For The Little Girls Trying To Be Perfect

I have spent so much of this life trying to be perfect. And what I have to show for it is a body full of tension and a mind whose instinct is to put on the brakes instead of lifting my arms and letting out a whole-hearted and wholly inappropriate whoooot. 

And so.

This is for the little girls trying to be perfect, who think it will make them feel whole and loved and accepted, who are told to watch out for strangers but are never warned about getting trapped in the four walls of their own mind.

This is for the little boys who are shamed for crying or feeling or being human, who are told to be men and then given power without being empowered.

It’s for the parents who can’t bear to hear what is in their children’s hearts because it’s not what they want to hear. And it’s for the children who take that deaf ear and turn it inward so they can’t even hear their own truth anymore, only drown it and numb it and run from it.

This is for us who hear how someone died or how they killed and think it could never happen to us or to ours, who judge them good or bad because being right pushes it farther away.

This is for your unnamed pain and your unheard truth and the places it hurts that don’t make sense and that no one asks about because they can’t see the scars or they’re just not looking.

This is for our holy hallelujahs and goddammits that we wish could lift us above it all but in the end bring us closer to the insane and the humane as we let out a collective Amen, human is what we are.

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Kindness

When the kindness comes for you let it in
the way you let the sun in through the window or the sand in between your toes

If it feels like it’s aiming right for your heart that’s because it is

And if you’re wondering why it never felt this way before (the kind words from the lady who found your father wandering the streets with his Alzheimers; the gentle touch by the nurse after you birthed your baby)

perhaps it’s because your heart was a checkpoint instead of a landing strip
and now it all arrives to close to home, so intimately, so personally
the way kindness does when it has a clear path to you

taking your hand and showing you the tender side of being human
through illness or loss or love or aging

And when all the vulnerability you thought the world would laugh at is held so gently, so kindly
perhaps you wonder why you’ve spent a lifetime hiding your raw, unedited heart until now

and perhaps you let the love color outside the lines a little more going forward
perhaps you let the kindness soften those callouses from that time you lost or that time you hurt or that time you died a little or a lot

and then send it on its way to land in someone else’s heart.

Let It All Fall Apart

Save your strength for those who need you to be strong
but how tender can you be with your own heart
how patient can you be with your own growth
how kind can you be to your weak parts

Hold it together when others are collapsing
but once in a while let it all fall apart
let it break in your hands
let the rivers flow from your eyes and your pores and your lips

Answer what needs to be answered
but the rest of the time let the questions rest against each other like your knees
write the answers in pencil or (better yet)
in the sand
so when the oceans of love or pain wash them away there will be a fresh slate for the new answers
the new way from here to there

Fix what you can fix
but let everything else come together (or back together) slowly
your love, your heart, your path
let them learn to trust again, to try again, to risk it all again

Save the world if you can
or just love bigger than you ever imagined
just smile at every single person you pass
just do your best every moment of every day
starting right Now.

The Invitation

FullSizeRender (1)I’ll meet you here,
where the paved road ends and days are synced with the clock in the sky

where downloading silence improves our connection
and loading our bones with movement lightens the weight of the world

where curiosity is the only currency of value
and its dividends are paid in moonshine & sunsets

where stillness raises our vibration
and wisdom is written on walls of granite

where we strip down to our souls until we can hear loud and clear
the beat of our own hearts tolling for us.

Once Upon a Time

Mo reflectionOnce upon a time when I was very sad and very alone I would walk a certain stretch of beach for miles and dream of the woman I would like to be and say to myself, over and over:

That woman is worth waiting to meet.

I did that for years. It kept me alive. It kept me sane. It kept me going.

Sometime and somewhere during the last 13 years I became that woman I waited to meet.

Along that path I met many sisters who held me up physically, energetically or spiritually
(in small rooms, in big conversations, in silence, in chaos, with grace and with patience).

They did not offer me refuge or remedies. They offered me presence and acknowledgement.

Along that path I met gurus and sages. They offered me questions, not answers. They pointed me in a direction but did not tell me what I would find.

Along that path I met the moon and the sun. They did not offer me their light. They offered me their consistency, a space in the sky to store my heart and a promise that if I showed up each day and night, so would they.

Along that path I met my small self. At the bottom of wine glasses, in bad poetry, in the arms of the ocean, on the limbs of suicide, in caverns of doubt and in mazes of mirrors, each one reflecting a different side of me.

And I met my true self. At the bottom of wells of silence and reflected in pools of stillness.

Once I met myself I could finally begin to meet you. One by one, online and in person, in yoga classes and coffee houses, in the land of loss and the land of laughter, broken and whole, human being to human being.

Wherever we are and however we are, we are in this thing together. In fact, we are this thing.

Being Human

sage stick

I wonder how we can dignify this human experience
our birth days and our funerals
our love stories and our tragedies
our collapses and our relapses
our wounds, scars and beauty

I don’t have the answer,
but I have this embrace I offer you each time we meet
I have this heart that beats and breaks like yours

I have this experience of being strong, weak, injured, alone, hopeful, dejected, empowered, pained
this experience of being human that I hold out as an offering
as the torch I sometimes carry for you and you sometimes carry for me

It’s a place to start.
It’s a conversation to have.
It’s a question to ask.

The Hard Things

I want to speak of the breakthroughs and the dreams achieved
and not about how I keep running up against the edges of my heart.

those cold, stubborn edges that don’t want to budge for anyone,
soften for anyone,
open for anyone,
which is why she often has to be broken open in joy or sorrow.

I want to preach of strength and success
and not of looking in the mirror at weakness, fragility, emptiness,
or of the patience it takes to sit with the nothingness
and hold space for its very existence
until the enoughness emerges out of the dark womb
and cries out for the very first time.

I want to tout the answers
and not the questions no one wants to hear:

when is the first time we hated something about our reflection?
who planted the seeds of shame in our hearts?
why did we leave our dreams to follow someone else’s dream?

I want to speak of hand-holding and baby-cuddling and sweet nothings,
but I don’t

because those are the easy things,
those are the things that dance proudly on the stage of our life,
the things that don’t hide in corners and only reveal themselves in shadows.

but these, the hard things,
are just as sacred,
deserve as much a voice and a listen,
crave just as much love as the easy things

if not more.

My Life Mala

malaWe all wear our stories in some way or another, don’t we?

They make us who we are (and sometimes keep us from becoming who we can be if we let them define us too narrowly.)

I started making what I call “Life Malas” because each marker is placed for a life event. I used yellow jade for manipura chakra (solar plexus), green jade for anahata chakra (heart), green ruby zoisite for sahasrara chakra (crown), and a spiral shell I found on the beach because it feels like home.

I made this one for me, so I placed the green jade marker beads at the times when my life and heart were busted open. Marker 1 is at 25, the age I was when Nathan died. Marker 2 is at 37, when my baby was born. Marker 3 is at 98, the age of my great-grandmother, born in 1917, who is breathing her last breaths this year.

Stringing the beads under the darkness of a new moon, it occurred to me that at one of these beads I will pass away myself (and that this life is not a dress rehearsal, so I’ve got to live it right the first time.)

There are 108 beads in a mala, and if I get to see bead 98 like my grandma, I’ll count myself very lucky. I’ll count myself lucky to see 39 this month.

I made this mala necklace to remind me that both loss and life are part of the same cycle. They coexist beautifully if I let them, and if I practice embracing both rather than inviting one and rejecting the other, I get to experience the full depth of being human instead of just skimming the surface.

My life mala is an outward representation of the integrity, cohesiveness and beauty that emerges when I allow every experience to support the next one. Broken or fragmented as they appear at times, when I view them all together they form this fragile but beautiful thing called life.

Originally published on YogaOne.

We Were Wild Once

IMG_2143We were wild once you know.

We howled without embarrassment,
we cried out for what we needed,
wanted,
loved.

We did not know our skin color mattered because
our heart pumped so perfectly.

We did not know looks were important because
we saw smiles instead of symmetry.

We did not know judgement because
we were too busy being curious.

I wonder if we can take off our otherness now and then
(and hang it in the closet next to our fears & judgements & inadequacies)
and just sit here

you and me in our strong bones,
listening to our beating hearts,
asking our questions that have no answers

maybe in this magic moment we will feel the urge to howl
and not care what we sound like.

When it is time for us to part I hope we
put on our otherness slowly,
so that perhaps we see our laugh lines instead of our wrinkles,
our sameness instead of our differences,
our humanity instead of our insanity,

maybe we walk away a little wilder, a little more whole and a little changed
having remembered where we came from is not so different from where we are.

Originally published on elephantjournal.

A Question For All the Lonely People

Who are you?

Are you a 25-year-old widow like I was or are you a 40-year-old single mother?

Are you a 62-year-old divorced man or are you a 15-year-old boy who feels like an outcast?

Are you a 27-year-old soul-seeker who can’t find their match or an 80-year-old grandmother whose children live on the other side of the country?

Not so long ago, I thought I was alone also. I wasn’t, but the thought that I was kept me from reaching out, from feeling supported, and from finding the enoughness in my solitude.

Enoughness. The feeling that you are enough exactly as you are right now.

I spent years eating dinners on Friday nights alone. I would ride my bike past the lovers at sunset and wonder when it would be my turn. I would dread coming home to an empty house and the silence no noise could mask.

What kept me company was loneliness, and not the kind that goes away when you sleep. The kind that settles in your bones and follows you like a shadow and on the best days waits for you to crawl into bed to remind you.

I really thought I was alone. I thought I was alone in my loneliness. I thought the rest of the world had a sleeping baby and a spouse who came home and a dog who warmed their heart.

I didn’t realize until very recently (this week, in fact) that people are as alone as I once was, with one difference: They are speaking up, they are speaking out, and they are finding the enoughness in their solitude.

That’s the most courageous thing ever. To tell the world where you really are. To tell the world you are hurting. To tell the world you are human.

I couldn’t do it. For decades I kept it bottled up inside and drank from it only when no one was looking, struggling through a hangover of sadness for years.

It blows me away that in our culture we greet each other with How are you and answer I’m fine, when too often that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Whether you’re a stranger, my neighbor, my mother or my friend, the next time I see you I don’t want to talk about the weather and I don’t want to hear how your weekend was. I want to hear your heart beat and when is the last time it broke and what are you afraid of and where do you go when you’re sad and what will be your last words on this earth.

Tell me those words. Tell me your dying words. I want to hear them now, on this street corner, waiting for the light to turn green with the sun shining on this perfect day where darkness and shadow don’t exist. I want to hear them now.

Because that’s what I’m really asking you when I say How are you.

I’m saying I’m human and you’re human. I want to know it’s okay to be us. To be human, to be imperfect, to not have all the answers, to not have a buffer to life. I want to know it’s okay to bleed in public, through tears or words or laughter. I want to know you won’t turn your head when I say I’m not okay, when I say I’m working through something, when I say I can’t fake it anymore.

Do me that favor. Tell me how you are, so that whether my life feels full or empty I will feel connected to my truth and to your truth and to the space in between us, so that the next time I find my true self picking up the remains of my small self that has shattered in a thousand little pieces on my kitchen floor, I will not be afraid to show my scarred face in public.

And the next time I’m three years into a deep depression I will not be afraid you will ask me how I am.

And the next time I get a phone call that someone I love tried to kill themselves, I won’t wonder how I missed the signs. I won’t wonder what I could have done.

I will have seen the signs because they weren’t afraid to show me. I will have done what I could have done because I wasn’t afraid to see their pain and their need.

In your darkness you can’t see me, but I am here. When the light rises you will see all of us. All of us lonely people who made it through by hanging on and refusing to let the darkness snuff out our light inside.

We see you, as clearly as we see our own face in the mirror. We see your enoughness, we see your struggle, we see your humanity.

We’re here and we hear you. What do you have to say?

Originally published on elephantjournal.