I’ve been going thru the going thru as is often the case these days writing this dissertation. The challenge is not in the work of writing (most days) but in the mirror that this work holds to my face, all the many ways i am confronted with myself, where i’m at, where i’ve been, who i am and am not yet, but mainly what i have … and do not

Today, today it has been wearing on my spirit. the tears and the inner conversations, the weeping palpable, but never liberated that i hear in the silence of these walls, the grief too difficult to let reign free. I am feeling rather lonely… i have been for some time

so i did what i always do when this brand of loneliness comes down, i turned to jimmy … picked up just above my head, knowing i’d find myself on the page and know, at least, someone like me has been seen before, so perhaps i one day too might also be seen…

I am always amazed by how each time i pick up this book, how much i discover each time i come back to it. i seldom find immediately what i’m looking for … and yet in the nearly 15 years that i’ve been reading it over and again, that it never fails to bring to me something i don’t even recall existing, but i needed now, whatever now I find myself in … as i apparently had once before because it was there marked, in my own hand, and waiting for me to return. I found what I was looking for too… but I’m fearfully thankful that though I don’t remember now why I had need it, this, in this way … it found me once again, in this now when i stood deeply in need

“And I was alone, had been for a while, and might be for a while, but it no longer frightened me the way it had. I was discovering something terrifyingly simple: there was absolutely nothing I could do about it. I was discovering this in the way, I suppose, that everybody does, but having tried, endlessly, to do something about it. You attach yourself to someone, or you allow someone to attach themselves to you. This person is not for you, and you, really, are not for that person – and that’s it son. But you try, you both try. The only result of all your trying is to make absolutely real the unconquerable distance between you: to dramatize, in a million ways, the absolutely unalterable truth of this distance. Side by side, and hand in hand, your sunsets, nevertheless, are not occurring in the same universe. It is not merely that the rain falls differently on each of you, for that can be a wonder and a joy: it is that what is rain for the one is not rain for the other. Your elements will not mix, unless one agree that the elements be pulverized – and the result of that is worse than being alone…

“She looked down at me with that ancient and utterly vulnerable face, eyes as old as Egypt and as untouched as tomorrow”

“It is rare that a cry is heard, and I think we love forever those who hear the cry…”

“I was being forced to see that real love involves real perception and that perception can bring joy, or terror, or death, but it will never abandon you to the dream of happiness. Love is perceiving and perception is anguish…”

“…the strangest people in one’s life are the people one has known and loved, still known and will always love. Here, both I and the vocabulary are in trouble, for strangest, does not imply stranger. A stranger is a stranger is a stranger, simply, and you watch the stranger to anticipate his next move. but the people who elicit from you a depth of attention and wonder which we helplessly call love are perpetually making moves which cannot possibly anticipated. Eventually, you realize that is never occurred to you to anticipate their next move, not only because you couldn’t but because you didn’t have to: it was not a question of moving on the next move, but simply, of being present… For the strangest people in the world are those people recognized, beneath one’s sense, by one’s soul – the people utterly dispensable for one’s journey.”

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you must detach
yourself
from the dream of the fish
the Buddhists say
if you are to be a fisher.
everything you catch
then
will be treasure(d).

tonight
i stand by the shore
and open my hands.

once cherished
hopes, yearnings, dreams
– and she who held them –
bob gently in the twilight
drifting away
in the current of my tears.

i pray, for bravery.

perhaps, one day
I’ll cast another line.

and she was marked
FRAGILE
Handle with Care
~jjb

If I had to label it, it would be caretaking. That’s what 2013 has been the year of. There is, of course, the most obvious case of caring for my mother which was a central part of everything I did this year. But not only that… the calls and requests were myriad as 2013 crawled on. The nature of those requests for help and care will remain between me and the callers on the other end of the line. More times than not I was able to fill the need, offer the attention or time or money or tenderness required … though at times not without having to gain some humility and make requests of others in kind. For all of that, I am grateful.

The problem with caretaking, however, is that when there’s a sacrifice or compromise to be made for the requested care to be given, the caretaker is usually the one who pays the toll. The problem is not the particular sacrifice made – there’s something … not honorable, but perhaps profound, about learning and being willing to relinquish for another’s sake. The danger in caretaking isn’t the actual thing sacrificed – time, money, space, desires – but rather the mindset it can create. When the work of caring for others’ needs & prioritizing others’ care becomes common place, it is all too easy to forget that the needs of the caretaker could ALSO be made a priority. It’s easy to forget that when there’s a choice to be made of who should be sacrificed for and poured into, the caretaker’s name could also be an option on the list. That possibility can be forgotten not only by those who’ve become accustomed to receiving care, but by the caretaker herself.

In 2014 I choose me. Be clear, I regret not a single moment I spent caring for others in 2013, nor will I regret any care I may offer in 2014. But from this point forward, I choose me.

I choose me because she needs to know that she CAN be chosen. That she can be taken as the priority, the one whose time or presence isn’t negotiable, the one whose desires or needs won’t be deferred. She needs to know that there is someone willing to sacrifice & make space & do work for her. She needs to know there’s someone out there whose eyes when they fall on her, see more than strength & capability & self-sufficiency – though all that may be there – but also see the tender places, the support required, the needs unmet. She needs to know there’s someone who looking upon her thinks – my, what a treasure… she should be protected and cherished and valued. She needs to know that there’s someone out there who sees her and decides SHE is worth the work, the sacrifice, the time, the effort … SHE is worth it. She needs to know that there is someone who when standing at the crossroads faced with a decision will choose her.

This year, I choose me, because she doesn’t know.

But I do…

Although seldom thought of as such, year’s end is a time of distinctive bravery. As we look back over where we’ve been & imagine where we’d like to go, our desire to grow, do, be better can make us more daring in our honesty with ourselves than at any other time.

For me, nothing brings me to that place of unyielding truth like going “home”.  For most of my life, “home” felt like anything but. It was the place of sorrow & dis-ease, where I’ve always felt out of place, uncomfortable and quite often, unloved. Most of all it was place I feared, less for what happened, but for the many things that didn’t … and don’t. It spoke, and speaks, to me of the dangers of stagnancy, of being trapped.

The place where I’m from has, for most of my life, represented nothing so much as every version of me I feared I’d never escape: the child hovering in the shadows between youth and ancientness; the little girl yearning for her daddy’s presence who learned that, for her, love & attention were things that would only ever be inconsistent & piecemeal & offered only when she could be slotted in to the time & space left by other more important things; the fat girl who spent so long never being seen, that she couldn’t even imagine she’d ever be acknowledged, much less desired, & certainly never a woman loved; the one who cared for & protected others, but who’s only certainty was the uncertainty the comes from never feeling safe; the anointed & appointed one who made it out, but who stood by conditions of poverty & tragedy, always in danger of being sucked back in…

While some aspects of the place have shifted – there is in a way there never was before warmth, & tenderness & love, largely due to the child of my heart – the place where I’m from remains the greatest mirror & spotlight to anything I might try to obscure or fail to see … While what it reveals is seldom comforting, it is always insightful & I remain ever grateful for the neon signs of warning that demand I slow down, get still, and be honest, brutally surgically honest with my self, lest I find myself trapped, not by the cards I was dealt, but by a cell of my own creation with bricks of silence and bars of complicit avoidance & denial…

At this time of year we are, sometimes, brave enough to look and see who we are so that we have a hope of realizing who we might become. Yet, even when we are brave, we are not without fear… some of us, though, learn to walk anyway, even if we must drag fear along … How lucky are we that while we walk our path alone, we are often gifted with the company of fellow travelers as we go.

To those who keep me truthful, who see the myriad ways I hide & run from everything I claim that I am & believe, fighting tooth & nail to remain in the darkness … and who remind me of who I am with such patience & gentleness & tenderness, even when it’s not merited – thank you.

To those with whom openness and honesty has seldom come easily, if indeed, it’s ever really come at all, your masks force me to acknowledge my own shadowed places, to give voice to the me I’d rather silence, to make decisions, whether to stay, or grow, or go, I’d never make on my own – thank you.

To the ONE, the IT, who loves me through all things, even & especially when I stand ever, always, unwilling to acknowledge that which is just before my eyes… and gives me chances again and again to bask in the light, which is to say, grace … thank you.

I can see from here the loss & mourning that marks the steps I need take, even as I see the possibility & ecstasy of what lies ahead. To being brave, stepping when fearful and to all those that light the path along the way…

~she

Some food for the journey from Mark Nepo’s The Book of Awakening, which has, many days, kept me fed

To Hold Nothing Back

To hold nothing back
in every breath
is a spiritual practice

“…I have found that hesitation, more than anything, has been the invisible hitch that has kept me from joy. I’ve found that the moment with all its meaning often moves on by the time I’ve reconsidered whether or not to enter it. I am not saying we should always be impulsive. More to the point, I have discovered, again and again, that I usually know what I need to do but just deny it, and it is this small hesitations, this small resistance to enter what is real, that makes life feel neutral or out of reach.

“To hold back nothing in every breath means staying committed to letting whatever we experience make its way in and letting whatever is in make its way out. Holding nothing back means holding the intention to be an open vessel, in a daily way… ”

Nicodemus and the Truth

“I often think of Nicodemus, the one Pharisee who secretly believed in Jesus and who would meet with him anonymously at night to have deep spiritual conversations, but who would never acknowledge his questions of spirit or his association with Jesus in the light of day. Of course, this nothing to the essence of Jesus, but traumatically thwarted and plagued Nicodemus for the rest of his days.

“This story shows us the quiet pain that comes from not honoring what we know to be true, even if all we know to be true are the questions we are asking. It is even more useful to realize we each carry a Jesus and a Nicodemus within us, that is, we each have a divine inner voice that opens us to truth and a mediating social voice that is reluctant to show its truth to others.

“… each time we experience a change in reality as we know it, we must choose whether to declare or hide what we know to be true. At such moments, we either need to bring the way we have been living into accord with the shift of reality, or we need to resist the chance. Thus, in daily ways, whether we live in our True or False Self depends on our willingness to stay real. And so, over time, staying real becomes the work of keep in our actions in the world connected to the truth of our inner being, allowing our True Self to see the light of day.

“Very often, we continue, out of habit or fear, to behave in old ways, even though we know that the way of things has changed… having to admit that what was essential is no longer and then needing to summon the courage to make the act of living essential again.

“I know that every time I hear or see the truth but hold to the old way – of being or thinking or relating – I am giving my life over the Nicodemus in men. And in so doing, i embark on a divided life, in which I listen to the divine inner voice secretly at night, but deny it day after day.

“But this moment of inner embarrassment, when we catch ourselves in the act of split living, is also the recurring chance for us to honor once again what we know to be true. For anyone, no matter how wounded or distressed, can in a moment of truth let the God within show itself out here in the world. However small or fleeting, this one repeatable act can restore our common and vital sense of being alive.”

Let Go of the Rice

“In a world that lives like a fist
mercy is no more than waking
with your hands open.

“So much more can happen with our hands open. In fact, closing and stubbornly maintaining our grip is often what keeps us stuck, though we want to blame everything and everyone else, especially what we’re holding on to.

“There is an ancient story from China that makes all this very clear. It stems from the way traps were set for monkeys. A coconut was hollowed out through an opening that was cut to the size of a monkey’s open hand. Rice was then place in the carved-out fruit which was left in the path of the monkeys. Sooner or later, a hungry monkey would smell the rice and reach its hand in. But once fisting the rice, its could no longer fit back out through the opening. The monkeys that were caught are the ones who would not let go of the rice.

“As long as the monkey maintained its grip on the rice, it was a prisoner of its own making. The trap worked because the monkey’s hunger was the master of its reach. The lesson for us is profound. We need to always ask ourselves, What is our rice and what is keeping us from opening our grip and letting it go?…

    “I can see now that the real challenge of surrender, for all of us, is not just letting go – but letting go of something we yearn for.

“The truth is that food is everywhere. Though the stubborn monkey believes in its moment of hunger that there is no other food, it only has to let go for its life to unfold. Out journey to love is no different. For though we stubbornly cling, believing in our moment of hunger that there is no other possibility of love, we only have to let go of what we want so badly and our life will unfold. For love is everywhere.”

The Risk to Bloom

“And then the day came
when the risk to remain
tight in a bud was
more painful than the
risk to bloom ~Anais Nin

“We all face this turning point repeatedly: when resiting the flow of inner events suddenly feels more hurtful than leaping toward the unknown. Yet no one can tell us when to leap. There is no authority to bless our need to enter life but God within.

  “How often we thwart ourselves by holding tenaciously to what is familiar. It is instructive, if chilling, that in floral shops the roses that won’t open are called bullets. They are discarded because they will never bloom. They have turned in  on themselves so tightly that they can never release their fragrance…

“It has always amazed and humbled me how the risk to bloom can seem so insurmountable beforehand and so inevitably freeing once the threshold of suffering is crossed…

“We can flower in an instant, as soon as the pain of not flowering and not loving become greater than our fear.”

May we all bloom…

 

 

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