Finding My Way Home

Finding My Way Home

 

“This magnificent refuge is inside you. Enter. Shatter the darkness that shrouds the doorway. Step around the poisonous vipers that slither at your feet, attempting to throw you off your course. Be bold. Be humble. Put away the incense and forget the incantations they taught you. Ask no permission from the authorities. Slip away. Close your eyes and follow your breath to the still place that leads to the invisible path that leads you home.”

― Mirabai Starr, The Interior Castle

 

Frustrated by disparity between the self-help movement, religions that profess acceptance and actual practice, I find myself in the gray once again.  People are imperfect, yet it baffles me when those that profess to be pious judge with utter abandon. It is for this very reason I made the personal decision to explore all practices but claim none. Each has something to offer along with something that speaks directly to me. In my view, if everyone practiced love as a core belief, judgment would be counter to any belief.

 

In this way, reading the words of the mystics has offered a specific calmness in my life. I share their depth of feeling as well as a misfit sensibility demonstrated by disconnect with the progression of others. Everyone else may be thinking about a to-do list or how to capture success while I am in that quiet place of serenity and solitude dancing with my thoughts. No one seems to notice, I make no outward appearance to this fact. I slip in and out of this realm with a practiced ease, questioning everything.

 

Of the many questions I ponder, one remains. Why is it that so many faiths lay down strict rules of engagement prescribing how one should experience the Divine? Who has the authority to tell me how to experience what should be freely given.  It is important to allow room for spiritual discovery in the way that speaks to one as an individual. No organization, ideology or otherwise can hold weight over this self-discovery. Mysticism allows for this space, a space to experience spirit in a personal way, a space between all else.

 

“If you truly loved yourself, you could never hurt another.”

― Gautama Buddha

 

There are many ways to the same end. The faithful practitioner may come to the same conclusions as one that has spent a lifetime of immersion in mystic thought, empowering the individual experience over the group. No one-way is the only way; I refuse to accept that premise. Mirabai Starr speaks to this beautifully with, “Be bold. Be humble. Put away the incense and forget the incantations they taught you. Ask no permission from the authorities. Slip away.” Another soul that feels as I do!

 

Never second-guess your path. It is unique to you and therefore requires no further scrutiny from others. Be bold yet humble, just as Ms. Starr states. Take chances, but ask questions of yourself. Face your fears and do so with a loving heart. Forging your own way does not require announcement or explanation. Quiet the voices and silence your mind. Trust in your ability to discern the truth from all else. Take as many detours as needed, approaching all misfortune with patience and love. Find your way home.

 

Waypoints

Waypoints

 

“Most people are on the world, not in it– having no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them– undiffused separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate. ”

― John Muir

 

The time is quickly approaching, I can feel it. The time in which I have the choice to remain frozen on the banks of life or move forward with the river as it ambles along to the next waypoint. These waypoints are deeply marked on the map of my life. In hindsight they jump off the page; moments in which I stayed in the wrong relationship, raised my beautiful children, decided I was not smart enough for that job, went back to get my masters degree or stayed in an unfulfilling job. All very clear in the rear view mirror. My gypsy spirit has either beckoned me down an unfamiliar path or held me in place with a knowing that the time to move along was not at hand. If pressed, I would have to say that I have experienced more beckoning than holding, so much so I am getting a bit tired of the unrest. Tired of the risks, the uncertainty and the constant wading into the unknown.

 

How do I know change is looming? It announces itself with a specific feeling of agitation, a sensation of being undone ever so slightly. The rhythm of my day seems off and I begin to accept a certain level of disconnect with all around me. I sometimes think this is akin to a long goodbye, a gift that allows me to move on to the next chapter without much consternation. On the other hand this disconnect can be off putting. I wonder if it blurs my view of what is really happening, clouding my better judgment.

 

In moments such as these, I call upon my intuition. This requires a trust of self that has been earned one mistake at a time. Life can be treacherous, a virtual landmine of decisions that can set one off in the wrong direction indefinitely. It is in the ability to redirect oneself that strength is earned. A strength in knowing all will be well no matter the circumstance.

 

It takes great courage to break with one’s past history and stand alone.”

-Marion Woodman

 

We are never only our past mistakes but a combination of moments that have ushered us to present. My map is filled with waypoints, some I wish to forget and others that brought me great joy. What I can say with clarity is that I have explored, taken risks and moved off the banks of the river more than once. In some instances I nearly drowned, but in others I floated to the surface and enjoyed the easy ride down the river. In moments of drowning, I thankfully found a gentle strength that has remained. I know I can swim. Knowing this gives me courage to speak with my heart and find joy in all instances.

 

Trust in self is paramount. With resolve I can dream big, plan for the future and even face down failure with no harsh expectations. This does not mean that by taking risks I am fearless, on the contrary I am scared every single time. Jumping from one waypoint to the next is uncomfortable at best. It requires strength of character and a commitment to not look back, at least not for long. Yes, I am tired and this uncertainty is like an old friend I no longer want to speak with. What is clear is that I have more waypoints ahead. The journey is not over for me and I must find peace in the process. I understand standing on the banks is no longer an option. I am fast approaching the last chapter of my life and the time to move along is always now. While I long for a gentle swim down a lazy river, I will surely experience more rough waters along the way. I trust in my ability to weather the storm, ride the waves and identify my next adventure as it comes into view.

 

Find Your Song

Find Your Song

Can you sing a song to greet the sun,

Can you cheerily tackle the work to be done,

Can you vision it finished when only begun,

Can you sing a song?

 

Can you sing a song when the day’s half through,

When even the thought of the rest wearies you,

With so little done and so much to do,

Can you sing a song?

 

Can you sing a song at the close of the day,

When weary and tired, the work’s put away,

With the joy that it’s done the best of the pay,

Can you sing a song?

-Joseph Morris

 

Having passed the fall equinox, the days are becoming shorter and the darkness of winter fast approaches. In addition to seasonal change, recent chaotic world events have left me feeling the approach of this darkness heavily. I wonder why evil exists in this world and why so many suffer. I ponder the fragility of life and that this one precious life can be taken anytime in the most senseless of ways.  In the midst of my inner turmoil, I try to make every effort to focus on the light rather than allowing darker energy to fester thereby clouding my every thought and action. Sometimes I see this light more directly and can embrace this sensation wholeheartedly. In other cases, I put forth great intention to recognize good when all I see and hear is so unforgiving.

 

It is difficult to soar with little motivation to lift the voice, feel the spirit and sit in gladness. Freeing my voice requires a commitment to self. I refuse to allow opinions, heinous actions, physical limitations or even my own negative self-talk to bring me down. I choose love. I make the decision each and every day to let my voice sing just as Joseph Morris states by posing the question, “Can you sing a song?This choice is never one made from naïveté but rather with a loving resistance to the darker elements.

 

We are all fighting the good fight. Each one of us greets the new day, fighting the same battles from before. These battles may not be visible to others, but are challenging and painful nonetheless. For some it may be addictions, for others an illness, procrastination or even self-doubt. All are shades of darkness in an otherwise beautiful world filled with so much loving kindness.

 

Today, on the eve of a powerful full moon, turn off the news, silence the mind and take a few moments to feel the light, the inherent goodness of mankind. Don’t let the darkness consume you. Listen to music, dance with abandon and hug those that you love. Choose to lean into radiating light that brightly projects the inter-connectivity of all and embrace hope for what is left to come. Find your song and sing it beautifully.

 

 

A Dream Within a Dream

A Dream Within a Dream

A Dream within a Dream by Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!

And, in parting from you now,

Thus much let me avow–

You are not wrong, who deem

That my days have been a dream;

Yet if hope has flown away

In a night, or in a day, In a vision, or in none,

Is it therefore the less gone?

All that we see or seem

Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar

Of a surf-tormented shore,

And I hold within my hand

Grains of the golden sand–

How few! yet how they creep

Through my fingers to the deep,

While I weep–while I weep! O God! can I not grasp

Them with a tighter clasp? O God! can I not save

One from the pitiless wave?

Is all that we see or seem

But a dream within a dream?

 

Many times, I have considered the possibility that my view of the world is nothing more than a reflection, a shade of supposed truths that I hold. What if the real truth is one that I do not see and instead find myself in a familiar comfort of a false projection? This thought tends to percolate at times in which I feel completely out of step with the rest of the world. Times when I find nothing in common with those around me; those spending their days gaining wealth, prestige, stature or power. Times when I see people suffering with no one stopping to assist, times when I witness hate and anger and wonder why these emotions still exist in an intelligent world. Times when I am completely overwhelmed by the daily grind of life finding little joy in the mediocrity of the process.

 

Long an Edgar Allan Poe fan, A Dream within a Dream touches on the deeper questions of existence and serves as a perfect example of the exceptional metaphor Poe was known for. None strike a chord more directly than the following passage:

 

I stand amid the roar

Of a surf-tormented shore,

And I hold within my hand

Grains of the golden sand–

How few! yet how they creep

Through my fingers to the deep,

 

The repetition of daily life, as represented by Poe’s surf-tormented shore, can be mind numbing at times. We get up each day, go to our jobs and come home to families only to begin anew over and over again. Where in this rhythm do we take time for introspection, creativity and even love? I understand that much of this journey is finding grace in living the mundane in both a loving and gentle manner. To this end, I do not need to be lectured on the importance of accepting even the smallest of tasks with pride and I certainly do not need to hear that life has some deep and unknown purpose beyond the daily grind. I know these things to be true.

 

I simply feel as if the grains of sand are slipping through my fingers soon to be gone with both the wind and waves of time. Nothing is permanent, not me and not even this world. This begs the question, where does energy go if all that we know is not what we believe it to be? When we transition and our soul is set free, do we become a part of the larger universe? Do we become one with all that is and ever was? Does the footprint of our human life persist or become lost as with sand to surf. So many questions. Just because I am comfortable living in the questions does not mean that I do not ask them repeatedly. It is okay to question things by constantly examining the status quo. I alone am accountable for the end result of my journey. It is for this reason that others opinions mean very little to me. I take full responsibility for my beliefs and no organized practice or tribal unit can absolve me from this responsibility. The problem becomes when I get caught in the cycle of constant questioning, never stopping to just be. In these moments, I am perpetually stuck in a holding pattern of evaluation.

 

The human condition is limiting and it becomes all too easy to get caught up in the mundane. Our job is to find more moments in which we free ourselves from these limitations and feel the energy of the universe as best as we can. Poe speaks to the agony of holding on to something that is not ours to be held. Our lives and this world are all impermanent and no amount of holding will change this fact.  I plan to take more moments this year of letting go, letting go of all the limitations that I place on myself, that others place upon me and the constant need for more. I pledge to let go of the “less than” mentality and accept myself as fully as I can “as is”. I pledge to do this before it is too late and sand has slipped through my fingers, taken back by the ocean from whence it came.

 

Creative Energy and the Feminine

Creative Energy and the Feminine

 

“I can tell you that it takes great strength to surrender. You have to know that you are not going to collapse. Instead, you are going to open to a power that you don’t even know, and it is going to come to meet you. In the process of healing, this is one of the huge things that I have discovered. People recognized the energy coming to meet them. When they opened to another energy, a love, a divine love, came through to meet them. That is what is known as grace. We all sing about amazing grace. It is a gift. I think that it comes through the work that we do. For some people, it can come out of the blue, but I know that in my own situation, the grace came through incredible vigilance.”

Marion Woodman

 

Surrender, easier in concept than practice. Surrender implies weakness, a giving in that comes from a lack of resolve. This implication could not be further from the truth. Surrender is an action of incredible strength. One that takes much courage and a facing down of fears that otherwise go unchallenged. As a woman, I have spent much of my adult life learning about this strength firsthand. I have experienced a complete missing of the mark in this regard and the intervention of spirit at these junctures. While terrifying, this collision of fear and spirit can be spectacular in every sense of the word.

 

The feminine spirit personifies receiving and all of the nuances required to bend but not break. Women are expected from a very early age to be soft spoken and service orientated. As women age, the Divine spirit continues to burn and will do so until set free by choice or circumstance. For some women this fire is set free much earlier than others, but timing is of no real consequence. What does matter is that this feminine energy ultimately finds it way into the light and serves as a beacon for other women not quite ready to shine.

 

As one that has always relished the role of mother, I have towed this line with practiced accuracy. I am one that enjoys every aspect of nurturing another life. It feeds my maternal instinct. Conversely, I have a creative fire that burns hot beneath the surface. I abhor being told how to express this creativity, especially when outside influences unwittingly attempt to cool this heat. My journey with the written word began in elementary school, but it took four decades before I greeted my feminine spirit with love and published this blog. I had already raised my children, suffered a difficult relationship and lived the better part of a very raw and real life. Life had gotten in the way and my creative spirit had suffered until words set me free.

 

“Rage and bitterness do not foster femininity. They harden the heart and make the body sick.”

Marion Woodman

 

Unexpressed creative energy can manifest as rage, anger and depression. If I had never picked up a pen again, my life would certainly be a wandering from point to point with no compass, perennially lost with a heart sealed so tightly nothing could permeate. I have only grace to thank for my current situation. With copious amounts of grace, I have managed to find myself in a new space, feeling spirit in ways that amuse, mystify and make whole my entire being. I am so very thankful for this discovery.

 

“To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to the violence of our times.”

― Thomas Merton

 

By embracing this Divine feminine completely, I am now able to explore other areas of my life without fear of retribution or even failure. Do I wish to stay in my current profession? What qualities do I value in another? How do I envision my life moving forward? I can dream boldly without the voice of fear drowning out my thoughts. I give myself permission to fall short while learning to shine as brightly as possible. This evolution is all a part of the process of discovery. It requires the shedding of an uncomfortable skin layer upon layer until the very core of self is revealed. No more hiding, no more false representations, just me.

 

I am most in companion with my Divine feminine when I quiet the noise around me, becoming apart of the natural world once again. I purposefully let go, surrender to this change of pace without persecution. It is only in this quiet space that my creative energy begins to flow. It is in trying to attain this flow that I most often fall short. Surrender is just that, a letting go of the outcome. I must accept that I may have nothing of extrinsic value to say. It must be enough that I have put it down on paper thereby releasing it from the jagged corners of my soul. This writing in some ways is selfishly for me as I continue to allow grace to have its way with me, as it will. Only in this way can I find my way home.

 

The Guest House

The Guest House

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor.

 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

 

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

-Rumi

 

I like to think of myself as perennially optimistic. I try my best to see the positive in all things, the light at the end of the tunnel. Even if doubts persist, I rarely speak them. My long held belief is that by speaking positively, words will become a reality. The woe is me attitude is not welcome in my home and I try my very best to lead by example. It is for all of these reasons and more that when I do have days with shades of sadness, I have trouble knowing how to process these feelings.

 

Be it the celestial activity of the past month with a lunar eclipse, mercury retrograde and a solar eclipse, the change in my living situation or that pesky perimenopause that makes every day an experience, I am left slighty off balance.  Coupled with my constant ongoing struggle with MS, this multitude of occurrences has me tired. I am frustrated by the way my body defies me even after treating it with the utmost of care. I eat better than most people, exercise regularly, sleep eight hours a night and do my level best to manage stress. It is always a complete shock after having done all of this work, waking up day after day to a body that is tired.

 

It is on days such as these that I ponder why I have been given this lot in life. I work hard and give my job and family my best. Why am I constantly being taught the lesson of grace, humility and acceptance? Haven’t I been through enough already to have earned some collateral in the wisdom bank? Realizing the whininess of my internal dialogue, I chastise myself for complaining and am constantly disappointed in my frustration, wondering why I entertain such thoughts rather than getting on with my day, head held high.

 

Looking for solace,  I often turn to the written word for inspiration. I look for a way to find compassion, patience in my shortcomings and a space to allow moments of sadness and grief. The truth is that it is hard having a chronic illness. Sure, I can buck up and do my best to forget, except for when I can’t. Some days I just want to curl up into a ball and be sad. I want to acknowledge how difficult it is to live with an illness that makes every single task a challenge, even one as simple as getting out of bed. I try to never take ownership over these emotions but choose to gently observe until they move along. In the morning I may be feeling deep saddness and by the afternoon it has passed and I am optimistic once again. This does not make me overly sensitive or unstable, this makes me human.

 

As Rumi speaks to with The Guest House, I too am thankful for the ability to experience a rainbow of emotions. He says, “Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent, as a guide from beyond”.  My days of sadness, weakness or quiet reflection teach me more about myself than a constant state of  perennial optimism. I freely swim in the dark depths of self making it that much more beautiful upon returning to the light. I appreciate my family, friends, my ability to walk, read, listen and love; all things that are never guaranteed. Never be afraid of appearing human, it is in these very human moments that strength, courage and acceptance is won.

 

Feel the Universe

Feel the Universe

 

“This magnificent refuge is inside you.

Enter. Shatter the darkness that shrouds the doorway.

Step around the poisonous vipers that slither at your feet, attempting to throw you off your course.

Be bold. Be humble.

Put away the incense and forget the incantations they taught you.

Ask no permission from the authorities.

Slip away.

Close your eyes and follow your breath to the still place that leads to the invisible path that leads you home.”

― Mirabai Starr, The Interior Castle

 

Can you relate too feeling you are not living as fully as you could? Having a constant nagging feeling, as if something more is necessary to live authentically? Personally, I don’t think I can recall a time when I did not have these feelings in one form or another. Never one to feel a part of a group, I am a drifter plagued with feelings of loneliness and a specific separateness from all those around me. This feeling creates a constant sense of melancholy, a sense that something is amiss.

 

Mirabai Starr speaks so beautifully to this with, “Close your eyes and follow your breath to the still place that leads to the invisible path that leads you home.” These words bring tears to my eyes. Being well familiar with stillness of the mind, I suffer from a permanent homesickness for this still place that has no geographic identity. The place within that contains all that is and all that will ever be. When closing my eyes and tapping into this energetic freeway, I experience an overwhelming feeling of calm, as if all my nerve endings have been suddenly soothed by the connection.

 

Observing me when I’m in this place must appear strange to others. It is not mediation, a practice that I do not particularly care for. Rather, it is a visceral connection to the energy of the universe, that which is the creator and the created.  A look of complete surrender and abandon appears on my face. For a few moments all of the shadows of this world are lit up by the light of eternity. Quite spectacular.

 

I make every attempt to take a few moments each day to slip into this space. I try to let these moments go unnoticed as to not cause concern or worry to those around me. They may or may not understand my practice and this is never a consideration for me. Each person has their own rhythm of discovery and I am in no place to judge the speed of another. In this same vein, it is important that others do not judge or raise an eyebrow to my experience. I have no other compass to guide me except this space and the light. It provides clarity, direction and serenity in a world that has very little patience.

 

Take a few moments today and “Enter. Shatter the darkness that shrouds the doorway…….Slip away”. Let the universe speak to you and communicate back all of your loneliness, trepidation, fear and joy. Let your internal dialogue flourish and ignore the external voices that nip at your heel. Be yourself, feel your energy flowing and remember that your heart speaks in every moment; you just need to tune into the right channel and listen.

 

Quiet Now…Listen

Quiet Now…Listen

 

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

― Henri J.M. Nouwen

 

I have felt under a microscope of late. This may be some of my own doing, but it is unsettling nonetheless. My friends, my family, my coworkers, everyone seems to have an opinion for me, albeit unsolicited. Receiving unsolicited “feedback” can be unnerving, especially when purposefully making a decision to not extend the same to others. I may be going about my life in a manner that is unique to those that I love, but that does not make it strange, wrong or in need of constant correction.

 

Listening as an act of love has become a lost art. It is rare to stumble across a soul that happily listens to another’s ideas, theories or troubles without feeling the need to offer opinions. I simply have never understood the need for others to force an ideology or otherwise and find it difficult to be around people who speak rather than listen. I am everything, yet I am nothing, drifting in and out of a collage of ideas. Nothing is taken but everything is observed. It is only with constant observation and introspection that I begin to see clear lines in place of blurred boundaries.

 

“If you want to identify me, ask me not where I live, or what I like to eat, or how I comb my hair, but ask me what I am living for, in detail, ask me what I think is keeping me from living fully for the thing I want to live for.”

― Thomas Merton

 

It is also imperative to listen to oneself. I have many ideas of my own of which I hold tight. I rarely share all that I am even with those that I am closest too. There exists a constant discomfort that by revealing all, I will frighten away loved ones with my utopian ideas.  Similarly, I have a constant fear of losing myself in the energy of another. When deeply listening, I often become an unlikely participant in the others goals. The sharing of personal goals is often a covert invitation of participation. While honored to be included, I am constantly vigilant that my dreams do not get lost or rewritten inside the vortex of this exchange.  Having made this mistake far too many times in the past, I am protective of my own imaginative endeavors. By privately holding new ideas, I have time to come to terms with how I might bring them to fruition, irrespective of others opinions. I choose to listen intently to myself in the quite space of uninterrupted thought.

 

“The only person you are destined to become is the person you decide to be.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Listening in all forms is an act of compassion, much different from criticism. Excessive criticism, even of self, will not toughen one up as many of our parents’ generation thought. Excessive criticism is just that, excessive. It has no place in a compassionate relationship. I am very sensitive to criticism and as such find that when my shields are up, I tend to fall back into criticism as a defense. It is a pattern learned from childhood and one that I am not proud of. Never one to yell, this criticism can be muted, but still hurtful and definitely not compassionate. I see others fall prey to this same pattern at work and can now recognize that somewhere they learned the behavior and have not yet mastered self-compassion. We all carry with us learned behaviors that do not serve well. It is our responsibility and life lesson to recognize these habits and actively work to disarm them.

 

I feel the energy becoming quietly agitated of late, ushering in a time of intense work and thoughtful and compassionate listening. With so many possibilities on the horizon, it is time to listen and slowly come to a place of decision and or action. Nothing need be rushed. My daily commitment is that I am gentle with myself during this process. I actively choose to listen, feel the shift of energy, see the Divine signs and hear my calling. Change is brewing just as with the seasons. The darkness of winter is looming on the horizon with the light airy feeling of summer fleeting. Take a moment and set some intentions, some aspirations and internalize them. Give seed to an idea that will blossom in the spring given some deep listening, compassion and patience. Dream.

 

Changing Tides and Mothers and Daughters

Changing Tides and Mothers and Daughters

I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.

I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is Sacred.

I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task

I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.

I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.

I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.

I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.

I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.

I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.

I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.

I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.

I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe, I Believe.

Mary Anne Perrone

 

I write this post on the eve of change. I understand that life is nothing but a constant flow of change. Somehow, even with this knowing, I am constantly caught off guard in moments such as these, as if the air has been knocked out of me and I can’t catch my breathe. I understand change is my teacher and one that I continue to struggle with. Resistance is futile. Change will stampede in when least expected and demanded attention. Every ounce of denial I throw at it is rejected. I am powerless in its throes and dislike this feeling immensely.

 

Where do I begin? If you have read a few of my previous posts, you know that my daughter and her boyfriend live with me at present. My daughter has lived with me for the past few years beginning during a time of great distress and upheaval in her life. It was a difficult transition at first. She headstrong and secretive not exposing her coming and goings, me newly divorced and just beginning to flex my independence muscle. Suddenly and without premonition, we were thrown into a partnership that was anything but comfortable. In fact, for the first full year, she slept on my living room floor of my small one bedroom apartment that represented my first foray into independent living.

 

I struggled to find my new normal. Faced with a constant assault of chitter chatter, facetime conversations and late night arrivals I was unsettled. I would often find hair dye on the bathroom cabinets and bad food in the refrigerator. Forget my no shoes in the house rule, that went out the door as soon as she moved in with her high heels and sneaker collection that screamed style next to my clogs and sandals. My living room had become a hostel with pillows and blankets strewn about. At the same time, she was traveling periodically for work, the side effect being a permanent piece of luggage lying about and used as a dresser in between jobs. Her schedule was the complete opposite of mine. I woke up at 5:00am and went to bed by 8:00pm. She was up by 10:00am and often went to bed just as I was getting up.

 

I worried about her late at night as I had never done when she lived alone. Having her under my roof somehow increased my responsibility and I demanded that she text me if she was not coming home so that at least I knew she was okay and not on the side of the road. It was an uneasy relationship but one founded in love. We had all the right reasons for “putting up” with each other and our love for one another was the glue that kept us from screaming in frustration.

 

Over time, the waters began to calm. We learned to speak our mind without crying and had meaningful conversation instead of arguments. I learned to loosen the rope and only voice my opinion in matters of practicality such as finances and cleanliness. I reminded myself that her personal life was just that, hers. I even managed to sleep some nights and not lie restless in my room waiting to hear the door open, breathing a sigh of relief that she had made it back to our sanctuary safely. She had moments of manic cleaning in which she vowed to “get her life together” and was a whirlwind of activity inside our little apartment. The blankets folded, clothes tucked neatly away organized. These would often be fleeting, but progress is progress no matter how small.

 

The good life starts only when you stop

wanting a better one.

—Bertrand Russell

 

We made the joint decision to move closer to my work and into a bigger space. She began paying rent and was a roommate in every sense of the word. What had once been passing moments of adulting now became more regular and we eased into a more mature relationship of equals. She began dating a wonderful young man and he too moved in with us as he struggled with the time between college and medical school. I dove into my work and strived to find some sense of balance with my health needs and desire to forge my way in a new field. At the same time she signed me up, despite my great reluctance, for online dating. A moment that will forever be a point of humorous recall between the two of us. In just a few seconds she was chatting with men online as if she was me as I stood back appalled. The tables were turning in the most interesting of ways.

 

As I took tentative steps with a heart in recovery, she was by my side encouraging me to just try. No expectations and no promises. I on the other hand, encouraged her to look forward to a career transition and a more permanent work situation. In many ways, there were times our roles saw a complete reversal and we established a sisterhood of togetherness as two adult women. We talked about many things that I never spoke about with my mother. Sometimes uncomfortable, but freeing in the letting go of what had been held inside far too long. No more shame about past experiences, just love.

 

With my daughter moving out into a sanctuary of her own, I cannot help but reflect on the time we had together. As women, we push our daughters to leave the home and experience the world, yet we do not provide avenues for them to celebrate their womanhood soon enough. The power and beauty of a strong woman resides in her acceptance and love of her feminine power. I like to think that our time together was an opportunity for both of us to reclaim this power. We will forever be as different as oil and water, but it is in spite of these differences that we have found the perennial common ground. We see each other as beautiful souls and respect the journey we have taken thus far. I have no illusions that life will be easy moving forward, but I am sure that I have a kindred spirit in my daughter. We can talk about the things that concern us and the prospects for the future. Our love for each other has survived the heat of unrest and will continue to persist no matter what life has in store.

 

Becoming Alike in Our Differences

Becoming Alike in Our Differences

Sometimes hidden from me

in daily custom and in trust,

so that I live by you unaware

as by the beating of my heart,

Suddenly you flare in my sight,

a wild rose looming at the edge

of thicket, grace and light

where yesterday was only shade,

and once again I am blessed, choosing

again what I chose before.

-Wendell Berry    

 

Speaking with some of my student employees, I found myself in a philosophical conversation that was familiar ground. Always slightly out of step with my peers, it was refreshing to tread the fertile ground of the “why” question with younger minds. I should preface this by saying the school I work for is an experimental art school and both faculty and students tend to walk the edge of what is considered fringe in thought and practice.

The conversation turned to the idea that people in close proximity become inadvertently like-minded.  Is it human nature to form tribes and alliances with other like-minded people?  My question for the students was, “In your differences, are you not becoming more alike?” This caused some head scratching and much debate back and forth. Is it in societies push to diversify that we have stepped beyond embracing uniqueness into siloed tribes of like? Uncomfortable question to be sure.

People like to feel a sense of belonging. Even in fringe communities, the casts of characters often dress the same, eat the same and think the same. I am baffled when I see this happening even at an institution of creative and exploratory practice. Look closely and you may notice the similarities of people in these groups. Yes, they exist outside the social norms of the day, but in their own tribe, they are alike.

As one the wanders from one group to the next, I find it more challenging to be separate. By choosing this lifestyle, I am often alienated from the most unique groups of people. Maybe it is because I am a free spirit yet do not buy into every crystal and aura reading ideology, maybe it is because I am a hippie yet will not run around in a tie dyed shirt barefoot in the woods. These sensibilities do not speak to me in totality. Parts of the lifestyle do, but never everything. This may also be why I find organized religion difficult. I enjoy pieces of most practices, but tire of the all or nothing mentality that is required to call myself Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. I prefer the beautiful flow of mysticism that encompasses many different views but asks the same questions. In the realm of politics, I am an independent. Politics has a pack mentality that sickens me. I am allowed to have my own ideas separate and apart from a party. God forbid I am a conservative that believes in abortion rights or a liberal that believes in lower taxes.

 

Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu

Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion

or cultural system. I am not from the East

or the West, not out of the ocean or up

from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not

composed of elements at all. I do not exist,

am not an entity in this world or in the next,

did not descend from Adam and Eve or any

origin story. My place is placeless, a trace

of the traceless. Neither body or soul.

I belong to the beloved, have seen the two

worlds as one and that one call to and know,

first, last, outer, inner, only that

breath breathing human being.

-Jelaluddin Rumi

 

Reading Wendell Berry, his “wild rose” speaks most specifically to me as one that hides under the radar but blooms nonetheless. Each group of people that I interact with has something to teach and that is what is so fascinating to me. Whether I borrow some of the ideas or not is completely up to me. Being different requires strength in standing alone. Solidarity with self can be difficult in practice. It is saying no when everyone around you is saying yes; it is being comfortable being the only voice for your point of view. Maybe the answer is not to continually seek out people more like us; maybe it is to flourish among others that are different. In this way we can celebrate our differences with no expectation to conform to a specific type of rebellion.

We are all members of the human race. In this way we are all the same. Given the freedom to explore our personalities we flourish into a gorgeous field of wildflowers, each different but as beautiful as the one before. A daisy does not try to be a rose or any other flower for that matter, the daisy just blooms. Each flower, standing alone and blooming creates the togetherness of the field, breathtaking in totality only because of these differences. The next time you are in a group of people, find those most different from yourself and spend some time with them. You may discover a few things that interest or speak to you, even if just to observe, listen and learn.