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. 

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. 

Banished

Circe sent her lover to the sea after he touched, took, and filled her with the promises, (stolen) virginity (only once), and empty air he committed to another woman. Her transmogrification and banishment of him became the scourge of seafarers the ocean over, while Circe, herself, was banished by the god of the sun, her father, to an island, where men continued to dock their ships, overstaying their welcome, misbelieving they could touch, take, and fill Circe’s spaciousness. Her mastery of Self coupled with her sacred skill set of creating potions from plants, she transformed those (unwelcome) men into the outer expression of their inner animals, their physical forms finally manifesting their true masculine.

 Lot’s wife was sanctioned to salt the earth, rather than be elevated as its salt, just for looking back, forever labeled a disobedient, one who abandoned her husband, her faith, her god, left behind by the husband beside her, banished by the faith for which she walked away in the first place, punished instantly by the god above her. 

Brothels overflow with women whose life-giving abilities are invaded, stolen, bought and sold (by and for men), while the women who no longer possess the right to say YES are labeled whore, slut, cunt. Being banished to a tent in the wilderness until she is clean from bleeding her monthly dues must seem the balming reprieve of Gilead to every woman who enters therein, only to drape the weight of men’s reach again as she lifts back and walks through the canvas door, feet hot on the sand.

My feet retain scars from the hot sands I have walked. I have had labels hurled at and stuck all over every part of this life-giving body of mine. I have tasted more salt from the runoff of my own tears than I believe one body should be capable of producing. Banishment is the birthright I claimed through the rebirth of my Self. 

An ultrasound declared me the pained mother-to-be of an ovarian cyst, larger than a baseball, filling my womb. Surgery would be required to eliminate this growth, for safety, for preventing complications, for preempting pain. Pretend she’s in the tent: NO sex. So simple. But he was itchy. He needed to scratch. Not ask. Just take. Penetrate. Explosion like the Death Star. Immediate. My abdomen imploded. Shards of ruptured cyst bursting and banging against one another and the hallowed walls of my uterus. Unconscionable Pain. No admission of guilt or responsibility. He swore me to silence: “Tell the doctor it just ruptured on its own. We don’t know why. She said that was a possibility.” 

I have birthed a child. My womb filled with a donation I sought and paid for with my obeisance, obedience, and objectification. My YES lived a life of solitude amongst thousands of NOs accumulating dust over years of disuse. “Wait six weeks before intercourse,” the doctor advised. “Your stitches are extensive and you must have time to heal.” The tent could only provide me sanctuary for four weeks before he came in unannounced and unwanted, throwing back the heavy canvas flap, bleeding and breaking me once more. Who would you be without an all-access pass to my tent? 

“If you loved me you would satisfy me,” he reminded me daily. 

“Don’t make me go somewhere else to have my needs met,” he threatened from inside of me, as if my 3-5 times a day complicity in allowing him in and against my Self wasn’t enough. How do you satiate the insatiable?  

“Don’t make me go Circe on you,” I thought to my Self, knowing I had no power over the animal he already was without any potions or wishes from me. Banishing my shrunken Self from him was the only option for me to exercise. I called on Circe, through whose eyes I could see the truth of who he was. I turned and looked back, just like Lot’s wife, not out of disobedience, but to remind me where I had been is not where I would ever go back to again. The one abandoning was me, not put out, up, or on by any man. The leaving behind of this man, his god, and all their labels was mine to choose and to do. 

Perspective, purpose and power are what I now carry in my womb. My own re-birthing through this my banishment is a banner I proudly wave, welcoming my tribe, the multitude of others just like me. Here, my banner reads: Rest. Revive. Be reborn. There is life after banishment. YES lives here. 

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. 

Milestone Moments

I was this week old when I had my first taste of alcohol. Ever. Let me do the math for you. My half birthday was on October 1, making me 47.5 years old. My unlearning, letting go, and reidentification of Self as told me into Self as I create and choose me has now occupied a decade, plus at least four years more. There have been a handful of milestone moments in this my unlearning phase of the life I’m living. 

If I provide you a checklist it might be easier for you to follow along and keep track.

☑ Stop wearing the clothes I’ve been told to wear

☑ Start wearing sleeveless tops, shorts, and skirts above the knee

☑ Stop weekly attendance at Sunday service

☑ Breathe deeply when church members openly judge me and call my attention to my sins

☑ Actively engage in debriefing conversations with my daughter about what she is being told and taught and wonder if the entire world might actually stop spinning if we walk away entirely

☑ Remind myself my daughter’s accusation of me wearing a bikini is a sin is not my daughter’s thought but one planted in her by someone else

☑ Imagine, again, a world in which we live without the weight of what is expected, required and obligatory

☑ Show up to therapy and talk out loud to the sofa across from mine using language I was never taught correlated to marriage, relationship, and love. Words like rape and sexual abuse

☑ See that healing a wound I didn’t know I had will require behaving in a way I didn’t know I was allowed and I will, like Eve, sin in the eyes of others but in my own eyes, heart and soul understand the necessity of knowing I am not broken and be known by a man

☑ Go DEEP with the guilt of my learned bad behavior, spend countless sleepless nights praying and pleading with my God for forgiveness, understanding, and desperation that He not take my daughter from me, that the earth remain intact and not swallow me whole, that my sins not be as visible as Hester’s scarlet letter

☑ Drop therapy for making me feel worse on the other side of a session on the couch than progressing or understanding anything

☑ Know in my heart that constantly revisiting the past is no way to create a future

☑ Go back to school. Sure. Get a master’s degree in Spiritual Psychology because that’s the obvious thing to do

☑ Reinvent God and my entire relationship to Him. Wow. He is so much bigger than I ever understood before

☑ Say “FUCK” for first time

☑ Recognize that using the words SHIT, FUCK AND DAMN take practice to incorporate into my vernacular — for others’ comfort and my own

☑ Send my daughter to university in a city too far from my heart

☑ Begin what may be a lifetime of grieving the vacancy left in her absence, a void from 18 years of daily loving no longer with me

☑ Sell my home and downsize into a city that is too small to hold me

☑ Move across the country to check off others’ dream of LA living that was never my dream

☑ Keep dreaming

☑ Survive LA

☑ Complete my graduate studies

☑ Fall in love with being with my Self

☑ Reconnect and reinvent relationship with my brother, be fully and truly seen by him — the first and only member of my family to reach out to me for understanding, for loving and being together by choice

☑ Receive my dad’s cancer diagnosis with a criss-cross applesauce move back across the country, carrying and keeping only that which fits into the Civic. Nothing else matters.

☑ For the first time in my 47 years come home as my Self, wholly, fully, in my loving

☑ Live simply as the presence of Love, loving both my parents exactly where, who and why they are. I am Love. And I am loving every single minute.

☑ Meet Grief again and in an entirely new way on June 29

☑ Take a deep breath and taste a mimosa because the earth won’t swallow me, my mom still loves me, my daughter will always be mine and I will keep creating me. With love. As love. Only always.

Schooled

Sitting on the edge of my daughter’s raised bed, legs and heart hanging listlessly over the side, I watch her unpack and arrange her laptop, her Bluetooth speaker, and a small picture of us that will be her replacement of me for the up-until-now daily seeing and being with her face. Lost in my own thoughts I maintain a steady stream of encouraging babble, suggestions for low-maintenance succulents and whether any additional throw pillows might be needed, all as a coverup for my inability to confront in conversation what I do not understand or have control over in my own heart: That my actual heart is not coming home with me today. I am leaving her here amongst the just-purchased pillows, tiny succulents, color-coordinated organizing bins and shared bathroom. Here with strangers who will become friends, no way to get or give a hug, and innumerable opportunities to discover and access the truth of how truly remarkable she is. 

“Mom! That’s internal misogyny and you need to check yourself.” 

Her accusation brings my full attention back to a conversation I can’t repeat on a straight line. “I’m sorry. What did you just say?”

“You need to check yourself.”

“No, the part before that — the term you used. What was it you said?”

“Internal misogyny?” 

“Yes,” I hear the words linked together and something clicks together inside my head. “Tell me what that means,” even though the knowing at hearing the words has already informed me.

“It means you, yourself, are a misogynist. Against yourself. You were raised that way — think about it. Everything in the church has taught you that you weren’t as important or as worthy as a man. And you believe it, so you speak it, live it, repeat it.” 

Listening to her define and describe these words, and my experience to me, I hear the truthfulness, the shocking awareness of her rightness, and I weep. For me. For the numerous dots that are suddenly being connected, for the shame at being caught as the one minimizing, mistrusting, misbelieving myself.

Quietly I thank her for showing me myself and my opportunity to unlearn what I have been conditioned to be and wipe away my tears for the moment.

We finish the unpacking, the organizing, the putting away of what’s obvious and right in front of us and walk our way back across the cold-tiled floors of her now common area, through the carpeted co-ed hallways smelling of cardboard and congestion, down the completely packed and awkwardly silent elevators, spilling ourselves into the lobby on the need-an-ID side of the security desk. Here we have our final hug in this public space.

Walking away from my Heart I feel the strings begin to loosen, and I weep openly for the loss of perceived control, for the seeing of the strings that have been in my hands all along and with gratitude that at 18 my Heart outside of my actual body knows more than this 43 year-old still beating body with more strings yet to clip.