I haven't blogged for months now. I only write publicly when the genuine urge arises, and it's been awhile since I've felt the itch. Today the desire to share emerged and, after nearly two hours drafting an article, I inadvertently hit the wrong key on my screen.
Boom. Just like that. It was all lost.
Of course this isn't the first time I've experience this. As a writer, technology fails happen from time to time. But something about today's thwarted attempt at communication immediately angered me. I shouted profanities at my computer and then scrambled for an autosave miracle. A little voice inside tried coaxing me back to center (Just let it go, C), and I pushed back against it. But I had worked hard on that. After one more heavy sigh of irritation, I opened this page: a blank document without an agenda.
Somewhat ironically, the piece I was working on was about a recent realization. To sum it up: At the ripe age of forty, I've come to realize that my work ethic (a do-or-die survival strategy toward action) is no longer serving me and that I'm ready to build a life around who-I-actually-am versus the almighty All That I Can Do.
So yes, please feel free to laugh along with me that "all my hard work" unexpectedly disappeared into the ethers in an instant... forcing me to ask the question at the heart of the message I had spent all morning laboring over: Who will I be if everything that I "do" is stripped from me?
As it turns out:
Still me. Still enough.
Autosave fail = nothing lost.
Blog published = nothing gained.
Happiness isn't something I have to work for and the joy of expression isn't found or expressed through some pre-formulated agenda, the week's ah-hahs, or the social metrics of what other people seem to want of me.
I'm 40. It's time to enjoy my voice without reshaping it at every turn.
So here goes: I offer ten more-honest minutes of two hours (un)wasted.
I'm sending you me. Me instead of IT.
Art is life in real time.
& it's more than enough to satisfy the soul.
I recently ran into this meme on Facebook, and it really got me thinking.
Passion. Sometimes it shows up as brilliant creative inspiration, yet it's invitations aren't always so gracious. I've found that - like most things - passion comes in all shades, and its darker impulses sometimes overwhelm me. When I feel lost to a yearning, my wounds and/or latent desires can unwind me from reason and lead me to project a zealous fixation onto someone or something outside of me. In these rare instances a passionate hunger envelops, consumes, and infatuates my senses. I lose touch with myself for the sake of latent desire's ravenous need to announce and full-fill itself.
Yet most news is good news if you know how to frame it.
I've come to believe that, even when we find ourselves bat-shit-crazy, passion is present because something within us has come alive. A potential has been sparked even if we may not be ready or fully equipped to own or express it. We are "out there" aching passionately for HIM/HER or IT or THAT because we are starved for an expression and/or change that is coming alive within and through us.
A few years ago, I had a wicked crush on a distant colleague. I mean it. I was dumbstruck by her presence, her beauty, and her unabashed embodiment of her sensual wow-factor when she danced. She seemed fearless and irreverently expressive, and I was drawn to her... enamored. I wanted what she had and therefore longed to know her and befriend her so that I could bask in her courage. I emulated her movement and attempted to forge a bond. Thankfully she didn't reciprocate my desire for connection, and I was left to seek nourishment on my own. What began for me as an echoing of the confidence she demonstrated, soon turned into my own brand of sexy-self possession. Once I embodied the potential she had helped to unearth in me, once I began to express it on my own, her presence no longer influenced me in the same way and her unavailability and disinterest in me no longer pained me the way it had early on. My passion found it's sovereign and rightful expression and the experience taught me a shit-ton about the how&why of SO many former infatuations in my life, both in friendship and in matters of the heart.
The point is this...
On the other side of our madness lies our truth.
Whenever I'm busy longing for HIM or IT or THAT, I no longer step forward. I take a step back and I take stock. I know now that a hungry passion longs deeply for an inner devotion to what is ripening with ME. It's inviting me to show up and express something in a way that I never have before. And when I am courageous and vulnerable enough to become responsive (vs. reactive), I'm emboldened by passion's dark and elusive callings as well as its more brilliant inspirations.
I've found that ALL shades of passion contain within them the potential to feed my creative advancement when coupled with sovereignty and the willingness to take my power back.
Own your bat-shit-crazy... & don't allow it to own you.
Earlier this morning, I had tea with a dear friend who is struggling, justifiably so as she feels suspended between the life she longs to be living and more immediate emotional and financial burdens. I know all too well the pain of this divide. As I listened, my heart bled and my mind fumbled for words. I wanted more than anything to soothe her, to somehow save her from the pain that weighed so heavy against her.
Tears spilled from her eyes as she wondered aloud: "why"?
"Why me? Why this? Why now?"
Now I'll be honest, a half decade ago I would have swept in with reassurances. I would have attempted to force feed her my love, lacing it with new age dogma. Hell, I may have even insisted upon some bullshit promise about her future - one that I have absolutely no business making.
But as it turns out, today is the fifth anniversary of my brother's sudden and tragic death... and when he left this world he inadvertently took something of mine with him - namely, my sense of anything and everything I held as certain in the world. Beginning five years ago today, each and every day has become a question mark waiting to be answered.
Except for when it comes to one.
Because some questions have no answer.
And apparently WHY?... is really none of our damned business.
Experience has taught me that "why's" of the existential variety are attempts to understand a vantage point that is totally and utterly incomprehensible to our human sensibilities. Asking why implies that order and justice exist in this world. While this may or may not be true on a grandiose scale (I'll leave your spirituality to you), there is no denying that justice doesn't always prevail on the surface of things.
I don't know why.
What I DO know is that when we are caught in despair, distracting ourselves with unanswerable queries only fuels the pain. Grief and seasons of life that seem unfair and/or too difficult to swallow are emotion-drenched tsunamis.
What good is a weather report when you're drowning?
We may never know why.
And we certainly won't get over it.
We can, however, move through it.
Bit by bit. Breath by breath. Choice by choice.
Stop asking why, ask instead for honest support, and then feel it all. Despair, hopelessness, judgement, anger, and the absolute pinnacle of pain - that I-just-don't-give-a-fuck-anymore moment when an old canvas is finally torched and a your new life is born.
Yours in Creation AND Destruction,
P.S. Here's a related poem I wrote back in 2011, less than a year after Tony's passing. It's called: "three letter word"
There are times in life when we are sideswiped; taunted but not overtaken by a certain fate. Perhaps it's a desirable outcome that slimly passes us by, such as a long-coveted job or relationship that doesn't pan out in the end. Disappointment reveals to us its hidden gifts, forcing us to re-evaluate our priorities and find even greater clarity than before.
But what about "near misses" of the dramatic and fortuitous variety?... times when life narrowly misses a more disastrous mark? Roughly four weeks ago today was one such moment in my life.
My partner and I were traveling abroad, and it was our last morning in Turkey. Over the past week we had ventured 2500 miles by bus with a local guide, visiting ancient landmarks such as Cappadocia, Pamukkale, and Ephesus. Back in Istanbul for roughly 48 hours, we'd been exploring the vast metropolis on our own. Our plan was to squeeze in a tour of the Basilica Cistern along with a couple of more sites before our departure to Venice later that day.
Our hotel was in the Fatih shopping district, an area near historic landmarks that offered a hefty discount for the off-season. We'd slept in a bit, then headed outdoors where the temperature was rapidly dropping. As we scurried through the cobblestone side streets, snow began whipping sideways at our faces. I rallied toward the morning's mission for the sake of all we'd invested in time and money; yet even when I'm at my best extreme winter weather has the tendency to derail my enthusiasm. My will for adventure was wilting under the weight of the wind, and with each step I grew more resentful of our unrelenting itinerary. It certainly didn't help matters that, a bit tired of Turkish fare, all I'd been able to stomach for breakfast was a piece of toast. I was growing more light-headed and irritable by the minute.
In a plot twist I'd soon come to expect while traveling abroad, we reached the metro stop nearest to our hotel only to discover it was inexplicably closed. Backtracking yet again, we headed to our hotel to regroup. The most direct passage was along a narrow street. Leaving barely enough room for one vehicle to pass, its path ran parallel to the busy highway above. Weather and sound assaulted my weary body, and I couldn't wait to retreat indoors... so I led the way with dogged determination, power-walking with my hood up and my head down to the wind. Chris followed close behind. I had just moved up off of the street onto what I can only presume was meant to be a sidewalk - a claustrophobic brick embankment no more than two feet wide jutting away from the building that loomed four-stories high on my right. Lost in my single-minded mission, my senses would soon betray me. I vaguely recall hearing an approaching truck on my left, yet I mistook the sound for traffic along the highway above. It was in this exact wrong moment that I chose to step off the curb back into the street. When I did I was met with a sudden and terrifying burst of energy.
I felt the unmistakeable power of speed and metal as a commercial truck quite literally grazed my coat. I heard myself release a guttural scream as it passed. I didn't know what else to do; there was no time or space to move in any direction but toward hope. The truck missed me by less than a measure of an inch.
I frantically made my way back up onto that two-foot bullshit-of-a-sidewalk and leaned in against Chris. My body shook with overwhelm and the terror a deer must feel when narrowly missed by a bullet. Chris did his best to calm the both of us; yet needless to say, seeing me nearly mauled by a truck had really done a number on him as well.
Eventually we made our way back to the hotel and sat in the lobby gratitude-stricken and stunned by the silent presence of what could have been. I verbally alternated between breathless relief: "oh God... oh THANK God" and manic awe: "holy fucking shit... holy FUCKING shit!" Once safety settled in, I had no choice but to ask myself: How I could have been so distracted and out of my body as to step in front of a moving vehicle totally unaware?
Shock dissolved into realization.
Tears pooled, the answer swimming within.
I had (once again) been exhausted by my mind's ambitions. The truth was this: I was miserable with fatigue and a road-weary part of me desperately needed stillness and tending to. It wasn't the first time that I had ignored my needs for the sake of an external enterprise. It wasn't the first time I had fallen out of step with me, placing the rhythm of someone I love (in this case, my partner) before my own. But it WAS the first time it had almost cost me my life or god-only-knows-how-many weeks in a Turkish hospital.
I have a hard time standing still while the rest of the world moves at an even clip. And so, I bully myself to conform and carry on. I do as is expected and push through resistance. I rally. I suck it up. I power through. I push to (ap)prove my place in the world, unconsciously defying the direction in which my internal compass points.
I had gone halfway across the world to be reminded that no matter where we find ourselves on the map, without sovereignty and self care we are lost. Susceptible to life's bittersweet and sometimes reckless re-calibrations.
The looming presence of that truck weighed against the left side of my body for the next few days along with the beautiful and haunting realization that I had been spared from injury. I had stepped off that curb at just the wrong time but at just the right angle so as to avoid being hit. How is that? What if I had swung my arm a bit wider? What if I had stepped outward even an inch more, instead of just to the left of the curb? Two possible fates intertwined and by some chance I was granted the thread more fortunate.
Just the night before, I was watching one of the few English channels we had available in our hotel room. A news reporter told the story of a seven year old girl in Kentucky who was the lone survivor in an airplane crash that took the lives of her four other family members. She had not only survived the crash without major injury, she had walked barefoot in total darkness for over a kilometer in a rural area, somehow venturing in the one direction in which she had any hope of finding help. With unlikely success, she was rescued.
While my experience pales in comparison, I couldn't help but wonder why? Why were she and I spared when so many others haven't been? I couldn't help but think of the tragic loss of my brother back in 2010; my heart still breaks that his was not a near miss. Nor was the recent devastation of a friend who lost her six year old daughter three days before Christmas because someone ran a stop sign. I witness this extraordinary mother gracefully navigate an unimaginable loss and am both heartsick and aglow with wonder at her strength and will to carry on. Life and death can seem so arbitrary; loss delivers its blow with such indifference. While a great many will try to, we can't possibly decode the mystery that unfurls each fate.
Misfortune. Lucky break.
I'm not convinced that any of these exist.
I am certain only of the mysterious grace that both binds and rips us apart. Life is a wild beast of a thing that cannot be harnessed. Untamed and fiercely loving, she is as ill-behaved and nourishing as a storm... and our arrogant attempts to explain the unexplainable are distractions from drinking in her rains more fully.
To near misses. And to all things unfinished & undone.
... (( ❤ )).
Early this week I returned from 25 days of traveling abroad. The first part of our journey was spent exploring the landscapes and western coastline of Turkey, steeping ourselves in ancient history. Italy was next. Naples and the Amalfi Coast, soon followed by Venice, Florence, and Rome. It was an ambitious adventure to say the least.
There is vacation. And there is travel. Travel is voyage driven by curious zeal, a soulular reach for adventure its whimsy lies outside of the tangibilities of reason. As opposed to vacation, travel's medicine lies not in the destination but in the journey itself. Everyday norms are challenged. Ways of being collide with cultural divides. Plans are thwarted, and ever-changing itineraries loom large. Travel is a rite of passage where outcome is uncertain yet wholeheartedly embraced as somehow essential to who we are becoming. Travel is a voyage outside of expected comforts, into the unexpected self.
And let's be REAL... travel is a privilege. The majority of people in the world (many of whom I know) simply can't afford to travel. Vacations can be carved in and around weekends and holidays... but travel requires an elasticity of time, money, and physical stamina. The fact that my partner and I are childless, able-bodied, and blessed enough to have been able to voyage in this way... this is a gift that I am doing my best to shamelessly receive. Gratitude has been my constant companion, every step of the way. And yet, it's also worth noting that travel is a largely romanticized notion, reveled in by outside observers... idealized through glossy photos and carefully-crafted captions. Facebook albums represent only picturesque moments captured for digital display, never doing justice to the journey.
My favorite images show you only rainbows... while travel is a mighty storm to be braved. Full-spectrum beauty is reserved for those willing to pass through the thunderous elements along the way. Said another way: 16 cities visited. 14 hotel check-ins. 8 flights. 6 train rides. Roughly a dozen bus rides + a rental car driven on the treacherous streets of the Amalfi Coast (thankfully Chris is a road-savvy New Yorker). Add to that countless hours walked, missed trains/bus stops, and language barriers to boot.
Travel well and stress & splendor will collide. Growth is delivered through dichotomy. Irresistible moments: such as the silence of a pastel sunrise over the canals of Venice, the otherworldly beauty of Pammukkale's breathtaking white landscapes, or a Turkish New Year's Eve celebration (it's unrivaled... much like the marinara sauce at L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele in Naples. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it). Travel serves up each gift with a slice of humble pie, challenging and refining our sense of what is rightful and norm. Try getting a taxi driver in Istanbul to drive you less than two kilometers; it's a virtual impossibility (so what if you have luggage, not their problem). Feel helplessness and heartbreak as you watch a stray dog and two whiny eight-week old puppies cry and itch their skin raw while Pergamon locals stroll by with casual indifference. Spend your first couple of hours abroad hurling in the perfume-laden airport water closet (aka: bathroom) due to a bumpy 10 hour flight and some bad cheese (let's just say Paris wasn't my favorite stop... city of love and lights my ass. Again, it makes my mouth water just thinking about it).
Bitter blends with sweetness to make the flavor real and right.
Was our voyage always an easy one? Hell to the no.
Was it worth it? Most emphatically, YES.
Early on in the trip, a personal mantra emerged:
What is this life?!... this, the unanswerable question that best encapsulated the beautiful ugly totality of my experience. Four words that unexpectedly spilled from my lips as I took in a sunset along Positano's majestic cliffside; she left me gasping and gaping at her beauty. And again I uttered them (this time I added a couple more syllables for good measure... WTF..iTL?!!) as we stood stranded on an unmarked road in Rome. Exhausted, lost, and angry we walked two miles with all our baggage in tow.
Four words that captured both awe-inspiring gratitude and perpetual befuddlement... thus offering me a way to maintain good humor and conjure the humility and grace required to accept all the unexpected gifts being thrown my way. WiTL? These four words, like the bells at Campanile di Giotto in Florence still ring in my ears... reminding me to be thankful and to fully inhabit the full spectrum of my experience. There and then. Here and now.
I am beyond fortunate to have been blessed by such an adventure... rest assured, that is not lost on me. And yet I must admit that the absolute greatest gift has been found in the return home. Mundane comforts are now miraculous gifts waiting to be opened.
Sharing with you is one of them.
Thanks for reading. xo