Why I’m Calling This Child Hope.

My dog’s a kid magnet. So, one neighbor girl has been hanging around uninvited since the day I moved into my sister’s place four years ago.

This three-year-old little girl and her ten-year-old brother came over to pet my Black Lab Phoenix, who was six, and almost as rambunctious as the kids.

They threw tennis balls for her with the Chuck-it while I fantasized about their parents coming to find them. (They never did. Like never.)

Long after the boy grew too cool for anything but basketball, his little sister still came around, mostly during the day when my sister was at work and I was busy writing the next Eat, Pray, Love.

Now, I’m going to call this child Hope. Her real name, sadly, sounds like another word for rejection. Like she got labelled even before she was able to knock on neighbors’ doors looking for friends. She had to work harder at that than the other girls.

Hope carried the look of different. She certainly hadn’t become accustomed to positive attention. She could only receive it in small bits, although she could hang in my home for over an hour on any given afternoon.

It’s funny how a kid can seduce you with, “Can I play with your dog?” if you did the same thing when you were a girl.

Like little Hope, I had to be taught some basic manners.

“You don’t just walk into people’s homes, honey,” I said, “You have to knock.”

I doubt anyone had to tell me this, as I did her: “Okay, so when you knock or ring the bell, if I don’t answer, you stop knocking and go away.”

“But,” Hope said, “I knew you were in there because I saw your car.”

“Yes, Hope, but sometimes people are home and they don’t answer the door because they’re busy doing something else, like taking a shower.”

“I know. That’s why I kept knocking—so you’d hear me.”

One neighbor said, “You just have to be stern and send her away. She knocks on everybody’s door trying to get someone to play with her.” As if it was a crime.

All the gossip couldn’t come up with a good reason why her parents’ parental practices didn’t line up with the norms of my cul-de-sac neighborhood.

The thing is, I was once that girl and nobody called me Hope.

So, in the early visits I gritted my teeth and tolerated the kid so many resisted.

As the weeks, months, and years passed, I couldn’t reason why no one had embraced her before.

Hope grew more confident and less irritating. She stopped following me when I took Phoenix for walks, insisting she was joining us.

The day she was locked out of her house because her brother was at basketball, her dad was at work, and she couldn’t find her mom, this frightened five-year-old found her way to my door. Her vulnerable voice shook as tears ran down her face.

I was as relieved to be home as she was to see me. She wrapped herself around me in a helpless child hug. In that moment, I was her adult.

Later that evening, she came back and apologized for bothering me. “You’re not a bother, Hope. You can come to me any time you need.”

I saw the shame release from her face.

Hope’s presence became a norm in my life—without any formal introduction to her parents (I tried) or real relationship other than designated neighbor.

After a while, Hope was assigned a sister from Big Brothers, Big Sisters. She eagerly awaited those visits.

One afternoon, Hope told me she met a “real author” at school and how cool she thought that was. I did, too. Then, she said his name: Jack Hanna.

She also told me about her friends at school and the kids she tended to get into arguments with.

She mentioned how on special mother-daughter days she got to go to the movies with her mom while her brother and dad did father-son activities.

Sometimes, Hope and I colored together. She couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t give her my dragonfly coloring book after I’d said yes to so many other things.

Hey, the girl needed some boundaries, and these were my dragonflies.

So, I made copies of some pages for her. She said, “That’s okay” and left them.

She spent countless afternoons at our kitchen table and on our deck chairs doing homework like the good, smart kid she is.

One day, Hope said, “Can I come in and talk to you?” She was seven, so grown-up compared to the tag-along three-year-old sister I met on day one.

“My mom and my brother and I are moving to an apartment and my dad, he’s moving to New Jersey. That’s where he spends a lot of time because that’s where he’s from, and also, it’s where his girlfriend lives. So, that’s it. My parents are getting divorced. There’s a lot of stuff to pack.”

“Okay,” I said. “How’s your mom doing?”

“She’s sad, but I think she’s kind of relieved. They’ve been fighting a lot.”

Years before, this bright young girl who no one wanted to listen to said, regarding my sister whose husband had recently passed, “She just seems so sad.”

Hope knew what sadness looked like in another’s eyes. I winced seeing it in hers, especially after I’d gotten so used to the light.

I asked Hope how she was feeling about her parents getting a divorce and about moving. She said, “I guess I’m both sad and happy. I’m going to have my own room.”

I flashed back to the awkward, lonely girl I once was, my neighbor Mary Ashby who let me knock on her door and “play with her dog,” which led to playing cards and drinking sweet tea, and how my parents divorce hit me when I was just 10.

Sometimes we do kind acts by overriding our resistant egos and our constant need for comfort and convenience.

Hope was inconvenient. At first, I found her hard to take.

However, by the time she came to say a brave-faced goodbye and it was likely I’d never see her again, she’d tattooed herself on my heart and left me hopeful.

How to Find Your Way out of the Valley.

“So, it will come to pass for all of us—for all couples who stay with each other in love—that someday… one of us will carry the shovel and lantern on behalf of the other.” ~ Elizabeth Gilbert, Committed

You’re strong. You’ve seduced Hope and slept with Faith.
You carry compassion across your body like a bullet-proof vest.    You’re a woman who loves fuller because you’ve lost.

When your earth splits, you strengthen every muscle,
So as not to fall into the pit of desperation.
You balance yourself, on all fours if you must.

You invest in people and experiences,
Recognizing the impermanence and
Declaring gifts in the midst of grief.

Against your will, you know
You’ve grown more authentic,
Wise, and alive in the aftermath.

You think back to your selfish, smart-*ss, 20-something self: invincible.
Until your brother’s car accident that made him leave the life he
Partied, worked, and loved his way through for 27 years.

Now, you’d live for two.
You’d put the joy back in your mother’s eyes.
Oh, the yearning for yesterday’s light!

I’ll learn from this, you said, as if
That could prevent repeating
The lesson: Live! Love!

You were living large and loving your
Mom well when cancer kicked her *ss and
You saw the strongest woman you knew fall.

You stood taller.
You made better choices.
You even got comfortable again.

Before life’s forces shook you
To the core, emptying you of
Possessions and identifying labels.

Once again, you were free
To fall. Or celebrate and
Recreate your life.

You did. You found your
Purpose in a pen and your
Power in an ever-expanding heart.

You even danced in sacred love—
You allowed it to capture you and
You’d never been so thrilled

To submit to its forces.
It felt like flying. Like
You’d earned your wings.

CLIP!

Like that. Your beloved’s death
Slammed you into the valley
And you began to crawl again.

Deeper love. Deeper valley. Deeper woman.
Wiser. More understanding.
Humble and fierce. Transformed.

Maybe you’re the clay and
God’s the potter and the
Punches shape you for the better.

You may not love life’s forces, but you honor
The evidence of metamorphosis in the eyes of
Those who’ve walked through grief’s valley.

No, you’re not clay. You’re free will.
You choose to merge with the mystery and
Some magic manifesting the new you—again.

 

 

Angel of Grief

“I now realize the Angel of Death would have to be God’s most tender and understanding angel, to be sent at such a significant, frightening moment.” ~ Marianne Williamson

Tried to hide in busyness,
Attempted to invite you in
At the appointed time, even
Determined to be done with you.

Until slapped straight.
You’re in control.

You’re not the minute
I thought you’d be,
Or the obstacle
I strived to surmount.

You’re not a season, like winter,
I thought I’d come to peace with.
You cannot be defined,
By me or others.

More than a visitor, as
Inappropriate as a stranger’s touch,
Deeper, you reach inside me
To places I hardly recognize.

Yet, you and I have been intimate
Many times over the years;
I find myself leaning into you,
Welcoming you to do

What you will with me.
You smash collisions of
Untouchable memories
Causing untold ache.

But, still…
Every breath with you
Conscious, clear, alive,
Trivial cannot touch me.

On my knees and
Simultaneously
Standing tall
Angel of Grief, you are not the Devil.

 

How to be Soft like Sunshine, Strong like Storm. #bloglikecrazy

“Hanging around for an endless repetition of the same cycle is not loving, but merely dysfunctional.” ~ Marianne Williamson, Enchanted Love

I’m the kind of woman who’d rather face morning with tears than flatness.

I spent decades defining my emotions as positive or negative. Guess which ones I determined to align with?

When the “bad” ones vied for my attention, I changed my state.

It worked. I presented powerful to the world—and myself.

How can a woman (or a man) be whole if afraid to feel feelings?

I was afraid because in my youth anger awakened uncontrolled rage. (Never mind that I had reason.) Better not do that anymore. Check.

Sadness ignited suicidal tendencies. (Often, when women turn anger inward, it invites suicide; for men, it’s homicide.) Wow. You’re freaking people out. Stop it. I did.

I got my feelings under control. I “mastered” my emotions.

But, those slaves had a propensity to rise up at inconvenient times.

What if I worked with them? What if I befriended my feelings? What—all of them?!

Yes, now I even invite them. I allow them in my life. I listen to what they’re trying to tell me. I give them space and voice.

I find they don’t like to be pushed down, set aside, denied or renamed.

Feelings offer truth, insight, and opportunity for new understanding.

This is the more challenging path, like learning the material rather than just acing the test.

The way medical students studying diseases wonder if they have them, at first, one may worry honoring feelings defines her.

It’s in our language: She’s sad. He’s an angry person.

Enough with that.

I choose to feel my feelings. Is that so radical?

Sometimes, we feel sad or mad or blissed out.

These are our feelings—gifts certainly as valuable as thoughts—which (mine, at least) have been wrong a few thousand times.

I’m coming full circle, in one sense childlike, in the way children skin their knees, cry, and then rise to play again.

But, I’m more. I’m alive with my full feminine essence.

This is my FU you to a patriarchal society that deems it necessary to deny me of my emotions because they scare you. (She’s a hysterical woman!)

This is my hello to my dancing soul.

I was told, and maybe you were, too:
Let it go.
Don’t cry.
Laugh it off.
Be professional.
Don’t be so sensitive.

And, my favorite: “I’ve got it handled,” as in, “Don’t you worry your pretty little head.” Ha! I do not need to be handled!

If you want to care for me, consider me in all my femininity.

Fierce as a blazing fire.
Wild as the wind.
Soft as sunshine.

We reclaim our feminine nature.

Does that scare you? Maybe it should.

Or, maybe you’re so deep in denial, telling yourself the things you’ve been telling us, you refuse to feel fear even in the face of Mother Nature’s wrath.

Do you think femininity is weak?

The jokes, baby, you keep telling them. The lies, honey, you keep believing.

Not me. Not anymore. I’m out.

Out like the feminine force of nature.

You didn’t listen. You tried to shut us down and deny our feelings.

Patriarchal bullsh*t is being blown up. Where will you stand? Choose.

In the hurricane. In the political sh*t storm. In truth like a tornado.

You might just have to frack off because my sisters and I are speaking truth, crying tears, and dancing joy—real joy, not some plastic crap you tried to sell us.

We are the mothers in Mother Nature.

We’re as soft goddesses and as seductive as the sun.

We’re the giggling girls.

We’re the children and the women saying NO. And being heard.

We’re women welcoming our feelings and our experiences.

You won’t always see us smiling to suit you.

We will never line up to salute a lie.

We’re gathering like bees on flowers. We can produce sweet honey or we can sting.

We feel our feelings—full, feminine, fierce, radiant, juicy, messy, ours.

We invite you to join us.

Welcome to everything but denial.

 

 

 

How We Can Allow Life to be Easy #bloglikecrazy

“Someone who has more information than we do about the nature of reality is worthy of respect.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa, Smile at Fear

My yoga teacher started class with the intention: “Let it be easy.”

She wasn’t just talking about yoga. She was talking about life.

Let it be easy. Let it be. Easy.

But, “Life is hard.” And, “No one said it would be easy.”

Sometimes we take the grains of truth and tattoo them on our minds like chosen mantras.

My stepmom once said, “We have to learn everything the hard way.” But, do we?

Could we stop making everything hard and let it be easy?

Sometimes, life is hard.

But, Addie, the yoga teacher I so admire, suggested I could let it be easy.

As if I could stop trying so damn hard.

Wow. What if I’ve been the resistance in my life? That’s not easy to admit.

I’ve taken challenges and made them struggles. I’ve made miscommunications reasons for refusal. I’ve forced financial situations into avalanches. I’ve owned life’s difficulties.

Could we really just let it be easy? It sounds so easy it seems absurd.

“Easy for you to say.”

Does everything have to be difficult to be worthy?

I used to live by the words:” “What doesn’t destroy me makes me strong.” But, at a certain point I was attracting circumstances to prove my strength. I stopped doing that (intentionally).

The Question Book asks: If you could have a consistently good life or one filled with the highest highs and the lowest lows, which would you choose?

I’m certain I chose the peaks and valleys before I arrived in this world.

Even so, can I let it be easy? The idea attracts me like a handsome man I’m not sure I can have.

Easy sounds sweet and seductive, so much so my instinct is to dismiss.

However, when I took the easy intention to my yoga mat, I had one of my best practices. I was strong, focused and flexible—with ease.

Yoga is the master teacher. What we learn on the mat follows us into life.

Come on, ease!

What if I can let it be easy…

To regain my health, energy and vitality? I could stop searching for answers and diagnosis and allow my body to rebalance itself.

What if I let my writing be easy? Writing is easy for me. That doesn’t mean it’s not work.

But, I can return to flow, where my soul resides and my desire to be of benefit unfolds.

What if I let my relationships be easy? I could stop putting them under the microscope, judging and determining their worth. I could be present, with ease.

Could I let building a blog, attracting an audience, landing a publisher and contract be easy? Why not?! I’ve tried to make it hard. I’ve tried to suffer for my art. Enough so that I’m willing to try a new way.

Could I let my grief be easy? A year ago this would’ve been larger than leaping the Grand Canyon. But today, I let my tears fall easy, my memories land lightly and the signs arrive as they will.

It’s better than trying to make myself get over it and move on or demand the kind of communication that only arrives divinely.

The more I think about it—letting life be easy is about letting the divine unfold—rather than ordering and dismissing miracles.

I doubt the flowers sprouting through sidewalks or cardinals finding my feeders fought their way there. Isn’t nature easy?

Maybe it’s only human nature that makes life hard. Why do we do that?

It’s a protection mechanism. Like if we accept or prepare for how hard life is, it will be less so. Unfortunately, the mechanism is faulty.

Listen, I don’t believe in positive denial. I’m a stickler for truth—although a friend recently pointed out I’m not perfect in this area either. That’s true.

I’m not seeking perfection and I refuse to affirm, “I’m happy! I’m happy! I’m happy!” or even, “It’s easy.”

However, we don’t have to make things hard or assume they are.

We can just let life be as easy as it is. We can allow for the ease.

Sometimes we take grains of truth and tattoo them on our minds like chosen mantras.

My new mantra: I let it be easy.

Seduction. #bloglikecrazy

Men, you came to me
Eager, focused, enthusiastic,
Needing, wanting, desiring
Me, your only goal.
I jumped into your arms—willingly.
Then, you turned away
Leaving me baffled,
Bewildered, wondering
Why I succumbed
To charms now denied.
You made me realize
My own power.
You can walk on, men.
You can come back,
Calling on me,
Begging for affection.
It’s not rejection, guys
That I’m aiming your way,
But more an understanding
Of what you are not,
Of all I am & all I can do.
More than beauty,
More than a body,
A soul, a spirit,
Seduction beyond all
You ever offered.
I am a woman,
Full, present, real.
And, thanks to you,
Realistic.
You came to me, but
I have come into my own.

 

Why I Keep Telling that Story. #bloglikecrazy

If the people we love are stolen from us, the way to have them live on is to never stop loving them. ~ James O’Barr

It’s the best story I know. So, yeah, I keep telling it.

We were Fire & Ice and all the metaphors that arise from that.

I’m still in love with Kevin (Fire). It’s not going to stop, ever.

My relationship with a man who no longer breathes serves as my example of what a man looks like when he steps up with emotional courage and as a way of life, whether or not others mirror his feelings.

I have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

I only guarantee I still say yes, I’d choose him. Why concern myself with something that’s not an option?

Because I want to make the best choice I ever made again, even though he’s dead.

Given the choice, I’d choose the man who chose me and erased the pain of all the times I wasn’t chosen, the man who said the words no man ever did when it came to my deepest heartaches.

I’d choose the man who knew me before I was raped, knew my rapist, and saw me rise out of the ashes.

I’d choose the man who competed with me in my selling days, and said to me, “You’re the only woman who actually cares about how my day goes out there. All my other girlfriends just wanted to know if I made money.”

We both knew how hard the sales field could be on a soul. And he knew the challenge of getting my book published.

Kevin believed in my book, my writing, and my dream of success—in such an unselfish-call-me-on-my-sh*t and remind me to go for it way.

I’d choose the guy who said this after reading my book: “This is something I’d buy at Barnes & Noble.”

He’s the guy who taught me to love my imperfections, like the scar on my lip and my tendency to be jealous—because he loved all of me.

He held my judgements up to the light without resentment or attachment.

He revealed his anger, disagreements, stories of drug days and not-always-gentlemanly ways with not one apology for who he chose to be.

I’m always going to want Kevin and the time when we embodied Fire & Ice.

I’m going to keep alive, nurture and defend the connection I have with him still, because it’s worth celebrating.

The memory of Kevin’s love is part of my story of who I am and how I became me.

It’s as much of my story as my first book. Kevin read that because he asked.

He asked to read everything I wrote. I handed him pages stained with my soul. He used them to start a Fire in me. It was more than a romantic relationship we had.

Fire and Ice—a man and a woman transcended together. So, yeah, I’m going to keep telling that story. It’s the best one I know.

But, that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop turning the pages of my life.