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. 

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. 

Magic Mirror

I often felt like my life was hiding in plain sight, lost and unknown to myself but not even missing to anyone and everyone around me. You want a deflated life experience, try that. The thing is, I kept longing to follow a trail of bread crumbs I never dropped — back to a belonging I’d never experienced. How does one “unlost” herself if she doesn’t know to what or to whom she even belongs? Yeah, tricky. 

The only thing I had to go on was what was given to me at birth, on arrival: the framework of dogma and righteousness checklist prescribed for health, relationships, good grades, prosperity, productive habits, community service, peace, eternal life and general wellbeing that when followed all lead to happiness in this life, as well as in the life to come. That’s quite a prescription! 

Rumi says, “The wound is the place where the light enters you,” and so it was with me after I entered the candy-covered cottage of marriage only to discover its surprisingly dangerous occupant meant to consume me whole, to fatten me with the lies he force-fed me, slowly altering my appearance from the inside out so I wouldn’t even recognize myself, blocking my escape from the fairytale I never wanted. 

There is magic in mirrors and I defy anyone who tells me otherwise. My mirror mirror on the wall showed me that day the fairest truth of all:

You are not lost but found right here;
I never left, it’s crystal-clear.
The place you seek is herein found,
your heart is home and love abounds.
Just walk toward me,
come back inside.
My love is true and yours right now.
For I am you and you are me,
and all you ever need to see,
is what is you is love unbound,
there is no out there,
only here,
only always,
forever true.
The key to “found” is always “you.”