’s need for exactness. Planting the bell pepper plants he grew from seed was the highlight of those early April days; what he’d so meticulously and lovingly nurtured in the greenhouse was ready for earth’s reception. The sugar snap peas had been in-ground for some weeks already and by now last April their delicate green leaves, barely an inch tall, carpeted a soft path underneath the chicken wire fencing, where they had been planted with purpose and given the chance to reach up and grab hold, growing as tall as they like, and by mid-May they were just showing off, no longer timid or shy at their own green goodness.

Hundreds of yards of weeds were pulled up and rolled up like an outdated shag rug no longer in vogue. 55-gallon trash cans were filled over and over and over again, whose count I have long since lost track (because I never did count or keep track) and were weekly placed in a neat row curbside, providing for the landfill a seemingly never-ending supply of that which the earth grew, but no longer served or was needed here in our bit of earth for which we are the caretakers. Thank you city heavy lifters for carrying that which I could not.

My dad, the master gardener and the orchestrator of greenhouse growing, of manicured beds and of thousands of blossoms, had the vision and the plan for beauty and bounty’s execution. I was simply his hands, his knees, his hurting fingertips, his laborer of Love. 

On the hot and heavy morning of July 4, 2020, I dug up and filled a five-gallon bucket with my dad’s rich compost pile, the backyard mound stretching the length between the manicured lawn and the wild area he’d allowed to overgrow for as many years as he’d been creating and contributing leftover potatoes, banana peels, egg shells, and any and all kitchen scraps our family could not use, plus yard clippings and piles of fresh-cut grass from every mowing. All my dad always said he wanted was to be buried in his compost pile, to be part of the earth he loved and lived in, the ground he spun into a precious gold soil, made noticeably better by the burgeoning number of earthworms moving through its warm and pulsating pathways. As my last tribute on that July 4 morning, I stood at the earth’s edge and dumped that bucket full of his hand-grown earth right on top of him, covering the length of the box inside the ground now the holding place for him. 

My birthday on the first of April announced spring’s arrival with all its carpets of weeds, allergens, blooming bushes of Forsythia, Camellia, and Azalea. Surprisingly, it also exposed a growth inside of me — a deep-rooted longing I can only suppose was planted (unbeknownst to me) by my dad — a longing to have the tips of all ten of my fingers sore again from digging, to have dirt wedged underneath my fingernails, to have my knees shrouded from direct contact with the ground, and to be surrounded and filled with the vision, the plan, and the knowing of my master gardener father. 

I am now leading my own orchestration of the garden given into my care as one of his final deeds in the dirt. Manicured beds are filling with (at least) hundreds of blossoms, beauty and bounty’s execution this time being enacted and implemented on my own, with my own hands, my own knees, my own hurting fingertips: my labor of Love guided by whispers from above and the dirt below. 

I Know Love

It’s easy to preach from the pulpit, to talk at and about what life is and what relationships are not, to suggest knowing a thing — any thing — without being in the thing. Except I have been there, gotten through to the other side by way of fire-walking. That kind of lived experience has a way of leaving permanent marks on feet and hearts and hands that clung to ropes that burned as my hands squeezed tighter, misbelieving the rope was the truth and if I could just maintain my grip it would lead me to the promised land. 

What is it I profess to know? What is it I am preaching from the pulpit of my life path? What truth(s) have I earned the right to know? What stories do the scars imprinted on the bottoms of my feet and the fleshy tables of my heart know to be immutable, regardless of your certain interpretation of me, which opinion is derived only through a lens of your own projections? 

I know Love. I know Love intimately because I have known its opposite: Fear. I have lived with Fear as he raped me of my innocence, tore from me my childlike wonder and assumption that Love was a magical bestowment that like fairy dust just sifts its apportionment onto worthy girls and boys who say, “Yes, I do to, with, and for You.” But the dusting I received wasn’t the light of the fairy realm; it was from a much darker place, replete with doubt, uncertainty, and the questioning of every single truth I had been (force) fed from the time I started consuming solids.  

Fear and I moved in together, where he slept by my side, night after terrifying night, always taking (never asking) that which he told me was (rightfully) his, and what I had been told was no longer mine to hold, to honor, to preserve. My “I do,” was Fear’s free-roaming and irrevocable hall pass. 

Fear was the misidentification of Love, taught, fed, and held up to me as a counterfeit that looked like M-A-R-R-I-A-G-E, the endgame and highest achievement, whose checked box would grant me entrance to a magical kingdom of bliss and being my best self because I would be in service to someone (him) else, and servicing (him) was the exchange asked of my precious Self, along with the additional and usual quid-pro-quo of such an arrangement: the cleaning, cooking, and carrying of babies, etc.

Love spoke to me, reminded me of her actual Truth(s). After years of Fear pounding in my ears, forcing my every move, my heart struggled to hear (to understand) Love. Love was persistent, as Love just is, and never stopped reaching out, reminding me of her presence, her presents, and her path for (as) me. I learned to hear and to listen to Love, as she guided me back to the dusting of light, restored me to that which is the true identification of Love: not M-A-R-R-I-A-G-E, but as Teilhard de Chardin says, “Love is capable of uniting living beings in such a way as to complete and fulfill them, for it alone takes them and joins them by what is deepest in themselves.” Love unites; Fear divides. 

I know Love. She is soft, gentle, kind, vulnerable, compassionate, forgiving, open, curious, deep, wide, funny, filled with grace, communicative. Love is Me. Your projections have no belonging here inside of the Love I Am, not because I don’t love you, and not because your thoughts and opinions don’t matter, but because these your thoughts and opinions are Fear masquerading counterfeit to Love. And I know Love.  

A Walk With My Self

Years ago I was introduced to the book, A Walk in the Woods, which was a written account of Bill Bryson’s attempt at hiking the Appalachian Trail, arguably the most-known through-hike along the east coast of America, along with his friend Stephen Katz, whose name was definitely changed to protect his identity. They got along; they didn’t agree; they were diametrically different to one another. Humor, challenges, hunger, hurt feet, hurt pride, opportunities for reconnecting and reimagining the trail with every step is what engaged and endeared me to this travelogue. Maybe I’ll hike the Appalachian Trail someday, I considered only after reading this stranger’s notes. 

Reading and thinking about their journey makes me think about how divided I am inside of my Self, as if two people often (if not always) occupy the same body, mind, and heart. On any given day I can be either of those two selves, always in the present moment feeling and firmly believing I am the only self here, whichever of me that is. My thoughts and emotions range from the humorous to the divine, from oppressed to enlightened, and sometimes from contemplative and quiet to inspired action.  

I’m exhausted by me and all my thoughts that never cease percolating, constantly reaching their perceived brew-point and seeking a spout through which to pour themselves on and into whomever is the closest mug of reception. God bless my mugs: those holders of my emotions, thoughts, dreams, worries, and wishes. They drink me up (often without warning or notice that another swig is being forced down their throat), don’t complain or refuse the brew that is me, and tell me how they experience me, their feedback is always that which gives me reflections of my Self, more fodder for thinking, perceiving, being. Their generosity of holding — the holding of me like a role reversal just took place inside of these two sentences — as if I am now the cup and the coffee, both, and it is their hands enveloping the mug of me that keeps me steady, not spilling, and I warm them, their hands, their hearts. The holding is also the blessing. 

I am testing a new cocktail today: a new experience of and as my Self. I am testing that which previously I have only ever theorized. I am curious to know if my internal brewing can produce something not just delectable, but duplicatable. I am mixing, shaking, and stirring my heart’s vat of thoughts, feelings, and ideas. They’re here with me in each of my actions, my touch points, my vulnerabilities. 

Perhaps a walk in the woods with both my selves is exactly what I need: a nice 2,200-mile trek to see that I am not now, and not ever, alone, that relationships are hard no matter where on the trail I/we happen to be in this moment, and pouring myself into the living of this life of mine is exactly where and what I wish, for warm hands and for warm hearts, for both giving and receiving the blessing of all of me, exactly as I am in my now. Thank you for letting me touch you. Thank you for holding me. I see, the relationship is the blessing.