Thinking Out Loud

I was recently asked by a new friend and longtime distant colleague (took us four years to meet in person though we’ve been at the same conferences over and over and over again), Andrea Zimmerman, to take part in a new series she launched on her lovely blog, AngieCat. 

The series is called “Regular People Answering Hard Questions.” Before I even saw the questions, I was all “ooooooo! coooool!” Because as you all know, I love the hard questions, even though Rilke advises that they are best lived in the quote that consider the epigram for my life.

“Be patient with all that is unsolved in your heart, and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

So here’s the post, in which I talk about living some of the questions. Go have a read and come back here and tell me: Which question captures your imagination, soul or heart the most? How would you answer it?

Posted in living | 4 Comments

I Just Can’t

I just can’t make sense of what is happening in Ferguson, Missouri. I have spent hours being angry, sad, heartbroken, pissed, despairing, raging, digging for answers, looking for pathways where I can place all this frenetic energy, calling churches, trying to find local community leaders to say “I give a shit, what can I do?”

It’s all just me spinning. Spinning so hard and fast with nowhere to go.

Christ, I even looked at plane tickets to Missouri. I just want to be in the front lines, a white face, standing with the rest. Saying “This is a WE. We are a WE. Me-them-US. Who the hell are YOU?” police officers with your wartime gear and your disgusting commentary, your certainty and vile clarity on your supposed superiority.

I’m sick.

It’s hard to be an empath sometimes. I try to find the right ways to have distance. I have to constantly look at my decisions and say, “Is this appropriate? Is this appropriate? Is this appropriate?” Because I can take on the pain of a child having a bad dinner with her father whom she clearly only sees twice a month at stilted dinners just like this one. It can take me weeks, months — longer, I swear — to put down her frustration and loss and practiced detachment she is exhibiting, until finally, tears start pouring out from under her sunglasses and she refuses to dab at them, to pretend they aren’t happening.

I can take on the pain of a woman I walk past on the street, her hand out for change, a child in her lap, her shame the biggest thing you see. I can take on the pain of a community full of people in Missouri who know, really know, that no one gives a shit about them at the end of the day, and that the media will make up whatever stories it pleases, no matter how many good journalists may be down there fighting the fight.

Damn. But it is HARD to know what to do.

I barely slept last night. Out of my mind with the panic of looking back at myself in a year or four and being disgusted with myself for Not Doing Enough. I’m exhausted and electric with fatigue right now, which feels self-indulgent and foolish. I am not the hunted. The hated.

But I have no idea where to go with all this.

So I go where I know to go: to the voices and the stories and the many amazing women I know, and many amazing men and women I don’t, who have been writing the truth of their lives in a way that is simple and clear as clarion: This is truly what our life is like. No, we do not think about it every day. How could we and still go on? But this is what we live, even when we allow ourselves to believe it is not what we are living.

I am so, so sorry that this is part of what humanity is. But I can’t give up. I won’t give up. I am too certain that love and a universal trust that we are all doing the goddamned best we can, even when we falter, simply has to be the truth we are out here living and recording and fighting for.

I won’t give up. I won’t. I will keep finding my ways to scream into the void and call out all the darkness for what is is: the absence of faith, of trust, of a belief that we get what we get and we can’t get upset and that no one NO ONE is ever the reason our life has lacks. Not him or her or Them or You or the President or a circumstance.

What we get, my friend, is chance, brutal terrible chance. And right now, the brutal terrible truth is that the chance of being Black in America is a hideous and unjust sentence. And to pretend otherwise, no matter how casual and well-intentioned your disinterest, is a crime against dignity, humanity and sense.

Call it out wherever you see it. Call it out like the emergency it is.

We must do better. We must. We simply must.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Proud and Happy

Five Star

Hey, y’all! I’ve been Five-Starred!!! I can’t explain how super thrilling it was to see my blog post on the oh-so-awesome Five-Star-Used-to-be-Friday site (which is run by the also-so-awesome-and-lovely Schmutzie). Go and look at it! It’s so pretty! And I’m under a fabulous quote by Anne Tyler. And it’s just cool to see your words leave their own private home and meander about and make friends.

It’s just delicious, really, as someone who spends a lot of time recognizing other people’s work to have my own writing recognized in this way. Maybe I am a real blogger, after all!!

(Haha, a lot of bloggers wonder if they are a real writer; I’m a writer who wonders if I am a real blogger. Can’t win for trying!)

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

The Give and Take

 

So four or so days ago, I dared to write about What I Did Right in the years of getting my son and me to the safe, good place we are now. And I paused for an ordinary moment of peace.

So, of course, the next day I had a recurrence of an infection that I had just two weeks before. It’s a pretty serious infection, in my colon, diverticulitis for those who will be tortured by not knowing the exactitudes. (I would be so tortured myself. Specifics make me feel better-armed for all the uncertainties.) And the closeness of the two infections is decidedly concerning. So yeah, just in case I was feeling too good, something swooped in to remind me how fragile this all is.

I’ve had this kind of shazaaaam before. Many times before, actually. So I wasn’t surprised. I’m not so egotistical as to think that the universe has it in for me, but I am enough of a believer in allegory to take it at face value: Cherish the days you feel connected to everything around you, for it is fleeting, all of it. I mean, I think I don’t necessarily need to keep reliving this beautiful piece of truth over and over and fecking over again, but chance disagrees, and finds me a perfect messenger.

I remember being in the hospital with my mother, unconscious, almost every day for a month, waiting for her to wake up so we could say goodbye before she died. (She did come to and live several more months, but oh, the agony of thinking we’d never even get the chance to say goodbye.) This was mere weeks before my book came out—my book about finding beauty in hardships, about finding my way back to good. I got the first hard-bound, published copy when my mother was unconscious, and I cried that she would never see it.

My book was called Falling Apart in One Piece: One Optimist’s Journey Through the Hell of Divorce. About what I thought had been the hardest period of my life: my divorce, my falling-apart house, the water leaking in everywhere, my infant son, all happening right as I took over Redbook magazine. Well, ha, said the universe to my book’s core premise. HA TO ALL THAT.

My book was published March 10. My dad went into the same hospital where my mother had been in ICU the night of my official book party, March 12. He was instantly gone, but still alive (my mother dying at home), a freak brain infection having felled him and made him unreachable except in the most tragic, incidental twinges of brain electricity, during which he would say, “Hi, Stacy,” as if he were fine, and I would have to walk out of the hospital room, my fist stuffed in my mouth to keep the wail within me.

The day I resigned from Redbook—my heart in my throat for leaving the only job I’d ever wanted to have, ever since I was a little girl, a job I’d done and done well at four different magazines, since I was 29—I joked with my team that the subtitle of my next book was going to be called “One Reformed Optimist Says ‘Fuck That Shit.’ ”

So yes, I know irony. 

Hello again, you fickle creature.

Okay, fine, so diverticulitis is no death sentence, but it’s also incurable. And I am forty-fucking-five, thank you very much, and was diagnosed with this (largely genetic) disease when I was 34, right after my husband had unilaterally ended our marriage, and I had an infant son, and was running a national magazine and…. Well, whatever. It seems to show up at dramatic moments, as if to make a point, to bring me to my knees when I am already on my knees. No, really. Listen:

First bout: 2004, three months after husband moved out

Second bout: 2010, after my mother and father died four weeks apart

Third bout: 2012, when my boyfriend and I broke up at last, after destroying our relationship slowly across two heartbreaking years

Fourth bout: 2013, right after I managed the huge transition of moving out of New York City and into our new home, a double move (into storage first) because the deal didn’t go down smoothly and I had a huge work conference in between

Fifth bout: Two weeks ago. Are you experiencing a lot of stress? asks the doctor. Well, no, not any more than usual, I say. I mean, I have spent the last eight months feeling like I’ve landed, that I did a really good, really hard thing, that I am finally able to leave the series of traumas behind (yes, the sudden deaths of my parents, but let’s not forget my son’s crisis, me losing my job, the financial insecurity of being unemployed and being a breadwinning single mom). Work is busy, as it always is, but doesn’t feel unusually stressful, even though it’s definitely pedal to the metal right now. I am gardening, spending time outside close to the largeness of the world which comforts me deeply nearly every day. I have a sweet, insane puppy dog who makes me laugh and makes me want to kill him in equal, charming measure. My son is thriving, turning into this beautiful, fascinating, sweet, loving, inquisitive, confident person before my very eyes, his legs stretching ever longer beneath him.

So, fine. It’s just a bout of diverticulitis. No big deal. Very painful, very scary. My temperature rises, I’m in excruciating pain, I think I might end up going to the hospital (if a diverticula ruptures, you have to go to hospital pronto so you don’t go into septic shock and, uh, die), so I get my dearest friends in Garrison prepped and ready for that middle-of-the-night call I hope I don’t have to make, my babysitter packs a “go” bag for my son, and I fall dead asleep praying my temperature comes down. Awaken at 11pm, temperature has dropped a degree. Awaken at 3am, soaked in sweat; the fever has broken. Oh thank holy god. And then a few more days of antibiotics and resting up and I’m fine and fit as a fiddle. Back to life!!!

Until two weeks later, and it hits again. And rapid recurrences are Not Good.

And so here I am. I am happy, I am whole (excepting the colon, of course). And I am nervous and trying not to live too far into the future. The tests I have to take next will tell the (new) doctors (I have to find, because now I live here, in Garrison) what they need to know to tell me what I need to do. And if surgery to remove part of the diseased organ is what they recommend so be it.

But dammit. I was just getting to Good.

So I won’t take this personally. But I will take it as a lesson. Another lesson. In the endless string of lessons life tosses on our strands in a row, like so many pearls: things of glistening beauty borne of a painful irritating setback, pushed deep in the flesh.

It’s what we make of these setbacks that sticks around and lasts.

And I’m going for the glisten, friends.

Root for me, please. It matters, you know.

xo

 

Posted in dog, gratitude, loss | Tagged , , | 16 Comments

What I Did Right

Today my son left his lunch on the kitchen counter, sad little sandwich and peanut butter crackers sitting there, waiting to be remembered. I grabbed a paper bag, wrote his name and his teacher’s name on it in black metallic pen, and rolled it over just so, then headed out to the car to drive the 1.6 miles to his school.

His sandwich was going to get there before he did, on the bus, after it made its lazy loop along Avery Road, down to the train station, and then back up to 9D and taking its wide turn into the school, one of six buses that collect students, and are greeted every morning by the principal and the school superintendent.

I parked the car in the back lot, and began walking toward the school’s office. Buses had yet to start arriving, teachers were still pulling into the lot. One teacher saw my bag and said, “Someone forgot his lunch, huh?” And we chatted amiably about the weird chaos of mornings, of no matter how early you get up, you still run late, forget things, end up in two minutes of panic before the bus hits the end of your driveway.

It’s all nothing, this chatter, this familiarity, this sense of sameness to days and weeks and years. That kids will keep forgetting their lunches; that moms will still drive them to school. And outside, summer is blooming, calling us to the rolling mountains and the wide river that embrace and define our neighborhood.

My task complete, I climbed the steps to the parking lot, and the first bus pulled into the school’s long driveway, the principal in place. And I started to cry. A second bus, then the third, their colored flags denoting their routes on their sides, the bus drivers in sunglasses, sitting behind a dashboard decorated with stuffed animals or sports team flags. My son is in one of those buses, having been ferried safely toward a school where everyone knows his name, where he made friends, where the teacher truly understands him and pushes him hard, through his challenges. Where the principal is charmed by his precocity, where he was a minor celebrity for going to the White House to meet Michelle Obama. Where his poetry was recognized and is being filmed for a Hudson Valley Arts project. Where he made friends. Where he feels at home.

And me, too, I feel at home. And at a certain kind of peace. But more than anything right now I feel awe and gratitude. In those four years where I was so lost, and trying to stay afloat in all the hurt and grief, and trying to right my ship while water poured in and threatened to pull me under, I listened. I did the hardest thing of all: I pushed away the fear, the fear, the fear and wrote on this blog and kept pointing myself toward my instincts and away from my habits.

I filled in the blanks.

And I filled them with silence, not noise. With peace not adrenalin. Life is still stressful and chaotic, this is a much harder thing to change. But what has changed for me changed from within.

I am fine. I am fine. I am safe. I am well. I am good. Learning to be gentle with myself will take years more, but I did make all these tremendous changes from a loving place, not from a place of iron will and force, the way I did so many other things in my life.

It is so strange and marvelous to feel myself move into a place of becoming more sure of who I am. I have always known, have had more self-awareness than most people, I know, so that statement must seem crazy. But the fact is there’s always been a big giant question mark in the middle of me: Really? Really? Am I really smart and good and nice and worthy? Am I generous or am I selfish? Am I too full of ego? Am I deluded? Do I not have the ability to see who I really am, in the same way my mother could not, would not, see herself? 

And the biggest question: Will I ever, ever, ever have enough love to silence those questions?

It’s an old trope that we have to “love ourselves” before we can receive good love. I always rankled at that simple statement because it misses the point, as so many tropes do. It misses the hidden question marks, it brushes over these gaping holes with decorative wallpaper. (And don’t even get me started on the new passion to tell teenaged girls that they are “awesome” and “beautiful” no matter what, instead of arming them with the knowledge that insecurity and shifting alliances are the stuff of life and that they’d best learn how to manage those issues instead of be told that they are gorgeous no matter what.)

I have always “loved myself.” I have always thought I was brilliant and interesting. (I know, lucky me, and nice proof that my parents, despite their many failures, did a lot right.) But for years, decades, I couldn’t even see the aching need in the center of my being.

And it didn’t take me loving myself to get to that ache. It took years of careful introspection, years of failures and successes, years of catching myself in irrational reactions and carefully walking the thread backwards until I could see what core fear, anxiety or grief it was attached to.

We poor humans. We spend so much time chasing our butts, spinning in circles trying to know what will make us happy. But what I needed to do was shift gears, and get focused on how to feed and soothe my soul. Then the rest takes care of itself.

The mountains and the river to me mean everything: They are permanent and grand and silent, lording over our brief human existences with majestic grandeur. They aren’t dispassionate, the earth and the water; they are merely what they must be, as are we. We get one very long, slowly unfolding chance to walk ourselves home in this life. And I feel so wildly grateful to have done that for myself, and for my son.

I am good. We are good. The world is good. I always wanted these things to be true, and now I have a life where they are.

And I can feel the rightness of the universe in something as small as a sandwich left on my kitchen counter. It’s just another day. Another magical, worthwhile, soul-affirming day.

Posted in gratitude, home | Tagged , , , , , | 33 Comments

What Maya Knew

It is a grey and misty day, hovering somewhere between lovely and lonely. I am sitting on my train, riding into the city, as to my right the Hudson river looms, placid and colorless, doing its best imitation of a lake.

The edges of a river are one of my favorite places to dwell upon, the mix of industrial rot and fecund growth coming together to create what is, to me, a most fitting analogy of the human condition. We cannot separate the death from the life, the waste from the blessing, the joy from the pain; these things are forever intertwined, and how we grapple with, deny or accept this truth, defines the shape of our lives.

No one knew this as much as Maya Angelou, whose work and words in her lifetime carved glacial paths in our collective consciousness that would have, could have taken centuries for us to come to know. She wrote of the ugliness of sexual abuse, rape, racism, poverty, with an open candor and dignity that is still breathtaking and new. Even the title of her first important work, “I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings” embraces the full arc of her beliefs: that the human spirit must prevail, through whatever pain, horrors, evil, and neglect is heaped upon it.

And I just learned of her passing, while on this train ride, through this landscape of juxtaposition and glory. I am awestruck by how deeply I feel this loss, of how indebted I know I am to her voice and personal power. She was a rare and stunning combination of pain and strength, of sense and emotion. I was and will forever be comforted by how she managed to live all sides of herself, and show them freely.

I still feel the bifurcation of my self, though the work I do in my writing is slowly erasing this artificial division, the division between “success” and ache, between fear and confidence, the gap between knowing what I must do and yet failing to do it. Dr. Angelou’s word encompassed these eternal tensions, and she made me understand they were as natural as verdant springtime, as inevitable as empty, dark winter.

She helped me see — and accept — my humanity. Which has made me a better writer, person, mother, friend, leader, daughter, sister, healer. And it is work that is never, ever done, if you are doing it right.

It would be easy to quote Dr. Angelou’s gorgeous words and challenging statements about standing up and taking life at face value. There will be many, many quotes to read and love and like and favorite on social media and in the news today.

But please, please, please, honor her work and her memory and her bravery by diving into her work, to let her douse you in the river of being, to light your soul with the fire of indignation, to soothe your ache with the eternal truth of justice and dignity. Her writing was a critical beginning in paving the way for the power of story, before “story” became a buzzword.

For Maya Angelou story was always, and obviously, the simplest way to tell the truth, the mighty truth of all we cannot know, and all we must continue to strive to understand, accept, and be. The greatest art of all.

Thank you, Dr. Angelou. May hundreds of voices rise in the absence of yours, and continue to sing your song. I will be proud to keep carrying my voice as far and wide as I can in your honor.

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

What It Is I Am Working On

 

Chinese magnolia, in my beautiful garden.

I wish I wrote on this blog more. I wish it were one, long continuous conversation instead of me sending postcards to the winds when I feel panicked or sad. I suppose I should be comforted, then, that I’m not here more often, if that is what drives me here.

Though wonder brings me here, too. And days of transcendent joy.

I guess what I’m saying is I wish I made more of this sacred space. I so deeply admire the many, many bloggers I know who write every single day. I so enjoy being kept close to their internal dialogues. I even find it comforting knowing their posts are adding up on the days I don’t read them. They are a constant, a presence, a well I can always return to. (Thank you Lindsey, Alexandra, Jill, Wolfie, Rita, MirRita…)

I spend my days flitting in and out of other people’s minds, every day another discovery or three, another post my co-workers and I share with delight or our hearts in our throats. It’s magical, really.

I want to be magical. Constant. A presence.

The work I am doing in therapy right now is very hard. Eighteen years of carefully unpeeling my gorgeously constructed, highly evolved coping devices and at last I am standing naked in a burned-out field, nowhere to hide, nothing to do but keeping feeling over and over and over and over again the one-two punch: that I am terribly vulnerable, very afraid and that I am absolutely fine and solid and well.

It’s a lot to take in. And I have to keep taking it in, week after week after week.

I know there are people who could never understand eighteen years of therapy, who would consider that a failed effort. But actually therapy has helped me build up great admiration for my brilliant mind, a mind that crafted such a complicated combination of responses to the stresses of my childhood that I’ve had to walk the emotional path backwards, a step at a time, so I wouldn’t lose the thread, so that I would know what I was feeling was genuine, so that my therapist could patiently tell me where to look instead of what to think.

Sometimes I feel guilty for feeling so wounded — me with all my successes and achievements and the relative ease that making some money in my past has brought into my life compared to so many. But that’s part of the sickness, too, downplaying my ache. I have a lot of material to bully myself with. Because I succeeded, you see, at the fantasy that was supposed to save me. To become some kind of magical, powerful adult who could be so big that the agonies of life would never touch her. I wasn’t going to marry, no, too afraid of that, and so I convinced myself I’d never need it or want it. (And we can note that I have not stayed married or successfully partnered, and raise a collective eyebrow.)

Learning to stand still and feel both the crushing grief for the child that was me and all she had to carry — all she decided to carry, as an act of self-preservation and self-delusion — as well as the truth that I am whole and well and on my way to healed is an endless journey. I know I will never fully reach the end of it, even if I walk my emotional history all the way back to the beginning of time and carefully dismantle all the defenses I built to help me get through.

That is bittersweet, for sure, but I am learning to love my wounds, slowly, and to accept that the deal I made with myself as a determined, willful, empathic, driven girl was impossible and that I cannot judge myself for having failed it.

I promised myself, over and over, in the darkest and hardest and most disordered parts of my childhood that I would not be damaged, that I would understand my parents’ weaknesses, that I could digest their adult issues and forgive them, that I knew they were doing the best they could, that my mother never got her chance, that my father had no idea how to reach my mother in her pain and her mental illness, that the line between discipline and abuse was not as clearly defined as it is now, that it was too hard to resist leaning on a brave, bold little girl who spoke like an adult and showed such fierce strength…

I promised myself, lying in bed at night, waiting to hear my parents go to bed and turn off the lights, I promised myself, as tears slipped out of my eyes and into my ears, closing off the sounds of the house, I promised myself that I would not be hurt by all they couldn’t be, because I would make my understanding big enough to erase the damage.

But it was never going to be possible to be that big. But I could not have let that truth in back then, for I would have disappeared into something that would swallow me whole. I felt that empty, liquid void lapping at my ankles on the worst days.

I still struggle to believe that this powerful mission of mine failed, even now. Even as I’m typing these words, I feel my body wince against the admission that I couldn’t do it. (I did do it! I did do it! Don’t tell me I didn’t do it!! I’m here! I made it!)

I am grown now, and even more so, older, and bloodied and bruised in the way we all are by life and its regrets and heartbreaks. I am serene in how I’ve carried those heartbreaks, staring them straight in the face and allowing them to run through me, my eyes open to learn and see who I am, what the world is.

How could I ever possibly explain to you that even with all that, I still don’t know how to unlock the door in my subconscious that will let me forgive myself for not getting out of my childhood scot free?

There is the tapestry of identity that we weave from memories, experiences, hope and dreams. And then there is the tapestry that is woven in a back room of our mind, untended by our conscious.

Someday I will be able to let go of the idea that I need to forgive myself for being wounded, and then both rugs will become one.

Until then, I suppose I will be an occasional visitor here, caught up equally in the relentless task of living life’s details while also quietly, unconsciously twisting together these two different stories — both one and the same, as they have always been, the total sum story of me.

Posted in self, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments

Enter Spring

Seedlings, which I nurture with joy and expectation. A relationship? Harder to do.

Today I went to the second half of my seed-sowing class, where I learned all about “pricking out” seedlings and replanting them in a larger pot, where they will get stronger and larger until the final threat of frost is behind us and I can put them into my garden.

Yes, spring will finally make its appearance, after a long, and really cold winter.

Enter spring.

I’m a bit in an “enter spring” state of mind myself, not just from all the good energy from running (although, sadly, right now I’m injured and not getting my daily juice). I have stumbled, nay, bumbled, into a relationship.

Gah, I hate even saying it out loud. And, in fact, I’ve been intentionally keeping it a secret. I’m struggling to understand the psychology at play behind it all. But in the end, I think it’s pretty basic: I don’t actually want to be in a relationship. I’m afraid. I don’t want to get hurt. I don’t want to grow expectations. I don’t want to drift out of this fun part — the delight of falling into someone, discovering him bit by bit, being so pleased with our many matches and entertained by our differences — and hit the heavy shoals of reality.

Isn’t that telling? That I assume the “reality” part will be hard and disappointing, filled with regret and pain? I feel so totally naked and vulnerable, I can’t bear it.

We keep affirming to each other that we are merely “following the vibe” (which is a very, very good vibe), and that that completely makes sense. We keep affirming that the fact that we do not live in the same town, or even the same state, makes this connection so good for where we are in our lives right now (he, coming out of a divorce; me, coming out of a tornado of unfun instability and change; both of us with children we want to devote the lion’s share of our attention to).

And yet…

I have never before felt like I was wounded. That was my choice, my coping device, my legacy of dealing with the anger, grief and instability in my childhood home. I became a warrior, and locked up all the fear and sadness I would otherwise have felt—I put it far away (inside me, of course), somewhere that it couldn’t touch me, and then I could do the all-consuming work of surviving.

But now I live and feel it all, the terrible truth that we can and do hurt those we love the most, with no ill intent. And so putting myself back in a place where I can be disappointed, or disappoint; where I can wound, and be wounded feels terrible, terrible, terrible.

Even though I’m attracted to him like a moth to light, enjoying the play and the intimacy, the reveals and the laughter, and the ways in which he is strong and brave, vulnerable and open…

But I don’t want anyone to know… I don’t want me to know. I don’t want to know that I am once again in a place where I can be so terribly hurt.

But the old way I used to trick myself into not quite being present is gone. And now I have nowhere to hide.

He says he can accept my wounds, and understand my conflicts, that he is of course totally prepared to accept my mere humanity. 

But the question remains: Am I?

Posted in love, relationship, self, Uncategorized | Tagged , | 3 Comments

Hitting My Stride

A switch has flipped, and I am lighter. I feel like I’m stepping out of clay shoes and starting to re-sprout my wings.

I feel the familiar burble of passion and ideas and wonder and curiosity thrumming within me in a way that has been gone.

I have strapped on my running shoes every morning for the last four days. I’m getting there, finding my rhythm. It will be awhile before I hit my stride in the running, but in my life, I feel I’m getting close.

I feel like I might be amazing, in the way I always thought I was.

I feel like crying when I type that, but from relief not sadness.

Today I walked all the way across NYC in four-inch heels, and my feet don’t hurt.

Now, that could be a truly ridiculous way to signify that I’m back to a me-ness I recognize, but… it could also be as good a marker as any. Why not?

I spoke to a class of NYU journalism students this morning, a passionate, all-over-the-place conversation; I’m meeting a woman who’s launched an organization I really admire for lunch, and we will exchange ideas about partnership and lifting women up and the energy of collaboration. And then I’m heading to my office to do work I enjoy with a team of people I truly love.

And my head is awhirl with ideas. For work, for home, for me, for writing, for living.

A thousand little steps led to this big, wide open space. Maybe a million steps, because I started out in the wilderness, thrown to the ground, with so many things I counted on being pulled from my grasp.

And every time I find my way back to this big, open space I am always amazed by the same thing: time expands when I am whole and well; what I can handle and take on grows, and grows, because I am operating from clarity, and safety, enough safety to take amazing risks.

A dear, new friend told me the other day that I “crackle with creativity,” and I beamed like a child with the compliment. That’s the me I earned my way back to, that person he sees.

So yes, here I am. Here I am. And it feels so good.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Getting To Clear

Imagine brushing hair from your eyes. Or going through a dense jungle, and pushing aside vines and hanging moss. Or swimming through the thick and salty ocean, reaching your hands forward to clear a way through a bank of seaweed. Or walking from room to room to room, pushing through curtains, some heavy and tenebrous, like dank velvet, others shredded and fluttering, light as air, but still, obscuring what’s ahead.

Some days that is my experience of being, living my life but straining, or wandering, pushing forward, trying to get a better look, trying to see the whole view, or as my friend Lindsey would say, trying to see A Design So Vast.

I do feel that I have been lost in the woods the past four years. There was something so dreadfully definite about being pushed off my roost into a cataclysmic storm of change. I often feel this strange, haunting guilt about the fact that I still feel so tender. I still feel confused, like I’m blinking into a strange new sun.

But bit by little bit, I am getting to clear. I know that is a Scientology term, but I am no Scientologist. Where dianetics is about learning to master and disconnect from painful and other reactive experiences, so you can live wholly in the now and in the rational (and, I suppose, then garner the prize of believing you are an ubermensch, and thus all the fame, fortune and etc. that supposedly comes with mastering the universe), I am about deeply connecting with those experiences, so I can become ever more tragically, romantically, misguidedly human.

And so see more clearly.

The more clearly I see, the more deeply I love, and forgive, and experience, and connect. No stories to be told, no histories to shed, no anxieties to burrow away from.

Seeing that photo of myself so “untouched” and alive threw me for a loop last week. I had a reaction that that woman in the photo was gone. But through some great, wise comments from my excellent friends and readers, I was able to synthesize, to “integrate,” as my therapist would call it, and recognize her as me, in a hundred different ways. What is gone, however, is the fantasy woman that photo represented for me: That if I could get successful enough, get sparkly enough, get smart enough, that I would be able to find my safe place, and be untouched by the heartaches of life. That is why my reaction was so extreme, because I was facing the end, the final, definitive end, of that dream and that fantasy, that had held me up and supported me through thirty-odd years of my life.

But truly, now, more than ever, I see that there is love and support all around me, all the time. And I am starting to trust that my wounds do not keep me from love—they lead me to it. The spots where I am tender and soft are like open mouths, trying to drink in the nectar of uncertainty, to fuel themselves with magic and mystery and grace, when the pathways I was building before were meant to create a fortress, a fortress that would never be able to stand up to the forces that life threw my way.

More and more I know there is nothing to see past those curtains I’ve been trying to clear, that I am in the clearing already. I am at home in myself in a way I never was before, and those moments that I am lured by my old constructions of safety are, in fact, the occlusions.

I am getting to clear, and it feels transcendent. It is not a feeling I can dwell in all day, as there are more wordly and earthbound matters to be tended to, and the mundane often carries more weight in our daily considerations.

But to know that my heart has always been the same means that I have always been home, even if  I spent years, decades, believing I had to earn the right to deserve it.

 

 

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