Hearts that Ache

“I think many people can relate to that excruciating pain of love gone wrong. I’d rather have a broken arm than a broken heart.” – Christie Brinkley

Heart Ache

There is heartache that comes from a love with a partner, there is heartache that comes from loving your children, from loving your brother, from loving your mother, your father, your friend, from seeing someone with no home or someone who can’t be in their home.

How do you avoid heartbreak? You turn away from what hurts like it isn’t there.  You do things that don’t feel right, and your heart breaks another way.

You do them because you are trying to change something.  Make something new happen.  But you still feel left out. You still feel undone, unfinished, unsure, and you do it anyway. You feel aches that you never knew were aches, you tie shoes, you go grocery shopping, you have conversations, and you still feel heartache.

Whose heart do you break beside your own when you do things for the wrong reasons?   Whose breaks when you do something wrong for who you are?  Whose heart breaks when you don’t do something wrong for who you are?

Hearts do ache, that is part of their job, besides love, besides expansion, besides contraction, besides aching. 

Part of what hearts do is tell you something else needs to happen, something needs to expand, something needs to be considered, something needs to speak from the heart.

You study Buddhism to learn to turn towards the ache, to not turn away, not run away and it all still aches, it gets better, and then the ache comes back with a new cut, intended or unintended. And eventually, not soon, but later, you can learn to distract yourself from the ache, to learn what is about ego and what is about heart, where to focus, where to pay attention, and where to draw your attention away.

My mother, Florkila, told me to get a tougher skin, but I never figured out how to do that.  I knew there was something right about that, but I couldn’t figure it out. And so, heartache is a challenge and takes me to find articles about how heartache actually is a thing that affects you physically, Broken Heart Syndrome. 

I want to leave this with a ray of hope, with the hope that aches go away and never come back, or aches heal and never need attention again.  There is hope, but it is different than that.  The hope lies in the heart, the heart that aches, and loves, and aches and loves, and keeps beating, keeps pumping life into our veins. There is hope in knowing that everything, Everything always, Always changes.

 

~Thank you to Carol L. and Lara S. for always being “with” when things have to travel deep and Thank you, Maira Kalman, for the inspiration to just write as things are, to be quirky, to let things land where they land, be complete or incomplete.

I Am Not Who I Think I Am… I Am Not Who You Think I Am

The fairy child, is the changeling, the one who grew up with the humans.  

I am the human child taken to live with the fairies.  Or, I have a secret wish that that is what happened.

She told me when we met that she was not a nice person and said it more than once.  When would I just take someone at their word???  Really believe what they say?  Instead, I respond out loud or in my head with, No, you really are a nice person. and I know the nice will come out.  What keeps me from hearing them and letting go of them?

It was a screaming text that jumped at me.  It said, Who are you? Who were you? And then,  You are removed from the group.  I stopped text-talking to her at that point.  The texting that lead to this was fast and furious, she seemed frantic. But who can tell from a text?  I had angst that felt like high school, a feeling I never wanted to feel ever again.   The vibration of anxious drama was too old, like a stale brioche and too familiar, like an old grimy college couch that swallows you because the cushions have lost their bounce.  A lot was said but she didn’t seem to want a conversation.

Needs were spoken to the wrong person, me, a person who could not fulfill what was being asked.  I did speak/text that to her, as kindly as I could.  I did say what was my truth about my limitations, but it was not a wanted response.

There was a time that I fit a picture and my life looked like it was “supposed to”.  I worked hard to wrap myself around what someone else wanted from me.  Something just to the side of truth that put me beside my self.  It made a rosy picture of okay-ness surrounded by geraniums.  Things looked like they “should” and that pleased me for the moment and seemed to please others, though I don’t really Know that last part.

What is that “supposed to”?  Currently, I am not married, I don’t live in an upscale neighborhood, I don’t have a station wagon or van parked in my driveway,  my partner is my dog and I live in a room in a house with a family I met through an Airbnb rental.  And, I am happy or better said, I am content.

If you had told me at 18 that this is where I would be at my mature age, a part of me would have been excited at the thought.  Another part of me, the part that won in those days, would be terrified and would say, absolutely not!

How much fear runs us, runs us all the time?  I think we become so accustomed to fear being a driving force that we barely recognize it for what it is and what power it has over us and our decisions, how we live our lives.  The fear of losing something or someone, the fear of losing ourselves or the fear we have already lost our self, surfaces, and panic ensues.

Anger and fear are drivers that are too often drunk.  They lead us down conversations we might wish we’d rather not had.  Let me say, not always. But I can’t think of a time I chose not to speak from anger or fear and regretted it.  I can think of more instance than not, that I spoke from anger or fear and definitely regretted it.

It is a time for women to be speaking up.   I am a woman learning to shut up, learning to speak when necessary, and for now, life works better that way, at least in my head.

A special thanks to Kim for helping me keep my mouth shut.

Sometimes We Don’t Know

This past year has been one of surrendering to all I don’t know.

My heart can become muddled over this process of surrendering.  I carry hope and fear around with me as if they were mini-me’s swaddled and attached to my hip, crying for constant attention as to which will get fed first.  On a daily basis, I can feel my impatience, my need to know, and my hopes and fears. My busy mind wants to distract me with thinking that every thought and feeling I have is very real.

My work becomes something of a cliché of being with what is, right now, right here. It is no easy task, and the most difficult part is getting my brain to join me in this being with what is.  It wants to “do”, and fix and make things happen.  So, I resist answers, and solutions and wonder when and how I will know what is next. It is an untethered feeling but inside, I don’t feel untethered. Inside I know everything is working out.  Not by magic and not by force, but by letting possibilities unfold.

The home I stay in is in a low-income community of Evanston, Il. The children in the neighborhood have lives I know little about.  I only know what I see. From time to time a mom is yelling in a tone of frustration, for their kids to come home, or the kids show up at the park when it is snowing and 32 degrees and they are sockless with feet falling out of their gym shoes, no gloves on and I feel cold for them and send them home to get something warmer. Or, like the other day, I take them to Goodwill and buy them gloves, socks, and boots because they tell me they don’t have things warmer.

When I take my soulful dog, Henry, to the park, they come running, gleefully yelling his name and he greats them with a full body wag and jumps to meet them.  The kids are full of life and energy and adorable!  They seem hungry for a hug and signal me by leaning their head against me, and I ask, do you want a hug and each time, they say yes. So we hug and the sweetness of connection is good. It is one of those moments where I, and perhaps they, can forget our differences of color, age, background and just connect. We talk about Henry, school, life, and they take turns running or walking Henry around the park. I learn a lot from these kids and the innocence they still have. I love them and wonder how I will tell them I will be leaving when I know I will.

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In some cases, these are children, burdened with parenting children. Their side of life is a ways away from what I have known and my kids have known. They raise questions for me that I have always asked about the deep inequality of our society and more profoundly, the deep wounds inequality makes in young people’s souls.

Maybe it is my imagination but it seems there was a time when more of our society and government felt a responsibility and cared about all who did and did not have, who was safe and who had shelter.  There was certainly a feeling that it mattered if our kids were safe at school, which outrageously has become a question and challenged in these times.

I feel such a mix of hope, sadness and, fear for these kids on my block, and what lies in their future.  I know some will thrive no matter what, some will do okay and some will drown regardless of resources, programs, encouragement and plain humanitarian caring.

I want to gather all these kids up, give them 3 square meals a day, teach them about junk food and other things about living healthy, give a few hugs a day as needed, tell them that life works out, and hold them close. Connect them to their roots and offer them wings.  The best I can hope for is that our interactions are positive enough that something about our meetings will stick with them and be something they can use one day.

There is an old Chinese proverb that says parents must give their children two things, roots, and wings.

“I have the roots. Now I want wings…Off to Paris to follow my dreams. Be brave, Ida and Morris.  We will meet again in that starry-eyed city. You know I have always lived by my dreams.  And now they have come true.  Roots and wings, roots and wings.  I’ve got to go, Daddy-o.”

~Max, the dog, from Maira Kalman’s Max Makes a MillionMax Makes a Million

Letting Go and Letting Go

4/2/17 Thoughts on weeding out, de-cluttering and letting go.

I have nothing new to say here, I just have my thoughts, my pain, and ultimately my freedom.  I want to make the letting go significant.  I want to know that what I let go of, makes someone happy or is useful to someone.

I held on to things and let go of many. I still have 40+ boxes of stuff stored in my garage!  It all needs another good combing, but not this time around. I held onto a bathroom rug that was my mother’s.  It seems silly, a bathroom rug, really? Not just because it was my mother’s but because it is good quality and big and I think of my parent’s house in La Jolla that offered such comfort to all of us, my kids, their dad and I. When I see that rug, I think of feeling well taken care of, having plenty…plenty of love, connection, and things, lots and lots of beautiful things..

I held onto the New Yorker cartoon of a zen monk meditating with all of his crap behind a beautiful screen, a cartoon my mother framed and had hung in the bathroom which is a tradition I have kept. It has been in a bathroom ever since she gave it to me. It will go in another bathroom one day again.  That is, if I can find it in all the well-marked boxes. Well, my intention was to “well mark” them.  I just won’t know how well marked until it is time to find something, like the framed cartoon for the next bathroom.

That cartoon represents a tradition in my family of emitting peace and holding the crap behind the screen. This is the tradition I keep trying to change with every move I make.  With each move I make a little headway and always wonder what I will do with all this stuff when I am a Buddhist nun somewhere in my future dreams. I am tired of the energy it takes to keep turning away from what is behind the screen.  And yet, the struggles of letting go are deep and ancestral.  I have gone through nearly every item I own in detail, making decision after decision, keep, don’t keep, keep, don’t. I am doing it, sometimes down to a spotted paperclip or gold pen, or the metal yardstick my mother felted the back of so she could use for sewing. 

Some of these decisions were choices my mother didn’t want to make. Or was it her way of leaving something of herself behind? I know I am holding on to things to leave something of me and my history behind. As I am packing I wonder if my kids will be the ones to go through these boxes and what will they think about or what unanswered questions will stir in their minds.

Many people have quoted the feng shui book to me, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. They tell me all I have to do is hold the object in my hand and ask if it makes me happy or do I love it.  But the questions are more simple and more complex than that. There are objects that hold memories, memories I want my children to learn about, memories my mother wanted me to learn about, memories that keep the lineage, and the familial connection to what is good, true and beautiful. And the memories have energy.  It is that energy I am trying to untie from and still hold onto the memories. And the whole time, the chatter in my head is saying you are letting go of the wrong things, the valuable things, or you are holding onto the wrong things, the things that don’t really matter.  The truth is, I am holding onto what I am not ready to let go of yet.

I let go of 8 car loads to the Good Will, 4 trips to the consignment store, I sold a few beds and furniture on OfferUp and Nextdoor. and took two trips to Clars Auction Gallery .  I brought Clars a coral necklace still with the Marshall Field’s box. It was my great aunt’s and then her daughter’s and then my mother’s and now mine. It now seemed easier to let go of.  For god’s sake,  no one has worn it for over 40 years or possibly longer. It sat in the box making me nervous that I would somehow lose it or it would get stolen. I knew it was time and it would have been so much easier to let go if nice the lady at Clar’s hadn’t explained to me how it was made and the details of each bead, the gold, the cameo.  But I stuck to my guns and it is up for auction in April. I may regret it, but I may feel a bit more free. I won’t know till I am somewhere in my future life, nun or no nun.

 

 

 

 

 

Today The Mojave

4/3/17

“The transition from the hot Sonoran Desert to the cooler and higher Great Basin is called the Mojave Desert. This arid region of southeastern California and portions of Nevada, Arizona, and Utah, occupies more than 25,000 square miles.”

Wikipedia: The Mojave Desert (pronunciation: /mˈhɑːvi/[5][6] mo-hah-vee) is an arid rain-shadow desert and the driest desert in North America.

Henry and I left Needles, CA this am, drove through the deeply beautiful lands of a rain-shadow desert, The Mojave, on I40 and arrived in Gallup, NM this afternoon.

At some point on the 5+ hour drive, I became overwhelmed with the amazing and varied landscapes of our country.  I was awed by the multiple layers of rust, golds, pine greens, and sky blues as they textured over and around the Mojave, its mountains, and rocks. As the tumbleweed blew erratically across the highway it seemed to have avoided the paint brush and just remain a dry beige. (Note I said highway, not freeway and that’s how you know I’m not in CA anymore.) The rocks that look carefully painted, are between 1.7 and 2.5 billion years old, and I am a small speck that has a large impact on something so ancient, so grand, so beautiful and so precious.

Between awesome, stunning views and thoughts of responsibility for taking care of what was all around, I was overcome with apprehension over what we have done to our planet? What are we doing?  We have plants and animals in the mountains, deserts, streams, waterfalls, lakes and oceans depending on us. Depending on us like a baby depends on its mother’s milk. Again, what are we doing? Who do we think we are?  Most importantly, the question is, what am I doing, and what is right for me to do?

I believe we are stewards for the plants, animals, and humans of these lands. Dictionary.com . Steward, [stoo-erd-ship, styoo-] the responsible overseeing and protection of something considered worth caring for and preserving:  New regulatory changes will result in better stewardship of lands that are crucial for open space and wildlife habitat.

Sometimes t can feel like the earth is bleeding. As I drove along, it seemed as if I could feel its yearning, its desperation for us to recognize its power, and know how dependent we are on it and how absolutely necessary its thriving existence is for us to just breath and live.

I know I have done some good things for this earth and I know I haven’t. I know my mother was right about using natural fibers like cotton, linen, silk, wool, and cashmere, not just because they felt good, but because they were natural to human living. I know my mother was right about minimally using man-made medicine so there is less to contaminate our bodies and less to throw out and contaminate the waters and all who drink it. I know my mother was right and I know there was a value that says we need to take care of ourselves, we need to take care of the land, and we need to take care of everyone around us. I know she was right.

What would it be like if I could allow these lands to be something sacred; something that I let in enough to change me, rather than always being about me changing it, expecting it to accommodate me, make me happy.