Monday, February 29, 2016

The Story

We all tell stories.  Some as transient as clothes or quick jokes that can't be repeated too often- they go out of style.  Some as permanent as bones which act as the pillars to hold up our legacy.  We use them to define ourselves, our world, our lives.  We use them to explain our existence.

But stories are told by storytellers- those who have wit and charisma to spice up the dull parts and add tension and terror where it's needed.  Those who can lilt their words and lengthen their pauses to lull the listener into calm or excitement.   Those who remember how to spot in the crowd, how to deliver the punch line.  The story is just a tool in the aresenal, and it's meaning is given to it by the story teller.

All of our lives are stories, every moment being cataloged and remembered for a specific purpose.  As we tell these stories, as we repeat them over and over again, the truth gets foggier and foggier.  The events they were based on aren't as clearly remembered.  The details get left in favor of the overall message, the purpose of the story.

And what happens when the story breaks?  When the message doesn't match the facts?  Well then the arguing begins.  "That's not how I remember it".  "It didn't happen the way you're saying it did."  "You're exaggerating."  We quibble about the details, we get lost in the facts (none of which are clearly remembered), we get angry at the missed points or the lack of continuity.

And all the while, we miss that we're not telling the same story anymore.  We miss that the purpose has changed.  We miss the message, because the details aren't clear anymore and we can't rebuild the power the tale once had.

It hurts when a story breaks.  It hurts when we realize that maybe it was just a story- that the powerful, almost magical way it carried us was perhaps just a creation of the storytellers.  It hurts when we realize that the facts that made it up in the first place are gone, replaced by memories hand-selected by the story because they supported the message.  It hurts when we can't tell the story anymore because it doesn't feel true.

And when the story breaks down, when the storytellers run out of words... the silence is deafening.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Packing

You don't think about the end when you're at the beginning.  I remember when I moved in- it was a sunny day and I felt so light I thought I might fly over.  I'd been sleeping there for weeks already, slowly emptying out the apartment of belongings and clothes.  The last day, loading the truck and handing in the keys I kept thinking "this is how it's supposed to be."

It was just the two of us- no help was needed.  But I was strong and independent and I carried as much as I could myself.  Getting the dresser in required some tetris skills and I climbed over the bookcase to pull it into place, effectively trapping myself in the truck behind high- stacked wooden furniture.  I couldn't figure out my footing trying to climb out so he reached his hand for me.  Before I knew it he'd pulled me out and thrown me over his shoulder as if I weighed nothing, as if I was just as light as I felt.  I laughed and screamed and the thought repeated: "this is how it's supposed to be."

Now, looking out at half packed boxes and bubble wrap the house looks alien, haunted.  Almost like a crime scene- something happened here that shouldn't have happened.  My room which was for years my space to keep all my nick-nacks and crafts, all my stuffed animals and books, all my things that I collected had become a liability- too much work to be done in the time agreed before I had to get out.  These things which I'd spent years amassing as proof of my happy life... pictures and programs from plays and concerts.  Boxes of Christmas, birthday and anniversary cards collected for happy reminiscence- now too painful to look at.  But I can't bring myself to throw them away.  So they get packed along with all the rest- more ghosts to haunt me later.

There are gifts everywhere- the little kitten stuffed animal he'd hidden tickets to a concert in, a little ape with devil horns and a heart he'd given me for Valentines, plaques and personalized frames he'd used to commemorate my achievements.  The things we keep to remind us that we are loved.  Now bubble wrapped and packed for a later time when I am strong enough to face it, for a time when just breathing doesn't take as much effort.  Something happened here that shouldn't have happened.

The threat of crying lingers so close to the surface I could trip over it, but I desperately cling to the details- what will fit where, what to label the box, how to protect the precious contents.  It's mechanical, concrete, blessedly logical and my brain can comprehend it- unlike those tears.  Unlike the question of how this happened.  It shouldn't have happened.

But it did.  Like it does for so many, like so many others running around with their own ghosts.  I am one of the haunted now.  And I bring my ghosts with me.


Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Road

Everyone stops running eventually, at least that's what they say.  You stop, settle.  Things become ordinary, repetitious- normal.

But she'd tried normal and normal hadn't brought her anything other than a seriously vindictive ex-husband and a mountain of debt so overwhelming she couldn't bear to face it- so she didn't.  She packed a bag (or rather just violently shoved some clothes, tooth brush and paste, deodorant, shampoos and other necessities into a duffle bag which she'd tossed into the back seat of her truck before screeching out of her ex-driveway.)

When she started driving she had no idea where she was going, why, or what it would lead to.  At first she'd managed to convince herself it was supposed to be.  One of those crazy, life-altering universe interventions that made no sense at the time but ultimately ended up putting one exactly where they're meant to be.

But now a glance at the signage let her know that she was most definitely NOT where she was meant to be.  In fact, she had no earthly idea where she was.  Jednota- who the hell had ever heard of Jednota, ever?

A familiar site- in the form of a gas station advertising the brand of cigarettes she'd been smoking since she was 16- prompted her to pull over.  She lingered in the convenience store, mulling over the best choice of snacks and contemplating the origins of the word convenience, when she saw her. 

She was looking at the flavors of frozen slushie with the same discerning eye one would use when considering a choice in diamonds.  The eyes were faded, somehow and there were scars on her face that hadn't been there 18 years ago but there was no mistaking the site of her old roommate.

She hesitated for a moment.  Perhaps out of shock or sheer bodily rejection of movement, but frozen she stood.  Eventually, her brain started working, started playing out the options.  But before she could envision either possibility the woman felt herself being watched and looked up.  She turned her head to look at her more closely, and then her eyes widened.  She displayed no hesiation whatsoever, she was not frozen- she was angry.

Apparently time doesn't heal all wounds.

Friday, February 26, 2016

After the Storm

You can never be too certain  Another squall could start up.  There could be more wind, a backlash of high tides, the skies could blacken again.  People walk around like squirrels- darting and freezing, their heads constantly moving towards the sound or movement sensed from the corner of their eye.

But as the sun emerges and the unnatural stillness takes over there is always the look- the blinking, unsteady gaze of people who've kept their eyes tightly shut in fear.  There's a testing- is the ground steady, the air clear, the passage safe to move forward?  There's a quiet that cannot be mimicked by anything else, by any other circumstances.

And while it will take time, maybe even years, to repair the damage and longer still to understand everything that has happened there is a sense of relief.  The storm has passed.  Life goes on.  Time to rebuild. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Wall

It started out as a pebble, an inconsequential thing that wouldn't even cause one to trip as they walked with ease across the space.  They fell into each other easily and love blossomed the way it always does.  It didn't matter that the pebble was chipped off of something much bigger- neither of them were looking, neither of them sought to see.

As more stones were added, no alarms were raised.  Everyone carries something with them, everyone is weighed down by something.  Here was the place to unburden, to stop bearing the load, to let go.  But the stones were collecting, even then.

Over time, habits developed, as they always do.  A thought or idea not expressed, another stone added.  A feeling strongly felt but denied, another stone added.  Fears and potential disasters holding back the lovers- stone, stone, stone.

But there was still love there.  And the barrier wasn't thick enough to block out their voices, it could not prevent their touch.  They reached each other, still.  And they loved deeply.

Neither one noticed as the wall was built through large and small interactions, through words unspoken and feelings stifled, through hurts and injuries and exhausted options.  Neither one dared to label the difficulty in reaching through, the impossibility of maintaining contact.  Neither one was willing to say that they couldn't see.

And everyday life went on.  Without destruction, without change.  Ignorance is bliss, as they say.  But day after day, the patterns repeated themselves.  Day after day, the wall grew.

They it hit on in a surprise battle, erupting over the slightest push to the now firm tower of stone between them.  A touch and it's extent was realized, it's mass registered.  But they couldn't allow themselves to see, couldn't confront the reality.  Too many stones, too long, too tall, too impenetrable.  Best to leave it be, better to pretend.

The next eruption was sudden and violent- a full-on sprint against the wall and fast, painful recoil.  There were serious injuries- broken bones, bloody limbs, egos on life support and confusion all around. How had such a huge barrier gotten between them?  How long had it been there?  Could they break through?

They yelled to each other over the towering height of the wall and their answers were muffled and faded by the time they reached the bottom.  Their anger intensified and attacks were launched on both sides.  They threw more stones at the wall, trying to break through.  They scratched and clawed at the surface, trying to find a crack they deepen.  The screamed in frustration and beat their fists against the surface, desperate to be heard, to be seen, to be reached.

But the wall was old, older than either could ever allow themselves to admit, and it's barrier stood fast.  Words unspoken are powerful blocks to build upon.

In the end, both sat on wither side- exhausted, spent.  Their energy drained, their spirits defeated.  Eventually, they would pick themselves up and walk off- away from the wall and the person on the other side.  They would tell stories of their isolation, their attempts to break through, their failure.  They would cry and rage and finally drop.  And then, one day, they would go looking for another lover- careful to avoid any stones.

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Middle

There are two different worlds existing in my mind and they are at war with one another.  I cannot reconcile the difference and it feels as if I'm being torn apart by the conflict.

In the past there is a rich warm history.  A family that I was part of.  A decade of love and smiles and laughter.  A decade of family photos featuring me with light in my eyes.  Of weddings, birthdays, and countless celebrations.  Of quiet moments and firm beliefs that I was home.

In the future there is a new, vibrant, wild version of myself.  A woman with fierce passions and unapologetic existence.   A woman with crazy, funky hair and stories beyond imagination.  A woman who is so self-loving that there is no room in her life for anyone else, no part of herself reserved for anyone other than her.  A woman my soul feels called to become.

And in between those two, in the middle of these two worlds, is me.  Petrified of moving forward, sure I can't go back.  Lost in the fog of my confused, frightened thoughts.  Overcome by grief so strong it robs me of breath and filled with fire so hot I cannot ignore it.

Everyone says that this is the place to be.  This is that which we seek when we call upon ourselves to live fully, without reserve.  This is the soul's battlefield and the richest, most fruitful part of my existence.

But I am breathing pain, my heart is beating pain, my brain is drowning in pain.  I am begging for a way out, for an end to this in between, for my life to take the course it must.  But my actions which direct that course, my words that drive the play forward, are trapped in the fear and pain.  Trapped in the middle.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Reading List

There's a scene in the movie Eat, Pray, Love (which is a pretty good representation of the book on the whole) in which my idol Liz Gilbert- played by the brilliant Julia Roberts- is standing at the counter of a book store, being rung up for a whole stack of books about getting over loss, starting over and rebuilding, and the like.  Her face had the characteristic puffy eyes and red cheeks of someone who's been crying heavily and often, and her body carries the exhaustion of someone who has been completely and utterly drained.  The cashier, infuriatingly helpful, points out "You know there's a whole section on divorce."

This was me today, standing at the counter in Barnes and Noble and bitching about the number of journals designed for couples in love to tell their stories and the complete and total lack of journals designed for people in my situation.  Hating myself for playing the part so completely while remembering that scene so very well.  Wondering how in the hell I got to this point in my life and thinking cynically that everyone will end up here at some point.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Plot Twist

I've done it.  I've followed through on something that I've only ever imagined before.  Sometimes in the tiniest, briefest moments of fear, sometimes in full-blown nightmare, sometimes in wistful imagination.  There's been countless moments over the years where the idea existed as a possibility.  And for the most part, I spent ten full years pushing it away.

Because I was attached to the story.  Because I wanted to be right, to have done things right and made the right choices.  Because it was comfortable and I got complacent.  Because changing your entire life around is the scariest thing we can possibly do as humans.

But here's the thing about the complacent life, or being right, or holding on too tightly to our story: it robs us of the fundamental purpose of being here, of living these lives.  I think we're here- wait for it- to grow.  That's all.  Not to reach some milestone or claim some achievement but simply to grow.  To become better versions of ourselves, more fundamentally us.

And here's the thing about growth: it requires change.  And, to use the plant analogy, a lot of manure.

I see lots of memes with pictures of sunlight shining through droplets of water.  Of the freedom we feel when sailing on the wind.  Of the vistas and grand views out on the vast expanses.  I don't see a whole lot with pictures of dirt, soil, shit.  I don't see all the dark, unintended mistakes being touted as what we want, what to look for.  But isn't that exactly what we grow in?

Don't we, like all those seeds buried deep in the dark places, feed off of the stuff that we bury?  The truths we don't want to recognize?  The actions we are too scared to take because they force us into the unknown where everything we hold dear is lost to us in order to make way for something else?

I began this process however long ago literally begging for change.  Asking the universe for my life to be taken in the direction it needed to go, no matter how frightening the prospect was, of how many things would be pulled out of alignment in order for that to happen.  And yet I find myself somewhat shocked with how quickly everything has changed.

I can't say that I'm standing on the edge of a great precipice because I've already taken the leap- I'm out of the house, out of the relationship I've been so firmly rooted in for the past decade, looking for a new pace, new daily lifestyle, new everything.  And there is fear, certainly.  And there is grief from so many harsh realities i'm facing head-on about my past.

But damned if there isn't growth. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

One Moment

There is light around the edges of my body.
It makes my form uneven, soft, out-of-focus.
As if the barriers of me
could melt away completely
Leaving me to bleed out
of the margins.
Out of my own bounds.

I float, like smoke
weightless
but not without substance.

I am made of the same materials as the either.
What makes it
makes me.

And I am free
boundless
limitless
Perfect.

And whatever may happen
after this moment
When the confines
and harsh rules
of reality kick in
I will still be here.
Boundless.
Limitless.
Perfect.
Just as I am.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Community

We were talking this morning about the idea of tribes.  Complex socialialogicical concepts of tribal identity, energy enhancement, radiating archetypes and all the other ethereal ideas.  And we struck upon the question of tribe vs. community.  I have some thoughts.

Tribes, in my mind, evoke images of collectives of people.  People who are working together for a shared goal, hoping for a shared outcome.  People who are defined largely by their shared concept of self, defining who they are by comparing and contrasting with who they are not.  People who are supported beyond the scope of what we hope for while simultaneously threatened with judgement for not meeting the unstated rules of conduct.

And I thought about how limiting that can be, how stifling, how scary.   How that can enhance qualities in humans that are dangerous to enhance.  Or how it can diminish, or force one to hide the qualities that ought to be explored, considered and practiced.  It's a phenomenon I've observed countless times, and will, undoubtedly, experience again.

But here's what the experts say:  they're not working.  They're not helping us- they're prohibiting us from living our authentic will, our true purpose.  It's not that they're bad in and of themselves, it's that they're remnants of a time long gone, a structure that no longer matches reality.

In this global world, we disservice ourselves by identifying as only one tribe, as only one identity.  In this world of interconnected ideas, shared concepts, and universal experiences the old world rules don't apply.  And trying to conform to them doesn't work.

And that got me thinking about the idea of community.  I see community as similar but more diverse. In a community, we collect around shared goals but respect the individual differences of each member.  The different religions, ethnicities , languages, cultures.  We see those differences and respect them while still appreciating what each individual can contribute.  It's not about conforming, it's about exploring, wondering, being curious.

And I've thought, that while I may not have a tribe, I do have many communities.  And I am incredibly, incredibly lucky to have them.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Creating

Fragments and visions and dreams.  Random memories that invade the space between your ears when you're not paying attention.  A poem someone you loved once read to you.  Pain.  Love.  Confusion.  Passion.  That fuzzy feeling that comes from a few too many drinks.

And in the quiet, in the pause, in the moment between events- there are sparks.  There is kinetic energy.  There is raw, uncontrollable power.  There is the essence of the soul.

It comes out in rapid-fire brush strokes on colorful canvas.  It comes out as words placed in careful sequence on blank pages.  It comes out as guitar chord progressions and experimental sounds and heavenly movements of the body in the elaborate, infinite dance of life.

It is made of the intangible and visceral.  The imagined and the deeply felt.  The fantastical and all too painfully real.  And it is the essence of the soul that creates it.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

One Step at a Time

We've all been in crisis situations where we've heard this phrase.  I've advocated people do this countless times.  I've said it offhandedly, just tossing it out as a shared understanding, a flippant saying everyone knows.  I've offered it as a genuine, meaningful piece of advice with all the empathy I can muster behind it.  And I've said it to myself, over and over again when getting overwhelmed.  But for the life of me, I'm not sure if I've ever done it before today.

One step at time got me up a flight of stairs when my legs felt like they would buckle underneath me.  One step at a time kept me breathing through the constant threat of hyperventilation.  One step at time checked off tasks one by one when the simplest requirement was so overwhelming my mind panicked in response.

And I had to talk myself through it, every single step.  "You're just going up the stairs, that's all you're doing."  "You're just breathing, that's all you're doing."  "You're just shampooing your hair, that's all your doing."  Just.  Just.  Just.  Because anything more was impossible.

I have to believe there will ultimately be value in this.  I have to believe my empathy will be stronger, my caring more genuine, my understanding improved.  I have to believe that this is how growth happens.  Because that belief keeps me taking those steps, one step at a time.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Things We Keep

A box of old photos, the ones that never made it into the scrapbook
despite having purchased lovely, leather-bound albums
in which to place them.

An old bag of shoes that were meticulously collected,
worn once,
and forgotten.

The remnants of that party
the one where you researched
and decorated with unusual, beautiful items
that you never could bring yourself to throw away.

A suitcase full of clothing-
switching out the winter or summer wardrobe.
At least,
that was the plan.

So many boxes, so many memories
the mind reels from the strain of collecting them all
considering them all
loving them all.

While the life lived that is catalogued here
suffers.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Monday, February 15, 2016

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Loved

I've been prone to isolation in the past.  When life really sucked, when I felt too weak to deal with the emotional turmoil, when I couldn't face it I would just block it all out.  It felt like a protective mechanism at the time but in hindsight it only made it worse.

Now I'm a different person.  And today I was able to let myself be fully supported by some of the most magnificent women I've ever had the privilege to meet.  I felt like I completely and utterly fell apart and was held and loved by women who inspire me in every way possible.  I've never had that before.

So even in the midst of pain, there is reason to be grateful.  Even in the darkness there is abundant light and love.  And today seems like the perfect time to be aware of how incredibly lucky I am to have the worlds best support system.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Interrogated

It wasn't my fault.  I'm sure you hear that excuse all the time- like all the freakin' time.  But in my case, it really wasn't.  I mean, who the hell even uses getaway cars anymore?  And who the hell would run into the back seat of Jetta if they were gonna use one?  It's really just a simple case of mistaken identity.  Wrong bank, wrong time, shouldn't have been sitting there with the engine on.

Why'd I drive?  Well, that's simple- the guy had a gun.  You see a ski-mask wearing man in your rear-view mirror screaming at you to drive while waving a semi-automatic around your cab and you freakin' drive.  I didn't have time to think, I just had to gun it.

The cops?  Yeah, I saw the lights and heard the sirens.  Christ, did I hear those sirens- those things could make a whole damned neighborhood go deaf!  But that just made the guy scream at me louder.  "Turn right!"  And "No- there!  There!"  And then he was cursing at me cause I didn't know where I was going.  I couldn't think about anything other trying not to crash!

I thought I was havin' a heart attack!  The guy screamin' at me, the car screechin'- Jettas aren't exactly known for their quiet rides, you know?  And I was speedin' around corners and nearly t-boning a dozen cars while the guy in the back is up my ass with a freakin' machine gun and- huh?

Semi automatic, machine gun- what the hell difference does it make?  Either way the thing'll shoot your face off!  Besides, doesn't it say that in your report?  Oh, right- you're the one askin' the questions, yeah.

What's that?  Why was I waitin' there in the first place?  Well, that's a longer story.  What're you gonna tell me you got all the time in the world?  Yeah, well- I don't.  So unless you're gonna charge me with something I'm- huh?  Aiding and abetting?  What the- yeah?

Um... I'd like to call a lawyer.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Resistance

It's yet another example of on-the-mat experiences mirroring life experiences (or vice versa).  To imagine, you only need put yourself in a position.  A posture, a pose.  You settle into it as best you can, willing your muscles to relax, trying to let your body do what it will without your controlling it.  There's nothing overt stopping you from relaxing- no conscious contractions, no purposeful holding.  And from all appearances you are perfectly at ease.  But then someone comes along and says "relax your jaw" or "let your hip roll out" or "drop your head" and upon following this simple instruction you find an unknown pocket of extreme tension you didn't know was there.

Now imagine the same sensation- the same exact feeling.  Only this time it's an emotional one.  Your body may hold onto it in the same way (it usually does), but there's a distinctly different flavor.  Your thought process is tied up in it.  The way you react to... everything.  It's where the term "feeling emotional" comes from- it's a whole mess of reactions coming out, some of which make no damned sense.  But they're all from that same pocket of emotional tension you didn't know was there.

That's what I'm sensing at the moment.  It's a holding onto when I need to let go.  It's a bracing myself when I need to relax.  It's an incessant thought in the back of my mind that won't go away- I can drown it out with busy activity but it's still there.  In the pauses, the lulls, the dreams you have before you've quite woken up- that fear causes tension on an unconscious level.

I've been putting a lot of stock into the idea of fearlessness as I've been in this process of self change.  I champion the belief that you can do anything- truly anything- if you get out of your own way.  And yet here I am on the cusp of some major changes without the ability to let go of my fear.  It's there- holding back the edges, teetering to avoid a spill, bracing for the impact.

And I know I can't force it.  Just like in that physical posture, you can't force your body to relax what you don't know you're tensing.  I can't erase the emotion.  Even if I think I know what's causing it.  It's there, under the surface, beyond my ability to change it.

But I am learning some things on the mat.  It's the same lesson I've been so often repeating here.  When you can't change something, don't.  Don't fight it, don't berate yourself for not being able to change it, don't give up and back out of it.  Just be in it.  Feel it- in all those tense muscles, all those not-quite-relaxed postures, all those aches and pains.  Just be there, completely aware of it.  Without judgement, without pressure to fix it.  Just be in it.  A skill they call "tracking" on the mat.  The idea being that your greatest self discoveries will come in this state.

And there is a very important difference between tracking and wallowing.  One is quiet observation without judgement.  The other is, forgive the term, being a drama queen about it.  My pain serves no one other than me if I can't learn from it first.

So I'm here, way deep down into the discomfort.  Noticing the sensations- the pulls and pains and stuck points.  Sensing myself bracing for the impact of what I haven't done yet but know I will have to.  And I'm not backing out it.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Miracles

It's something from the book I just read- a simple concept, but a profound one.  The idea that everyday is a miracle.  Regardless of what happens, regardless of how you feel.  That in the big picture realm every single day is a miracle.

The thought first occurred to me when I sat down to meditate this morning.  The sunlight reflecting off the freshly fallen snow hit me in the face illuminating not only the space behind my closed eyes but also covering my whole face with warmth.  There in the presence of so much cold, winter wasteland was sunlight, water, earth and air.  All present, all blessed.  And, in that particular moment, all for me.

I was acutely aware of it as I sat and breathed and chanted and the feeling didn't leave me once I got up to go about my day.

It didn't leave me when I was sitting in the doctor's office receiving some bad news that overtly spelled out my need to change some of my behaviors (diet-wise).  In fact, it made the message that much more overt: why not treat everyday as a miracle by taking better care of my physical body (my temple)?

It didn't leave me when I got to work and conversed with individuals who are working on their own life changes, their own self-care, their own souls.  Another life-changing act that I perform everyday, often without even thinking about it.

It didn't leave me even as I received a concrete kick in the ass at our company staff meeting and noticed my initial response, something that I would have previously dismissed, and identified it as my intuition (my gut).  And as I marveled at how much more comfortable I was in listening to the internal, non-logical voice I felt grateful for how much I've changed: what a completely different person I've become.  I can remember a time in the not-too-distant past when I would have responded to such news as a victim: felling wronged and hurt and powerless.  And now, because of all this work I've been doing on myself, the answer was clear and direct: I deserve better.  Period.  No victim mindset, no woe-is-me.  Just clear sight and motivation to change.

It's something that's relatively new for me: reacting to bad news with clarity and proactive identification.  Seeing the terrible situation as a needed opportunity to change.  Almost looking forward to the challenge.

I've been pretty good at seeing the miracles on the good days: the sunny days, the happy days, the great days.  It's kind-of new to see the miracle on the bad days, the emotional days, the ass-kicking days.  But damned if it doesn't prove the point better than any of those great days ever could: EVERYDAY is a miracle. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Graphic Novel Review: The Sandman Volume 7- Brief Lives

Image result for the sandman brief lives 

There are so many people screaming of Neil Gaiman's genius from various rooftops that I hardly need to repeat the sentiment here.  But I will say this: he is.  And having just finished reading the 7th in what must be the singular best graphic novel series in the history of graphic novels I am more firm on that point than ever before.  But enough about the author, onto the story.

This volume is the most enlightening on the subject of Dream's family- The Endless- who, up until now, have only briefly been eluded to.  Death is the only sibling who's really played a major part in any of the stories thus far and the others (Despair, Desire, Destruction, Delirium and Destiny) have rarely gotten more than a mention.  Well, that all changes in volume 7.

Here we get to see the siblings in action, learn a bit more about where they live, what makes them tick and what they can do.  They are, for all intensive purposes, gods.  They are endless, they are powerful, they are concepts made incarnate.  Some of them (Despair, for example) are ones we try to avoid at all costs while others (Delight who is no longer that but something much more frightening, Delirium) we might seek with fervent devotion.  But none of them should be sought out, at least not in person.  Because if there's one thing this volume clearly shows it's that one should never intervene in the affairs of the endless for they are quick to temper and have a very odd sense of justice.

But showing gods doing things us mere mortals could never imagine is not the point of this story.  No, this story, like the very first volume, is about a quest and the knowledge one gains while on it.  Here they're are seeking not stolen objects but one of their own: Destruction (who disappeared 300 years earlier).  Delirium is actually the one leading the charge and she unsuccessfully solicits both Despair and Desire before winding up with Dream who takes pity on her and decides to come along for the ride.

They meet up with some of Destruction's old friends before seeking an oracle (another family member Dream's been avoiding for a few thousand years) who tells them exactly where to go.  We see brief glimpses of Destruction before Dream and Delirium catch up with him- small, short scenes showing a man who is all too content leading the bohemian life of a philosophical painter away from the troubles of the world.  The idea of the man we're being introduced to as the god of chaos, war, political upheaval, religious overhaul and all other kinds of grand-sweeping changes is a jarring juxtaposition and brings some level of humanity to the otherwise unrelatable character.  This Destruction is a gentle soul, content to lead a quiet life with none of the powers his Endless siblings possess

One can't help but feel sorry for him when Dream and Delirium finally arrive and break up the quite life he'd been living.  But, the quest has to end and it has to mean something.  And here's the meaning: a moral quandary and a philosophical truth.  The moral quandary is why Destruction left 300 years ago: the age of reason.  The dawn of logic, judgement and science as a tool  by which to understand the universe.  Destruction watches this rapidly changing world and reads the writing on the walls: the times of gods and magick is coming to an end and those who were once worshiped will be forgotten.  Interesting thought, no?  What happens to the gods who are no longer worshiped?  Do they die out,fade away?  Or are they here with us, hiding in plain clothes and hoping no one notices?

And here's the philosophical truth: there are no great mysteries of the universe.  Destruction recalls a specific conversation with his sister, Death, in which she tells him that all of us- gods, mortals and everyone in between- have all the knowledge there is.  We know everything about everything, she says.  We're just as well informed as Destiny.  We just refuse to acknowledge those truths because they are too painful.  As Delirium states: "No knowing everything is all that makes it ok, sometimes."  One of the few times when her speaking in riddles makes more sense than what the sane characters say.

There's something amazing about having the craziest character in the book seem the sanest.  There's something about having her understand such mind-breaking concepts so easily.  There's something about how easily she accepts the changes the others can't.  Perhaps it is a demonstration of that same concept: we know everything, we just think we don't because of the madness of the messenger.  Like scientist trying to disprove their own theories.  (That age or reason Destruction was so quick to abandon.)

On the whole, this was another astounding volume in the series that is truly changing my life.  I knew a while ago that I had to finish this series but I must say that now with the end in sight I'm not jumping at the bit to be done.  I guess I'm no better than the Endless in that regard: afraid of change.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Fat Tuesday

"It used to mean something," he said, barely audible in the overt revelry of the bar exploding with people, sweat and stench.

One drunken bead-thrower noticed though, and leaned in.  "What'd you say?" he screamed, overestimating the need to raise his voice in all the din and punishing the man's ear with the question.

He shrank back, and then slumped further over the bar, his hand grasping the thick glass as if his life depended on it.  He hadn't been talking to the bead-thrower, a person whose gender couldn't safely be determined.  Androgynous, they called the look.  Some part of him appreciated the idea, but in the midst of such confusion he wished for simplicity and this person refused to deliver it.

"It used to mean something!" he yelled, because he too was drunk and feeling philosophical in his melancholy.

"What?" the bead-thrower asked, the same push of the voice in the explosive noise.

"All this-" he said, making a wide arch with his hand towards the general direction of everything.  The sheer number of bodies packed so tightly inside the building made his skin moist with persperation.

It had undoubtedly surpassed maximum occupancy hours ago but remained so highly populated thanks to watered-down booze and specialty cocktails selling for cheap prices.  The group was more than diverse- the young college students grinding each other to the horn-heavy music in a mad frenzy of desperation, the older tourists marveling at everything with wide eyes and furiously snapping cell phone cameras, the pup crawlers who made faces at the drinks in hand as if they were insulted by their inferiority even though they too were no less far along in the process of getting shit faced.  It was all over-the-top debauchery.  All pointless exertion.  All blind excess.

"It used to be about reflection," he went on even though the one captive audience member he'd had was moving away from him, back into the the throbbing crowd.  "It used to be about conscious prayer and identifying your wrongs for god to absolve and eating the things that you'd then give up for lent while you fasted and prayed and thought about how to live your life better," he yelled, lecturing no one in particular because no one was listening.  "This isn't what this is supposed to be!  This isn't right!  It's not right!" he was screaming now, and flailing his arms widely and violently.

It was inevitable, really- what came next.  The contents of his glass spilling onto the wrong party as he waved it through the air.  That party violently fighting back with a shove that sent him flying into someone else.  That someone else seeing the shover and launching a blow at him.  The heightened yelling as friends of both sides rallied.  The thrown punches, the heavy thuds and throws, the mosh-pit like eruption of raw physical energy as pent up emotions found permission to express themselves in unbridled, animalistic rage.

And as he was trampled and flattened by the throngs of people, as the dullness in his head began to pull back at the edges of his senses, as he felt his body losing its weak grasp on consciousness all he could do was repeat the sentiment: "This is not what it's supposed to be...".

Monday, February 8, 2016

Off

The sound of the clock ticking was flat.  Or sharp.  Or too staccato.  Or too long.  But none of these things were true- the clock didn't chime, it didn't make music.  So musical terms failed to describe it.  But saying "it sounds off" wasn't an accurate description, either.

Her coffee was too bitter.  Or was it sweet?  Too hot or too lukewarm.  The texture- maybe that was the problem?  Grainy... but how could liquid be grainy?  She swirled it around in her mouth, unable to place it or clearly define it.  But there was the thought again: something is off.

Nothing in the room was out of place, but somehow the color had changed.  Muted tones, somehow.  Too white or too shadowed.  Hazy but not.  Like her eyes were blurring the image but rubbing them did nothing.  A blink, a head turn- nothing seemed to change the perspective.  But it somehow didn't look right and no amount of double takes seemed to help.

The scent in the air- so subtle she could say it wasn't there but then every time she moved it would hit her again.  Nothing strong, nothing one could pinpoint, but it was there and it was offensive.  But another step into the next room and it would vanish again.  There, not there.  In her nose and then untraceable.

She looked around her for clues: some catastrophe she'd missed, some ill omen she hadn't paid attention to that was now rearing up to bite her on the ass.  Something to explain the feeling under her skin, the unsettled stomach, the nervous glances at nothing in the corner of her eye.  What the hell was wrong?

She paced- an nervous habit.  She sat, grasping and ungrasping her hands.  Her palms sweat over cold fingers.  Was she getting sick?  The feeling was in her body.  But no- she felt fine.  She almost wished for something to go horribly wrong in that moment, simply for some reason, some clear cause, some way to describe the feeling.

But nothing happened, nothing changed.  The world continued in its not-quite- real way and she hated it for it.

"Something's off" she said out loud, just to give sound to the thought, just to validate the suspicion.  And something was off, she knew it in her bones.  But her bones wouldn't tell her what, and the world wasn't sharing any secrets.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Magick In The Mundane

It's something I've been struggling with for a while: this idea of finding magick in the mundane.  The everyday.  The ordinary.  The reality.

For me, they've always been two dichotomous ideas.  Either or.  Yes or no.  True or false.  But never both, simultaneously.

It's like trying to hold onto a dream when you're awake.  At first, when the edges are still rough, you can almost grasp it.  Things that aren't possible in real life are still possible, maybe. Ideas that the logical mind dismisses as illusions are still somewhat tangible.  But the harder you reach for them, the faster they disappear into the ether.

And without dreaming, with the awake mind in charge, it seems even more impossible.  Too much judgement.  Too many firm lines and boundaries.  Too much to keep you grounded, to prevent you from flying.

This world or that one.  Magick or real.  Never both.  Never happening together.

But the further I tread down into the path of my own soul, the more I hear it: there must be both.  And not this vacillating back and forth, either.  But simultaneous.  Coexisting.  Feeding off one another, blurred boundaries.

Seeing magick in the everyday: the traffic jams, the red tape, the facts and figures and carefully controlled and overseen requirements.  Seeing magick there.  It's something I struggle with, something I haven't figured out how to do.

There are moments, of course.  In the quiet, in the stillness.  You forget about the boundaries.  The mind wanders into the "crazy places".  You can glimpse- just for a second, out of the corner of your eye- things that aren't there.  Feel- just as impulse, a reflex- things that aren't tangible.  Smell... anything.  Ideas.  Words that haven't been invented yet.

But then the conscious mind rebels, violently shoves you back.  Here, feet firmly on the ground, rules and regulations in place.  It chastises you for daydreaming, reminds you of all the duties you have as a responsible adult.  Tells you to shut up and keep moving.  Binds you.

And I want to vilify that voice.  Dismiss it.  Categorize it as irredeemably bad and try to rid myself of it.  But I need that voice, just as much as I need the quiet madness.  I need both.  How to have both at the same time?  I don't know.

There are some rituals they tell you to practice.  And they help, certainly.  The quiet, steady breaths.  The creative practices of writing, drawing, painting, dancing, singing.  The thoughts you can think without dismissal.  But they're only ever temporary buoys in the sea of real life.  I can't seem to stay above water, can't seem to lift myself out.

And perhaps, or most likely, this is how it works.  You have the moments as just moments. You take the pauses as just pauses.  And it takes a long, long time before you start to ingrain that way of living.  It takes a lot of practice before you remember how to let go while still riding the firm rails.

So perhaps the answer is what the answer always is: just be.  Don't worry about what it will be, don't think too hard about what is was, don't try to make it anything other than what it is.  Just be and know that it will change.  Everything changes, always.  Without us trying to make it change it just does.

And perhaps, that itself is the magick.  Answering my own questions, realizing that I already know.    Listening to the whispers in the dark.  Feeling my way along.  Perhaps that's the route I've always been on.  The only difference is, now I know.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Where I want to Be

I haven't seen the whole world and there are views so magnificent, I've heard, that the lines between heaven and reality all but disappear.   But even without those vistas, without those memories etched into my soul, I still feel like I've found my favorite place.

There are no grand views there.  In fact, it's a space you can only see with your eyes closed.  The experience is tactile, not visual.  Something for the soul rather than the mind.  And that is where I want to be.

Warmth cocooning my entire being.  Soft, comforting warm in the shadow of your body.  Held and loved and felt.  Without expectation, without need, without condition.  Simply love.

Time cannot reach us.  Trouble vanishes.  Thought slips away.  The voice of chattering requirements and judgements fades, eroded by the soft envelopment of your skin.  I am full, I am beyond limitation.  I have passed any barriers that keep me in.

Two people, held as one.  Two physical spaces meld.  Our very cells bond together.  And we are free.  Free from life, free from time, free from all that is not this.

That is where I want to be.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Ebb and Flow

At first it's just the simplest instruction: be here.  Now.
Not at your workplace where that endless mountain of paperwork awaits you.  Where there's voicemails and e-mails to return.  Where the daily grind really lives its meaning.
Not at home where chores and adult responsibilities lie: always something to do, always some other project.
Not in the past where mistakes and failures lie in wait to torment you with reminders of where you weren't good enough.
And not in the future where a million fears are ready to pounce and weigh you down in the incessant possibilities of ways in which life can go wrong.
Just here in this safe, quiet space that you create for yourself.  Everything else on hold, nothing you have to do other than be present with yourself.  Be here.

Then the smallest, quietest breathe connecting you to your body.  Bringing the attention away from that busy mind where all those thoughts still swirl in that chaotic, constant vortex.  Notice the body, notice the movement, notice all the sensations that arise.  Feel, don't think.  Be, don't do.

Then the inevitable ebb and flow begins.  In- to the heartbeat, the creaks and cracks, the touch.  To the muscles, the joints, the bones. And deeper down to the earth holding you up, supporting you.  And out- to the connectedness you tap into while in this space.  Part of the whole, joined with the all.  Not separate and lonely but part of and so, so loved.  In and out.  In and out.  Feel, don't think.  Notice, don't judge.

Her words are your guides, leading into the spaces your conscious mind can't go.  You follow the lines of your tendons, your veins.  An intricate network of sensations and feelings you normally never notice, never sense.  And the ways in which you react, the great teacher your body can be.  It's not about comfort, it's about watching, seeing, tracking.  The whys and hows draw connections that the mind can't understand but the soul knows all too well.  There are stories there.  There are vitally important tales to tell and retell.  There is a song that only you can sing.

And for a moment- the briefest, most imperceptibly small moment- there is peace.  Nothing else matters.  Nowhere else, no one else, nothing but you.  Completely settled.  Completely present.  Loved and supported and held.  Perfect in all the impossible ways- in the crevices of all your bumps and bruises and scars.  You.  Here.  Now.  Breathe and be.

And then the gentle reminder: you can't stay here forever.  Tiny, kind movements.  Being as gentle to yourself as possible with little wiggles and pushes.  The mind comes back into the driver's seat with all of those dutiful reminders.  Life needs to be lived, afterall.  So you come back to the thoughts and tasks of the day.  You come back to the plans and "I have to"s.  You let go of that wonderful space in which you felt so free from all of this.

But you know how to get there now.  You can come back.  The map is written in every cell of your body and it's so easy to follow you can do it without thinking.  You must do it without thinking.  Just follow those lines, let the body take you in, drift on the ocean of your own experience.  It's really that simple.  Just take the time to go and you will go.  Just create the space in which to be and you will be. 

That same ebb and flow on a greater scale- in to this space, and out to the real world.  In to the quiet and out to the chaos.  Learning to see the lessons in all of it- all of those times, all of those places, all of those experiences.  Learning to follow the tide of your own existence without resistance.  Surrendering to the movement, the cycles of change.  Letting go.

Ebb and flow.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Blue Pearls

A string of pearls dangling
Shiny, iridescent, perfectly round tiny little orbs
encircling your neck with light.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Insecure Writer's Support Group- February 3rd


This month i'm feeling strangely secure as a writer.  I'm a little over a month into this writing every single day thing and it's going ok.  I can't say that I've blown myself away with my own creativity just yet but I can say that I've gotten more out of myself this way than I think I ever have before.  

The pressure to write everyday means that I can't- I absolutely can not- refuse to post anything I write.  So no matter how bad my inner critic may judge something to be and no matter how much I second myself I always end up posting anyway.  There simply isn't the time to be that critical, to revise that much, to agonize over each and every word. 

And some surprises have come out it.  The biggest being when- in the course of a single week- I managed to get five paintings and seven chapters of a story written for yoga.  Our assignment was to write a love story for heart chakra and my mind latched onto something right there and then that I needed- just needed to get done.  So I did.  No judgement, no 'this has to be perfect'.  And something poured out of me that I honestly didn't know I had in me.

So on the whole- it's working.  I'm writing- everyday.  And after such a long drought it feels good to have the juices flowing again.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Panicking Towards Zen

I've been a wreck all day- an irredeemable wreck.  Anxious, irritable, scatter-brained like there's no tomorrow.  And I've been trying really, REALLY had not to judge myself for it.  That old reaction is still ingrained- the ego still has so many negative things to say about this new emotional version of me.  And I've been ignoring it for the most part.

But then I got feedback from another source, a more trusted one (Thanks, Jen!).  A friend of mine who is going through a lot of the same transformations, studying the same course I am on, asked me why this year was so different than last year (since I've been through this panic-inducing thing before).  Why, she asked, was last year so much easier than this year?

We bounced a few ideas around- last year didn't go so well so I had more reason to be worried.  Last year was my first time so I didn't know about the number of things that could go wrong.  Last year I was a little cocky and naive and I got hit pretty hard for it.

But still, I thought, aren't I supposed to be handling things better now?  Isn't this journey that I'm on designed to make me calmer?  More accepting?  Better able to weather life's storms?  Isn't that the whole point?

And then- that perfect timing thing again- a friend of mine from teacher training posted an article about the ways in which I've been feeling lately with the title "15 Uncomfortable Feelings That Indicate You Are On The Right Track".  (Thanks, Tracey!!)  I had every one of these- literally every single one.  Anxious, restless, irritable, fearful, confrontational, dissatisfied, lost, exhausted- all of it.  And that got me thinking: what if there's nothing wrong with me?  The revolutionary question that turns your perspective 180 degrees.

What if me being that anxious was just me doing the best I could do?  What if working my ass off like a lunatic for a week- regardless of what a hot mess I was throughout the course of it- was just me being catalyzed to get everything done?  What if I was feeling that crazy simply because I was allowing myself to?  Without fighting it, without hiding it, without judging myself for feeling it- what's if that's why I was so anxious?  Not because I wouldn't have been that anxious anyway, but because I've just stopped hiding it.

I used to judge myself for being emotional.  Get angry- really, really angry- at myself for crying.  Say terrible, hurtful statements about myself for being angry with someone (for something I really should have been angry at them for).  Look at myself when I was not the epitome of logical, intellectual superiority and just hate myself for it.  That's who I used to be.

That's not who I am anymore.  I'm emotional.  I'm messy.  I'm loud and passionate and I speak up when people piss me off.  I value intuition way more than intellect and I see god in everything.  I look at people I used to judge so harshly for being so emotional and think 'I want to be more like them'.  And I cry all the goddamned time.

Of course I was way more anxious this year- I'm a completely different person this year!  I handled this situation very, very differently than I did last year.  I let myself feel everything I was feeling without trying to talk myself out of it.  And yeah, maybe it seemed unhealthy- who likes having panic symptoms?  But maybe that's exactly what I needed to feel.  Maybe a hot mess is exactly what I needed to be.  Maybe this, like so many other situations I've encountered and will encounter in the future, is exactly right?

I'd certainly like to think so...

Monday, February 1, 2016

Seeing in the Dark

On the bow of a great ship.  Perfect by design, regardless of what complaints you may have of it.  It was made that way.  And it is yours.

Looking our over the horizon but seeing nothing.  The fog is too thick, the night too dark.  The air so heavy your lungs labor under the burden of breath.  Your bones ache and creek with the same rolling sway of the ship as it bobs in the tide.

You're moving, but you don't know where.  You can't see.  No point in steering- you wouldn't know which direction in which to point.  So you stand there, on the bow of this great ship, and wait.  Listening to the waves, swaying on your feet, and wondering what will come next.

But it isn't a useless delay.  It is not a time of no action.  Something is building.

Out there, in the dark, beyond the fog- something is brewing in the wind and water and sunlight that you can't see.  Not yet.  But something is taking those thoughts of yours, something is mixing those swelling desires in the tumultuous seas beyond your brow.  Be careful what you wish for- but do wish.  Do dream.  Do envision.

Because in the dark, in ways that your conscious mind can't grasp, there is much to be seen.  There are actions to be taken.  There are important things to be said and many people waiting to hear them.  There is movement and growth and fruitful bounties to be had.  Just up there, just beyond the horizon.

If you close your eyes, you can see it.  Not with your vision, not with your physical body.  But with your sight.  With that part of you that logic dismisses but is so much more aware than you think.  Close your eyes and peer into the dark and you might catch a glimpse of what is coming.  Pieces that don't quite fit together, elements that will change before you can picture their whole.  Things unknowable, but intuited.  It's out there.  And it's coming.

So wait.  Heave those great, heavy breaths.  Dream your dreams and wish your wishes.  And watch the horizon with your eyes closed.