Monday, May 13, 2013

What I Brought

I stood on the border of my wilderness.
It beckons in silent commandment,
My feet feeling for the road
That is dusty and half hidden
Under brambles and

I am draped in cloth of gold
That pales under a sun of glory
Rings of silver and lapis
Grace my graceless fingers
And offer only a hollow echo
To the spark of stars and moonlight
That litter the night sky.
Laden with my gathered gifts

I gather in the best of me
My harvest
To leave at the foot of Sinai
At the altars of God.
I traverse the desert
In forty nine steps
Spinning my measure of grain into
A promise

One day. And the next
And again
Ang yet again.
Days pass
I am gathered in
To leave at the altar
My best
For God.

I stand at the foot of that mountain
And I tremble
In wearied joy
And exultant fear.
I reach for my offering basket,
To lay it full upon that altar.
And see behind me
In that trackless
My fruit
My first and finest gifts
Tumbled and trampled
Stretching back forty nine steps and more--

And I weep.

I lay my tears on that altar
With  my sorrow
And my yearning
My hopeless desire
My brokenness
And pain
For I have nothing left to offer
(That is mine to give)

And I turn to collect bright feathers.
They drift down around me,
A shower of white and gold, and silver and lapis
A glinting
Glistening opal fire
Of glory
And I gather them up
Gather them in
Fashioning them into wings
Of scattered light
And I fly.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

For Nate, on Mother's Day

He brought me a crown of twisted green stems and sudden bursts of gold.
It smelled so sweet, like summer, like wine.
Like his smile

He was sticky-fingered and glorious
King in his realm
Of wooden trains
And pumpkin ghosts
That were banished by a sorceress
Who vanquished his fears
With a kiss of stardust.

He sipped at the seasons
Tasting the air
The clouds
Feet tripping so lightly along the path
The hidden path less taken
The dusty road sheltered by leaves
The color of heartbreak gold.
He gathered wildflowers and weeds
To grace the table and litter the doorway
That he passed through
To some far away place
Only a heartbeat away.

He saw visions of giants
And spies
And he tumbled through the wilderness
Accompanied by drum beat and flute song
And he found the gilded treasure
That lay hidden in shadow
Transformed by magic;
Dull and lifeless dross
Transformed back to treasure
By his pure heart.

He found treasure and brought it home,
A crown of twisted green,
Smelling of summer
And laughing, he placed it on my head
A wondrous gift,
Breaking the spell of my solitude.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Once more, with feeling

There was a time, not so long ago (and forever ago, both at once), that I swore I could not feel. Did not feel.  

There was a time, not so long ago (and forever ago, both at once) that my feelings ran in a straight line between "fine" and "tired."

There was a time, not so long ago (and forever ago, both at once) that I believed my emotions were so powerful, if I acknowledged them, if I allowed them expression, they would be so powerful they would destroy me. I saw them as Leviathan, a maelstrom of churning, burning energy, an endless and infinite whirlpool that would suck me down and swallow me whole. I invested in them all the power and capriciousness of an avenging god, who only waited in the shadows to strike me down and smite me dead.

Talk about shut down! It took me years to admit that "tired" is not an emotion. It took me even more time to admit that I might have to actually learn how to feel something. Anything. As numb as I was, that gaping hole inside-- the one that tried to keep God and the world out, and me trapped in a tiny universe of one, the one that housed my self-loathing and self doubt, the one that kept me enraptured with self-destruction and addiction to more, that blanketed me with isolation and whispered, from under rocks and dark corners that I might as well drink, because alcohol smudged the lines of pain and left in its wake the slow burn of abject surrender-- that hole was leaking my stiff control into the real world and I hust couldn't do it anymore. I couldn't even stay numb.

I had had glimpses of real love, even amidst the pain. I had allowed myself a few moments to hope that it could be-- would be-- better. And in my hope, the gods did not strike me down for my presumption. And thus began my quest: to learn how to feel, how to be present and sit comfortably in my own skin. I approached this much like I approach a still pond on a hot summer day: toe outstretched, barely skimming the surface, delicately testing the waters. I splashed in the shallow end for a while, water to my ankles, getting acclimated, getting wet, venturing out in a widening circle, slowly, hesitantly, depending upon my level of bravery on at any given moment.

And so I learned. Slowly. Hesitantly. I learned. Mostly. I get happy and sad and mad and glad-- the basics, so I've discovered. And I get wistful and frustrated and bored and joyful and distracted and a thousand other things. Sometimes singly, sometimes in weird pastiches that cycle a hundred feelings in an instant, leaving me breathless. I get to feel all that stuff, every day. I stuck my toe in that dark and murky pool, eyes screwed shut, until I could bear to leap. And I leaped. And I was not devoured.

So why is it, so many years later, that just when I think my head Is just above water, that my toes have finally found something solid upon which to stand, everything seems to have shifted, and that solid ground Is nothing more than quicksand, sucking me under?

When the hell did that happen?

I swear to God—I am a strong and capable woman. I am successful, frighteningly intelligent, witty as hell. Why do I suddenly feel as if I’m mired in a bog? The worst part—I can see myself, holding the compass, and the road map,  clearly outlined with “Here lie dragons marked in glitter paint and arrows. I am holding the damned instruction manual in my hands. I know I have all the tools, right there at my fingertips, and yet I seem so incapable of navigating my way through my life.

I know a lot of things, actually. I know that this, too, shall pass. I know that God is with me, always. That my only job, really, is to love my son and help him find his own path. I know that I have been whole, and sometimes feel broken. I know that I have been caught, redeemed, loved and now feel lost. I know I still stutter and stumble and avoid the phrases “I don’t know” and “I need help.”

I know that the longest journey I’ve ever had to make is the one from my head to my heart. It seems like an endless journey through a trackless and lonely desert.

I’ve been here before, In a thousand different iterations, I have stood in this spot, lost and lonely and afraid. And I am tired of this introspection. Tired of this interminable quest to figure out what the hell is going on in my life, how I can feel happy in my life, where is God in my life, on and on, ad nauseum. At some point, it becomes self-indulgent and I come off as a pampered prima dona (feel free tp protest at this point, that nothing I say could be further from the truth). I am so tired of feeling like a tightly wound spring. I don’t know how to change this, so I avoid it and go numb. I disconnect: one more piece of pain that I have to confront, and I just can’t do it. Not today. I can only pretend to be brave for so long.

I hate having to admit this. I am to old to dance with these ghosts again, too old for this bout of existential angst and self-doubt. I want to do it differently, to fix it, and it feels as if I have slammed into a mountain of glass. I can’t find a handhold, my feet slip and slide out from under me, leaving me prostrate and bruised.

But here’s the difference, all impotence aside, all that quivery, fearful drowning-while-immobile, breathless and clueless and broken-- I know one more thing: in the face of all this, act.

And so I do. In fits and starts, sometimes with feet dragging, I act. I move. And then, I dive. Dive inward , to find God and grace. Leap upward, light the torch, search for a hand to hold in the darkness. I ask for help to find a soft spot upon which to land. How much more miraculous, more holy can it get? How astounding, that in the space between breaths, I find peace and the world changes. This is all holy ground. It is measured in the space between you and me. It’s all there: the sacred, the holy, surrounding us, connecting us, keeping us whole, Keeping me whole.

If I can just commit, just trust, just forgive, just love, then I would know I was in the presence of God.

Life is not what I expected. Life is. That’s the deal. It’s bumpy and messy and scary and happy and joyous and perplexing, in infinite variety and subtlety. And most of all: changing. I get to participate in that. I get to do it well and fuck it up, find moments of grace and spar with demons of my own devising. In the midst of pain or doubt or joy or hope, it is not so dark: I am not so alone, as long as I put one foot in front of the other. I get to find God, every day. I can be made whole, every day. I can be healed, every day. None of this comes naturally to me. It is still easier, at times, to disconnect than to willingly open up my heart. But I have known God’s grace, and I have felt joy and love, and so I struggle gladly to be human, every day.

God is here, in this place, with me, and I---

Today I know it.