Monthly Archives: September 2014

4: The Specter At The Edge _ Song of Sun and Sea

Far beyond the reedy kelp beds, far beyond the tide of the large salmon and the playing pool, and the open water that drifted with the wind in the patterns of whispered dreams, Bean numbly made her way. As it turned out, the edge was named such for a very practical reason. It was, Bean realized, just as the elders had said it was: imposing and dangerous, a great divide indeed. In fact, with surprise and fear, she swam backward a ways as to not get swept up in the large current torrenting past her with an unforgiving speed. The wind had picked up, and a mournful howl cast itself across the churning water as if the air were mourning an abandoned child.

Is é, the child. Bean was so captivated by the great stream in front of her, and so frightened of slipping into it to be lost forever beyond her home and kin, that she forgot for a moment why she had come. But the immensity of the edge, white bubbles frothing at its surface, rushing onward with a gurgling tumble toward the unknown, could not leave Bean riveted for long. She must find the child, Aisling’s child. And across the cold dark water, the moan in the wind, too familiar to be the song of the air, too haunted and unfathomable to belong to any of her own, surely, cut the forbidding boundary once again with its keening.

Bean turned and swam toward that eerie call, wondering why she had disobeyed her mother and the elders, wondering why she was here: here at this gods- forsaken place with the phantom of the sea almost swept away by that fierce tidal stream beside her, she feared that courage would fail her, she longed for that morning, for laughter, even for her mother’s scolding. The elders did not lie about the edge. Doubt crept into Bean’s mind then. Doubt and shame for acting so rashly, and for so readily dismissing her mother’s warnings and the elders’ words. Might the elders have been as honest about the child as they had been about the edge? The elders surely would punish her now, and Bean would welcome it, for to endure the consequences of your actions, mo leanbh, is far better than to be denied the privilege of justice. In punishment the person is validated, is acknowledged, and without this the person would be rendered invisible. Like us, Bean’s clan did not practice cruelty. They left banishment to what is unforgivable but gave the rest the gift of belonging at the heart of the trials to repay their wrongs.

Anois, now, mar tharlaigh sé, as it happened, though Bean disobeyed the elders, she rightly obeyed the truth inside her. For suddenly, still at some distance, she saw a scene that gripped her in disgust and horror. Two seal women huddled around a small bundle floating on the water. The bundle bobbed up and down almost rhythmically, and it made no sound. Both women had a flipper on the strange bundle, and it was the one to the right of the other who keened so, wailing like a lost and languishing spirit who wandered out of some other world. Bean shivered despite the warmth of her body which was so well adapted to the cold Irish Sea.

Very quietly, as to not be seen or heard, she swam toward this surreal scene, mesmerized in some unspeakable way by the strange bundled specter and the grieving woman. Then she froze. Shock gripped her, so suddenly that she was temporarily paralyzed, and it was hard to keep herself upright.

She saw now no strange phantom object, no mysterious wailing woman, but an elder whose name escaped her knowledge and Aisling, who with wide eyes and fierce sorrow began again to keen her song of love and loss far beyond the end of the known world. That bundled specter bobbing quietly between was Aisling’s child, but to Bean’s bewilderment, the child was not in the water. She wondered in some distant, remote part of herself, at the how of it, checking to see if her eyes deceived her yet again. But no, the child appeared to be wrapped in the reeds of the sea, folded into them, lying upon them like… like… Bean wracked her brain for the object of this likeness which she had seen only once before. Like the vessels that carry humans over the sea, like a boat.

As Bean watched, now deeply perplexed and concerned, the elder woman began to try to gently take Aisling’s flipper off the little boat that carried the child. Aisling refused to let go, which caused the boat to thrash about in the water violently. At that moment, the child began to scream. Bean’s heart broke, but her sadness quickly turned to anger.

Here she had thought the child dead, but its cries told a different story, a story Bean knew would be worse than death. How could they? How could the elders tie a child up out of the water, and send her away, to starve and be forgotten, nameless, perhaps some meal for another creature? Hatred welled inside her then, as strong as the relentless flowing water beside her. For this was no dead child, but a living baby selkie, one of their own, still breathing, still tossing its human-like voice into the turbulent wind which was beginning to gather itself like some wild animal, perhaps thinking in vain to defend an pháiste beag, the little one who would, Bean assumed, be forced to live a half life far beyond the main stream.

And then the mother was no longer weeping, but speaking. “Let her be!” she shouted above the blasts of wind, “I carried her into this world, let her be!”

The elder tried to be kind. Bean saw grief snake-coil in the elder’s eyes, but she also saw a grim finality within them, as if fate’s hand had already rested the decision from the living long ago. “Your child has died,” the elder said softly. “This is the body of your child, yes, but your child lives in it no more. It is an evil changeling took up place in where your child once lived, who looks out from your child’s eyes, who calls like a phantom through sea and sky.”

“No!” Aisling protested, her voice growing horse now from the effort of so much grieving aloud. “I know what is said of the changelings, but this little one will not put a curse on our clan for she is no changeling. She is my infant and she lives still. Please, let us be.”

But at that moment, with a look of terrible resolve, the elder pushed the little craft holding the selkie child toward the edge, and picked up by the wind it glided effortlessly and perilously toward the indifferent mass of water waiting to swallow and consume anything or anyone lying in its path, taking it far beyond where any selkie dared attempt to survive.

Bean’s paralysis broke. Before she had time to think, she was swimming faster than she had ever swum before, not caring about the edge, or even about survival. The current took her by surprise, tearing at her body and threatening to overpower her as she fought to continue moving sideways through it, in hopes of catching that little boat and perhaps rescuing the endangered child. But she was, she realized in frenzied frustration, practically going nowhere, while the little boat moved farther and farther away. If she let the current carry her, she knew, she would never make it home, and would probably die, alongside the child, out in the open sea with no refuge from the harsh winters and no family to speak of. With an overwhelming sense of defeat and despair, Bean looked one last time at the boat now almost out of sight. It had turned slightly, and in that moment she saw an emptiness where the infant’s flipper should be. The child, Bean realized, was born with only one flipper. Was that enough, she thought despondently, to send her to her death before she knew anything of life?

But she could not ponder that question now. She would later, much later when she could take time to process all that she had seen. But now, in her immediate present, exhaustion was upon her and so was the tidal current, tugging her tired body ever further from everything she had ever known. With a last desperate mustering of energy, she turned herself around and paddled for her life toward the calmer stretch of water beyond the edge. When she finally made it to safety, she thought to look around, to make sure Aisling and the elder hadn’t seen. Whatever happened after the child disappeared, they were no where to be found now. Anois ar a féin, on her own, she turned her eyes to the sky and screamed, like a Ban sidhe in the night, one long bloodcurdling scream, for the undead child with no name whose life could have gone better had she actually died. Ansin, then, she put her head on one flipper and just lay there for a moment, heart racing, unsure of what to think or where to go or what to do. She no longer felt so proud to be counted among her people.

After a while, a voice came to her from a long way off on the wind. “Bean! Bean Alainn? Cá bhfuil tú! Where are you! Bean?” Her mother’s voice drifted through the haze that was Bean Alainn’s mind, until she recognized it for what it was. Without much emotion, Bean began slowly swimming wearily toward that familiar voice that she longed, and yet never wished again to hear. It is time to face what I have done, she thought solemnly. She would welcome the consequences of her honesty. She knew she had more than one truth to tell.

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In The Silence: A Song

Listen to my song here!

This is a song that came together through me yesterday. It is the voice of the one, of the whole, not from a single person. It is about the truth at the heart of us all that I am so grateful, blessed, to know and experience.

This is a pretty rudimentary recording, please forgive me. Audacity isn’t the most accessible program and I was competing throughout the day with trains, which meant it took hours to lay tracks down.

Here are the Lyrics.

In The Silence

In the silence I hold
You, in my arms, in my arms.
In the silence I hold
You, in my arms, in my arms.

Once you heal yourself,
You can heal others.
Once you forgive others,
You can forgive yourself.

Keen, and the rain will weep with you,
Dance, and the wind will carry you,
Rise, and the trees will stand with you,
Shine, you are your own light.

Shout, and the stars will answer you,
Call, and the mountains will sound with you,
Laughter, the song of life in you,
Shine, you are your own light.

Dream, and the seeds will wake with you,
Breathe, and the tides will move through you,
Be, and your silence will shelter you,
Shine, you are your own light.

Surrendering, all you are shines through,
You are the light you see in you,
And in the silence I hold
You, in my arms, in my arms.

To Ayla of The Earth Children, 2003

In that dream I had, you ran to me, your five-year-old body parting crowds. I knew your name and forgotten language before you ever said a word. Then you leapt into my arms and spoke mine. That night, we wove ourselves through eons and what we can make believe, face to face with her other’s beginnings.

In different ways, for different reasons, we once took another chance to live. Mine began with a coma, a terrible dot that tore life into two unfinished clauses– before and after the closing of eyes. And for us both, it ended with a scream– the kind uttered at first recognition of difference, still afraid to lose what we had no time to love.

At twelve, when I first heard your story, my blood still stung in the places where so many tried to cut me off from myself. It was you who challenged me to start bleeding watercolors, spill tears without silence, as if, just by painting the desert in swirls of blue, I could stumble into the mist of belonging.

Then, there were the twelve years since. The acorn follows the oak tree, (the meaning of your name,) the child mother to her, woman, the earthy light of old caves. Was it you, or me, who brushed my voice across these shattered sands, slowly removing the brambles–so many obstacles to overturn, so many who deserted me? Was it me, or you, who learned to love the pathfinders (the wolf as their symbol?) I have adopted their language; they have become my second family.

It does not matter which of us came first. That night when you perched on my horizon like a firefly, I whispered to you all I knew to make the world more beautiful. Perhaps it was you, or me, who dreamily pressed a face to the window as we drove home,
Glass reflecting back our smallness, a cool mirror and warm skin.

I still remember waking: how the sun poked its face through the blinds and how the dream felt, ebbing back into the marrow of my bones. I wanted to speak soundlessly, moving my hands, my whole body, through those ancient signs you danced as a child. I would say this to thank you. I would say:

“This woman wakes. This woman has found her others. She has sifted through the grains of sand, and has counted you in every one.”

The Enormity of Our Selves

For a second, I turn my eyes inside away from the glare of noise and lights and sirens and crying babies and dire news blaring into eyes and ears. I listen to something other than the clatter of a world begging for attention from every direction, every time and space, every joy and need. There are sunrises and sunsets, trees, pets, opportunities and friends, all for which to run about, to notice, and to heed.

Yet, somewhere beneath the surface of the self I present outwardly, is a wild, fearless, determined, patient unwavering light. It glows blue and green and violet. There is still, peaceful, expectant water in a pool just below the rocks. There are places for sun and shade. There are places to be overcome with joy. There are places to lay my sorrow and watch it seep away, slowly transforming into what will grow into new life. This is a place for me, all for me.

I don’t know what tomorrow, or next year, or the year after will bring or why I persist in the things I do, or where my path will lead, or what being of this time and not another has fixed about the perspective I will either share or not share with other people. But in that space beyond the ordered chaos of the comings and goings of the calamity of living, I am collected like tears out of disparate rivers and there unknown destinations, and coalesce that way transparent and clear, whole regardless of how many signals pulse out from that one, centered bead, and fragment into the broken information that travels trembling and unsure of itself to the outside where others might listen and receive.

If only we had ears to hear the songs of each others’ beginnings, we might not respond to love with fear. Being close would not be a burden, a burst of concessions: “I am vulnerable and just as human as you are.” Instead, everything would testify to life.

Awful and awesome once shared similar meanings. The sublime is not just in nature outside us, but our own nature as well. We are mysterious and mesmerizing, the kind of being that inspires wonder and terror, joy and caution. To understand ourselves, we cross a threshold out of which nothing exits tamed. I think this is what captures us, captivates us. The enormity of ourselves. The wildness at the heart of us. Strong and intricately woven like spider’s thread.

We scream and cry and flail and judge and give and take and try and fail and soar and fall and act and sleep and love and push away and build and tear apart and fear and long and hurt and heal. We are none of these things.

We are the streams of blues and greens, we are the songs throughout the woven sky sung through the stars and the silent seeds that spring from moonlit nights and soaring things. We are the stillness that contains the wild cry, we are knotted so inextricably into the weaving, and when we cast aside our needing to keep grasping what we mistake for what we are, no longer fear its loss and leaving: then we arrive at the threshold of being, part of a strange and endless dreaming, where tides will shift without receding. We are the light by which we’re seeing, our shining radiance is spirit singing.

How many dive beneath the waves that crash relentlessly upon fragile, fragmented lives, to find that glow so deep inside, enfold them in silence, until they recognize who they really are for the first time. I am the light in every world. I’ve let go of what gets left behind. I have heard that wild song, belonging to everyone, yours, and mine.

I will love and fear and do and plan and strive and wonder if I’ll ever fly. Still, the enormity of ourselves dares and calls and cries to us to look into each others’ eyes and stand with nothing left to hide, together in the mystery that shines, and shines. In each of us the mystery: flesh and bone but made of light, vast and small within us all, finite and ephemeral, but so alive, ever alive.

The Danger of Silence _ The One-Many (OM) Project

“It was the three things we lived by,” said Oisín: “the truth in our hearts, the strength in our hands, and fulfilment in our tongues.”

Next up in the One-Many Project is Clint Smith’s TED Talk, “The Danger of Silence.” From TED.com: “We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t,” says slam poet and teacher Clint Smith. A short, powerful piece from the heart, about finding the courage to speak up against ignorance and injustice.

Watch the talk!

I’ve included the transcript in entirety as it’s short, beautifully written, and to the point.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in a 1968 speech where he reflects upon the Civil Rights Movement, states, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies but the silence of our friends.”

As a teacher, I’ve internalized this message. Every day, all around us, we see the consequences of silence manifest themselves in the form of discrimination, violence, genocide and war. In the classroom, I challenge my students to explore the silences in their own lives through poetry. We work together to fill those spaces, to recognize them, to name them, to understand that they don’t have to be sources of shame. In an effort to create a culture within my classroom where students feel safe sharing the intimacies of their own silences, I have four core principles posted on the board that sits in the front of my class, which every student signs at the beginning of the year: read critically, write consciously, speak clearly, tell your truth.

And I find myself thinking a lot about that last point, tell your truth. And I realized that if I was going to ask my students to speak up, I was going to have to tell my truth and be honest with them about the times where I failed to do so.

So I tell them that growing up, as a kid in a Catholic family in New Orleans, during Lent I was always taught that the most meaningful thing one could do was to give something up, sacrifice something you typically indulge in to prove to God you understand his sanctity. I’ve given up soda, McDonald’s, French fries, French kisses, and everything in between. But one year, I gave up speaking. I figured the most valuable thing I could sacrifice was my own voice, but it was like I hadn’t realized that I had given that up a long time ago. I spent so much of my life telling people the things they wanted to hear instead of the things they needed to, told myself I wasn’t meant to be anyone’s conscience because I still had to figure out being my own, so sometimes I just wouldn’t say anything, appeasing ignorance with my silence, unaware that validation doesn’t need words to endorse its existence. When Christian was beat up for being gay, I put my hands in my pocket and walked with my head down as if I didn’t even notice. I couldn’t use my locker for weeks because the bolt on the lock reminded me of the one I had put on my lips when the homeless man on the corner looked at me with eyes up merely searching for an affirmation that he was worth seeing. I was more concerned with touching the screen on my Apple than actually feeding him one. When the woman at the fundraising gala said “I’m so proud of you. It must be so hard teaching those poor, unintelligent kids,” I bit my lip, because apparently we needed her money more than my students needed their dignity.

We spend so much time listening to the things people are saying that we rarely pay attention to the things they don’t. Silence is the residue of fear. It is feeling your flaws gut-wrench guillotine your tongue. It is the air retreating from your chest because it doesn’t feel safe in your lungs. Silence is Rwandan genocide. Silence is Katrina. It is what you hear when there aren’t enough body bags left. It is the sound after the noose is already tied. It is charring. It is chains. It is privilege. It is pain. There is no time to pick your battles when your battles have already picked you.

I will not let silence wrap itself around my indecision. I will tell Christian that he is a lion, a sanctuary of bravery and brilliance. I will ask that homeless man what his name is and how his day was, because sometimes all people want to be is human. I will tell that woman that my students can talk about transcendentalism like their last name was Thoreau, and just because you watched one episode of “The Wire” doesn’t mean you know anything about my kids. So this year, instead of giving something up, I will live every day as if there were a microphone tucked under my tongue, a stage on the underside of my inhibition. Because who has to have a soapbox when all you’ve ever needed is your voice?

surrendering The Struggle

Fighting what is,
I am undone, threads wound
Fragment, pain tears through somewhere.

Rising, hoping to face nothing but the light,
I try to bargain with my ancestors.
It’s hold-on, keep-going, fall-apart, hold-on,

Solve wholeness like a puzzle,
Scream and flail into exhaustion.
Only then, softly, is each piece mended.

Now, standing still,
Waiting for dawn to break,
I make peace with darkness,

At its heart the hidden colors,
Dormant but alive,
Allow and shape the haunted and disowned.

I learn to love them,
My broken pieces,
Before the rising sun.

I walk by my shadow,
Insist on it,
Warm and needy.

That is courage,
To hold out hands and welcome
This still, searching night.

It knows my name,
Hears my cries, sees my scars,
Enfolds me like a child in its arms.

I let go, helplessly falling,
Tenebrous now, tumbling through silence,
I, like latent color, shine unseen.

And suddenly sky bursts open
With nascent golden flame,
Lightly, I soar, become a shooting star.

When I Loved a Narcissist

Year 2012

Contester, protester, how long have you consented
To pop every culture you’ve yet comprehended?
Resentment runs rampant,
A betrayer’s dis-ease
Passionate anger, and the door locked it’s keys

When hegemony is a commodity
And when every senseless schemed dichotomy
Rends from us autonomy, tears our very selves in two
An unnecessary planned divide between the many and the few.

To either side of the wall on Wall Street
A battle’s being waged
Left there are mobs of the many raging
Right there, cannons crouch in waiting
Their makers, long gone, now congenially debating,
Insatiably their wealth displaying: Set apart, disengaged.

The statue of Liberty waves it’s arms, cold and rusted
For unkempt intruders always welcomed, then mistrusted
Borders have been marked and crossed, their origins now overlaid
The utility costs of livelihoods over human lives
Having long ago been sought, then weighed

I’ve heard your raging excuses countless times
Such unfairness in the world, the reason why you fall
Have you ever dared to look inside
To notice what dark things you hide, at all?

It’s all wrong outside you, while slowly you’re dying
Distancing, mistaking commitment for complying
Avoiding the turmoil that lingers inside you
You focus instead on the horrors around you

The truth, can’t you see, is not just lost out there
Denied it lies languishing within you, silent despair
Would you confront it head-on as you would global warming
Hardly, my dear, for what first would you start mourning?

A child who knew no love, no friendship, just terror
No wonder you run when I try to gather
You up in my arms. And always putting you first,
It’s a foreign thing that, so you’re fearing the worst

And though I try and try, and tell you that all that you are
Brought my spirit to life, lit inside out like a star
You can’t get too close lest you venture too far
Away from your wounds and the seeds of your scars

They rattle like bones and bleed through, become ours
And your silence is deafening and shouts every word
That you never once said, though you speak, and I’ve heard
Confusion collects then like mist near dark towers
Your imprint that glistens, shatters, lingers for hours.

There is so much grief, so much fear, so much hurt
And you force me to wear your pain like a shirt
How convenient for you to have a living mirror
In which to reflect how you’re never sincere.

Of course we are alienated, living when we do,
But within us we each have a light that shines through
You tried to take mine, but I’m leaving your dream,
Oh you who are lost in a long silent scream.

An Ordinary Day _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 10

December 13, 2013

I’m getting ready to start my day, listening to Pandora. Suddenly, Máire Brennan’s song, Land of Youth, starts playing. It is the song recounting the tale of Oisín in Tír na Nóg. I have just been thinking about Oisín, and his own song, the one he wrote for me. For some reason I take the arrival of the song to indicate that I should be expecting Oisín, so I walk about and look for him. I cannot see anyone or anything beyond five feet or so. For this reason I wander around the living room, to make sure I don’t miss seeing him, should he appear.

Silently, he walks to where I am standing. There is only a need for silence. Wordlessly, we share moments almost as though I am a child. As though, perhaps, I am his child’s child’s child… and, how far would that go, I wonder.

He is half a chest and a full head taller than I am, Oisín is, with long curly blond hair and clear bluish hazel eyes. I am gazing up at him, as he towers over me. He greets me with the gesture that to those in the otherworld means both hello, welcome, acknowledgment, and the recognition of who a person is. In the otherworld, you can understand everything about who a person is once you know that you don’t have to put up defenses.

I can’t read Oisín’s facial expression, in part because his face is a good 8 inches above my head. Yet I know it is stern and weather worn, somber, kind. I can only picture a “generic face template” for anyone, embodied or otherwise, so I’m simply told the extra information which I appreciate especially as I never get a chance to know things like this of people in this world.

We stand speaking wordlessly about the far and the near, about the vast and the insignificant, there in the middle of the living room. Alllegro sits a few paces away, intently surveying us quietly and I notice that he’s not shoving a hedgehog at either of us.

I ask questions but there are no answers. Questions like Why? And How? And What was it like when? And I know that now, being as he is in another world, his eternal address is from nowhere.

And as we stand side by side, I understand what must be done: its just to be. Be and go on being. Doing what I am already beginning. Be fully here now, share all I can.

And so I thank him for the song. I gesture as if I could take his hand and tell him how much his words mean to me, though there are no words for this. I ask how he’d like to handle the fact that he wrote the song, but I wrote it down, because of course, I will always be honest and give him the credit in a world that will not accept what happened.

He gestures to put the song into my hands and I protest that it isn’t right, but he insists it is what must be when someone is already not of this world.

Suddenly a commercial careens through the room with its loud incantations of Black Friday sales and Christmas gifts. I am almost certain that Oisín will disappear at this point. I know he doesn’t like commercialism, and is suspicious of modern technology, recognizing it is only helpful as most things are, in balance with the rest of living. Now, I think I’ve been hoping to never see what Oisín or Caoilte or anyone else looks like when angry. But I suppose I have known that I would find out sooner or later. Oisín isn’t angry at me, he’s angry at the hollow meaninglessness surrounding our culture’s obsession with stuff, material substitutes for real connection, and all the falsehoods such a way of life continues. I know this as it is quite easy to read each others’ thoughts.

Anyway, when he is angry Oisín is even more formidable and fierce looking than usual. I realize I have already moved a bit out of the way, but Oisín sees this and puts a light around us. I look up at him expectantly, willing to begin to learn that anger is a regular human emotion and doesn’t have to indicate either that something is wrong with me or be about me at all. It doesn’t have to mean, as it did with my ex partner, that a person will lose control and lash out at anyone in line of fire. Some people like Oisín know how to express emotion while directing it appropriately. That is new to me. Then his anger shifts into sadness.

If he were an embodied person he would sit me down and have the “back when I was young” conversation that my grandpa had with me yesterday and elders always need to have because the world has changed so much, usually for the better but not always.

And then, noticing the sympathy flickering in my eyes, he smiles. He says, “I don’t understand this tradition of your time: indiscriminately blasting messages of little intrinsic point and specious importance at anyone who happens to hear, into houses and around neighborhoods, all in order to further convince people of a ubiquitous deception. There is obviously a great deal of competition involved, but no honor in it. It’s tragic to see and hear about such wanting for the sake of wanting. Why? So much stuff, the majority of it unneeded, vies for the giving of attention to the wrong sort of value and meaning. This is profoundly wasteful and does not forge good character in people.”

I have to agree. Though I appreciate getting material gifts from people, I know our culture takes it out of hand beyond what is healthy or balanced.

Before he leaves, Oisín draws a time line in the air. I stare at it intrigued. Through it he draws an x. I don’t get it. I draw a blank and show him a picture of both of us drawing but not understanding each other.

And then he gives me another picture, one that unfolds that I can read. Change has no schedule to keep. Friendship is not a sequence of events. Living is not a series of completed finish lines. And there is no reward system for waking up in the morning. There is no answer to the question: Am I doing all I can do? Even if I ask the question a hundred times a day, and I do. There is only doing.

Some day a long long time from now, more than sixty years from now, once I cross that bridge that we all will cross, I will sit down with him for hours and we will wonder at each other’s beginnings. We will marvel at how we could be friends, even while belonging as we do to two different worlds. There is no reason to let a simple detail like that put limits on what is already boundless and knows no turns or edges. Of that we are both in agreement. We smile at each other and make the sign for parting before he disappears, and then I go about dropping some airborne into a glass of water and take Allegro downstairs and eat breakfast.

And at the moment there are two or three otherworld people fascinated by what I’m writing and are walking around. I don’t recognize them but they look curious—as in full of curiosity—and seem fine. I keep a pretty good lookout here because since I offered my place for the fianna to come through on the way to other things (surely not thinking through how many of them there are!) I have seen many many more people than usual, some quite modern which means despite my intentions many many otherworld beings can come through here, and not just the ones I intended. This could turn out to be more of a problem than I want to admit.

Sometimes I create a circle so I don’t have anyone coming through, but if not I watch and make sure these are genuinely good people because after all as an embodied person this is my space and I have the first say on boundary creating. Well, and I also have places at my house that no otherworld people are allowed and time limits because they have no concept of time and might, and did, come through at three in the morning with very important lyrics to songs to write down. I mean, I appreciated the lyrics, but not being up at that hour.

So begins my ordinary Monday morning. Well, at least it has become quite ordinary.

The Challenge to Value Myself Over What Others Might Think of Me

I was inspired to share this experience after reading many heartfelt, courageously written recent posts from my blog friend, Alienora.
I spend a lot of my spiritual life in challenges, most of which I haven’t shared. But in different ways I think we all have to deal with this one, sooner or later. I’m still in the middle of it!

September 3, 2014
To Those in the Otherworld Who Walk Their Journey with Me:

It is Wednesday morning, and I am feeling strangely cut off, like somehow I dropped the thread I was winding through the maze of my journey, and cannot find it again. I am exhausted. My bones ache, as if I have gone a long, long way. I worry I am falling back asleep, and then I might fail or be forgotten. I do not know the word I need to live by. I only know the word yes, not yes to doing more and more, not yes to pleasing people. It is yes, I am.

Lately growth for me has not come with trying, working hard, demanding more from myself, pushing limits, proving I can do what I originally took to not be possible. I have, in the course of the challenges I meet, done every one of these things. But then I can’t do more or I fall apart, or I am frozen in fear, or I just can’t keep going: and then I grow.

I grow because I open and unfold across the barriers I built to continue my false sense of security. I grow because I can no longer maintain the dam holding back emotions, they spill over the sides of the space within which I wish they had stayed. . I give up the need to be in control. I let go. I let myself be seen. And I let change take me by the hand, as if I am a weary child, whispering hush through the dark shadowy bits of mind I might have otherwise disowned. I dissolve into endless belonging beneath coming and going. Suddenly I am not lost but at the center of the labyrinth of living. I grow.

This particular morning, I am trying to rid myself of the belief that what others think of me is often more important than being true to myself. I am terrified to say the wrong thing, to confront anyone and create conflict, but definitely could wait a bit longer before accepting this. I think of ways to hold myself apart from past and potential criticism so I won’t get hurt. I think of the defenses I’ll need to build so I won’t feel small when people try to minimize my ideas or cut me down. I wonder whether I can get away with using indifference as a shield against taking what people say personally, at least occasionally.

And then I realize, unfortunately with an even greater sense of alarm and terror, that if I did this there would be no way for you and I to reach each other. It would plunge me into the invisibility that is my greatest nightmare. The possibility is inconceivable to me, like self-imposed exile. It is a choice I will never make again.

Once, I was so hurt that I cut myself off from any world, and lost sight of my own identity. It was the year I started grad school and my parents were separating. I almost never found my way back home. I know what it is like to allow the desertification of the forest of soul. I hid myself even from me, thinking this was a form of self protection. I almost died inside before I admitted how my refusal to live consciously was only a brutal form of self-betrayal.

Earlier this year, life again began to draw me toward that edge over which we fly or fall. There, unconsciousness called alluringly, louder than the din of my over occupied, overwhelmed mind and raging emotions that were threatening to engulf me and pull me in. I lost myself in sleep, dreaming for hours, unwilling to take the covers away from my face or get out of bed. But that was not the end of it, because the stillness I knew to always be with me, in which I learned my worth, in which I came home to myself, called my name. I heard your voices in the silent cry, I remembered looking into your eyes, and found I was enough.

I came too in the midst of a crowd. You all stood with grave, stern faces, devastated by what I had almost done. And you said, “There is nothing we would have been able to do had you chosen not to return.” That was when I promised you, and perhaps more importantly myself, that it would not happen again. And it has not. It cannot.

Etched into my mind is the picture of the six or so of you I could see, incredible sadness searing lines across your faces. And I understood that had I chosen once again to simply go through the motions, we would search for each other and see nothing, you would call my name and I wouldn’t hear you: all because I would have imposed separation on myself. And so once again my world turns upside down, leaving me dizzy and disoriented with the effort of ridding myself of false beliefs, determined to stay present.

Shaking, I tear down the defenses, I break the facade of indifference, relieved that now, there is nothing between us. But there is also nothing between myself and uncertainty, and what others think of me is quite beyond my control. An icy cold runs through me. I start to cross my arms in front of me to ward off the cold, but remember in time how it will help me instead to stand in the way that reflects how I wish to be in the world. I feel like standing is an impossibility, but somehow it continues. Still, I reach out. This is the only way I know to be fully alive and live with the authenticity that comes from not letting the opinions and talk of others destroy my sense of worth and self compassion. And we all know I could use a bit more of both when it comes to this world, when, inevitably, someone won’t like what I do or say, and might even reject me.

being able to do this in my own world is the whole point. I try hard not to think about that now, though, because when I do the world spins around me in 360 degrees, and I’m reaching out again, this time literally for balance.

I can’t recall a time when reaching out was harder. Ironically, as I stumble through and decide I am probably failing, I worry about what you are thinking of me. Of course, this only convinces me that yes, most likely I really am failing. Moving beyond concerns of judgment—yours and mine–and that I’ll be found seriously wanting, is like walking through a hurricane. When I try and move through physical space, the room spins around again dangerously. I bump into a few walls. But Silently, spent of doing, I reach out. And for a moment I am there, knowing how it feels to love myself fiercely, no matter what this world’s reaction may be.

It’s only one short moment. For today it’s enough. I decide that, tomorrow, rather than “try,” I will instead just be. I will accept where I am even if I wish I had learned more quickly, and surrender to silence. I’ll open the door that habit and fear have implored me to leave alone, to find my way through a room littered with the tears and isolation, invisibility and insensitivity that haunted my childhood.

Beneath the insecurity I face, I know that, when you see me, your eyes will be kind. You have been here before. If I fall, you will, gratefully, say nothing in the moment, just help me start again. There are many things I know I’d rather not confront, but they are the guardians to the gates, the keepers of the keys I need, in order to be free to say what I long to say, to be truly who I am. And that is what this is all about. It is all I’ve ever needed to be. I start again.

The Beauty In All Things

I look all around this world
For the beauty in all things:
It’s in your eyes,
It’s in the starlight in your hair,

It’s in the cries of children,
The murmurings of all that grows.
Sometimes it just breaks me to see so much anger, so much fear,
And the tears we cry over what people’s hands and minds have done.

Flowers do not know despair,
Sitting there so patiently
They never mind the waiting.
I am looking far away, struck by memories almost fading–

For what is left behind when we die, but how we’ll be remembered?
None of the trees, none of the seas, none of the green stands still,
Until pieces of the scars start to be beautiful, make sense,
Bright and radiant, even holding truth at our expense.

How change so suddenly engulfs us,
Forcing us to recognize dishonesty.
How change so suddenly enfolds us,
Transforming all we thought we’d be.

In time I know wounds will heal, mountains fading into sea,
Time smooths over what is real, while conquerors write its history.
In time the children crawl, then stand, to walk life’s mystery,
And I hope this time that I can find the beauty in all things.

Rarely is existence black and white,
As in betweens we have a power of our own:
To magnify the bruises,
Etch the outlines of scars,

Glint in the rain drops,
Shimmer with the echos through the sky,
And bless the dawn with light,
And draw out all the life in everyone.

Sometimes there is too much darkness,
And I don’t know what will become of us,
But as long as I am here, I’ll make sure I’m standing tall,
Taking in all, swaying when the wind blows.

I’ll survive somehow,
Our memories, our dreams they have survived,
Broken pieces of identity,
Often not invaluable enough to save,

Our needs not what they used to be,
In a way there is nothing more to need.
I am here, a testament to love,
What are tides, if we never had changed course sometimes.

It’s hard to say just how I feel,
Harder still to share the desperation in my eyes,
Hardest to admit when I’m afraid
To walk the world alone, unsure of what’s ahead.

What else can I say, you are shining, ,
You are changing the way I face the things of life.
Holding gently in my hands what time has left for me,
Songs of joy and sorrow, I wish to gather gratefully.

And I hope, despite what life might bring,
I’ll find shelter in some trees,
Look across the seas,
Hear the laughter of my children and with them, wonder at such beauty,
The beauty in all things.