Planked Awareness

The aged wooden planks beneath my sandals reverberate just enough with each step to ignite my almost anticipatory sensory system, which is apparently the factory default setting in this body of mine. Sounds, smells, every leaf brand new to me as if for the first time, although I have been walking this same boardwalk plank through this ever-shifting bog garden for at least as long as many of these trees have been stretching toward their crowded skyline. 

I lean over the edge of the railing, putting as much as possible of the presence of the boardwalk behind my direct line of sight, minimize other visitors whose presence is audibly known, and initiate a manual fade on that feed line taking more concentration against my already-bogged sensory system. I’m looking for the knobby knees of the Bald Cypress trees that have gathered here, collected themselves into their own community amongst the ducks, the almost-always shallow side swamp to the larger but still-connected lake of some collective committee’s making, and down-stream and almost hidden from the other deciduous, but dirt-dwelling trees. 

I smile out loud and my laughter bounces off the nearby bamboo, dense in the aggregate knowing of its usefulness amidst any negative (and obviously completely false) rumors that sometimes get dropped by a passing robin too self-absorbed with his own shade of red to be bothered by what his beaked notes might mean to the wide-open ears of the bamboo below.

Next to me (and invited into my self-constructed cone of connectivity) on the elevated boardwalk, as I lean into my lean (those cypress nodes are consuming all of my attention), Curt points to a beautiful tree above my head and asks whether I know its name, his tone clearly indicating he is not asking, he is teaching. I do not recognize what appears to be a beautiful evergreen foliage, delicately interlacing her way through the intricate and interconnected branches of the treetop she calls her own. 

His grin immediately fills all seven acres of this luscious green garden space as he announces, “It’s the Bald Cypress!” 

My delight and my shock startle the birds in the branches above. I am immediately aware that this anticipatory sensory system I call my own has failed to focus on the two necessary parts of one self-sufficient ecosystem. The Bald Cypress’ knees so captivated me I did not overlook, but actually under-looked the very creation of this majestic multifaceted dweller on earth or underwater achiever. I am internally brought to my own knees, my sensory system recalibrating in real-time, coding my newly-propagated desire to always look in as many directions as the cypress stretches itself: up, down, around, under, and over me. I shift my lean back into full-standing alongside the Bald Cypress, my sandals exit the boardwalk planks; I leave only the remnants of my laughter to contribute to the aging of the planks.  

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. 

Axis of Power

I never believed or thought anything about my hair except it was long and I liked it that way. Sitting next to my husband of under two years watching the holiday movie, The Family Man, starring Nicholas Cage and Téa Leoni, I was absolutely smitten with Leoni’s entire on-screen vibe, adorably short hair, included. I spoke my affection out loud, “Wow! I love her hair so much” and like whiplash from being hit from behind, my world’s axis was grabbed by its throat, my flailing hands scrambled to pry away the fingers of the perpetrator, too alarmed to admit the only one present and beside me all along, was my husband.

“You can never cut your hair,” was the coolly, leveled-at-me one-line throat punch I didn’t see coming. Assuming he was joking, or playing with me a little bit because of course he liked my hair, but it was my hair, up until that moment that it wasn’t. There had been a transference of power, of ownership, of axis, and I had not known my body was the battlefield and the bounty in one. “What do you mean, ‘I can’t ever cut my hair’?” I bandied back, skipping my words over to him, keeping my lightness and heart holding onto that which I believed to be mine, never not for a moment until this moment now ever considering the possibility I possessed something that could or would be taken from me. He did not skip with me, nor did he hold my hand while I was playing right there next to him; his words sliced with a razor’s edge, “Your hair belongs to me. It’s part of our prenuptial agreement. You can never cut it.”

(We have no such thing and never ever not for a moment of breath coming out of me was spent on my hair’s discussion or to whom it belonged or didn’t belong, over who held the rights to its length, style, design, or its color, all of which were hanging in this unbalanced breathless space between us and next to me here on the sofa, Téa Leoni paused on the screen in front of me, adorably short hair on semi-permanent display).

I didn’t know I could stand my ground, hold my position, resist his infiltration. These were not the lessons taught or the tools, like scissors, I had been shown how to use. I didn’t want to cut my hair, had never wanted to cut my hair, had cried for days in the second grade when my mother traded me a sucker for a haircut (my sister betrayed me, used her words to convince me this was a great idea, a beautiful outcome guaranteed, and when the deed was done and I stood looking at my shorn head in shock, she claimed the sucker as her own even though the hair stolen was mine and had nothing to do with her; she had not grown it, it did not live on her head, no loss was living in her heart) and suddenly not being “allowed” to do so was my body’s axis being forcibly removed, transferred, claimed, pillaged and my hair’s destiny was now someone else’s plunder. And the rapist and pillager was sitting right next to me.

Never to not be right next to me ever again for any and for all visits to the hairdresser who was no longer mine to claim because my hair was no longer mine to have and to hold. Rather, the self-appointed general assumed his power pose with a half smile (reserved for the lesser ranks) on his salon-facing face, orchestrating, visioning, and directing the handling of each lock I had loved. Bound in the black smock of complicity, my neck held, but not supported, in the sink’s cradle, my scalp burned, the flames stretching, reaching, licking the entire circumference of my skull, the shame I felt smoldering inside showing itself only briefly with one tear’s escape down the side of my face not facing his, while my tresses were transformed into his vision of a great idea, of beauty guaranteed, was to me an unrecognizable mass of Barbie. Bleached-blonde. My Self muted in this his strategic coup against my crown. Shame became my shroud, my sense of Self buried deep beneath the public-facing Barbie hair head held by him, proudly parading his trophy (wife) through one multiple of five years, the scalping, like an honor killing, repeated every 3 months, always standing in his power pose over me: bound, held, and burning for his pleasure, in spite of my ever-present pain.

And in the morning of the fifth year I saw my Self in the mirror and She said to me, “I miss you. I love you. You are still here. I see you.” My tears like a raging river washed clean the battlefield of the body (turned bounty) I occupied and I staged my own revolution: my reclamation of Self. And the lessons I had not been taught were instead forged in the fires of my quarterly burnings, branded on my heart, and I brandished my Love of Self like a pair of deftly-wielded scissors and cut my Self out of that five-year fealty, leaving only those Barbie locks — belonging never to me — in my wake, waking in the sovereignty of my own shorn head and the axis of my own power restored.

Curiosity

I have noticed the absence of curiosity and creativity in me is a byproduct of being out of integrity with myself. So perhaps curiosity isn’t what killed the proverbial cat, but rather the perpetuation of my own damaging and self-minimizing behaviors that kills, or at the very least smothers, the curious in me. Great news: No cats were harmed in the creation or covering up of anyone’s curiosity! PETA will be so pleased.

Liz Gilbert talks about following her curiosity, and invites her readers to do the same, in her marvelous book, “Big Magic,” which I have read no fewer than five times. Its being remembered by me in this moment of putting words on the page about curiosity is perhaps my inner counselor nudging me — yet again — to explore this trail of breadcrumbs that feels suspiciously like a rhythmic pounding in my own chest, one beat for every metaphorical breadcrumb, leading me deeper into what I hope will find me falling down a rabbit hole where I will land in my own Wonderment. Because Alice shows me how to explore, how to say YES, how to be “‘Curiouser and curiouser!’ . . . (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).” And then Alice’s laughter invoked the admonishment of the Queen to “[believe] as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” 

Six impossible things (at least) I’ve believed since breakfast today:

1. I am seen.

2. My voice matters.

3. Credentials are a matter of perspective.

4. I am a writer.

5. I can make all my dreams come true.

6. I possess all the inner resources I need to accomplish all that I imagine.

As an undergraduate student I was required to take a 100-level English course: Freshmen English, essentially. I randomly selected one of many classes offered to fulfill the requirement, knowing nothing about the class or its professor, other than it was a box to check and the class I selected was not being taught by a grad student. I had no idea the impact that class and that professor would have on my life. 

Debra Monroe — in her purple tights, sometimes green, black (most often) witch’s broomstick skirts, and curly strands of hair that insisted on liberating themselves from any attempt she might have made at securing them in place — was the breath of life I inhaled the moment I walked through her classroom door. She represented, embodied, and modeled for me everything every cell in my body longed to believe it, too, could BE: smart, well-read, articulate, funny, a listener, a looker between the lines of life, a teacher, a friend, a woman in ownership of her creativity, engaging, a mentor, a writer, liberated. 

I relished every single lecture, devoured every piece of feedback (and my god! her feedback on my writing was voluminous!), took copious notes I still possess today (30 years later they remain a prized possession), signed up and showed up for every single office hour opportunity available to me, took additional classes she offered not because I had much (a little) interest in her subjects, but because I had a vested interest in her BEing-ness, her “muchness,” as Alice’s Mad Hatter shows me is even a possibility because perhaps before Debra, I didn’t know because no one had ever shown me, there lies a latent muchness inside of me. 

Today my curiosity in the form of my beating heart reminds me to remember that once upon a time thirty years ago, a marvelous and magical woman named Debra delighted at my seeing Heathcliff on the Commons (she even wrote about that in one of her published papers), encouraged me to keep putting words on the page because my words were good, introduced me to follow my curiosity in my reading of D.H. Lawrence’s “The Rocking Chair,” inspired me to declare English as my undergraduate major, entrusted her dog to my care outside of school hours, responded to my finding her on Facebook, and today follows me on my social media platforms, telling me still I am seen. 

“You’re not the same as you were before,” he said. You were much more. . . muchier. . . you’ve lost your muchness.” is perhaps just a reminder from the Mad Hatter who masquerades as Curiosity, itself, a suggestion that perhaps it’s time to breathe in again the deep inhalations of what it is to be in integrity and alive in my own words. 

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. 

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.

Magma

You know how you just know when you’re moving into a new chapter of life? For me the sensation is akin to Mary Poppins’ declaration, “I shall stay until the wind changes.” That’s how it’s always felt for me, like the subtle but immediately noticeable scent the rain leaves when it strikes the pavement on a summer August afternoon and the next afternoon it’s raining autumn. 

I’m considering writing a book about the chapters of my life and wondering how many chapters one life is allotted? And what might my chapter headings read?

1. The Early Years

2. Educated — Striking Out On My Own

3. What Russia Taught Me at 21

4. Marriage, Motherhood and Misbeliefs

5. Divorce Part 1 — What I Left Behind

6. Nancy’s Couch

7. Divorce Part 2 — What I Created

8. Learning to Live Without

9. How Grief Taught Me to Parent Myself

10. On Death, Dying and Being Myself

Reading that out loud to myself is an interesting energetic progression from up to down, to backtrack out of sheer curiosity, to leave me wondering at my own journey. What is the title of this next chapter? This chapter, whose imminent arrival was foretold on the first of the last winter days, spring and my day of birth beckoning me forward and toward them. 

Ocean basins, mountain ranges, islands, volcanoes, and earthquakes are all formed and/or occur because the ocean floors are continually moving. The moment of impact for those of us occupying the planet always seems sudden and unexpected, as if Mount St. Helens decided in that very 1980s May moment to spew her opinion up and out and down her own sides. But just as Piero Ferrucci reminds us that “The transformation has begun long before we become aware of it,” so, too, did Helen’s eruption on a Sunday not come about at her bedtime on the previous Saturday night, or even as she stretched her arms open on that transformational morning. It was just the moment a new chapter heading got assigned, but it certainly wasn’t the beginning of her book; nor would it be her ending, either. 

There is magma moving deep within my heart, beating out the rhythm of me. My chapters will continue to be written as I continue to erupt on the scene of this life I’m living, again and again.

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.