Rose

When the Going Gets Tough

DNA Tree of Life by MimiPrints

I am a crier. Or is it cry-er? If I am a rager, it’s usually inward. I am a driver and  a walker. When the going gets tough, I used to be a smoker and a runner. These days, I’m making friends again with my yoga mat and the breath.

I keep going. I remind myself that nothing is permanent. I crave being cared for and taken care of. I can get awfully martyrish but usually catch myself before I get lost in there completely.

I did an online personality test the other day, one of those Facebook quiz things that you know is an utter waste of time but you click on anyway. My results ranked these four things highest: Anxiety, sensitivity, friendliness, and complexity. Really? There were other things, too. But those were my top results. I felt a rush of shame, a kind of “shouldn’t” especially around the anxiety. I want to be better than that, isn’t that ridiculous? I want to be cool as a cucumber. I want to be calm as a buddha. I want to be easy like Sunday morning.

Instead, I seem to carry the “worrier” gene that has surely been passed down the mother line for generations. We recently learned that there is an actual gene for “worriers” and “warriors.”

The thing with genes is that we can turn then on and off. We could talk nature/nurture all day, and it’s endlessly fascinating stuff to me. Genes determine so much about our propensities and dispositions, but so does context and environment in every sense. From the water we drink and the soil our food grows in to the rain that falls and the chemicals carried on wind even over the organic crops we may choose, there is no unchlorinated end of the swimming pool.

But back to genes, and things getting tough, and worry. Who decides what “tough” means? Do I wring my hands? I desperately want to say no. I don’t sit around fretting. It’s no wonder I chose to marry someone who is so unstoppable in the face of adversity.

But my people are also tough. We’ve survived and survived and survived. And I am giving myself to this lifetime of practice. Practice staying with myself and the people closest to me when things get stressful, rather than running, rather than folding up, rather than imploding, rather than wishing and fantasizing for something other or better. Even when the going gets tough, I want to remember that I am here. I get to be here for it. Sometimes I can lose sight of that, and those are dark moments.

Tomorrow the light returns. The sun begins to come back, one minute longer at a time. The sun enters Capricorn, season of my birth. I am surrendering to these next days, making room for quiet and letting things be as they are. Plenty of things have been really tough these past few years, but the hardest parts are inseparable, too, from everything that feeds and fuels me now, both literally and figuratively.

At the end of the day, that’s the double helix I’ll hang my hat on.

Rose

The Other Door

Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois, Paris, France, by Alex Holyoake

The other door. A mouth. An ear. A nostril. An eye. A pelvic floor. A vulva. A body of doors, openings and closings. Go inward and there are chambers of the heart and esophageal flaps and valves controlling the flow of fluids through channels, maintaining order. Spine, neural pathways, veins, arteries, capillaries, so much anatomy, a house I’ll never explore fully enough.

The other door. The third eye, the mind’s eye, the wrist, the sacrum. Ridges of teeth against tongue. A pinch here, a pulse there. A room that leads to a room that leads to a room, a series of caves, underground tunnels, a palace built into the side of a mountain at the edge of the sea.

The other door. Scalp. Hair follicles. Nail beds. Reach, stretch, bend, bow. Break. Repair. Heal. Hurt. Fire, ice, water, soak, salve.

The other door. Phlegm. Spit. Cum. Blood. Yellow. White. Red. Black. Bruise. Blue. Green. Eyes. Seeing, translating, refracting, flipping over, inside out, rapid fire, REM sleep, deep dreams, doors through doors through doors, open, open, open, closed. Open, open, open, closed. Mantra, memory. Lullaby.

The other door. Images. Flashes. What makes a person, what makes a body, what makes a a life. Rooms inside of bodies and buildings inside of houses inside of dolls inside of cliff sides inside of families inside of centuries inside of stories inside of time inside of timelessness.

The other door. Listen. Watch. Float on a bed of salt. Squeeze your legs together, spread them wide, kick, pull, push, glide.

The other door. Spirit. Mystery. Sun, moon, plain as day, clear as night. Sky and floor, room after room. Remember this? Remember this place? Swim home through waters you were born from and to which you will return. Doors open, open, open. Open your mouth. Open your eyes.

Rose

The Self-Abandonment of Envy


I want to say I’m so over envy. It’s such an illusion, this envy business. It is also a kind of violence to myself, a way of abandoning my own life, my own body, my own choices, my own love, my own ideas, my own consequences, my own power. Every time I covet that one’s house or this one’s relationship, this one’s money or that one’s body, I am choosing something false over what’s solid and tangible and real.

The rabbit holes are endless and futile; early in the morning before we get up, or in the middle of the night sometimes I fall; I wake up tunneling like a small animal in the deep, unable to find my way out. It takes effort to end this indulgence, to return to the bed, the room, the belly, the breath, the life that is in every way mine.

I want to say I eschew envy. Doesn’t that sound so mature? More like self-righteous and suspicious. Don’t get me wrong. It’s just that I’ve heard enough stories to know that everyone has one and no one else’s life is perfect. But damn, that house! Damn, that togetherness! Damn, those shoulders! Damn, that vacation!

Once, when I asked a client what she imagined when she pictured her “ideal writing life,” she said, “Well, I really like yours.” I was so taken aback. I couldn’t decide in the moment how to respond. I was flustered. Part of me felt a surge of anger, like, no, you can’t have mine. It’s already taken. Part of me wanted to laugh. Here was a woman who had cashed out from her years in the private sector and basically had the freedom to do whatever she wanted; no partner, no kids…. oh, waitaminute, could she be lonely? Longing for family life? Was she envying me?!

No, no, no. Don’t envy me. When you envy me, you objectify me. You stop seeing my realness. So the flip side must be true, too. When I envy you, I no longer see you. And I am kind of a fan of us seeing each other.

That said, oh my god I am a total goner. I want everything in the Anthropologie store. I want a beautiful house. I want I want I want.

But this doesn’t last long. Especially when I stop and realize I’m in a trance of capitalistic, patriarchal, heteronormative bullshit designed to keep me disowning myself and falling into the lull that I will never have enough.

No more. I will practice every single day if I have to.

We don’t have to disavow wanting. Wanting can be a beautiful force, propelling us towards naming obstacles and deciding where to place our time, money, and energy. But envy? It will clobber you with lack every time if you let it.

Don’t let it.

Rose

“Welcome Home”


Today, I’m thinking of the people who won’t hear these words.

The veterans who won’t come home to loving arms — or at all.

Those we call displaced, refugees, whose homes are quite simply no more.

Those who had to flee their homes because of war or drought or famine.

Those whose homes were destroyed, physically leveled, by storm or quake.

Those who were kicked out of their homes because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Those who ran from abuse, whose home wasn’t safe to begin with.

Today, I’m thinking about how those two words, “welcome home,” sound at first so sweet and good. Whether at the end of a long day, a short outing, or years away, to be welcomed home is something that should be received and appreciated.

It is not a given.

It’s nice to think about home being the breath, the body, the heart. Home as belonging with oneself, or with God if that’s your thing (it is for me, in ways unbound by dogma or dharma or religion at all).

But it’s also not the same, at least for me, as the physical structures of home and the people we share them with. The markers of home that shape and sooth us — the scents, the seasons, the flora and fauna, the birds and songs, the vibe, the color of the dirt, the lilt of language. These can be carried with but not replaced.

I’m thinking about those whose hills and valleys, whose mountains and lakes, whose rivers and cities, have been ravaged, whose borders have been moved and moved and moved, rewritten, blurred, and buried.

I’m thinking of those who were born in transit. What is their home? Their mother’s breast? Their sister’s little hand?

Those for whom home is forever lost. Lost because of danger or destruction or both. Lost because of greed and crossfire and hatred. Lost because of erasure.

My heart breaks today for the millions who have lost their homes.

May I keep them close, as I move through my own.

Rose

Tell Me About Moving On

Photo: Tj Holowaychuk

Regret is like striking a large bell in an empty field and then running through the empty grass trying to gather the sound of the strike back into the bell. It’s impossible. ~ Mark Nepo

Moving on. From the squabble. The sugar crash. The bad mood. The old moon. The first marriage. The mortgage. The last zip code. The eggshells. The old guard. The tension you carried in your esophagus. The pushing. The holding. The silence. The wishing. The wanting. The better life you never got to by trying to get to a better life. The binge. The bender. The way you berated yourself. The inhale. The exhale. The need to “go out.” The constant escaping, as if your self might be waiting for you on the outcropping of rocks at Oakledge Park or in the alley between buildings or on those three back steps behind the old white barn with the gnarly apple tree in the yard. From the hovering over kids and harboring resentment over money. The face tired from smiling. Doing the right thing. Keeping the peace. Making everyone happy like it was your Job. Keeping your guard up. Keeping your weight down. Keeping your anger down. Keeping your life together.

Moving on made room for you to learn new things.

Like how to relax. How to stop putting so much pressure on yourself to get it right. How to recognize the way perfectionism and comparison are no better than the mean girls your own daughter confronted in fourth grade (and fifth, and sixth). How the voice in your own head wasn’t a reliable narrator, and you could start to tune out much of the noise you used to take so seriously. How to be silly and lack all accountability and still be loved. How to stop jumping through hoops. How to have fun. How to wear tight jeans and shake some booty. How to get out of your own way and just try stuff. Take risks, fail, disappoint, and not die as a result.

Learning these things, you find yourself here, full of ravioli, about to have a conversation about everyday magic with a kindred spirit, knowing it’s neither luck nor blessing that landed you here, but something more akin to love and truth.