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. 

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. 

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. 

Hallelujah

A deep deep inhalation followed by a full-breathed exhale — the all at once kind, looking like the wind emoji and wondering if this is what is meant by life imitating art? My wondering takes me underneath the exhale, curious if I can name it, say out loud the source of this Hallelujah’s inception. I know there is power in a name. I remember that “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19), and if Mary kept her things to herself, should I, too, keep mine? 

My full-breathed exhales are my Hallelujah Collective, a chorus of sorts, and much like Handel in his writing of his own Hallelujah Chorus (much better-known than my own), “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself seated on His throne, with His company of Angels,” I know my exhales are full of the god in me accompanied by my own company of angels surrounding, lifting, and lighting my next breath forward. 

Notable Hallelujah’s:

— Every time his touching of me stopped. Always temporarily, but stopped. In those moments I exhaled.

— 9/11 peace accord with my Self, the confirmation that we two, she and me, would remain standing but on separate ground from him

— He agreeing, without dissertation or discussion of any kind, to my having full custody of our co-creation, my whole heart, my girl

— The signature from a credentialed-stranger, publicly decreeing a legal unbinding on the outside of what would take more years apart than ever together to undo what twisted up and bound my inside beliefs

— A name, my own from birth, restored as patronymic for only a small fee + the paperwork

— Another signature, many times repeated, binding me to a home, a place, a mortgage, my own alone

— Dance recitals, voice performances, graduations, life moments complete with staged photographs to capture forever the unbindable and impossible to capture love for this precious daughter

— Graduate work with my own heart, Spiritual Psychology, reviewing, revisiting, forgiving, reimagining, and reinventing my own breaths and transmuting them one at a time into my own Hallelujah Collective, here to be treasured, acknowledged, shared and seen. By me. By you. For the heavenly seeing of the god in me bowing to the god I was, only always doing the best she could.

And look at her now: breathing.

Hallelujah. 

The Enemy In Me

The dictionary defines enemy as “a person who feels hatred for, fosters harmful designs against, or engages in antagonistic activities against another; an adversary or opponent” and enemies as “persons, nations, etc., that are hostile to one another.”

Enemy feels so harsh inside of me, the insistence of one’s existence in relation to me a sucker punch directly to my gut and I resist the very thought of identifying anyone I know as one! But hostile? I can relate to that. Hostile is only “opposed in feeling, action, or character; antagonistic: as in hostile criticism.” Hostile is also defined as “not friendly, warm, or generous; not hospitable.” Hostile is gentler on my stomach than a sucker punch; merely the bloated discomfort from overeating combined with inactivity on Thanksgiving. 

Reflecting on the dictionary’s definition of hostile, my insides start to churn, my tummy hurts, my body constricts like the snake coiling around its own centermost point and I know there at my own centermost point I have found the enemy: residing inside of me.

I understand why it feels so harsh, that sucker punch directly to my gut, because my adversary is me. For a lifetime of choices, decisions, actions taken all in the name of forward movement, achievement, and accomplishment on the outside, my inside opponent was running interference and spreading counterintelligence to the very same body that was being given entirely different direction. I am a walking contradiction, living in opposition to and as myself. 

I didn’t know. I didn’t understand or comprehend how stealthily I was working my own subterfuge whose eventual success was my own demise. It’s two opposing forces simultaneously advancing but their meeting halts them both and no one moves ahead. No one wins. 

That upset inside of my gut was my lighthouse in the approaching storm, warning me of impending danger, even death, if I didn’t alter my course. But the course I had set and was navigating on autopilot seemed immovable and perfect in its path. 

Rumi says “The wound is the place where the light enters you,” or if you prefer Leonard Cohen’s version in his Anthem lyrics, “There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.” Suffice it to say I cracked; I looked in the mirror and didn’t recognize myself. I heeded the light warning me to steer clear of the rocks and by way of that redirection I exposed Rumi’s wound. 

I licked my wound for a long time, and by “long time” I mean YEARS. To be fair, I am not a professional and didn’t know the severity and depth of my wound. I was treating myself for a scrape with a bandaid but had a gaping head wound in need of specific and guided attention. 

My recovery has been slow and not always visible. I have suffered numerous setbacks. I have not always seen a way out or a way forward. I have been often at odds with my enemy within, one or the other of us discounting the voice that wasn’t our own. I have learned to speak a new language and now claim fluency, practicing its use every day. I am still healing. I am friends with me.

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. 

“Finding Nemo” taught me that “all drains lead to the ocean.” 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.