Friday, November 27, 2015

Grace is for everyone

I saw this sign along a road in front of a church and smiled. Grace IS for everyone.

Yep. Even me.

I'm a mess of imperfection, faulty actions, judgment of others and unruly behavior. I drink too much. I am present too little.

And yet, I too get grace.

And so do you.

Time with family around the holidays can be fraught with complicated feelings. Years of hurt swept under the rug can trip us up. Memories of loved ones who have passed can cloud our decision making. Silly comments or ill-timed jokes can send us spinning...especially when we're the ones making them.

And you, like me, might be lying awake thinking of what you could have said or done differently. The messenger of clarity has come and refuses to leave.

But my grace IS sufficient for me.
My power is made perfect in weakness.

Kick the messenger out the door with a thank you and a hug (that part of you needs grace too).

And tomorrow. New mercies.

You might not feel the earth spinning, but it's taking you along to a perfectly glorious, new day.

It's been a year of grief, illness and immense change. I'm on a new path with a tribe of lovers holding my hands and encircling me with strength. Now is the time to draw on that well of love.

Go to sleep little Heather. You mean well and try so hard.

Wild Geese by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
In the family of things.

Friday, October 9, 2015


Ensler is urging me IN IN
Get in the sealskin
Swim, be in, be free
And I like the promise of that
It sounds lovely
But I live at bedlam and squalor with Waits
and whiskey
and sometimes I want OUT OUT
The noise is too great
and the water is all around
Abramovich lived with Ulay in that van for five years
and sat with each person for three months
She was. She is. ART ART
Lying under the sheets
Hands and hands and voices all around
And this is me
I am feeling it all HERE HERE
But then it’s too much
The pounding and the aching
The raw edge
The noise, all the noise
Bukowski was a failure
A genius and a failure
And hated people
and loved an audience
I want a cigarette
I want a kale smoothie
I want a tender stroke
I want rough sex
I want a him
I want a her
All and everything
That’s not too much to ask
I’m not too much to ask
Stop telling me I can’t
Stop telling me I won’t
It's my feet walking through the fucking fire

Friday, October 2, 2015

Where do you feel it in your body?

By Kitty-Grimm

Where do you feel it in your body?
That misery that rises from the puddles outside your door
That ache that comes with the winter
Where do you feel it in your body?
I feel it just below my breasts
In the hollow
But within
Where do you feel it in your body?
When I say I love you
When I smile with my eyes at something you said
Where do you feel it?
I feel it higher across my chest
In the center
And within
Where do you feel it in your body?
When you think you are not enough
When the moon seems to rise before dawn
Where do you feel it?
I feel it in my belly
Yanking me forward, relentless
Do you feel nervousness in your hands?
Do you feel longing in your lungs?
Besides you knees, where do you feel it when you pray?
And what, pray tell, is my hip telling me?
What story have a buried in my shoulder?
Is there grief in my lower back?

Where do you feel yours?

When I first read Even Ensler talk about being DIS-embodied, I knew I was, but I had no idea what it  meant to be EMbodied. I had no idea how to get there. 

I mostly hoped it would happen all of a sudden - like maybe my soul would one day just slide down in to me like a selkie into their seal skin. And then I would swim and feel and be complete.

But I'm already in my body, it turns out.

I just wasn't listening.

Are you in yours?

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Groundless Self

I haven't posted for a while. I've been using whatever writing time I've had on some book projects I want to get off the ground. But today, I am moved to share, in hopes that those who dwell in this space might recognize themselves in me and feel less alone.

This has been a year of heartache, a year of deep loss and a year of new awakening to a body and a self I had never really known. I once read Dr. Weil say that his 28th year was a watershed year for him. And so I kept waiting for mine, edging myself closer to what I knew would be treacherous and euphoric. And this is it. This is the year. I know I will forever see 2015 as a watershed year in my life. My story will be divided into a before and after, much like it divided into before kids and after. But this birth, this beginning, feels more like going through the wardrobe. Only, the land that I've found, mystical and  enchanting, is actually my own self.

That doesn't mean it's not scary.

And fully entering into a love relationship with myself is completely groundless. Thy call it "falling in love" for a reason.

So this morning, as I sit in my car preparing my mind for this day of class, I pulled out my new favorite book, To Bless the Space Between Us by John O'Donohue, a one time Catholic priest who wrote poetry in the style of his Celtic heritage. His poems are profound, comforting and thought provoking. Today I read the following. I leave you with this, that you might also discover the self that is unknown to you and fall in helpless love with who you are.

For the Unknown Self

So much of what delights and troubles you
Happens on a surface
You take for ground.
Your mind thinks your life alone,
Your eyes consider air your nearest neighbor,
Yet it seems that a little below your heart
There houses in you an unknown self
Who prefers the patterns of the dark
And is not persuaded by the eye's affection
Or caught by the flash of thought.

It is a self that enjoys contemplative patience
With all your unfolding expression,
Is never drawn to break into light
Though you entangle yourself in unworthiness
And misjudge what you do and who you are.

It presides within like an evening freedom
That will often see you enchanted by twilight
Without ever recognizing the falling night,
It resembles the under-earth of your visible life:
All you do and say and think is fostered
Deep in its opaque and prevenient clay.

It dwells in a strange, yet rhythmic ease
That is not ruffled by disappointment;
It presides in a deeper current of time
Free from the force of cause and sequence
That otherwise shapes your life.

Were it to break forth into day,
Its dark light might quench your mind,
For it knows how your primeval heart
Sisters every cell of your life
To all your known mind would avoid,

Thus it knows to dwell in you gently,
Offering you only discrete glimpses
Of how you construct your life.

At times, it will lead you strangely,
Magnetized by some resonance
That ambushes your vigilance.

It works most resolutely at night
As the poet who draws your dreams,
Creating for you many secret doors,
Decorated with pictures of your hunger;

It has the dignity of the angelic
That knows you to your roots,
Always awaiting your deeper befriending
To take you beyond the threshold of want,
Where all your diverse strainings
Can come to wholesome ease.

~ John O'Donohue ~

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Hello, Gorgeous!

What an Entrance - Bruce Holwarda

I was given a tremendous gift this year.

It didn’t come in the way I would have wanted. It didn’t come pretty and neat and easy to open. It came disguised as misery. It came wrapped in grief, in illness, in pain. It was difficult to unwrap. It was hard to unravel. It was messy and tiresome and grueling. It didn’t feel like a gift at all, in fact. It felt like punishment. It felt like torture. I was confused, frustrated and tired. I didn’t want it. But one cannot give away this kind of gift. One can either accept it, and do the work, or sit and cry and be burdened, miserable and sad. I first chose the latter.

But that’s okay. Grief sucks. I thought I knew how I would feel when Eddy died. I thought I was prepared. He’d been sick for so long and was deteriorating. Our relationship was challenging, and, despite him nearing the end of life, we fought. Now, looking back, I see how he must have been angry, being stripped of everything, his job, his wife, his children, his life. I understand that he didn’t know how to do it, to be sick and die. No one does. And so when he died, all my feelings began to unravel. And my body began to flush everything out, it was all too much for my system.

Diarrhea. For five months. Cramping, night-waking, stabbing, urgent, painful diarrhea. Sleeplessness, anxiety, unrest. And slowly I deteriorated. I got sicker and more tired and had days I couldn’t get out of bed. My mind became increasingly foggy. My body became increasingly fatigued. By the time I’d done all the stool samples, blood work, scopes and scans, I was tapping the mat. Done. Worn out. Shot. More than anything, I was discouraged. And angry.

The psychiatrist diagnosed me with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, which sounds like BS, I know. I’m generally anxious? What does that even mean? But all the symptoms were physical symptoms. My body was taking all the stressors from my life - work, kids, house, death, grief, family, my own mind - and it was doing what it could, doing what it was supposed to do, protect me from harm and send signals that something was wrong. Suddenly, years of aches and pains and digestive problems all seemed to make sense. My body had been trying to tell me there was a problem for years.

But since my body had always been the enemy, I didn’t listen.

I’ve been angry at my body since I was thirteen - for being bigger, for small boobs, for thick thighs, for callused feet, for veins and stretch marks, for knee pain and vaginal pain, allergies and a torn hip flexor. I’ve always complained and been angry. “I need a new body,” I’ve often said. I felt ripped off, cheated and angry that I got this crappy fixer-upper.

All the while my body has been plugging right along taking care of me, protecting me from harm and warning me that things are not right.

I started on the anxiety meds. And I started acupuncture. I found this woman who takes insurance and does health coaching along with the needles. She said that her goal is to work herself out of a job. She wants me to learn a new practice so that I don’t need to come back. She is marvelous. And through her I unwrapped those final grimy layers and discovered the gift within, my body.

I finally saw it for all the good it’s been doing. And I finally saw all the harm I’ve been doing to it. I’ve been poisoning myself with food and with thoughts. I’ve been sabotaging my own health with destructive thinking. And the most destructive of all is the beating myself up for not doing better and having better thoughts.

“That first step is difficult to notice, that you’re hooked because of ignorance, but also hard to get beyond that and choose a fresh alternative because at that point, when you see what you’ve done, to be hard on yourself is one the most habitual chain reactions that gets set off…When we work with ourselves we have to acknowledge that there’s this tremendous tendency to get stuck in self condemnation, thinking that we’re bad, that we’re wrong, that there’s something imperfect about us.”
– Pema Chodron

Mary, the acupuncturist, has helped me see that when I start down a path of anxious, unhealthy thinking, I can say, “You’ve been practiced in that way of thinking for a long time. Let’s try something new.” No judgment. No self-flagellation. No anxiety over the “shoulds.” Just, a gentle hand-holding guidance onto another path.

My body is very good at giving me accurate information, if only I will listen. And the more I listen, the more I care about this good friend, the more I want to care for it, to feed it well, to honor it and treat it gently.

There is no “mental” illness. Our bodies are reacting to our world. And some bodies are sick. My body gets easily keyed up by stressful situations. My body reacts and gets sluggish and painful. My body knows when it’s had enough, and it forces me to stop and rest. This isn’t “in my head,” and my body isn’t doing anything wrong. There is no need for judgment. There is no need for embarrassment. There is no need for criticism. My body is not the enemy. My mind is not the enemy.

And so, my gift, this wonderful body I’ve been wrestling and hating, came wrapped in physical illness, grief, fatigue and stabbing pain. And I am extremely grateful. I’m not just saying that. I am sincerely so grateful.

Monday I start an elimination diet to see if there are certain foods that are contributing to all of my symptoms. And, for the first time in my life, I am excited about going on a diet. Because this diet is not about fixing something that is BAD but taking care of something that is GOOD. This is about respect and not about trying to change.

It’s going to take me a while to learn a new practice of loving and caring for my body, but I am so grateful for this tremendous opportunity. I am hopeful that this will be a watershed moment and that I will continue to find real freedom from the oppression of SHOULD I have lived with for so long.

“To the degree that we can acknowledge what’s happening and develop an enthusiasm for cutting that chain reaction, to the degree that we can see what’s happening and become enthusiastic about no longer sowing the seeds of suffering, to that degree we begin to tune in more and more to the profundity and openness and basic wisdom and goodness of our own heart and mind, the basic openness and wisdom and goodness of our own being. This isn’t just about solving a problem of habits, this is that every time we follow that habit, which we all do, it’s like we’re cutting ourselves off from our true nature, cutting ourselves off from our basic wisdom and basic openness of our being. It’s like it’s here and can manifest in any moment, but the way we follow that habitual pattern is taking us away or blinding us or making us ignorant to who we really are or what our potential really is.” - Pema Chodron

The quotes from Pema come from the video from  a course specifically focusing on this lesson I’ve been learning - the freedom to choose something different.

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