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.

Let Go

The pain screams louder than my tight-faced silence. I can’t catch my breath. Forget sneezing; I cry just at the thought. I find relief only in a hot bath; the water holds my body afloat and without any pressure from any direction my body is free, floating and pain-free. I love my time in the tub: napping, dreaming, singing, smiling, pondering. 

Ready to remove myself from bliss (the water temperature had become tepid so obviously time to move out and on to warmth somewhere else), I pushed gently with my outstretched toes against the end of the tub to propel my entire body into an upright position. Well-before I could be upright I first had to come back into bodily contact with the tub wall. The pressure/weight generated by my tiny toes was enough to create full back contact instantly. And in that instant my back screamed from the agonizing pain and I cried out in response: I am so sorry you’re hurting! What do you need from me? What do you need me to know? How can I help you? Talk to me, please.

And Pain whimpered, “Just let go.” 

Anxious to appease I begged for more information, Let go of what? I’ll do it; I’ll let go of whatever you want, just tell me what it is. 

No verbal response, only short measured breaths because breathing is hard when it’s so painful to do. Lingering not much longer I eased my way up and out of the water, still questioning what was mine to release, to let go. Going back through my chain of events, seeking direction, inspiration, a clue. Where and why had this pain begun at all? I had been quick to blame, I realized, quick to judge a building of a retaining wall on this back of mine. But in review I could easily see there had been no “incident,” no cause; just a moment of bending over to lift cut azalea branches from the ground — a moment among many of proving I can do all of this by myself, of showing I am doing all the things, all the time, all alone. 

But for what? For why? For how long? So many years of being in my masculine, of being the one and only one to consistently show up on my own behalf, to be in charge, responsible, providing, nurturing, loving, feeding, clothing, driving, talking, counseling, cleaning, cooking, disciplining, working, ordering, organizing, managing, responding, learning, teaching, volunteering, serving, traveling, entertaining, supporting. All while emphatically stating, nay declaring, “I don’t need a man. I don’t ever want to need a man again. I just want to want one. I only want to need to share my life with a man because I am whole and complete all by myself.” And I meant what I said because what I said made sense to me. It calmed and appeased that afraid place inside me that was so hurt and repulsed by my having needed and been hurt, abused, scorned and made to feel wrong for it. Those are deep places in my body that remember. 

Oh my I remember now in this moment as I write. I remember that other moment of needing my husband to see me, to hear me, to care for me because I couldn’t take care of myself and he said NO and I stepped outside to breathe the sunshine’s inspiration and that breath triggered a sneeze and that sneeze was larger than my sadness and at the top of the sneeze my heart popped and that’s where this pain lives — right there in the ribs Adam donated to my Eve. Those ribs we were meant to have as equals, as partners, as much as a needing can be had; it’s written right there in my ribs surrounding and holding my heart. Is this the “Just Let Go” my pain keeps telling me? 

In that bending over for the azalea branches the popping reminder of who I am and have always been? I am the Feminine: receptive, loving, graceful, beauty, divine and don’t need to do all the doing because sharing ribs, sharing spaces that hold our hearts is necessary and sharing me is needing you? My wanting to share myself with you is my needing you. I can’t do and carry and lift and manage and plan and execute and organize and drive and dictate and expect and operate and haul. Those aren’t mine to do. They’re mine to receive. You are mine to receive. You are mine to want and to need. I want to need you. 

I need you and I love how that feels to see and to say that with my outside voice repeating what my heart from inside my Adam’s ribs whispers to me, “Just let go, Arminda. Don’t hold onto what’s not yours.” My pain, my ribs, my heart holder beats, “Let go and receive, Let go of the wall, the water will hold you; it’s what water is meant to do: surround and hold you afloat.”

Yes, I’m saying YES to that. 

The Science of Hiking

I used to want not wanting. I say I consciously chose that path, but it was more my path by default. 

The Default Experience explained in Scientific Methodology:

The What

The Who

The When

The Where, and

The Why

WHAT: raped for first time

WHO: my husband

WHEN: my wedding day

WHERE: queen-sized bed, standard white sheets, dark drapes drawn, DO NOT DISTURB sign dangling

WHY: he never told me why

5.5 years of being his rape and pillage pet project on daily repeat because you know the song eventually gets old after playing it 3-5 times a day. At least I got tired, or woke up to being played so often. I stormed out of his record store. And by “stormed out,” I mean packed the one thing of greatest value we didn’t share anyway and with her tiny 3 1/2 year-old hand in mine we flew over the Rockies, the sunflower fields, the Kansas that never ends, Huck and Jim’s mighty Mississippi, and the ancient Appalachians and landed home again.

Of course I chose not wanting to be touched, not wanting to be seen, not wanting to be objectified, not wanting to be wanted in any way by any him. Not anytime. Probably not ever. 

But not ever didn’t last forever. I hiked my own Appalachian Trail with every therapist visit, with every non-existent child support check I wasn’t cashing, with every plea on behalf of her tiny hand for involvement, engagement, or interest, with every late night luxury cry session only when I knew those tiny hands were asleep. 

I may only have been at trail marker 749 when I said yes to a dinner. Marker 853 brought yes to a boyfriend, a relationship, co-hiking for maybe a few months on the trail. As the miles passed I replaced socks and boots, tended blisters and sores that couldn’t be avoided, hiking buddies who stayed a short while and others for longer, but none who wanted to complete the journey with me. And none with whom I wanted to see the view from the top or with whom I want to share stories and laughs on the return climb.

I keep looking, wondering where he might be — that elusive partner with boots already laced, already on the trail, no preamble needed, just fall in-step next to me because next to me is where he chooses to be and on top of me is where I choose to share me. No scientific experimentation required for later unpacking. Please — just carry out what you carry in, with only the added heart growth guaranteed from healthy exertion. 

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.”

Hurry!

It’s already raining. A lot. No breaks in the drops. Too late to build my boat, I suppose. But if I could rewrite the rain I would.

Would I?

What if I catch the gutter rush as it surges past that point just above my ankles but below my shins. What’s left to do is fold my boat. There is still time!

Christopher and I were ready when we first heard the whip of the thunder crack, moments that seemed like hours before the dark afternoon room filled with the brightness of lightning tinged with the sweet scents of hot pavement steamed to perfection. 

Jumping to action we fold our newsprint as quickly as our ink-heavy fingers allow, laughter baiting each other faster. Is his vessel better or mine? Who has a better technique for the front bow fold versus the stern? The port and starboard sides? Just fold — what you know you know and no judgment or self-recrimination will float you now. 

Hurry! The storm is fast. There’s a perfect window to be timed — it opens while it’s still raining, but not as heavily, and the thunder has stopped, which means no lightning, and the floods are coursing downstream at full speed because they can’t get to the gutter fast enough. 

Hurry! No time for shoes or galoshes! Four bare feet racing, laughter propelling us onward — are we in a swimming pool? My feet tickle with squishy grass, mud and worms on the surface. My face is wet with fresh rain plus what the oak tree dropped on my perma-grin fixed pose. I will win. 

Hurry! Expand your port and starboard folds — create your base — just put it in the water! No time for adjustments. What’s done is done. You are done. It’s up to the gutter gods now. The rush is here! I step into the live stream, debris of leaves, twigs and my own giggles course past my bare legs. Laughter carries the two floaters forward, toppling, collapsing, tumbling into, with and around each other. No one cares. We laugh their way forward.

Both boats are victors, soggy and wasted with pleasure having fulfilled the measure of their creation, retrieved for disposal after giving their everything  — and so the parade commences, barefoot, high march steps, wet grassy path, we’re “Singin’ in the rain! Just singin’ in the rain! What a glorious feeling, I’m happy again!” 

Until the next storm. . . .