Everything and Nothing At All
There is a before and an after.
I have always suspected as much but it was David Bowie’s death and revisiting his music these last couple of weeks that made this crystal clear. Just one more gift that he left ~ this one for me specifically.
I can absolutely remember the color of the sky on a summer afternoon in 1970-something; and even the scratchy feeling of the backyard crabgrass against my skin while I examined it. I remember the sound of distant lawnmowers co-mingling with Young Americans wafting through the next door neighbor’s window. I could probably describe the stitching on my culottes that hung in my closet.
My Own Silence Offends Me
I love the simplicity of children and their ability to cut through the bullshit.
For years I have struggled with both depression and anxiety; one or the other depending upon my specific life circumstances. I could never quite find words to adequately describe either one in a way that would help those around me to fully understand.
My daughter has also struggled with each and said with simplicity: “Depression is when you don’t feel anything at all. And anxiety is when you feel absolutely everything.”
There it is.
Walking With No Feet
My friend is a racist. A blatant, outspoken, over-the-top racist. And the list of infractions is long. But, I haven’t called him out on any of it yet.
So far, I have simply observed while he makes sweeping statements on his website, in his blog, and in person about the social intelligence and violent tendencies of others based solely on their skin color. Or posts racial jokes. Or links to purchase T-Shirts that offend people of other ethnic backgrounds. I know that you are probably thinking that I’m incredibly irresponsible for this.
I let him do this because it seems too hard to confront him right now about this racial intolerance and bigotry. Any attempt would result in outbursts and a veritable uprising amongst his equally bigoted friends. My own choice thus far makes me sick to my stomach but I haven’t seen many options under the circumstances. So, I distance myself and avoid the conversation. Nothing gets better. In fact, my silence makes it worse. I know this.
While sitting with some wonderful people and talking about relationships a beautiful young woman next to me tearfully wailed “how am I supposed to walk if I have no feet?” This powerful statement was in reference to the gaps her parents left in teaching her how to communicate, feel, be present and open, etc. She felt literally stuck in her life circumstances and unable to move forward because she perceived she was lacking the proper tools. In this case, feet.
This statement has been weighing on me ever since; along with the pain she exuded as she made it. I know that pain all too well. I would hazard to guess that most of us have felt it at least for a small moment along the way. It’s excruciating.
But I can say from my personal experience and from watching those around me and listening to their stories that there is always something we can do.
The Many Faces of Fierce
“I can’t make those two realities – what I’ve lost and what I’ve found – fit together in some tidy pattern of divine causality. I just have to hold them on the one hand and on the other, just like that”
The Gutter Guy
One of my dear friends recently told me to ‘find my fierce’. She laughs and claims that she can still see mine plainly (so I’m really not sure why she won’t just tell me where I left it) but apparently it’s up to me to find it…again.
I started with photographs. Photographs of people I love whom I consider to be fierce. Photographs of my family. Photographs of myself. All the while looking. And suddenly I began to see the many faces of fierce; as unique from one another as faces in a single family would be ~ and yet with a common thread that binds them.
Hope walked through my door yesterday in white painter’s shorts splotched with color and anchored with earth. He was covered in ruddy leaves and muck and wearing work boots worn through the soles. His gray hair told me history and his smile lines knowing. He asked me if I was New Age which also told me his age.
I simply answered “I’m odd” to which he responded “I know.” And then we had a conversation.
It’s funny how the Universe delivers people and lessons. Just the night before I was lying in bed sobbing, my dear friend doing all she could to bind me to something hopeful when I was having trouble finding anything at all. And one of the last things she said before I shut out the lights (and my life) for the evening was “you have the power, no matter how diminished you may feel it is, to not only survive this but to triumph over it.” Who uses the word triumph anymore? Well, the Gutter Guy, in that same unmistakable sentence word-for-word in my doorway. So I settled back to listen because the Universe wields a mighty hammer ~ THUNK. Between the eyes.
When life gets too difficult to bear, I rely on Truth.
I know. I can’t crumple it like grungy money in my pocket that would keep groceries in my refrigerator. And it doesn’t smell like the lavender on my pillow during the few more hours of sleep a different job that didn’t require 12 a day would afford me. It certainly isn’t as immediately available as the oxygen that would come from living free from the person who promised to spend his life in pursuit of my ruin. It isn’t warm and pliable like sand around my toes at the Outer Banks; a feeling I have to forget during this chapter of my life while I put my kids through college. And it doesn’t replace the sensation and strength on my left side that used to allow me to climb a simple set of stairs without help which, for the first time in public today, I was unable to do.
Nonetheless, Truth is my ‘go-to’ and is unalterable by anybody or anything ~ lies, desire, effort, manipulation, time. The Truth is simply the Truth. Whether or not one person knows it or everyone does, it’s still the Truth.
She Called to Me
I understand that it is relatively easy to catch a monkey. You simply put something enticing into the hollowed end of a coconut (like peanuts) and they will reach in to grab them and make a fist. Then you reel the coconut in by a string. The monkey will refuse to let go of the peanuts to save his/her life because they perceive that they are something needed…even though they are not. In essence, they risk everything and trap themselves based upon false perceptions.
Trees are something more to me.
The weeping willow that held court for my dolls at age three. The white birch in mom’s front yard too lazy to hold its bark and too apathetic to betray my summer secrets. The cork tree at Colgate University with its low-stretching, cradle-shaped branches that rocked me while I wept for four difficult years. The affable oak at old Roy’s farm where the cows still gossip and I leave my troubles.
Trees have always been something more to me. But this one is special.