There are times in my life when I feel weak and fractured: when I worry about my heart that beats erratically and aches for constancy, when the to do list grows longer than the can list, when loneliness takes a seat at my table and refuses to leave. But when it comes to my boys there is a strength that can not be measured, a love that has no end and a courage that can meet whatever the day brings. They are and continue to be, my best reason for drawing oxygen. They are my first breath of gratitude in the morning and my last breath of thanksgiving before I surrender to sleep.
Today was a beautiful fall Sunday spent in the company of my two bright lights.
Here are some of the highlights:
And as the day closes I find myself overcome with soul satisfying gratitude. A very good day.
Emotionally leaden would be a good descriptive for me during the past few weeks. Two days ago I heard myself bragging. Bragging. I'm not usually a braggart. I will sometimes put on a bit of confident moxy but brag…hardly. I was bragging about all sorts of nonsense…I was a fashion consultant in San Francisco, I am super smart and graduated with top A's in all my classes, I'm going to get a PhD, I got this honor or that honor, yada yada yada. Rather than gag (which was my first response), I turned around to face myself with loving compassion. That is when I saw it clearly: a sadness, a longing, a need for validation.
As a kid, my house wasn't heavy on validation. I found validation in SCHOOL. I could go to school and know the drill. I could ace any class I walked into and I was a people pleaser to boot so teachers liked me. I was starving for information BUT equally hungry for the stars on my paper, the 100% in the top right corner, the smiley face, the A+, the feeling of "I did it". I don't remember ever, in all my life, breathing in those small victories.
There was always another A to strive for.
Nor was anyone ever impressed by my report cards, or honor rolls, or awards. I didn't attend award ceremonies, imagining myself walking to accept the diploma, award, or whatever without a single clap of applause. I sought accomplishment, not for how it might be perceived by others, but like a man dying of thirst seeks water.
I approached spirituality with this same fervor. Enlightenment... the ever elusive A.
Now that grad school is over and there are no more accolades or academic conversations, no more A+'s in the top right corner, I felt again that empty place of longing to belong.
Life is interesting isn't it.
There is no getting around it, only going through it.
There are no A's. And if you don't pause for the small victories and be your own applause, you will go through life hungry for a food the world can not give.
Today I am just this life looking out through these eyes, grade-less, and today that is enough.
That is enough.
This year there are no graduate classes to juggle amidst my teaching schedule, which should of course fill me with an exponential sigh of relief. And perhaps somewhere I am sighing with peaceful abandon but I must confess the relief is overshadowed by a longing for my academic community and the rigor associated with it. I find myself somewhat daunted by the task of recalibrating my mind to pre-grad school levels of activity.
Perhaps I need to practice sighing…I could surely take lessons from my two boys…
Back in Colorado, surrounded by my familiar foliage and life, I find myself remembering the tropical flowers. I find myself wondering at the flower of self…the unique expression of life that expresses as you and I. I find myself wondering what pleasure I might find in the texture, color, petals and expression of my own life if I simply step aside and smell the flowers.
This is my beach. Not because I own it (as if owning any corner of life actually makes any sense, regardless how many wars are fought or money spent), but because my soul purrs when I arrive on its shores and my heart beats wildly in the face of so much beauty. Each time I stare out at a wide blue horizon from this particular sandy perch, my heavy satchel of worries, need to's and oughtn'ts is suddenly empty and I am left with a deep and unexplainable exhale….. HOME.
In life I have seldom settled into the inherent vulnerability
of being human, nor acknowledged, with any kind of grace, the burning desire to
be cared for and nurtured by “other”.I have diligently cultivated
self-sufficiency, independence, competence and strength.I have given to others with abandon but found
receiving difficult and receiving nurturance nigh impossible.
That approach to life no longer feeds me.
It is as necessary to accept care and to receive it, as it is to pour it forth in giving. Crying in my Godfather’s arms after the shock wore off, attended by
a warm tropical breeze and the songs of Hawaiian birds and water, in a home so
beautiful that it belongs on the cover of Dwell magazine, I felt safe and cared
for. Not just by a beloved human other
but by the whole of life.And all of
Life seemed to be whispering softly and caringly within the grace of its own
mystery, “I’ve got you.You are okay.”
In its own unique way the body with its heart procedures,
head injury, seizure and quirks offers an opportunity to embrace human
vulnerability and the long silenced desire to be cared for and to RECEIVE.All of this on an island in the Pacific
Ocean, surrounded by unspeakable beauty, cradled by aloha and an unparalleled
sense of “It is okay.It is all okay”.
Nature is sanctuary... home... life. When I am surrounded by the natural world it is easier to discard my sense of pompous separation and acknowledge my interconnection with life's many disguises.
When in nature it's ridiculous to assume a Pollyanna approach to its brilliance, waxing on about its kindness. I know that I don't understand it. I know that I must remain open and alert to the possibilities arising in each moment.
Nature demands respect and careful observation.
Nature demands that we come to our senses.
And practice once more our neglected sense of:
smell as the scent of pine, wildflower, rain, moose, earth and wind speaks its olfactory dialog with our nose.
taste as our tongue receives the fresh tangy air of a pine forest.
hearing as we silence our cellphones and internal chatter long enough to listen and hear the rustle of wind in trees and the various sound each plant and tree and flower makes as it moves in conversation with the breeze.
touch as we feel the caress of life meeting life in and as tree, flower, bird, moose, you, me.
With senses open, nature becomes a lover inviting our bodies toward the vulnerability and pleasure of this particular NOW.
It is a miraculous invitation held out to us in every single now since the dawn of creation. And when we accept it, even for a moment, what wonders we behold.
As many of you know I have had a very full year…heart surgery, brain trauma, grad school, motherhood, teaching.
A full year.
This week I complete my master's degree in Educational Psychology. Last week, while walking alone near the foothills of Boulder, I experienced the first major arrhythmia since surgery. Its after effects of dizziness and near fainting lasted for several days. In typical Angelina fashion, I pressed on, ignoring the simple invitation to feel.
On Friday morning as I forced myself up the steep incline of a beloved and often traveled trail, my dear body would go no further. Half way up I lay down on the gravel path, staring at cloud blue dappled sky, surrounded by birdsong, warmed by sunshine and the clear sound of wind in tall grass. I lay for several minutes drawing in the energy needed to make the descent. I noticed hundreds of sunflowers, all of their golden faces turned in welcome toward the sun- drawing in energy, drawing in life. And for a perfect, tender moment, my face turned in welcome toward the luminous warmth of day and like the flowers all around, it was enough. It was enough to feel and feeling was enough. It was enough to be finished. To be.
When we think of the people in our lives whom we admire, who inspire us, it is good to find ourselves on that list. Today I am proud of Angelina, face turned in welcome toward the light of a new day.
Butterfly, slender stalk, petals and pollen, blossom nectar, wings stir, breeze blown,f l i g h t.
I used to wait for the time when all would be well, when the ever changing tides of life would shift to calm, clear waters reflecting idealized bliss and saintly assurance.
I used to wait for "enlightenment" and "transformation" and "redemption".
I used to work hard to that end…books, classes, hours on zafus, practicing inadequacy.
becomes the butterfly,
only by relinquishing all that it has known,
all that it has been,
and trusting the life within to express itself in flight.
becomes the flower,
only by relinquishing the bud,
and opening tender petals in bloom.
Why does human add such pomp to the occasion. The caterpillar doesn't strive for "butterfly-ness" and the bud doesn't long for the bloom.
Could we but relax into the wide arms of life as caterpillar and bud, as mustard seed and lily, what wide expression of life's diversity will come forth in expression as you and me?
Without one cherished "OM", without one labored prayer.
With the faith of a caterpillar, of a bud, of a mustard seed...
Where to begin?
The first word written on a black page sets the trajectory of thought.
Where to begin?
I don't know.
I stand captivated by uncertainty and the gross human need to explain the unexplainable,
define the undefineable,
comprehend the incomprehensible.
I listen to the jumble of w o r d s bumping about in mind and wonder at the preoccupation with thoughts and the artificial buffer they create, affording us the illusion of control and certainty.
I wonder what it might be like to b r e a t h e, without judgment or criticism of the breath itself or the quality of the air… just breathe.
I wonder what it might feel like to cease, for a moment, our mental/emotional hustle and let all that is arising BE exactly as it is.
Then we, like flowers swaying in the breeze of our own belonging, simply bloom.
Sleep was a wayward bedfellow last night. By 4 AM I was already sipping hot tea at the kitchen table, eating gluten free toast coated with cashew butter. By 5:30 AM I was winding my way up the mountain, newborn sun kissing my morning face, wind softly caressing my curls and birds talking in aviary chatter like music on a new day.
Nature! In her embrace I always feel at home, even after the most restless of nights, I walk into her arms and I am reminded again and again to let go, to relax and to trust.
Make a wish? Adesire,longing,orstronginclinationforaspecificthing. When walking with children, wishes are everywhere. Dandelions are plucked from slender stalks. Fuzzy promises brought toward puckered lips exhaling wonder from lungs filled with possibility. Great gusty breaths, hearts strong with belief, send delicate wish seeds on a dance across the sky. Children don't see weeds to be plucked or worried over. They see wishes, everywhere, and a world ripe with possibilities. Next time when a life weed presents itself, perhaps we can look with eyes of wonder and just maybe, we will find wishes blown across the wide sky of our own longing.
“...Pain is a lonely road, no one can know the measure of our particular agonies, but through pain we have the possibility, just the possibility, of coming to know others as we have, with so much difficulty, come to know ourselves.”
Do you ever find yourself exhausted by the questions themselves? And the minds continual distraction with answers that can never begin to approach the complexity of Life.
At times I wonder what it might feel like if the brains busy thinking were silenced and the great unknowings of life were given a chance to simply be within the human context of self. What then? What great horrors is the mind attempting to avoid with all its thinking? And what great horrors is it actually inventing?
Perhaps the invitation is to allow the horror and heaven, the fear and love, the pain and pleasure, the light and dark to rest within a spaciousness, in which no thought is necessary.
What does summer look like at our house?
Well apart from devoting at least three hours daily to homework, here is a sampling:
Bodhi's latest book is back from our desktop publishing company and Bodhi treated us to a special reading and book signing today once the mailman deposited the package into our eager hands.
For supper, Bodhi suggested this AWESOME salad…the boys favorite vegetable is kale! Now that is lucky for me since it happens to be a food staple of mine.
Afterwards we initiated our newly built fire pit (yes the braggart in me needs to remind you that I built it myself!)...
And Bodhi roasted marshmallows in the back yard...
before consuming delicious, oozing, chocolaty s'mores.
To work off some of his energy before bed he played with his new spooner in the back yard. We then took a pleasant neighborhood walk and now he snores loudly in his bedroom. Ah motherhood is the best gift I could recieve particularly when I set aside the busyness of life and just enjoy its possibilities.
One of the perks to having a birthday on December 26th is that you get to have a half birthday celebration with mom. This year consisted of an italian supper with a buddy and a specially made gluten free chocolate cake complete with half a birthday song.
I don't pretend to understand it.
I no longer even delude myself with seeking strategies aimed toward that end.
In fact, it seems now, that all such strategies were subtle plans to outsmart pain, to outwit suffering, to out maneuver life.
A friend recently told me, "Many people say they love the rain but when they go outside in it they take an umbrella". To experience the rain (life) we can't truly experience it without an embrace of its essential wetness. If we are going to love it, we will have to get wet.
Stand naked in life and allow life to drench us and live us, to dry us and warm us, then and only then do we lay down our arbitrary separation from life's wholeness and truly LIVE.
I am learning, one droplet at a time. One breath at a time. One moment at a time.
My incredibly beautiful eldest son just called me full of summer joy and enthusiasm, like a fresh breeze blown across farmland whispering of fireflies and life. He called to tell me how wonderful his summer is and how excited he is to begin his research for next year in ninth grade. He called to tell me that he got a heaping stack of new books and how happy that makes him. He called to tell me that I am beautiful and wonderful. He called to tell me that something "had been gnawing" on him for a while now and he just needed me to hear it. He asked me not to give up on letting people in close and to bravely open my heart and life to love and belonging, to connection and community. He said, "Mom while it is true that a lot of people in life might hurt you, just open your heart anyway, because in the end it always works out. And there is a right match out there for you. Someone who can appreciate and treasure you like I do but different and more". He asked me to promise him. He said, "You don't need to protect yourself and Bodhi and me by never letting anyone in. That's just life mom. And you deserve to live it".
Loss hurts. No matter how you serve it up but remaining open is the only real answer.