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Archive for the ‘Beginnings’ Category

when my words and my mind were spinning madly, on the brink of a collision with reality, i wanted to share stories and jokes and all the intimate details of the lives we were living.
… and then
it happened. the inevitable collision that i had spent a lifetime ignoring was now, unavoidable. the spinning thrashed around my mind like an orca beating its kill on the ocean top.
slap
slam
… and then
my head burst open and everything escaped, oozing out of those darkened crevasses so fast that to grasp them, to contain them, was an impossible feat. i crawled out from beneath, prostrated myself, hated myself.
i hated me
… and then

i looked at all the pieces lying around, scattered, unrecognizable, knowing the reassembly process was impossible. i couldn’t decifer which piece fit where and if some of the pieces had been altered.

all the pieces had been altered
… and then
the altered pieces looked so beautiful, so magnificent in their new imperfect shapes. i saw that, you see? i saw it. i saw the love inside. i saw the beauty that was forming and growing and busting through a wall to shout at the world.
shout at you
… and then
the porous pieces of myself, those imperfect and all too occasionally fucked up pieces of myself took on a magnificent shape. they looked like me. a crooked smile. a blemish. a lonely dimple.
me
me
i stood upright and strong and dared to move.
dared to love
dared to love me
i took the onus for me

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This isn’t everything you are.

I joined the Peace Corps when I was 21. I never went.
The boy I thought I loved asked me to marry him and he wasn’t sure where we’d be in two years if I was away in the Peace Corps… so, I never went.

This story isn’t everything I am.

I got pregnant with my oldest at the beginning of my last year in grad school. She was born a month early and quickly whisked away to the NICU at another hospital while I recovered from the emergency c-section. It was 4 days later that I finally got to touch her, to hold her next to my chest. There were tubes and alarms and organized chaos surrounding her at all times those first two weeks. When she came home… I sat next to her bassinet and watched her chest inflate and deflate, inflate and deflate — for several weeks that was my only concern.

This story isn’t everything I am.

One October, I rented a cabin in the mountains for my mothers birthday. We were all excited to spend a few days going to amusement parks and looking at the smoke on the top of the mountains and breathing the air. The morning we were to leave, my mother called me early and said to go without her and my father, he was sick and she needed to get him to the doctor. When I got home from the serendipity of the mountain cabin, feeling refreshed and calm and at peace… I learned my father had lung cancer.
Nothing was the same after that.

This story isn’t everything I am.

Two days after Christmas, my mother was sick enough to need a trip to the ER. I came to talk to her and the doctor. When I walked through the hospital door, my mother said she had cancer. I said she was over-reacting. The doctor came in and he said she had cancer. I told him that was impossible — it had only been about 4 weeks since we buried my father after he died from lung cancer. That’s actually what I told the doctor, it had only been 4 weeks, as if to say my dad had already died from cancer… our odds are over, the rest of us should be okay. It was impossible for my mother to now also have cancer, that’s not how cancer works is it?

This story isn’t everything I am.

For 18 years, I was a wife and a mother and a taxi and a nurse and a chef and a maid and… I had a career.
I lost myself.
Maybe that’s what we’re all destined to do for a certain number of years — the finding yourself part certainly makes for some amazing memoirs and blog posts and stories late at night on a warm summer evening surrounded by your friends and many empty bottles of wine.

This story isn’t everything I am.

I think, possibly, someone who looks around at the memories of their life and says, “I have no regrets”, must not have risked too much. I think, possibly, those who look around at the pieces of their life and can say, “I wouldn’t change a single mistake”, “I wouldn’t pass up a single regret”, have lived a life full of love and meaning.
Life isn’t lived in the memories of “do-overs”, life is lived in the fringes of decision.

This isn’t everything you are.

.

“Learn to watch your drama unfold while at the same time knowing you are more than your drama.” ~~ Ram Dass

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I want to hike the Appalachian Trail and sleep outside for weeks… alone.

I want to join the Peace Corps and end up in some far off land for a couple of years… alone.

I want to camp underneath the redwoods in California and not take a bath and not wash my hair and walk around in dirty clothes and eat cold beans out of a can… alone.

I want to sit on a blanket in the middle of nowhere until a light bulb of recognition turns on in my head and I jump to my feet and howl with the wolves and right then, in that moment, I know… it becomes clear.

I want to do all those things so I can discover who I should be, what I believe, who I can be… who I am.

But I can’t.

I can’t because I have kids and a career and a mortgage and a car payment and I have people who would think I was crazy. But, I’m not — I’m just 43 and finding myself.

So… what are my options?

How do we, as mothers and business leaders and teachers and people with our sanity, ensure that we keep our sanity in the quest to sort it all out?

A weekend excursion without the kids?

A five-mile run everyday while you listen to your favorite audio book?

A blog?

The options for those of us who have passed the point of doing all of our soul-searching before we “settle down and have kids” aren’t as limited as they seem.  We just have to be more creative with our time, more willing to parcel out our existential outings into shortened day trips or weekends away — or even a few hours locked away in our room to sweat it out with yoga.

To be stuck in a reality where you believe you are out of options is the most important battle you need to fight — stop believing, “this is it”.

A gray hair pops up and we panic, the pair of shorts that seemed loose last summer seems a bit snug now — I drive a Kia instead of a Land Rover. One glass of wine works like sodium pentathol. The waiter calls me ma’am. I can barely stay awake for the 10 o’clock news. Life has happened. But, I’m searching.

Searching for the me that I know I am. The me that tries to hide behind all the bullshit of life. The me that we all are, the business leaders and teachers and bus drivers and hair stylists and doctors and lawyers — the mothers. My searching is constant… my trying to be a better person is constant… my looking at myself is constant. Those times when I need to find myself somewhere at the edge of the ocean in California take a bit more planning these days — but, they still take place.

I can go on life-altering soul-searching journeys and still have my kids to school on Monday morning… as long as I set my alarm. I can sleep in the middle of the woods eating nothing but granola under the stars at night… I just have to stop at the vegan deli on my way out of town.

Possibly, my soul-searching might need to take place in Vegas… a different kind of wild lives there.

I can even post pictures on Facebook to prove it’s possible to find yourself… one weekend at a time. I can tweet my run-ins with wolves and coyotes and snakes and poison ivy. I can blog about all the possibilities and where I know they will take me — take us all who are still searching, still unraveling the mystery.

My life is just beginning to unfold. My self-actualizing-soul-searching is at its height. I am poised and ready to live among the creatures of the night… for a weekend at least.

My life is just beginning… this is going to be fun.

I’m 43 and finding myself.

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I sit and look out,

hearing the ocean rolling in front of me…

head back,

eyes closed,

… and I’m gone.

Counting on my daydreams to carry me away,

and they do, quickly…

I can taste the salt on my lips,

the uncomfortableness of the sand scratching my skin,

the breeze — the breeze is welcoming across my burning skin.

The sun is high in the sky but my daydreams don’t care,

they grab hold of my thoughts… filling my head with a world of forgotten promises.

Our truths are so varied but we end up at the same place,

a ship bringing us close to shore,

safely.

If I could fly… I’d spring out of this dream and jump in the waves,

I’d relax as the water churns around me,

I’d forget to remember that the world can be messy.

I’d forget to remember that bruising is a lesson I needed to learn.

I’d forget to remember my way back isn’t through you…

and it’s not here.

Not on these pages.

Not in empty words that bring me to my knees.

Not in a half truth.

Then I know…

the way back is in this wave,

carrying me steadily along,

building and building until it’s out of control,

a tidal wave spilling onto a beach because it got in its way.

The pain surges through my mind as I crash without warning,

left to sort it all out,

separate it into neat organized piles of chaos.

Here…

in the debris left behind,

is my beautiful star.

Here…

in the debris,

is my necessary truth.

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I was driving down the road early this morning, on my way to spend time with a friend. The sun was large and round in the sky, a welcomed sight after too many days of gray dreary weather that seeped into my soul. I had my sunroof open, my hair was blowing just the right way in the breeze and I was singing along to this… I was feeling very good about this day that was approaching. I looked ahead in the distance as the traffic slowed slightly and I saw some people along the side of the road, scattered in a less than orderly fashion picking up trash. I knew immediately, given the fact that it was Saturday and they all donned bright yellow safety vests, that this was the weekend jail crew. I didn’t pay much attention until I drove closer to them, I could see in large black all capital letters across the back of the safety vests, “I AM A DRUNK DRIVER”.

I took a mental pause.

I laughed.

Then I thought about the lesson they were learning… shame, I suppose.

I spent the rest of my drive thinking of all the sayings that would mortify me if I had them sprawled across a bright yellow vest in bold black letters, all those mistakes I’ve made that I try so desperately to re-do, to fix, to get another chance… just another chance to do it right, better.

I PRETEND TO LIKE WINE JUST TO IMPRESS PEOPLE.

I DON’T READ THE NEWSPAPER.

I AM AFRAID OF THE DARK.

I NEED PEOPLE.

I’VE SCREWED UP FRIENDSHIPS.

I’VE SCREWED UP.

I’M INSECURE.

I’M OVERLY CONFIDENT.

I NEED.

When I was 20, a junior in college, I flunked out of school — flunked out. I was in love during the fall semester and needed to spend time with my love. Attending class was secondary, if that. By the time the spring semester rolled around, my heart had been broken in so many places that I rattled when I walked. I remember one beautiful spring day, all my friends were gathered on the lawn outside the dorm. They begged me to join them, to forget about the boy who had crushed me. I declined and instead walked to the all boys dormitory across the street to purchase a pack of cigarettes out of the machine — Virginia Slim Menthol. I walked back to my dorm room on the third floor and opened my window wide, I perched myself in the window to look out at the beautiful day that I couldn’t see because of the dreariness of lost love on my soul. I smoked my Virginia Slim’s… one by one.  Later that night, I joined a few friends at the campus pub and drank too many 5 cent beers, I stopped going to class and the university requested I didn’t return — all because of the loss of a boy’s love whose name escapes me as I write this today.

I WAS DUMPED.

MY HEART BREAKS EASILY.

I regrouped after a few months of summer vacation and applied to a different university that was eager to take my tuition, I obliged by making the Dean’s List each semester and moving forward with my life.

I NEED ANOTHER CHANCE.

A year later, the boy who had reached into my soul and pulled out all the good pieces and tossed them in the air to blow away with a strong breeze on a beautiful spring day showed up at my house. I wasn’t home. He called from his hotel and asked me to give him another chance. I agreed and said I would meet him in an hour. I hung up the phone, took a shower, and went to bed… never to talk to him again.

I needed a second chance at school, without the nameless boy who taught me how hearts break and how hearts mend. We all need second, third, fourth chances… learning has no time limit.

I laughed at the I AM A DRUNK DRIVER vests and said aloud that if the memory of wearing that vest didn’t stop them from repeating that offense, I don’t know what will. The proverbial scarlet letter… we all have them, just below the surface I suppose. I don’t want to wear them in large bold lettering though, I don’t want to wear my transgressions on a vest for all to gawk at, I don’t want to announce to the world that…

I SCREWED UP, AGAIN.

I’d much rather wear a vest that screams out the direction I’m trying to point, screams out the lessons I’m trying to learn, screams out:

IT’S GOING TO BE OKAY.

HOPE MATTERS.

One of my favorite short stories comes from Ray Bradbury, All Summer In A Day. It’s a sad story. But, from the first time I read it as a child, I’ve always thought it captures the voice of hope and always reminds me:

IT NEVER RAINS FOREVER.

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“Because this business of becoming conscious, of being a writer, is ultimately about asking yourself, how alive am I willing to be?”

~~~

Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life)

 

I’ve come here many times this month. I’ve come here upset. I’ve come here happy. I’ve come here frustrated. I’ve come here sad. I’ve come here full of the angst that has driven me to the brink of implosion.

I came here too often this month to delete this whole blog — it’s quite easy, just a click of a button and it all disappears. I thought, maybe, I would start over. I thought, maybe, I would pretend it never was. But… being deleted seems a little sad. So, on my trips here to contemplate the deletion of my words, I would read an old post but more importantly I would read your comments and I would laugh and smile and think, “… not today, I’m not going to delete this today.”

Soon, my visits here were less about deleting and more about writing and processing and evolving — I started to write. Deep within the bowels of the rough draft section there are many very rough drafts… but I was writing. I wrote out my thoughts on post-it notes and laid them out at the end of the day to see if I could piece it all together. I wrote out my thoughts on the backs of some bills and on some half used napkins and on a spiral notebook I dug out of the bottom of a drawer. I wrote out my thoughts and let them go, many of them any way. Lit them on fire in a ceremonial pit and watched them disappear… burn down to nothing more than weightless ashes that had no hold over me — my inner musings… not quite blog worthy.

My visits here were no longer about deleting this place but more about taking it back. I felt myself perpetually revolving less and less and doing more of the evolving that I mistakenly thought I was doing but in reality, I was trapped in a revolving door like Buddy the Elf… fun for a while but dizzying.

The lessons I have to learn on my own are usually the ones I don’t want to look at, usually the ones that piss me off the most, usually the ones that have the greatest impact on me — maybe that’s the way it is for all of us. We search for people to teach us — that’s the easy way out I guess. When we learn things on our own we remember them better. I love to learn, don’t get me wrong — I’m an ageless student. It’s possible I’ll drive you mad with my wonderings — I want to know, I want to learn, I want to evolve. I’m not a fast learner, I’m not through by any means. Some days I feel like I’m on an accelerated program though — I want to shout my epiphanies from the rooftops and basements and every silent closed off space that I think needs to be filled.

I’ve been thinking about this concept of writing from the heart — I thought I knew what that meant. I thought that writing from the heart meant opening yourself up, letting yourself be seen, spilling everything out on the pages. It is … actually. But, I discovered something recently. Writing from your heart and writing from your fragmented heart are far different. One yields evolution and conversation and light while the other generates apocalyptic amounts of atomic energy.

It’s similar to living from your heart, I suppose. We live and learn and love and we do those things guided by our hearts. Our heads step in periodically to keep us in check, that’s good I think… a balance. Our hearts sometimes get fragmented. Sometimes a piece gets misplaced so when we try to listen to our hearts, its beating is a little off kilter — so our lives get a little out of rhythm. That’s when we need to rest, regroup, gather ourselves — live from our hearts, our whole hearts.

I’m here, on my accelerated learning program, writing from my heart… it feels good. My heart has taken a beating, but… I’ll tell you, it feels very whole and alive and filled with the anticipation of a new day. My heart is finally evolving. I stopped the revolving door that was making me ever so dizzy and took a deep breath. Sometimes I’ve felt as though I was on a never-ending roller coaster ride that maintains a tight gravitational pull on you as you round the corners and then pushes you into the loopty loops and finally you hit that last turn and you can breath — that’s what my evolving heart feels like. There might be a revolving door trying to get me to jump back on and do some more spinning, but I think I’ll know when to jump off this time. I think I’ll try writing from my heart and not writing to spite my heart.

I’ve learned many lessons lately, lessons I really didn’t want to learn… I learned how to say I was wrong, I learned how to say I was right, I learned how to pause, I learned how to seek out assistance, I learned how to stay strong, I learned how to cave, I learned how to beg, I learned I have a spine, I learned how to forgive, I learned how to be forgiven, I learned how to open my heart and listen and hope and love. I learned that the readers and commenters here at First Pages have taught me how to be human and whole and alive — even when it hurts. I learned that the places my heart takes me are exactly where I’m supposed to be… and I learned that I am willing to be very alive.

The day I stopped writing last month was a long day, and then I read this

Also, todays reverb10 writing prompt was “let go”. I wrote a post recently on letting go and it actually led me to walk away from this blog. So, when I read the prompt, I realized that I already started really letting go… that’s why I was able to push publish again.

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I’m sitting here, in a narrow leather chair at the wheel repair shop… surrounded by wheels and rims and men with grease on their hands and cars in various stages of disrepair. It’s been storming all night, loud clapping thunder that was only out witted by the sharp electrical flashes of lightning that covered the entire sky. But now, as I sit here, the sun is shining. The clouds have disappeared and there is that wonderful smell of a fresh rain filling the air.

The wheels on my car have been squeaking — for a while. It’s rather embarrassing. That’s what brought me here to get them worked on, the embarrassing part. My neighbors would turn when I came down the road. Strangers would wince as I pulled in to the grocery store parking lot. I, however, ignored the sound for a while. I simply turned up the radio and sang along as if nothing was wrong. It worked for a bit. But then, even I became too aware of the squeak to not take action.

My wheels squeak all the time. I think this must have been an important detail because the look on the repair guy’s face when I told him this fact made me think it was an important issue. He looked horrified to be honest — in that way that wheel repair guys can look or brake repair guys or those guys who change your oil. They ask us these questions knowing our answers will confound them — but they ask them anyway, “… didn’t you hear it squeak?”

Apparently, our cars are engineered to give us warning signs when they are in need of some attention. We are, in fact, supposed to heed those warnings. When your oil goes low, a bright light flashes (best you should attend to this right away). When your brakes go bad, they squeal (and if you ignore the squeal, it becomes a very over-powering grinding sound). When your wheels go bad they squeak, all the time. When you neglect these things, you get stares from your neighbors and grimaces from complete strangers and gasps of horror from the repair guy (they are often appalled at me).

So I’m sitting here, at the wheel shop. Getting the repairs I should have taken the time to fix several weeks ago. I ignored all the warning signs my car was giving me and instead only went for assistance when I was too embarrassed to drive any further and now I am (quite literally) paying the price. And… I’m watching the other people come in and out of here, they know what their cars need. They seem so confident in the announcement of the various afflictions. But me, I’m lowering my head. I’m keeping my eyes on my phone, pretending to read something intently. I’m speaking softly when it’s my turn. I’m aware of my neglect.

We are a lot like our cars I guess… we give off warning signs when we are in need of repair. When you run too far and too fast the day before, your legs refuse to move. When you let a cold linger too long, your cough will remind you to slow down and rest. When your mind can’t possibly juggle any more, it drifts away, reminding you to be still.

We need to pay attention to ourselves. We need to pay attention to each other. A warning light would be best, it could flash brightly telling those around us that we need some attention, we need to slow down, we need to reach out. A warning light for those times we need to let others know. So when they ask that question, “… are you all right?”, they don’t look confounded by our answer — or our lack of an answer — a warning light.

So, I’m sitting here, waiting for my car. Lifting my head long enough to enjoy the beautiful blue sky, enjoying the smell of newly fallen rain, watching the strangers around me talk and mingle and smile at one another. I’m wondering what other repairs are going to be needed. I’m wondering what signals will I be able to see now that I’m finally paying attention to the warning signs. I’m sitting here… figuring it all out.

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