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. 

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.

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.”