Advent 2016: "Tie your Shoe!"

The last couple weeks have been rough.

I miss Yancey who's away for the YEAR (!!)  in paramedic school. The rain around here has been apocalyptic. Even the dog thinks so. I haven't had any gas in the tank for Christmas decorations, doing favors for friends, cooking (what's that?), or cleaning out my storage room which is now certified as a HAZMAT area. The other morning at breakfast, Loretta asked, "Mom, when are we going to get in the Christmas spirit?" Good question, sweetheart.

This morning was Loretta's first basketball game. She's recovering from toe surgery, but she bravely said she wanted to go anyway and just sit on the bench if she had to. (She is the consummate group participant. Wonder where she gets that.) She and her kick-ass fourth grade girls team won by a few points, and (competitive big brother baller) Wyatt gave this ringing endorsement: "That was watchable!"

Each point was like Mardi Gras. Parents and grandparents erupting with disproportionate glee for every completed pass, rebound, or making it down the court in once piece. At one point, one of Loretta's teammates had 40 adults calling to her, "Tie your shoe!"

I loved every minute of it. What if we took care of each other like that? What if we were paying attention to all those untied shoes, all the celebrations and disappointments, all the hold-your-breath-at-the-freethrow-line moments?

In spite of the rain, darkness, and loneliness of the last few weeks, I am learning to ask, every morning, "How will the miracle happen today?" There are lots of people making sure my shoes are tied--my parents, my in-laws, Emily (always), the Westons and the Imbachs, Elie and Lisa, Kiana (world's best babysitter who gives neck massages), justice-loving friends at church, my childrens' coaches and teachers, Laura T., neighbors.  Because of them, I'm still in the game. Thank you.

Advent 2016: Protest Psalm

Protest Psalm

God of light and darkness
and of the shadow in-between,
you have got to be seeing
how crazy this shit is.

In the glow of my laptop tonight,
doors locked, healthy, insured son next to me,
I beseech you:

Give those Water Protectors unstoppable power.
Rain down wool socks, dry tents, convoys full of truth,
pipeline abandoned, all those plans gone to hell.

Don't let marriage equality become a memory.
We need every drop of love we can get in this world.

Help me and my white friends
wake up to the world we created.
May we be experts at saying,
"I don't understand. I've got some learning to do."

By some explosive miracle,
let every man, woman, boy, girl, and other pronoun-ed person
receive healthcare, food security, employment, shelter,
dignity, and love, love, love.

Bring those Wall Street billionaires down to size.
And fast-food workers? They'll take the glossy front page.

Give our public schools
every computer, social worker, recess
and healthy lunch they need.

Keep us out of war,
and help us enfold every refugee of war
that seeks solace here.

Keep me on my toes, keep me
listening, keep my loving my enemies
(are you serious with that?!),
keep me drowning in your impossibly impolite
revolutionary love.
Amen.

Advent 2016: Living in Reality

My feedback to one of my clients lately was, "You're working too hard to be positive. It's tiring to be around." She was confused, and said that, in her past, she had slipped into negativity and was trying hard to find a different way. "What should I do instead, then?" she asked me.

"Live in reality," I told her. "Be present to whatever is, whether it's painful, joyful, boring, infuriating, imperfect, incomplete, sub-par. If you can learn to do that, you'll be unstoppable in your leadership."

I'm not an expert on mindfulness, and there's research to say it does and doesn't work. And recently, this fascinating opinion piece about how one of the best things about being human is our ability to reminisce about the past or look forward to the future. The author jokes about how pontificating about mindfulness must sound to someone who spends 11 hours a day in front of a deep-fat fryer.

But I still maintain that living in reality is the antidote to these crazy times. We don't sugarcoat things, but we also don't despair. We make meaning from our past, plan for our future, but also furiously pay attention to whoever and whatever is right in front of us. My 8 year old nephew Ezra was begging my sister for allowance recently. She told him, "You can start by clearing your breakfast dishes. Maybe then I'll consider it."

Which got me thinking, of course, what dishes are waiting to be cleared in my own heart and mind? What reality, however messy, needs my gaze? There's not much power in positive thinking, but there's great resolve, clarity, and yes, even joy, when we live in reality.

Advent 2016: Beauty from Ashes

Today I listened to Terri Gross interview LGTBQ activist Cleve Jones. I have to drive a lot for work. It wears me out sometimes, but there is also the huge gift of being ALONE in the car and getting to listen to incredible stories like his.

My heart broke listening to Mr. Jones talk about the AIDS crisis in the 80's, how Reagan wouldn't acknowledge what was going on, how the gay community had to fight like mad for healthcare, for research, for legitimacy, for love, just to be acknowledged as human. Had that epidemic been visited on straight white folks, we would have been all over it.

He said the pain and grief of seeing most his friends die is still with him every day, but he finds ways to be joyful. The AIDS quilt was his idea, and came about when he and other activists wrote down the names of people who had died from AIDS and plastered their posters all over a government health building in SF. Putting those names on something as "wholesome" as a quilt seemed like a good way to subvert the denial going on. Then he said something that almost made me pull over:

"The artistry of it was the thing I was least prepared for."

He wanted the names, the protest, the statement the whole thing would make, but he was blown away by the beauty that emerged.

What about us, now? I'm undone to think of all the gains we might be losing and I'm MAD about hate crimes, about all the folks already being marginalized in this post-election time, about the denial of facts. But Seth Godin said recently that the most important question now is "What are you working on?"

And maybe, just maybe, the artistry of the thing will surprise us. There will be beauty from ashes. I hope so. That's what keeps me going.

P.S. A Secret Santa left me a storybook of Lifesavers on my porch tonight. Whoever you are, thank you. Made my day.

Advent 2016: Pocket Charms

In line at the grocery store the other day, I very uncharacteristically bought a roll of Lifesavers. I ate one and then put the bright, striped roll in my coat pocket as a reminder to myself to lighten up and have more fun. When I was little, my grandparents would send a Lifesaver storybook to our house every Christmas.  I remember the total, flagrant opulence of those. So much sugar all in one place and something we would never buy at the grocery store.

We're all hardwired differently (thank God), so maybe it's not candy you need. Maybe it's something else in your pocket:

A stone or pebble to ground you
A knot of string or yarn symbolizing the beauty of imperfection
A tube of chapstick, reminding you to tend to your own needs
A small, blank piece of paper, symbolizing the freedom to be without goals or plans
A puzzle piece--"I'm complete, just the way I am!"
A dollar bill, prompting you to be more generous than you feel like being
A key --"I'm safe and secure. There is nothing to fear."
A bandaid to remind you that wounds are part of life--and they will be tended to
A feather, letting you float above and around conflict instead of charge into it

Icons, relics, nativity sets, pocket charms, lifesavers--they can all serve to remind us of Incarnation, of mystery taking on flesh and bones. And bring us closer to our Essence hiding under our personality, history, credentials, fears, monikers, and roles.
 

Advent 2016: Waiting and Acting

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The Dalai Lama has been in exile almost 60 years! Talk about waiting! He gets up at 3 am every day and prays for five hours. FIVE. From exile and from silence, he changes the world.

There's always a tension between doing and being, waiting and acting. All the great spiritual teachers tell us that it's not one or the other. Our action must be incubated in stillness, and our stillness is made rich by our time in the world, sleeves rolled up, feeling both the agonies and the ecstasies.

For me, Advent is an invitation to take a break from my planning, acting, doing, striving, and nestle into the dark, trusting that receptivity is an energy, too. And that the hibernation is producing something I need, something the world needs.

Here's a few stanzas from Rilke's poem The Homeless Ones (translated by Joanna Macy and Anita Barrows). If you're like me, the last few weeks may have paralyzed you. Take heart--the harvest is coming.

Then blessed are those who never turned away
and blessed are those who stood quietly in the rain.
Theirs shall be the harvest, for them the fruits.

They will outlast the pomp and power,
whose meaning and structures will crumble.
When all else is exhausted and bled of purpose,
they will lift their hands, that have survived.

Advent 2016: We are the Story

Yesterday at church, my pastor called the children up front and pulled out her nativity scene. The kids gathered around while she set it up, wise men and shepherds falling over, the star crooked. She told them that Advent isn't about the historical details of the story, but about how we find ourselves in the story. She handed out all the characters and told the kids to take them back to the pews with them. So we sat with a fluffy little sheep and a fat angel for the next hour. Loretta and my niece propped them up in all sorts of positions while we sang and prayed.

Those shepherds, wise men, innkeeper, barn animals, angels, God in a body--how will they show up today? How will the miracle happen? Where is the love waiting to be born? What pilgrimage is calling you, what trek across frozen fields to find the mystery? What stranger knocks at your door, needing warmth? What kingdoms need defying? What silence needs keeping? What good news needs heralded or good sense needs defying? What piece of God's dream is yours?

Advent 2016: Jumping into Presence

Friends, I put down the New York Times this morning and went into my office instead, lit a candle, and spent some time in silence. My mind wandered, I remembered an email I hadn't returned, I looked around my messy office and made plans to clean it.

But something else happened there, too. I remembered that today, November 27, is the first day of Advent, and that I'm entering into a sacred time that's waiting to be embraced. I've been incredibly sad and angry since the election, and it's taken me a couple weeks to remember who I am. Its been work to remember, as the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu say in The Book of Joy, "No dark fate determines our future. We do. Each day and every moment, we are able to create and re-create our lives and the very quality of human life on the planet." I remembered that I used to have a tradition of writing every day during Advent. And decided, just a few minutes ago, to find my voice again this year. To do what I can to help myself (and maybe you) remember the power each of us has to experience joy, to practice compassion, and to find silence even in noise, suffering, or despair.

Some days my reflection might be incredibly short, and often it will be borrowed from someone or something else that's inspiring me. There won't be a theme, there might not always be photos, and there will for sure be typos. But everything belongs!

Today, I leave you with a stanza from Rumi's poem Mary's Hiding. I don't believe in the virgin birth, but the whole thing was surely a miracle--her saying "yes," Joseph fathering a child that was or wasn't his, and the God-spark come to light up our darkness. Here's to jumping into Presence this season. We need it like never before.

Like the sun coming up,
or a rose as it opens,
she leaped, as her habit was,
out of herself into the presence.

Yam and Chicken Bake

There is almost nothing I love more than sheetpan dinners. Salmon, broccoli and ginger all roasted together with a little soy sauce. Bratwurst, onions, and peppers with a dijon paste and olive oil. And this--chicken thighs, yams, onions, olive oil (be generous), cumin, salt, and chile powder, 375 for about 40 minutes. (That's your recipe. Sorry.)

It can go alongside rice or in tortillas. Or eaten with a few slices of avocado on top. I cooked this up today for a big family dinner we're having here on Tuesday. It's going to be the filling for enchiladas. I'll be able to come home from work and layer it with corn tortillas (I don't bother to roll them--just stack them like lasagne noodles), jack cheese, and enchilada sauce. And a sprinkle of cilantro and green onion when it gets out of the oven.

We are all about The Casserole at the MK house lately. Yancey's gone on his yearlong residency, and I am discovering just how unmotivated I am when there isn't another adult to cook for. The longer a casserole lasts, the better!

There were ominous storm warnings all weekend in western Washington and everyone who could stay home did. Our house ended up being Grand Central Station--my parents slept here, Loretta's (wonderful) babysitter was here most the weekend studying, many neighbors came and went, Wyatt and Loretta had friends spend the night. The power never went out, no trees fell on our roof, but we got all the benefits of huddling together. And, not for the first time, my dog modeled wisdom and community best. Here's a poem about that. (And thank you, Mary Oliver, for making poems about dogs its own art form. You speak to me constantly.)

Dog in a Storm

The winds have come,
just as the forecaster said they would.
You've picked up on my anxiety, it seems,
and want to come inside
the moment I let you out.
You press your nose against the glass,
follow my every move,
commence with whining,
wanting, as we all do,
to be let in,
to find the square of light
that even the worst of storms allow.

Making Do

Chanterelles from my sister-in-law's foraging. Some sweet red peppers from our produce box. A little white eggplant gifted to us from someone else's produce box. Onions, garlic from the pantry. And lots of olive oil and salt. Roasted at 400 for 45 minutes. Autumnal ambrosia.

This isn't the first time I've pontificated about pulling disparate parts together. About making do. It's one of the qualities I admire most in people. As the wisest people remind us, all we have is how we respond to circumstance. (Which is why the incessant talk of sailing your own ship, finding your passion, branding yourself gets tiresome. At some point, that falls apart. Death is the ultimate example.)

Our family has just started a big experiment in making do. Yancey has moved to Seattle for the year to do his paramedic training. We will see him in snatches a few times a month, mostly while he is sleeping. All the lists have been made, goodbyes said, and there's nothing to do but to do it. I've mostly been very upbeat about the whole thing and I really do consider this an adventure where all four of us will learn more about one another. But I read this poem at our little going-away party for Yancey. It's good to be sad, good to be missing each other. And good to tell you about it here.

Before a Year Apart

Let me be dramatic
just this once.
Phooey on all this
strength and optimism.

For starters,
what will I do without the mountain
of black t-shirts on your side of the bedroom,
their soft scenery smelling of you?

And coffee cups in the car,
in the garage?
They will miss their daily excursions,
now bored and cramped in the cupboard.

I'm worried the dog
will lie by the door all year.
As hard as I try,
he always wants you.

The grass will grow long
and I'll miss the surprise
of coming home to see you've cut it,
your jeans green on the fringes.

We've lucked out getting to spend
this life together--
laundry, carpooling, working,
dreaming, laughing, longing.

And we luck out again, when,
after 21 years,
we are blessed, bound, consecrated
in this bittersweet (God, I will miss you!) goodbye.

 

Quick Stone Fruit Preserves

stone fruit preserves

One pound (ish) of stone fruit (plums, nectarines, peaches, apricots in any combination), one cup of sugar, squeeze of lemon juice, pinch of salt. Bring to a boil for 10-15 minutes until the mixture hesitates to fall off your wooden spoon. Pour into a pint jar, screw a lid on, let set in the fridge. No pectin, no canning, so all-day affair. Just one beautiful jar of jam that will make you want to get up in the morning. And don't bother peeling any of the fruit. After it cooks, the peels will come off and roll up in little cylinders, and you can remove them if you want.

And another poem. One of my resolutions this summer is to read less on my New York Times app (though I love it so) and more actual books. I've noticed my attention span shortening the last few years, and even during a pretty brief, punchy article, I'll scroll down to find the bullet points so I can get on to the next thing. I took Loretta and my niece to the beach yesterday and resolved not to look at my phone. Instead, I took The Power of Myth, Bill Moyers' interview with the mythologist Joseph Campbell. It's been sitting on my bedside table, 70 pages read, for 3 months. I finished it in the sun, and I can tell it's going to work on me for a really long time. Here's a synopsis for you:

Joseph Campbell for Beginners

We have told millions of true stories,
and they are all the same one.

We are born, we die,
and in-between, if we say yes,
we know the ecstasy of living.

Suffering is here to stay,
and so is bliss,
and they grow together
like weeds and wheat,
nurtured in the same soil,
inseparable.

If we pay attention,
we'll hear a call to leave home,
and only those who leave
come home again.

Figuring out meanings of things
is a dead-end.
So why are we here?
For the rapture of being alive.

And if you want to know more,
find the poet or mystic or artist
journeying inside you.
Don't be scared of their light,
and get ready for odyssey.

Blueberry Drop Scones

Sometimes I sit down to write here and I have so much to say that there's nothing to say.

If I were only to talk about these scones, I would advise you to incorporate them into your repertoire and start making them your signature contribution to the world. They're like the softest, just-the-right-sweetness blueberry muffins, but with crispy edges and without the fuss of muffin liners. Loretta and I enjoyed them in silence this slow Saturday morning while Wyatt grew 3 more inches in his sleep.

If I were to talk about other things, I would say that my world is widening at the same time I feel very little need to establish my place in it. There is beginning to be a settled-ness in me that makes being 42 (and growing older) very sweet. Good old Richard (Rohr, of course) in his astounding book Falling Upward, says this:

We all tend to move toward a happy and needed introversion as we get older. Such introversion is necessary to unpack all that life has given us and taken from us...Silence and poetry start being our more natural voice...Much of life starts becoming highly symbolic and “connecting” and little things become significant metaphors for everything else. Silence is the only language spacious enough to include everything and to keep us from slipping back into dualistic judgements and divisive words.

Now don't get me wrong. I'll always love a stage. I'll always be making new friends or looking for the opportune moment to crack a joke. But I'm finding the territory of the soul so deep, so fascinating, so enough for me. There's more there than I'll ever need or discover, and that truth frees me from striving, from all the ways I I try to resist reality.

The Sufi mystics say that the body is the shore that the soul--the waves--crash onto. Isn't that lovely? So the territory of the soul necessarily includes this mystery of our bodies, and the whole of us--body, soul, heart, mind--gets to go along for the ride.

Hang Ten

Let me stop sorting all these scraps
into toppling piles--
receipts, bills, lists, books,
momentos,
and even my idea of myself,

and let me go jump
into the limitless, living depth
that is You,
and You in me,
and the way we leave
every shoreline behind.
Amen.

Blueberry Drop Scones
I suppose you could fit these all onto one baking sheet, but that will eliminate some of those crispy edges. I advise fitting them onto two and rotating them in the oven halfway through baking. And if you don't have frozen blueberries around? Use almost any other kind of fresh or frozen fruit. Or dried fruit and coconut. Or mini chocolate chips. Or whatever your holy heart desires! Makes 12-14.

2 c. flour
1/3 c. packed brown sugar
1 Tb. baking powder
3/4 tsp. salt
1 cube (4 oz.) cold unsalted butter
1/2 c. cream (plus a little more)
1 egg
1 c. frozen blueberries
sugar for sprinkling.

Preheat oven to 375 and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Cut butter into flour mixture with a pastry cutter or fingertips until mixture has pea-sized lumps.

In a small bowl, combine cream and egg. Pour cream mixture into flour mixture, stirring just until combined and adding more cream if mixture is too dry. It should be the consistency of a stiff muffin batter. Add blueberries, taking care to stir gently.

Drop 1/4 c batter onto prepared pans to make 12-14 scones. Sprinkle the top of each with a little sugar. Bake until just golden on top, 15-20 minutes. Watch carefully.

 

Dispatch from the San Juans

Generally, Yancey and I don't do a great job of planning leisure time. We're pretty happy hanging around the house, taking the kids on bike rides, taking turns going to yoga. Often, living in Bellingham still feels like a vacation to us and we can't believe our good fortune in living here.

But we managed to plan a few days boating around the San Juans in the little work boat that Yancey and his dad got a few months ago. We hooked up with another boating family and were blessed with 4 days of very uncharacteristic April sun and calm. I've grown up around the San Juan Islands, but could only access them by waiting in long ferry lines. Being able to tie up at little obscure beaches and skim between the islands looking up at Mt. Baker was indescribably sublime. I read Oliver Sacks' On the Move and Garrison Keillor's anthology of poetry. I listened to Yo-Yo Ma on my headphones and took walks around the neighborhoods of Friday Harbor and was full to bursting. That's what this poem is about.

Listening to Yo-Yo Ma on my Morning Walk

Morning walk, the cello suite playing in my ears,
swelling to unbearable tenderness,
makes me want to be a better person,
to notice all the miracles that have been
standing shyly around.

I want to clean my desk,
type the poem I wrote last week,
return the dull phone calls.

And maybe write the first chapter
in the orphan book
living outside the door of my heart,
let it in though I'm terrified
of what it will demand.

The song is over, I pull my earbuds out,
and the vision of a clean desk is already fading.

Lord, you know I'll never be a virtuoso.

You see my great undone-ness,
how asleep I am to this dappled life.

Even so, let me take this day into my arms.
Let me pull its body to mine,
set my fingers on its strings.
Let me play with all the novice enthusiasm
this morning deserves.
 

Onlooker

I'm not the first one to write about parenting as falling in love.

And when you're in love, you just want to watch the object of your affection, whatever he or she is doing--drying their hair, unloading the dishwasher, falling asleep on the couch. That's how I feel about Wyatt right now.

Loretta and I got to his practice early yesterday and had a few minutes to watch drills. Later , I asked Wyatt what the drill was called. "Transitions." Isn't that the truth! We had family to meet for dinner, homework to do, the dog to let out, but I could have stayed there all night, marveling at this boy doing his thing, somehow transitioning into a 5'10" curious, earnest, witty teenager who makes me love the world more.

Onlooker

It's shirts and skins
when your sister and I walk in.
After nine offensive rebounds,
you finally make the shot.
i like to think it's because
this mother's heart wants everything
you want, but more.

You slap your teammate's back,
laugh at coach's joke,
take your time putting street shoes on,
forage for your water bottle,
run hands through a new haircut.
You turn thirteen today,
and all I want is to watch you forever.

A Little more of Life

Easter hasn't been my favorite holiday the last few years.

I grew up with a heavy-duty atonement theology, one that said I was a giant sinner. In fact, I was such a screw-up that God had to order his only son to come down to earth and die for my ass. Even as a child, that never made sense to me. That's love?! Now that I'm a parent, I wouldn't give my child's life for anyone or anything.

So I threw out my atonement theology and I've been trying to figure things out. If I had the energy right now on Holy Saturday, I could write for a really long time about what Easter is starting to mean to me. My church summed it it up best this week: "Crucified by fear, resurrected by love." Fear is what keeps us living small, focused on the ways we don't measure up, trying to get it right. Richard Rohr (God. How I love him.) says, "We grow spiritually much more by doing it wrong than by doing it right." Suffering, anxiety, death, disease, failure? They are here to stay. Resurrection means that we can still look our lives square in the face and find the Mystery there. Richard again: "Those who walk the full and entire journey...are always the ones who have heard some deep invitation to 'something more,' and set out to find it by both grace and daring."

And this is where Jesus comes in. I've very uncertain about the Deity of Jesus, but I'm in love with him right now. Jesus, in his crazy, loving, revolutionary life, was always asking, "What is the more?" More love, more justice, more truth, more intimacy. Last night at our Good Friday service, I was somehow, mercifully, released from stale stories about Jesus and dropped straight into a "You've got to be *&#ing kidding me" space. Mostly, I understood, for maybe the first time, how much Jesus must have hated to leave this world. How much he loved his friends, how high on life he was, how much he adored his mother, how many more meals he wanted to eat. (Come on. That's the most important.)

I think of Mary Oliver's poem "The Fourth Sign of the Zodiac" about her cancer. She describes seeing wilting, falling flowers one afternoon, and the next morning, "the shrubs were full of/the blue flowers again." And then, these beautiful lines:

....How, I
wondered, did they roll or crawl back
to the shrubs and then back up to
the branches, that fiercely wanting,
as we all do, just a little more of
life?

So I wrote my own poem. (Not surprising.) And my prayer for you? That resurrection--total, unflinching awareness--breaks over you in bold and surprising ways. Happy Easter.

Good Friday Burgers

After church with my kids,
waiting in the drive-through line
for burgers, cold drinks with straws,
rustling of paper bags
and stacks of napkins.

Lord, how you must have hated
to leave this world!
Seeing your tribe fall asleep
in the garden where you cried,
wanting more than anything
to wake up with them,
have another ordinary breakfast,
count out change for coffee,
keep at your endless task
of loving away their fears.

The clerk hands our food
through the window,
we eat these suppers
like the total, precious, greasy sacrament
they are.

Dinner can Wait

Rob Bell told a story recently about talking with a friend who's a renowned mediation teacher. He asked her, "What's the thing that, if everyone understood, would really change them? Would make your work not necessary anymore?" She said, "You are enough."

You are enough. That's chalkboard-wall worthy. I've kept my chalkboard blank for awhile because I've been on a purging kick, taking down all the quotes I plastered around the house during the depressed winter months, hauling loads of things to Goodwill, getting rid of books that don't speak to me anymore. The empty wall reminded me to be patient, to wait, to treat emptiness as a presence, to trust that, in my favorite Denise Levertov lines, "Emptiness/is a cup, and holds/the ocean."

Last week, I heard two sermons on the Gospel story of Mary pouring perfume on Jesus' feet and wiping them with her hair. In the story, Jesus is sitting around before dinner with the people that know him best, and it seems like they are actually relaxing. I imagine a few folks napping (or starting to), that there are some inside jokes circulating. Jesus knows his days are numbered--he's been loving outcasts too much, doing too much healing, pushing against empire. He knows you can only do so much of that before it's over. (Like Ghandi, MLK, anyone whose vision of grace and love defies money and power.) But in this moment, the calm before the storm, everyone's taking a breath.

Then Mary does this. And, if I let myself hear it for the first time, it takes my breath away. As intimacy always should. When we know, in our deepest, most bedrock place, that we're enough, we give lavishly. We give and receive love, even if the moment is all wrong.

Dinner can Wait

Tonight, right when dinner is hot,
I'm at his feet, rubbing them
with precious perfume,
drying them with my hair.

Everything stops.

This isn't how people do things.
The energy is supposed to go toward
trying not to care.

But I want the goods,
the high-dive into intimacy,
spending everything on connection.

My brother! I am yours,
and you are mine!

The meal is growing cold,
I'll never get my money back.
These friends look away,
the dog sniffs the puddle of scent
on the floor.
My hair is wet, I fumble
with the bottle and cap.

Then you see me, you touch me.
That recognizing love
is everything I came for.

Wholehearted

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I've been having heart palpitations. Skipped heartbeats or heart beating too fast. Sometimes, I can see it through my shirt, working so hard.

I heard back from the doctor this morning. My EKG showed some very normal PVC's (premature ventricular contractions) and he encouraged me not to worry.

So I'm trying not to. When I notice it speeding up, I'm trying to see it as a sign of LIFE, a sign that, as Rumi says (and as my friend Cristina beautifully illustrated above), the water is pouring from the spring!

Just yesterday, I cried four times. First, with a friend about how hard I am on myself. Then listening to a client talk about work her organization does with orphans. Then, over a friend's story about being adopted and the fear of abandonment she carries with her all the time. Finally, for Loretta when she cried from the bottom of her little heart about feeling left behind. And I followed up on an assignment from my therapist, writing a Letter of Resignation for the duties and roles I take on that have become burdensome and unhelpful. No wonder I felt exhausted when I went to bed!

Remember a few days ago, my last post, when I said I wanted to feel it all? Sheesh.

But here's what I really believe--I can handle it. YOU can handle it! If we spend our energy avoiding the lows--our feelings of loss, grief, incompetence, fear, anger--then we don't get the highs either. We miss out on the goods. We miss out on really feeling our hearts beating, the blood and life of it all.

Don't I just keep saying the same things here over and over? About noticing, about being present to chopping the kale or feeding the dog, about connecting with one another even when it is scary, about having open, undefended hearts when the world is telling us to protect ourselves?

Something's welling up in me, and it's clear that the action's coming straight from the wounds. Not in spite of them! When I pay attention to my own healing, to my own shadows, longings, and fears, something happens. Something is happening. Plan on hearing about it.

Debut

If you let it, a time comes
when you step into the outline of yourself
and you fill it, joyfully, completely.
In spite of the tears,
there is nowhere, no one else
you want to be.

The first notes rise from the pit,
the orchestra that's been tuning,
warming up, your whole life.

You're in the light,
your face flush with what you know
and what you don't,
and everything belongs.

You take the stage
of your own heart,
ready to be more and more
of you.

Feeling it All

I just spent two weeks with engineers, largely helping them understand that feelings are important! Helping them experience the affective side of their interactions with one another and how perception-checking in the moment("It seems like you might be disappointed about that") is often the key to unlocking our relationships with one another.

In general, I'd say most of us suck at this. We blaze on through our lives with this idea that really dipping into those deep places is a distraction. And it's certainly not efficient. Or if we go there at all, we save it for the therapist.

One of my maxims this year is NO LIFELESS CONVERSATIONS! That doesn't mean everything has to be serious (yawn), but, if I'm bored in a conversation, my intention is to start the kinds of conversations I want to have. And not to be scared of where they might lead or if I'll be rebuffed. Life is too short to spend it hovering on the surface, holding back, making nice. (For total inspiration, I love this article, The End of Small Talk. The story of a man on a business trip who decides to ask his colleague how he and his wife fell in love. Such a beautiful example of being present instead of checking out.)

I'm glad my clients haven't installed hidden cameras in my house. I'm less than stellar about making space for Loretta's emotions sometimes. I used to have a scrap of paper on my fridge that said, "You can't discipline an emotion." The only thing to do is to be with it. I'm slowly learning and, as always, it's usually poetry that helps me. Here's something I wrote this week after some parenting fails.

Feeling it All

Lately, the slightest things undo her--
another reminder about chores,
her big brother going off to another
Big Brother Extravaganza,
favorite shoes or coat lost around the house.

Today, sadly, I scolded, launched straight
into a lecture about flexibility, maturity,
throwing a T.V. threat in for good measure.

When I'm awake, though,
when I'm remembering the child I used to be,
I get down on the floor
in her muddled pile.
I take her in my arms if she'll let me,
I let the cookies in the oven burn,
I hold her for all the tears I should have cried.

I believe her sadness,
the total perfect fucked-up-ness
of this moment,
and how the best, the only thing to do
is feel it all.