I knew the moon would bring me pain. Staring up at it each night, knowing that you were also looking, this agony I predicted. I predicted the longing I would feel for you each time I heard a familiar bird call. I knew that when I went to our favorite coffee shop, my gut would drop with each sip I had the courage to take.
This was all easy predict because I still love you, and our split was the hardest thing I have ever had to do simply because there is still love between us.
But I could not go on hurting you, and I could not go on being hurt. It was too much to bear to know that I was tormenting my favorite person. I walked around in misery most of the time, missing you and fearing you simultaneously, anxious that I might open my mouth and again cause you pain. I was having a hard time living with myself. This was why I knew it was time. Not because I hated you, but because I was beginning to hate me. And I cannot allow that.
It would be easier to shift the blame to you, to fool myself into believing that it was your fault, but I know better than that. I mean, I know it is not all on me, but I cannot account for your part of it, as it is no longer my business. But it would be easier. It would be easier to hate you.
Today I felt this most acutely when something really great happened for me. For a moment, I was jubilant. Buoyancy filled my lungs and with my first joyful breath I could feel the old tingle of bliss in my fingertips. But in the next moment, it was gone, snatched from me as I had the impulse to share it with my favorite person, because he was always so proud of me when I did good. It was in these happy moments, when I shared my good news, that I felt most loved, most cherished. And in that moment I wanted to hate you. I wished I could.
But I cannot. I can't bring myself to do the easy thing simply because I love you so much.
So I will sit with this, knowing I have chosen this challenging path, living with the pain of loss and the fear of anything wonderful happening because the person I would want to share it with is no longer my person. He is his own and I am my own and while I want to hate him, I cannot.
You might not have signed up for this type of blog writing, but this is where I am right now, and I will be writing like this until I don't need to anymore. Just giving you a heads up now. Thanks for reading, and if you have any encouraging comments, I would love it if you could leave them below.
The courage of the stars is stunning. Last night I was shocked to see them up there, it felt like forever since I had last looked up, and I almost felt guilty, taking them for granted.
But they were there for me, as they always are, lighting the dark cloak of the night sky, reflecting back what I hope for in each upward glance.
This consistency inspires me, for I have been anything but. Today, when I told my therapist of the false pretense in my relationship, I expected surprise. I got none.
Evidently, a lot of women get into relationships and then do anything they can, including giving up parts of themselves, so that they can be loved. I admitted this to my partner, that I had been ignoring a large part of myself, working diligently on his house, taking care of his family in times of need, because I believe that I need to earn his love. I believe that I need to prove my worth. This is not his fault, though it would be easy to blame him. Easy because then I would not have to focus on what lies beneath my pretense.
It is all me. He never asked for any of it. Furthermore, he has told me repeatedly that I didn't need to do it. I tried to believe him. I pulled back on working on his house, taking care of his relatives, doing extra things for him. But that left me in a panic. I started having anxiety attacks. I saw threat in behavior I had formerly seen as loving. I do not know how to just allow the love to come to me. It seems impossible.
As time passed, I did less, and for that, I struggled with my fear, I pushed him away with insulting behavior, accusing questions, and coldness. I just wouldn't believe that he could love me without my labor, or my sacrifice, or the denial of needs I had so expertly pulled off for years. I would not believe him.
I sit afterwards in the ache of knowing that I have hurt him, ruminating in my deception. I have seriously undercut our ability to move forward into the next year as we have been. I can no longer do this. I want more. I have wanted more all along and until this point, have not been brave enough to ask for it. But I am not foolish enough to blame him for it.
And last night I looked up at the stars. And their courage gave me hope.
I woke this morning still in my ache but also something else. I didn't know what until I looked up this evening and saw only clouds. I remembered the courage of the stars. And I thought that maybe someday, I would do that too.
The smell of old wood and cigarettes lingers in the air of my memories of home. The knot in my gut and buzz in my skin are the feelings of my first family.
I left that place many times in different manners, first geographically, then emotionally, then psychologically, then philosophically.
But I also carry it with me. I have cleansed my soul of that place many times over, but no matter how clean I ever believe myself to be, I can always smell it. I can smell the indifference in the cigarettes. I can feel the burning in my skin that longs to be touched.
I always worried about being taken care of. Would I get any attention? Would I be remembered? I felt, after a time, that I could disappear pretty easily and no one would notice. So I chose to work hard, to earn the love and attention. I chose to throw myself in to a life I thought I could fill.
Now it is not so much about disappearing as how to exist. It is not a sadness or an emptiness I feel, but a confusion. I work at many different things all day long, things I care about, things that feel heavy and meaningful and filled with purpose. I do things that excite me. I do things that keep me awake.
But in the middle of it, I can feel it. Cold indifference is always there. Most of the time, I can handle it. I can go through the meaty days of my life with this feeling. But I slow down and it catches me. I slow down and it seeps in and transfixes my movement into the world.
My first home. There is no place like it, but somehow, I keep seeing it that way. I recreate the shit that tortures me.
I understand addiction from that point, and it scares me. I can see soaking myself in alcohol to dull that ache, I can feel that fear, that pain softens in to silence with each bottle, or smoke, or bite of cake or shot of heroine. I completely understand that reaction.
At this point, I should be able to leave it. It's been over forty years. I still live it, and in comparison to what others face, it is nothing. It is thin and flimsy and should not have this hold on me. But it does.
There really is no place like home.
The clocks tick, tock, tick, tock, tick. I sit in the counting and feel the distance between the present moment and long ago and much further east where I last felt this consistent pulse.
My father was an antique dealer and loved old clocks. He had many of them in his house, and each night, he would walk around on old, creaky floors winding them, commenting on their beauty and tone, and reveled in the chimes at every quarter hour.
Contemporary tocks are hollow. They come from plastic cases run with batteries, and like so many new things, are a pale and and thin experience compared to what came before. This is a lesson I imbibed wholeheartedly; the value of good work, of items crafted with the user in mind, not just their money, but their lives, for if something is to count down the seconds, minutes and hours of your life, it is best if it is something that counts with style, grace, and some type of solid authority. I want a reverence in the clock that marks the moments in my life.
This thing that I have about well-made objects is one way I know myself. I don't want throw-away culture because there is nothing in it for me. To bathe in the history of a thing or a place is to better understand what I love and why. To understand that an item was loved by a person who is now dead is to live with a lovely echo that is not your own, but human nonetheless.
I make things. I write. I hope to bring a little bit of joy to people by giving them my art, or, maybe if I am lucky, selling it to them. I make the things I make because I love the process I must use to bring them about. I have spent a good portion of my life figuring out how to put my heart into the things I make while simultaneously cultivating the ability to let go of the end product.
Detachment is a dreamy state where I feel so in love with a moment I must forget in the next and the next and the next. So much is missed on the surface of things that to move through the world too quickly is a cheat. I am appalled by the idea that you must "hack" experiences in life, or fit your work week into only four hours, do less to get more in less time. What is a life made of if not the tasks you do to make a living? To live a life?
Like the old clocks that counted time in my father's house, I like to feel the seconds seeping. I like to know that there is some meaning to passing my time, other than avoiding engaging with it. I won't be trying to avoid wrinkles, or getting rid of any of the marks that show my age because I am proud of the time I have spent taking the world in to my body and illuminating the moments that have mattered to me.
Like my father reveling in the passing of every quarter hour, I too will celebrate the moments that I have fully engaged with the world around me. I will bathe in the knowledge that I took the opportunity to feel and love as much as I could while I had the time.
As Ferris Bueller once famously said, "life moves pretty fast, if you don't stop and look around every once in a while, you might miss it."
The bee buzzes around my face and ears and finally lands on my shoulder. I have no idea what the draw is. I'm painting a small house with a thick, purple substance that smells like ammonia, but for some reason the bees still want to sleep on me. It makes me feel special, chosen, as if there is such a thing, that the bees like to rest on my arms while I work. I have to be careful not to mush or prod any of them too much lest they freak out with their stinger and fall to their doom.
I think about this a lot as I move carefully throughout my days in the woods. What if humans dropped dead if we overreacted to possible threats? What if, when we hurt someone, we immediately felt that pain and suffered some irreversible consequence, like losing a limb? Or a digit?
We are further away from each other as time passes, and further away from the pain we cause, yet closer and closer to being hurt. I have been told that my very presence is a threat. This is a pain that most do not escape, this fear of the other, this treatment of the leper. We have been taught to fear and loathe each other., and we teach this lesson we learn, mindlessly.
This is why I go back to bees. They do so much good, each sweet buzzy thing, they keep the whole world alive with their work, minding the flowers, carrying pollen wherever they travel.
I am not so lucky. I don't remember the last time I inadvertently saved anything or anyone. I have never accidentally carried life on my limbs, save the bees, and that is more of a combination of extreme awareness and dumb luck than anything else.
The world is calling for my presence, awareness, compassion, and love. It calls me to myself, to inhabit my skin again, though I have been trained out of it for so long, it might be a tough sell to persuade me back in, the me that is in constant need of weight management, of hair or wrinkle removal, or breast enhancement, or nose reduction. Everything I have been taught educates me toward self criticism. It is a distraction in itself, this false desire to amend what has been given.
This is the sadness I carry with me and the lie I believe in, that if I change my appearance my life will be better. If I look more like everyone else, if I fit in, I will finally be happy. But there is no happiness found in conformity to the mediocre. There is no joy in stifling the freak that runs through the blood of our species. And who am I to do so? My people, all people depend on me to break this, smash it utterly and shine the light on this lie.
It takes so much to stand for ourselves. So much to stand for each other, but I must do this now. I have to wake up from this lie that we are separate, that we are a threat to each other. That allowing others in will only cause pain. We have to stop killing each other out of fear. We are not mindless creatures but beings capable of great and lovely things.
I cannot bear the thought of dying, knowing that our greatest inventions have led to the deaths of millions. I cannot sit with the knowledge that our great minds work to bring us products of destruction, and that the sale of these items makes the world spin. Finally, I cannot die having been just like everyone else, knowing that what I strived for was to be average, regular, normal. I do not want to look back on my life knowing that in the end, I didn't even have the courage to pull out my stinger.
Bees might sting when they are threatened, but theirs is a culture of life, while ours is a culture of death. We must be brave enough to change this. We must find the life in our culture and propagate. Our great minds can create life, joy, and opportunity for everyone. We do not have to create, teach and sew the seeds of death.
I will suffer the consequences of this mindless sleep of consumption daily until I can wake up and save myself. I will not do this inadvertently. I am not as lucky as the bees. The life I must carry must be intentional. I must forcefully pull the kindness, the love out of my hearts and bring it in to this world. I cannot cling to the false safety of conformity any longer.
I am more than willing to use my stinger. I am more than willing to use everything I have to fight for life.
I know it is scary, hard, even uncomfortable to stand up for love, peace, and kindness. It is terrifying just to be yourself in a world that demands conformity. But WE must. People are killed every day as a direct result of this lie. We have to have the courage to change it. Our species is dying of the slow suicide of self-hate.
Lately I have been ruminating on what it means to be the bigger person. I have become very good at this in public in certain situations, but then, in private, as in, my own head, I beat myself up.
I have had several interactions with women where they flirt with my partner in front of me. Sometimes, they pointedly ignore me. Sometimes they tell my partner he looks good several times in the course of an afternoon and touch him repeatedly.
In these moments, I hold my tongue and smile, because I know in the end, they are doing it because of the sickness within them, and nothing I do or say in the moment will change that.
But later, when I talk with my partner about it, it becomes a heated debate, and it is not about whether the women are doing this or not, but why this bothers me and why it should bother him. I admit I am at a bit of a loss. Most of these women, as he says, are not people to admire or aspire to be, and in fact they are usually without boundaries, but still, it hurts when people behave in this manner. I have struggled for the last three years or so to let my pain over these encounters go, but I have not yet been able to do it.
If I take a step back, I know that I allow this into my head and I don't have to. I also know that this is in my life because I am supposed to evolve past it somehow. So I meditate, I focus on my breath, and I release the pain that resides in my chest every time something like this happens.
It is synchronicity that today is the day of my father's birth, and he is the one who first put me in this type of a helpless position with his third wife. She was boundary-less, like the women that bother me, and she was completely competitive with me and my siblings for my father's affection. This also happened with my mother. Her partners were always taking her attention, energy, and ultimately, affection, and leaving my brother and I with...mostly her rage.
This is a pattern within me that I know I am supposed to break. I feel like being the bigger person would be not saying or doing anything in the moment, and also not being bothered by people and things that don't, in the end, really matter.
But my insecurities and history get the best of me, and I am left with the pain of being put in a painful horrible place. It reminds me of the years, from the time I was 8 or 9, that I was always a secondary concern. I am re-living this over and over at the hands of people who have been sent into my life to heal me.
So I will continue to work on this, write about it, and maybe, eventually see these events for what they are; opportunities to put myself first and recognize that no matter what other people do, I am always the priority.
Here we are, one week from the end of July. I have been considering not writing this blog and changing it up to a podcast. I will still have my newsletter, so if you are not signed up, and want to see what I am up to, please do. The podcast is called Wellness Off the Grid. It is a podcast based on body positive wellness. I will be interviewing all kinds of professional healers and folks who know the insurance industry first hand. I will let you know when I release the first episode.
The tightness in my legs, from my hips down to my ankles, feels good, unfamiliar, and awakens a new awareness in my body.
My tendency is to move and now, with my increased strength and energy, I am moving more. It is in fact hard to slow down.
But I slow. I slow when my heart breaks a little, or when my expectations, high and unrealistic, are not met. I slow when my new body starts sending me new messages, and because I have always listened, I must listen now.
I have left so much behind this year. I have given up so much that I thought I wanted. Now, I am following hope. I am following inspiration. I am following a dream that I can feel but can't yet see.
I try to remember who I am because it is what soothes me most; knowing myself. I learned that through years of turbulence, struggle, depression, that to know myself, and to accept her, is to be home. I have become so comfortable with a dynamic environment that now, that I am creating some stability, it is freaking me out just a little bit.
Part of me has always believed that the less I have, the less I have to lose, so building a life, building a great future seems like a huge risk. I have to come to terms with the fact that losing love in my life is part of the engagement I crave. I have so loved the new things I have learned, the new parts of the world that have opened up to me. These things, this new knowledge will not be lost because it lives in my heart. But I have come up against my fear of building a success I value, and I admit to being petrified into stasis.
I will eventually break free and keep moving, but like the dream I work toward that I cannot quite see, this fear of loss is the constant I feel creeping up on me and can't outrun. It is inevitable. I struggle to conquer it, the pain of it so familiar that I know it like a second skin.
But this is part of me. This is what holds me back. I lost my heart once, when I was young, maybe too young to understand that I could, maybe too young to understand how to handle it, and I was left in the dark. The world deadened to a cold black and white and I could not feel out the point. I could not discern a reason to engage in a world that could take your heart so swiftly, soundlessly, carelessly.
I have slowly come back, and to all the world, I am fully engaged. But still, I hold myself back. I keep myself busy with less important work so that the work I must do can go undone. The work that could provide a deep love, an astounding success, a resonant triumph.
I hold myself back because the loss still echoes in my hollow bones and chills me with a warning; do not accumulate that which you could love. Do not accomplish that which could be taken. Do not dare to attain a life that could shatter and leave you flattened.
I struggle to silence this fear, or at the very least, live with it.
At the very least, I will live with it.
TMI? I am not sure. This new way of writing sure does churn the butter. I am two weeks away from closing down my GoFundMe for my tiny house build, so if you wanted to help out with a small donation, it would be super cool if you could do that in the next two weeks. I am finished digging out the small piece of land I need to build on. Now I will start! Well, actually, I am starting next weekend. It is very exciting. I will probably post pictures here.
Being less concerned. I wish I had had this earlier. I used to worry and worry and worry about what other people thought. Bend myself a little in order to suit the needs of the company at hand. Go over conversations I had for hours, hoping I had not offended anyone, or wishing I had said something differently.
I spent a lot of my creative energy worrying about things I had already done. I spent a lot of my emotions attempting to be what I thought would be more a more lovable version of myself. It made me resentful. Bitter. Hopeless.
Maybe time is the only way to gain this confidence, maybe it is the trauma of dealing with people who don't consider you in their lives but expect you to consider them in yours. I don't know how many of these lessons it has taken me to get here.
But I have never cared less about what people think, and this feeling, or lack there of, is accompanied by a new found courage which has opened the world to me.
New things and experiences fill my life. I am less worried about looking foolish and distracted by my curiosity for things. I feel things more viscerally. I do things that scare the crap out of me.
That's my new freaky. It used to be expressed in other ways, which were also good, but I have come upon the joy of soaking in the moments where I am single-mindedly focused on discovery.
I do feel the heaviness of this moment in history. I have spent days/hours/weeks in emotional torment over the pain of others, over the fear and hatred that has been indoctrinated into this culture. I have witnessed in shock and sadness as people, heavy with the pain of centuries of abuse and oppression, turn their backs on society at large.
The fear and hatred that is prevalent in the world is a disease of the mind and heart that I build my immunity against by doing what I want, when I want, and being as kind and generous to myself as I am to others. I have tried arguing, listening, discussing, and I end up in the fruitless endeavor of defending. I have given up on this. I can only be me, and hope, through this example, that I encourage others to just be who they feel like they are.
We are taught to compromise ourselves and convinced that there is safety in finding a community of like-minds in which to reside. I believe the opposite to be true. I want conflict. I adore heated conversations on matters of importance. I want to know people with different backgrounds, experiences, values. I want to understand them. I want to be able to talk freely, and listen without prejudice.
This, like everything else, is a practice. I cannot do these things if I surround myself with people who are just like me. I cannot challenge myself to be better and better versions of myself if I operate in an environment where mediocrity is the norm and small talk is the local dialect.
Things matter. It sounds simple, stupid even, but the truth is that if I don't treat every aspect of my life like it matters, then it doesn't.
Simple post, I know, but I feel like it needs to be said. In other news: I broke ground on my tiny house/covered deck space, and have gathered more materials for the build. I am getting help with the solar installation from an expert, and the donations have slowed to a stop. But that's okay. BUT, if you can, please help with a small donation. Just visit my GOFUNDME Out of My Storage Space. Thanks so much!!!
Meaning in everything. I turn over a rock and find bugs. They are showing me how to work. I watch the scurry and feel bad that I have wreaked momentary havoc on their doings. I put the rock down and look up at the blue, green, grey and white. A bird passes quickly and I get back to it.
The smell of the dirt calms my nerves and keeps me in my boots, big rubber things that keep out everything except what happens to fall in. I am not really living anywhere in particular so the feeling of presence and purpose holds me, reminds me what I am building.
It is repetitive, what I do during the day, pulling, pruning, sweeping, hauling, and digging. The rhythm of each chore is a different kind of comfort than I have ever known in a job and I look forward every morning to putting on my bulky overalls and heading out the door to work in the dirt.
For the first time in forever, I have a job that feeds me. I do not feel drained at the end of the day but physically, and I have this pulse in my muscles, almost every day, that feels like good use. I am working way below my education level and I am happy enough that tears come as I pull the stubborn and foolish grass out of the narrow cracks in the sidewalk.
I focus on the intake and the output of my lungs, lucky things breathing in lavender, rose, cut grass and lemon verbena. At the end of the day I smell it all on me and I don't want to wash. I do, and when I take off my clothes all manner of crawly and leafy things fall at my feet in a circle of gratitude.
I wonder how I ever did anything else. Why did I not think that this might be a nice way to go? How could I have considered sitting at a desk, inputting numbers and creating documents, processes, and programs? How, knowing who I am, did I think that would turn out? Looking back it seems predictable.
But it is easier to know myself in retrospect. I am crystal clear as an azure sky in summer as I float in and out of days that feel like liberation.
Less sure than I have ever been about my future, and more confident that I will be okay. The days stretch out into okay, into love.
The other day I saw four toads hopping out from under a tarp I had to move. They were all quite small, so small the thought crossed my mind that I might have already stepped on one and not known it. Still, the toads were beautiful, and I thought a good omen.
It is a lucky day when you find yourself in the company of toads.
I love being a gardener.
Inevitably, my pain hits me in the face and I am left with the bloody memories of my childhood. Normally. It used to be that every time I taught a class of preteens, I would feel my pain in every step I took across the classroom, in every question asked, in every piece created.
But with the shift, this is no longer my experience. This is the first time in twenty years of teaching I have not felt the pain of a child as my own.
They take a class called "Drawing," and we go through exercises which provide the practice, but also, the opportunity to use their voices, their eyes, and their hearts. I give them an opening to express what is important to them.
Courage is not often taught in schools. Normally, conformity, homogeny, and regurgitation are the models to follow. Kids are taught to blend in on a daily basis through humiliation, manipulation and other scare tactics that work just below the surface, so that they are angry at the end of each day, but they don't know why.
I try to provide opportunities within the exercise of drawing to open wide and sing, to stand tall, to laugh loud and walk strong. I don't miss a chance to let them know that they are more than they have been led to believe. I take every interaction and turn it into a giving. I turn engagement into a magic trick. I turn pencil, paper and eraser into a vehicle for justice. It is a subversion I am happy to create with them. After all, some of them still believe in Santa.
I only have one half of five days with each kid, but when they leave that class on Friday with a paper bag full of art, they also leave with a belly of hope, feet of courage, and the eyes of an optimist. It is my dream that some day, they will get the opportunity to change the world with a single act. That act might be art, but it might not.
That is why drawing is the vehicle for courageous education. It takes a special kind of courage to draw, and within that, another kind of courage to draw what matters, to draw what you truly care about, to draw something that might someday show a bit of the world that has never before been seen.
I ask each one of them to risk. I ask them to work through the fear of failure and ugliness. I ask them to trust that even if they make something bad, there will still be love on the other side.
I do this because when I look into the eyes of one of these kids, I can't help but see myself at that age, too scared to try, too paralyzed with emotional turnoil to even smile, and looking outward for the confirmation that I would be okay. I am trying to give them what I never got, but desperately needed. I am trying to teach them to pass this on, cheer it on, and keep it on.
I am teaching under the radar because I know that this behavior, what I am hoping to engender, is dangerous. I know that speaking out is becoming more of a risk. But I also know that the pain that results from denying yourself and blending in is too great, and what the world loses every time an individual gives up the fight cannot possibly be measured.
Now, we need kids with courage. We need kids who will go where we didn't. We need kids who will risk, even in the face of great failure. We need kids who will have the courage to be themselves.
When I am free of the pain of my childhood, I am free to risk with them. I am free to take a chance on each child, if that child can meet me half way. What a gift I have earned for myself, this freedom. I can only hope that my example will be enough to encourage risk. I can only hope that they will surpass me in everything I do.
Isn't that what we all hope for as teachers?
Is your kid in camp? They didn't have these when I was a kid but I wish they did. One week of nothing but art would have been wonderful. ANYWAY. I am building a tiny house and I am looking for funding. If you can and want to help me out, just follow the link in the upper right hand area of this blog. Even $5 will help! I am trying to move out of my crawl space and build a 10 x 10 tiny house to call my very own. Thanks for anything you can give!
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