Many different leaves

And it’s morning, and I’m walking Kora in downtown Salt Lake City, close to the big temple.

It’s the last two days I’m sitting for her family because they’re moving to Park City so I am feeling that—saying goodbye to Kora as well as Twix and Breezy—and confronting the dynamic nature of life and the beauty inherent in the savoring of something knowing in advance that it won’t last.

And the trees are half-in and half-out of Fall—some with green foliage attached— and the leaves that are on the ground are not yet soggy almost as if the night is still hanging on to summer.

And people are always friendly down here. As they walk to their service work for the LDS church they wear name badges, and in suits and dresses, stiffly hold hands with their spouse of 30 years. In unwavering focus on their perceived devotion to God, they float Softly within a padded existence of religion, giving hearty good mornings to strangers because that’s protocol, and act out devotion, playing into the substance of the “Vast Other” through small talk and worlds external to their own vulnerable emotional spaces. She’s “happy”; he’s “happy”; and heavenly father walks with them in their union, like two human beings dictated into existence, floating by in an Elder Smith nametag and flowered rayon skirt like paper dolls astride the knowing silence of immeasurable potential that is (to me) the deeper experience known as God.

And inside my own (often) bubbling, frothy mental space this morning it’s becoming more clear than ever that two disparate truths can coexist. That these religious people and my self and Kora are living a unified whole.

Because on this morning of balancing between seasons, the leaves pull aside summer with such grace it becomes a seduction, and walking beside sterile couples searching for an experience of anything but, I’m inside my life with even more ferocity. For walking a path of meaningful togetherness is fertile for revelations of self when nametagged people (futilely labeling limitlessness) are the seasons of humanity bearing leaves of different growth. Where resting into a morning is a synchronicity in which we’re all just fragments of a larger creation breathing itself into being.�

And in the sight of such blending, I can see my depths more clearly, for we do not have to understand the truths of another to become more whole because of them. And so it is that from sterility and vastness, goodbyes and protocol, on a fall morning, I walk beside the seasons, like a Summer giving itself constantly to Autumn.

 

The beautiful complexity of algae

And it was a time of great vulnerability.  But I didn’t know it then.

Because at age 20, away at college, and in love with the future, I couldn’t yet see anything except through the embedded resilience of youth and the dream that I knew myself well enough to be able to navigate hardship.

So we danced into experiences—he and I—becoming family in the rental in Davis, walking my dogs, brewing fancy coffee, drinking Bailey’s—becoming grown-ups—setting up the Scrabble game to Led Zeppelin; laying in on the weekends, lazy Saturdays spent with the SF Giants on AM radio, Steve tinkering under the hood of his 1967 Mercury Cougar in homemade t-shirts satirizing society (“I DON’T work out at Golds’ Gym” or “I’m High On Crack”).

Us both making a world for ourselves, living a love story we were writing every day.

And we were so tender, he and I; had lived inside lives unbecoming our gentle hearts–his as love for a sweet father who seemed to know deep grief, mine as the oldest of a family who exploded into divorce the second I’d stepped off for college—and we were perfectly-timed, growing towards one another as we lived within a protected sweetness our families hadn’t always modeled. Removing selves from the life we didn’t want to see, reflecting back to one another the safety of kindness and humor and gentle days, Fool in the Rain playing as letter tiles were chosen, him leaving funny poems on my pillow in the morning (“your eyes are the color of pond algae”), me writing my first name alongside his last in my Cognitive Psychology notebook.

But October 17, 1989 came, and the Loma Prieta earthquake stirred all I’d been pushing away, until in mere moments the entire trajectory of my broken family burned inside me. Dad crying in the armchair, mom telling me I wasn’t welcome to come home, dad moving out, mom unstable—making my younger sister Alex do the Ouija board—then that summer ‘89 day Alex ran away from the house (which in just two months she’d be inside when it shook into its death) with me following, trying to fix the world I didn’t want to end, petrified of what would happen to mom if I let her go. Me wanting to save us all from brokenness and still not being able to, for even the earth knew it was too late, and tossed the house down the hill, making everything cockeyed and wobbly, and smelling of the remnants of a dead family. Rotting food from the tipped fridge, moldy water, smashed perfume bottles, and the beloved Angel fish lying dead on the floor.

And it was suddenly too much.  I’d seen too many broken hearts—had lost too much—for dreams to still come true, and pushed Steve away in the disbelief that good could even exist. And in the breakups aftermath, he cried—tears on the lashes of lovely hazel-blue eyes—and asked me “why?”, believing I guess that I would actually have an answer even though I didn’t know anything, and wouldn’t. Not for so many years.

But, as if we both needed an answer, he stayed with me.  For during my lifetime since, I could not stop thoughts of him, and did not want to, and shuffled around a feeling of grief for what I’d done and turned from—dreaming of him at night; 30 years worth–struggling with bewilderment at the feeling that I was irrevocably chained to an ever-distant past, existing in my marriage to James in subconscious reverie for the intimate connection Steve and I had shared huddled all those years ago in college in Davis, warmth and humor and hope and respite from a damaged world. And I could not shirk it no matter how painful it was to remember, and did not know why.

Yet life is mysterious until the wisdom of one single moment calls, and here as I stand in the shadow of all these years, I am every day a new person able to see it now for what it offered me.

For it was magic. That time.

I loved him and I knew he loved me— the “me” that I was at my most deepest and significant self—and in reflecting goodness back to one another, we walked together through the shadows of grief, loving with open hearts against all probability, and nurturing a sweetness so seductive that even at 50 years of age I can still taste and smell the impossible magic that it was.

And for so long, it was a loss—a regret, hurting this sweet man, creating a hole inside me of unknown depth—but even in the remnants of 30 years and the passing of a million lifetimes, I know that he was and always will be a gift to me.

Because he changed me forever—danced upon my soul–beckoning me to emerge towards the safety of himself, and in bearing witness to his powerful love for me, I became stationary within a beautiful moment, and existed in perpetuity as witness to joy and happiness and the affirmation that I could be loved.   And it was an impossible gift that I will carry with me forever.

So on this, his birthday—February 28, 2019, his 51st–I just wanted to say:

Happy Birthday, Steve. You were a safe place in a terrible storm. Thank you—my dearest friend–for showing me how to love myself.

[2/28/2019; I write and revise this every year, and have until this year called this neverending evolution of self “Closure” but I woke up this morning, said “Happy Birthday, Steve,” knowing that you can never achieve closure from something that changed you forever. And so it will be that I will always grow with it and merely hope he’s found his way as the sweet person he always was, and continue to satirize society with humor-filled letters sent in lavender envelopes]

Forever tuning

pic 1: Me at the Salt Flats in 1991 when Chris and I drove across the country in our move from Maryland back to Davis, California. At this point, Salt Lake City was a foreign land to me— obviously I had no idea I’d eventually live here—but we pulled over and took some pictures because it felt like a mirage in a desert since while your feet touch the ground you can look out over certain stretches and it appears you’re standing on the mirror image of another world.
Pic 2: late 1990, me during a trip to see Chris in Washington, DC when I still lived in CA; I didn’t know that I’d move out with him, we’d move to CA together then I’d meet James and then James and I would move to Northern Virginia near DC together. Life.

And so it was that when I was about 13 (circa ‘82) I went to see Adelaide the psychic whose name my family had been passing around and she told me two things which stuck with me all the way through until that time (1992) 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 into a marriage which by now would have already ended.

The first thing Adelaide told me that day was that someday 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’d be devastated and inconsolable.

As such a fortune might beget, I wondered about that blue-eyed boy for many years, mesmerized by a love so deep I’d excruciate at its loss, believing that perhaps Adelaide spoke in deep metaphor or that the goodbye could be averted somehow.  So when one month out from marrying Chris in the foothills of Gold Country (CA), I saw vibrantly-blue-eyed James at a bus stop–the night after dreaming I was swimming with a blue-eyed man–I retrieved James’ dropped Blue Book, and thus awakened from the slumber which had shielded me from realizing uber-cerebral Chris was for a “me” that didn’t exist anymore, and that Adelaide’s blue eyed man could be this very one.

And of course I had to find out.

The year was 1992, 3.75 years after I left for college, 3 after my parents divorce; 2.75 after the Loma Prieta earthquake destroyed the family home and I dropped out of college, 2.5 since I’d broken up with my (beloved) boyfriend Steve, 2 since I’d gotten rid of everything I owned to shack up with Chris and his roommates in Maryland, and .75 after Chris and I had moved back to Davis, CA to settle in so I could finish my degree.

He supported us, I had my dogs, my guinea pig, my cat, and the potential to abandon years worth of “too much”. Yet there I was.

I honestly do not feel I can adequately express how frightened I was during that time. I wouldn’t be able to explain what it feels like to go through days of being petrified, shaking in the adrenaline of having to face the choice, unable to eat, defying the mom you’ve never crossed. I could not condense a lifetime of the self-doubt involved with being a “pleaser” into the arc of a single event, where one choice is accepting the truth of yourself but spurring others’ disgust, hurt, your own personal hardship, and from which the other is accepting a life of external ease–making everyone else happy–while you slowly suffocate.

My body shook, my mouth was dry. It was an altered state in which I was reaching every vulnerability until they quivered and begged for mercy.

And, in the end, I married that blue-eyed boy (1996) then saw him leave myself and our two daughters (2007) while we grieved with what I thought was feeling that would never end. But it did.

Events unfold for us what we are.

We bear moments of going against the tide, scared, shaking in uncertainty only to see those same moments becoming portraits of ourselves standing alone in our power amidst a crumbling facade. For that Adelaide called into my mind the door to such grief and I opened it anyways for the potential of love writes of many unspoken truths.

Because James left. life is scales, humans playing experiences, fear and dry mouth one day becoming whispers of resilience to our selves another. And so we rise up and fall down and ride roughness into song, slowly catching the breath of the music just like a world of forever-tuning instruments.

An interesting species

Steve and I at UC Davis, circa 1989

I’ve been thinking about my college boyfriend Steve so much lately. In August, I reached out to him impulsively—knowing that he probably wouldn’t even get the email; I was drafting his address from my malfunctioning memory— because it felt like what I had to say needed to be expressed and in just a few words I told him that even after almost 30 years of not seeing him, I continue to be grateful that he’s in this world and that I even got to know him for a short time.

And the breakup itself in 1990, at 3317 Biscayne Bay Place, Davis, CA—non-Steve losses having made my heart shutter like it was out of business—started a landslide of searching for life outside our experience, and each year on his birthday was an ode to the “closure” of that chapter because I was new to grief and in my mistaken belief that any such thing could be finite, I thought that’s what was healthy.

I thought “closure” was what healthy people did; I thought that psychological theory and brain space spoke the biggest truth and that “moving on” could heal the loss and make me whole.

But such was not the truest way and thus do I reflect that I’ve spent the better part of my life beating to the rhythm of that era as if it was the legend by which to gauge my growth until finally—when the full sight of grief was faced—I came to know that “loss” is actually a malleable entity.

Because even in the barren land of logic, thought was never meant to eclipse feeling, and that there is darkness in life that claws at us forever so also should something of heart be allowed the space to nurture us in equal measure.

For both over grief and Time, something of heart never really can be finite, because the love and the joy and the connection never stops existing, and in fact, it’s the exact opposite: the love and the joy and the connection speaks to us forever and acts as guide through life lighting the way in our quest of those same feelings even as it simultaneously makes all the other things that happen more bearable.

Knowing Steve nestled inside my soul to heal me in ways my logical mind can’t even speak to and for that it was not a loss and never could be. It was actually a gift that I’ve spent the rest of my life receiving.

[My most authentic heart space and deepest condolences to the mother/teacher who lost their child to suicide this week; I do not know you except through the words of my child which surround you in veritable halo but I do know that darkness comes to the kindest people and that I wish with all my soul that it were not so. I’ve been suicidal, courtesy of a succession of overwhelming life events to include my own daughter being suicidal as well as an onslaught of unkind people, and know that besides my children, the one thing that kept me going is one night coming to understand that the love I give this world—love free of obligation and ego; for the tenderness and the vulnerability that exists—is actually the most healing experience for my own darkness I could ever receive. And I know that some people can’t do that —some people go to cynicism or hedonism—but I believe that you can, and I have faith that your own love will protect you in these times when it is obvious that your heart will never be as it was before].

[This blog occurred because the other day when I found out about her child, I was standing in the kitchen, texting my youngest daughter about it, wanting but unable to help this suffering mother, then remembered a dream I had the night before about Steve—had been thinking of him the day before in an epiphanic moment—and suddenly a Carl Sagan quote came into my head. Carl Sagan, from Contact: “You’re an interesting species. An interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams, and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone, only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.”

We are our heroes and in some way large or small, we can all make our own emptiness bearable. Thank you for reading and much love to you for doing so in non-judgment].

God/Us

A few years ago, my daughter Livy was surprised when I told her I believed in God. She was 16 (I think) and didn’t know because I don’t tout God or observe religion unless it’s imminently relevant because for me God/source is such a big truth it doesn’t need to be spoken of. Since: of course there is a larger experience than human for all energy in existence; of course there’s an energetic presence of benevolence who we’re all as yet aspiring to. Speaking of it doesn’t make it more special; it just adds the “flawed myopic human overdub” to an experience best left to quiet.

And that religion has been bastardized—god pivoted around so as to basically become ourselves—I know that three letter word up there might stick in the craw so feel free to zero point and replace it with a word of your choice.

Because we live in times of deep grief for which We will all have to find a love that’s bigger; for the suffering of others isn’t for anyone/anything else to step up to. It’s for us to step up to.

And that’s a shortened version of what I intended to write because I haven’t even had my damned coffee. So: Happy 11/11/11(2018) and large, shot-in-the-dark, come on over here, baby.

[Someone shared that saying on Facebook a few days ago and I wanted to offer it here in addition to FB and IG because it was so powerful for me when I saw it that I lost breath for a second. And even today, looking at it again—thinking about what it means from even a deeper place–I felt gratitude for its truth. For that I’m still emotionally-available enough to hear the vulnerable is a gift I won’t squander because yes, when you make yourself emotionally available to hear suffering, you face the grief of the world but in not hearing it–or in actively accepting the turning of blind eye–you’re living a lie in which you forfeit your opportunity to become powerful through offering your own self. Be the change].