Everything looks different

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Last night my girls, Ellen, and I watched Thelma and Louise together, and because I’d forgotten how long the movie was, the event lasted into the early hours of today, at which point my youngest–who’d been hesitant to even watch it at all for the last scene she’d heard so much about–excitedly chatted to me through my bleary-eyedness, saying that along with Donnie Darko, it was now one of her two favorite movies.

None of them had ever seen it, and Livy asked me in one of the first scenes when Thelma’s husband Daryl was being an asshole to Thelma, “Is that just the way it was back then?” The movie was made in 1991.

No, baby; Daryl’s just a dick.

In the midst of girl power and Thelma and Louise gunning it to their chosen end, Ellen held my left hand still and, as I watched the movie, drew upon my skin the pattern you see in the picture above; somehow, in the warm living room after the hot summer solstice day of 2017, she accessed an internal well of artistry from within a near-meditative state, and–moving henna tube into curves and points–created this freehand design, reaching over while the first section was drying to grab my hand again and add more detail before moving on to make entirely different designs upon her own skin.

When I finally saw the finished product upon my hand, my mouth was open in surprise because I could not formulate a connection to the type of mind that could so effortlessly create such a vision. I couldn’t “get to” where a human being could so confidently embrace hovering over flesh with a tube of dye and still be able to funnel the experience down into a work of art.
Because that’s just not me. I’m never going to be able to zen out and manifest this kind of thing on someone’s arm.

And I used to think that in order to live fearless, I couldn’t say such things to myself. That in order to stand within my own power, I had to self-talk myself with “You can be/do/have anything you set your mind to!”

[Which is where I’d cue up the time I snorkeled in Hawaii with my sister, thus supposedly pacifying my fear of the ocean. Somehow I thought I could talk my fearful emotional mind into experiencing something in a logical way, but, in reality, my logical mind was saying “good for you!” while my emotional mind was saying “what the actual fuck are you doing in the water?!?” because logical mind can only take you so far, and then you’re stuck in the open ocean, hyperventilating and shitting your pants because your feet are dangling in what is basically a giant shark tank and, for the love of god, who is playing that fucking Jaws music?]

But I’ll never be able to “you can do it!”/Pep rally myself into–voila—I’m now Renoir, and being no good at something shouldn’t always bring out the self-esteem protection squad.

Because mind over matter is bullshit and invalidates the natural sense we have of who we are and what choices are right for us.  And, unless you’re hurting someone else, it’s perfectly okay to let yourself be who you are. It’s perfectly acceptable to say “I’m no good at this,” and not feel like it somehow means you’re giving up on yourself.

At the end of the movie, Livy and I discussed what our favorite parts were.

Livy’s favorite part is when Thelma calls Daryl to see if the police have been asking questions and almost instantaneously hangs up, knowing their phones are tapped and that the police are listening based solely on how nice Daryl is to her. It’s pretty classic.

My favorite part is when Thelma, events skewed against her having created a transformation in herself to where she finally feels in control of her own destiny, sits in the passenger seat, and says, “I feel awake. Wide awake. I don’t remember ever feeling this awake. Everything looks different,” and wind whipping her hair, they course together in their convertible as fugitives through the waking world of red rock.

Forever tuning

And so it was that when I was about 13 I went to see Adelaide the psychic whose name my family had been passing around for a while and she told me two things which stuck with me all the way through until that time when I was trying to make the decision whether to break my engagement with Chris and be with James or listen to my mom and stay the course through the uncertainty and into a marriage which by now of course would have already ended.

The first thing Adelaide told me was that one day I’d be writing a book, and the second thing she told me is that one day a man with blue eyes would say goodbye to me and I might never stop crying.

As fortune would have it, I looked for that blue-eyed boy for many years, hoping for a love that was so deep I’d cry forever at its loss, thinking that perhaps she was speaking metaphorically or that the goodbye would not come to pass.  So when one month out from marrying Chris in the foothills of California, I saw vibrantly-blue-eyed James at a bus stop–the night after dreaming I was swimming in pure bliss with a blue-eyed man–I retrieved James’ dropped Blue Book, thus starting an awakening within myself from which it became obvious that uber-cerebral Chris was for a “me” that didn’t exist anymore.  It was 1992, three years after my parents divorce, 2.5 years after the earthquake destroyed the dome the emotional fallout from which saw me drop out of college, and mere months after Chris and I had moved from Maryland back to Davis, CA–the college I’d dropped out of–so I could finish my degree; life was finally becoming stable again after such a long time.  But there I was. 

I do not feel I can adequately express how frightened I was during that time.

I would not be able to encompass what it feels like to be financially dependent on someone with no place to go yet knowing your soul won’t let you stay; I wouldn’t be able to explain what it feels like to go through days of being petrified, shaking and unable to eat, hearing your mom scold you for not marrying him anyways.

I would not know how to condense a lifetime of self-doubt into one event, from which one choice is accepting the truth of yourself and causing hurt, disgust, and personal hardship, and from which another is accepting a life of ease, making everyone else happy, while you slowly suffocate.

It was as if Life was trying to kill me and, in order to survive, I had to constantly be looking over my shoulder.

And I guess it isn’t an accident that today, summer solstice 2017–the longest day of light, a pagan day of power, 25 years out from this event which shaped me in ways that each day I’m still recognizing–I see two FB friends are “interested” in seeing a screening and discussion next month of the movie Thelma and Louise and in just seeing the movie title, I’m instantly back in Davis California, sitting on the floor of the living room of the house I shared with Chris watching Thelma and Louise for the first time.

Because the past becomes what we are, and the entire world is really just an orchestra of forever-tuning instruments.

For Adelaide was right.  I did lose that blue-eyed boy and did go on to shed what-felt-like a million tears.

But I didn’t cry forever.

Because sometimes there are moments when we face going against the tide, believing ourselves weak and frightened for the feelings we’re having; and sometimes those very same moments are actually portraits of ourselves standing alone in our own power amidst a crumbling world.

Yellow Ledbetter

Click for audio

“Eddie Vedder admits that he changes the lyrics and meaning of the song when he performs it, but he wrote the song with one story in mind.   The song was written during the first gulf war, when “Papa Bush” was President, as Eddie calls him. The story is about a young Grunger kid, all dressed up in his flannels with the long greasy hair. His brother goes off to fight in the war and gets killed. He gets a letter that comes in one of those yellow army envelopes and learns of his brother’s death. So, all upset, he decides to go out and walk it off. On his walk he passes by a neat, middle-aged or elderly couple sitting on their front porch having some tea, and he sees that they have an American flag out. He gives a wave, because he feels like he relates: “The flag, my brother, you know…” But they don’t know, of course. They don’t know what’s underneath the grunge and the long hair. All they see are the outward appearances, and they don’t wave back.”

Today I unfollowed a FB page when one of the members group-texted calling Bernie supporters ‘burnouts’.

It was all pro-Hillary and blah blah blah, look at how over-intellectualized we are followed by invented narratives and name-calling like five-year-olds.

And maybe I’m rushing too quickly to protect myself from those unlike me, but when time is short–and honestly, it’s actually short for all of us, all the time–it becomes less possible to entertain living within such an unsightly, formulaic dynamic.  Because I’m more than the sum of one-word branding and finding space inside to nurture myself has been hard, and I’ve grown intolerant of a world not up to the task of helping me meet myself with a loving heart.

And interestingly, I didn’t get too upset about it, like I might have at one point in time.

It just made me think of this song.  They played it at the Bernie Sanders rally last year.

I went with my younger daughter, Livy (who’s named after Mark Twain’s wife; born in the year 2000–11 months after the Y2K “disaster”, 10 months before 9/11–on the same day as Twain, and gifted too with writing ability, and cursed, as he, with too many ideas) because as we walked back to the car, the sun was going down, and I was like, why not live the big dreams?

Why not believe in the goodness of people we don’t know?  Why not wave at the grunge kid in the tatty shirt?

For when you look at what we do with our thoughts–mindlessly cataloging human beings so as to protect our emotional selves–we are magic beings creating poison worlds, distancing ourselves from one another for no reason, lost inside a world in which somehow it makes more sense to create a docudrama of nefariousness out of someone waving than it is just to pick up our arm and wave it.

And driving home, we turned up Yellow Ledbetter as we sank into the sky and clouds of a magic day, and passing the golf course, I was singing along with the mournful lyrics–and yes: I was so dreamy that day–but when I looked at Livy in the passenger seat of my car, window down, hair blowing in the air of a warm day, the earth was tilting towards a star and I was like “look at that big dream.”

Look at that art project of sky and skin.  The sky painted color that’s actually just air and the girl of tender-hearted benevolence imprinting the world with a more grace-filled future.

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Golf course, Salt Lake City, March 18, 2016
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Livy after Bernie rally, Salt Lake City, March 18, 2016

A Gift of Dark Days

I’ve never cried so hard as that day in 2007 when James drove his moving truck down the street.

He was moving from Salt Lake to live with his office assistant/girlfriend and her son 2000 miles away, just weeks after we told the girls we were divorcing, a divorce which blindsided me, James and Sarah probably beginning their relationship that summer we dug out our basement, when I unknowingly insisted James stay with Sarah and her husband Ryan near the Virginia Vitech office rather than come home to the stress and unpleasantness the girls and I were living with.

“James, no: really. It’s horrible here; just stay with Sarah and Ryan and I’ll take care of stuff here.”

Naturally, he didn’t tell me Ryan had moved out.

But on that epic day, Livy had lost her first tooth (in a bowl of popcorn!) and when he drove off in his UHaul, both girls chased the truck down the street, and he noticed, stopping at the end of Garfield Avenue–next to the orange house he’d eventually move into after the break up with Sarah—getting out of the drivers side to swing around to where Julia and Livy waited on the sidewalk. And there was this moment in my mind—this lovely flash of hope–that he would hug his daughters so tightly, he’d never want to stop, and would recover who he was and become the dad they needed.

But he didn’t. And that night I cried with the force of eternal heartbreak, as if something in my body was already living the future–the sense of rejection my girls would feel, the way they’d blame themselves as faulty, believing if they’d only been different, he wouldn’t have left–instinctually knowing this archetypal loss and what it meant to us all, rolling myself into the fetal position on my bed in the darkness of earths night, convulsing from grief, and the unrecoverable knowledge that the hill was far off and way too high, and that my daughters–my most beloved ethereal connection to both this earth and my own soul–might never be whole again. And that neither would I.

But I was wrong.

I have said goodbye to many things in my lifetime—so many versions of myself and what I thought I needed to be happy— and while it is true that the girls and I were never the same again, the events from that time changed us, scarring us with an experience that gave us no choice but to reach out to one another and (eventually) to go more deeply within. For I never wanted that day to happen–and even now, don’t want the memory of it–and begged God so many times to make the pain go away.

But the Universe in her wisdom did not listen, knowing that one day there would be a stronger, calmer me for the trial, knowing that the evolution of a more sacred human requires unwanted experiences so as to better understand and connect in compassion and grace with our world and our fellow beings. Knowing that it is often our own tears which baptize us into better versions of ourselves.

And absent the human-centric aspect of Time, it becomes possible to witness even the most-emotionally cold day of your life as something you wanted.

Because I’ve been struck with reverberations of that day each moment of the ten years since, and it is within the now that I can see–just adjacent to the sometimes still-intense feeling of loss–that there is a “me” that is actually bigger than such times. For the momentary relief of pain that I desired cannot compare to the joy of knowing I’m now better for it, and you do not even know how beautiful you are until you have had to fight for yourself.

And when you can take something shitty and use it to make something beautiful, there is no fear or need or want anymore: there’s just one opportunity then the next to embrace yourself as a sacred space and learn how to power your way into a more redemptive world.  

And dark days then become sources of strength, powering us all to a better version of ourselves.

One Single Yesterday

Sometimes I think it happens that Time becomes a weird entity, mashing together events of totally different origins and reconvening them as if they were occurring together, right then, into a singular story, clear in connection, real and provable. Maybe it’s a Tune in, Turn on, Drop out thing. Or maybe my kids drugged me (which I’ve asked them NOT to do. so many times. goddammit).

Last night, I was walking a dog along 1700 South near 1300 East, singing aloud to “Me and Bobby McGee,” and realized that I’ve been on a journey in this life—wherein I’ve been worn down to almost nothing just so I could find myself again—and as I walked alongside cars speeding with haste to unknown places, the power and strength of Janis’s passionate and authentic life could be felt in her voice, and under the nearing-full moon, listening to her sing lyrics written by someone else for an experience she never personally had, I experienced her journey too, she of the tender soul who felt out of place and unattractive but didn’t give up reaching for the big dreams, and living the big life; living how she wanted, doing what she wanted, carving a path out irrespective of how weird it seemed to others, dying after a life so big she accidentally killed herself by living it.

And I’ve heard people relay Janis Joplin’s story as if it was a tragic one, because there is a tendency to believe that there is something inherently sad about a life of internal struggle ended accidentally at a youngish-age.

About an hour later, still singing the same song (I get on a roll with one song sometimes), I see my oldest daughter’s FB post, in which she’s wearing a sweatshirt a friend bought her that says “I Understand. I Just Don’t Care,” and it tickles me, because it’s so “I could give a shit less,” and even though I know Julia feels tender and out of place and unsure, she’s also living how she wants, doing what she wants, and steering her life in the manner of her choosing, and I wonder if maybe it was Janis Joplin who helped her get this way, and that maybe someday she’ll be me, singing to herself on a dark street in Salt Lake City, and as homeowners exit their cars to go into their homes, into normalcy–pumpkins on porches, and utter predictability—she’ll be okay with weird, with walking down the street, loving the world while also not giving one shit what it thinks of her. That someday she’ll make it to where she loves herself enough to stay calm and centered as she lives each day as if she’s daring the world to judge her.

And I thought that maybe THIS is the end of Janis’s story.

Because there is no stopping Time, it marches and evolves and becomes enriched with past, present and future, and when we pull back from it, any story holds the hope of transforming someone else’s experience so as to exact different outcomes, and if Janis’s life becomes an example that inspires others to perhaps see themselves differently or be aware of a more-enriched bevy of personal choices, then her story didn’t end at her death, but carried on, weaving itself into lives and experiences, meshing her own life into something different for the promise and hope it gave to others.  For her life was so big that we could all see and hear the experience, and so real–so authentically her, so authentically noncomformist–that the loss of her manifested as societal change, funneling into a 48 year old unapologetically-singing aloud on the street and an 18 year old facing emotional foes with an altered set of skills and a vision both broader and simultaneously more tender of both her world and her self.

So be yourself, everyone. Love the world but don’t let it tell you who you are. Value yourself. Dare it to judge you. Be authentic; be big; be weird. You’re special.

For in living your story, you’re changing the future for someone, somewhere, in some time.

And thank you, Janis Joplin, for choosing a life of authenticity and nonconformity so that we could all learn from your strength and your struggle.

Messy lives and miracles on my birthday

When my mom turned 40, she had an epic meltdown in the upstairs bathroom of our geodesic dome house on Hazel Dell Road, crying and rocking herself in the bathtub while relaying how disappointed she was in her life, and the myriad things she thought she’d have accomplished by that age that she didn’t. We were having a party later that day that people would be driving from all over Northern California to attend so I remember feeling like it was important to bandaid this situation so she could get out of the bathtub, don some clothes, maybe some makeup and come down to her own party. There just seemed little sense in adding THAT disappointment to the mix, and it really felt like her meltdown/“existential crises” was just a little too much to handle from the cold water of an upstairs bathroom on party day.

I don’t do epic meltdowns. I don’t do “I’m aging oh my god what the fuck?!” birthday bathtub celebrations.

But sometimes I do have crappy moments.

Yesterday was a day when I felt discouraged at its end. I’m a sunny person but sometimes events are such that you come home after yet another long-ass day and your house is a mess and you’re too done to spend quality time with your ecstatic-to-see-you dog and your goal of starting your Etsy store by your birthday is moot and the fridge is only filled with food long-since salmonella-free and literally you just want to do your laundry for your birthday, and—fuck it all to hell—you start to believe that you’re a failure. That it won’t ever get any better. That you’ll always be the shitty-looking-house-always-working-never-spending-time-with-your-kids-no-time-for-shopping-or-laundry middle-aged lady prone to donating her precious time to unknowing pet sitting clients because of the vortex of personality where such acts must never be spoken of or touted even in the slightest.

I was moody, and my disappointment that Livy hadn’t tidied up was palpable. And she felt bad, and was apologizing, which made me feel both better and worse, for while I want her to contribute to our team, Livy is a quintessential, artistic slob who is forgetful and not bothered by mess. She’s also an epileptic with anxiety and depression who is the sweetest, wisest, and most compliant child you could ever know. She would have cleaned up had I asked but I didn’t ask; she also would have done it half-assed because she doesn’t think in details and you can’t teach your child how to do stuff when you’re never home.

About ten minutes after arriving home, I had sullenly adjourned to my room, when Livy bravely poked her head in and asked me if I felt good enough to read something.

It’s about God, she said, and I really think you’ll like it. Then she sent me the attached story (link below); and it hit me to where I was in tears while reading it, for its own beauty but also for the efforts of the child who had offered it to me, so delicately knowing how to soothe the tender spots inside me.

Afterwards, she and I sat and talked about so many things, things she’s felt guilty about (a particular instance where she may have inadvertently hurt someone’s feelings), my own derailed relationship with my mom, how complicated loving someone can be, how complicated loving yourself can be, and I told her about a little girl I’d seen in a princess dress about an hour earlier, at the burger place I’d gotten us dinner at; the girl was like Livy–fair skin, dark curly hair, attentively looking to her dad for how to evaluate what to think and how to feel–and upon seeing her, I somehow flashed on something atypical for accolade-averse me, which was “I did a good job with my kids.” I loved them so hard, and wasn’t always their friend, and taught them how to think bigger than their own selves, and suffered with them the complex and incredibly-painful journey of learning how to love the world while also loving themselves. Teaching them, even as I was learning it, that the world is so paradoxical that sometimes the greatest act of love you can offer someone is withholding your loving non-judgment when they’re being an asshole, and that it’s actually okay to let someone be in pain so long as you believe they’ll come out the other side of it more loving towards their fellow humans.

And we snuggled and hugged, and I told her what a miracle it is that we even exist (that, at the Universe’s inception, matter hadn’t followed known laws of physics to become annihilated by anti-matter), and I thought of how strange it is that the small stuff can so easily impede our ability to appreciate and be grateful for what we have and who we are.

For certainly Livy and Julia are something to celebrate. Certainly I am something to celebrate. Certainly we all are. And working too hard and existing in mess is small when our entire world is like a miracle, when matter itself exists beyond all probability, and when we’ve been gifted with the opportunity to learn how to live in harmony as a collective soul, growing and merging in obvious youth within a Universe itself expanding amid a potentially-infinite number of parallel universes.

We are nothing and everything; we are moment, and infinity, we are the struggle and the victory, the paradox, The End, and we are the miracle, birthing ourselves anew with each hardship–fingertip in water glass–immersed in darkness with a soul that still carries on in its search for Light.

 

90436http://m.funsubstance.com/fun/90436/read-this-or-at-least-skim-it/

 

 

Audio only

 

[Audio only, of Julia and Amy; Perseid watching, Emigration Canyon, August 13, 2016].

[The following is the comment I left on a friend’s blog; writing it made me cry for I’m trying to finish/revise a blog about an emotionally-intense evening spent with a vulnerable neighbor I barely know, in which the song “Tiny Dancer” played a part, and making this comment on my friend’s post helped me understand the bigger message behind that evening and other seemingly-unrelated events; so I’m mashing three events–the evening spent with my neighbor and in-progress blog, my comment on my friends blog, and a middle of the night jaunt with my daughters and a friend searching for comets–together in this Facebook-post equivalent of a “mini-blog” because there’s a synchronicity here that seems important, for I now understand the significance of “Tiny Dancer”; Tiny Dancer is actually the dreamer in us all; the astronaut who doesn’t let her wonder at the sky falter even when she knows she won’t ever experience it in the way she most desires, and the synchronicity of it brings me full-circle to where I myself am staring in awe at the magic of an unknown and beautiful universe].

“So on the very day I read this, my daughters, one of their friends and I headed up one of the canyons after they got off work to watch the Perseids; we thought there’d be no one there at that time and place but it was packed, and we had to search for a parking spot.  Everyone had the same idea, some people even brought their little ones, whose voices carried through the air along with the low sound of radios, and the laughter of adults.  We laid on top of the car–hood, back and roof–and snuggled under blankets (naturally, the air is colder the higher up you go so we needed them) and, at one point, I was sleepy and knew my eyes would be closing soon, so I set my iPhone up to videotape the sky, thinking how cool it would be if it recorded a meteor while I rested.  But it didn’t; instead it got 4 minutes of magic when my daughter was pointing out planets and constellations, the excitement in her voice so powerful for, even though she is too short to live her dream of becoming an astronaut, she still lives it every time she looks at the dark sky and feels the pull of the Universe.

I hope you had some magic in your trip too.  Wee voices, comets, dark skies and dreams, whether lived or imagined.”

 

[Maybe returning to this mini-mashup-blog will assist me in putting the larger blog into words suitable to a universe filled with emotional evenings perhaps whose sole purpose is to guide us to revelatory experiences].