Schooled

Sitting on the edge of my daughter’s raised bed, legs and heart hanging listlessly over the side, I watch her unpack and arrange her laptop, her Bluetooth speaker, and a small picture of us that will be her replacement of me for the up-until-now daily seeing and being with her face. Lost in my own thoughts I maintain a steady stream of encouraging babble, suggestions for low-maintenance succulents and whether any additional throw pillows might be needed, all as a coverup for my inability to confront in conversation what I do not understand or have control over in my own heart: That my actual heart is not coming home with me today. I am leaving her here amongst the just-purchased pillows, tiny succulents, color-coordinated organizing bins and shared bathroom. Here with strangers who will become friends, no way to get or give a hug, and innumerable opportunities to discover and access the truth of how truly remarkable she is. 

“Mom! That’s internal misogyny and you need to check yourself.” 

Her accusation brings my full attention back to a conversation I can’t repeat on a straight line. “I’m sorry. What did you just say?”

“You need to check yourself.”

“No, the part before that — the term you used. What was it you said?”

“Internal misogyny?” 

“Yes,” I hear the words linked together and something clicks together inside my head. “Tell me what that means,” even though the knowing at hearing the words has already informed me.

“It means you, yourself, are a misogynist. Against yourself. You were raised that way — think about it. Everything in the church has taught you that you weren’t as important or as worthy as a man. And you believe it, so you speak it, live it, repeat it.” 

Listening to her define and describe these words, and my experience to me, I hear the truthfulness, the shocking awareness of her rightness, and I weep. For me. For the numerous dots that are suddenly being connected, for the shame at being caught as the one minimizing, mistrusting, misbelieving myself.

Quietly I thank her for showing me myself and my opportunity to unlearn what I have been conditioned to be and wipe away my tears for the moment.

We finish the unpacking, the organizing, the putting away of what’s obvious and right in front of us and walk our way back across the cold-tiled floors of her now common area, through the carpeted co-ed hallways smelling of cardboard and congestion, down the completely packed and awkwardly silent elevators, spilling ourselves into the lobby on the need-an-ID side of the security desk. Here we have our final hug in this public space.

Walking away from my Heart I feel the strings begin to loosen, and I weep openly for the loss of perceived control, for the seeing of the strings that have been in my hands all along and with gratitude that at 18 my Heart outside of my actual body knows more than this 43 year-old still beating body with more strings yet to clip. 

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. 

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.”