Tag Archives: meditation

It Begins to be Over

6 Mar

IMG_6506Go like clockwork, day in, day out, and you erase the ill tendencies. Days and days, or maybe just seven, was all it took to end. Forget what you told yourself was your permanent condition and abide by the logic that you can’t really miss someone who was never there. Yes, a week ago you fell under the spell again, but look what seven days of real grounding can do.

You are getting everything you want. And that is terrifying. But you can’t keep thwarting it, keep breaking your own heart to prevent some unknown retribution for true happiness. You can actually be this person, this good person. You did, after all, do all the work, and if doing so brought this happiness, then you can stop worrying about getting hit by a bus. The good is under your control, and this bad, this imagined end result that will be done to you, that is old damage demanding attention. Only your little kid self was yelled at and shamed for being golden. Now you can let yourself be that, through and through.

 

Worth Being Won

27 Feb

Couer_BriseLiterature always feels the most sorry for women like me. Years of their lives lost on a love never to be requited. Narratives are built to leave these women alone in rooms with cobwebs, or sitting helplessly by while the man they love struggles with whether or not he is gay. There is a very slight tone of mockery, and heaps of sympathy for one so lost as to perpetually let love for another remain unfulfilled.

Earlier tonight I was on script and said, “I have a sickness, and it takes the form of him.” (Classic daddy issues, never good enough to gain his love, yadda yadda.) But after a few more hours wandering my 700 square feet of hardwood floor over the earth, I was telling my kitchen cabinets, “It is the great romance of my lifetime, loving this man and his sons.” I would say that on my deathbed. (I watch too many really silly, not at all violent, pseudo-dramatic murder mysteries.)

It’s really not that tragic to love and not be loved in return. Certainly my own true New York Friend would attest that Unrequited is a genius for keeping us in the first flush of love for ten years. Maybe I don’t mind being held in suspension. Clearly I’ve chosen this simulacrum of affection over any truth that will flicker and fade.

Because I actually know what was written for me, and it doesn’t involve a fulfilling love. Or at least, not any more of those. I was so lucky to have so many. Maybe it’s okay if I let my mind manifest the script in which I know I’m already riding along. Sitting on a bus, looking out the window, I’m connecting my isolated self to each of the crazy, old eccentric ladies walking by on the sidewalk, usually pulling laundry carts full of random bags. I psychically high-five them. Yes, hey hey, you were loved and lost. Then you loved and lost and decided never to pick it up again. You started believing in some impossible unattainable love, or forever mourned the loss of a great one, to occupy that part of your mind, and then gradually filled in all the empty bits of your life with despair-deflecting activities and routines.

At worst, the patterns slip and your apartment gets messy and people see your lunacy in unkempt hair. But if you can keep it tidy, like my own loneliest mother did, then no one has to know the hollow echo of so many chambers of life left unfilled. Laundry done again and again, meals made and eaten, dishes washed. Motions are to be gone through, and they provide built-in comfort through the reward of endorphin release when each box is ticked.

Everybody on the outside reassures me that my story has a different ending, and that I’m beautiful and, oh, I’ll find someone. But what if I’m Jane Austen minus some novels. What if I’m noble and brave and just decide that the best love on offer for me is an impossible love. Would I really be so much better if I hadn’t ever met this person and we locked in to an eagle-talon-clinging platonic tumble through space? Would I be in a functional romantic relationship? Or would I be in a terrible situation with someone who added little color to my life while I erased his, until we both faded to a pair of patterns clicking along a set track.

I know there is a third option there, an in-between, but I don’t think in-betweenness suits me. You really have to make me laugh and think hard, as often as possible. That’s not in between. I think I’ll take the amplitude of hearing from Unrequited and feeling some happiness that he’ll visit New York, and later sink a bit in wonder about the guy he mentioned who lives here now.

Will I be supporting him in a big, new life? Will that be what finally releases us from this strange death grip of pseudo-romantic love? Thereby completing our terms using each other for whatever healing distraction or suspended animation we needed to repair deepest damage. Because the older I get, the more I know it’s damage that holds me here. And I may be the most enlightened, meditating, self-aware version of myself, but I can’t for the life of me see one tiny sliver of a path that will coincide with another.

I resent the fact that the Beatles are in my head right now. But it proves my mind has a sense of humor even when it’s spinning the oldest piano reel of my disconsolate viewpoint.

You see, honestly, as my teachers and practitioners tell me, love is about how you are together. Not about some list of things in common. But what if the best I am together is with this person who elevates every thing. I cannot feel low in our suspension. We look ever upward for some gesture we can make for others or one another. We hold doors, we make jokes, we return people’s dropped slips of paper, we make up silly narratives for bad pieces of architecture, we carry bags up stairs for strangers, and we never stop adding to the moment while being in it. There isn’t a story like ours. One where I am so clearly a better, more open and generous person for knowing him. And where we honestly have constructed the best humorous devices and philosophical enquirers of this epoch.

I need him. And I would never say that he needs me. But I know in my heart that this gentleman sees the world differently when he’s saving bits to share with me. Sure, I’m a fool, and I am that literary figure who waits and hopes for what she is told to be impossible time and time again. But Tame Impala says it: People change. And hopefully you have a chance in this lifetime to hear that song with your Unrequited while riding in a tiny Fiat Cinquecento over the limestone hills of southern France, only the dashboard light to keep  you company when the engine gets overwhelmed and you have to pull over and hope the car will find the spirit to move on.

And on that dark winter night hillside, you laugh and are calm together, because you operate on this very placid level and you love the story while you’re in it. You’ve both seen things shatter and you’ve both done a bit of that breaking, and now you just want to love every chance you get, no matter what form it takes. Because maybe, just maybe, your script hasn’t been written, and you’re fumbling through the greatest love story of all time. Too many times, you don’t recognize a good love story until you’ve crossed some preordained threshold, or it’s all over. So maybe hang on to whatever this is that’s unfolding around you, because it feels like an intimacy you haven’t known before, and you can’t predict the ending. Or every time you think it’s really over, the engine kicks back on and the music starts and you find you really can lean on this person for gradually more and more things. Maybe it is just a lifelong, beautiful friendship. That tortures you with its perfection never to be fulfilled.

So, maybe you see why I’m stuck. Until someone is bold enough to take the very slight risk of guessing my affection for them (I show it pretty clearly, and you’d have to be a moron or simply a modern-age, “infinite choices are available to me so why should I bother with this intellectually thrilling but sub-par on the attractiveness scale selection” love-resistor not to feel it), and asks me to follow through on a mutual feeling, then I’ll just maintain the status quo. Because I used to be a little too willing to try other narratives that might bring the feeling of this trophy heart… and too often I pushed them most of the way there myself before I realized it’s not the real thing. So, alright, no pushing. I’ll just wait patiently to see what arrives, and in the meantime keep my trophy heart in its glass case, where it’s well cared for and gets a good amount of laughs. 

Self-Contained Heart

9 Feb

Couer_LevitéThere is a walk I know so well, it becomes shorter with each passing. East to west, and back again, the street on which I reside runs one way across four miles to New York Harbor. Then against the current runs back again to my landlocked, hillocked Brooklyn berm and a little bit beyond to East New York, where it terminates.

Ideal walking conditions exist for the duration of a journey in either direction, and conveniently, the best coffee roasters in Brooklyn have a shop about two and a half miles west of my front door. No need to zig-zag, I just go directly there, and it’s a perfect way station to everything else I adore downtown.

I am, actually, ideally situated. Unless I’m going to my new motorcycle writing job in an office two neighborhoods to the north in Williamsburg. Then forget about it. It’s a misery involving public transport.

But anyway. Anyway. I am ideally situated. And I actually regret that the journey grows ever shorter as my mind wears soft the edges of every landmark along the way. Nothing is entirely erased from my attention, but now the scenery is just quiet background material that gives my mind a little too much license to run to extremes.

Tonight my round-trip journey was evidently an experiment in the amplitude of my emotions. On the way to a celebratory evening, I was all playlist-induced positivity and hopefulness. Homeward only a couple of hours later, listening to the same music while I begrudgingly saluted myself for making responsible choices, I scraped the absolute boggy bottom reaches of the pits of despair (that will always make me think of The Princess Bride).

I debated hopping on to a bus to shorten the grueling duration of my thoughts, but the true and earnest part of me knew that walking home (and texting a soul friend as I set my course) was the only cure for a bleak mood. So I did it. And by golly, as my steps neared home, the amplitude soared and sank and then reached the even keel of a solid midline.

You wanna know what did the trick? Walking meditation produced a bounteous truth, friends. I’m talking major stuff from minor obsessing. Swinging my little tote bag full of coffee beans (of course I stopped for those, are you kidding?), I let my mind trace and retrace the contours of an indelible impression made upon me by a certain blue-eyed someone earlier today.

Ohhhh but the mark of this occurrence was like the century-old cowboy graffiti on the canyon walls of Capitol Reef National Park in Utah. This was deep stuff. This was good stuff. This afternoon I walked into a perfectly eastern-lit room and watched a set of shoulders and chest rise up and pull back in an opening sequence to a smile that lit eyes and then wandered mouthward for a grin and a startled hello.

I was everything that lit this moment for this man. And I say, I note, that this uncultivated, unsuspecting and unchoreographed. I was tumbling into this space all aflutter because my actual office reeked of some sort of construction fumes, fumes that ol’ blue eyes himself here had caused with his own manly machinations in the space.

I felt my own being spread into a slow smile as I carried myself to where he sat and plunked down, leaving empty plenty of other rows of seating around us. Pointed, I was. And sharp with my “you fumigated my office” accusations. I didn’t say that, but whimperingly implied it and then extolled the virtues of my new motorcycle writing project office, to which he countered, “And I bet that reeks of grease and exhaust.”

Oh no, quite the contrary, it’s modern and beautiful, thank you. (And later I was to realize that I am actually living the dream of having a writing office in a garage full of motorcycles, but that’s another topic entirely!)

But truthfully, I was backpedaling and avoiding eye contact because, goodness. That was a reaction. That was the reaction of someone I have not seen in quite a little while because I’ve been so busy living my dreams, making dreams come true, dreaming big. You know, all that stuff you’re supposed to do when you “do you.”

Et voila! That was it. I nearly stopped in my leaden tracks as snowflakes began to fall in the cooling air tonight. “Scarcity increases demand.”

It’s not just an economic principle. And I’m not talking about “playing hard to get.” But I am referring to what my friend and I have long termed “The Monastic Vibe.” That amazing, impenetrable, unobtainable aura you project when you’re actually only focused on getting work done, for yourself. It’s less about feigning hard to get, and more about actually living as yourself, your whole self, in your life. When you exist that way in the world, you not only feel better, but you project a radiance unique to the unobtaniums of the world. You are not just a simple take-down, readily available, easy to find, crumbling edifice of a human. You are a rare and scarce specimen of human achievement, and by golly, people want you.

So there I was, limping home, murkily revisiting every lost hope of love and tumbling into an abyss of forgettable self. When a few mind’s eye replays of a glowing look startled me back into head-held-high belief in my own scarcity:demand ratio. Then I realized that the reaction Mr. Blue-Eyed Tiger had when I walked into the office was the same brightening of spirit that I can’t help but exhibit whenever he walks into my workspace. It’s a total uplift of shared but scrupulously contained excitement. We hardly know each other, and I’ve been putting this one on the way, way back burner to examine it for veracity of feeling. (New habit, trying it out, thanks, Soul Friend.)

Realization complete, I felt a smile return to my countenance, and then my mind bookended the revelation with the recollection that when the Blue-Eyed Tiger left the office today, after he put on his coat, readied his earphones, and was walking to the door, his look back was for me and me alone. I raised my eyes in an office full of people, found him looking directly at me, and then seeing me look, he waved and bid his farewell.

That is what I thought as I climbed the stoop to my front door: “Those looks were for me alone.” Scarcity increases demand. I’ll keep those looks, thank you, and live in a way that’s true to my heart and keeps me centered on my course. That’s where I’ll find my midline-walking equal, and our eyes will meet in rare understanding. Oo la la!

Let Yourself Be That

30 Dec

IMG_1982

I apparently make it a habit to rarely be at home, and this year was no exception. Some months, I was only in my own bed four nights out of the calendar 30 or 31 for which I pay precious, precious Brooklyn rent. I don’t regret living (actually, just leave it there: I don’t regret living, full stop) in the many different experiments I put myself through this year. I let myself live in the mountains of Utah and on the beach in Southern California, I tried roaming free in Alabama shortly after returning home from Assen. I was in crummy places like Washington, DC and Baltimore, and I took up temporary residence in my childhood hometown of Minneapolis. There was time in Amsterdam and Barcelona (actually, three trips to Barcelona) and France. And there was more, much more. So much more that I’d have to consult my trusty Moleskine calendar to track it.

Oh! What a natural segue. Moleskine calendar, you say? Well, that must be precious, and since its rear pocket carries the folded poems you must carry with you at all times, you never let it out of your sight, of course.

Of course.

Except for the day in October when I actually lived my worst, most persistent recurring nightmare. I’m talking about the dream that I’m sure I’ve written about here, the one where I endlessly pack my bags and never, ever go to the airport. Or if I’m at the airport, I somehow never get to my gate, whilst losing articles that tumble from my over-filled bags.

The dream v. life metaphors are obvious, but the point is, I never make a flight in my dreams. But in real life, I’ve never missed a flight. Until October 8th, 2015. (Dramatic chord!)

I was in Minneapolis, and I was at the peak of my self-loathing for a terrible habit that was only getting worse as I aged. I was becoming one of those people who begin to pack for a trip at the precise time when they should actually be going to the airport. This was not my dream self, mind you. This was the awake version of the girl who had just arisen from her slumber packing session and was at present dawdling through the newspaper, some coffee, room service breakfast, some lying around and moping… you get the drift.

So, I loathed this girl. But I took her rumpled self down the escalator of the fancy modernist hotel where I’d indulged in an extra night because my friends’ daughter had taken ill and I was already at this conference anyway, so Overburdened Charge Card picked it up. Like I said, I loathed this irresponsible, hapless person that had taken over while my restless soul wandered elsewhere, trying to find itself.

Ahem. My hotel was 15 minutes away from the airport, which helped but also hindered me, because I abused that fact. I glanced at the free airport shuttle, filled with hapless tourists lugging those gigantic bags that only tourists carry, and checked the time. No, I had to take my own transportation, direct to my own concourse, with no stops for Sally Six Bags along the way. I summoned an Uber, smug that I was such a fancy traveler girl that I had to get a car while a van was still being loaded with more girth-testing bags and people beside me. And then I opened my Delta app to check the time of my flight.

To my horror, I saw what I’ve never seen before in my life. It said, “Information is no longer available for this flight.” Which prompted me to wonder, why, wait, what time does it leave?

It left five minutes ago.

You thought it left an hour from now, because for the first time in your life, you let your Calendar app store the flight info, and that app pretended we were on East Coast time, and we are, in fact, in the Central time zone.

A very, very quiet little thunderstorm began in my brain as I smiled at the driver who opened a door in front of me. I was living my recurring nightmare. Well, let’s see what it’s meant to teach me, I told myself in an attempt to soothe the very recently Zoloft-deprived brain in my skull.

The details of what lengths the universe went to in order to demonstrate how far I’d fallen are actually, seriously, too painful to relate here. Let’s just say I cried in the airport, in a ridiculously overpriced Uber Black Car that took me away from the airport so I could kill six hours elsewhere, at a random diner that only took cash, at a shitty bar possessing the only ATM for miles and it was out of money, on the sidewalk in front of the bar, in the stunningly proximate office of my friend’s husband, and then in a Tumi luggage store at the airport, where I let a luggage therapist try to piece me back together again in the form of needlessly overpriced bags that are nowhere near the quality of those made by my own brother. (Sigh.)

I finally did arrive home, with lots of that “kindness of strangers” stuff cheering me along the way, but little did I know that somewhere in all of that Tumi shuffling, another very small thunderstorm was erupting, and it would be two months before it was over.

I’d left my Moleskine calendar, filled with more personal details than anyone should ever put on paper, in one of the many overwrought pockets in one of the many overpriced Tumi bags in a store 1500 miles away from my home.

I didn’t realize this until I’d turned my apartment upside-down and inside-out every night for two weeks. (Sheesh, I look back on this now with true horror at how low I was a the time. You should have seen the wreck my living room was then. Unrecognizable!)

Finally, dust settling on piles of unsettled detritus all around me, I told Unrequited about my lost calendar drama one night while we planned our trip to Spain. His clenched cowboy voice rumbled across cellular transmitters from Utah: “Well. Maybe it was something that you had to let go.”

Gulp.

It’s like he knew that one of the poems in that calendar was the Irish blessing I’d read to try to convince him to love me way back in 1972 (translation, 2011). Ughhhhh… okay, yeah, I should let it go. I get it!

But the universe had other ideas. The night before our flight to Barcelona, I received a phone call from Ohio. Someone, some very lovely one, had found my calendar in a bag they’d bought in the Minneapolis airport! And in the most charming phone call I’ve ever experienced, that someone’s husband cheerily told me how yes, he’d found the poems in the back pocket when he was looking for any means of identification in the calendar. This was the one time I hadn’t written my contact information in the front of a Moleskine notebook and promised a reward of fresh-baked cookies to anyone who found it. The ONE time. Fortunately, he’d found a receipt from my tailor (whuh huh huh, I use a tailor).

Anyway. Profound gratitude pulsed my heart and filled my soul. He was going to mail the calendar back to me, and it would be waiting when I came home from Europe. I promised to send him his rightful reward of freshly baked chocolate sea-salt cookies.

“I’m not one to refuse freshly baked anything,” he said.

Except, when I came home from more Unrequited adventures with Unrequited, the calendar wasn’t there. It was not there in my mailbox, nor there on my doorstep, nor in the hands of any of my kind neighbors. It was clearly in the hands of nefarious agents of the internet-posting world where they were surely going to scan the trembly drivel on my calendar pages and share them with readers of “Found” magazine or whatever it was called. I was going to be a laughingstock. A meme. An animated .gif.

More letting go. Letttttting go. Apparently I was never meant to have this calendar again. I get it. I get it!

But do I get it? Do I have any idea why I let this completely implausible fantasy persist? No, because if I did, I would let it be the beautiful idea that it actually is—and that is, if I let go of trying to control every step that anyone makes toward my heart, someone will actually walk right up to it and embrace me (see previously mentioned Lao Tzu mantra).

Here’s what it’s all about. You see, there’s a meditation that I rarely let myself indulge in doing. It’s effect is blissfully powerful, and it leaves me feeling exactly as I did when I was a giddy little girl who still thought she could do anything in the world, because her golden, pure heart loved everyone, so why wouldn’t that love be reflected back toward her?

The meditation is called “Follow a Desire into Fulfillment.” And people, it’s a magic spell. At the end of its very short ten minutes, when you’re so elated you think you might float away, the very lovely Sally Kempton says, in the kindest, most sincere imperative ever: “Let yourself be that.”

Except she says it with all the right pauses between the words. “Let yourself (pause) be (longer pause, just a slight bit of extra emphasis ahead) that.”

If we could all let the controlled steps of the calendar go, let the missteps of lost love go, and be unafraid to follow the true desire of our hearts (ironically, that’s what the Irish Blessing that I carry is all about), we could let ourselves be that. And I reckon we’d be pretty elated.

By the way, the calendar came to me two months after I lost it, and one month after it was returned-to-sender to the kind people in Ohio. I sent them their well-deserved chocolate sea-salt cookies and I hope those confections made their Christmas as lovely as their kindness made mine. 

 

Do Whatever You Want

29 Dec

IMG_1983

It was the best kind of double-take. One that I certainly didn’t orchestrate, because I was playing invisible on tonight’s urban hike. It was finally cold enough to wear hat and scarf and gloves, so I was nestled into a woolen cocoon, winding my way around and through the rotary at Grand Army Plaza with a private glee at having used almost all the criss-crosswalks on my round-trip.

Brooklyn was mine, it was all lit up above and dark below, and the statues hovering above Prospect Park were luminescent cutouts against a dusk that only I raised my eyes toward. Everyone else was looking phoneward. Except the runners, moving smugly in spandex robotron packs, but I couldn’t begrudge them their mutual glee at finally being able to use our winter gear. Finally!

Hidden under my hat too were earphones, which completed my little private universe with a delectable new Michael Mayer mix from Köln. I’d rather expeditiously obtained my fancy new NYC ID card from the library, which will now enable me free access to sooooo many city institutions, and I was carrying a parcel of actual photographic prints picked up from the drug store. Photos! On paper. Picked up after work, in the manner of regular people with jobs.

The total effect of all this fast-walking list-ticking was jubilance. I felt my spine doing that thing they’re always talking about in yoga, “lifting upward away from the pelvis,” and I guess my open heart was more conspicuous than I realized, because by the time I reached the main commercial street near my apartment, I noticed a repetition of actions I haven’t marked in quite some time. Handsome souls were actually lifting their faces from their phones, and looking in my direction. I automatically assumed they were watching for the bus, or trying to ascertain where their beautiful girlfriend was, so I just kept bounding along. But then I saw one handsome actually crane his neck to maintain his view after I passed a large tree.

Well, I’ll be darned. All that stuff that my craniosacral massage therapist and everyone intelligent in the world says is true. When you feel good, you look good. I’ll probably go back to shrugging my shoulders up around my wish to be invisible tomorrow. BUT tonight I was as bright as those statues, because just like them, I assumed no one was looking up at me.

Music to Have Feelings By

28 Dec
Very_Merry_Mixup

My most favorite Hallmark Channel holiday movie this year!

There have been at least 107 Christmas trees in my living room since October. Or maybe even more. It’s hard to get an estimate, because some of them are the same tree twice or thrice or… multiple times. Cuz, like, I love to watch holiday movies, okay? And they’re definitely NOT of the cinematic classic variety. They’re absolutely the most low-budget, thrillingly flawed Hallmark Channel productions imaginable.

But don’t be mistaken, I don’t have an actual tree in my living room. Because I don’t celebrate Christmas. Well, at least, not at the moment.

(That’s called a cliffhanger, movie fans.)

Here, let me cue some slow but sweet instrumental music to set the tone for my heartbreaking and yet hopeful story…

I am a girl who loves love. All forms and expressions of love are welcome here. And I’ll tell ya, some of the best, most upbeat, least conflicted love stories are found in holiday movies. In these delightful romps through the full spectrum of new love, old love, found love, lost love and imaginary love, amidst the clumsy continuity errors, extremely fake New York City sets and inexplicable Canadian accents (almost all Hallmark movies are evidently filmed north of the border), if there happens to fall a tense moment, it’s only a super brief one. Maybe for approximately ten minutes, our heroine believes that her love interest might not be the man she imagined. But that’s quickly forgotten in a hail of other love subplots involving unexpected revelations from family members, emerging affection from new friends and/or the children of the hero in question, and maybe some appropriately cuddly moments with domesticated animals, too.

So, I guess I’m admitting that the reason I watched even more holiday movies than usual this year (after I ran out of free streaming movies, I actually BOUGHT several Hallmark productions on Amazon Prime), is because I needed to keep cataloging all the best moments of seeing family and friends and finding love even when it seems impossible. I used the movies as instruction manuals in addition to their very successful provision of tinselly distraction.

You see, this was the year I paused Christmas before I start it again the way I like to see it best. It’s only the second time I’ve celebrated the holiday without my mother, and in the first year, I made a valiant effort to go to a friend’s house and celebrate with her. But this year I owned the truth of how much I miss the one true Christmas lover in my family. I stayed home, I declined plans, and instead I went to lunch and saw the new Quentin Tarantino film with some of my Jewish friends.

In response to that choice, even without any soundtrack music to tell me how to feel, I can actually hear my mom sighing a woeful “ohhhhhh,” in her Minnesota accent. Yes, it sounds so sad, the inevitable life-changing happy ending could write itself. And in fact, it did. (Cue upbeat, hopeful music.)

My ideal version of Christmas is just an amplified version of how I endeavor to live all year long. I love seeing friends and connecting with family as often as possible. I try to move with joy and compassion in my heart, and from the depths of the most average (or below average) day, I try to smile at fellow sidewalk travelers and subway riders even when it’s 100 degrees outside and we don’t have any Christmas music to tell us to cheer up. I really try to be that Hallmark movie girl, even though I’m secretly also feeling like an extremely whiny girl who doesn’t believe her own script.

So. Here we are in the last six minutes. (My mom and I loved watching Hallmark movies, and we analyzed the scripts constantly, loving the guarantee of an endorphin rush during those final six minutes of the movie, when everything seems like it couldn’t get worse and then it all comes together for the payoff.) Holiday cheer arrived in my house in a whole bunch of scripted and unscripted ways this Christmas, all of which I cherished. And I have to say that my mother would be very happy to see how well I am doing.

But the endorphin rush came tonight. When my one true love, my Unrequited always-gonna-be-a-friend friend, sent me a photo of his two sons each holding a copy of the “Pocket Pema Chödrön” book that I carried with me on our trip to Spain and France last month. (Yes! I went to Europe with him! And he also sent me a really great book for Christmas!) He borrowed the Pema book from me while we traveled from one scenic locale to the next, and I knew it made an impression on him. But tonight, to see those two boys, whom I have known for ten years, grinning in front of the Christmas tree and holding their book for a photo they knew was being sent to me… that was enough to make me utter my own Minnesota-accented “Ohhhhhhhhh”—but in the “sooooo cuuuute” way.

I am loved. And I love. So the magic of the season worked after all, even if I didn’t go through the old familiar motions this year. I am going to keep building new annual traditions that are founded in my everyday heart. If by loving without expectation I receive those amazing six minutes of happy ending, then I’m going to keep watching!

Do You Want Sprinkles With That?

27 Sep

skylightGiven the opportunity to speak, yesterday, after many years of ill translation, deaf ears, and plenty of dampening, my heart had two things to say. The first was an inquiry that appeared sweetly beneath heaving chest: “Why don’t you give me things?” And through my head, of all things, ran images of the corner deli near my apartment, and a pint of my favorite ice cream, which I absolute forbid myself to buy on any occasion. Somewhere along the line, after a lifetime of wistful sensitivity around seeing people eating ice cream alone (an affliction I share with my brother, and probably 35 percent of the people to whom I try to explain this sensation), I determined that purchasing and eating ice cream alone is absolutely the most abominable of all possible manifestations of self-pity.

But do you know what it is? It’s self-care. Yadda, yadda moderation, etc. But let me explain. Yesterday, I saw the look of supreme pleasure and engagement on the face of a father as he watched his daughter eat her cute, little after-school snack on a table outside a grocer on Classon Avenue. In the split second of my glance while I passed, I sensed how enamored he was of her, and how much he thrilled in her every joy. She was telling him a story, and mostly oblivious to how he was doting on her, the way kids are (except they aren’t, they really are absorbing this sensation, and its absence would be keenly felt), and he had this placid smile on his face while she divided her attention between her snack and her narrative. He was, and is, so in love with her. And hopefully she will be able to carry the safety and comfort of that feeling with her throughout her life.

In that split second of recognition, I remembered how it felt to sit with my mother and brother when we had something to eat after school or one of the countless extra-curricular activities which she selflessly researched and shuttled us to and from. She would actually, completely, and utterly fawn over us while we ate. And I didn’t remember how that felt until I saw that man doting on his daughter yesterday.

In the last few years of my mother’s life, I had grown to resent her, experiencing her love as that of a greedy and demanding soul who was never sated. But now that she is gone, and now I have put myself through the paces of helplessly feeling deeply for people who are unavailable to me, and more so, now that I am past the age she was when she left my father and took my brother and I somewhere safe, I suddenly see parents everywhere much differently. The way they look at their children is positively, absolutely, gorgeous. When no one is looking, and it’s just another average moment, their eyes are filled with pure love.

So my heart, given the opportunity to speak during my craniosacral massage session (hope for chronic headache cure #2,728), kinda said, “Hey, remember how when you used to ask for things, need things, and there was that nice lady who brought them to you, no questions asked? Can you do a little bit of that for yourself?”

Gotcha, heart. For sure. Let’s grocery shop for the actual human inside me instead of the checklist, and hey, when you want to stay cozy under a blanket and watch a movie, I’m not going to yell at you to do the dishes, practice piano, or work on your resume. How about you lie on the sofa and I’ll take care of you like your mom used to, and I’ll give you some huge amount of sympathy for how awful it must feel to have lost that this summer. No one ever tells you that grief is physical. No one ever tells you.

Anyway, so that request delivered, and my heart wary of how much time I’d give it to speak, it blurted out, “I miss people.” I immediately dismissed it. Yeah, yeah, you miss people. Come on, you’re never alone! You’re never alone. You have a million friends and you life in New York City, where the guy at the deli will banter with you in a fix.

But then my craniosacral massage therapist genius practitioner (seriously, people, I will have to link to her page, because she saves lives) provided some translation. “So your heart wants some intimacy.”

Ohhhhhhh, yeah, that. That that. And my mind flipped through a series of index cards pertaining to this matter:
• You’ve been dating emotionally unavailable men ever since your mom was diagnosed four years ago
• Your soulmate in Salt Lake City reminded you recently that you formed an intimate relationship (however complex it was) with your mother while you were living in Texas for her final year, and now that intimate relationship is gone
• Last week, your craniosacral massage genius pointed out that your heart has been protected throughout this long and painful process, and it will open very gradually if you take care of it and let it know it’s safe (I actually told her that I picture my heart surround by orange safety cones that form a safe perimeter around it)

No wonder my head hurts. All the time.

My heart is more broken than it has ever been, or will ever be. I have lost the person who brought me into this world, and who prized my every movement and thought within it. While I doubted the quality of her affection, and told myself she didn’t understand me at all, it never mattered. It doesn’t matter. She had a picture of me that was so beautiful, and her feelings for me were founded in something I will only ever see in the countenance of other parents.

When I practice heart meditation, I always see a very pure white light, and when I first experienced that years ago, I started weeping, because Soul Mate in SLC once told me that my heart emanates a brilliant white light of goodness, and he reminds me of this fact constantly. Yesterday, with the aid of my craniosacral guide, I finally saw that brilliant white light again, and that’s how this whole conversation with my heart began. She had just said, “Okay, little heart, you have center stage, what do you want to say?” And then when I saw the light, she said, “Oh, not such a little heart. Big heart.”

That’s me. That’s me. I have a huge, huge heart and I constantly crunch it down and give myself headaches when I sense that it’s knocking someone over with the power of its enthusiasm. So, dear heart, I will buy you ice cream, and I will give you intimacy with the people who are capable of sharing that with me now, but maybe the dearest form of intimacy will take a while to find, because ohhhhh my heart needs some healing from the loss of the source of constant affection in my life. But, like CranioGenius said, “If people are afraid of your huge heart, it says something about their own approach to life. The right man will not be afraid of your huge heart.”

Morning Glory

6 Sep

photoI don’t have an air conditioner. On purpose. Leaving the windows open, strategically placed fans circulating air front to back across my long, floor-through brownstone apartment, keeps me connected to the real temperature of my surroundings. I know the weather as well as I know my neighbors’ business, and they know when it will rain and what time I picked up my paper off the stoop this morning. When I step outside, we wave to each other, caught up on everyone’s everything, and the heat and humidity are not a shock to my system.

I am among that most privileged class of New Yorker. I know my neighbors and I have access to outdoor space with a garden. I write to you, dear reader,  while perched on my wooden deck. Below, in my neighbors’ beautiful green expanse of flowers and trees, three cats twitch their ears and flick their tails at every passing insect and shimmer of sunlight. Next door, my neighbors are starting early with preparations for today’s barbecue. The fence between us and the rails of my deck are lined with winding morning glory vines that tangle and weave our spaces together.

The benefits of my connection to the outside world don’t only arise from this bucolic setting. On the other end of my apartment is a large picture window with a view of the bustling street and populated stoops of Crown Heights. It’s actually never quiet out there, and this is something I much appreciate. When very late one recent night there seemed to be a strange tension in the crowd of teenagers that makes the sidewalk their living room, I felt safe because my neighbors across the street were on the stoop, watching over the block. And all day long, I see each passing person, across demographics young and old, raise a hand in greeting to Charlie. “Chan, Charlie Chan is what they’ve  called me my whole life,” he says from his stoop. His chair is seldom empty.

My building is connected by ownership to three others, one adjoining and two across the street. No, the properties are not owned by some faceless condo developer. They’re owned by three brothers, natives of Brooklyn who make their own wine and live on the same block as their mother in Sunset Park. They bought these properties thirty years ago, when they were just finishing high school. They owned them through riots and now into the new wave of gentrification. We’re all hoping that this is the first neighborhood where communities merge rather than displace one another, and I have to say, so far it appears to be working.

The hipsterization of every part of life has brought good food to new restaurants that are populated by people from each sector of the neighborhood. The cool, new Berg’n beer joint and food emporium down the street from me is not full of apathetic indie rockers, but rather an array of construction workers and the people who have lived through each chapter of this neighborhood.

This fabric sustains us all. Even on a day when I choose to stay close to home, alone, and read my books, I speak with many whenever I run out to do an errand or weed my herb garden. I am never alone, and every breath I take is a privilege. One I am very well aware that my mother no longer enjoys. And so I collect each sensation and connect with every conversation in dedication to this loving and gentle woman, who was confined to the indoors most of her life, and loved me endlessly even while she seemed to abhor her place in the world. Her neighbors were her imagined enemies, and the television was sometimes her only window. But even she, when she had the opportunity, loved to sit on her deck or grill up some dinner with my brother.

I know full well that I am living an extension of the life she built for herself and for me. I am taking each happy element and adding to it a carefully tended sense of wellbeing that I share with every wave, smile, and wink with the people I meet each day. In meditation, it’s called compassion. In life, it might be called purpose.

Providential Bee

17 Apr

“To your ass. Still in tact.” (Pause, sip of espresso.) “Now we know it’s not full of air. Otherwise it would be deflated now.”

I had to hold the coffee in my mouth and clench lips hard against a laugh. I let my eyes show my immense approval of his sudden and sharp wit.

My ass deserved a toast after this weekend. So much beach and hiking alternating with prolonged sitting in various modes of transportation. I’d finished a vigorous and scenically invigorating hike with a good amount of clamorous forest calls declaring the muscular protestations of my posterior. “I need to stretch my glutes!” There should be a PBS program featuring my outdoor prowess and appreciation.

That crisis averted with a bit o’ yoga, the final insult to my hindquarters came indoors. I was sitting down to a delicious breakfast prepared by my gallant male companion in the charming and sunny South Providence kitchen of my soul friend. All was well. I was smiling.

Sitting elegantly upon a craftily appointed seat cushion atop a kitchen chair, a needle pain returned against my downward motion. It was sharp and immediate, shaking me from the sunny breakfast reverie but not causing me to give up my demure guise for the Gallant Gentleman’s benefit. I delivered a restrained shriek in a delicate note I’d never before emitted in distress. Leaping part-way up and prodding the errant cushion with my hand, I declared with more faux ease, “I sat on something!”

Standing up further upon gaining no conclusions or evidence of a misplaced pin or needle, I felt another distinct jab on my corporeal being. “Oh! And I’m still sitting on it. It’s still…”

Lifting dress to investigate further, I saw a yellow and black garden drone climbing upward along a backdrop of my black tights. She was departing my derriere en route to my hip.

“It’s a bee!!!!!” I shrieked exactly like a Minnesotan dainty girl. (In the early phases of dating it’s best to pretend you’re always quite cute, even when suffering pain and humiliation. It’s a good way to insure you’ll receive chivalrous attention.)

My Gallant Gentleman whipped around from the stove, brows raised in alarm but countenance otherwise calm. Seeing me freeze with dress aloft and bee gamely exposed for removal, he grabbed a butter knife and dismissed the threat while I harmoniously added a bit of horror into my squeals.

From the bedroom leapt my Soul Friend, to whom Gallant Gentleman said in accented English as he hurled the winged beast floorward, “I’m sorry, I have to keel eit.”

Oh, humble hero. How you are tormented by your duty.

Reluctant assent was given by lovely Soul Friend, and the bee was dispensed with under tip of butter blade. The Gallant Gentleman’s eyes lifted to me, my form still frozen with stings shocking. He requested an ice pack from my friend and gently suggested I sit down.

Calm was restored, ice applied, and it was discovered that I had two stings from one bee, but no stinger remained as evidence. The buzzy lady was pretty resilient.

Later, perched on high chairs in a cafe, preparing for our train journey home, the espresso toast made to the perseverance and strength of my weary ass, the Gallant Gentlemen initiated a Socratic dialogue.

“That bee paid with its life to tell you something,” he said, grinning that cheek-tucking half-smile he does when he’s chagrined or feigning a serious air, as he was now. His accent pushed extra emphasis onto unfamiliar syllables as he partially feigned an American pop soothsayer tone. “Bee messenger. You better listen, girl!”

Then, continuing the philosophical dialogue, he parsed the definition of Providence, the city where these stinging events transpired. We were in a place where extra meaning hid behind every apparent triviality. We paused a moment, giving the selfless bee some respect, and concluded that her message was clear. “Get off your sorry ass and do what you say you’re gonna do.”

That’s what I said, and of course it’s true. But the bee also told me that I am never alone with pain or fear. As Pema Chodron says in her tonglen meditation practice recording, we must constantly remind ourselves, “Other people feel this.”

Even if I didn’t contrive to make my bee-sting fear more palatable, I’m sure that my friends would have leapt to my rescue. Other people feel this. Don’t hide your hurt.

Zen My Valentine

15 Feb

sunAges and ages ago, in one of my less-developed lower forms of self, I was sitting on a pure, white sofa, reading a book by candlelight while wind and rain whipped down from the sky onto the streets of Amsterdam far below the penthouse where I was staying. (Did I mention that I was sipping Champagne? At what point do you think I should actually be writing a “whiny blog”?)

Ahem, anyway, I was feeling quite cozy after an exhausting business trip. My host listened to my depressing litany of romantic rejections and epiphanies (not much has changed there) and handed me a book, which I rejected immediately upon sight. It was called Zen and the Art of Falling in Love. I didn’t need that book. I knew everything.

Then my host went to sleep in a depression-induced haze and I was left in the living room to either consume mountains of cheese or exercise a bit of self-improvement. I chose the latter. Cracking open the book, I prepared myself for laughter.

Exposition being what it is, you can probably guess that I was actually quite moved by the contents of said book, and should probably have them tattooed along my forearms lest I forget the important lessons it imparted. Fortunately, there was one very easy take-away that I have clutched close to my heart ever since I read it. It was some lines of ancient zen poetry, one of Eshin’s greatest hits:

When you become you
Zen becomes zen
When you become you
The whole world falls in love

If you know me at all by know, you will know how desperately I crave the love and validation of the entire world, and appear to sincerely ingratiate myself to every creature on the planet all day, every day. This works well, and everyone from my shoe repair person to my best friend can be assured of my true devotion. (Although, yikes, truth be told, I haven’t found my new shoe repair outpost in NYC yet! Might have to go back to my old Brooklyn neighborhood from 2004… #devotion.)

Digressions aside, I want to assert that the weepy girl who sat perched on that sofa, lost in the dark about love for herself and the world, has been replaced by sunny, unsinkable me. Why? Because I became me, clicked into the larger zen scheme of things by being true to myself, and then cast a spell on the whole world. Now I get smiles even on the subway.

Every day since I moved back to New York, at least one person tells me, “That’ll wear off. Wait til you live here a while.” But what I need to say to them, after I kneecap them, is that my very favorite life-long New York friends have always been congenial, open, generous, chivalrous, kind, and self-aware. And guess what? They’re happy.

So, ye doubters, this is my question for you. Are you really sick of this city and all the humanity within it, or would you be sick of humanity anywhere you went? And would the source of that ailment in fact be your own private misery and pain? Anger comes from wounds, and if you can’t look at yourself and see where you were broken and what truly causes your ire, you are not you, zen is not zen, and the whole world ain’t gonna fall in love.

So now I’ve got that down cold. And I found many kindred spirits at the Brooklyn Zen Center last night. I celebrated Valentine’s Day with a bunch of sweet and funny zenners. It was the perfect place for me to witness zen becoming zen. The room was full of people fully inhabiting their true selves. Subsequently, our conversations moved naturally from the start. Arriving previous to the friend who had invited me, I walked up to a man who was opening the locked front door, and declared myself to him as another zen guest. Then, walking into the beautiful loft space, I poured myself a cup of tea and smiled at a group of conversing people and said, “Hello, I’m new, can you tell?”

One very sweet woman smiled back directly and said, “Me too!” We covered all the important topics (Pride and Prejudice, and how the BBC version is the ONLY version, and how neither of us will ever see the Keira Knightly abomination), and by the end of the night, this delightful person circled back around and asked for my phone number. We’re going to have tea.

Right. All that said, every little positive flash card flipped with its tidy definition, I ask you: if the whole world has already fallen in love, then… did I actually miss my match? Because I seem to be convincing every person EXCEPT eligible romantic candidates for the title role of significant other. Maybe I’m too zen, or too in love, or too everything I’m always too, but I think really, if I was being honest with my little quavering heart, I would have to admit that I still have to convince some members of my internal committee that part of “you becoming you” is to actually LIKE you.

So I made a Valentine’s Day resolution. Let’s run away together, me.

☽ Of Wildest Heart

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