love · mortality · relationships

The Days Are Long…

10.26.18But the years are short.

I invited J to lay on the wood floor with me.  We were in the house he’d purchased earlier this year in the northern suburbs of San Francisco, him sitting on the camping chair I’d brought over last week and me on the nice single chair he’d purchased since he moved in this June.

That’s all the furniture that exists in the living room.  Right after he’d purchased the house, I’d ended things and this isn’t the kinda town where a single guy wants to spend out his days.  So he hadn’t bought anything besides a mattress and this one nice chair.

“Lay on the floor with me,” I asked.  It was after 9 o’clock; we’d been sitting in the nice and camping chairs, drinking hot tea, lazy talking about the house, next steps, ring sizes.

He groaned.  “Come on, two minutes.”  He scrabbled up out of the camping chair and came to lay next to me on the blanket I’d set on the floor.

I nuzzled into his shoulder crease.  It was likely the only time we’d be able to do this before it all got painted and furnished and shaped like a lived-in home.  It felt like a picnic, like a marking of time, that time we could lay on the floor together at 9pm on a Thursday only now, before it was too late.

I angled to lie on top of him, propping myself up, looking into his face.

“It’s so short,” I murmured.

“What is?”

“Twenty-five, thirty-five years,” I replied.  “It’s so short.”

I got kinda teary, staring down into his eyes that I didn’t get to see for three months, feeling body warmth I didn’t get to experience, hearing the wry, insightful, hilarious, ridiculous, planful words I didn’t get to smile at.

I saw the New Years’ turnings, flying off like film pages.  They seemed at that moment like just a handful.  Only a few, what felt like only a sample.

“It is short,” he said, closing up his eyes against new wetness himself.

“The days are long, but the years are short,

and I want to spend them with you.”

 

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breakups · love · relationships

Everything Old is New Again.

10.24.18.jpgAs you may have guessed from my recent vaguing about relationships, I’m in one.  To be more specific, I’m back in one.  With J.

I was walking to meet an internet date for dinner on a Friday night at the end of September.  I’d planned it so it was in walking distance from my apartment and I didn’t have to drive, as is my prerogative!;)  I’d gotten glammed up and looked good — well, I’d taken a shower, at least!

I was cantering down the commercial corridor where I live and spotted a car that looked like J’s.  But I’d seen many of those around—each time, spotting a blue Subaru, darting my eyes through the windshield, assuming it wouldn’t be him since he didn’t live close but had been about to accept a job nearby when we’d parted in June.

Now, I spotted this familiar looking car.  Then, I read the license plate.  It was his.  My eyes flashed through the windshield… and there he was.  Sitting in his car, typing on his phone.

My breath stopped.  I came to a halt beside his car.  He looked over.  He both smiled and looked horror-struck.

J. rolled down his passenger window.  “Getting a haircut?” I asked.  (He’d found a place he liked when we were living together and, once found, he was unlikely to veer from it!)

“Yep,” he replied.

We remained there, just kind of staring at one another.  Eye-lock, look away.  Eye-lock, look away.

We exchanged a few update words:  You change jobs?  Yep.  You start the school year?  Yep.  I fiddled with the window frame.  Well, this is hard, I said, half-smiling, somewhere near tearing up.  Yep.

Somepoint soon, within this 3-minute conversation that reached to the horizon, we said goodbye.

Later that night after the date (underwhelming but fine), I dialed J’s number.

I’d texted about two weeks earlier, on the 90-day mark on my calendar that indicated it’d been 3 months since we’d spoken, my own self-imposed separation/no-contact.  I’d written him if he were interested in being in each other’s lives, “friends or something.”  He’d replied he’d love to, but he still saw a future for us together and it would be too hard, too painful.  I typed okay.  And resigned to / accepted that he would contact me, if and when he were ever ready, or not.

So, as the phone rang that Friday night in September, I didn’t know if he would pick up.  The hurt of the break-up, the hope and pain of seeing one another.  The love that had clearly not diminished an iota. … the constant comparison of J to any of the men I’d met or communicated with during my recent re-entry into dating.

No one was like him.

Our first date lasted two hours.  We walked and talked and laughed.  We were wry and joking from nearly minute one.  There was such ease and familiarity … he could always make me laugh.

I wasn’t immediately sure after our first date.  I went home and took the quiz I’d bookmarked, It’s Just a F*cking Date (from the authors of He’s Just Not That Into You and It’s Called a Breakup Cuz it’s Broken).  He didn’t score record highs after that first date, partly because two of the questions were “did he make a plan?” and “did you like his plan?,” but I’d made the plan!  (Coffee shop in walking distance of my house, naturally!)

But, he’d squeaked over the line to, “Give him a second shot.”  So I did.

On the 2nd date, he scored full marks.

The phone rang.  I perched on the edge of my bed, heart a bit full, a bit poundy.

And he picked up.

 

growth · love · work

Good Enough.

10-20-18.jpgI cried at work the other day.

I was in my weekly one-on-one meeting with my boss.  We were outside, as we’ve taken to meeting outdoors when it makes sense since we rarely see the sky on busy school days.

We were talking about a hard parent meeting that had happened this week, and I was also expressing my concern about not getting materials to a co-worker at the moment they’d wanted it.  Places, basically, where I felt afraid that I wasn’t doing enough, or that I wasn’t good enough.

And she said to me:  “I see what you’re doing.”

I see how hard you’re working; I, and we all, see you as confident and competent.  I see what you’ve taken on; I see great things for you, a bright future here.  I see you as the superstar you are.

And, at some point during this monologue of positivity, I started leaking from my eyeballs.

“What’s going on right now?” she asked as she noticed I was crying.

“It’s just been really hard,” I said, “it’s been stressful, this time.”  And she began again to say those positive, glowing things: We don’t want you to leave (not that I’d expressed to her that I was considering it), I see such great things, you’re doing awesome.

I had to put my hand on hers, as my tears were coming harder now, and say, laughingly, soddenly, “You have to stop”!

It was so hard to hear, to listen, as she was telling me these things.  What was it that made the waterworks turn on?  What was it that made it so vulnerable to hear words of praise and affirmation?  What was so hard about being truly seen for the work I was doing… for work of mine to be acknowledged that, perhaps, I didn’t see as clearly as others apparently were?

What is it about praise for my work that was so painful, and so ecstatic, to hear?

I have been sitting with this question for the last two days, and haven’t yet had the time to dig deeply into it, but I do know that praise for my effort was not a tape I heard often growing up — or if I did, I’m sure I didn’t have the capacity or receptors to hear it.

My own myopia on performance and achievement precludes my awareness from the whole of my being.

Will this awareness broaden for me?  Will I begin to consider that what I’m doing is not only “enough,” but more than f*cking enough?

I don’t know yet.  It circles back upon the “Judgment Loosening” I’m attempting lately, because as harshly as we judge others, we do ourselves tenfold.

I am grateful for the openness of my boss to reflect these affirmations to me; it’s not every boss who would see or say such things.  I’m grateful that she simply held the space as I processed trying to hear her praise, instead of shutting down or dismissing it (her or me).

And, I’m grateful for the chance to discover another ripe and rich place for me to grow.

 

love · money · power

Head of Household.

10.18.18.pngIn the continued quest to unwrap the new question of love and power that I stumbled upon the other day — whether a person could have both — I’m remembering a moment when J and I were walking up in the suburban hills near my apartment a while back.

We’d been bandying around the idea that he take some time off, that maybe I become the breadwinner for a while, as he got a new business venture running that would only earn a stipend-like amount.  We were crossing this foot bridge overlooking a fancy suburban schoolyard, watching children play soccer on the neat, always-manicured plastic turf.  We were leaning on the concrete ledge of the bridge, and I experienced a gut-freezing moment.  A sudden pang of anxiety, as I considered what that would really mean to have to earn enough to support us both, and a family.

Some major financial things would have to change.  I would probably have to choose a different career.  I would need to work more.  I would need to count the pennies.  I would need to say no to things.  Maybe there wouldn’t be vacations for a while, or museum memberships, or dinners out.  Suddenly my brain became filled with spreadsheets and numbers and a sodden anxiety of trying to keep the whole ship afloat. …

My breath became shallow.  I saw the disparity between what I could currently afford and what I would need to afford to make a family life work for us.  It was dizzying.

I turned to him in this mild hysteria and asked: “Is this what men feel like when they feel they have to be the breadwinner??”

He wryly smiled and replied, “Yes.”

Love, and Power.

It is not merely women then, or, speaking for myself, merely me, who feels confused, torn, afraid that we cannot have both love and family and a life that feels fulfilling to our passions and goals.

I felt sudden, markedly new waves of empathy for every breadwinner.  (Including my father.)

(I also note here that single parents, gender non-conforming, non-hetero, adoptive, foster, POC, immigrant, differently-abled, parents of differently-abled have all these same financial anxieties and challenges — plus a whole additional mess of anxieties and challenges of which I cannot conceive, and I am drastically humbled and awed.)

I realized on that bridge the sweeping assumptions I’d made and held: that it was in any way “not that hard.”  That it was “easy” for the man to provide because they earned a dollar to my sixty cents (white men at least).  That they should just “suck it up” because this was their intended role, modeled since infancy. …

I suddenly saw with new eyes why J was so focused on financial success, why he struggled so hard, why he chose this business-suit life instead of the entrepreneur-t-shirt one he dreamed of.  I saw his challenge differently.

What I’d considered his deprivation addict, cookoo achievement bent, or Scrooge-like flaw I began to see as his battle toward providing.  (Whether this is the whole case, I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter to the point.)

I began to consider the weight carried by anyone who desires to be an adult in a household.  I began to consider the decisions that person would have to make over a lifetime.  The micro and minor decisions of how to spend one’s money and time.  The decision of what area to study in school.  The decision to follow a career that wasn’t altogether fulfilling but “paid the bills.”

I had new empathy.  My perspective, and my judgment, had shifted.

Suddenly all the Google buses didn’t seem crammed with idiots driven by dollar signs.  Wall Street wasn’t just a grunting pit, but a battle for a family’s stability.

I’ve had judgment (clearly!) about the choices people make when living as a means to an end, rather than “living in the journey of every moment,” etc, etc.

As I continue to probe the “Can I have Love and Power simultaneously?” question, I notice that I’m wondering if breadwinners have been asking themselves that same question for eons.

 

grace · love · the divine

That Lovin’ Feelin’

10.2.18Approaching tomorrow’s final day of Deepak and Oprah’s 21-day meditation, “Manifesting Grace through Gratitude,” I’m moved to share near verbatim what today’s meditation was about: Love.

WAIT!  Before you hurl into your morning coffee or cereal bowl, hear me out.

More specifically, they were talking about the responsibility for love, and from there I’ll quote:

Love is my closest experience to the feeling of completeness.  On the path of gratitude, I transfer the responsibility for love from another person to myself.  This is no small step; it is the very key to transformation. 

If a child is asked why it feels safe and taken care of, it will point to its mother and father.  This is how we learn to give the responsibility for Love to someone outside ourselves.  That’s only natural in childhood when we needed loving, secure parenting.  Today, however, when I look for love, looking outside myself is certainly viable, but it’s not transformative.

“WHOA,” is what I wrote in my notes as I dictated what I heard this morning (I write down what they say, because it’s how I learn best).

Whoa, indeed.

“Moving the responsibility for love from another person to myself.”  God, that sounds important.  God, that sounds hard.

I appreciate this idea that this is how love was modeled and taught and necessary for us to learn and be in childhood.  (Though I always smirk a little whenever Deepak mentions the love of one’s parent as wholly beneficent… since it’s a rare human who gets to experience it that way.)  What is reassuring to me about this idea is that it means I didn’t f*ck up by depending upon others for love and security — I’ve just used that tool for too long.  Especially if we feel that our parenting was imperfect then it makes abiding sense that one would continue to try to get that model completed into adolescence, young adult and adulthood.

Who knew there was an expiration date to human-dependent love, though?  No me!

When I think about reigning, pulling, retracting my external claws from my need for others to complete that circuit for me, there becomes so much freedom.  Because the responsibility of and for Love is wholly mine.  I don’t need to depend upon the unstable ground of others’ emotional availability; I can bring it alll the way back into myself to depend upon the constant of Divine Love.

What a relief!  To allow myself to simply love others without needing them to fill or fix me.  To love my mom and dad and partner without NEEDING them to make me feel something.  What a relief to them, too, huh?

The “very key to transformation,” Deepak calls it.

What growth is there in that.

 

cancer · love · mindfulness

What does cancer mean?

8.17.18.jpgWhen I was going through chemo 5 years ago, a close friend brought me the audiobook, Love, Medicine, and Miracles.  In it, Dr. Bernie Siegel relates that in his decades’-long study of cancer patients, they nearly all followed similar paths that led ultimately to a cancer diagnosis.  This path crescendoed in despair.  In fact, he writes that he believes cancer to be “despair felt on a cellular level.”

Further, another friend lent me her copy of, You Can Heal Your Life, wherein Louise Hay “diagnoses” each illness with a core belief.  Blood disorders, like my Leukemia, were associated with “actively killing joy.”  Which, I suppose, is another way to say despair.

Reading these at the time, I felt 100% in agreement with these “pre-existing conditions” that caused me to be ripe for the cancer plucking.  Partly because it meant that there was something I could “do” in the vulnerable and uncontrollable shadow of The Big C.  If I had in some way caused my own cancer, then I could in some way heal it.  And whatever the veracity of correlation or causation, because of this new understanding, I dove more deeply into my spiritual practice, into overcoming my underearning/underbeing, and into sharing more of who I am.  I actively, and marrowly, became more courageous.  And I believe it helped to save my life (and still does).

When I consider these passages today, I find that I have to be less sure about what they mean for other people.  Because I found these words so empowering and galvanizing and ultimately life-saving, I want to offer the same understanding to others who are facing the same challenges.

But not everyone believes, wants to believe, will ever believe that their cancer is of their own making.  I can get that.  I must get that if I want to maintain relationships with those people in my life who are facing down the barrel of diagnosis.

My best friend since childhood is having cells retested.

When I think about my role in her life, it’s not as a sage of “you can heal your life.”  The consideration of that feels so inauthentic and distancing, I could puke.  What my role in her life today could be is similar to that about which I wrote yesterday for my students: to be there, to witness, to love.

I want to make it “fixable” (not that there’s anything to fix—there’s no diagnosis as of today), because if it’s fixable then it’s controllable.  And if it’s controllable, we’re not powerless, and if we’re not powerless, we can achieve our desired outcome.

But.  That’s not the way life, or death, works.  Well, certainly not my control of their lives.

I am multitudinously grateful that my 2 friends gifted me those books while I was grasping for a lifeboat, for ground in a storm of tests, infusions, and sickness.  I am sure on some level I attracted those passages into my life (if you’re into that sort of thing), because they were what I needed so very much to weather it all.  I needed a course to follow, an anchor to hold.  And understanding that I could bring myself out of the darkness of disease (in conjunction with Western and Eastern medicine) felt, as Bernie calls it, miraculous.

And with a 20% 5-year survival rate?  Well, fuck cancer indeed!

However, today I must stand in the truth of what is needed at this moment, and that is not to intone to my friend any piece of how she has to change her life.  I have absolutely no idea what the truth of her life is, and I have no place offering up my opinion.  (If there’s anything I learned during cancer it’s that opinions [about health] are like a**holes: everyone has one, and usually they stink.)

There is so much powerlessness in the face of disease, and lo! that I want to find the tether to hold and the sword to rail!!! … what I want is of no consequence here.

What I need is to be present with my friend.  To be loving and generous, and also to be freakin’ normal.  Whether or not there is a diagnosis in my friend’s future, there are those in my life who do have that diagnosis and those who, unfortunately, will.

This time is my planting ground, my training ground, for who I want to be when these circumstances arise, as they inevitably will.

So, what does cancer mean??  Nothing, man.  It means nothing—except Love and Be Loved.

 

change · kindness · love

Almond milk of human kindness

3.9.18.jpg

“Allow yourself to give yourself a comforting thought,” said Deepak Chopra in the Oprah meditation today.

I’m re-listening to the Manifesting True Success 21-day meditation, since it was so dense and rich (pun intended).  Day 5 is about the “Successful Mind,” and how we can beat ourselves up and punish ourselves so badly for our own perceived failures.

To echo yesterday’s blog, what growth is there in that?  What newness of thought?  What inspiration comes from the same well-worn habits of mind?

If I begin to note the thoughts I have throughout the day about myself and about others, how kind are they?  I want in myself and in my partner the quality of kindness; I’ve written it repeatedly on the list of things I want to attract, in a romance or a friend.  But when I pause, I note that there’s a litany of thoughts that are less than supportive, kind, and loving.  They’re not scathing and awful (all the time), but they are limiting and diminishing.  These thoughts do steal my oomph.

So, if I allow myself the gift of a comforting thought, I will get the benefit of holding that thought along with the unknown, unintended benefits of oomph as well.

What joy is there to be had when the thoughts begin to turn?

*Short blog post today. Relationship come-to-jesus conversations dominate the morning time; not bad, just … hard. Xo,m.