faith · trust · uncertainty

Courting Constance

9-29-181.jpgMy tattoo came up in conversation twice yesterday.  A male coworker was having a really hard time.  He was feeling extremely riled up about the Senate hearings and as I sat in his empty classroom during the recess period, he said that he felt everything was topsy-turvy, that everything he thought was good and just in the world was falling apart.

In short, he was feeling unmoored.

So I told him about my tattoo.  I have a small black ink tattoo on the inside of my left wrist.  I got it in college, but I had first sketched it out on paper then drew it huge on my bedroom wall!  (I wanted to make sure I could live with it on my wall before living with it forever on my body.)  Two facing bedroom walls were painted lavender and the others a muted mint green.  On one purple wall, there was a rectangle of chair railing painted in white relief around where a doorway must have stood at one time.

In the center of this white frame, I sketched a sun with flames that coiled and looped with artistic sun flares.  Within the sun, I drew the sign of infinity done in a Mobius strip manner so that it curled in on itself again and again, like infinity is wont to do.

The tattoo version that made it onto my wrist is a much simplified knock-off of the intricate design on my wall, but it retains its meaning (to me at least):

The Sun, and Infinity.

I told my coworker yesterday that my tattoo represents Constants.  In the chaos and unmooring of all life, the sun is a constant (at least in my lifetime).  It is extant.  It exists whether I can see it or not, whether hidden by cloud or Earth.  The sun, as I live, is something I can depend on intrinsically and marrowly.

Infinity, in turn, is also a constant.  The idea that time itself, that lines, gravity, mechanical force have no beginning and no end — that there is something that exists that never, ever, ever ends.  That is infinite.  It’s infinity, for crying out loud!  Infinity is something to depend on.  It is always there.  Esoteric as it is, infinity is a place to hang my internal hat.

I told my coworker that there is not one goddamned thing within or without us that is constant.  Politics, morality, safety — not one of these is impermeable.  A person on the left has the same intractable righteousness as a person on the right.  One person’s idea of what is acceptable human behavior flies in the face of another’s.  What was a body that repaired itself one day is a host for disease the next.

Not one damn thing is dependable… except the things that are.  Except the choice to make goodness.  Except the choice to not be an asshole in the world.  Except the choice to keep living a life you yourself consider admirable or upstanding or moral.  There is no reward for this.  There is no morality prize.  There is no blue ribbon at the pearly gates of heaven where we can depend upon a reward for our perceived goodness.

What we have is only the choice to anchor ourselves.  I choose to find that relief, that constancy, in my perception of the sun and the inevitability of the infinite.

When, later that same school day, my students were working on a journal prompt to list at least 10 things about which they were curious, one of my 7th graders wrote, “I’m curious about Ms. D’s tattoo.”

And so I told them.  I told them that, frankly, we cannot always depend on people.  We can’t even always depend on ourselves!  And that notion can chuck us off this blue, spiraling space orb so fast that we can completely lose ourselves.

So I choose to remember that there IS something to hold fast to.  There are universal constants from which I find relief, comfort, safety, confidence.  I find ground in remembering how imperturbable a few things in these cosmos actually are.

 

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faith · fear · fortitude · fulfillment

All Around the Mulberry Bush

may pole 8 10 17

It would be easy to imagine that after a decade of dancing around the May Pole of inner work that I would somehow have this thing figured out, dialed in.  And yet, as the streamers untangle, they reveal even more knotted, rotting coils beneath, ones that may have held their breath for years so as not to be detected, shaking with silent laughter, like a child at Hide and Seek.

And wouldn’t you know, all these years on, that I am still surprised at what bastardized hilarities still exist.  Hilarities that hinder, hamper, and hamstring.  (How’s that for alliteration!)  For example, this doozy:  I must choose between my own happiness and others’ — there is no room for both.  Which leads to this juicy bit: Family Life is a death sentence for the Soul.  Geez, dude.

I’ve been unraveling these desiccated bandages of my psyche lately for a purpose I never had before:  To attempt to become willing to create a family.  Some people call this, Falling in Love, Growing Up, or simply checking off the boxes of Life.

I call it Hanoi.

And so it is my job now to engage with those doubts and fears that tell me a life with others is a life of burden and sublimation.  I am to call to the dining table the ashy projection I’ve been worried is my future … and ask her to be willing to see things differently.  To introduce her to the parts of me and of the Universe (yes, that one) that are here expressly to help her hold her autonomy and verve and dreams alive, to blow breath into them, to guide her to a new vision of what Fulfillment can look like.

I do not want to be alone as I do my dream work, nor do I want to exchange it for listlessness.

There is another model, another way.  And I am sure, without doubt, this new way lies beneath the next layer of ancient, colored crepe.

faith · fear · recovery · spirituality

Float like a Waterbug, Sting like a Bee

It isn’t so much that I’m afraid of heights as it is I’m afraid
of falling from heights.  Therefore, when, 2 months ago, I found myself
in Moab, Colorado dangling on the side of sheer rock face
struggling to find a toe-hold in the millimeter-wide crannies, I began to
panic. 
Now, to pull back the scene a little bit, I was about 15 feet off the ground, strapped into a harness, and attached to a grounding line held by my belay partner only a few feet below.  But it didn’t feel safe.  It felt like I
was stabbing the rock cliff with my feet, trying desperately to find purchase in thin air,
my adrenaline kicking up so high I could taste it.
Muscle-fatigued and terrified, I called to my partner below that
I wanted to come down – I was done.  The rock climbing guide on our trip overheard my plea and walked over from the lines
and climbers parallel to me.  He
suggested that I sit back in the harness, take a break, feel my weight being
held, and catch my breath.  Then he called
up, “You can come down, but if you want to keep going, I’ll help you.” 
Later that evening, back on flat earth in front of a
crackling fire, he chuckled he could see my shoulders slump at that moment, a
moment of resignation, a knowing that, indeed, because of his help, I was going to and was able to keep going.  This sanguine moment of, “Shit, alright, fine.  Let’s do this.”  And, together, we did.  He called out places where I could find my
footing, and shortly thereafter I was at the top, my heart a fluttering canary,
stress-tears straining back in my eyes, weak from fear and exertion – and once
safely back the 60ft to the ground again, proud.
He told me of a concept called a “retro-climb.”  It is only after
you have accomplished this ridiculous feat of effort that you feel pride,
accomplished, and glad you did it at all. 
In the moment, you only feel fear, anxiety, terror.  Honestly, I’ve not felt so frightened in
recent memory, despite the intellectual knowledge that I was completely safe,
held, and cared for.  (My naturopath had
a field day turning down my maxed-out adrenaline once I’d returned to SF!)
In my own personal work lately, my mentor suggested I seek
an internal guide to show me my blind spots. 
As some of you know, I sometimes use a Shamanic Journey meditation
practice that introduces you to internal guides of both human and animal form.
And so, the other morning in meditation, I “went in” to find
a guide to show me what I’m missing, since there are whole areas of my life
that still feel unresolved and cause me distress (see: “romance and finance”; aka
serially single and perpetually under/un-employed).  In this meditation, as the title of this blog
may suggest, I came across a waterbug.
… Now, the waterbug does not
seem like the fancy-dancy spirit animal one would hope for!  It’s not a lion or eagle or even
antelope.  And yet, here it was.  I won’t “bore” you with the details of the
meditation, but the lesson was clear: 
The waterbug floats on the top of the water, not because it
is defying the law of physics, but
precisely because it knows, believes, and trusts in them so completely that it knows it will be held on the
surface.  It is not defying gravity, it
is embracing the truest knowledge that because of the laws of nature, it must and will always be held.
The rock climbing guide and I had a long conversation one
evening about spirituality, and he revealed that his largest question for “God”
or the Universe as he continued to expand his life and open his vulnerable self
and admit all parts of him was, “Can you really love me that much?”
I replied to him that my question is, “Can you really hold me that much?”  Can you really let me know, help me feel, to
my core, that I am held?  That I am
safe? 
The waterbug teaches me that it floats because it doesn’t tense and struggle.  It floats because it relaxes and trusts, and simply embodies a knowing that if it steps onto
the clear surface of a pond, it will be held. 
And furthermore, having seen that it has been held and carried before,
it doesn’t continue to question whether it will be held again in the
future! 
So this is my lesson for the moment: to embody the true
knowing that, like sitting back into a climbing harness, I am expertly and even
lovingly held.  And, should I ever choose
to question (as it can become a choice rather than a habit), there will always
be help offered me.
And p.s., if I mess up and tense up and fall through the
surface of the water… I can swim.
deprivation · faith · fear · recovery · self-denial · spirituality

The Facts of Life

Not like “the birds and the bees”; like the theme song: “You
take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…”
In this great rumpus race for which we have signed up by the
very nature of being born, we are subject to a variety of experience.  Some of these we deem good, some bad, and
being pleasure-seeking beings, we are partial to those we deem good.
In my own personal relationship to the universe, life, fate
and its many faces/facets, I have oriented my understanding to be one
that says, Everything happens for our own good. 
Even the bad things.
For my alcoholism, I have found recovery, a community, and
way of life that brings me fellowship, understanding, pleasure, laughter, and a
sense of being deeply understood.
For my childhood, I have come to tell myself that because of
my experiences, I’ve become sensitive, compassionate, empathetic, resourceful,
strong, and creative.
For my cancer, I have taken my struggle and survival as
impetus to engage in my life more fully, playing in a band, flying a plane,
acting and singing in theater.
For all these horrors and more, I can look back and deem them “good,”
because they have led me to becoming more useful and engaged as a human.
And yet.
Fuck. All. That.
That we are thrown against the shores of life brutally onto
the rocks of experience, shaping us, reshaping us, and winnowing us down to the
raw beauty of ourselves—  Hey Universe, would
you lay off a minute, huh?
Because perhaps, Shit. Just. Happens.
And that is the worst understanding of all for me.  It is the least controlled, the least
controllable, the most chaotic, disordered, entropy-laden reasoning for it all.
What it means is that we are not “safe.”  And if there is anything I have struggled for
in my lifetime, it is to feel safe.
But in this quest, this blazing, self-propelled quest for
safety, I have built up around myself an armor, a buffer, a multi-layered
sequence of dance steps that I believe if I dodge left, you, it, experience,
failure, hurt, calamity will needly dodge right.
Yet, the Universe has its own dancesteps, and sometimes they
are to bowl you over like a rhino in a football helmet.
Furthermore, by dodging experience as a whole –monstrous as
I believe or fear it to be– I also dodge whatever good that rhinoceros might be trying to hand me.  And therein lies the rub, eh?
As I mentioned a few days ago about the dam, restricting my
own self, need, and experience out of fear of what might happen if I let things
flow, I am scrubbing up against my own realization that I
am restricting myself for fear that bad shit might happen.  I am hoping to control the all of my
experience so I am not harmed anymore.
Because forget all the above bullshit (which I also happen
to believe) about all those bad things becoming or being seen as good things –
don’t fucking think that I want or wanted them too.  They were all still egregiously painful.  And, as I mentioned, human as I
am, I don’t want pain.
In my attempt to restrict my experience of pain, however, I
believe I restrict my experience of benevolence.  Grace. 
Fulfillment.
And so, I am stymied, victim of my own prison, of my own
design to be safe, I am restricted from the greater joys and rewards of life.
“You take the good, you take the bad… “
Am I willing to expose myself, to be vulnerable and open to
the whole of life’s experience, knowing that in my disarmoring, I am (also)
opening myself to unforeseen goodness?
anger · doubt · faith · hope

The Day of Magical Thinking

When bad things happen, some people of faith tend to say, “Well, that wasn’t God; that was just a bad thing happening.”
Holocaust, dead babies, friends overdosing: Not God. Just happenstance. 
To try to integrate trauma into a worldview that includes a benevolent power underlying all, one must, according to some, reject the trauma as a part of the benevolent power’s purview. 
Now, granted, one might imagine that an all-powerful being would probably have the authority to have a hand in such things. But for the case of some arguments, we’re told, Shit happens. 
Awakened in me, or at least uncovered in me, recently is a boatload of anger. A feeling of betrayal by some power in the Universe that just as I was beginning to come out of the trauma of a history dotted with: abuse, neglect, rape, alcoholism, pauperism and solitude: that it would be then that my blood would suddenly turn to cancer inside me. 
However, in order to feel a betrayal, I must believe that it was personal. Or, if not personal, that there was somehow a fairness or order in the Universe that was reversing on me. 
And, I can’t. I can’t anymore believe that I’ve been betrayed because it is upsetting the fabric of my nature. 
To think, Okay, now I have to go through trauma recovery around cancer on top of all the rest I was dealing with, makes me feel hideously resentful and angry and frustrated, and in the end, hopeless. 
Because if things are going to abruptly turn to a pit of fire at any given moment, what’s the point? What’s the point in healing, helping, creating, being?
And I can’t have that. I can’t be someone who carries around the question, What’s the point?
It’s very bad for me. 
So, what if I try something different, for even a day? Car won’t start? Shit happens. Find a penny on the sidewalk: Good shit happens. Cancer recurs and I have to transplant my bone marrow by shearing away the essence of my body? Well, Shit Happens
I dunno. Doesn’t sound realistic to me. But, then again, what does?
Do I just assume good things will happen to and for me, and wash aside the traumas? I am someone who believes that repression and white-washing doesn’t actually work, so what if you just reject it, instead of repress it?
If I begin to believe that I’m someone who can have stability, joy, purpose, fulfillment, connection and ease… well, anything that doesn’t fit with that worldview just file under “Not God”?
And here’s the rub with the whole “God,” Higher Power, Benevolent Force, Life Itself, Universe shit:
I happen to belong to — and had my life saved by — a group of people who say that in order to not drink yourself into oblivion and become a tornado in the lives of others … you need a “spiritual solution.”
Uh. Hmmm….
So, what if. What if just for a day (because hey, it’s a day I fought the fuck hard for anyway), I just assume and walk about and believe that good shit happens? That I have good luck. That I am destined to fulfillment in my work and romantic life. 

What if I let my anger and betrayal and hurt and aghastness rest… not shoved away or down, but just set into an open box called, “Shit Happens”? 


Meh. It’s worth a shot. 
commitment · faith · fear · scarcity · stagnating · work

oh, that again.

So, I’ve restarted my work on relationships with a new mentor, someone who shares the lineage of the woman I’d been working with, which means that this morning, I got to read aloud my entire sad history of relationships and sex. Again.
Good. Times. 
Interestingly enough, though, I was struck this morning about how my avoidance of or aversion to commitment in relationships parallels my aversion to commitment in my career and work-life. 
I’ve said and heard it a thousand times: Romance and Finance are two sides of the same coin. And I knew that working on one would bring about change or awareness in the other. 
But, somehow rereading my pattern — of splitting when things get weird, or choosing partners I don’t want, or not being open to those men who are into me — highlighted what is happening for me in career-land. 
A friend said to me last week that it sounds like it’s time for me to choose a career path. Not a job. But something I can follow through on. 
Eek. I hate that. I’ve always hated the idea of having to choose one thing. But I recounted this all to my mom and told her that it’s similar to how I had to choose theater over music. I miss music. And it’s not like I’ll never play again, but I had to choose to put my creative efforts into theater if I wanted to get anywhere with it. 
I hated that. I hate that I can do and be so many things, and I have “so much potential,” and so many varied interests, that choosing one is incredibly frightening for me. Like I’ll choose poorly, to quote Indiana Jones. What if by choosing theater, I’m turning my back on a fate in music or painting? What about all the other roads my life could take?
And yet. By not choosing one, I take no roads, or follow a little of each, and I feel stymied and frozen. 
Commitment leads to freedom in that way. 
And when it’s going to come to career, I’m going to have to choose. Sure, I could easily and very successfully be: A teacher, a writer, a psychologist, a mediator, a community engagement executive. 
I could be any of these things. Hell, I could even be a doctor or a lawyer or a spaceman if I wanted. 
Well, maybe not a spaceman
But I haven’t wanted to choose. Because what.if.I’m.wrong
What if I choose something and it doesn’t turn out well? What if I fail at finding “my calling” this lifetime? What if NONE of those things listed above actually make me want to get up and go to work?


What if I put my trust and faith in the wrong career, or — to parallel — in the wrong man?
Well, sorry, lady, you gotta eat. 
And you gotta choose. 
Sure, people change careers throughout their lives, but I’ve changed mine so many times before age 30 that I think I’ve played that card out. 
Therefore. One of these things is going to have to be it. Whether it makes my heart sing or not. No, I didn’t want to “give up” music. But I did, and the theater thing I love, even if it’s slowed down for now. 
None of the above professions makes my heart sing, per se. There’s no glow surrounding any of them saying, Pick me Pick me. But each inspires me to help bring others together, to inspire others to heal, to bring unity into the world. 
So, no. I don’t know, still, what I want to be when I grow up. But I am warming up to the idea of choosing one path. And actually moving forward on it. 
career · change · despair · faith · fear · hope

Rock Saves.

As you may have noticed by now, I’ve been in a bit of a maudlin mood since attaining a job in retail. Since that time, in the last week alone, my sponsor had to let me go in order to focus on her own healing work, I got a traffic ticket while on my way to visit a pregnant friend, and my four stalwart neighboring trees were torn down. 
Plus, I slammed my pinkie in a drawer. 
It’s been a No good very bad day, and you can call me Alexander. 
It’s been pretty bad, and even before the tree massacre, I was on the phone with a friend saying that it felt like a series of trap doors: just when you think it can’t get worse, it does. I wouldn’t be surprised for “The Big One” to hit, or my car to break down. 
That said, yesterday, in a funk over the trees (read: hysterically crying over the loss of everything solid in my life — yes, perspective is a lost art), I drove my car in to work instead of taking public transportation. On came the NPR, because it’s what I usually listen to in the car. 
But it wasn’t right. Sure, it’s informative and I enjoy it in a way, but it’s not fun. It’s not uplifting. Unless it’s A Prarie Home Companion. 
And so I put on a CD of one of my favorite bands, playing one of their most famous live sets. 
I immediately pressed through to one of my favorite songs, one I can count on as an uplifter, and as the song progressed, I turned the volume louder. And louder. 
As I sat in that toll bridge traffic, I began to sing along. I began to smile. 
I played a series of 4 songs, the last one on repeat as I climbed the circular parking garage. And I felt better. 
I have this kind of amnesia when it comes to music: I forget that Rock Saves. 
I can go for weeks without music, maybe a few songs on the radio here and there, but not volume up to 40, ear-ringing, loud singing, smile-inducing music. 
I felt transformed by the end of my trip from Oakland to San Francisco. If there were another trap door opening beneath me, I felt as though the music was giving me upper body strength to cling to the sides of the trap, and hoist myself out. 
The trap may be open beneath me, and it is always an option to fall in, but somehow I felt like I was climbing out of that one. That, for that morning, that previously sob-fest morning, I was not going to continue on like that. 
I parked my car and walked toward my job with an actual jaunt in my step, and a bit of that subversive, “I’ve been listening to music really loud,” half-grin on my face. A cute 20-something said hi to me as I jaunted down the sidewalk. 
I’ve been walking to work looking solely down at the sidewalk, internally commenting the awful smell of human waste. 
Yesterday was a different morning. 
Sometimes I feel like I could be diagnosed with manic-depression, the way I can swing from despair to hope! But, perhaps it’s normal. And I’ll never really know, honestly. 
When things are going well enough, I never feel the need for anti-depressants, and even when they’re not going well, it’s always temporary, and not debilitating. 
So, maybe, simply, Rock Saves. 
Maybe, simply, I have a fount of resiliency that I only seem to find in desolate moments. 
Yesterday, as I drove to work, I drove through a portal of grace. 
Things are not different. All the externals remain the same. 
But I have that grin on my face. And I’ve been singing in my car.