Morning Calisthenics

Morning Calisthenics

I made it to the beach today in time to catch the sun peep over the horizon, a sight that usually thrills me. I was glad to be there, eager to expend some muscle energy in this time of enforced stillness. But my groove never really caught. My eyes kept drifting to the heavy clouds above; this sense of foreboding was not what I got up early for. Even my trudging on the thick sand felt weighted, clumsy, and the tide was high. Not the best walking circumstances. I thought maybe that was it.

But within minutes I knew. It was gonna be a different kind of walk this morning… Grief, if you walk with it long enough, has a strong kind of muscle memory to it. You sense the aching gray moving into your spirit and you know immediately what is in store. The muscles of your heart line up in formation; it’s not the exercise you had planned today… but make no mistake, it is going to be a workout. Reluctant emotional calisthenics, like your least favorite gym teacher surprised you at the beach and blew her start whistle right in your face. “Aaaandddd, JUMP!”

But I know the drill. This bitch will not be stopped. It’s better to flow with the movements rather than attempt to fight them off. The only way through it is through it. So I followed… I opened my heart to let it feel the coming pain… his leaving… his absence… the grayness that lies ahead. When my headphones cued up the romantic Carly Simon ballad, I let the tears rip, the agony race through my mind. The bitch had access to my playlist, and I let her have it. Sometimes this release must have its way. You may think you’re doing okay, as well as can be expected when the love of your life gets a terminal cancer diagnosis. And you are, you’re made of strong stuff. But this ripping apart is visceral, bone deep. It’s both agonizingly slow and brutally fast. Time seems to crawl, and yet it also bears down on you like an angry locomotive, your feet tied to the tracks as the villain twirls his curling mustache. Yes, there is a cartoon aspect to all of this, like you’re watching this unfurl in the worst movie, one you never wanted to see. It can’t be real, but then there’s the medicines and charts lined up on the kitchen counter. This can’t be happening, but your days follow the rhythms of his pain patches and doctor appointments. Time can be capricious; she is either your merciful friend or a ruthless dominatrix. These forces are greater than you. You cannot fight them. So let yourself sob, Kevan. You know all too well the pain that lies before you.

When we lost our son seven years ago, it was out of nowhere. We woke up one morning, and he was dead in his bed downstairs. So that pain was all reactive, like the world’s biggest bandaid was ripped suddenly from our very hearts, leaving them shredded and smoking. Having notice is very different, and quite surreal. Who knows what is better/worse? Can that even be calculated? There are few easy ways to leave the planet, and apparently none when it comes to being left behind. But we are both grateful people, who recognize each day as the gift that it is. Even the ones that begin with tears flowing on a dawn beach. I know that if I hadn’t experienced a love as amazing as ours has been, as unexpected and tenacious and mind-boggling as ours, it wouldn’t hurt so much to know that he is leaving. I will try to accept the terms of this devilish bargain, understanding that even in this there is a gift.

The rain began even as I made it back to the parking lot, and it felt right. I’ve always loved when the weather mirrors my soul so perfectly. As I walked toward my car I let the sobs rip, my chest opening to the release of pent up grief. My hand was stretched to the car door as I spotted the silver van pull into the lot, my heart stopping when I realized that he was pulling up to me, catching me in the act of missing him before he’d even left. “Oh Sug, what’s wrong?” he asked, his bony hand reaching out for mine. “I just love you so much,” I cried, letting our intimacy make everything clear. We clasped hands for a long few minutes, the rain doing all the talking between us. He said that he loved that the universe had brought him to me at just that moment. I nodded and thought of it as a knockout to the grief bitch, a shot to the head, her shrill whistle tumbling to the rain-soaked ground. It won’t stop her completely. She’ll be back another day. But for today, right now, I hold tightly to his hand for as long as I can.

To Kevan on Her 18th Birthday

To Kevan on Her 18th Birthday

Dear Kevan,

First of all, you made it, girl. You got through it all because you’re strong, and you’re loved. You just don’t know it yet, it’ll take a while. But you’re going to be amazed once you discover all the love around you. You will even come to see this rough beginning as a gift. Not the best gift you’ll ever get, or one you’d even want, but you’ll see. Because of all those years of sorrow and pain, you’ll have an appreciation for love that most don’t get. And guess what? Love begets love, girl. And the river is wide. You’ve got so much goodness ahead of you. But here’s few tips that might make the road a bit safer.

You’re gonna want to start over on all the things you’ve come to believe about yourself. None of them are healthy, they will not serve you well. Open your mind up to the possibility that there is goodness in you, and everyone else too for that matter. Try to maybe find one good thing within yourself each week, and work on letting it settle inside. Those holes and wounds you’re carrying are gonna send you to some dark places if you don’t begin to replace them with healthy truths. And since we’re on the subject, all those guys sniffing around? That’s not love, girl. Not even close. That’s another hard lesson you’ve got in front of you. If you don’t value yourself no one else will either. You’re worth way more than you think you are, and you’re communicating your low self esteem in so many ways you don’t even know about yet. Put some clothes on, start reading some good books.

Speaking of books, you don’t know this yet either, but you’re pretty smart. All that reading when you were a kid paid off. You’re not acting all that wise, but it’ll come. Oddly enough, it will be a man who opens up this truth to you. A pastor who becomes like a father to you. A real father, not the nutballs you’re used to. Yeah, a pastor, you didn’t see that one coming, did you? That’s really where your healing will begin, and it will open the door to some wild goodness that you can’t even imagine yet. Don’t look now, but you’re gonna fall HARD for Jesus Christ. Stop laughing, it’s true. What’s so funny, He’s only the best cat there ever was, I ain’t even kiddin’. Dude, you think you’re a rebel?! He’s turns the whole planet upside down. But you’ll see, just don’t waste your energy fightin’ it. It will open the door to some of your best growth and friendships ever, even a family. You’ll get the chance to rewrite your story of family. Oh yeah, don’t panic, but you’re gonna get married and have kids, and its gonna be amazing. No, I know, I know, you don’t believe me. You think you know so much, girl…. Get ready to unlearn a whole lot of misinformation you’ve been carrying around for years. Don’t feel bad, all young people think they know everything. But yeah, humility is a very cool thing, another game changer you’ll learn in those church years.

About those years…. Its gonna be a really mixed bag for you. LOTS of blessings. Oh relax, it’s just a word! Don’t get hung up on words. “Blessing” is just goodness bestowed, and you’ve got lots comin’ your way. So anyway… those Jesus years will bring you the first hope you’ve ever had, and some of those teachings will open you up to the idea of getting married. The kid thing will just happen…. You gotta be cool when your man gets outta jail, it’s an easy time to get sloppy with the birth control lol. But that’s okay, that was all part of the plan, the one you didn’t know about. Kids will be the mother of all game changers lol. Well, actually you’ll be the mother, if you can imagine that. I know, weird. But that’s the thing about turning worlds upside down. Jesus likes that shit. You’ll spend quite a few years in the church stuff, and weirdly, those will be the best years of your life, the ones you’d most like to return to. But there will always be elements that feel off to you, parts that you will have a hard time with. You’re gonna do pretty well at staying true to yourself in those situations. Eventually the gap will widen to the point where you have to walk. It’ll be brutal for you to leave your first real family, but you gotta be true to yourself.  Try not to bite the hand that feeds you though; remember it was actually in the church where you first began to even find yourself. Be gracious and kind when it’s time to walk away, and bless them on the way out the door.

Okay, the kid stuff. Here’s the thing: you’ll do the best you can. You’ll love them with all your heart. It will bust your heart wide open, and leave it walking around completely and utterly exposed to whatever comes along. It’s rough stuff, I’m not gonna lie. But here’s my best tips: don’t compare yourself to other mothers, and learn to forgive yourself for the mistakes you WILL make. Just let them know you love them, over and over. They’ll get sick of it, but whatever, do it anyway. In the really rough years, there will be times when you don’t actually get to FEEL the love you have for some of them, but don’t worry. It’s always there. Oh, and Kevan, I need to try to warn you… as best I can… they’re not really YOURS. You may be called upon to give one up before you’re ready. All I can say is it won’t kill you. It’ll just feel like it will.

Now, marriage. Dude, another shocker, I know. More of the Jesus stuff, but you two will actually surprise a lotta people with this one. You have a big heart, and you’re gonna need every drop of love you’ve got. As science predicts, the child of addicts chooses an addict; the worst kind of familiarity. Sorry, but addiction is the crimson thread that runs like a river through your whole life. Again, one of those mixed bag things. Broken people will always be your tribe, the place where you feel most at home. That will be a beautiful thang once you get the real hang out of it, but that will take many years, many tears. Through this you will learn that sometimes the greatest gifts contain the greatest sorrows, and vice versa. But you and Paul will cling to one another through every wild wave, even the ones you cause yourselves. His addiction doesn’t make you the better partner. Remember that always, because his public messes will make it easy for you or others to make that wrong assessment. His heart is golden, and he loves you deeply. Those messes are not indicative of his love for you; once you get that, you’ll do a lot better. Be merciful always. Who doesn’t need mercy? You two will be as shocked as everyone else by the longevity of your marriage and your deep friendship, but that will only cause you to treasure it all the more as the gift it really is. As long as you both have breath, give each other everything.

I’ll try to wrap this up, I didn’t mean to go so long. You’ll be someone who truly values and honors friendships, although that will take a while too. Forgive yourself for those early mess-ups; again, you were always driven by your wounds in the early years, but that happens to a lot of us. Growing up takes a minute. You’ll have your father’s passion for music. Go to all the live shows you can, but remember, Sly will always show up late, if at all, as will Lauryn Hill. You’re fortunate to make it to the generation that offers you all the music you could ever want for free in your pocket. That alone was worth stickin’ around for. Try to be kind as much as possible as much of the time as you can. You’ll never regret that. And that thing you have for checkout people? That’s a good thing, more of that. I feel like I want to warn you or offer you some help with the food issues that will plague you and many of your gender and generation throughout your life… but we don’t have that kind of time. Do the best you can. If you remember to love yourself it might not mess with you as much. Aging is a privilege. But you’re a pretty grateful person, I think you get that. So keep on keepin’ on, girl. You got this.

Fay and Corona; A Love Story For Our Times

Fay and Corona; A Love Story For Our Times

Here’s the thing. I’m wired for positivity. That one fact I think makes me look a lot better than I actually am, in my heart of hearts. When handed bad news, my mind begins ticking quickly, looking for the way out, the silver lining. Searching for the hidden happy like a compass seeks the north, quivering steadily until it lands.

Once I’ve found my direction, I can head that way, implementing whatever tools I find along the road. And I’m a good Finder of Tools. However, it’s when I’m walking down the road that my shell first begins to crack. My human reactions, my true feelings start to bubble to the surface. So I’m slower to crumble maybe than others, but it’s happening, baby. It’s just all internal, unknown even to me, the overly optimistic host.

So when I first hear of a deathly virus bearing down upon me, and my husband with stage 4 cancer, I don’t have a big reaction. Actually, my reaction to Paul’s cancer diagnosis in early winter, was strangely muted as well. Both of these things have felt otherworldly to me, so surreal that I have a hard time taking them seriously in the beginning. Even as the pounds fall from Paul daily before my eyes, I have the hardest time wrapping my brain around it. Until suddenly I do, and then the torrential tears threaten my very breath.

That’s what I mean about appearances being deceiving. I may look strong but I’m really just still absorbing. Not so much a pillar of strength as a snail of comprehension. But no apologies. No one can help their wiring, right? Like Popeye, I ams what I ams. But anyway, back to the Corona monster straddling NYC skyscrapers, holding Fay Wray gently in his monstrous paw… hard to take that stuff seriously at first, right?!

I mean, I watch a bit of news, not a lot. Maybe 20 minutes in the morning, occasionally 20 more at day’s end, but not regularly for sure. The days of newspapers are long past, so like most of us I pick up my understanding of current events through osmosis, on my phone. Which is to say that I have no real factual source of news, certainly if that is my venue. Everything we absorb reaches us through filters today; the old school models of news information are obsolete now. Remember the 5 W’s we learned: who, what, when, where, why? Our information is now gathered through partisan filters, so the virus is either a democratic hoax or a republican failure. News seems fear-driven right now, less informative than I need it to be to begin to really understand the threat against me, and particularly Paul. Since I feel I have limited understanding of the genuine threat level, I look at something shiny instead. I go on with my day. I don’t know if it’s so much head-in-the-sand as it is I’ll catch up with y’all later, I’ve got stuff to do.

I’m fortunate in that I have plenty to keep me busy. I’d been falling way behind in my mosaics production without Paul’s gluing help, so I spend time each day working on those. I’d also started working with repurposed cotton clothing and paints shortly before the virus, and it’s an art form that I really enjoy. I’d picked up about 40 articles of clothing right before the shutdown so that has helped to keep me busy too. A good friend and I are working with writing prompts pretty much daily and that has been a great source of  entertainment and, well, illumination too. Which brings me right up to today’s topic: how has the virus and its attendant quarantine affected me?

And I guess all of the preceding adds up to say: I’m not sure yet.  I don’t think the effects are coming at me head-on yet. I’m still optimistic. The beaches are closed, but true to form, I strongly believe they’ll reopen shortly in a limited fashion. I still have plenty to do. I get to sit and read a bit sometimes, and that is something I rarely had time to enjoy before. But look…. all of those are surface responses…..

Am I afraid? Honestly, yes, I’m a little scared. What will our world look like when we finally emerge? Will there be resources? Commerce? Who will have money to spend? I feel a bit frightened for my kids, and their kids. This virus does feel like King Kong, who knows what other monstrous event lies ahead? Did we ever think the whole planet would close down like this?

Am I sad? Yes, I’m a bit sad too. I can’t even see my daughter and her family, because they still work and Paul in particular is so high risk for the virus. I miss them terribly, and I miss my friends a lot too. I’m a very social person. I like being alone and I get recharged in my solitude, but my norm is many hangouts and fun activities with friends each week. I miss my community, at Pie in the Sky, at the farmers markets we do each week, my peeps. Straight up, I miss my people greatly, and this saddens me. I’m also very much an outdoors person and this is the best weather of the year. We’re missing a fantastic spring, a gift we can no longer count on each year, so I feel this loss hugely. Yes, I have my windows open, I walk constantly, and spend time in my yard. Believe me when I tell you this cannot replace outdoor hangs with friends, cafes, beach visits, lighthouse climbs. These are my necessities. Or I guess now…. they once were. This is a new day.

But. Those are things I feel. My honest feelings. I also must consider what I believe.

I wasn’t always an optimist. In fact, when I was a child my feelings were pretty dark most of the time. My childhood was one long unhappiness in which I felt trapped always. I never stopped thinking of escape, which actually maybe was optimism now that I think of it. And once I got out I found great relief in being happy, and in being free to create more happiness. That didn’t come quickly or easily, I had a lot to recover from, but it did come. And since that time I’ve held on to it tightly, even through some very hard times. My wiring rose up and began to dominate; my needle formed neuropathways in the direction of north. North is now my DNA. And my experience is that I’ve never gone hungry. I might not have had much but I’ve always had enough, for me and those I love. I’ve seen miraculous supply and presence. I’ve felt myself carried by Love too many times to ever discount it. I’ve been trained by life to believe in goodness and rewarded for believing in it. It is actually its own reward, and I embrace that with every part of me. This is my core belief and it informs my feelings, so I am doubly armed in this Corona battle. In every fight actually, and it’s a good thing. I’ve got some tough days ahead of me.

But we all do right now. We have dark days head and we have opportunity before us to be light bearers. Some days I’m gonna be not brushing my teeth and shoveling pizza in my face to comfort myself. And some days I’m gonna be sending out sunny beams of hope to the pizza shovelers. I’m going to allow myself to have both days without judgment. I’m not going to pressure myself to be all good or berate myself to believe I’m all bad. King Kong would love that and I’m not giving him the satisfaction. Fay Wray was able to find goodness in the beast and I’m going to do the same. I just won’t look as cute.

 

TREASURES

TREASURES

When we drove back to our small island home after Hurricane Michael, our expectations were low, I must say. We’d seen videos on Facebook of properties around the corner, waves splashing wildly against windows and doors. And it had been a few days of imposed exile since the storm had passed through; as seasoned islanders we knew enough to expect a smelly, soggy mess. Still, knowing and seeing are too different things. Our hearts sank as we opened the front door and saw a heavy wooden chest had floated across the room, landing finally on what remained of our living room couch.

My art room was once a garage, so it sits a good six inches lower than the rest of the house, right off the living room. I had watched the weather reports and lifted everything off the floor. Like I said. seasoned islander. I had begged my husband to help me lift the rest of the house but he was insistent that we would have no flooding, and I couldn’t lift the heavy furniture on my own. I tried to believe that he was right, and the rest of our home remained unprepared. Interesting that I’d lifted all of my art supplies and left my clothing in low drawers. The water line was close to two feet off the ground, coming fortunately right to the bottom of the switch plates. It was a very hard and sobering reentry.

But we’re both wired for positivity and used to hard work, so we set to it immediately. Paul saw to our ruined appliances, heating and air services, and I began to drag out all of our sopping, ruined belongings to the front yard. As is common after huge storms, the weather was beautiful, the sun shining gloriously over the stinking debris that began to pile up on the street as stunned neighbors began the islander’s slow dance of recognition and recovery. Never pretty. We’ve always been fortunate to have good friends in our life, and our house was filled within an hour of our arrival with friends who had not been affected, showing up to scrub, tote, and comfort.

I have to say, I didn’t love it, but I wasn’t that upset. I kept saying, “It’s only stuff. We’ll be fine.” And I meant it, I swear. I’ve never cared all that much about material things, and I was way more aggravated about the amount of work ahead of us than I was about losing furniture or clothing. My cheery attitude stayed with me through that whole long, soggy day, hours of stinky, discouraging work. But honestly, I was so grateful for the help of my good friends, so buoyed by their love, that I wasn’t really that disturbed.

Until I opened that old, wooden trunk that had floated. I’d forgotten that it had ben filled with our family photo albums. At that point it had only been five years since the death of our second son, Zachary. I was as okay as I was ever going to be in my recovery from that soul-shaking loss, but I was going to be a lot less okay if I’d also lost all my pictures of him growing up. We never had money for a video camera, but I was always taking photographs of the kids, and I was the one person in the family who regularly took out the albums and looked at them. The wail that arose from the pit of my heart when I realized what had been in that trunk was feral, and from that moment on my bravado was GONE. I cared nothing for the clothing, food, furniture, any of it. All I cared about was rescuing these photos, if at all possible.

By the time I found them, the sticky pages had been deteriorating for a good 3, 4 days, and the edges of them were smearing, the colors blending into disconcerting swirls edging toward the center. My tears flowed unabashed as I ripped each photo from its page, out of probably 20 albums, carefully laying them on towels spread in the sun. I had felt a secret pride in my ability to let it all go hours earlier, but this discovery humbled me, brought me to my knees in agony. And I stayed there for a few days, working my way through those photos, saving as many as could possibly be saved. Weeping anew over many images, many memories of my sweet family, my precious son. The news and the neighborhood was filled with tales of calamitous loss, suffered by so many in our tiny island town and its neighboring areas. But my world had grown very small, contained to a growing pile of old photos, warped but each one carefully wiped dry and welcomed back.

I no longer use photo albums, although I am unusual in that I still take and print photos. I love remembering, celebrating moments of joy and fun. I keep them now though in a large antique ceramic bowl, placed by my living room couch, the area in which we are most likely to gather with each other or guests. The bowl is within reach of anyone who sits down, the photos openly spilling out, no longer set behind plastic.  I often grab a random handful while sitting, and I find it interesting to see who else does too, who recognized the treasures so openly displayed. I only managed to save a small portion, but they are my treasures, and will be the first thing set up high when any kind of storm approaches. Who needs couches or appliances anyway?

Brighter

Brighter

The heat between them was instant. Not the pure white heat of the stars above them on the beach that night, but something more feral, as far from pure as the earth is from the stars. The huge bonfire warmed their faces, dancing in the soft sand only raised the temps of the tightly undulating crowd. She found herself gently shoved into his firm chest repeatedly, and his eyes glittered each time, hard as the crab shells buried deep beneath their damp toes. Nervously, she reminded herself that this had been her objective. Too many movies watched alone, too many seasons spent wishing she’d find someone, had led her finally to this darkly thrilling beach. To this reckless night of desperate hope, and his eyes so locked upon hers felt like possibility.

She was too eager when he tugged her hand, pulling her wordlessly out of the crowd. She babbled over the receding sounds of the band as they headed into shadowy corners, a grouping of large rocks looming before her suddenly. He was a man on a mission, not even answering her until she finally yanked her hand back, her heart hammering against her ribs.

“Wait,” she finally cried out. “Hold up a minute,” the words falling onto the gray sand unheeded, as his rough lips pressed against hers, his hands pawing her back, her ass urgently. She pressed him back, her arms wedged against that rocklike chest. What had seemed so appealing a few songs ago was now edged with the beginning flutterings of fear. Trying to regain control of the scene, she stammered, “Um, wait, please. Can’t we talk a bit?”

In the silence, their labored breathing suddenly loud, he glared at her. “Look,” she gulped, “the stars are so bright tonight. Even brighter than last night,” her words trickling wastefully down onto the beach. Feeling foolish, she flapped one hand nervously up toward the blanket of stars now so clear above them, over the sad scene of the girl who did not understand the ways of the world. The stars that had so often beckoned to her, whispering tales of love found and lives fulfilled. The stars that she had rested hope upon, for their beauty, for their constancy, their relentless shining.

He stepped back, disgust covering his features, a snarl forming on the lips that had seemed so promising.

“Hey,” a soft voice ventured into their circle of danger. “Everything okay here?” A tall figure emerged from the shadows, a flashlight bouncing with his steps. She turned toward the voice, recognizing another dancer from the beach. He walked to her side, his eyes searching hers. Looking now at the man now quiet across from her, his arms and torso still stiff with intention, his words were firm. “Go back to the fire, buddy. Walk away.”

The stare between the men felt electric, and she watched them without breathing. Finally, still not yet having spoken a word to her, the smaller man turned on his heel, spitting roughly in her direction before walking off into the darkness through the rocks. She felt her breath return, her chest heaving as relief flooded her lungs, her mind. Embarrassed, she turned toward her rescuer, standing several feet from her, his flashlight bright between them. She saw his eyes soft upon hers, his voice gentle as he said, “You know, I think you’re right. The stars are much brighter tonight.”

Magic Always

Magic Always

The problem was time. Time played unfairly, she felt. Always had. Running ahead, speeding up… mostly running out. She remembered how long the month of March used to feel when she was a kid. Endless days of gray skies, the air stiff with cold. Today is the last day of the same capricious month, and it had gone by in a cruel snap.

His face this morning was closed. Today for the first time he didn’t leave the house early to go walk the beach, or more recently, as things progressed, at least sit by the beach. Water had always been his solace, and she wondered how she might bring the ocean to him. She’d never wanted to be a god so badly.

He was so much more than her husband. Together they had been delivered from the emptiest of lives. Together they had been reborn, reimagining their futures. Together they had done the impossible. Surely she could move an ocean for him now….

As long as light shone from his eyes, the earth could continue rotating on its axis. Days and weeks would unfurl, commerce would spin on, oxygen for everyone. But the emptiness of his eyes this morning…. He’d been heading this way for a few days, but denial was a necessary step. She dug her foot into that fissure in the wall and clung desperately, fingers grasping the rocky edge fiercely. Until his sadness filled the air, no longer possible to not see. Her rock was beginning its work of crumbling, dust to dust.

Their relationship had always been a matter of smoke and mirrors, looking one way on the outside, its internal mechanics quite different. He the rock, she the babbling brook. He the tortoise, she the hare. He the voice of reason, she the dreamer. But a kite without a tail just crashes into the sand. He was always her beautiful ballast, not tethering her as much as grounding her in the most essential way. He quietly brought solidity to her every dream, substance to the shadow that she had been alone. She wasn’t sure how clearly that showed on the outside, but she knew it to be true in the deepest parts of herself. No one deserved an ocean more than this man.

These were the days of the virus, and the globe was flattening itself, trying to avoid illness and death. Even the beaches had been locked down, another one of time’s cruel jokes. She looked across the room at her shrunken man, eating his tiny lunch…. and began to devise her plan. Let them arrest me, she thought. Let them lock me up. I’m getting my man some ocean. I’m heading down there with a jar. I’ll fill it with salt water and love, and we’ll curl up on the bed and shake it, remembering younger days of jumping waves, hand in hand. We’ll put our grey heads together and giggle at our magical powers like the children we are still inside. I’ll give you the ocean, my love, because we are magic always.

Giddyup

Giddyup

Bottom line: it’s happening. You’ve been on lockdown for almost two weeks now, and it hasn’t been easy. Hasn’t been the hardest thing in the world, and there’s been good moments, but tell the truth: it’s not been what you wanted. Ahhh, there’s the crux of it, Kevan. You don’t want it. You don’t like it, you want it to stop, you miss your friends and the way they energize you, so NO. Just NO. Except… you’re not the boss of this, or anything really. It’s all out of your control. So deal with that first.

Other things are happening in your life that are also out of your control, waaaaaaaaaaay past your power to change or even tweak into any kind of likable form. Sit with that for a while, Kevan. This is more of the same, on a global scale. The world as you know it is ch-ch-changing. How you gonna roll with this one, baby?

You have thirty days to fill now, at the very least. Fact. Or actually, you hope that’s fact. The future is not promised to you in any way. You are, in fact, one of the “vulnerable.” The at-risk folks. So start there: be hopeful, be grateful. If you do indeed have 30 days to fill in your home, with your toys and tools surrounding you, you are one of the lucky ones. You are a creative person who has often moaned about needing more time, time not tied to production, but time to enjoy creativity for its own sake. So why is your heart not excited about getting what you say you want? Because I miss my friends, my family. I want to hug my grandsons and hang in the Goddess Room again and laugh and rant and enjoy life with good friends who get me. And doing those things keeps my energy fires stoked. I am inspired and stimulated by those encounters, they oxygenate my brain, my spirit. Without them, I feel…. less inspired, less energized.

Ahhh, let’s look at that. It’s not wrong to gain strength and solace from time spent with family and friends; it’s an upside of the human condition. We are lucky to be wired that way, and to have family and friends who affect us like that. Sit with that for a few, too. What blessings they are! And how good it will be to be given full access when the time comes. For you Kevan, this means 30 undistracted days with Paul, and you need to see this as the gift that it is. Hopefully 30. Again, you don’t want to be presumptuous about the gifts you’re given.

But you don’t want your energy to be dependent upon these gifts. You need to be strong enough to stand in your own power. You want to be fierce and able and creative. You want to be able to find or create your own pleasure. When you were a kid you lived on a dead end street, a larger road bisecting your family from the rest of the community. You felt cut off from the world, from civilization, as your younger sisters played together with their dolls. You spent hours alone bouncing a ball off the brick chimney to yourself, and became an excellent catcher. You rode your bike endlessly, pretending to be an Indian on a horse, and developed your imagination. You read books incessantly and became a lover of words. You hated being bored, but you were a loner kid and were not going to get any outside help staying entertained. You made it work for you; you can do the same now.

Look inside. See what rises to the top when you just sit quietly. Allow yourself to let your thoughts wander without focus… things will surface, grab your attention. Follow those rabbit trails. Why not? You have time. You have time and possibility and space and best of all, you have all the resources inside that make up you. Maybe they haven’t been tapped for a long time, but they’re in there…. waiting to pretend your bike is a horse… with a golden mane, thick hair wrapped tightly in your fists as the horse runs into the wind, the sun beating down on you both… in your tight unity… long strides taking you…. Where?

 

Climbing

Climbing

 

Climbing the tower on this gray windy morning…the weather matching my mood a bit. It’s almost a year for me, my deeply meaningful relationship with these dark iron steps, so rich with history, so full of challenge and at this point, questions. Very soon after beginning this practice I realized that for me the spiritual element would be far more significant than the physical. It’s such a lovely climb, every few landings an opening carved out of the stone, facing sometimes the intercoastal, the ocean gleaming behind it. Or a view downtown, the red spires of the college rising above our small city. From another opening I see into our neighborhood, our small home hidden by the trees… but I know my husband is within, lying on the bed napping. Paul sleeps a lot these days; they told us taking the chemo is like being on a treadmill 24/7.

It’s an odd metaphor, this active image. I’m glad Paul can rest; pain is less present. But my man is by nature an active person. Always doing something around the house, mostly outside. Making the gardens  beautiful, the yard such a sanctuary of peace. Seeing that creative energy stilled is difficult… another reluctant adjustment. As I climb this morning I consider all of the “adjustments,” behind and to come. Shortly after my lighthouse year began I decided to make each ascent a mini-pilgrimage. Upon reaching the top I’d step out onto the red metal summit and offer up a quick prayer. The first climb was always for one of my sons, the second was for someone else’s daughter, in similar need. And of course since the fall, every step is a plea for Paul’s health.

This morning as I climbed I thought about all those prayers. I’ve got to say that those three people remain in the same circumstances. I see no visible evidence of what we’re led to believe “answered prayers” will look like. I face that squarely, each footstep solid on the black iron. My other foot lifts to the next step. The sequence continues, carrying me toward the top. I stop to catch my breath, gazing out over the water, gray as the thoughts swirling through me this morning. I wonder… what is prayer actually? What am I doing, and what do I believe is happening while I do it?

Do I feel let down? What has my life taught me thus far? What is a reasonable expectation? … I must say that my experience has been all over the place. I’ve gotten so much more goodness than I ever expected. I’ve talked about that before, a lot, I know. But it’s true. So much love, so much joy. I find enormous pleasure in small things, and each day is packed with tiny beauties. Not to mention art, music… oh, music! Nature. Animals. C’mon, y’all. It’s just endless, the goodnesses of life. I could never be disappointed in life. Even with its sorrows… and I’ve had great heartbreak, from the beginning. But that is the very nature of life, right? It’s not like we’re entitled to a certain lifestyle, a decreed length of time. It’s all a gift, each moment of each day. That breath you just took… and exhaled. Another gift.

But I know it can stop on a dime. Out of nowhere you can lose your very heart. It happens every day, seemingly randomly. As I write this, the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter is all over the news. A tragedy that seems unfathomable. But it happened yesterday to numerous families who are not on the news, and will happen again to others tomorrow. You have to start there, with that knowledge and awareness.

And if you have children or loved ones who suffer and struggle with cruel addictions or illnesses or handicaps? Again seemingly randomly? Ahhh, what is that? …. I wish I knew. But I can’t enjoy the amazing pink birds that fly overhead and then stamp my feet at the less pleasant offerings. It’s not my world, my creation… my program. I’m an invited guest, enjoying each day’s largess with gratitude, my hands unclenched, willing to give and receive. On paper, that is…. Some days are harder, some gifts I do not want to surrender. Ohhh, I do not!!!

And so I pray. I lift my heart’s cries to a Source, a One, who I trust to know me, love me, carry me. Because while I of course recognize our right to believe different things, call various names, see alternative possibilities, there also seems to exist a more universal craving for Love, pure Love. Many of us at least want to believe in Love. And Love makes sense to me; it has been my experience. So let’s call it Love.

It is love that rises up from my heart on those iron steps, love that compels me to cry out for those in pain, those in transition, those that I love and want to see healed and happy. So I’m calling out my heart’s deepest desires to a likeminded Spirit, I’m in oneness. Can I demand that my prayers be “answered” the way I want? I don’t see how. Can I hope? Oh, always, because Love is for us. But nothing is owed me. I can be disappointed, and to be honest, I am. I want so much more for my son, and I want so much more of my husband. Time has already been lost, and I grieve that, of course. I’m not in charge though. It’s not my planet. So I make a choice each day to step into the day with a certain understanding of the gift offered. I feel welcome to express my deepest longings, and my iron tower encourages me in that. The beauty surrounding me wrings it out of me, and an answering surge of hope rises within. Each step taking me closer to a top… somewhere. For us all. As I write these words my heart overflows with longing…I glance outside and see the sun has joined us. Soft jazz pulsates beneath my morning. Paul has gotten up and gone out back to put hangers on the wood cut up for our art. I’m beginning to feel hungry… life is happening. As it does. Inhale… exhale. Open your gift and enjoy.

 

Being Known, Tacos on the Side

flow2

I spent time today, fabulous wondrous time, with a few women whom I don’t get to see often enough, as they live about an hour away from me. We met a few years ago in an art class, about five of us, and developed a connection that felt pretty solid fairly quickly. You know how it is when you recognize a tribe member, that first glimmer of joy, the soul-filling sensation of immediate empathy. And the more we talked, sitting around a table while painting, gluing, cutting…. the more commonalities we found. Some of them were pretty unusual too, considering the span of our ages and backgrounds. I’m the only grandmother (what else is new?), another girl brought her baby. But a kindred spirit was apparent quickly, and we settled in to meeting bi-weekly, ostensibly to make art. And it’s true.  Some art did get made. But equally important, real friendships were made.

 

Connection equals life to me. That’s what I value, crave, and enjoy most. I love to hear peoples’ stories, I love to watch how they operate, I love to figure out what goes on inside. And yes, I’ve been told repeatedly, annoyingly lol, that I go too “deep.” It’s not for everyone, I get it. And I’m not forcing it on anyone either; I’m happy to back off if it makes you uncomfortable, of course. We can change the subject, we can discuss shoes or something if you prefer. But me, I’m taking it alllllll in. I’m enjoying your passion for shoes or whatever. Either way, I’m finding you fascinating, in all your weird shoe-fixation.

 

When we first arrived, I asked Teri something about her hair and when she responded I realized she’d told me that before, and I had forgotten. Then I did something similar to that like three more times in five minutes, and felt a little bad about it. Why don’t I remember these things?  Sometimes I forget important things, information that is significant about you but I can’t seem to keep it in my head. It’s a failing that makes me look shallow, I feel, as if I don’t really care. But I swear I do, I really do. I just operate too often at warp speed, and things move rapidly across the threshing floor to make room for the next things. Is this a flaw? I believe so, and I am trying to slow my life down. But it’s gonna take me a minute.

 

We talked and laughed about so many things today. So very satisfying to talk of real things with real women. Nobody’s frontin’, no one is ashamed to be fully themselves. What a gift that is, all the way around! One of the women has moved away and we miss her terribly. Another lives in another country off and on, and she was not with us today, but sorely missed. I have learned SO much from these sister friends, as they all are givers. Giving and generosity have long been traits I’ve wanted to see grow in my life, and as I listened and watched them serve in their communities I became inspired enough to take action. It is thanks to them that I have found my own place of service, and I have to say that it’s been one of the best surprises of the past year. I’m so thankful for the examples of these girls.

 

So many things about growing older have been surprises to me. I’m a bit of a backwards girl, so I find myself working harder with each year. When I was younger I was pretty chill about work, but I cleverly waited for my body to weaken before asking it to do more. Ahhh well…. And growing surprises me. I had no idea that as I aged I’d want to explore MORE, to understand MORE, to discover MORE. New ideas, new understandings, new perspectives. I can’t get enough. I take so much pleasure now in figuring out how life works, how I work even. And much of that discovery takes place in relationship, in eating lunch with wild girlfriends who also value learning, growing, and sharing. Robin announced today, “Here’s something I know about Kevan,” and proceeded to speak my truth, my internal workings aloud. And I listened and was thrilled to know that she liked me enough to observe me, to understand me, and then share what she saw. That felt like real love to me. Oh, she made my day with that. To be KNOWN. Isn’t that a great gift?! Wow….. I have to just sit with that for a minute and take that in…..

 

Because I am so fascinated with the stories of others, I always secretly want others to find me equally interesting lol. But what I have to understand is that everyone is made up differently, and not all of you got the prying, deep-diving gene. And that’s probably good. I’ll plumb and poke around enough for us all. Nobody needs all that messy exploration all over everything anyway. I shall be the secret keeper of our stories, and if you get the urge for a wild woman lunch date, with much forgetfulness, great tacos, and deep diving, please keep me in mind.