Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Jet Lag and the Sweet Moon and Sun

Jet lag is narcotic sleep laced with missing hours, missing moments, with slow waves that weave waking and sleeping. Time is slow when jetlagged -- it refuses to be rushed. The days and nights are strange and endless and beautiful, like a good acid trip, where too much light is let into the eye (oh, those tattletale dialated pupils) to reveal the crystalline opalescence of incandescent bulbs even when swinging from a tattered rope.

I keep moving from one to the other and getting lost in between. The missing time is so strange. How sensitive I've become to all the cues of day and night, of time, of hours, minutes, and seconds. How programmed. The tick of the second hand is so present -- alive for each click -- very present and calm and sleepy but not asleep, sitting on the edge where I could, at any time, close my eyes and find dead, sound, glorious sleep.

If only I could hold on to this strange new place -- jet lag is so interesting. The way time is reframed even though it's the same that it always was -- or almost the same-- the light is longer now, in the last two weeks, spring has moved into my home. The sun comes earlier and stays longer in the room, that too is a difference that I not only see but can feel deeply.

Without getting too wildly deep, time is a construction -- a manmade order to make sense of the change from night to day, from dark to light, sun up to moon up. Time isn't real. Days and nights are. Someone (who, I wonder?) invented seconds and minutes that make up the hour, and then hours that make up a day. Calendars too are mostly manmade, some of the days on a calendar are days that people noticed over time -- full moon, new moon, shortest sunlight, longest -- the cycles of the moon and sun inform the calendar, but it's more of an outline --way less rigid than what we all subscribe to now. Month follows month and then another year passes by. We are older.  If we only lived by the sun and the moon our days would be very different.

Maybe I'll try it.

My head still swells and retreats like the ocean that I spent so much time with. Like days and nights the sweet surrender of light and light and dark and dark, a dance of passing. The dance, the dance.

Monday, March 6, 2017

The Elephant Blanket (a poem)

The elephant blanket still smells like the sand, like the surf -- even though I washed it--
like the little bits of dried up oceanic life that came out of the ocean dead riding a casket wave to a sandy burial
or came out alive and toiled for awhile, picking out nits from the sand, then meeting the maker, face-to-crustacean-face.
The elephant blanket smells like sunscreen (lavender, coconut, biodegradable), like sweat, like our bodies, mine and yours
like rain from Napili, like wine spilt at Makena, like nakedness on Little Beach -- my breasts smashed into the fabric, ass up, free to the breeze,
but mostly like the sun.
The elephant blanket smells like the sun.
I will wrap it around my body tonight to see if I can feel its heat dive deep into and through my skin, to make me feel alive again, to feel whole under the eye of God.
To drive away the cold rain and gray of the sky we live under once again.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Let's Dig In: Q & A [How to Own, How to Forgive, How to Become Wise, How to Love Myself]

There has to be a balance between holding myself accountable (for my thoughts, words, and actions) and accepting/loving my imperfections. This is an exploration of those two things (which I think I've decided are NOT opposites -- at least for now.) 

In what ways am I accountable? How do I own my shit?

I write about it here. I live through it. I don't drink through it (most of the time). I don't hide from it. I face it. I take it to the mat. I sit still with it. I stay in my discomfort. I make amends. I apologize to my people. I turn over the rock. 

What happens to my accountability if I let myself off the hook too soon or too easily?

When I let myself off the hook too soon, I don't spend the time investigating myself to know more about my whys, whats, hows, and whens. When I'm too easy on myself, I miss out on learning. I squash my curiosity about myself.  

Is there a threshold where I am brushing off my failings disguised as acknowledgment of my imperfections? 

Yes, there is a threshold. The borderline comes from a place of hurt. When I fail, I go to extremes --either I beat myself up, take myself to the cross, talk about it; or I hide it, lie to myself, and keep it secret. How bad was it? The threshold is measured by the quality and depth of the sin. 

I need to distinguish between failing and imperfections. Or maybe not. What does it mean to me to fail? It means that I've gone against my own beliefs with purpose. I've done, said, or thought something that is against my own system of well-articulated, deeply researched beliefs. 

Imperfections are what make me beautifully human. Imperfections are the things that make us unique, that makes us loved, that make us different and special. But we are also taught, raised, programmed to be like everyone else. Deprograming. Guess what? We are like everyone else in that we are all perfectly imperfect, we are all misfits, special snowflakes and yet (the paradox) sharing the same experience, the experience of being human. 

How can I accept that I am imperfect while making myself an owner of mistakes and wins?

I am just like everybody else. We share the same breath. We are all imperfect and human and will fall and rise again and again. I accept this. I forget this. I remind myself and you over and over again. 

Now back to owning my mistakes. Now back to owning my successes. Taking responsibility, becoming an owner in my own life is what this whole experience of mine is about.  Moving from passive observer, from being the person who says, "why do bad things always happen to me?" to saying, "why am I making bad things happen? How can I shift my thoughts, speech, deeds to make better things happen?"  

My brain knows that mistakes breed invention (and reinvention.) I believe that. I would tell you that if you came to me and said, "H, I fucked up." I would say, "Where's the lesson here? How is this an invitation?" 


Can I raise myself up to higher living by pouring in self-compassion?  

Yes, I can. Will I? Yes, I will. It's a practice like all others. Be a friend to myself. Love myself. Be kind and give myself a soft place to land. Let me learn my lessons without harsh, critical, hateful, negative  self talk. Be my own coach. Own it with compassion. 

I'm really proficient in negative self-talk. Can I move that needle to elevate self-love without allowing bad behavior? 

Not all judgement is a negative thing. Judgement is a thing that keeps us alive by giving us discernment to pass up dangerously spoiled food and helps us to skirt dangerously spoiled people. Judgement is necessary. In the movement to be less judgemental of others I am also moving to a knowing place where I see my judgements as valuable, necessary, important, life-saving, life-affirming. As long as my judgements of others are NOT focused my limitations, my un-learning, my hubris, pride, jealousy -- it's wonderful to value my own voice, my own gauge, my bullshit detector. It gives me clarity, it's deeply honest, and it knows me very well. I don't want to throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

I want to hold space for others and for myself. To give myself a soft place to land when I'm trying to learn something the hard way, by failing, by fucking it all up, by making a mess. I want to be nice to myself, to love myself, to have positive, friend-like self talk. I also want to keep that judgement in tact. That voice that says, ok sis, now you've landed softly, you've been coached by your inner friend, now, let's get to work and suss this out. Why are you re-learning this lesson? Now that you've been through this, what are the consequences and are you ready to own those? Can you sit in this knowing and come up with a plan for more work, reformation, attention (not detention), and lessen attrition? Can you then ask yourself new questions, regain your curiosity, and openheartedly move forward? Where's the invitation?

Move the needle. Elevate. Self-love. 

Now what?

Stories written, stories released, stories forgiven, become wisdom. Explore. Write. Forgive. Become wise. Repeat. 

Now the practice begins. 

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Go Back In (I Am Never Done)

I worked through feelings of worthlessness and isolation and profound loneliness, my feelings of self-betrayal, self loathing. I've read, danced, laughed, cried, and yoga'd my way to a safe, sound, foundation of self-love, inner peace, and freedom. And yet... when left alone, instead of feeling full, surrounded by my gurus, my god, my love, my loved, I fell back into the shame, fear, worthless frenzy of me before I started the work. The old me. The old shell. The old script. 

In my Christian family, this was called "backsliding." It means simply that you found faith, and then lost it. That you found God, found The Way, and then, lost your way to Him. In judgier circles it also meant that you drank beer again, or smoked pot, or danced on tables, or fornicated -- but whatever the thing was, you had heaven in your grasp and then you turned back on heaven and moved toward the depths of hell. 

I traveled alone to a town where (almost) nobody knows my name. I worked and happy-houred and dined and slept. And then I found myself alone, in a city, invisible, isolated, off-course, far from the people and places that keep me honest, and I slid right back into that old script. The one that I've written about too many times, the one that I thought I burnt, I buried, I wrote and reread so many times that I exorcised it. And then, there it was. Drink another. Drink alone. Try on danger. Do it. Feel alone. Revel in your loneliness. After all this work you are still a scared, drunk, stupid, danger-seeking, little worthless piece of shit. Boom. [The inner critic lives.]

All it took was taking myself out of intention, out of breath, out of my light, and I was back into thoughtless, reactive living. I looked away from heaven. I looked away from what I hold that holds me accountable. My mat. My loves. My yogis. My family. Me. 

Then I inserted the self-loathing. That old comfortable beat-up, worn-through boot. You know the one. Even though I've bought new boots that are comfortable and beautiful and feel great to walk in for miles, I have that one old pair in the very back, dark corner of my closet and they just feel so good when I slip them on. (They do, don't they?) 

Downward shame spiral. Self-loathing. Self-admonishment. Shame on me. I know better. Why are you doing this to yourself? Who are you? How quickly you lose your way? What the fuck, H, what the fuck?

I'm so hard on myself. Can you imagine me saying this to you? Can you imagine that you had a bad night, and old-script night, and that you came to me to confess? I would sit you down and shame you. Nope. That would never happen. 

I would say -- this is the work. As Elizabeth Gilbert says, "Go back in." 

But, I already did this work. I already re-wrote this script four times and it's done and I'm done and I'm all better, see? Nope. Go back in. This is the work. 

I'm going back in. I broke my own heart again (but no one else's this time, thank God.)  It hurts as much as always. This time I have so many ways to sit with it. So many ways to forgive it. So many new skills to cope through the pain and the pain and the pain again and again and again. 

Go back in. Burn off the impurities, tapas. Light the fires and step into the flames. Here I am. Here I go. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Embarrassment Is a Cute Word for Shame

In one of my favorite yoga classes, my beloved teacher sometimes calls out to her yogis to riff on a class topic. A few weeks ago, she asked me: "how do you mend a broken heart?" I answered, "ice cream."

I don't even like ice cream. I was very embarrassed. I know deeply that food cannot mend anything. Food is not a place of solace or comfort or recovery. In fact, I've been working on the shame and connection/obsession with food for months now. And when given an opportunity to raise up my class, my teacher, myself, the old ancient shit bubbles right back up to the top and out of my mouth - ice cream. 

At first I thought the lesson was to forgive myself quickly and move on. No one in the class thought I was an idiot, so why did I? Who cares what you said when put on the spot in a yoga class anyway? What does it matter, even if I looked stupid? What do I care what others think of me? 

Then I let that sit. And sit it did. Then it festered and blistered into a wound that I replayed in my head. I would worry over it like a stone in my pocket. Bring it to mind from time to time as if to prove that I'm still the same sad sack that I used to be -- all this hasn't changed me. I'm no better. [cue violins]

Then the blister popped. Raw and sore, rubbed down broken skin. And the relief of the ah-ha! Shame on me. 

I allow shame to hold me. Shame throws his arms around me and I snuggle in. Tighter. It's nice to be held, I think, even by shame -- so comforting, so human. I can look around in any place, in every place, and see and hear people being held by shame, conversing with shame, shame flooding from their mouths.   

I ate two doughnuts. By myself. I swear to God. 
Twist my arm, and I'll have another glass of wine. 
If I gain any more weight.... 
She thinks I'm mowing the grass or cleaning the garage. 
I'm a terrible mother -- losing at momming. I love her but.... 
Why did I say that ice cream heals a broken heart when the answer is love or light or time or dancing or laughter or fresh air. 

Today, I'm here to tell you that I'm sick of shame. Now that I can see it everywhere, in everyone. I'm not having any of it. No more shame. I will break the embrace. I will free myself. 

Tell the truth and tell it fast. I may be in part who I am because of shame, but I will not allow shame to raise me anymore. Shame may have built my last home, but I burnt that one down, I remember. I still stink of smoke. 

If I turn away from the light for even a moment, the darkness nips at my heels chasing me further into the dark. Come back to me, my pretty, let me wrap you up in fear and shame and doubt, let me hide you from yourself and from your infinite light and love. Come back to hate - hating yourself, hating people (I used to have a bumper sticker that said "I hate people"), hating the world.

I do all this work. Read. Write. Practice. Talk. Listen. Love. Sit in my stillness, the seat of my personal power and listen deeply - meditate. And shame is the thing that brings the dark cloud over my head. If only I was better. If only I was kinder. If only I was more selfless. If only I was a more compassionate friend. [Insert shame talk here.]

Shame on me. Shame on you. That's a phrase from my childhood. 

No more. 

I'm blowing the doors off. I think Brene Brown's work on shame and vulnerability is epic. I'm re-reading and listening to every podcast now. Also work from Glennon Doyle Melton and Elizabeth Gilbert is keeping me upright. When the shame comes, look to others with light to cheer you. I acknowledge, yes, you are here sitting on the edge of a crumbling precipice. Take my hand, my words, and guide yourself back to the solid ground. 

I will not hang my head. I will lift it up. 

What's wrong with being vulnerable? What's wrong with living honestly and not perfectly? Everything I need is already here. Can I lean back on myself, on the deep knowing, and allow gravity to hold me?

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Yesterday I Was Alive, Today My Heart is Beating Me Awake

How many yesterdays have I had at forty years old? Looking back at yesterday, ignoring the present, smothering the future. 

Yesterday, I went to the rec center pool with my daughter. It was crowded with other parents and children. Winter break, the week after Christmas, and all of us hanging on by threads - anticipating the future return of school's starting bell. Bye, I love you, have a great day. [quiet sigh] 

The indoor pool is beautiful. Mostly clean, open, lofted, ceilings with huge wood beams, and low lights. The din is roucous. Windows from floor to ceiling. On the southwest side of the pool, the windows look out to a wooded area beyond the playground. Yesterday, the sun was brilliant, the sky blue. I rested my arms at the edge and turned my face to the sun coming through the southwestern window. My view all trees and low golden light.  The usual piped-in music was off. The pool water lapping through the deck drain. I could feel the sun warming my skin. 

I was present. I was full. Happy. I marked that moment. Come back to this. Back to this breath, this calm in the wild, this sense of equanimity, this peace. 

We rush to remember all the monumental moments, the births, matriculations, firsts of everything (tooth in, tooth out, potty, crawl, walk, run, swing, dance, sing, knee scrape, birthday after birthday - marking each new year),  holidays, graduations, anniversaries, new births. We like remembering the big stuff. It feels big. Take a picture. 

I want to remember the small stuff. The little finer moments. The unhurried. The uncaptured. To document the undocumented the mundane the ordinary the extraordinary. 

I finally figured it out after all these years. I am special and I am just like everybody else. I am paradox. I am human in the most beautiful denotation of the word, meaning that I am full of feeling, thought, insight, foibles, comedy, desire, life. I am fully alive. I want to remember the moments when I feel alive. 

I will write to this. 

Today I woke to hear my heart beating. The thum-and-drum. Breathe in. Breathe out. I slowly filled up with breath and exhaled. Listening to my heart. Fill up. Let go. Beat. In. Out. Beat. 

Meditation is deep listening. Mediation is not the absence of anything or the addition of anything. Meditation is just listening deeply, acute listening, listening and nothing else. Enraptured listening. What will happen next? I can't stop. I must know. What is happening now? It's a metaphysical cliffhanger. Who knew mediation could be so stimulating?

Beauty in every day, beating me awake. 

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Sometimes it's too heavy for Superman to lift. [replace "Superman" with "me"]

I've been very hard on myself recently. Blaming myself for all that's wrong with this world. As if the hatred and disgusting politics and water wars and racism and sexism and missing pieces are all my fault. As if all the light and love I've sent out was going to be enough to fix all this. My actions cannot be measured by the results. 

A few weeks ago, I took my daughter to a pet shop. We fell in love with a puppy brought her home. My heart filled with love and then dread. Another mouth to feed. Another creature to love. Another creature to hold, and help, and play with, and clean up after. A loss of freedom. Another living thing that I am responsible to and for. Dread. Panic. Delight. Love. Despair. What had I done? Haven't we lost enough freedoms this year? 

I knew that I could raise a puppy. I know that I can do anything. Haven't you seen me do everything? Haven't you seen me do anything? Why do I hold myself responsible for all the weights of the world? How can I be accountable for every thing and everyone in it?

I can't. I won't. I'm not. 

I can't get time back and last week I spent time in my head admonishing myself for rehoming a puppy. A puppy that a bought to make my daughter happy. A puppy that I thought would fix something broken in my kid. My kid feels alone in this life. My kid has single separated parents and no siblings and no pets. My kid loves dogs. She loves people. She loves animals and wants to play with one every day. I wanted to give that to her. She is perfect. The puppy is perfect. I am not. 

I am overwhelmed by my living right now. I am overwhelmed by my monkey brain and how the dark the slips in even when I'm working in the light. I notice myself feeling grief and loss and exhaustion, self-pity, self-hatred. I spent too much time judging (thinking) myself for feeling and not enough time feeling my feelings. It's okay. I'm reminding myself. Feel the stuff. See it there? Feel it here? Ok. Then those feelings move on or sometimes just hang around. Can I sit in my discomfort? Yes and no. Can I add in more self-love? Yes and no. 

Keeping the puppy was too much discomfort. Many years of me being alone in my responsibility for a living creature. Re-homing the puppy is yet another source of discomfort. How could I? What kind of shit mother am I? What's the big deal, it's a puppy--can't you at 39 years old handle mothering a puppy?

As I sit in my truth and wear my discomfort like a cute new scarf, I know the answer. I want to give S everything. I cannot. I hate myself when I cannot. I need to love myself when I cannot. I'm practicing that now. It's a tough practice, let me tell you. 

I want the world, this country to be great, peaceful, healthy. I'm despondent when this world is so ugly - hate groups, local terrorism, people turning against each other. I cannot fix it. I'm practicing loving myself knowing that I can't fix the world. It's a tough practice. 

I have been working with individuals and with my daughter to hold space, to give love and light. To have hope for myself, for my kid, and for this world -- or at least for the loving people in it. I'm pouring in the self-love hoping that that alone will drown the self-hate. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

What the Fuck, Abdul Razak Ali Artan?

A man named Abdul Razak Ali Artan crashed his car into a crowd of people on the Ohio State University campus and then lashed out with a knife stabbing people until he was shot by police. Artan was known as mild mannered, soft-spoken, and thoughtful. Artan was interviewed earlier in the school year by the OSU student newspaper. Artan was concerned that there wasn't a place on campus for him to pray. He was afraid to pray in the open, afraid he would get shot. He was aware of the world and frustrated by the way it worked, but showed no signs of violence or fundamentalism, only signs of a man looking for a home for his faith. He was concerned about Trump becoming president. 

Now we've proved that anyone can be president. You don't have to be good or a politician or know anything about American history or government. You don't have to like women or be a Christian. You don't have to like "retarded" people or old people. You don't have to go to college or know about making policy. You don't have to be kind. You don't have to try to say nice things. You don't have to believe in God. You don't have to get the most votes. 

Anyone can be president. 

Maybe in four years we should all run. Who would win if millions of people ran for president? Who would win if it was an open market? Maybe if Abdul Razak Ali Artan could have found a safe place to pray he would have found a healthier way to channel his anger and frustration, he could have been a change maker and then become president in 16 years -- probably not, but just maybe.

Remember democracy? That's gone. Remember capitalism? That's gone. Do you know how lost we are? Can you find us on the map? I do not accept this election. I do not accept the candidates or the result. This was a shitshow. The whole thing felt like a badly staged joke. 

I have a light. I have hope. I hold it close and feed it every day.  I have a voice. I give a shit. 

I won't leave this country. I will stay right here. I am your witness. I am your recorder. I am your hope holder. You belong here. So do I. All of us. Trump and Hillary. Artan too. How do we do this now? 

Not that long ago I would have been burnt at the stake or drowned to see if I could float or hanged. I am a heretic, a witch, a hag, a woman who believes in herbs and tinctures and prayer and yoga and the power of women communing. I believe in congregation. I believe in witnessing. I believe in safe spaces for prayer. I believe in safe spaces for education. 

Like all of you, I am trying to figure out just what the fuck is going on. 

What the fuck? 

Today I don't have any answers. Today I have only questions. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Don't Wait. Stay.

What happens when we stop waiting and stay?

We wait when we know something is coming. Looking out of the window as a kid, I would wait for my grandparents' car to pull onto my street. Looking and waiting for them to arrive, I wasn't present in that moment except in my anticipation bordering on agitation to see them, to have their gifts and kisses and rapt attention. But when would they come? What if there was an accident or they were late or stopped for a sandwich?  How long could I suffer anticipation? Until I saw the Oldsmobile pull around the corner, until I was wrapped in their arms. Sigh. I can relax now. 

We are taught to worry, taught to anticipate, so many outcomes to predict that we miss what is happening in front of us.  In life and in practice, what are you waiting for?  What happens to your sense of self if you stop worrying, stop waiting, and stay where you are, stay in that breath, in that moment, in that pose, in the center of your mind, in your experience? 

Worry, anxiety, and fear, my old friends... I was taught by everyone I know how to model my life with your clays.  I was taught that worry is how we show love. Anxiety is what we feel when we look to the future. And fear, well fear is what we see when we look at the past or future. A steady dose of fear for breakfast every day, fear of catching a cold because my hair is wet, fear of dying in  a car crash driving to school or taking the bus, fear for the future world under the next President, fear of going back to a new version of the same unsatisfying past already lived.  No wonder I couldn't breathe. Who could?

Without the past, without the future, stay here in this present, without worry about what is to come, without judgement about what came before.

Instead of waiting, can we stay? Let's hunker down. Find the middle of this moment and stay. Not looking to change the future. Not looking back at missed opportunities, lost moments. Sitting right here in the middle of this word, of this thought, this posture, this conversation, this moment. Can we stay in the discomfort of our impatience as we look forward? And then up the ante and stay in our present and completely skip the anxiety about the unknowns of the mysterious, unpredictable future?  Just have this breath. Fill up. Let it go. Repeat. 

The present is here now. The gift of life is here now. Full stop. 

Can I balance my mind, my breath, my body in a challenging posture and stay in the middle of this experience? Wobbles, discomfort, and all? Can I do this in my life? When life challenges me, can I accept that challenge and sit with the discomfort of it? Without reaction. Without any action. Hold the discomfort. Maybe even welcome it enough to find some ease in it?

Can I stay a little while longer in each moment? Make each breath count. That cliche doesn't sound as cliche to me all the sudden. It's like I heard it for the very first time as I typed the words. I am here in this moment. I am alive. 

Friday, September 2, 2016

Center of Gravity

Are you doing the work?

In therapy, in Alcoholics Anonymous, in couples counseling, in tv shows (e.g., Project Runway), in yoga or other energy fields--all puns intended-- there is an idea of work. Personal work, deep work, intuitive work that keeps you alive and healthy, but more than that, work that makes you succeed and thrive and excel. It's work that asks tough to answer questions and the more honestly you answer the closer you get to the real work. 

Who are you?
Why are you here?
What do you want?

I've always been a deep well. Clawing my way to the light (it gets dark down there). I started the work wherever I was. And it came in fits and starts, mini breakthrough, major meltdown, in waves until I committed to the work. I decided to be all in. Really, at this point in my life, what did I have to lose? I lost my marriage and family and had to rebuild another model of family. I lost my old self, that one that I could count on to be a total fun-ruining depressed shit, full of angst and woeisme bullshit, the self who felt entitled to something better because, after all, I am so exceptional, so special that this mundane pain is not something that I thought I needed to feel. I lost my ideas about parenting, my birth plan was flushed, placenta and all. I lost interest. And in all the losing, I found the greatest thing. 

Here I am. Freshly burnt, emerging from the fire, expanding into the person that I've always been. It's so fucking strange when you realize that you've been here all along. I've been here inside waiting for me to drop all the shit. To embrace the mundane pain, to embrace and revel in it. To let it go. To let me out. 

Are you doing the work?

I see patterns emerge. The more I see us, all of us, as being alike, the more I see our similarities, the more grateful I am. I used to think of myself as an outcast, an alien, someone so unlike anyone else, that I was truly, uniquely alone. What a sad idea for a young woman. When I looked up and saw that there were others like me, other uncertain mothers revolting against the mommy-cult, other women who struggle in everyday life with jobs and husbands and kids and wine, that gave me comfort. Maybe I am not alone. 

Then once I started doing the work, I found more than similarities. We are the same. We are cut from the same cloth. We share the same air.  We are one. What separates us? How are any of us truly different?

I'm trying to teach this to my daughter. Of course she is in a place where she wants to be different, special, and unique, and she is, of course, in my eyes the most special and wonderful child who has ever lived. I want her to know that she feels what all people feel. She thinks her own thoughts but others can think them too. That she is deeply a part of all of the wonder and stardust and living, breathing earth and air. That she is part of the fire and light from the sun. That she is as much a part of me as I am of her. That she will always have connection to all of this if she wants that, it's here, in her all along--that deeply grounding sense that you are not alone, but living in the midst of yourself at your most magnificent in each moment you feel alive, supported, connected. I am alive. You are alive. 

Doing the work means that my center of gravity changed, again and again. That I spent years building up a sense of uniqueness because it gave me a wall of protection from emotional pain. If I was alone, no one could hurt me. If I was special, I was exempt from the pitfalls of life, I was different than everybody else. Now, I'm vulnerable, raw, open, exposed. I feel it all. I crave the feeling. I can't not feel. 

I hurt and it is beautiful. I love and it is beautiful. I make mistakes and yell and fart and laugh and snort and it is so honest and so beautiful. I'm all in. 

Now that I'm here, I feel so connected to you, to everyone. I feel us all as one heaving mass of life. Your pain is mine. Your splinter, is mine. Your laugh rings in my ears.  I don't have to sympathize or empathize, because we are the same. You know what I know. I feel you. You feel me too. You do. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Elements in Processing, Part Two: The Demolition Queen Bids You Adieu

My truth is not a condemnation of yours. - Cheryl Strayed

You don't need to eat all the pizza in Italy to find yourself... ask yourself what you are willing to risk or change, in order to find a sense of freedom, joy and reanimation within your own life. - Elizabeth Gilbert

She'll be coming 'round the mountain when she comes. - traditional folk song, unknown

My path is not for everyone--it's not for anyone, it's for me. I don't recommend divorce. I don't take heartbreak (mine, yours, or anyone's) lightly. Measure for measure each person has to live in his/her own life. Feeling restless is not a reason to fly. Restlessness may be a reason to hop on one foot or take a dance class or practice kundalini yoga or learn the art of beermaking or to try a new hairstyle/color/outfit. I wasn't just restless. 

When you look at your life in the quiet moments, what do you see? 
When you're alone, can you be still? 
Are you happy to spend time with yourself? 
What are you here to do? 
Who are you? 
Do you like yourself? 
Can you stop and stand firmly on the ground and look into a mirror and praise yourself, lift yourself up, love yourself, and breathe? 

My truth is not a condemnation of yours. My parenting is not yours. My love life is not yours. My childhood is not yours. I do not live inside your skin. But you have to live inside your skin. I have to live inside mine. 

I have a new house. My skin is refreshed, reinvented. I burnt my house to the ground, remember? Torched the fucker. I rebuilt, over time---it took so much time and energy and there were pitfalls and I ran backwards and tripped over the beams and hurt myself and others and cried a lot. I was frustrated and impatient, god, I was so, so patiently impatient. It was ungraceful, awkward. But the whole time, I knew. 

I didn't know the outcome of the work that I was putting in. I didn't go in to demolition mode knowing what the new, improved building of my soul would look like at the Grand Opening. I just knew that if I stopped and asked myself really hard questions and answered honestly the really hard answers all along the way, that I would be right. I would arrive. And then i would stay. 

To let something go, you have to stay. 

We have never stayed home long enough to experience the truth about ourselves. -- Enrich Schiffmann

I feel like I ate the shell of my old life and old self and that shell fortified and fostered my growth, my regeneration. I am still here. This is my journey. And my journey took another (totally unforeseen) direction. My footing is sound. I am happy and calm and sure. 

I have so many metaphors. The queen of the dragons, the queen of metaphor, the queen of demolition. The Demolition Queen bids you adieu. 

Saturday, August 6, 2016

Elements in Processing. Spinning Wheel, or Maybe Progress Bar.

It wasn't one specific day that I woke up and realized that I didn't fit into my life anymore, but that's what happened. It's not because I'd eaten too much and had grown out of my dresses (although that happened, and then didn't, and then did again). It wasn't because I married a man and became a wife (that happened.) It wasn't because I had a child and became responsible for another person's survival and well-being (although that happened, too.) 

I didn't fit into my life anymore because my life was a generic model of life, a distant, but widely accepted version of the American dream. The modern family. The life that we all move toward without question. You want this. Of course you do. Who doesn't? Only sad people and weirdos and people who are terminally depressed or homeless drug addicts don't want this. This is the good life. You have arrived.  You don't want to be a drug addict, do you? 

I wanted to believe. The modern American family was what I wanted it because I had it. I fought for that life. As I inched toward it (once I decided to quit fucking around and get "serious" about my life), I found a person to marry. A person who is kind and easy and good. I made a baby. I found a good job. I menu-planned and grocery shopped and cooked holiday dinners and threw birthday parties and anniversaries and scheduled dentist appointments. In the busy life that I lived, there was this nagging feeling, a tug inside, a voice, a dream that would bubble up to the surface and say, "whoa. whothefuckareyou? do you even like this shit? when was the last time you felt like yourself 100%?"

Once I stopped rushing through all the things that I was supposed to want and supposed to do, and looked around, I was overcome by the ohfuck,thiscan'tbeit. We have certainly taken a wrong turn somewhere, baby, where is the map? I had been striving for a normal life for so long that when I was there living in the middle of it all, I was stunned. I knew I was supposed to be happy (after all, I did it!) but I was miserable.  But that's just the thing, isn't it? When you travel toward a destination that's not truly your own, it's gravely unsatisfying when you get there. This place was not mine to reach. I wanted to be proud that I drank so much less and exercised and balanced my bank account and career and my family and my friends. But it never felt right. 

There I was in the middle of someone else's well-earned dream destination. 

It was a historical dream. A community goal. Goals teethed from my grandmother and grandfather. It was a traditional destination. A goal that most of my friends wanted to reach and were reaching left and right. That time in our lives when every person we know is getting married and/or having children and/or buying a house. 

The collective ticking off of boxes. Job. Check. Marriage. Check. House. Check. Baby. Check. Life. Check. 

In the time it took me to get there, I had changed. Grown out of the wanting of that life. I certainly didn't want things anymore. I didn't want a bigger house or a nicer car or more jewelry or finer clothes (ok, I do have a fantasy about wearing only Eileen Fisher and Sanuks). I didn't want to work more to make more money to buy more stuff. I wanted to work just enough to feed myself and my family and keep my life full of joy and not to be burdened by being the keeper of things. Things feel heavy and cumbersome and loathsome. And I hate cleaning and dusting and washing things. What a huge waste of my precious time. Time is the only thing we can never have more of. 

The life that I thought I wanted didn't serve me. It wasn't true for me. As scary as that was, it was way scarier to pretend that I wanted it. It was like l was in jeopardy of disappearing or disintegrating. If I ignored that sinking feeling, if I turned away from the truth, I would just dissolve. There would be no Heather. She would forever be lost, dusting little trinkets after working seventy hours a week to pay for her extravagant shopping trips to Nordstrom Rack and fancy Cameron Mitchell dinners.  

I didn't want to be lost forever. So, I fucked shit up. Made a big ol mess. And then spent a whole lot of time cleaning that up (ugh.) And now, I live in a very clean soul and house. I am living in my truth and working and reading and laughing and playing and loving myself, my daughter, and my friends. I'm going to bed. More later. As always. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Glass Doors: Finding Compassion in Relationships When You Are Awakening

You all have seen it happening, the riptides of my sorrow and anger and depression gave way to rebuilding and awakening and living again and again, and now again. Those dark waves tore under and over and mixed with the greatest joy of my life (at the time), my only sunlight in that tumultuous sea, my daughter, who was a source of fear/insecurity and perfect wondrous joy.  

As selfishly as I have lived my life so far, I realized today that I am still living selfishly. My compassion has grown and expanded, be sure. My selfishness has turned into disappointment because other people I love are not yet where I am. I feel, for the first time, like a missionary. I want to run around and yell, "Wake up! There is so much more to life than this."  And when my loves are not fully awake, I take that on and take it in. 

How do you tell people you love that they are walking dead? 

My impatience is my enemy. I want it all to happen now. Go. I have spent the majority of my life being impatient. As a young kid always wanting to be older. As a teenager wanting the future to come now so I could live on my own and make my own decisions.  In my 20s I just wanted a real love, a true lover and marriage and to be settled, even though I was not ready for that, I so desperately wanted it. Once I was married, I wanted the hardship of early marriage and childrearing to end and give way to the middle of marriage where everything felt settled and when your kid could make her own breakfast. Until now, I wanted to be somewhere else in my life. Always looking to that place and never looking where I presently stood. 

Now, I want everyone to wake up and be with me in this space, where for once I feel happy and light and free. Maybe this is progress? Maybe this is part of my awakening. I am not looking to the future or rushing into what's next, but I'm impatient for everyone else to come with me now. To grow instantly and meet me here. (It's funny because there are plenty of people in my life who have been "here" all along. Thankfully, they never rushed me. Growing pains, sigh.)  Why am I rushing you, as if this is a thing that could be rushed? What's my hurry? 

I don't want you to miss out, that's true. But, my hurry is simple: I don't want to be alone. I don't want to live in this new space by myself. My old fears of abandonment and being alone are still here, smaller, more tame, but those fears are like lightening bugs lighting up in the darkest night, small but very bright and flitting all over, tough to catch. Can I be ok staying here by myself and then continuing on alone? 

There are many signs of how my growth impacts me and the people in my life. My kid meditates and smudges the house when she's feeling off. She took her meditation CD to school and had them listen to it during resting time. Half of my old friends do yoga now. The other half want to (I can feel it.)  Communication has improved between me and my mama. We are all in this together. 

All of this has been swirling around in my head for awhile. And then I read Mark Nepo today: August 2 from The Book of Awakening 

We want so badly to share our innermost experience with our loved ones, but often, like the mermaid, we forget that not everyone can go where we go. Indeed, we all share this mysterious fact--that no one can go into our depth completely. We must travel there alone. It is where we commune with God.


Never was this clearer to me than when wheeling Anne, my partner of twenty years, to the operating room where she would have surgery for cancer, I went as far as I could and watched her grow smaller through the glass doors. I realized then, that whether it be our quarrel with God or with dead parents or with the limitations of our humanity, each of us must go beyond the glass doors of our experience alone. And the work of compassion is to guide our dear ones as far as we can and to be there when they return. But no one can go beyond the glass doors for us or with us.

Leave it to the call-and-response swirling energy to send me just the thing I need to read today just in time, just before I set my thoughts, words, and actions into the cast of my heart. Mark Nepo made me feel just like him and the mermaid and then I'm not alone. And yet, I can't go where you go. You can't come with me. Glass doors.

Today I will be a student, patient with myself. And then, patient with you. You will be where you are today. I will be where I am. I will love you where you are (haven't I always? My impatience is way more about me than you.)  I will hold space for you in my depths and be here when you return. I'll be the one bouncing up and down with a bottle of champagne and balloons ever so happy to see you. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Getting Down to This Sick Beat (a.k.a., Can't Stop, Won't Stop Grooving: It's Going to Be Okay)

I was driving my daughter to adventure camp and she was singing loud. Joy and emotion bubbled up in me all hot and sweet. She's at the age where she sings the wrong words out of tune with her whole heart. She's at the age where I'm remembering myself at her age. I remember being five going on six. I remember that unwatched, unbridled, unapologetic self, wearing mismatched clothes, having bad hair, playing until I could make dirt rings in the tub. I love that in her and in me. The true joy of being yourself, and more than being, really loving yourself, enjoying your own voice and company. 

I want to give her that forever. To make a soft place for her to always be herself and to always love herself and be loved all the way, no-holds-barred. All in. Love and freedom and living being truly alive and awake and free. 

Sigh. I remember when that ended in my life. When the constant imaginary audience appeared and when I no longer felt free even when I was alone.  My deep sense of self would still allow stolen moments of freedom for singing and dancing and smiling and laughing, but the unfettered moments were very few. When I did sing and dance and laugh it was with that audience in mind. It's like when you trip walking down the street and you look around, and although no one is in sight, you feel like, or you know, you are being watched. Someone saw you, certainly. Someone laughed. You can almost hear it. 

Then age comes. Perspective. Trial. Living through trials. Living in spite of life. Finding fear. Shedding fear. Fucking up. Grief. Remorse. Salvation. You learn that you will die one day, some day, any day. It could be today. You realize that you don't want to die hiding from yourself, being embarrassed because of who you are. You don't want to leave this body, this life, being afraid, you want to leave it being fully alive. You want to leave this life in love with yourself. 

I learned that I won't die from being afraid and doing it anyway. I learned that I won't die from telling the truth, the whole truth, to anyone, to everyone. I learned that I am just like all other people and yet so freaking amazingly special and unique that only I can love myself this much, no one else can do it for me. I learned to love my mistakes and successes. To love the things that make me alike and different. I don't have to be weird on purpose, to shun something/someone because he/she/it is popular, I can like it too. I am weird because I see the world this way. Most of us don't. Not yet. I think it comes to all of us who do the work. 

In honor of my light bringer, who is just learning the words to her own heart's song, let's listen to this and enjoy it. No one is watching. You can dance and sing even if you don't know the words. No one is watching (and if they are watching you will inspire a piece of them to live their truth. I know it.)

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Trust and the Truth

I used to lie as often as I told the truth. I went through phases where I told the truth and then phases when I would almost exclusively lie and then again meet somewhere with lies and truths woven together to build the story of me. These lies were lies told to others and to myself so indiscriminately that I am still unraveling those stories apart. 

Small lies, big lies, lies about my name, my upbringing, my work, my life, my heart. Lies hidden under a guise of play acting, pretending something is true, hidden behind a sense of "trying it on." Lies to protect my smaller self. Lies to protect raw, abandoned, hurt, tiny, little bits of me. Lies told for so many reasons, but all untrue, all told to wall in my own living truth, to put that truth away for another day or year, to hide my real self from you and from me. I knew sometimes when I lied, that I would have to reconcile that harm that I sent out-- some days, I knew that I would have to answer to myself for the breaks I made in the energy of what's really real. Some days I did not. 

And while I deeply like the idea of trying something on, before committing to the purchase, I see the lie in my life then, for what it is; deep commitment to dis-honesty, but really, a deep hold in my own fear. 

"A lie would make no sense unless the truth was felt to be dangerous." - Carl Jung

In this work that I'm doing now and over the last few years, I tell the truth. At first it was very hard and exhilarating. I was giddy with it. When truth bits flew out, it was a release of my self into the world. There I am. See me? Giddy. Alive. In small parts. One chunk at a time. 

Then, another shift, when telling the deep truth becomes what's normal, and you are almost telling the truth in every single moment in life. Then, when you do lie, or carve out a mini story (usually in mothering moments where I'm not ready to tell the truth), the lie feels like shards of glass stabbing through my skin. I have to make peace with that lie and usually, then, I vow to tell the truth later. Make a note to readdress as soon as possible. 

Living in truth becomes the norm. Resonating truth in each breath, in each word, each thought, each action. 

This week my honesty was challenged. Challenged in a very new way for me.  I was threatened by someone that I gave a courtesy of trust to. I engaged in a trustful way. Very open and ready for the work to begin. I showed up. I stay present. I did not run.

My truth was telling me to run. To hide. To not show up to begin with. To find a way out. To protect myself and others in the circle. But, I stayed, I fought against my own truth. I was so afraid of falling back into the me that hides and lies and can't sit still, that's when my voice said old words in a new way, I fought. I forgot to listen in. 

What happens to truth when there is no trust? 

Can I hear the same words with new ears? 

Is it ever okay to hide and run? What other ways can I protect myself now? 

How can I hold space for something and someone who rings wrong? 

This made me angry. Anger is my shit. I know that. Reaction is true. Emotion is an indicator of where the pain-points are in this process, journey, life. Resistance is part of the truth, just as acceptance is.  I'm taking in the information now. Coming down from the anger and panic. Moving through to optimism and hopefulness again. Working on trust again. This time the lens is on me.