The forgetting

This is a poem that I wrote earlier in the year.  It seems fitting to close out the year with it and perhaps let go of all that I’ve meant to do but forgotten (including blog posts :))

The forgetting
I forget what I was meant to be doing
I forget who I am, all the aspects and how to talk about them
I forgot about all the emotions that I didn’t allow myself to feel as a child
I forget my innocence

I lose myself in doing the details of living
and forget who I am meant to be
I live in tasks and busyness and business
and forget about serving my soul, and others
in a meaningful way

I forget about meditating
about following my breath
I remember to forget the past
I forget not to plan for the future
I forget to be present

I fail to remember
I am unable to recall

In all the doing, I forget my essence is love

I remember to forget how tired I am
I forget what I’ve already learned
I write to remember what I don’t want to forget

I forget that it’s all in my mind
and that it doesn’t have to be this way
I forget that I can reset at any time

I forget the clarity of truth
I forget not to compare myself to others
and that comparison is the thief of joy

I forget why I am doing what I am doing
I forget to not check my email
I forget to be still and leave the unfinished business for later

I forget that I haven’t planned dinner tonight

I forget to turn off auto-pilot
I forget that there is always something else to do

I forget to choose abundance over scarcity
I forget not to doubt myself
I forget that I’ll just know
I forget to trust myself, and God
I forget my purpose, to be radiant
I forget that it’s not too late
I forget that I have the universe inside me
I forget to show up with intention

I forget to remake my habits
I forgot where I put that paper

I forget that it can be easy
I forgot that I had a choice
and that not choosing is choosing
I forget that everything is consciousness
I forget that I can recover more quickly
I forget that I wanted to do that
I forgot to walk away

I forget that I don’t believe that anymore
I forget to keep it simple
that much is lost in getting mired down in the complexities
I forget that I do know
I forget the experience of wholeness
I forget to breathe, but my body does it anyway
I forgot to pause
I forgot that was just a story I had about myself

I forgot to be curious instead of problem solve
I forgot that I needed to get that from you in writing
I forget that everything is interconnected
I forget that many paths can lead to the same place

I forget what I want to remember
I forget that I don’t need the script that I’ve forgotten anyway
I forget the passivity of forgetting

I forgot that some people do notice presence over words
I forgot how I wanted to show up

I forget that while everything else changes, some things stay the same
I forget that everything means something, and some things mean everything
I forget to do something about it

I forget that I am not my body, my mind
I forget that I already have everything I need
I forget that I am that

I forget that they’re doing the best that they can

I forget to live the questions
I forget that all the answers are within me

I forget to listen to my body
I forget the value of surrender
I forget to go out and stand in the beauty of nature

I forget to move toward my true self
I forget to follow my path and not ask how
I forget what I want
I forget to embrace uncertainty
I forget to be kind to myself like I am to others
I forget to be human
I forget to be grateful for all that I am and all that I haven’t forgotten.

the fault in our stars

Of course I should have foreseen that it would take someone else’s writing to make me write again, as I am that type of writer.  A word, a phrase, an idea and metaphor and an entire body of work of someone else’s helps me to rediscover my own genius (I use this term loosely).

And so it was, or is, with The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.   The book is technically in the “teen” genre (or so says the baby blue sticker imposed on it by our town’s library) and was apropos recommended to me by my teenaged daughter #1.  This book is teen literature in the same way that the Harry Potter series is kid’s literature, meaning that it is and it isn’t only for the targeted younger reader, as its messages and themes are perhaps equally relatable when taken beyond face value as an adult.  And that is part of the insidious beauty of this book;  as an adult reader you have little expectation of greatness when picking up a teen book.  The main character is a funny, intelligent and irreverent teen, who happens to have a terminal illness, which she has thus far managed to dodge with one  miracle fictitious drug intervention.  The irony is that as adult readers, we can be unarmed by the insight into life and life’s mysteries offered by a teenage girl, who by identity and number of years walking the earth, has experienced so much less life than you, but also so much more given her inevitable (like us all) but accelerated (unlike most of us) march to the end of life.

The main character’s star-crossed lover has also looked death in the eye, but has beaten his cancer, at least for now.  He understands the tenuous dance between life and death, fear and love and all the lies between, and they become each others confidants in a world that is so real yet unreal for them.

There are so many single words, short phrases, clever literal and liturgical references in this book that make the writing brief, yet beautiful and poignant.  Some of the lines that struck me the most:

-A fear of oblivion and a recommendation to ignore it

-the late afternoon light heavenly in its hurtfulness

-there was no through (as in friends helping me through my cancer)

-incessantly reminding your lungs to be lungs (and at one point reminding them “to get their shit together”)

– the only solution was to unmake the world to make it black and silent and uninhabited again, in the beginning when there was the Word.

-the world went on as it does, without my full participation.

-some tourists think Amsterdam is a city of sin, but in truth it is a city of freedom.  And in freedom, most people find sin.

-that feeling of excitement and gratitude about just being able to marvel at it all

-if only my memory would compromise

-some infinities are bigger than other infinities

-I thought being an adult meant knowing what you believe, but that has not been my experience.

-I  believe the universe wants to be noticed.  I think the universe is improbably biased toward consciousness, that it rewards intelligence in part because the universe enjoys its elegance being observed.

-so much depends on this observer of the universe {my side note, which quantum physics has proven at a sub-atomic level}

-I owed a debt to the universe that only my attention could repay, and also that I owed a debt to everybody who didn’t get to be a person anymore and everyone who hadn’t gotten to be a person yet.

 

I was unarmed by the voice of a teenager inflicted with a terminal cancer, who can not breathe- the one vital life force we can most easily take for granted.  We can all take in her sermon-of-sorts because we aren’t expecting it, and we haven’t already steeled ourselves to the fact that it’s coming.

The book was made into a movie.  Who should play the lead male character was decided by a social media vote.  This is where I start to lose my visceral connection to this book.

My daughter asked if I wanted to see the trailer when I was about 1/5 of the way through the book.  “Absolutely not,” I said, “I want to picture the characters as I picture them, not by how and who they were cast.”  “Yah,” she said “I kind of wish I’d finished the book before I saw the trailer.”

I’m struck by the vast expanse between the star-crossed lovers with the remitted cancer and slow terminal illness, while my own teenaged daughter’s greatest current medical malady is acne, which I am gently reminded of while crying through the conclusion of the book, when her dermatologist’s office calls me to refill her prescription. And I thank my lucky stars that that’s the extent of her needed medical intervention.

The Authenticity of Vulnerability

The Authenticity of Vulnerability

It’s hard to have a conversation about vulnerability these days without mentioning Brene Brown and her work.   She deserves a lot of the credit for bringing the discussion about vulnerability into the forefront of the American consciousness with her popular TED talks and books on the subject. For people like me, who are trying to live as a more authentic version of themselves, vulnerability lies at the core of what we’re attempting to do.

In my journey to live my life more authentically it was inevitable that I would stumble upon vulnerability.  And boy did I stumble, much like Brene Brown herself did. Even when the obvious truth presented that living my life from an authentic place demanded that I show up in vulnerability, I still fought it. The realization that tipped me onto the other side of my struggle with vulnerability was that people don’t share their souls with those who project perfection and those who seem to be untouched by the struggles of life.  And their soul was what I was looking for: I wanted to touch that depth of realness in a person.  I wanted to hear what inspired them, the turning points in their lives, the beliefs that shaped them and who was meaningful in their life.  I also wanted to hear their substance, their struggles.  I realized that if I wanted to hear those stories from other people, I had to share my own stories like that, and many times I had to go first.  But to go first is to risk rejection and to risk someone looking at you like they can’t believe you just said what you said.  The sensitive introvert in me would much rather let the other person reach out to me first, to put themselves in the vulnerable position, because at that point I can choose to say yes to their offer, while already knowing that they want to connect with me.

Many of us struggle with vulnerability as it can go against the very core of some of our strongly held beliefs, namely that vulnerability is weakness.  I know that I oscillate between wanting to share my vulnerability with others and not sharing it because it’s scary.  Sometimes it feels like being vulnerable is the exact opposite of what we feel we should be doing- we should be bolstering ourselves up, looking more powerful, more perfect, more invincible.  That’s how we impress people, get more friends, clients, connections, whatever it is we’re looking for, right?  But I’ve found the exact opposite to be true.  It’s very difficult to connect with people in any sort of meaningful fashion unless you’re willing to risk vulnerability.  What if in our vulnerability we really are more beautiful?  What if in that flash of uncertainty, flow of emotion, or struggle, we are more human and more whole, and more connected to others?  What does that mean for our lives?

Here’s what I do know about vulnerability, from personal experience.   When we show up as our vulnerable selves, and are honest about our struggles and our imperfections, we inspire others to do the same.  Public speaking is not a comfortable arena for me, but I recently signed up for a public speaking workshop.  At the end of the day we were invited up to speak in front of the group: we could tell some basic generic facts about our lives or we could tell a story.  I was one of the first to speak.  I opened with the revelation that I generally only speak from a script, but I’d decided to “wing it” and tell a bit of the story of my journey of losing myself and then finding myself again.  It was raw and vulnerable for me, both the subject matter and the unscriptedness of it.  When each subsequent person got up, they also told a raw and vulnerable personal story.  The experience was very powerful and we were all transfixed. The feedback that I got from another speaker was that because I had gotten up and shared in such a personal way, it had given her the courage to do it as well.

So what is it to show up and be vulnerable, to risk connection and rejection, to truly see someone and be seen?  We don’t just wake up one day and decide to be vulnerable.  Vulnerability is a moment to moment choice.  It takes practice.   There is a paradox to be held here, and that is to be strong in ourselves we can be vulnerable.  I think about the people that I really admire.  And it’s those who choose to show up fully, to share themselves.  Those who share their truth, even when it’s not pretty, or popular.  And it’s a truth shared not for attention, not for pity, but for the sheer beauty of showing up and living a whole, authentic life and inspiring others to do the same.

Calistoga

IMG_0257

biking through half-lit evenings
of childhood summers
cricket songs
in dark freedom
of pedaled breezes
hair flowing back
song of youth
I am older now
but perhaps more free
in mind, in body
but the remembrance feels freer than all

let me go
cricket songs echo
cloaked in cool darkness of summer nights

my face younger
my worries less solid
it all lies before me
the fears, the dreams
losses to come
wisdom to gain
suffering with a longer term purpose

I am older now
with children of my own
who don’t bike at night
that freedom generationally lost
like my own childhood
years ago

Information

so fast accosting me
sourceless
like sorcery
minds changed, enveloped
no longer capable of pause
or reflection
or deflection
But I reflect
in moments stolen
out of time but not lost
and their meaning
all of their trajectory pointed here
though unrevealed at the time
no roadmap for reference

the mask of childhood

We spend our childhoods
melding a mask of inauthenticity
into our being
celebrating all who are drawn to our
fake selves
and scorning those who aren’t
for it’s safer to be unreal and loved
than to be real and unloved
some of us lose track of time and
forget to shed those masks
at the peril of ourselves
waiting until it’s too difficult to
distinguish the mask from true self
and our disowned fragments are well
hidden in dark shadows of longing
and denial.

sky where roof used to be

Sky where roof used to be
where everything you’ve lost is found
air full of past
burn destructed and then reborn

belonging in harm’s way
courting gratitude
for memories held that don’t
wisp away like smoke
embers fall from grace

ledges of life
roughly reassembled
out of synchronicity
papery images of past

going home
I drive by
burned roof open to moving sky

This poem was inspired by actual events (I guess all poems are, in one way or another).

One morning, driving to school, we noticed that a house on a street near the school had partially burned. My youngest daughter remained fascinated by the sight of it for weeks, as did I. We wondered what the story was: who lived there, were they OK, and what caused the fire?

Then the story appeared in our local paper. A woman had lived in the house with her cat, she had Alzheimer’s. Her son lived next door. Early one morning she was sitting out on her front porch when a neighbor (not her son) noticed the fire and helped get her off the porch and save her cat. She may have left the burner on, heating water for tea, she can’t remember. No one was hurt in the fire and everyone is grateful. It was her dream house, it will be rebuilt.

A few days later, driving by the remains of the house I was struck by the phrase, “sky where roof used to be” as through the jagged hole in the damaged roof you could see the juxtaposed blue sky and the clouds moving through it. I was inspired to construct a poem based on that phrase and the story of the woman, and wanted to have a photo of the damaged roof with the sky. I kept meaning to stop and take the photo. One evening, driving home from back to school night, I remembered again that I needed to take that photo. I kept driving as I felt the pull to get home as I’d been gone for several hours. Then something inside compelled me to turn back and actually get the photo taken.

The next morning I drove by the house again and the roof remains had been demolished to make way for the rebuild.

I finished this poem a few days later.

Appropriate language

The longer I stay away, the more daunting it seems to come back…  This is my blogging experience.  I have been writing…some.  Following is a work I produced at a summer writing program (SWP) way back in June. It was such a blessing to have been able to take a week out of a busy summer home with my kids and devote it to writing.   The poem includes borrowed words and phrases from poems of Alice Notley and Doug Oliver, old American folk music, and some Bob Dylan songs, which means it is an appropriated language poem of sorts, which is double layered in here since Alice Notley’s “In the Pines” poem (which is one of the sources) also contains appropriated language.

I
And you go walking
flurries on the other side
featureless trees alive with night
clear to the bottom
uneasy in their resting place
will to go, jettisoned, distracted

II
The usual crowd was there
wrong about everything
think how they sound
lonesome eerie veiled sound
of the periphery
holes filled with background
burden
glory well of sorrows
flashes false
a price is no price
subtled in habit
arrow on the dark night of grief
taking down the stars above
plantations burning

III
a bird, end down, slept in the pines
a movement takes under
seems to be all there is
if the cold wind sun never shines
where will you go?
tears are calling
to cross over everything unresolved
crickets, not a word of good-bye
going home travel loves motion
white linen
my magic, god like mysterious fortune
a face you almost remember
there’s plenty of rest here
heavily guarded, my own soul.

Poems wisdom transfer

In an age if sound bit spoonfeeding
is it fair to require so much work?

interpretation through experience
(and dictionary consultations)
to unlock
the hidden meaning in your prose
or pride?

without accessibility, what is it but idle
fodder for the trained elite
to be discovered and dismissed?

yet answers gotten freely
through no effort of your own
blow off quickly in idle winds as well
so what is the poet and the philosopher to do
but embrace the unraveled paradox
as truth

with me, the bride of cleverness,
(overlooking it’s divisive powers)
seeking unity.

Saving

I tried to save you from yourself, to no avail
as the possibility of me saving you was naught.
I saved the brochures of my travels through Europe
when without you I did not rot.

I saved bits and pieces of the sea from our trips to Hawaii
which you condemned and said to look for bugs.
I saved namaste bookmarks and anusara invocations
you frowned seeing them upon the rug.

I saved a piece of my soul for you
you turned and looked away,
I saved a piece of my soul for you
and that’s why I still have it today.