The Void

Thursday is my birthday. In the days leading up to the anniversary of my arrival on planet surface I am reflecting on what is mine, on what I have gained, on that which I have inherited, so much of which goes unchecked, as it were, living in the very breaths I breathe, the lens through which I experience and take in the world around me. This, then, is my annual Self review, an accounting and an acknowledging of the various lines of energy I hold inside of me and all that I have consciously chosen to keep because it is in service to me.

Family. I am part of a large one, very large. I am situated smack in the middle, fourth of eight, 2nd of three girls, that leaves five boys before and after me, plus two parents, whose lifelong love story continues to inspire, surround, and connect us all. 

“Slooooow down,” came the booming directive as if from the Void. Not that I ever go to the Void, none of us do as it’s expressly forbidden to cross over that barrier, even in jest or curiosity. Not that I am so curious, mind you, because I assure you, I am not. I am — oh please allow me to introduce myself — a rule keeper to a fault. Sometimes I like to describe myself as the poster child for obedient. Who would I be without the rules that define and guide me? Goodness, that’s a terrifying thought, isn’t it? Oh my! I just glimpsed the Void asking myself that very question about who I might be without the rules and there I was — untethered with nothing to hold onto and nothing holding me. 

Deep breaths, bring it all back to right here, to the center, to the place that grounds me. This beautiful bubble of black and white, right and wrong, good and bad. I know my way in and around this bubble, which is exactly why I’m the emissary here greeting and meeting with you today! What a pleasure and a joy for me to share with you everything you certainly did not ask to be told! Here’s what we are definitely going to stay away from — the edge of the Void — because I do not want to be responsible for you overstepping or tripping or on purpose walking into a space I do not know how to navigate. Trust me, the Void is not catalogued in my PPS (Personal Positioning System) and, therefore, a dark and scary place. 

Okay! No dark and scary here on my watch! I am your consummate guide to right here, to right now, to all the things I’ve been told I know to be true. I am also happy to tell you that as a bonus — because I feel inspired and directed to say so — I will also happily tell you what you should not do or think about doing or support anyone else in their doing of it because, well, that would definitely fall solidly under the category of what I have been told I know to be wrong. 

Please keep your hands and arms inside the bubble at all times. I will answer all your questions at the end of our tour. And, of course, all of my answers will be absolute and certain, because I am well-trained and know all the answers from a lifetime of learning the answers to give. Certainty is so reassuring, isn’t it? Alright, then, let’s all take a big step together away from the Void. Annnd another step. There we go and here we go, off to explore the where we are. 

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.  

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. 

Working It Out

We all come to this world to work something out. What’s mine to work out is not anyone’s but mine. From my very beginning I learned, (was told), and understood that living my life was to operate in a synergistic and centuries-old system of exchanges: a system in which actions and thoughts generate literal translations and manifestations of either good or bad consequences. Right and wrong were easily explained (to me), choices could (and should) always be predetermined, thereby avoiding the wrong sorts of consequences. 

The way I played the game was a simple points system: for every good choice I got a deposit in my reward bucket (that I imagined was always strapped around my waste like a lopsided saddlebag); for every bad choice my bucket got dumped out, regardless of how full it was. In the moments between my wrong-choosing(s) and the dumping(s) all I ever heard (in my own head) was Monopoly’s™️ mascot, Rich Uncle Pennybags, in his tauntingly nasal voice reading to me straight from the “Community Chest” card pile:

GO TO JAIL
Go Directly To Jail
DO NOT PASS GO
DO NOT COLLECT $200

How do you recover from the missteps? From all the personally-induced and enforced jailed time? Is it possible to ever fill (or overflow) the bucket? What does that win me? Can one purchase Grace? Whose is it to give? Does such a thing even exist? I’m just asking for a friend. 

Earning or deserving my place here on planet surface, among the myriad other living souls surrounding my own, this is what I am here to work out: my own belonging. 

Lentil Soup for the Soul

Jacob arrived on the heels of Esau, disqualifying him for both the birthright and the blessing. Hungry and impulsive by some accounts, Esau exchanged the birthright, which he possessed, for a bowl of lentil soup, which Jacob held. The blessing was later taken from Isaac and stolen from Esau by stratagem? Deceit? Necessity? Prophecy? If I were to ask Jacob and his mother Rebekah their motives I am certain they would invoke faith and its familiar-to-me narrative of control in a religious realm that preaches its opposite.

My earthly arrival saw me born in the covenant, inheriting both birthright and blessing by mere virtue of my parents’ choices before me. I chose nothing but received everything I never questioned: certainty and judgment. I inherited a system called faith, which system taught me to judge myself using a clearly-defined rubric of wrong and right, bad and good, wicked and worthy. 

Control groups in experiments exist to prove the experiment works, to prove the effectiveness of that which is being controlled. In my case, it was me; I was in control by being controlled. It has been said that control, or rather the illusion of control, is the master addiction. My inheritance was that illusion: a system designed to manufacture the management of a life via stratagem? Deceit? Necessity? Prophecy? And call it faith.

I wasn’t selected for the experimental group of this grand life experiment. I was this week old when it occurred to me that my having filtered all my life’s decisions, choices, relationships, and paths through this system and its definitions is what is still — even after years into my self-removal from the familiarity of a lifetime of inherited internal control — positioning me against my Self and what I want to believe I believe. My mental versus my messaged definitions of what it means to be this soul having this human experience keep colliding. 

These collisions ignite an internal inquisition rivaled in extremes I imagine to the infamous inquisitions of religious history — the confrontations, the rooting out, and the castigation of those found guilty of heresy. Heresy falls squarely in my inherited system’s definition of wrong, bad, and wicked. Colliding with my Self is a sin. 

Where is my Jacob offering me his bowl of lentil soup? I would happily trade in exchange for an orthodoxy that exists as a relief to this control that is my birthright. Believe me when I tell you there is nothing impulsive about my love and longing for lentil soup.

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. 

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. 

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.

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. 

The Forest

The forest is dense, thickly-wooded and difficult to navigate, but not treacherous. Arduous and labor-intensive, yes; dangerous, no. For many years I simply lived in this forest, unaware of the beauty and complexity of my own lush and vibrant surroundings, taking for granted all the natural resources residing here with me. I frequently took excursions lasting for long periods of time, seeking wisdom, understanding and tools for what felt like my own survival. The longest such journey I undertook was one on whose path I was placed rather than one I personally selected: the path of religion, of God, of my place of belonging amongst the other forests filling up planet surface alongside my own. 

The long-buried secret no longer hidden from view is the return journey to my Self I’ve been traveling these many years now, arriving at the truth buried at birth: I am the wisdom, the understanding and the tools I was taught resided outside of me — that to be a seeker and a believer of God inherently meant the abdication of Self in exchange for service in His kingdom, that discipleship and devotion demanded I burn my own forest and call it faith. 

What has been required of me is also that which I buried deep inside of me: all that I am, have, know, and do in someone else’s name — giving not only all my talents, time and resources for the building, recruitment and regeneration of a man’s kingdom, but doing so at my own Self’s sacrifice, putting myself on the altar and striking the terminal wounds with my own hand, all the while celebrating my dedication to the life of another’s forest.

I traverse my own forest’s floors, creating trail markers on my newly-forged pathways, certain I do not want to wander from these paths again, ensuring all arteries lead me back to my Self, back to the truths I now know, understand and hold precious: I am the way, the truth and the light. I am the love I misunderstood was ever outside of me, was ever bigger than me, was embodied by a man holding a scepter of self-proclaimed power that I mistook for my personal proclamation. 

My forest’s secret teaches me that all paths lead to my own heart. My own heart houses and holds precious the truth of who I am and the strength of my own density is my gift and one I’m no longer hiding. 

I have unearthed this secret: I am the Love, the Light, the Way, and when I pursue these paths, others follow and find their own way, in their own heavily-wooded wanderings. We are all walking back home to ourselves, to the center of truth inside each of us and it’s not a secret that should be kept silent. It’s a secret I willingly declare and share.

Let me love you as I love me: with my whole soul.