Change

Poetry

I can feel a change coming –
It’s in the air.

A coolness that whispers
On my skin –
The most gentle of intimations.

Sweetly, sweetly
The breeze arouses –
It comes in delicate breaths.

I feel you,
I do –
A spirit so familiar.

Eternal cycles
Bring you home
Once more.

Look At Me

Memoir, Photography

When quarantine and social isolation really began to settle into my mind and body earlier this year, I wrestled with the uncomfortable sensation of the walls of our home closing in on me.

I felt trapped, unsettled, powerless… all the while I had to give my best to my daughter, my partner, my work – there were expectations and responsibilities that I could not shirk. Sometimes I felt like my best wasn’t good enough, and though I tried to be kind and compassionate to myself, the guilt still weighed on me.

Our small walk-in bedroom closet has always been the preferred place for me to practice meditation, but it also became a safe space for me to indulge during my precious bit of alone time.

I found a blessed escape in the guitar, returning to an instrument that I hadn’t played in ages. Cross-legged and crammed, I delighted in the pressure on my fingertips, the lick and thrum of the strings, the beauty vibrating and filling my private chamber.

One of the songs that I recorded in the closet was a favorite by John Lennon – a heartaching and vulnerable outpouring that echoed my own soul’s cry to see and be seen; to understand and be understood… to love and be loved.

Look at me –
Who am I supposed to be?
Who am I supposed to be?

Look at me –
What am I supposed to be?
What am I supposed to be?

Look at me –
Oh my love, oh my love.

Here I am –
What am I supposed to do?
What am I supposed to do?

Here I am –
What can I do for you?
What can I do for you?

Here I am –
Oh my love, oh my love.

Who am I?
Nobody knows but me.
Nobody knows but me.

Who am I?
Nobody else can see
Just you and me.

Who are we?
Oh my love, oh my love.
Oh my love.

Free

Memoir

This morning I was listening to a podcast in which one of my emotional intelligence mentors, Dr Harriet Lerner, discussed regret, shame, and moving on.

Aspects of the conversation included wisdom regarding self-compassion, releasing yourself from the past and its lingering narrative, and the fact that the person who harmed you can not and will not be the person to heal you.

It made me think about a significantly traumatic event from my teenage years and the scars left in its wake: anxiety, fear, powerlessness, self-blame, self-disgust, and shame.

I had to hide everything when it happened, and it’s still buried over two decades later with the exception of just a few people in whom I have confided.

It’s not something that I think about often, but it washed over me this morning. And something inexplicable compelled me to search online for the perpetrator.

I must interject that it’s generally not healthy, productive, or wise to look up people from the past that have caused harm, or people in whom you are emotionally / mentally ensnared. The end result furthers the entanglement, often leaving you feeling worse than before. (This is experience talking). Pause first and ask why – establish your motivation and intention… sink beneath your thrumming emotion, queasy stomach, and racing heart, and listen to the voice that implores you not to go down that road.

I didn’t go through that full process this morning, but I did feel calm conducting the search; I was poised with no expectations.

The search result was instantaneous – there was the face, aged but familiar, with a social post sharing the shock and pain of betrayal: their partner had been cheating in an ongoing affair.

Did I feel vindicated? A sense of karmic justice?

No.

I felt… nothing.

What happened to them doesn’t change what happened to me. Their pain doesn’t heal or cancel out mine. I felt neither elation nor disappointment. I did not compare and contrast our lives; I did not question fate or invoke judgment. I was untouched; unfettered.

In this revelation, I am free.

Just Me

Memoir

There were many years that I didn’t want to be me; I rejected and tried to replace myself.

Contacts instead of glasses. Haircuts and failed attempts to straighten my thick, wavy curls. Shaving, waxing, plucking. Makeup and accessories. Feigning interest in any number of things just to assimilate in hopes of being accepted. Trying to fit in, feeling like a fraud, hustling, rejecting, never truly feeling comfortable or truly belonging.

Even the partying and clubbing and socializing and intoxication and numbing and flings was all an act; all pieces of armor, costume, camouflage. Nothing was ever enough; nothing ever fulfilled or completed or appeased me.

I moved through people like fads – wearing out or being worn out, discarding or being discarded, using or being used, ghosting or being ghosted, cutting off or being cut off, justifying my behavior and walling up my emotions to deal with being outed or running away.

Always burying and hiding. Wanting my past to be erased, not just die, to never have existed. Willing it. Ignoring and denying.

What I have now feels enough for me. I can openly share my thoughts and feelings. I can detach from them – they don’t define or contain or control me. The people in my orbit bring value to my life. I’m honest with them and myself.

No more armoring, faking, running, hiding, lying, hurting.

Just me.

Six Months

Memoir, Photography

Today marks six months since my family and I began quarantine, socially isolating at home to safeguard ourselves from COVID-19.

It still feels surreal to say that we are living in a global pandemic, with reality as we knew it transformed into the “new normal” to which we are still adjusting and acclimating.

My emotions and thoughts have ebbed and flowed between the extremes of anger, despair, lethargy and compassion, equanimity, hope. I’ve been holding up a mirror of clarity, taking an honest look at my ego-stories and their machinations; calling upon courage and vulnerability to heal, grow, and evolve in my mind and behavior.

Gratitude is an ongoing practice; a sacred ritual: in our conversations, at the dinner table, during bedtime, and in my journaling. Sometimes the intentional act of paying attention and giving thanks is the only moment of peace and joy in my day. It shifts my perspective from fear-fueled scarcity to awareness, humility, and gratitude for our privileges and blessings.

In addition to my beloved daughter and partner, our newly-adopted cat, and the ongoing support from our family and friends, this has kept me going:

Devouring books.

Creating music.

Writing poetry.

Sharing my story.

Honoring the magic and mystery of life through photography:

Half a year has passed and we don’t know how much longer we have to go – each day stretches laboriously, the months are blurred, and the beginning of this quarantine feels as far away as whenever it will end.

But I know that the way out is through… I will keep creating, keep giving thanks, and keep shining the light of love.

Morning Storm

Poetry

The treetops sway fitfully,
Roused from their stillness.
Dark smudges brushing against bloated clouds,
An impenetrable white dome leaking the quicksilver
That prickles the lake in ghostly shimmers.
The rumbling growl of thunder,
The electric whipcrack snap of lightning,
The steady rush of silversteel rainfall.
Shrouded trees; swollen sky,
Bruising the rippled water.
A lone white form slices through the relentless torrent,
Braving flight in the cutting downpour.
A flash of brightness illuminating the gloom,
Perched on a slick-black tree
Jutting out of the disturbed water –
Defiant.

Haunted

Poetry

In the corner of my eye,
A flash suggestion of form –
Crossover from another world.

Shadowplay beguiles,
Teasing substance from spirit.

A spectral border shimmers,
And the silken whispers of the veil
Promise blood, madness, dreams.

I know you:
Glassy pools that capture light,
Refracting like a precious jewel.

I know you:
Corporeal apparition,
Hazy in the dusky ether.

Haunted.

Breathless

Poetry

The sky becomes velvet,
Glowing in blue and silver.

Moonlight radiates,
Beaming;
Illuminating the night.

Meet me in the emerald forest –
Fly on the wind that rushes through
The tallest trees.

Your song alight and soaring,
You float inside of me.

Hushed now,
The breeze our only whisper.

Dappled in starlight,
We connect
Breathless.

Expectations

Memoir

When I was in my 20s, I loved hosting wild parties. One year I was throwing a Halloween bash and was hellbent on my whole crew coming in costume and staying through the night. However, one of the guys was using his particular brand of manipulation (a combination of cajoling and insisting) to try to get the group to accompany him to another event downtown. I felt angry and anxious – my plan was derailed, my party was compromised, and my vision for how the night was going to go was shattered. And of course I resented that jackass for ruining everything.

Looking back, I feel compassion for this past version of myself – the young woman who sought control in all the wrong ways, and would become so disillusioned and disappointed when her thoughts did not manifest as reality.

Fast-forward to my 30s, when I had a surprise party for my daughter’s third birthday. She was with my parents while I prepared the apartment – balloons in her favorite colors and cartoon characters in every corner, yummy snacks that I knew she would love, artfully arranged gifts, and a very special cake. I pictured how it would all unfold: my daughter would arrive, burst into our home, and be utterly delighted by all the birthday decorations. We’d laugh, sing, and take funny and sweet photographs. I felt so dazzled by this daydream… until it all came tumbling down.

My parents knocked on the door, holding my daughter – she was flushed and groggy from a nap. She was also cranky and could care less about the decorations and food. She did open some gifts and cut the cake, but the effervescence that I envisioned was flat-lined.

Afterwards, when she was playing in her room, all of the emotion inside of me erupted and I bent over the kitchen counter, sobbing. All of my hard work, for what? Then I was flooded by my lifelong storyline of grasping for control and investing in expectation. The end result was always the same: disappointment. It was all so clear to me in that moment. I remember laughing through my tears, thinking what on earth made me think that my fantasy of a compliant, joyful, picture-perfect three year old would ever come true, especially around naptime!

I shared these two anecdotes today with my daughter, who is now almost eight. She was tickled to hear that her party was the source of a significant lesson for me, and we both had a good laugh thinking about her usually-mellow-mom being a bit “dramatic.” At the heart of our conversation was the fact that we control one thing: our behavior.

We can practice opening our minds to whatever will unfold, and go with the flow of life with as much acceptance, kindness, and patience as we can muster. Because for as much as we plan, prepare, catastrophize, fantasize, stress, expect… there is no telling what we’re going to get. What is guaranteed is that the more we fixate or try to control, the more disappointment we’ll experience.

Outcomes, even positive ones, will never precisely mirror the scenarios we create in our minds. Expecting people or life in general to comply with our wishes and perfectly fulfill our desires and expectations is an exercise in foolishness and futility. And I can say from experiencing countless special events, vacations, interactions, and situations that didn’t go the way I wanted: reality will never synch up with our thoughts on how it should be.

Hell is created when we expect Heaven.