Everything looks different

img_3415

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.

The Yin and Yang of Del Taco

And sometimes it’s true that the things you believe you need in order to be joyous aren’t the right things at all, and so it is that I’m standing in Einstein bagels this morning getting breakfast for my kids experiencing an epiphanic moment.

Because in my former life, I was a married, stay-at-home mom—whose hobby basically amounted to filling up her spare time with activities–and I can remember standing in line at Einstein bagels during that life with a “gettin’ ‘er done” attitude, as if getting my kids bagels was just the prep for the bigger parenting moments yet to come; as if standing in line, waiting for my nova lox on plain, crossing “nutritious breakfast” off my to-do list, was devoid of meaning unless accompanied by the million things I was reciting in my head that I’d obviously still need to do in order to be a good parent.

But ten years out, I’m now experiencing a life in which my parenting is done via text and in moments of stealth, or at the end of my workday (and they’re ALL work days), when my eyes are hazy from exhaustion and I will myself to stay awake and present long enough to hear their voice bare the heart and soul of themselves.  I’m experiencing a life in which my million things to do are actual things I really need to fucking do and not some mental exercise in overparenting. And so at Einstein this morning, facing a day of relative ease (work-wise), I’m grabbing bagels to take home, and have an intense experience of knowing that this moment is of special treasure. Because when you normally don’t have time to do even the basic stuff, it becomes the most delicious act of nurturance just to stand in line and buy your kids a bagel.

And maybe there’s like this yin/yang of experience where it’s a Truth that we can’t ever truly know anything–like “joy”– in its fullest and most proper form until we’ve embodied a “lack” of similar equivalency.

Which makes sense. The last time I experienced this same feeling was at the eating counter at the Dancing Cranes over my leafy green salad; the sun was streaming in, and while I sipped an espresso, I was overcome with emotion at remembering how I was once unable to afford the food I was now-putting into my mouth and how even just that very day–only just 200 minutes before–I’d had too much work to do to be able to afford a moment to sit down and nourish my body. And so there I was, living realizations and juxtapositions, and joyously embodying a moment of complete abundance, as if the lack from my past had cleared out a reservoir of privilege and reset my baseline to ‘absolute simplicity.’ The yin being the only thing making the yang possible, this dark energy existing in my life to enrich my experience not with a negativity but rather with the contrast needed to fully embody the sensation of joy.

And of course, I really don’t know. For I also remember having this feeling of joy after finding an open fast food restaurant at the end of my 18 hour Thanksgiving 2015 shift, and there’s a certain amount of justifiable haziness to a spiritual experience in which you find yourself exhausted and hunched over a taco salad in your car, thanking God for Del Taco.

But in the dissection of the past and blending in of the present, I sense the truth of yin/yang, and try not to be too hard on that “she” steeped in the privilege of time who gracelessly moves within “getting’ ‘er done,” because I could never be the person of joy today without the beautiful soul that I was, standing in line, worrying about a million little things, and there is much growth in just acknowledging that my current moment of “now” will one day be my future self looking back at me.

And of course, in the yin and yang of all experience, wisdom comes in fits and starts, meshed together in time, and stalwartly avid in unclarity, but even in the solitude of a solitary moment, there is comfort in knowing that every experience of lack–every time-barren moment and every flawed “you”–is really just a temporary stop in the longer journey towards making us whole.

Bringers 

Going to meet a new (pet sitting) client two weeks ago, I walked up to her apartment to have her tell me I just missed the police escorting her ex-boyfriend and his cardboard boxes of life out of their once-shared apartment.

She is a fully-woke, always-present, powerful “feminist” (in quotes because I really hate labels) heart surgeon fellow with the financial and emotional support of both the University of Utah and her family and friends, and is happily-here in white-male centric Utah in a patriarchy-infused specialty standing strong against XY superiors telling her not to become friendly with the nurses, yet found herself in a situation where her relationship had devolved to the point where her Wednesday break from the hospital was spent with cops because the restraining order against her boyfriend for abusing her meant that the man she once trusted and made a life with couldn’t legally be near her without a law enforcement officer. 

And as she relayed the story of how she was denied legal help in filing the order of protection–“They wouldn’t take it because I didn’t have any bruises”–she was reflective and kind and talked about it as if she was living fully in the now rather than in the realm of unanswered “whys”.  

And again, somehow I meet the most remarkable people in my work, and I’m grateful to be allowed into their story.
For as she talked about how no one would take her case, she lamented her own privilege–financial/emotional support, the ability and resources to write her own legal documents–and a mere 30 minutes after her abuser had walked out with cops, spoke not of her own trials but of the wider insult of systemic injustice wherein a series of thinking errors has led to a culture in which women are basically forced to evacuate from their own lives, forgotten by a society that condemns them to their fate, then blames them for not being strong enough to leave.

And in looking at her, knowing that this terribly stressful thing had just happened in her life, watching her finesse her painful experience into a teaching moment beneficial to our entire society, it was as if she was integrating all the stories of our world so that she could hear the bigger sound.   

Because we all have trauma, but the internal recitation of the world’s crimes against us is an energetic trap and, in the end, we’re all responsible for what we bring to the story of our world.   

FB Memory Share/Thoughts 

(For people who don’t know me irl, I somehow very circuitously became a pet sitter–someone who takes care of animals in their homes while they’re family is away–as my primary occupation. This post is about one of the families I tended for and that is me in the photos above).

I had to stop sitting for these guys because they had moved to Sandy (I’m strictly Salt Lake City) but if I ever write a book, I’m going to contact Luna’s human to include her story.  

I don’t know what motivates some people to nurture what is not easily nurtured.
Her new owner didn’t know if Luna could be rehabilitated–didn’t know what would happen, was unsure what would come of her effort–but Luna’s story pulled her into a situation wherein, at once, she was faced with the daily acceptance of knowing Luna’s ugly story at the same time as she realized that making a life with Luna would be extra work and no guaranteed outcome.  
And it’s remarkable.

People often want “easy” for whatever reason. Maybe they think easy will make life easier or something; that makes some sense, I guess.  

But really I think the truth is that striving to always make things easy doesn’t always make things easier. Because in always shaping our lives into “easy” we don’t challenge ourselves to rise to anything, and it’s in the rising to things that you hone the ability to stay calm when shit goes down. For you don’t learn to conquer emotional foes by sitting on the sidelines, and there’s emotional power in forging willingly and lovingly ahead through uncertainty.

Zoe

IMG_1055.JPG

So I’m sobbing by the side of the street just west of her house, remembering

that late night I drove her home and we saw the streets and businesses flood.  The windshield was submerged and the world inundated, and we all leaned forward in our seats to better view the spectacle, and there was a sweetness in the car.  The two older girls–Zoe and my daughter, Julia—laughed about work stuff, and my younger daughter fangirled over Zoe’s husky voice and vibrant kindness, and as Nature humbled us together, we lived in this weird moment of an impeccable Now—weary-travelers united, safe and warm; almost grateful for the storm’s ferocity–and when we get to her house, she dashed out of the car and I watched her retreat, and could see exhilaration as she ran through the squall towards her front door.  Like she was a kid again.

And I know pain and desperation, so, most days when I pass their house, I utter a blessing for them, because she’s 16, in high school, and rides her bike (in all weather)—2 miles to school, 1 to work, then 2 back home—to a full-time job because her mom struggles with alcoholism and often needs money for rent, and her deadbeat dad yells at her for being irresponsible and she can barely keep up with her schoolwork, and the thing that makes her totally freak out was the time her mom couldn’t pay court costs and she feared her little brother would be taken away because the thing that makes Zoe the happiest in the world is when her little brother runs and jumps into her arms when she comes home for the night.

And most days I feel hopeless to help them, so I say the blessing (my wish) as I quickly pass, hoping to the God or the Universe or whatever freaking energy is out there that they succeed, and that their hardship can be eased and lessons learned quickly, and strength acquired and anxieties culled, because I want to protect this little family, and would give anything to make it so that their struggle can subside long enough for them to craft something beautiful.

Most times I pass quickly because pain is so palpable.   But not this night.

This night,

I see the white lights of their Christmas tree sparkling through the window. And there is something there, inside me, as I pass, that makes me slow and consider my own little family’s razors edge–depression and suicide, cruelty and betrayal—culminating now in my youngest still happy and alive, and with me no longer afraid of hardship, and, all at once, I’m stopped on the street and I can’t hold it in and my breath catches in short gasps.

Because pushed up to the front window, curtains parted, white lights perfectly spaced and sparkling was that tree saying, “Come home to me,” and I could almost see her little brother run into her arms, and feel her mother fighting the good fight, and sense Zoe’s strength and humor, and even hear her palpable kindness as she generously chatted in the car with Julia’s younger sister.

And it was all just so fucking beautiful.

And, alone in my car, in the dark stillness of winter, the air smelling of snow, parked to the side of the road, I covered my face with my hands and sobbed, and felt so much joy.

Because hardship is potent and obvious and feels as if it will never end, but that night, next to their wood-frame house in Marmalade—reliving a moment of ironic gratitude for a rainstorm’s ferocity–I felt maybe my wish had come true, because as I sobbed in the car, my breath heaving, we all became weary-travelers, humbled together, and there was nothing more triumphant and beautiful than seeing us all try so hard to make a better life for one another.

 

 

Yellowstoned

And it was a shapeless voyage.  Underplanned; underfunded.  Like that time in my twenties when my boyfriend and I camped up and down the California coast.  Freezing; complaining.  Our next step always unknown, and our misery purposeful and a small price to pay to feel free and unencumbered.

And the original Yellowstone plan had been scrapped because of that June blizzard, but somehow we’re there and it’s morning when we’re stopped at the side of the road watching the grizzly bear eat the baby elk.  Gray fur blowing in imperceptible breeze, floating and aloft then at rest as gravity and kinetics sooth their differences, the bear hunching over the carcass that was certainly still warm and Livy’s sobbing—“I bet the mommy elk is looking for her baby right now!”—lamenting the cruelty of Nature, and truths that need not be said about how unfair this world is and how little hope there could ever possibly be for the vulnerable.

Because on that day—June 15, 2008, Father’s Day—my daughters and I were the mother elk, living still in a haze of unresolved grief where daddy had left and emotional abandonment stirred archetypal pain, and life had stagnated and become rooted to trauma, continually guiding us to revisit the same point in time as if walking beside the ghost shadow of ourselves.

And I briefly joined Livy in wondering, “How will she find the strength to go on?”

Because as the baby’s blood and muscle and sinew nourished a guiltless beast’s continued domination, we stood together in timeless solidarity with that mother elk who was now tasked with carrying on in spite of the extreme emotional burdens of the living.

And I just didn’t know how it was possible that she could avoid the temptation to give up.   Why doesn’t she just lay down and stop trying?

How do we all find the strength to survive this world?

Then 7 years passes.

And the question is not answered but asked, instead, over and over, during a million little deaths and an excess of losses, and I say “I can’t do this.  It’s too much” and mean it, and the edge is so close until hardship is the new normal and there was that night—that random nothing night–when Livy was still in danger and mom called to say I wasn’t a good daughter and I’m on the stairs in the dark and it just wasn’t possible to feel more alone and something happened in the deep inner knowing of the atoms I share with that mother elk (and the entire Universe) and somehow I knew that beauty and pain must coexist, and in fact we can’t have one without the other, because daddy left but came back, and Livy’s depression fuels social activism, and her self-inflicted scars are counterbalance to her limitless empathy, and I look at her, alive and wonderful with scars and pain, and I have joy—and it’s a miracle, with love enough for the whole world’s pain—that makes me weep in thanks for the misery that made it all possible, and for the pain that taught me how to let all the unimportant things fall away.  That emptied me out only to be refilled again, replaced with a boundless joy and happiness that wells up and bubbles forth simply from seeing her sitting next to me on the stupid fucking couch.

And Time, standing still on one point, pivots and catches.  Like the earth with the sun; in a state of perfect be-ing and dynamic balance.  Wherein every second, Earth avoids annihilation by the Sun’s gravitational pull because of an equivalent counterforce, forever balancing and afloat, in a constant state of falling and missing.

And on that day in Yellowstone—Father’s Day 2008—with the grief and the bear and the mother and the baby, standing within earshot of strangers, and languages, and motor homes, and tripods, and park rangers directing traffic, and an art project of a world masquerading as a tree-filled meadow of green under our effortlessly-generous sun, Nature showed me the patience we all must have to feel that joy.

Because not every second will reveal the logic of hardship.   But Nature erases a lifetime of forgetting, anchoring us to Earth, as it eternally balances, falling into the sun but forever missing.