“Being true to that self involves sifting through the layers of bad advice and unreasonable expectations of others. It requires seeing through your own delusions of grandeur or your fear of failure or your impostor syndrome or your conviction that there is something uniquely and obviously screwed up about your particular self.”
― Elizabeth Lesser, Marrow: A Love Story
As one with a personality that thrives in the grey, speaking a strong opinion sounds foreign and unwelcoming. Ask me my opinion on any sensitive issue and you may leave the conversation never knowing my true view. By design, I hold strong beliefs close. Debating the merits of moral and ethical ideals is in no way appealing to me. My beliefs may shift over time and are framed by personal experience, representative only of self and not the whole.
This may also be why my writing has taken a turn towards prose rather than essays. I enjoy the metaphor in poetry and how words can mean a multitude of things depending on the readers experience. I can now speak to a much larger audience and find a renewed freedom in the metaphorical imagery of poetry. Each new piece is brought to life by evoking personal emotions with little control over the end result. I grab my laptop and start writing as if consumed by what are sometimes dark and uncensored thoughts. It is an exposure in the deepest sense and one that leaves me completely spent.
Should it be me, that others see.
Could I possibly be the one,
who holds center stage, alone in a cage
fearful yet outspoken.
Should I project, all for effect
A false and misfitting equation
Or should I be, completely me
Rejecting all misleading notions.
After writing, I often let the poem sit for some time before returning to read and edit. This is when the awful “imposter syndrome” rages. Looking at otherwise private emotions is a humbling venture. I wonder what in the world was I thinking and how could it be of any importance to others. Slamming my laptop shut, I walk away from my words, my heart, time and time again. Self doubt is so very insidious.
Having repeated this over and over, it is clear that writing is a radical act of bravery. Inherently, I understand publishing intimate thoughts, requires a letting go of obsession with “the other”. I must write for me and only me. It sounds selfish, but the only way in which my unique voice can be heard. By releasing the focus on approval, I am free to take risks, explore uncharted emotional territory and dive as deeply as words allow.
Ultimately, there is only one of me in this grand universe and my singular voice matters. Similarly, the collective voice of humanity also has something to teach, whether it be frightening or inspirational. It is up to each individual how they wish to interpret words, imagery and creative thought. How freeing to know we each have choice in this way.
Authors Note: Years after the fact (blog post here) I still occasionally dream of the two others actors in the unfortunate story of my married life. This time it was her. Forgiveness is a muscle that needs to be flexed in order to keep it mobile. I am continually called to flex these muscles over and over again.
“Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.”
― Mark Twain
I dreamt of you last night. This is not the first time you have visited me in a dream, forgiveness being such a difficult pill to swallow. Just when you think its done, you find yourself choking on the remnants of bitterness.
The image I am left with, after a restless night, is dandelions. When I was a child, I sat outside in the cool evenings and plucked dandelions from the grass. Placing them one by one close to my lips, I would make a wish and blow the seeds of the dandelion into the wind. I was certain by doing so, my wish would come true.
I realized at 3 am that even though I thought I had let go of the past, the darkest spaces of my heart were still holding on. Each dandelion seed represented a hurtful memory, sadness or grief. By holding on to the bud, I was tethered to the tendrils of emotions still lingering within.
“To err is human, to forgive, divine.”
― Alexander Pope
Thinking of you, the person who was unwittingly connected to me by circumstance, I blew symbolic dandelion seeds into the air, releasing all that remained, all that had gone unsaid. While doing so I did my best to conjure up the most glorious rays of love and light….all for you.
As insidious as the darker emotions can be, I am not naive to the fact that more resentment may be hiding deep within the ethers of my psyche. When the darkness creeps back or, should you visit me once again in the silence of night, I vow to send you on your way by blowing the seeds of a dandelion into the light, setting you free -setting us free.
Spending time in nature, one feels how very small they are, so insignificant as compared to the absolute, magic of the natural world. Millions of years: heat, cold, wind and rain have, forged the highest peaks and lowest deserts. Nothing humans are capable of creating has such longevity and complexity.
It takes only a few moments on a petrified sand dune to see the artistry and creativity of nature. No picture or painting will ever capture this visceral sensibility. How humbling to be in the shadow of such depth. Even these words, written on paper, feel elementary as compared to the canyon in which I stand. Any ego I may have inadvertently fostered is crushed in an instant.
Nature is the ultimate equalizer. A keen businessman could stand next to a carpenter in this canyon and wind will knock them both down. No discerning for class, financial stability, education, race, gender…nothing. The heat of midday will bring physical exhaustion and the cool evening breeze, a gentle kiss upon the forehead. Nature has quite a sense of humor.
I can be funny but in general am a serious person. My walk in the woods has left me with one very keen impression. My life is short and what I believe to be of importance is not. My career is a symptom of living in a financially motivated world. My condition is living a human existence as a spiritual being.
Never before have I been so aware of this disconnect. It pains me to the point of sadness. Even while basking in the brilliant light of the natural world, I see how acutely misguided so many are. I see how misguided I have been. Nature equalizes us all in an instant.
Everybody has a little bit of the Sun and Moon in them.
Everybody has a little bit of man, woman, and animal in them.
Darks and Lights in them.
Everyone is part of a Connected Cosmic System.
Part Earth and Sea, Wind and Fire, with some
Salt and Dust Swimming in them.
We have a Universe Within ourselves that mimics the Universe outside. None of us are just black or white, or never wrong and always right.
No one. No one exists without polarities. Everybody has good and bad forces working with them, against them, and within them.~
Fire, water, air and earth; all necessary for life as we know it. As a water sign, I tend to flow with circumstance. Neither one to be overtly confrontational or flighty, I observe, listen and only speak when I am absolutely sure my thoughts are in order. Watery landscapes are familiar territory for me and I quite like living in the flow of this element.
My last post quoted a Hopi elder asking “Where is your water?”. Water can shape a landscape by simply flowing around and sometimes through rock that obstructs. This flow may take millions of years with the end result being a breathtaking canyon. Water can be incredibly strong in the gentlest of ways. Never underestimate the power of water.
What in your existence gives you life? Is it a spiritual practice, family, friends or even a creative pursuit? You must know the answer in order to be fulfilled mind, body and spirit. Without this precious element, flow will be disturbed, and life will be bumpy, dramatic or flighty. When the same challenge is constantly rearing its ugly head and you wonder why life must be so hard, ask yourself this question.
Consider approaching the challenge from a different perspective. If you have tried to be forceful and are not getting the result you desire, flow with the situation. Observe, listen, learn and gather your new perspectives. If you are like me and do a little too much flowing, consider activating your fire element and testing out the fiery side of your personality…in measured doses of course. It will take some time to find the correct balance specific to you.
Do not shy away from darkness in this venture, it is vital to the understanding of self. In order to appreciate joy, one must walk the shores of despair and swim in the tides of grief. Then and only then can joy be given breathe as seen by the sun in the sky above. Even when drowning in self-doubt one can see this distant light, a beacon of possibility. It may seem terribly far, and you might be tired from the journey. Allow the water to carry you through your grief and sadness and towards this light. There is no shortcut, one must walk the shoreline for as long as it takes.
My water has always been writing and my faith. They nourish me in every way by providing strength when the current gets too rough. As I continue walking down the shoreline, I wonder how many more twists and turns the path will take. I see the stream and know that under the surface strong currents and undertow await. I often picture myself floating above the depths, the cool wetness lapping at my sides and the warm sun in my eyes. Water caresses every cell in my body and light lifts me higher. As I float, all the many difficulties that linger below seem so far away. I am weightless, and the journey is effortless in this moment. Find your water and flow.
Broken glass is an eclectic collection of what was once a whole, yet each piece is still able to shine separate from this whole. Think of a stained-glass window. These inspiring works of art are comprised of broken pieces of glass, each able to stand alone in specific brilliance. In totality, the stained-glass window shines like a sunbeam, sending colorful light in all directions. The beauty of this whole does not negate how special each individual piece of glass is. Removing even one piece would change the stained-glass window completely.
How easy it is to forget what makes each of us as individuals shine. We define ourselves by family, friends, job and relationships. It is so easy to forget who we are and what we contribute to the whole. Losing self in another is a slippery slope and the treacherous fall that may occur is not one to be taken lightly.
For empathetic people, this is especially difficult to navigate. We pride ourselves in being helpful, selfless and putting the needs of all others before our own. While this may seem to be a service-oriented way to move about the world, the exclusion of self in all matters is neither healthy are wise. Without goals, creative energy and spirit it becomes impossible to have a voice in any partnership. Each person should intend to uplift the other while gently encouraging their partner to stretch and grow. Without this space one will inevitably become stagnant, a shard of glass crushed by the weight of insecurity.
“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.”
― Anton Chekhov
No one should dim their light for the benefit of another. Each one of us has the opportunity to shine in our own way. The color of the glass we use is up to us as is the manner in which we create our window. As the artist, we have a choice and a voice. It is incumbent on us to not lose sight of our precious light.
Continue to love those in your life. Lend an ear when necessary. Offer a helping hand and gentle encouragement but never compromise who you are and what is important. Shine as brightly as you are meant, dimming no amount of self for the benefit of others discomfort. You will find as you gain confidence, that your stained-glass window is more representative of your shining spirit and gentle heart.
“You have been telling the people that this is the Eleventh Hour, now you must go back and tell the people that this is the Hour. And there are things to be considered . . .
Where are you living?
What are you doing?
What are your relationships?
Are you in right relation?
Where is your water?
Know your garden.
It is time to speak your Truth.
Create your community.
Be good to each other.
And do not look outside yourself for the leader.”
Then he clasped his hands together, smiled, and said, “This could be a good time!”
“There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold on to the shore. They will feel they are torn apart and will suffer greatly.
“Know the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the middle of the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. And I say, see who is in there with you and celebrate. At this time in history, we are to take nothing personally, Least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.
“The time for the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from you attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner and in celebration.
“We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.”
-attributed to an unnamed Hopi elder, Hopi Nation
Driving into Monticello, Utah after having been at Hovenweep for two days was like an assault on my senses. Hovenweep was a mystical place, devoid of obnoxious noise and city lights. The Milky Way and shooting stars painted the night sky, displaying the vastness of the universe. The only audible noise was the gentle breath of the wind against the canyon walls and the swoosh of wings from birds above. It was the closest I have come to peacefulness this entire trip.
The clouds rose every afternoon as if fluffy cotton balls shooting forth from the mesa. Monsoon rains could be seen approaching miles away and in one instance were escorted by a rainbow giving spectacular color to the tumultuous weather. An unexpected electrical storm the first night lite up the entire mesa revealing secrets in the blackness of night. With the ruins close by, any separateness I had felt from others disappeared and was replaced with an embodied lightness felt deeply within.
As my time in Hovenweep began to near completion, the outside world began to knock at my door. It began as a gentle knock with a few emails and phone calls and progressed to a young child’s temper tantrum with escalating business issues disturbing my peace. The only safe space remaining was outside. I could walk the campground next to the ruins, look at the dynamic sky and regain peacefulness if only for a few moments.
“We will be known forever by the tracks we leave.” – Dakota
Upon arriving in Monticello to attend to some much-needed RV housekeeping, I felt the jolt of the unwanted all too quickly. Not only was I back in Utah, the home of some unfortunate memories, but the RV park was right next to the only road through town with constant traffic. The icing on the cake was a dog barking all night. Yes, Monticello felt like the Van Nuys of Utah.
Staring at the map and considering possibilities, I was struck with a feeling of anxious awareness. I have been wandering for the past two months and feel more lost than ever. I certainly have experienced a good number of enlightened moments, but these in no way have given breathe and depth to a greater awareness. What is left is a lingering feeling of being completely lost.
I am not naive enough to believe one trip will produce revelations powerful enough to change my life in drastice ways, but I guess I was expecting something more tangible. I can’t help but think of what my life will be like when I return to Southern California. I had planned to stay in an RV park for six months or so while figuring out the where and what of my next chapter. Now the thought of living shoulder to shoulder with other travelers is not appealing. I need space to breathe, space to ponder and space to just be. National Parks have been ideal for this type of contemplation but are not a long-term solution when considering my current work life.
The question becomes, how does one extend the glow of open space and fresh air and insert this feeling into a constrictive office space with four walls. I am lost as to how I will proceed. Juxtapose this against other personal challenges, and all I see is confusion, gray where I had hoped there would be vivid colors.
Maybe it is within my wandering ideals that I have missed the mark. No matter what natural beauty is approached, I still must find the beauty and calm within myself. No amount of external prodding will assist me in this task. As the Hopi elder states, I must let go of the shore and keep my head above the water. I thought I had already let go simply by releasing my material hold on the world but have now realized letting go involves so many layers of self. I am in the middle of the river with eyes open, yet still struggling to swim.
My work now is to face this transition with an open mind and heart without giving in to a persistent inclination to withdraw further into solitude. As the Hopi elder says so well, “we are to take nothing personally, Least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do, our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt.” While I still require a fair amount of quiet, I cannot remain isolated forever. My walk in the woods has always been a temporary proposition. This too shall end. It is so important that I see this end as a beginning and find joy in all that a beginning allows.
I offer the possibility that we are all wandering home in our own way. It is a slow and tedious stroll that requires patience, resilience and compassion. I miss home so very much, this place I cannot define but know exists. This world is so harsh on the senses and so ugly at times, a difficult place for a sensitive spirit such as myself.
I suppose accepting the wandering and confusion is just a part of the package when living out a life contract. When my journey reaches an end as it will, I hope to finally understand. Then and only then will I be able to say with confidence, I was always right where I needed to be.
Mesa Verde. What words can one speak to paint a picture worthy of the actual? It seems trite to write about a place that speaks and sings as if teaming with life still today. The storms roll in and can be seen miles away in all directions. The ravens playfully squawk, taunting all those who venture this sacred ground. The sun playfully kisses the tops of the mesa and the moon shines with a silver beauty reserved for ancient souls and brilliant spectacles of light.
I could stay in a place like Mesa Verde and be content for the remainder of my life. The dynamic energy is humbling and begs to be explored, not superficially as a passing tourist might. This place is a living, breathing organism and would take a lifetime to understand if only in some small way. I am certain that given the opportunity, I would listen intently to the sky and hope to hear what it has to say.
Returning to Los Angeles fills me with a deep sense of melancholy with the knowing that Mesa Verde lives on. Maybe this is the way the ancients felt, leaving the majesty of these cliffs and the intimacy of these rocks. I understand that thumbprints remain on some walls after having been smoothed by ancient builders. What I would give to rest my finger upon this ancient graffiti and feel the spirits of long ago.
I suspect if given the opportunity, I might find a kindred soul among the ancients. Being one who has never felt of this time, the intimate relationship between people, land and spirit speaks to me as no other place has. How can one return to the bustle of city life, rush hour traffic and the disease of busyness? For the moment, I plan to soak in all this place has to offer in the whispers of the wind and the painting of the sky. I will imprint the memory of this place until I can return once again to walk with the ancients.