Sun then hail then whipping winds then sun again. A sky that throws itself around without embarrassment or concern for the confusion or mess – there is no one to answer to. It thrills me to be so close to thrashingly unrestrained expressiveness. I quiver with glee because my errands today will be more than just activities – the weather makes me feel more vivid, the way increasing the contrast does to the object in a photo.
Town is downhill. As I roll off to the side of the road and pick up speed I spray a fine mist of wet gravel up my arms, along my thighs and inside the teal bag that hangs on the back of my chair. I wear battered gloves to protect my hands from the gritty friction but my clothes are at the mercy of the muck. The feeling of the speed swooping into my guts and moving them around makes me cackle out loud. I grin like a fool on these downhill trips feeling taken over by momentum – a feeling a lot like loosing your mind in the touch and scent of someone. The tiny gravel bumps vibrate my skin and i’m always itchy from it by the time I get to the bottom. Itchy and exhilarated. The exhilaration takes over my face, people think I’m smiling at them, that it’s just happiness, or that i’m simply having fun – and it’s partly true. The thrill is more intimate than just enjoyment and by the bottom of that hill what i’m really feeling is ravished.
Today is the kind of day where people I see all the time, and people I have never seen before are telling me their finest secrets and tales. The one’s they keep close to their skin for warmth and protection. The stories from their lives that are too easily misunderstood or dropped by those they might hand them to if they weren’t so careful with them. I think there is something fierce around me that makes us all brave. Them to speak and me to sit very still and very open and hear. Because there is something in the fierce that means you can take on the destructive or dangerous things of life and not bow over in despair. Maybe somehow saying them into the fierceness clears some of the debris they’ve accumulated away and makes carrying them around a little lighter. I’d like to think it’s something like that.
Being intense is not always the most likeable, approachable, swallowable thing. Too much, is too much. Stomach ache or emotional or energetic overload. But other days, some mysterious tweak of things and intensity is the exact thing that draws people in and makes us all feel safe and strong.
I buy a handful of books with covers as glossy as candy. I don’t want to just read them I want to eat them, sucking out all their flavour. And when I tell my friend who sells these morsels to me the dirty things I plan to do to them she groans in empathy. And I am unembarrassed by my pleasure.
At the grocery store the produce man helps me to reach the too-high kale and later comes to find me in the check-out line to give me a bag of mangoes that have spots on their skin. He seems a little shy about his gift, but I receive it proudly.
And still the sky is changing it’s mind. and all day I am at peace being just like that – my insides like an unpredictable sky.
Me and the quiet breathing of the house and Solitude who sits in my poetry chair.
The chair I share with my cat, Picasso, in the mornings and read Mary Oliver or Billy Collins to as she purrs. The chair is in front of a large window that has the best view. Now the Sun, more brave and sure of himself, leans over my shoulder on these mornings and eavesdrops on the notes I make in the margins. I’ve made a fire by the time I sit in my poetry chair and I’ve made an espresso on the stove – a collection of scents that now signal to me that I am starting a new day – a day I feel welcomed by.
But it’s not morning now and I don’t have the company of the Sun, or of anyone. Solitude visits mostly after sunset. She likes my poetry chair the best, I think, because of the bits of moments collected on it with the clumps of cat hair and bits of dirt in the folds of the cushion. She is an intense companion – never saying much of anything and when she watches me I get self conscious of what I might be displaying just by sitting here. Does she scrutinize my contemplations? Is she keeping track of how well I savour my alone moments, my creative opportunities, my own company? Does she keep an accounting record of how many details I can notice or the capacity of my senses for nuance or the amount of time spent avoiding her gaze? Is she proud of me? Or if not, is she compassionate? She doesn’t crack jokes with me to ease the tension – instead she’s impassive in that way of the serene who have no need to make you more comfortable because they have no need to *be* more comfortable. It makes me feel so….*accountable*. All that shows up is my own. And Solitude tends not to offer me distractions.
But when I hear the rain on my roof like an irregular heartbeat I feel her noticing it with me. It’s like that moment when you’re with someone and something catches your eye, then catches their eye, then you catch each other’s eye and you both know what the other is thinking – what it is meaning to you and what to do next about it. It’s deeply satisfying to synch up like that. And she does it with me now and it makes her company feel easy on me.
Solitude just sits in my poetry chair. Listening to the night get serious about itself. Listening to my thoughts twirl around. Intensely and serenely saying nothing about either. Unapologetically accepting the invitation to hang around, half ignored – half adored.
This Island captures the best of me…
and sets it in contrast with my angst.
And in the middle all this work gets done to clear and sweep the debris of restrictions and fear out of the way.
I am still usually scared, but my body can withstand it. I can show up. I can try it out and shudder with disgust for the mistakes and then just move on.
I can walk to my edges where the pressure and heat push on me until my edges sharpen and glisten in the dark.
I can sit in the space of my home created by 40 foot ceilings and windows that go all the way up and nothing gets in the way and just breath and remember to not try to so hard all the time. And learn, in my hollow bones, what balance really is – not the idea of a static state – but the truth that it is a constant motion.
All the different pieces of my puzzle falling into some place on this island. I came here ready to start a practice…as a therapist. with real clients. and that was where I halted for a while. I had to wait for furniture. Then I just had to wait. I felt ready and not ready. I finally stepped out and put out a good word and gave it a start. Actually sitting with someone, taking them in and offering my skills in return isn’t the hard part. But all my feelings around it were so confusing and uncomfortable to me. Incomprehensible. I made a website to promote myself more widely and to practice expressing what I do. I tweaked it, shared it, changed it, took it down, changed it, shared it, and took it down again. None of it making the reason my skin crawled when I thought about it come any more clear to me.
My processing was relentless and fierce – I saw my own therapist, and I talked endlessly with my husband. And then, as is often the case with things you work really hard for, when it came it was this small, obvious thing – like realizing your greatest treasure was the ordinary rock you idly picked up one day on a walk.
It’s clear from feedback through my schooling, my other students and the random assortment of clients I’ve had that i’m pretty good at being a therapist. From my own undulating contemplations about it most of what makes me good ( maybe better than the average person at the same experience level as me) comes to me naturally – I do it without much thought or reconfiguring of my personality. If we go out to lunch or if you pay me $200 dollars and come to my office there isn’t that much of a difference. And most of the spiritual adeptness and intellectual agility were things I had before formally studying counseling techniques.
And I’ve been confused by the fact that none of that adds up to feeling great or comfortable in any way with full-on offering of my services in this way. Not because it wont be healing and useful and not because I don’t enjoy it, but because when I *think* about it, and make an *effort* I find myself short of what I intended. I don’t want to be ‘good’ or even ‘better than average’. I want to be my best. And i’m not – yet. but I need the room to practice and learn and strive for that – not just the time it will take stretching into the future – but the time it takes each day. And the question isn’t how to let more people know what I do, but how to have more energy and stamina to strive for my best with the people who already know.
I have never been comfortable with quantity. Expansion for the sake of it as a measure of success doesn’t appeal to me. I prefer the intensity of focus on the quality. It shows up all over my life (not being comfortable socializing with more than one person at at time, feeling uncomfortable when organizations or activities i’m a part of shift their focus onto expansion) but I prefer to bring that intensity into my life when the rest of me is calm and sturdy – otherwise it’s like inviting a tornado into your living room for tea. not fun. and pointless.
My body wants to climb swathes of silky, stretchy fabric. Because I have two bodies. A strong, glorious impressive body. It is agile, and erotic so courageous and powerful, full of pleasure and the capacity for ecstasy. It does wondrous things and pulses to the beat of ‘Yes, I can’. I also have a weak body. It is twisted and restricted and has made me feel humiliated and disgusting. It has a thin and reedy energy that vibrates at the same frequency of a whine but barely ever makes a sound. And I am confused by my two bodies, by where I am in the midst of them. I have always been confused by them and I have never found a way to talk about it. So I climb. My body flies just like dreams do.
This island invited me to other scary and thrilling places in me. Acting, in particular, is a place that has had allure for me but that I felt less sure I could do. I hold onto my sense of my self identity so seriously, so strenuously that it’s hard to be frivolous. Hard to be misunderstood. Hard to even pin myself down with a choice or an offering because the idea it wont match the complete and total truth of who I am is unbearable. So I go to these acting workshops and confront it. Give myself a little room to be someone else, to make a clear choice and watch it fail or succeed. As I’m pretending, playing and tapping into the emotions that show up – each time I find something about me that is very real and very true and hardly as timid or afraid of being misrepresented as I thought. I am braver and bolder.
This island has also taught me how badly I need to write and express in order to have that calmness – the balance that gives my intensity context and purpose. I have ventured into the glorious mysterious realms of ghost writing and learned that credit and acknowledgment isn’t what I want or need – just time with the words, to taste them and roll them around in my mind, feeling their textures and temperatures and moving them around until they feel just right. I need to do it for myself, I love to do it for other people.
When I sink into this part of me I take a break from striving for perfection. It’s a way of resting that restores me and gives a structure to how I spend my time that eases the low-grade panic that tinges the edges of a day spent unsure of what to do but feeling like there’s no time to do nothing and therefore everything will somehow fall apart. Unreasonable, yes. Which means you can’t reason with a feeling like that. You can placate it though.
So I came back to this home, which I have loved and left many times since I started it. But that I have never felt embarassed by or restricted in.
And I stoke the low fire that is in me. Burning for perfection. Burning for expression. Burning to know you and have you know me.
I make trails with my fingers across her body
to spread out the effort of such a climb
into our souls and out of our minds
“your hands are conscious’ she says.
So is her skin if she can tell such a thing.
We look up to the evidence of the firm and gentle breeze
“I wish the trees could caress me that way”
Me (frantically): I just feel like I can’t get it done. Like, I physically *can’t*!
My mom is standing in the door about to pick up another box of my things to wait in her basement while I find a home in the forest. Without much of a pause at all and certainly no impatience about it she says:
“You can, and you will.” an assurance that comes from knowing the panic is rediculous, whatever it’s telling me is complete bullshit and i’m full of it to take any time to consider it’s perspective.
And there is the liminal moment. The threshold between the panicked voice that believes it can’t be done, and certainly *I’m* not capable of getting through all this packing, all the details, all the stuff I don’t have a plan for yet. And the seeping out from there to everything else I can’t manage. Between that helpless place and the self that turns toward the task with joyous determination. I pause at the choice for a slight moment before i take a deep breathe of possible and able and it’s that simple.
I don’t know why this detour is so alluring to me each time. How helpless seems so instantly gratifying and glamours me with some promise of relief from strain when each time the step back into empowered and capable is so much sexier.
You can. And you will.
This poem has riveted me. Lately, I’ve been finding poems, the words of others in general, reach into places in me that want to articulate themselves but my own words just can’t seem to get deep enough or to hold firmly enough to draw out. My relationship with language is wobbly and sometimes writing hurts.
So while I am patient with that and write each day anyway, I am also motivated by that feeling when a word or phrase has the perfect resonance with the experience on the inside and it plucks at me and I quiver and hum in tune.
Here is one such poem:
Her voice’s rhythm soothes me and each little sentence is a reassurance that life is safe to live as it is.
and how do you pick a favorite part? the music building as the words gain an intensity and courage, but stay simple and reassuring. bold and reassuring. that’s a delicious taste to me. but also, the last part just melts my resistance to being human that much more – to my heart it combines the ‘get over it’ my tendency to want things smooth and easy needs to hear, with an encouragement to find that message relieving instead of patronizing or impossible. and also, i feel a sense of rising in triumph as the call is both to responsibility *and* to thriving. it’s not just ‘how to be alone’ it’s how to thrive there.
Here’s is an excerpt from the end of the poem that I transcribed (hopefully somewhat accuruately):
Society is afraid of alone though, like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements.
Like people must have problems if after awhile no one is dating them. But lonely is a freedom that breaths easy and weightless, and lonely is healing if you make it.
You can stand swathed by groups and mobs or hold hands with your partner, look both further and farther in the endless quest for company.
But no one is in your head and by the time you translate your thoughts some essence of them may be lost or perhaps it is just kept, perhaps in the interest of loving oneself.
Perhaps all those sappy slogans from pre-school over to high school’s groaning were tokens for holding the lonely at bay.
Cause if you’re happy in your head, then solitude is blessed, and alone is okay.
Its okay if no one believes like you, all experience is unique, no one has the same synapses, can’t think like you. For this, be relieved – keeps things interesting, life’s magic things in reach.
it doesn’t mean you aren’t connected, that numberswiki.com
community is not present, just take the perspective you get from being one person in one head and feel the effects of it.
Take silence and respect it, if you have an art that needs a practice stop neglecting it.
if your family doesn’t get you or a religious sect is not meant for you, don’t obsess about it. You could be, in an instant, surrounded if you need it.
if your heart is bleeding, make the best of it.
there is heat in freezing, be a testament.
being responsible for my actions and for my life did not come to me naturally. I have often just gone limp when something has gotten hard. And what often gets hard is what it takes to earn self-esteem, to keep an open heart and accept loss, to be humble and stand your ground – some things i’ve learned from being alone. And while I learned well enough long enough ago that I couldn’t really build up from within living without responsibility, that tendency still wants it’s way.
And lately, that hasn’t felt good, or final, or totally true about me anymore. When I hear it telling me about some part of my life, it’s feeble and narrow and only sees what might not be possible, how much it might hurt, how unfair it is or how i have no control so why work? How I can’t be trusted with my own attributes. That voice – I feel how it just hasn’t caught up – instead of letting that become the whole of my sense of myself i feel that – how it hasn’t caught up – to me. Me who is doing things differently now.
Now, eventually, I also hear the voice that says ‘wow, this isn’t easy, but what do we need to do and what do we need to get it done? and this is how it’s O.K.” except it sounds like Tanya Davis. and I can feel the thriving behind it. Like the thriving in the words of this poem. First, be patient. If it doesn’t feel good at first, if it hasn’t been ok to be this way before, just wait. Start simple. It’s about how trust is built. and with that trust, being responsible for my experience of myself, that’s how to be a testament.
and that’s what it is for me from one moment to the next. Building my inner trust up is magic, sacred work. Profound in it’s challenge and beauty and mess ups and triumphs…
Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live. ~Goethe
This from “Eve’s Diary” by Mark Twain:
At first I couldn’t make out what I was made for, but now I think it was to search out the secrets of this wonderful world and be happy and thank the Giver of it all for devising it.
It always comes back to this.
How flimsy and inadequate it seems in a dark and unloving moment. So easy to toss it heavily out of the way, stamp through this sort of thankfulness or happiness or quality of joy, which is really what my self-esteem is made of, toward the option to crticize or whimper that has convinced me it’s so much more empowering.
“that’s naive” it hisses at me. and somehow, even though it’s never explained I have this feeling of understanding why that matters, why it’s dangerous or stupid or illusory.
It also knows my secret longing. The one embedded in my heart like a shard of glass. The one to be perfect. Above reproach. Gilded. And therefore unfailingly loved. For a time It always comes and I relish it, and love my state of perfection and how it feels to be held aloft with an uneasy uncertainty in the periphery of my senses. Of course, it would shatter, eventually. Shatter and cut at me while the voice of that uncertainty and insecurity would snort and lean back with it’s arms folded to watch how I panic, and eventually run to it begging for asylum from the tragedy of my imperfections. “I told you so, how naive. You’re terrible. We’re all terrible. To have hope is to be a liar.”
Only this time, I don’t beg. I more info
feel the sting and get very still. and I wait. I practice bearing the discomfort. Containment. Restraint. I bear it instead of commanding it away. And then I hear: “I don’t want to be perfect so how can failing at it buckle my spine?” In a calm and very clear voice from somewhere far back inside me coming forward powerfully like the sudden rush of air in a subway station.
Joy was never asking me to deny weakness or ugliness or flaws or mistakes or to stop striving for improvement. It was never suggesting I was perfect or needed to be or should believe in perfection and permanent, unmoveable goodness as the required context for celebration and being loved.
Instead, she says: “do you know something magnificent? That you can hate and love the same person in equal amounts. you can end up filled in both potentials, simultaneously, as far as they will go and one doesn’t automatically win out over the other. Sure, it’s also an agony to be tossed between the two seemingly endlessly and without an obvious resolution since, sometimes, one just wont budge despite the other. This, when reversed, is a way to say that love, your ecstasy, your capacity for joy and all your magic is as much a force as that which shatters those things. When your heart is devastated and you can’t get a clear sense of it or what’s going on around you, I’m not asking you to pretend it’s not that way. Joy doesn’t ignore the pieces, it’s just a way of collecting them. Or of dancing on them while your feet bleed.”