This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Matters of the Heart

It's a rainy and windy morning which has followed a night that knocked all the remaining fall leaves down. In such newness, and where I don't cull the time to write daily in my journal about the goings on, I am having a hard time remembering what has happened that made me last think, "I want to write that." Hence, the present tense.

"I'm gonna fucking walk around naked too," Hadj says from the other room as a way of finishing his thought. His bathrobe is taking on the scent of white vinegar which keeps bacteria away from skin that's lacking a shower and, he swears, smells like salad.


I feel I can't. I can't write. I can't let go. Bitterness is biting at my heels. I've had enough. I don't want to be here. What is all this? What does it mean? What can I even do to help myself though this? Fear is bearing down on me. I want love to fill my heart. What I hear is a siren.

I remember my dream from last night:

I live alone in a basement apartment. I am home putzing around. I grab my purse and keys and go out. I unlock the passenger side of my car and get in. I am intending to scoot over to the driver's seat. Before I can do this a man gets in the car and starts driving. He is silent. I don't even see his face. Fear begins flooding me. The man is driving toward a highway entrance. I don't know what he wants with me or where he is going. He enters the ramp to the highway. I open my door and fall out onto the road, hoping to land on my ass. I land, feeling only adrenaline. I stand as quickly as I can. Two cars pass me on the road. It feels like they are inches from hitting me. I feel invisible and panicked. I am wondering where help is. I jump up and down screaming for help. Cars drive pass seeming not to notice.

I have walked back home carrying nothing. My purse is in my car, which the man drove off in. My cell phone and wallet are there too. I pick up my home phone and call my partner. My mouth feels dry and swollen and I can make no sensible words. I feel hysterical. He cannot understand what I am trying to say. He is in Washington whereas I am in Chicago. I realize I need to call the police. I hang up and dial 9-1-1. When the line is answered I can hear only broken background noise. There is no one to talk to. I try dialing 9-1-1 twice more and everytime there is only empty
background noise with no help forthcoming. I hang up, feeling lost and desperate. I want to call my partner back, but realize I can't. Having relied on my cell phone memory, I don't have his number in my head. I can't push redial and get him. My desperation and dry mouthed silence seem to increase.

My front door suddenly bursts open and people I know are love are streaming
in. First I see my mom and dad who are followed by friends and then media people. I try telling my story, but my panic is so great and my mouth so dry that no discernable words come out. I collapse into hugging my father.

As I am waking I realize that I am still panicked, but that I can now choose not to be. I am safe. I am surrounded by help. I will be ok. When I wake I have to choose if I had a bad dream or a good one. It felt like a nightmare, but I realized I was safe and loved.

I woke by hugging my partner tight and telling him I had a bad dream.

All around me the universe has been reminding me of love. I received a letter from an energy working peer. She told me she received a message for me in her meditations. The message she relayed was this:

I saw that you had begun a dance, and in the process of the dance you had stopped because you could not remember the next movement.

The message is feel the current of love surround you, within that current is the power of my love. As your hands move throughout that current they gain the power of my love - they can only move the way they should move. Continue as your heart leads you because that is the only way you can go, when it is the right course there is no resistance.

Another example of the help that is beckoning me back to the golden light of love are the last few lines from my favorite astrologer for this week:

[F]ollow your heart when it tells you to be bigger, bolder, and brasher than ever before. Right now, shiny intensity is your sacred duty!
Intellectually I know what to do. To succeed I have to listen to my heart. My heart and my intellect do not always coincide. From a "Rent" song that spoke to me early this week:

Listen, I find some of what you teach suspect, because I'm used to relying on intellect, but I try to open up to what I don't know.

I am a quite person in the middle of a loud surround. I crave a mixture of peace and ecstasy; simplicity and challenge. Today, instead of writing here about my riding crop bruises which helped me blow off steam, my mom's daily funny comments, or the bathroom my partner and I are 70% done rebuilding, I will be working in my parents' basement in happy solitude. I will listen to music, open up my heart, and dance like no one's watching.

Another one of my favored contradictions: I prefer to dance like no one is watching, but I kind-of hope someone is.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gray Matters

My last defense / is the present tense. -Gwendolyn Brooks

Inspiration is always waiting just on the other side of some door. There seem to be few tricks to inviting inspiration in; you have to know there are options available to you, you have to be willing to ask for help, you have to be able to accept what comes, you have to open up. I am constantly fascinated by the following idea:

[T]hink about the edges where things spill into each other and become their opposites. -J. Ruth Gendler

"Start here," is the advice I've gave myself last night. The immediately preceeding thought was, "I want to write this all down." I have thought that thought many times a week in the last month. I'm living in a gray area where everything blends. Dichotomies swing back and forth, from dramatic to mundane, from interesting to dull.

Speaking of the present tense: I just stuck my hands in my cat's mouth. Her teeth look kinda brown in spots. The vet told me over a year ago that kitty needed to have dental work. I did not get the work done, because I did not have the money to do so. I know cats' teeth are a common source of problems which can become serious, but it was a choice I had to make. I try to check lil' kitty's teeth from time to time. I try to make sure there's nothing horrible going on in there. She hates when I do that. She squirms, pushes my hands away with her paws, and makes pathetic little squeaking noises. All this she did just now. What she did not do was jump off my lap and trot off looking indignant. She laid back down and resumed her buttery purring. My little calico has offered another view of inspiration. I thanked her for knowing I wasn't trying to hurt her, and for remaining so gentle and sweet.

Sometimes the present tense gets buried under memories. I am reading The Four Agreements: A Toltec Wisdom Book right now. Prefacing the writing on the four essential agreements, how to make them, and how they work, is writing about the "domestication of humans". The author writes his views on how humans are acculturated from infancy by accepting, or making agreements to, the teachings of their elders.

It may be hopeful thinking, but I do think many parents try to balance teaching their children what is "good" and what is "bad". Despite that, it is reasonable to assume, that most children are given a heft of negative input as part of their training into society. The children that "learn best" are the children that take this information and agree to it quickly. Children that don't make the agreements their elders give them, children who behave dissonantly, are reprimanded until they conform. I have been thinking about the agreements I have made. I have been assessing the usefulness of my agreements. I have been trying to let go of agreements made that do not serve a positive purpose in me any more.

I stood outside yesterday aftrenoon trembling with emotion and telling myself what was my fault. My partner and I had been having and argument and memories of the far and wide past was clouding my senses. The day before yesterday I made an agreement with myself about what I was responsible for in the melee of tender feelings. I had shared them with my partner. I spoke up about the certain things which were "not my fault". The things that were "not my fault" I would not take responsibilty for.

I think that deep down we all want to be our best. Some of us have best selves that are buried in obscurity, underneath trauma, memories, and betrayal. Some of us don't believe they know what love feels like. Some of us are more comfortable being afraid. We have all heard that relationships take work. We have all heard that courage is not easy. We have all heard the world is going to end in fire.

Who among us have accepted the phoenix? Who among us have stood through storm? Who has accepted that crouching in a storm feels safest?

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Bath and Beyond

"[Y]ou got to begin where you are because before you take off on any wild-ass wishing you got to ground yourself, firm, in the dynamics of your situation[...] But we're alive, alright. I mean I'm the one here who's dreaming this dream. So, if I'm me then you must still be you."
"I think maybe I'm you," I said.
"No, I'm me," he said. "That's a basic dynamic of this situation and we got to keep that straight."

Grounding myself in the dynamics of a situation is a constant source of work when things are unusual. The dynamics of this particular situation are some how both obvious and mysterious to me. Literally, I am living at my parents' house while my boyfriend and I remodel a bathroom, paint the walls, and clean out the basement. Literally we get up at 6 everyday to spend a few hours waking. We stretch, give love to our animals, eat breakfast and so on. Literally, I saw the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen last night as we drove through suburbs on the way, again, to Home Depot. The rays of the sun were brightly defined orange stripes between blue sky. The horizon was shades of fuchsia.

I guess what I am learning is that making what your life what you want is a journey. What I am "used to" is getting what I think I should get: a job, a degree, a sensible suit for interviews. What I actually want is much more ephemeral and undeveloped: time to write, a nourishing routine, travel... transcendence. I have to make the existence I am looking for, I cannot apply for it. That thought, as I write it now, actually makes me nauseous. From where I stand today, looking at the path of my future is like look down a path leading into thick brush on a mountain trail. I have literally no clue what's over the next hill, it could be a flat, grassy meadow plateau or a 55% incline to a peak. The path could split. There could be a mountain lion or crystalline spring. There could be more path, the hospitality of which, is not discernible.

Reconciling the activity in my mind with the dynamics of the real situation has been difficult at times. Remaking this bathroom has a lot of new energy stirred up in a place that has had only potential for decades. I feel I've entered a room, in my mind, that has been hidden for just as long and is filled with things that are somehow familiar and alien at the same time.

Committing to writing about these emotions in tandem with the events surrounding them is difficult as well. It takes time, and it is hard for me to concentrate: to take the time needed to do that writing work when I hear my man, in the bathroom of my parents' house hollering about a shitty welding job some schmuck did in the 70s. Sometimes I may not commit and I just may get up to go demolish sheet rock. At least I have options. I also have pictures of this demolition/remodeling project as well, but we have not yet located the illusive USB cord.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Morning Routine

The alarm goes off at 6 and it takes several hits of the snooze button before we can lift our work stiff limbs from the bed. Hadj pulls on his bathrobe, the two dogs, Bella and Gabbie, dance around us in the excitement of a new day. The two cats, Willow and Billie, sit with their tails wrapped around their paws, waiting for the bedroom door to open. I suit up for the morning routine and we all head downstairs.

Civil twilight began at 6:27 today, the moon is just beginning to wane from full. We were up before sunrise, but as Hadj said, "I think I wanted to be out there when that happened." The sun rose into a slice of sky which rested below a stripe of softly brushed clouds. The clouds were golden and pink; the dramatic effects of night becoming day made us talk softly. I stood on the east facing wood deck, watching the sky between trees and single family homes. I imagined my view from the studio back in the city. "I was imagining the sky line" I told him, "it would be in this same direction."
"That is the sky line," he teased pointedly.

Today we "pull" the toilet and tub. Yesterday we ripped out the cabinetry, the gray stained wood panelling, and bid farewell to 30 years of bathroom memories. This is the third day of the routine we've shaped for our separate, but combined sanities. We "go around the block" - a two mile walk up and down hills - passing subdivisions built when I was in high school and college, passing street signs that lead to neighborhoods where I played with friends from grammar school. I write daily. Hadj throws the frisbee for the dogs. Just like being a warrior in the city and knowing how many stairs I climbed or blocks I crossed, I must watch this landscape and ground myself in the present. "I like the suburbs" Hadj admits as I make a face. I know what he means. The lot my parents have is a good one compared to the pre-planned communities that house other homes. There is space and beauty here, the houses have more character. I remind him that it is not necessarily this place that can make me buckle, but the weight of the memories of who I have been in it.

The coffee is ready. My eyes are light the way they are when the work I am doing satisfies me.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Work Estimates

This is all a process. I pull back the canvas curtain to watch the leaves play and dance with their shadows. I write down the bits of beauty and connection found and try not to catalog discomforts. Here in my mother's house I am given the privelege of re-trial while running obstacle courses that are rutted with abuse. "I don't understand your trauma," Hadj tells me. We are snuggling in my old bed in my old bedroom. What I hear coming from his mouth sounds like some innocent wisdom. I too hardly understand my reactions.

We are at my parents' house in the northwest suburbs of Chicago now. We are here to work for a time, before we finish our drive west to Belfair, before snow locks us in. This house is nearly one-hundred years old. It has had three sets of owners, my parents being the third. They bought this house in 1988, after my father sold his Harley to his best friend make the down-payment. It was a fixer upper then and is something more full of potential for complete re-creation now. My parents do not have much interest or energy for material things. They crave memories, action, and events. They live for the road beneath their two wheels. They hate winters.

"Let's go embarass you," Hadj says to me. He is continually making me smile and reasurring me that we are actually having fun. It is up to me to make new the old patterns that are haunting this house in my mind. Like everything else, Hadj is here to help. We went through a small portion of the huge, unfinished basement of my parents' house last night. The area is composed of all things elementally "basement": musty smell, seeping water, decrepit cardboard boxes, antique spider webs, and 21 years of familial refuse and remains. We descend the wooden stairs and clear a space where we will empty boxes marked things like "Shana knick-knacks 2001" and "Shana's Stuff Do Not Toss."

September 30th was the last day in my golden studio apartment on Chicago's NW side. By the time we left the inviting light had been washed over with a dusty color my ex-landlord prescribed. We wondered how a studio apartment could seem smaller without furniture. The job I held, which helped me get and keep the apartment I loved, is a wisp of time gone now. Late in the night of the last day of September we pulled up to the garage at my parents' house and turned off our cars. The night air was damp and chilling. I had to jump around to keep from catching trembling shivvers.

We unpacked only what was needed for a night's sleep and carried it, quietly - not to wake my sleeping mother and father, up to my old bedroom. Once the bed was set down and covered, and once we had unwound enough to lay there, I became overwhelmed by my own ghosts and became terrified and wept. I experienced terror, that I would somehow become trapped and miserable the way I had been trapped and miserable in this place so many times before. It is not this house. It is not my parents or anything they did or did not do. What terrified me were the memories of depressions past and what I defended myself against was the untruth of history.

As I unearthed the first photographs I ever took (family vacation, 1991), eighth grade class photos, and junior-prom photos Hadj helped me look at myself. I began to look without judgement or recall. The shame left in pockets all over my body began their dissolution. He saw me in eigth grade and said, "you're a different person twice over now, aren't you?" I feared not changing when I was young. When I was beginning a descent to find and unearth myself I grew proud of how much I had changed. I was smug when I saw others who seemed to look the same as they had when we were young.

Rummaging around in old photographs, keep-sakes, and tzchockies is just a way of spending our time at present. We are here to make love real by working. There are still supplies to be purchased, preparations to be made, budgets to be worked out. This is the meanwhile.

I have always wanted to restore or reshape my parents' house for them. It is a beautiful old house and anyone with an interest can't not see the potential oozing out of the pine wood trim, brick fireplace, or small bathrooms. I am here to do pennance in a way. I will do the work to clear myself out, and to give some TLC to the bones of an aching old house. Hadj and I both love story and history. We marvel when our deja vu mingles and when our enigmatic patterns meet. We laugh at the coincidences of his constant bathroom rennovations and my recurrent sneaking misbehavior and assume we must be on the right path if we've dreamt all this before.