Shiver

There used to be days when I was convinced he was out of my mind. That I’d moved on. That, there I was, lying beside someone else, it had to mean I was over it. Even now, even unpacking that sentence, I cannot quite pinpoint to what “it” was referring. Our breakup? Our relationship? Our deep affections toward one another? Why would I ever want that to be over?

There were times when I knew I’d moved on. Perhaps that’s more like the truth. I’d moved on–I had seen what it was like with others, I had tested the waters of affection and flirtation and compromise and sex. Since moving on, I’ve had great conversation but terrible sex, great sex but terrible conversation, something platonic I’ve tried to force, charming guys I’ve both given into and not, horribly judgmental, free spirited, it’s run the gamut. I even thought I’d fallen in love a couple times, only to be reminded that I just wanted love. I’ve tried. I’ve failed some, succeeded less. But I succeeded at moving on. 

You know those times when you forget a sweater and the breeze blows? When you say, “i’m never forgetting a sweater ever again. I’ll always be prepared.” And then you go some time, always donning just the right sweater to keep you toasty, only to be lulled into a false sense of security. And then, on a sunny day without a sweater, the breeze blows yet again. And then you remember what it felt like?

I used to be convinced i had exhausted that thought of us being right for one another. I mean, it’s been 3 years since it all fell apart. No, that’s not accurate. It never fell apart. We’re just no longer lovers. We keep our distance, physically, but nothing has unraveled. 

A part of me wants to find any reason to reach out, but I catch myself because he taught me there was never any need to be manipulative. He taught me not to lie to myself or others. I fall down sometimes when it comes to that, but I can’t with him. He’s like an animal that can smell fear. He knows, every time, when I’m not being authentic. 

So I sit here, knowing the love I found was true, pure, real. Knowing that I can move on. Knowing that I would rather not. Knowing that he raised the bar. 

I can’t just go put on any sweater, now that I know what cashmere feels like. I’d rather shiver, gathering goosebumps from the cold wind’s blow. 

Longing, aching, but no longer settling. 

Reality Hurts… Sometimes

A few months ago, I wrote an email into a podcast I listen to quite regularly. It was a desperate plea to know if I should wait for the man I thought was once the love of my life. I have exhaustive, expansive love for said man–so much that I’m still finding new poems to write, recalling more memories I loved, reflecting on the ways he improved my character. It has been several years, more years than we were together, and I’m still unpacking the bursting adoration and exhilaration (and adjectives!) coarsing through my veins. 

I received the answer today in their most recent podcast. If I’m honest with myself, I knew the answer while I was writing the email in the first place. He didn’t want to be with me or he would have stayed. It was about me. And no matter how long he goes on searching for what’s missing, it’s unlikely he’ll turn around and once again grab my hand. He’s moved on, with or without a new partner, and somewhere along the way, I just stopped to wait for something that isn’t going to come. 

To add insult to injury, or just an additional dose of reality, I turned on the television this afternoon to see He’s Just Not That Into You, one of my favorite movies because it’s so blunt. Girlfriends always seem to say the exception to a rule–that there was that one time a couple broke up and then got back together years later. But that rarely happens. People change, people sometimes don’t have a good reason for breaking up except that it just doesn’t feel right anymore. Sometimes people change and don’t realize it until later. 

It hurts, it does. It hurts because I still have this deep chasm of love overflowing for the person who put me onto the path I am today. For the person who was able to show me what I’m truly capable of. For the person I want to share it all with now that I’m here.

I want to flow all of that love into a container, opening that deep chasm wide for a new person with current possibilities. For someone who chooses me every day. Good, bad, happy, sad. Someone who wants to figure out their life in parallel to mine and doesn’t run from the possibility. 

Too often we talk about flowing out negative feelings, channeling grief or anger or sorrow into music and poetry. Journaling difficult emotions. Exercising out our anger. Scream therapy. Facing our fears. But what happens when the feelings we have appear positive but still get in the way? Loving someone to exhaustion can also block the heart to new options. Remembering the good times too often can hurt our necks as we crane to keep the past in our sights. 

Reality can hurt sometimes, but it can also open us to new and soul-stretching possibilities. So, what’s in it for you?

Over-staying Our Welcome

On the first day of 2017, I completed re-reading Joan Didion’s amazing work The Year of Magical Thinking. It got me wondering, might we mix up fate at times, causing us to extend our time on earth, past that which might be planned? Do we make choices that can alter our ending?

Joan Didion is a master of vulnerability. Joan Didion is not the semblance of joy, but her deep feeling encourages the path to joy. Some of my favorite moments:

John Dunne, on Joan’s Birthday (a bittersweet memory):

“Goddamn,” John said to me when he closed the book. “Don’t ever tell me again you can’t write. That’s my birthday present to you.”

I remember tears coming to my eyes.

I feel them now.

In retrospect this had been my omen, my message, the early snowfall, the birthday present no one else could give me. 

He had twenty-five nights left to live.

On self-awareness:

I think about people I know who have lost a husband or wife or child. I think particularly about how these people looked when I when I saw them unexpectedly–on the street, say, or entering a room–during the year or so after the death. What struck me in each instance was how exposed them seemed, how raw.

How fragile, I understand now.

How unstable.

On changing the timeline:

I realized that since the last morning of 2003, the morning after he died, I had been trying to reverse time, run the film backward.

It was now eight months later, August 30, 2004, and I still was.

The difference was that all through those eight months I had been trying to substitute an alternate reel. Now I was trying only to reconstruct the collision, the collapse of the dead star.

I firmly believe that we don’t need the physical death of a loved one to experience the grief about which Didion writes. It could be the death of an emotional connection, the death of hope, the death of our physical bodies as we know it. We all want to control the timeline, we all want to change things. We all seem unstable and fragile, for however long or short a time.

In 2014, I suffered the disconnection, the emotional death, of my relationship with someone with whom I held dear–closer to me than anyone I have ever experienced. The first quote, the memory Didion shares of her husband, is one I know well. This partner gave to me something no one else could ever give: encouragement. He was my tireless supporter. And he taught me every day, “You’re stronger than you think.” For over two years I have been trying to substitute an alternate reel, only yesterday to realize that, perhaps, the reel had already been altered.

Do I think that we change the course of our lives through our actions? Yes.

Do I think we overstay our welcome, that we wander onto paths that weren’t made for us? No.

No. For we will learn much on our journey, but we’ve got an ending coming that is set as our destiny. Whether this life or the next one, we will be at Journey’s End all the same.

“It’s great to have an ending to journey toward, but it’s the journey that matters in the end.” –Ursula K. LeGuin

Engine Failure & Progress

Check-ins are important. When I was in 8th grade, I was part of a dynamic, legendary song and dance group called the ShowStoppers. We wore red dresses covered in sequins, heavy nylons, dancing heels, a ton of makeup, and curls. It was epic. I was the worst dancer in our troupe, and I had gotten in on my singing voice. I had never taken dance lessons, unlike the other girls. However, I learned something about dancing in my year there–when you are performing turns, it’s important to have a focal point to reference. That way, you don’t become disoriented, you stay grounded.

Focal points have helped me stay grounded and also have allowed me to assess progress in my life. It’s been 3 months of continuous meditation, 30 minutes twice a day, 3 months of intensive trauma therapy (EMDR + resourcing has sometimes taken several hours a week), 3 months of pilates and yoga, 3 months of exploring my spirituality. And, strangely, the more present I have become, the harder it was to realize that 3 months went by so quickly. I just felt present, putting one foot in front of the other, making my pirouettes without thinking. These things in life have become habitual. Self-care has become habitual.

This past week, two incidents came into my life that were able to serve as focal points, as places where I could assess progress. I have recently started a new role in Washington DC while still living in the San Francisco bay area. This has increased my travel schedule significantly and has also put me in contact with new people. My first day of work was Wednesday, where I spent the day meeting policymakers and staffers. Thursday, I was to be in an all-day meeting with 15 people who would work together to develop policy recommendations for the new presidential administration. This is the most prestigious table I would ever be around, and I was looking forward to just being at the table to listen. I knew, however, that the woman who forced me out of my last role would also be at the table. She has been a significant trigger point for me in the last 2 years, and the last time I knew I would have to see her I actually suffered a considerable panic attack at my partner’s home in front of his group of friends just anticipating having to see her. He and I nearly broke up because I overwhelmed him with my anxiety. I was unstable. When I finally did see her, I vomited, hid in a bathroom stall, and, eventually, experienced a seizure in the middle of a Chicago street…at night. This woman really overtook my senses and shut down all my responses. Naturally, I was concerned about having to be in a meeting with her, so I discussed this with my therapist, who worked with me to process my feelings toward her. While I am still working on processing her representation in my life, that session where I could process through what was left over from this woman’s abuse allowed me to make different decisions. I arrived at the meeting place 20 minutes early, got a feel for the space, and allowed myself to feel present. When she walked into the room, I noticed that I didn’t tense up at all. When she engaged me, I allowed some small talk but also put up clear boundaries, allowing myself to feel safe and present while in her presence. When she tried to undermine things I said, I felt no need to defend myself, and I allowed myself to feel comfortable with a difference in opinion. In the moment, I didn’t notice I was doing something different…but looking back, this is the first time that I could notice a completely vanished trigger. What affected me so deeply in March had no power over me at all. I could breathe into the present moment with no anxiety about the past or fear of the future. And it was so much easier than expected.

The evening after my all-day meeting, I was to take a late night flight back to San Francisco, with a short layover in Atlanta. I had to be somewhere else in California for meetings the next morning, so I was anticipating sleeping on the plane. I love sitting over the wing, at the window, especially during sunset. Getting up to cruising altitude, our cabin heard a loud “POP”, followed by a pillar of black smoke coming from behind the right wing. This wasn’t normal. As the cabin crew prepared to make an emergency landing in North Carolina due to sudden engine failure, I could hear the terror, panic, and fear in my fellow travelers. I found myself breathing deeply, feeling personally comforted that things were under control, which allowed me, in turn, to help comfort a woman for whom this was her first flight. As I landed in North Carolina and looked on my phone to see how I may be able to get another flight back before my meetings started in the morning, I reflected on the last time this event occurred. In 2011, I was part of an emergency landing outside of Palmer, Alaska, coming home from Fairbanks. It wasn’t the emergency landing that got me panicked, but the feeling that I was going to miss one too many graduate classes, not allowing me to graduate. While trying to get a new flight, I had a horrible panic attack, yelled at just about everyone, burst into tears, and called my (sleeping) boyfriend every minute on the minute, leaving him messages. I was a mess. I made it back for my class just in time, but I had a seizure the second I was finished with that class from all the drama I had created. This time, I was able to remain calm, even encourage others while they freaked out about missing their connections. I noticed I wasn’t alone–this hadn’t just happened to me. We were a stranded collective, which allowed me to stay grounded, calm, and humble. When we got shuttled back to the airport, I calmly stood in line, calling my administrative assistant to let her know I may not be at the meeting in the morning, making contingency plans. I waited at the desk and firmly asked to be put on the only flight out that evening, stating that waiting until the morning was not my preference. I got re-planed, and was able to sleep soundly on the plane, making it to my meeting in the morning a few hours away.

Engine failure doesn’t happen every day. Neither does having to sit in a room on the other side of the country with the person who harassed you for 2 years. But little moments do repeat every day. Little moments are able to be your focal point–they can keep you grounded, they can act as a measuring stick. Awareness comes from allowing yourself to put space between those moments, put space where there was once noise. This is the gift the last 3 months have taught me that I haven’t really noticed: the gift of stillness. You see, crazy things happen to everyone. It’s really up to us to make it dramatic and traumatic. It’s up to us to carry around those moments as weights on our shoulders. Once you realize that you can’t control what happens to you, but you can control your reaction to it, you’re free.

“Spiritual progress is like detoxification. Things have to come up in order to be released. Once we have asked to be healed, then our unhealed places are forced to the surface.” –Marianne Williamson

Healing is an amazing feeling.

Love,

Blonde

xox

 

Massage Therapy & Surrender

I attend Pilates and yoga 6 times a week, not only for a workout but to set time to meditate in a community. Yoga is a powerful mindfulness activity and also binds you to those with whom you practice. After meditating for 35 minutes twice a day for nearly 3 months, I have been feeling freer and thinking that I am completely Zen. Imagine my surprise when I attended a yoga class last week where my instructor kept saying, “Blonde. Shoulders away from ears, lengthen through the spine.” All I could think was, “MY SHOULDERS ARE SO FAR AWAY FROM MY EARS!” until she came over and gently adjusted my posture, showing that, indeed, I had been holding on to something I didn’t even notice was there. It reminds me of those times when you get a massage from a massage therapist and they lift your arm or leg and state, “you can let go. Just make your limb weightless.” Usually I think I am totally giving in to their therapy, but I actually hold on just enough to feel like I’m still in control.

We’re shit at relationships. Why? Because even when we say we trust people, even when we say that we’ve let go or given in, our neocortex is screaming for us to maintain control. Maintain the status quo. Keep social construction. Feed the ego. We’re so prideful that we don’t even see that we’re not even seeing. We build magnificent safeguards in order to hold onto the semblance of control. If only we knew how free we could feel if we surrendered fully.

“Spiritually, no action is more important than surrender. Surrender is the tenderest impulse of the heart, acting out of love to give whatever the beloved wants. Surrender is being alert to exactly what is happening now, not imposing expectations from the past. Surrender is faith that the power of love can accomplish anything, even when you cannot foresee the outcome of a situation.” –Deepak Chopra

Surrender is probably the concept I struggle with the most. I want others to be vulnerable with me, but even the act of saying that I want others to be a different way means that I want to hold onto the control. At times,  I want to pray for things to happen–for an exact answer to my questions. I don’t want to listen. I don’t want someone to make his own decision or conclusion. I ask for patience and grace from others and yet I get impatient in doing the same. However, every time I let go and receive, I receive the exact thing I need at the time. The thing that will bring me the happiness for which I long. All I can do is show up, allowing others to also show up. And there is beauty in that. These micro-adjustments are so critical in our lives–allowing someone to tell us or allowing something to make us more aware of those things we struggle to release. These daily micro-adjustments that bring awareness to the places where we still hold on are critical. They bring us back to present, to what is inside of us that can be released–removing us from the impetus to seek external changes to internal problems.

May we listen before prescribing…for even as we ask, even as we pay for the massage therapist or the regular therapist, or even as we kneel down to pray, we waste our time and money when we don’t allow someone else to be the expert. May we have more space for receiving rather than holding so tightly to the things we think are best for us.

Tangled Jewelry & Intention Setting

Over Memorial Day weekend, I attended a wedding with my partner. I absolutely love to switch up the accessories I wear, so I had brought a lot of jewelry to the 5 day affair. However, when I pulled out the carrier of said pieces, all the jewelry I brought to choose from tangled together into one giant mass. What a mess…it ended up leading me to ask for help of my partner and many of his friends, one by one, to get them untangled. What a beautiful team effort by people I didn’t know well. I felt silly passing this big blob on to others to ask for help in untangling, but it was a beautiful puzzle that many people seemed to enjoy. The woman who finally did the untangling of all the pieces did so in under 10 minutes. She was a miracle worker, and yet, her success depended on the progress of others.

A standard part of yoga or meditation practice is intention setting. Deepak Chopra says that “everything that happens in the universe starts with intention,” and so should we. Intention is the seed we plant that will grow into change. Intention allows our mind to ever wander with thoughts but to have an anchor point. Mine, recently, has been the intention to give and receive love…to myself, from myself, and to others in my life. Strangely, I ended up getting stuck on forgiving myself rather than just going to a place of abundance. I got tangled up more in the process of untangling. And this happens to all of us, but what’s necessary is to turn back to our intention. To give ourselves the things we seek.

Earlier this week, I made a huge breakthrough in therapeutic treatment: I realized that I had always been referring to my trauma as one giant mass, as trauma with a capital T. It would be like referring to my big mass of jewelry as my “jewelry,” not pointing out that there were individual pieces in there that were tighter or looser in the giant mass. Not acknowledging individual progress. Once I was able to bring awareness to the many different strands of trauma in my life, several of them were able to just fall away easily. They had become so loose that I could just let them go. I, myself, could take them away from the mass I was untangling.

This gentle and seemingly minor point of awareness has let in many small areas for self love and rebuilding. Small cracks where there were once pieces of sadness, of despair, of the intense desire to be forgiven…only to realize that there was nothing I needed to be forgiven for. Those pieces of trauma, alone, just like memories of happiness, playfulness, laughter, sadness, anger, or any other time, all are beautiful just as they are. Together, with the capital T, they seem overwhelming and insurmountable, but handled separately, they are a reminder that all facets of life are there for a purpose. So often we grow impatient, trying to untangle the giant mass all at once, when, really, if we focus gently on finding the pieces that are free, the mass will untangle all on its own. One by one, piece by piece. And, letting go of the giant mass doesn’t mean you are neglecting it…for the mass we so tightly hold onto is made of all the individual strands of jewelry. Nothing added. Nothing subtracted. Just free. And there is comfort in that.

I will leave you with a magical piece of writing today by Monique M, from today’s post:

What if everything in our lives is perfect? What if all the events and circumstances that make up each of our lives are perfect, even the ones we think are mistakes? A perfect confluence of events to bring us to this point right here… this juncture at which we stand right here, right now as we’re reading this. Perfect. No matter what it looks like in the moment, whether we like it, or not; whether we hate it, or not; whether it’s humiliating, or not; whether it’s joyous, or not; whether we understand its importance, or not; whether we understand which puzzle piece it is yet, or how it fits into the bigger picture.

What if none of it is bad? A mistake? Or wrong?

Could life be peaceful if we can accept it all? In the moment? As it comes to us? As it unfolds? As it is happening? Even when the events or circumstances seem to only bring us disappointment, mayhem, anger, and upset?

What if, even through all our disappointment with life and ourselves, we really are perfect as we are? Not a perfection of all our exterior attributes, but a perfection that is our very greatness. Nothing needing to be added, or subtracted from us. Just as we are.

We are divine. Just as we are.

True perfection seems imperfect, yet it is perfectly itself. True fullness seems empty, yet it is fully present. True straightness seems crooked. True wisdom seems foolish. True art seems artless.

— Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching