Friday, October 31, 2014


It has come to my attention that my blog posts are making a few of you a bit weepy. To be sure, I didn't really think anyone was reading this little ol' blog-o, but now I know for real and for certain that many of you are.

It means a lot to me.

I've hesitated to write this episode for some time now, thinking that I would jinx the very person or the very process, but in an effort to keep myself from being committed by various friends who think I might just benefit from an extended vacation giving myself an involuntary hug, here goes nothing.

When I worked in college admission (and therefore inadvertently counseled numerous eager and brilliant young minds), I used to describe the butterfly process. You've probably heard it before, and the dear Martha describes it well in Steering by Starlight. College graduation is very much like hatching from a cocoon with a whole new set of expectations and abilities. I think we go through many of these such processes in our lives: get tired of crawling along, hibernate, disintegrate into goo, put ourselves back together again, and then POW! WINGS.

A few years ago, as I prepared to retire, I had a sense that what I was experiencing was not the lego-esque butterfly moment, but something entirely different. More than a metamorphosis, but I couldn't really put my finger on it. I didn't feel as though I was about to sprout wings and fly gracefully, I felt like I might spew fire and be ready to take names (as they say). I called it my dragon moment, and it just happened to occur during the transition to the year of the dragon. It was dragons all around as I launched my business, leapt from the safety and security of the 401(k) and wrapped myself in the fragile threads of faith that I had carefully kept hidden from the world. I jumped from reality into fantasy.

Wild dreams came true. Pretty much everything that I set in motion either took off or very quickly disintegrated, and I breathed a sigh of relief that I would never have to do something that scary again.

(Hilarious, I know).

This transition… this transition isn't like a game of legos, where you build your tower and then take all the pieces apart and start over again. This time I've started by tossing my beliefs into the fire.

Security? Illusion.

Forever? A myth.

Future? Not guaranteed.

Expectations? Worthless.

In some ways, this makes breathing easier, because the enormous backpack full of crap I've been toting around is losing weight as the crap inside starts to burn... And then there's the smoke.

I'd love to tell you that I've done this entirely on my own, like Pippi Longstocking or She-Ra (or any other strong female with gorgeous hair and long socks). But the reality is that even in this very intimate and personal moment, I've done this and am doing this with the support of many, many friends.

Like you.

Your words and thoughts and intentions give me the strength that it takes to weather the flames.

But that's not the end of this story.

I have to be careful here. I'm walking dangerously close to the line of the knight in shining armor, and I don't want you (or the alleged knight) to think I'm a damsel, or that I'm in distress that someone else can save me from. The truth is that I have been inspired by someone who has already experienced this rebirth-by-fire. That he is willing to watch patiently from the sidelines, to push gently when I get stuck, and to hold on when I think I'm about to burn up and die? This has been a gift I couldn't have asked for. I didn't know it was possible.

It's inspiring (and scary) to transition from the lego-world of reality to the dragon world of fantasy to the other world-li-ness that comes with starting from scratch with a whole new batch of beliefs. I'm not sure I would have said that it happens outside of the epic poems like the Odyssey or Siddhartha, except that I've seen it. And every time I think about jumping back into lego-land or closing myself off to the pain (and subsequent beauty), I see this mythical creature soaring in front of me.

Waiting for me.

Edging me along, encouraging me. Loving me.

And so I sit on the pyre, knee-deep in ashes, waiting to grow wings.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


The last few days have been particularly educational for me. I've felt like a jerk no fewer than three separate times, for things I'm so ashamed about that I will not publish them on the internets.

No matter where I go, the Shame Monster lurks.

I've been exceptionally lucky thus far in this life, or at least I think that's what Oprah would say, as would 99% of the population of Earth. The pain I've experienced has been almost entirely self-inflicted, perhaps because I've had it so easy and would otherwise be bored, or possibly because I have some sort of internal defect or flaw, or indeed because I've got a bad case of self-directed sociopathic tendencies.

I love Martha Beck. She says that when you're on the right path, the Universe conspires to assist you, and when you're not… well, it keeps sending reminders. Like my GPS, Shirley T, who never says, "WRONG! WRONG!" she just says, "Recalculating."

I'm recalculating.

And recalculating.

On Friday I went to Divorce Court with my husband. We sat next to one another while the other couples sat across the aisles, spewing silent hate-balls and shooting eye-daggers. We thought we were attending something personal where a judge would give us dirty looks and ask us with puppy dog eyes, "why couldn't you just make it work?" I was prepared for the judge to ask me if I was pregnant, and when I said no, ask me again if I was sure. But I wasn't ready for what actually happened.

Two things broke my spirit on Friday. One, the unfortunate man whose job was to interpret an exceptionally boring flow chart for the masses did his darndest to keep us entertained as he essentially told us five minutes worth of information in two hours. He did this using a narrative style, which I appreciate from the days of working in college admission. Keeping an audience when the subject matter is bleak isn't easy, but his narrative was horrendous. Humbling. Humiliating.

We were a mixed crowd, the 20 other couples and I. Some had children, others did not. As such, our flow charts contained different information. In order to describe the importance of a childcare agreement, Mr. Not Judge described the process of having and raising a child in excruciating detail. "You loved each other, so you decided to have a baby. You wanted the best for your baby and talked about what you would feed it, where it would go to school, how you would teach it values, whether or not it would participate in a religion..."

And there I was, my head pounding. The wailing banshee inside screaming WE DID THAT PART. WE DID ALL OF IT. WE HAD EVERYTHING IN PLACE. AND WE HAVE NO BABY. My eyes started to water, then pour as all of the dreams and goals and plans that I had made washed back into the sea. The reality of the tide receding as I close this chapter was as shocking as Shirley T telling me to take a left turn into a lake.

And so sitting there, in the face of all the never-will-be, in a sea of animosity, my husband took my hand. He said nothing, and he didn't have to, because he knows me better than anyone else. Sure, I've spent months slowly chipping away at the frozen or calcified grief in my belly, but any progress I've made has quickly patched over to preserve or survive. What possibly remains of spirit once the grief begins to thaw? I think it sets itself on fire, transmuting its energy by self-immolation. Grief, I suppose, cannot thaw itself.

It strikes me, haunts me, that in the moment we were supposed to be the farthest, we were the closest.

My wedding video shows my relative insanity as I try to look the blushing bride. Among the things I blame (and thank) my mother for is my lack of Barbie doll preparation for a world that has still quite a few Barbie-esque expectations. There was no deep spiritual transition as I committed myself to a partnership, just a hare-brained attempt to look pretty and keep smiling.

But divorce? That's where the magic happened. The moment I realized that the most loving thing another human could do was to see, to acknowledge, and to hold my hand in the swampy thickness of thawed grief.

We each go our separate ways shortly… him to the East and I to the… well, East, but different easts.

No Shirley this time, just me.


Monday, October 13, 2014

Tyrannical Monday

Today is the anniversary of a lesson (and it has nothing to do with a man named Christopher).

I think most people would say it's the anniversary of a very bad day, and they wouldn't be entirely wrong about that, but I haven't thought about it as a bad day for the last ten years or so. For certain a date when I allowed myself to be pulled down the road less traveled when standing my ground and taking the brightly-lit path might have been a significantly better choice.

Regardless, one more set of footprints on that dark road.

I know other people who have been there and haven't been able to escape the shadows of that more densely-forested lane, but I feel like I did. And I grew from it, and helped lots of people who needed that help, particularly from someone who had the same dust on her shoes.


I've been reading a bit about the pesky, thorny people that come into your life and stick on like brambles and exceptionally tired chewing gum. For me, it used to be the glue-eater in elementary school, and then it was the overzealous coworker who always had her nose and toes and ears in my office asking me where I got my shoes. These people had things to teach me, whether or not I learned them the first time or after declining the seventh invitation to the pyramid scheme kitchen gadget party.  I'm reading a Big Girl Book right now, and I feel I must share with you that this idea is not my own. These people are lovingly referred to as Petty Tyrants, and they A) only come to us if we're really, really lucky and B) are here to teach us important lessons about ourselves. If we're incredibly fortunate, we get an egotistical d-bag named Christopher who begets the pillaging of an entire continent (or two) and the countless peoples within.

Now, I'm not America (obviously). Nor am I so "fortunate" as to be pillaged by the Sons of the Spanish Armada. But I am more than navel deep in my own epic narrative down another road less traveled, and I'm starting to wonder if my tyrant is more of an experience than an embodied person. A situation I've gotten myself into.

Sometimes I imagine that God is laughing - hysterically - about my situation. It's actually pretty funny to think about. I know a lot about preparing women for birth, so a lot of them come to my yoga classes or want to hire me as a doula, or just want to message/text/call me with questions. And it is SUCH an honor to be a part of their experiences! (You want to talk about an experience as f-ed over as pre-Colonial America? try birth). I am absolutely thrilled beyond my wildest dreams that people value my opinion, want my support, or hear my voice in their heads repeating something that made sense when they're in the midst of the cyclone of birth or motherhood.

And yet, the bitter sadness that despite doing everything "right," and learning that nothing is "wrong" that I'm still on the wrong side of that zoo glass. The side that sees motherhood as a spectator. A super fan with no way in.

So here I am, on this dark path, again confronting an experience. Eager (desperate?) to learn the lesson. Trying to find grace and gratitude for the opportunity.

The beauty in the ashes.

I don't like Mondays too much.