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. 

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.

Rumi’s Field

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
— Rumi

I am standing in the field of which Rumi writes, a field in which wrong and right do not exist and in their place exists something else entirely, perhaps it’s only Love. 

I am standing in the courage of my own conviction, the result of having shed the old patterns of outside authority, of having shakily let go of some others’ (some men) outside of me always knowing what is best and better for me than I know for me. 

Here in this field I am speaking, being, living my own authority. I am the knowing and the deciding and the doing. I see only so far as the headlights’ beams of my inner vision reach and it is far enough to move my Self forward, moving the casting light with me as I step and steer by my own choosing, here in this field of Love. 

The voice which I alone understand, which voice speaks the language of my heart, comes from deep within and I cast a line, hoping to secure my courage here in this field where Love resides and presides. Am I allowed to drop anchor in Love’s Field? Whose permission should I obtain? Is there a he here to tell me?

There are voices on the outside, voices that are not in or from the field, voices that reside in the luxurious judgment seats of wrong and right. They are loud, these declarations and condemnations against and for my comings and goings, my being, and my feeling. 

I remember Rumi promised to meet me “beyond [those] ideas,” and hear his weighted word in the delivery of an idea and then I feel the tug of my anchoring line, a reminder that their declarations are only ideas, theirs and not mine. 

My location in the Field is closer to its edge than I prefer. But I am IN the field and from this vantage point I can still see the inroads of my own Courage intersecting with the deeply-grooved dead-ends dug up over four decades of all the his’s declarations. Is Rumi here to meet me?

I grab my secured line and hold tightly, gently placing hand over heart over hand one beat at a time, one tug and then the next, and slowly pull and navigate my Authoritative Self closer to Center, closer to the Field’s Center, closer to the Great Heart of the Universe, closer to Love. Rumi is not here. He never meant to be.

Here is where She has been waiting all along: only Love is here. 

Meditation

Even though she is one of the last of the “wild women,” her connection to, and understanding of, the heart-whispered wisdom of her feminine forebears still lacks the finesse she yearns to embody. Is it written somewhere? Buried? Accessible? Can she read and study, commit to memory, journey to its truths and be transformed?

The earliest hours of the morning in the village that raised her are a precious and carefully-guarded treasure; these are hours she does not confide to anyone except to the Ancient Wild One: Divinity, Herself. 

As if a key-change is written and executed with perfect precision in the musical score of morning, her breath catches differently when it is tasked to open her eyes at the same time. And so begins her morning communion with the Ancient Wild One:

Breath

Eyes

Heart

I am here

Lying prone, arms relaxed at her side, the eyes once opened gently close with the deep exhalation of breath, awareness hovering in that space reserved for the sacred, the Holy of Holies, the innermost sanctuary: the heart. Here she wanders on purpose for the soul’s purpose of divine instruction, the seeking and exchange of the wisdom that comes only through these hallowed halls on whose walls are “written not with ink, but . . . in fleshy tables of the heart” (2 Cor 3:3). Here is where the Ancient Wild One resides and presides, always beating in time with the composition of her own living heart. 

What is the wisdom she seeks to know, to embrace, to embody today? 

“Is what I believe even allowed?”

The Ancient Wild One, Divinity, Herself, beats the question and the answer together in perfect harmony: 

Soft

Gentle

Allow

Love

The way through is Love.

What would Love allow?

Love is allowance.

Her heart, this Love, is the most powerful presence on planet surface; she is imbued with all of the ancient wisdom she keeps forgetting to remember is right here in this most sacred of rooms, her own inner sanctuary. 

The Divine Feminine — The Ancient Wild One — speaks, breathes and lives in, through, and as her. All that is written and buried is accessible on the insides of her gently closed lids, beating and breathing through Love’s lips, the heart-whispered wisdom of the Divine Collective. Love lives.