A few years ago I was walking down 5th Avenue on my way to work. I’d just come out of Duane Reade with a package of salted peanuts, when I found myself next to a rather distraught homeless man. His clothing was loose and his pants were falling down. He was old, and his skin was sunburned. He wasn’t crying but he was wailing about how hungry he was. There was pain in his voice and his deep grooves in his face.
“Hey,” I said gesturing toward him to get his attention. “You want my peanuts?”
He continued wailing and waving his hands in the air. He didn’t look over to acknowledge me.
“Yo!” I repeated a bit more aggressively. Our shoulders were parallel to each other. “It’s not much, but do you want my peanuts?”
He looked straight ahead, intoxicated by his own emotions. Perhaps he was mentally ill or maybe he just didn’t hear me, but my offer went unacknowledged.
“I’m hungry!” he kept repeating. “So hungry.”
I tried to get his attention one more time, but when it didn’t work, I shrugged, sped up and kept my peanuts to myself.
“How bizarre,” I thought, stifling my exasperation.
At one time or another, we’ve all been the hungry homeless man who didn’t see the peanuts being offered. Sometimes we get so attached, so caught up in the drama of our perceived lack, that we can’t see the opportunities in front of us.
I also think, we’ve all been the person with the outstretched hand…frustrated that someone ignores our kindness — Irritated that someone would rather suffer than accept help. We, with our bruised egos and outstretched hands, must learn to let go of expectations. Sometimes people don’t want our peanuts. Sometimes they don’t
even need them. Sometimes a soul must walk its own path in its own way…and an outstretched hand may not be helpful, even though we think we’re Florence Nightingale.
In both cases — the hungry soul and the offering soul — must let go. The hungry soul must let go of what they’ve known to embrace what they seek. The giving soul must let go of their own ego — she must let go of any expectations — because the only way to truly give is to do so without expecting ANYTHING in return. Anything else is just…well…masturbatory.
So I ask you, where in your life are you choosing deprevation over sustenance? Is there anyone in your life that you are trying to feed against their will?
Maybe it’s time to let go…
“I’ve learned that you can tell a lot about a person by the way (s)he handles these three things: a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”
― Maya Angelou
How do you handle Christmas tree lights?
I believed in Santa Claus until I was 12.
I swear, I did.
Though my friends told me Santa wasn’t real, I refused to believe it. After all, each year I went to sleep with an empty tree and, each year, I woke up with a tree full of presents.
Year after year of granted wishes was evidence enough for me…you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Initially, I ignored the naysayers, but as testimonial mounted, I took my doubts to my mother:
” says there’s no Santa, is that true?”
“of course not,” Mom replied. “Santa is real.”
At first I just relied on my mother’s word, but as I got older, I asked logistical questions like “how does Santa get all those places in one night (this was before the days of NORAD)?”
When Santa suddenly went on a diet and started eating Weight Watchers meals instead of cookies…I should’ve known something was amiss. After a while it became ridiculous; willful ignorance. I just didn’t want to face the truth that perhaps Santa was my mom.
When my mom finally told me the truth, I , of course, was angry…but mostly I felt stupid. Stupid to have trusted something that didn’t make sense. Stupid to have believed in the face of overwhelming doubt.
Stupid that I looked so stupid in front of all my 12 year old friends.
Looking back, here’s what I’ve learned: I love to believe in the unknowable. Though it leads me to frequent disappointment, my innocence and my unwavering belief in magic are probably my best attributes. These two things allow me to see clearer than most — to see beyond what is in front of me, and to see invisible connections that most people wouldn’t see.
Santa Claus is magic. Magic is alchemy. Alchemy is transformation, and…transformation happens every single day.
By that logic…Santa Claus is real.
And so today, Christmas Day, someone should give you permission to believe in the impossible. Someone should inform you that… that thing you are ashamed of, the attribute you try to hide, is in fact your greatest earthly gift. In this season, often robbed of its religious implications, know that you, AS YOU ARE, are one of God’s greatest gifts. Even when you are naughty, but especially when you are nice….you are a unique and priceless treasure. You…at your best (and even at your worst) are the reason for this very
It’s no coincidence that we celebrate the birth of Christ at a time when days are shortest, and the sun is farthest from the equator…
This holidays bears clear messages: even in our darkness there is immense and unwavering light. In our shadows, in the places we equate with death — Jesus, Mary and Joseph are doing the electric slide. We are never without light…everything we possess is a gift.
So hug yourself and smile at the icky parts. Hug the family members you’ve been fighting with all year. Remember Jesus, remember Santa, remember the Festavus feats of strength….
Because…everything…everything…everything…is a gift.
Christmas challenge: Identify ONE overlooked aspect of yourself that is actually a gift. How can you give this gift of yourself in the upcoming year?
I don’t usually blog on Fridays, but if you’re reading this blog, it means you’ve survived the
Zombie Mayan Apocalypse. Mazel Tov!
If you ‘re anything like me, you only have a passing understanding of this event, but the gist of it is: the Mayan calendar only goes up to 12/21/2012. We’re all supposed to die today.
While I didn’t run out and buy provisions or anything, I do understand that beliefs have power. Hold on, hear me out, I’m not a wack-a-doo, I swear: marriage is an idea, racism is an idea, gender is an idea, money is an idea that runs the world.
Make no mistake; beliefs, especially long-held ones, take on energy of their own. Beliefs in our collective consciousness hold an incredible weight. And so this Mayan apocalypse slash Christmas Season has us moving through some schizophrenic energy: smashed between the energy of death and the energy of rebirth.
That, my friend, is some powerful shit.
How do we exist in this space? We shake and wobble; break apart to come together. As a nation, we grieve over tragedies like Newton, CT and Hurricane Sandy. We are all trying to understand how sickness can breed violence and innocence can be destroyed. Things we take for granted: electricity, gasoline, safe schools, the lives of children…are all coming into question. Nothing is secure. Questions breed more questions, and I’d wager there aren’t any easy answers.
Meanwhile, individual dramas rage on. We find ourselves knee-deep in our own private pain: the death of a loved ones, ended relationships, betrayals of our trusted friends. Support systems are collapsing and changing in ways we don’t yet recognize. We took pictures with our eyes closed and the Polaroids haven’t developed. We struggle to find meaning in fuzzy images we’ve created.
All this amidst Christmas. The energy of celebration and the energy of mourning; the power of birth and cloudiness of death…we are at the apex of contradiction.
But we’re never ever there alone.
I’m not a political blogger – I’m not an overwhelmingly political person — and so my solutions are not political. All I can do today, from my corner of the web and my corner of the world, is send you love. So let my words be a blanket to cover you if you are grieving. Let my heartbeat be a soundtrack to help you dance away your pain. Let every bone in my body be a guide post – a message that, although we may feel seem lost, we’re all…okay.
By and by…we’ll get through and our difficulties will uncover gifts beyond our understanding.
The other day I got a text from a friend who read my blog.
“You’re not alone,” she said.
And so I share that with you. You’re not alone, my friends. None of us are.
Did I ever tell you guys about the time I went to a Nar-anon meeting? No? Well, That’s probably because it was supposed to be anonymous.
For those who don’t know, Nar-anon is an international support group for anyone who has been impacted by a friend, family member, or loved one battling narcotic addiction.
It’s weird, but until I found myself sitting at a pint-sized table in, what appeared to be, a third grade classroom, I thought al-anon and nar-anon were for folks who had loved ones in recovery. I thought the addict went to NA and the lover/family member went to Nar-anon. And I thought everyone lived happily ever after.
It was a nice thought, but I don’t know why I thought this.
Even as I walked into the meeting that night facing a reality that was NOT the one I just described (the person who inspired my visit wouldn’t even acknowledge the addiction problem), I felt like I was going to hear stories of triumph..I guess I thought everyone would be talking in the past tense.
I quickly realized that these souls were trying to heal while actively dealing with addicts in various stages of addiction. Translation: NO ONE was talking in the past tense.
But for various reasons, these folks could not walk away from their loved ones.
I realized it wasn’t about a happily ever after situation — it was a — how do I find peace and healing today… for this hour…in this lifetime…amongst the chaos…
How do I survive until the next meeting.
So I learned a bit about Nar-anon that day, but more than that, what I really learned (and continue to relearn) was: your own peace and healing CANNOT be contingent on the progress of another.
It just can’t. It doesn’t work. You have to make the choice to heal…even if those around you stay sick.
We fall into these traps — as soon as she does this, I can do/feel this — but those are our excuses because we are not ready to heal. We can spend our whole lives in this place of waiting, but there’s a good chance we’ll be miserable, and there is no guarantee that the person we’re waiting for will wake up. Chances are…we’re both asleep, but dreaming separate dreams.
I’m so grateful for those souls who welcomed me to their meeting, and let me cry with them. I look much younger than I am, and I’m sure they were a bit confused by my presence, but inadvertently they granted me
permission to save and heal myself.
I have so much respect and awe for the bravery it takes to heal. I walked into that meeting focused on “my addict,” and walked out scared, confused, but focused on myself.
Today, I re-remember that healing myself is my priority.
So as we walk toward the end of the world together (Mayan mayday)…let us be good to ourselves…so that we can authentically be good to one another other.
What’s standing in the way of your healing?
My sister-in-law is a yoga instructor. She’s good too – I can vouch for her. Over the summer, we did sunset yoga on her rooftop, and it was single-handedly the best class I’d ever taken. She has a way of making you feel like you don’t have to strain to find the pose; the pose finds you. That mindset eliminates all of the anxiety around yoga: you stop thinking about whether you’re doing it right, or why you are so inflexible. Your arms and legs and torso just float and wobble until…click.
Your body finds the pose.
Today, I am sad. I am very very sad. Like I’m sad in my body – my chest feels sad, my limbs feel sad, my neck doesn’t want to support my head…It’s crazy. I feel like there’s an invisible drain that’s sucking my energy away. I’d give anything to get out from under this cloud. As I type this, I wonder if these feelings are my own…
Hopefully, by the time this reaches your inbox, I’m on my way to get a morning massage. A marma massage – which is supposed to specifically target the 108 points in the body where mind and emotion meet.
Trust me, I need it.
Anyway, this sadness is disempowering. I don’t know what to do with it. Nothing – not writing, meditating, getting angry or acting out – nothing seems to assuage the feeling. Typically, if I’ve done something to someone, I can change it, I can apologize and compensate for my transgressions, but what happens when both parties have missed the mark so many times that there’s nothing left to do? You can’t tell who is in the right or wrong anymore? Your apologies are smothered under layers of your own pain?
I think that’s when its…over.
So today, my life feels like a super uncomfortable yoga pose. Tree pose? Sure. Downward dog? More or less. But I’m not sure how to master the “Over” pose. I’m not sure how to master the yoga of letting go. I’m balancing on one foot, flailing my arms in the air and desperately trying to find this balance. I wish my sister-in-law could ‘yoga-instruct’ my life.
Breathe into it, she’d probably say. The pose will find you.
So I’m breathing into the discomfort and hoping balance finds me. At this point, toppling over would be better than this.
The floor might suck, but at least it’s stabilizing.
Another Rumi quote that resonates with me.
All day I think about it, then at night I say it.
Where did I come from,
And what am I supposed to be doing?
I have no idea.
My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that,
And I intend to end up there.
I have a secret: I’ve never believed in marriage.
People find this odd because my parents appear to have this wonderful and successful marriage…I never feared them getting a divorce or anything like that. Yet, for a long time, I just didn’t believe in the institution. It seemed too permanent to me. How can I know now what I will want for the rest of my life? It’s 8:30 as I type this, and I don’t know what I’m going to eat at 9 am.
When I was dating my ex-boyfriend, Dr. Dolittle (I’m going to start giving these guys names…the ex’s are piling up), I spent so much time being uncertain.
I asked my mother, “How do you know? How do you know you want to get married?”
“You don’t know,” she said.
I was at the table with both her and father sipping tea and eating bagels. This is their morning ritual. My father, at the time, was silent — he doesn’t really do well with emotions.
Now, I should note that whenever I’d asked people this question before, folks almost always said, “ohh, you just know.” Maybe that’s true. I’ll let you know when I get there, but that’s not what my mother told me.
“That’s bullshit,” my mother said. “You don’t ‘just know’ anything. What you do know is: you want to try.”
At the time her notion seemed ludicrous. The idea that you would link your entire life to someone on a “hope” or a “try” seemed dangerous and irrational. Furthermore, I don’t want to replicate my parents’ marriage. It works really well for them, but I want something different, and so her insight made me more fearful of commitment.
I thought: There has to be something to “know,” some tangible evidence that this is the person “for” you.
The truth is, three years later, I think my mother is more right than wrong (hi mom). I STILL believe there is a “soul knowing,” a part of you that feels like you are exactly where you are supposed to be, or a sense of intrinsic connection (though that doesn’t necessarily mean forever), but lately I’m realizing connection alone is not enough to sustain a relationship. More and more, I’m understanding commitments (not just romantic ones) are about a sincere and profound willingness to try.
A (soul) partner isn’t the magic elixir to your life.I don’t think that you look at them and discover that you’re magically equipped to deal w/ their shit, plus your shit, plus the random shit of life. They don’t hold your hand and make you less of a wounded mess. On the contrary, partners kick up shit, trigger insecurities (not purposely; that’s just mean) and shake you outside of yourself. They expose the broken bits and then — my guess is — you both must try to heal.
So even with the most passionate soul connection, there has to be a MUTUAL willingness to try…because 37 years later, whether you are soulmates or not, it comes down to two m-effers at a kitchen table eating onion bagels and talking about the leaky roof. And in those moments where one of you hasn’t yet researched a good roofer, or in the moments where your soulboo is a guy who smells like balls or a girl who hasn’t shaved her legs …you’ve both gotta WANT to try.
The truth is this: we at some point, almost inevitably, forget the person with whom we fell in love. We take loved ones for granted, and sometimes even soulmates, look like assholes.
And that’s when we have to try, and in trying, we take the risk of failing. And so some days, trying means not killing each other, and other times trying gives us energy to squint our eyes so we can actually see the person we “know” we’re meant to be with…
And some days, trying is just shutting the f*@k up.
But, if we can do that, if we can all manage to try…I’d bet this committment thing gets a little easier.
I have a fascination with “knowing” things. I read tarot cards, study my horoscope, read books, and meditate in an effort to get to the wisest part of myself. When that doesn’t work, I flip a coin. I need to know myself. I am always trying to know myself. In my mind, if I can touch the wisest part of myself then I won’t need to be fully present to life. I won’t need to feel as deeply – or I can, at least, avoid feeling the shitty parts. I need to know everything. I try very hard to think of every possibility so as to avoid failure.
But I can’t.
More and more, I am learning that I’ll make myself crazy trying to protect myself from the unknown. I’ll make myself sick trying to read and understand the ways that life works. I’m not in control. There are things I cannot understand. I can’t protect myself from mistakes, from hurt, from surprises. I cannot, no matter how I try, know everything.
But I can…believe. I can pray. I can lose myself in moments, and give things my all. I can reduce fear and lean into the feelings even when they are scary and uncomfortable. I can trust myself without trying to know the outcome. I can cry. I like to cry. I can fall in love and out of love and in love again. I can feel sad, and feel my way through darkness. I can love. I’m really really good at that, at loving people, even when I’m doing it wrong.
Today I surrender to the unknown. I place faith in that which is beyond my limited vision, and I trust in the cycles and rhythms of life. Today, I don’t “know” …I just love.
It’s the only thing I can do.
I tend to blog from two places on my psyche:
1. The place of knowingness — the place where, at this point in my life, I accept a particular idea as truth.
2. The place of pilgrimage — from the frontlines of my journey. I understand that the concept I’m discussing is larger than my understanding. I have no real answers to offer, and I know that what I see in front of me is probably incomplete.
In truth, all of my thoughts come from the place of pilgrimage, but sometimes I’m more confident than others. Some lessons I’ve gotten and some I struggle with.
Today, I’m blogging from the latter place. I feel very lost, and very confused in my own journey. I am understanding myself as a person with needs, but also trying to understand how not to be crushed when someone I love can’t meet them.
My “best friend” and I aren’t speaking. I don’t think we’re in a fight, I just felt she needed to know what I needed. I needed to be able to rely on her. She communicated that she wasn’t in a space to address my concerns. That was about three weeks ago.
My “boyfriend” and I are probably breaking up. We have a palpable connection, but he has stated that he cannot (will not?) meet my needs. There doesn’t, in his mind, seem to be room for compromise. Something great may end as a result.
So I’m left with the faint feeling that my needs are wrong. Intuitively, I know they are not, but logistically I have a very hard time understanding this concept of “needs.” I know, after lots of therapy and self-help books, that it’s okay to have needs. I also know from lots of religious txts and new age books, “needs are an illusion…desire is the cause of suffering.”
And I am suffering. Someone should teach me how to be more patient — unattached. Someone show me how to “wait upon the Lord and be of God courage.”
So today I write, not from a didactic place, but from a place of exasperation. I’m reporting from the frontlines of my unfulfilled needs. I step carefully to avoid land mines and wait for news of peace treaties. I’m afraid that when the war is over…the land will be inhabitable.
Today, I don’t have any answers or quips, reflections, or one-liners about God and life. I sit, fingers moving and ears perked toward inner peace: there’s the faint whisper that the universe will meet my needs….but maybe I have to give up attachment to where and how they are met.
It’s the giving up part that’s really hard…