How We Face Vulnerability, even in Coronavirus Season.

“Our strength is often composed as weakness we’re damned if we’re going to show.” ~ Mignon McLaughlin

I’m a woman walking in the woods.

It’s Coronavirus season, which means more people than usual. Families. Kids. Two women. A man on a bicycle with two kids in a wagon trailing behind, doing the parade wave each time they pass.

I meander to the edge of the woods, where I return to the cemetery before winding back into my neighborhood.

I see a lone man, tall, with jet-black hair. Air catches in my throat, a physical reaction. I try to relax when I see he has a big black dog. Maybe I’ve spoken to this man before.

I attempt assuring myself, but my body doesn’t know this. My eyes scan for people. My heart beats faster, as I realize there are none within earshot.

I am a woman alone. My body tenses as the man stops ahead of me. A wave of hesitation to push my feelings down rolls through me, as subtle as the wind.

Instinctively, I take off running, not fast, more like it’s what I’d been doing.

My body knows vulnerability because I’m a woman.

My heart pounds louder in my chest, even as my mind suggests foolishness.

The man smiles and says, “Thank you,” for making space on behalf of Coronavirus. I yell back, “You’re welcome!”

This. This thing happens for women. Often. We rarely mention it, even to ourselves. We smile and wave.

How to Be a Tree.

“Nature gives you the face you have at twenty; it is up to us to merit the face you have at fifty.” ~ Coco Chanel

This tree, she is a woman. I’ve walked beside her and put my hands on her, exchanging energies for seven years. I never tire of her, through all the seasons, atmospherically and metaphorically.

I’ve brought special people to meet her. Kindred spirits recognize her before I introduce them. “That tree is a woman,” said one boyfriend walking with me in my grief, trying damn hard to make me love him. In that moment, looking at her, he forgot. We loved her together.

She greets me and calls to me whichever way I walk on trails through the woods. The other day, I noticed, from a certain angle, she appears pregnant. When I face her from the other side, where the bark is bare and my handprints lay, she’s a woman’s legs reaching upwards, her head buried beneath the ground. She holds her center between those long legs reaching to the everything, her privates so clear and public.

My sister and I once spotted baby racoons peaking out and hiding there, from their tree mama’s womb. They ran back down into her for safety, solid and wide, a condominium complex to creatures, in her body.

Today, I merged with her. I felt the rings of history traced and expanding within me. Bark like skin has endured and grown through a thousand seasons, rainstorms, and children’s laughter on the path beside her.

She adjusted her stance and deepened her roots years ago when people came close and carried electronics into her vibrational field. Most recently, she startled with so many human voices released into her arena. She’s come to welcome them as kindly as the deer and little masked thieves. She holds a sense of humor about humans bearing masks, only matched by her compassion.

This tree is a queen. No one tries to overthrow her. Little ones bend before her. Grass gathers at her feet in spring. A white blanket snuggles close in winter. She’s in love with the river running at her back. Like her, he’s ever-changing and always remaining. Her strength is indisputable. If she were a poem, she’d be titled Phenomenal Woman.

She sways and radiates her vibrant lime-green leaves with the wind in celebration for life. Yes, on blue sky days, but also under gray clouds, starry nights, and times when she finds herself naked again.

This tree stands at a crossroads of several paths which intertwine and encircle her, along the river, through the field, across to the cemetery where old trees salute, and home to neighborhoods where visitors live.

Today, I embody her. When I asked, she said, “I’ve been waiting.” She’s as sexy as any wide-open woman. She houses many and cares for all. All are welcome, like the Lady Liberty of our united nature. She hears and feels it when other trees fall in her forest. She nourishes the collective air and peers at the fish performing. She’s regal, standing at grace with everything. She sings with the all the birds and lets owls perch on her arms.

Nothing deters her from her purpose. To be a tree.

Who We Are When Society Stops.

“Traveler, there is no path, the path must be forged as you walk. ~ Antonio Machado

Here’s to the book burning party in my soul.

Goodbye to the agenda society smudged into me.

I’m a pink lotus flower. My crown is a cotton candy headdress. My belly a river rolling.

I’m a baby forming in the Universe’s womb.

A free being. I float. I do not know agenda.

How could I write lists when I gave my words to the earth?

Mother nature rocks me. I am new life, a mysterious seedling of divine flowering cells.

I know nothing. Thank God.

I’m not the books my mother wrote or the words she spoke or screamed.

I am love. Loved. Loving. It’s my thing.

I’m not my sister’s grief or her keeper. She’s not my savior.

I don’t owe her. I love her.

I love me, too. And our sweet destiny intertwined by mystery.

I’m not competition. I’m a feather floating.

Rose quartz, Tanzanite, and a coyote.

I cost nothing. Charge nothing.

I am the wind, the dirt, the knife my grandfather created with shiny metal and dappled colored scraps, carving my path the way rivers erode the earth.

I smell of lavender and rose petals and sage.

I don’t count my worthiness from words on pages. They take their own form.

I’m not commander-in-chief. Nor do I want to be.

I’m song and chant and freedom dance.

Ong Namo Guru Dev Namo. I bow to the divine teacher within.

I am Sat Nam. Truth is my identity.

Watch me, a full moon at dawn. Hear me, gratitude laced with laughter.

We are blessed and blessing. We bless as we take breath.

I’m a smooth stone and a child’s handprint in wet cement.

I don’t mind being a misfit.

It was all that fitting in, proving, planning, getting over, waking up, trying, deciding, failing…so damn tiring!

Now, we just are. Nothing. From which everything forms.

A blank canvas of dark night where stars blaze and amaze and awaken imagination.

We are a society stopped, the breath in between the notes of a song not yet written.

We are harmony rising.

How We Find Peace Amid This.

“You have been a prisoner of a little pond. I am the ocean and the turbulent flood. Come merge with me; leave this world of ignorance.” ~ Rumi

Can the knowing and the not knowing coincide?

Can we dance with the juxtapositions of life when things aren’t black and white?

Sit when we’re dying to take a stand and stand when we’re scared sh*tless?

How can we walk away from yesterday before tomorrow’s path is paved?

Why don’t we give a FU to patriarchy (not working) and monarchy (emerging) and stay the F home for everybody (please)?

Can we speak truth to those who spew hatred to make themselves feel superior, even when their ulterior motives are subconscious, they believe the lies they’re spreading, and are immune to the hurt they’re peddling—and they’re people we love?

What if we stay silent when it’s only ego desiring to speak and trust our souls to lead us on behalf of humanity?

Can we give our best now, in Coronavirus times, when so many are putting their lives on the line?

Now, can we stay home? Can we stop our addiction to convenience and think of bigger things and people besides me, me, me?

What if we seek out truth and share it with compassion?

Be part of the solution even when there’s no easy resolution.

When business and busyness are failing, let’s wrap arms the truly essential within our homes and communities—from six feet.

Can we love the people we’re called to in ways outside of our comfort zones?

We’ll be okay, even if we’re lonely extroverts and emotionally claustrophobic introverts.

Let’s realize how extraordinarily fortunate we are, while knowing there are no guarantees.

Can we find the meaning of peace, amid the unraveling of everything?

How We Can Unite Rather Than Divide.

“But there is a good chance that we will all keep bashing each other anyway.” ~ Van Jones, Beyond the Messy Truth

Let the media and political pundits divide.

Let truth and love unite.

Yes, but those MFs and idiots on the other side!

Admit it. That kind of thinking is part of the problem and it’s pervasive in our society, even in some families and friendships.

Ouch. Own it. Who do you disagree with?

If you’re Republican, it’s the damn Democrats—the Libs.

If you’re a Democrat, it’s the Trump rats.

If you’re apolitical, it’s all that noise.

Now, who do you disagree with and also love and respect in other aspects?

Let’s meet there—in the love in our hearts, even when we disagree. Quiet your mind and the proving of things you know.

Take a different approach.

Why the hell would you, when they are so clearly wrong and won’t listen?!

None of us wants to be told how to think or that we’re wrong or stupid.

We want to be right!

Yes, but underneath that we each want to be seen, heard, and respected.

It’s not easy to give what we want to receive.

Recently, I went to lunch with a gal I used to babysit, who’s now a completely legit grown-up with kids of her own. She’s also a Trumper.

Full disclosure, I’m a Democrat. In my soul. Please don’t hate me. Or, even if you do, read on and see how I learned to listen to a Trumper I’ll call Marie.

I babysat her when I was in high school and later, in college, I lived with and helped her family during a crisis. Marie’s mom is my friend, mostly out of loyalty because she saved my big sister’s self-esteem and confidence at a critical juncture as a teenager.

So, off to lunch I go with Marie, a gal I only kinda-sorta know, no longer the little girl I babysat, but the woman I’d later learn hesitated meeting me because we so disagree politically.

I get it. Sometimes it’s easier to keep our distance, not engage in conversation, and resist confrontation.

One of my favorite words is juxtaposition. That’s where Marie and I met for lunch.

Sitting in my Prius before I went in, I prayed for a hand on my shoulder and one over my mouth.

I took a minute to remember Marie’s innocence, and how I let her, as a young girl, ride (and crash) on my brother’s skateboard, back when I babysat for fudgesicles and money to afford Outward Bound.

I was once 15 and Marie was once lost in the shuffle. In those days, Marie had a sister and I had a brother.

In between then and now, we’ve each held a thousand broken pieces.

And we’ve risen, as women do.

So, from that place, I listened when she said bad things about Obama and raved about Trump’s greatness, while stating the fact of his lack of character.

I breathed deep and it seemed so did she.

We had an adult conversation where we found common ground without either of us turning the other one around.

In those moments that went political, it felt like work, but worth it. 

Not because I won. Not because she convinced me.

Because I listened with my heart. Although, trust me, my brain and ego wanted to take that girl on!

I turned them off. I trusted I’d be given the words to say and the ability to keep my mouth closed without resentment.

The rest of our lunch, we discussed her new job and my writing career.

I learned she didn’t remember my brother Bill, who died at age 27.

I assured her, I think, without ideal words, I understand what she’s missing in a sister. I have mine and I can’t imagine having lost her when I was little, like Marie was when her sister had a life-altering car accident that crashed their family and forever shattered the solid foundation Marie had previously been raised on.

I feel compassion, not pity, for her.

I love the woman she’s become.

Both of us earned our living in sales for decades and came close to selling our souls. But we didn’t. Deep down we value our lives and ourselves.

From that place, as women (and men), we can honor one another. Unity starts in the heart.

Sometimes it’s hardest to go there, to the space of juxtaposition with loved ones, the people we otherwise like or love, but don’t want to dance with in the political divide.

Be brave. Be an adult. Refuse to engage in rhetoric and bullsh*t. Be willing to lean in for meaningful conversation. Remember: everyone has reasons for their beliefs.

If we listen to each other we may not agree, but we can build a bridge of mutual respect. These days, we could use some new bridges.

Flailing Like a Woman

For four years

I flailed in the winds of life

Like a kite

I let grief take me

Twist me

Rip me

While I practiced

Yoga and gratitude

To remain grounded

Held by a string

I prayed to fly higher

Or stand still

To be as beautiful

As a butterfly,

As solid as a dog

But I’m none of these

I am a woman

With feelings and dreams

Living, leaning, loving

Organically

As authentic me

Flawed, but finding my way.

Today, I dance with wonder

Realizing, acknowledging,

Accepting just how much

It takes to recover when

The man you’ve been

Searching for

Your whole life

Dies.

Why I’m Still Dancing.

“Joy comes to us in moments—ordinary moments.” ~ Brene Brown, Daring Greatly

Good morning, thoughts.  Let’s wrestle.

I wrote an article yesterday full of big truths I wanted the world to face, in the face of Coronavirus.

People are dying and more will die.

Somehow, I blamed it on positivity, rose-colored glasses, and some people’s belief in a buffoon of a president.

The piece landed with a thud—making me rethink my purpose and passion for truth, as if there’s one.

Yet, I keep insisting, in writing, and in public: juxtaposition demands maturity.

How about me?

The truth is I’m scared.

Sometimes it’s hard to sit with Fear, harder than Grief—and she’s a bitch.

Grief is yesterday. Fear is tomorrow.

Hope lives today on behalf of tomorrow, despite fear.

Because I believed, affirmed, and read The Secret and Awaken the Giant Within and still landed on my ass, I wanted to disavow all that.

But, last night, while distracting myself from myself with the TV, I caught Garth Brooks being honored with the Gershwin Prize on PBS.

He played “The Dance” and damn, I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would go.

That’s the truth I’m afraid of. Not knowing.

I didn’t know when I went to St. Louis for a Hall & Oates concert, I was going to fall in love, and for a moment, he would be my king.

I’m glad I didn’t know he’d die in his sleep.

I didn’t know when I came to Ohio to stay with my sis, I’d live with her, love it, and get to pursue my writing dream, for seven years! It’s been the best thing.

Life is juxtaposition. We must decide how we’ll face it.

“You plan and God laughs” doesn’t mean he’s laughing at us. There’s a bigger picture.

Sometimes I’ll go for a party and find sacred love, go for a summer and find a home.

Heck, I couldn’t even know when I opened the curtains this morning, a pink cotton-candy sky would drop into baby blue like a kiss from above, “This is for you.”

Sure, there are facts. Wash your hands!

There are fears. Hello, humanity.

But through it all, I’ve met the crazy, grand mystery.

Good within bad, bad within good, and only because I’ve called them so.

Today, I surrender to the not knowing how it all will go.

But believing in beauty, I’m still dancing.

How We Get to the Truth When We Don’t Want to go There.

The false dilemma fallacy is often a manipulative tool designed to polarize the audience, heroisizing one side and demonizing the other. It’s common in political discourse as a way of strong-arming the public into supporting controversion legislation or policies.” ~ David Ferrer, 15 Logical Fallacies You Should Know Before Getting Into a Debate

Are we so set on pulling up our bootstraps we can’t recognize the sadness of a worldwide pandemic?

Many of us have lost and will lose. Jobs, homes, and 401ks. We don’t want to hear that or believe there’s a train barreling towards us. Not me is our first instinct.

Yes, denial is the first stage of grief. We’re grieving the falling away of many of our personal and societal foundations.

I know grief intimately. Not just from the deaths of my brother, mother, brother-in-law, and beloved.

By the way, when the police officer on the phone first told me he found my boyfriend dead in his bed, I screamed, “NO!!!”

That was after he tried to tell me the man I love more than anyone in the world was “unresponsive.” I wanted to know what hospital they were taking him to. My heart couldn’t hear the truth. For several years, I believed my dead man could come back to me. I kind of still do.

How deep does denial run in the face of losing who or what we love?

“It’s going to disappear. One day, it’s like a miracle, it will disappear,”Donald Trump said about the Coronavirus.

Sure, I myself have practiced delusional positivity.

When my mother was diagnosed with death, I fired the doctor, determined to take her somewhere to save her. I thought the doc not only cruel, but full of sh*t.

Apparently, that’s what Trump thought of journalist Peter Alexander of NBC asking the President of the United States what he’d say to “Americans who are watching you right now who are scared.”

The Commander in Chief snapped, “I say that you’re a terrible reporter!”

Yeah, that’s how I felt about the doctor who delivered the truth in a tone I didn’t like.

Maybe our leaders aren’t always able to guide us, but sometimes reflect who we are.

I’m nothing like that jerk might be what we insert, or worse.

Or, like my ultra-successful businessman friend—who once complained about having to pay $5 million in taxes—maybe you only see the good in a man who glares with disdain for truth.

Our delusional positivity is unbending when it suits our favor.

There’s a fine line between The Secret that swept our nation in 2006, just before the worst financial crisis in our history, and our ability to look at truth, facts, science, or unbecoming characteristics of our chosen ones.

The finger I point here is at the woman in the mirror.

When five years into my marriage I felt disconnected from my husband, I focused on his good qualities and how much I loved him. I refused to look at, let alone feel anything but my good feelings because that’s what got me there.

I kept saying, “I have a great life” and “He’s a good man.” Both were true.

We like to look at our favorite side of the coin, spiritual bypass with love and light, and pretend if we adhere to affirmations, we can keep the bad at a distance. Trust me, I’ve done it.

Some people live like this for a lifetime. I’m not just talking about the naïve and blind.

We always think it’s them—the Republicans or Democrats or the kind of woman who can’t get her act together, or see what seems obvious from the outside, from our oh-so-wise perspective.

It’s easy to be objective when your heart isn’t in it.

Check this. No one would call Camille Cosby clueless. She has a doctoral degree. She wrote the forward for Dear Success Seeker: Wisdom from Outstanding Women. By all accounts, she’s one of them. She even worked as her famous husband’s manager.

Camille Cosby was in Bill’s business and knew his business, or so she thought. They shared a home and a family and a history of his proven good character. She would know if he was drugging and sexually assaulting women.

Or so she insisted against irrefutable evidence—as we often do when presented with truth that doesn’t align with what we’ve decided to shine the light on.

We like to believe if one thing is truth, that’s proof another thing (the one we don’t like) is false.

That’s how the American story goes. Think positive and take action.

That’s how my ex-husband’s business went bust while he worked his butt off and assured me everything would be fine. He wasn’t lying. He drove himself to delusional positivity and I rode that ship until it sank.

Maturity is the ability to look at the juxtapositions of life, people, and situations.

Let’s be mature as we face this pandemic. We fear certain truths will destroy us.

Yet, the brave ones on the front lines have been forced to face the truth, no matter what they told themselves or believed in the beginning.

That’s what serious sickness does. It wakes us the f*ck up.

Still, I have friends claiming this is hype. They believe their president knows more than doctors and scientists who’ve been studying and preparing for this. Ok, Camille.

I’m sorry, but this is different. This is real.

If you’re on the front lines, thank you for bringing dignity, grace, and honor to all of humanity. We are forever in your debt.

To my niece, a nurse, nephew, a cop, and other nephew, a firefighter, I could not be prouder of you or more scared for you. Please stay safe, I say, knowing where you work is the least safe place in the world right now.

Truth sets us free once we embrace it. Denial can kill. Especially now.

How to Align.

Your hips don’t lie. Get on your mat and release them from their stories. Release them from their chains. Pull them back like arrows. They hold emotions denied. Your hips have carried your cries for so long. Release them.

Your heart chamber awaits with wisdom. Spread your arms like you’re going to fly. Lean your heart forward like breaking the tape and crossing into your authenticity.

Open your body. Quiet your mind. Stretch into the music of your soul.

Ah, my dear, this is alignment.

Who I Want to Be When This is Over.

When this is over, in time too far from our liking, we’ll give oxytocin hugs and look into the eyes of strangers, knowing they’ve endured something similar in the hunkering down.

They’ve worried and missed people, resisted touch, and changed habits.

In those eyes we’ll see sadness, compassion, and in many cases, resurrection of humanity’s soul.

We’ll know something akin to what people who’ve been to war or prison or watched loved ones taken by cancer: both our smallness and our essence.

If we’re brave, we’ll change more than habits and mindsets.

We’ve been given an opportunity to reset our priorities.

Some will continue to play the games online and work away their time.

In many ways, my life as a writer remains consistent, while I recognize the reshaping of the environment and outside noise.

The world grows both louder and quieter.

Shhh, can you hear your soul?

Can you feel the collective rearrangement of reality, the realignment of the divine, the righting of wrongs, as so often happens in the face of tragedy?

It’s the worst of times; it’s the best of times.

Welcome to the resetting of society. Baby, it starts with you and me.

When I come out on the other side of this, I want to stand witness to a better world.

How dare I call this potential good when it’s obviously bad?

The same way vitality rose in me when my brother died, and I was just 25.

Five years later, compassion became my companion after cancer took my mother.

Amid my divorce(s), I understood more about who I was, who I was not, and what kind of woman I intended to become.

When we succeed—in business, careers, and relationships, it’s a joy ride.

When we fail, lose, are forced to change habits, and foundations fall, we get to choose.

We get to question, resurrect our character, and redraw our boundaries.

When I walked, awake, into my second marriage, I knew full well what I wanted and what that man offered. Hell, I manifested it!

A decade later, during the worst financial crisis to hit the United States since the Great Depression, I called upon my courage and voiced my goodbye to a man I still loved, my husband. Because I knew for certain what I did not want.

Sometimes we only learn that by getting it.

In America, our actions and policies prove we wanted money to be the bottom line.

We wanted profit and power, if only for the next cycle.

We wanted to believe the bubble wouldn’t pop again.

Didn’t we all know, deep down, the emperor had no clothes?

When this is over, many of us will have looked in the mirror to find more than lines we don’t like. We’ll find the lies we’ve been telling ourselves.

Like, we’re in control and everything is good.

That’s it. That’s the one I had to learn repeatedly.

Every time, it’s helped me to surrender to something bigger—a bigger picture, a greater purpose, a larger love for myself and others.

Our cities and societies, even humanity, is experiencing her own dark night of the soul.

It’s just beginning. Like the day you finally admit I don’t want to live like this.

Or your partner speaks some truth you resist or deny.

The way I did when a friend of a friend kept talking about Coronavirus back in February. Enough already!

We shut him down, even made fun of the conversation, as if we could avoid its bigness.

We did, the way we tend to do at first when relationships, lifestyle changes, or abrupt bad news reveals what we don’t like.

At first, I thought Corona-virus a punchline to pair with Lime Disease. Funny!

It wasn’t until a conversation with my father that the enormity began to hit me.

As a career, my father worked in nuclear nonproliferation, and in his final years investigated and analyzed Iran’s weapons stockpiles. As a retiree, he researches cancer information, studies, and trials for friends contending with the disease.

Days before the intended Ohio elections, my father made a special call to tell me he didn’t think I should volunteer as a poll worker.

What? He was serious. “Any other time. It’s not worth your health,” he said. My dad does a lot of things, but drama doesn’t typically describe him.

At first, I thought maybe he’d been reading too much. Then, I reminded myself he’s trained on statistics, facts, and validating sources.

I started doing my own research, although soon I didn’t have to. Amy Acton, Director of the Ohio Department of Health, began giving afternoon news briefings.

This woman deserves a medal for her exceptional work and the way she explains science with clarity, compassion and facts.

Then, the closings came. Day by day. Schools. Restaurants and bars. Barber shops and salons. Daycare centers. Life as we knew it fell away.

Panic, the low-level buzz brewing below the surface, came crashing like waves.

Now, I feel the need to confess my part in the mess. My sister and I went to the movies the last night they were open. Because we could, but wouldn’t be able to the next day.

Last week, when I already knew better, I hugged a friend. I don’t regret that one.

I’ve also hugged my sister. And two new friends in their home recently after we didn’t sit six feet apart.

I also bought extra toilet paper. That was an accident, I promise. (I thought the rolls in the garage were paper towels.)

My sister and I live together and typically hug each other every morning when she goes to work, every night when we go to bed, and whenever we say goodbye. She’s no longer going to work. We’re no longer hugging goodnight. When she left to go see her fiancé we said, “Virtual hug.” This sucks.

I’m not very good with rules, but I want to follow these because the last thing I want to do is accidently, or unknowingly, cause someone to be sick, hospitalized or die. That someone could be a stranger, a loved one, or me.

I choose to be educated, aware, and take right action in this critical time. So, I’m home, resisting trips to the grocery store or even around the corner for beer.

I’m here, trying to listen to my soul and let something better than the chatter rise. We’re going to get to the other side. When we come out, people will ask what we did.

I’m more interested in who we’ll become. Who will each of us, and all of us, those of us who live through this, become?