When a Woman Like America Wakes Up.

“The devil often poses as a family kind of guy.” ~ Marianne Williamson, The Healing of America

America’s jaw tightened and clenched. She ground her teeth.

Her neck and shoulders ached with incessant pain from carrying her heavy, heavy head filled with dread and worry.

Her breath shallowed, then quickened out of control, on the edge of a heart attack.

Rage became her. She even flipped off truth a time or two.

Like many women caught in and committed to a bad relationship, America’s lower self took center stage. She didn’t have the answers or know how to be her better self. She questioned her identity and flirted with denial, as we tend to do when stuck in relationships not yet done.

Then, he crossed the line, threatened violence, and came close to choking her. She had marks on her neck and would never forget that look in his eyes as he hurt her.

His justifications, rationalizations, and blaming her crashed like a floor full of broken glass. America picked up the pieces. She washed the steps he’d taken to find her.

She’d tried her best with him, but lost herself.

America made a new vow, to return to her more soulful, peaceful self. Exhausted from the chaos of a relationship gone awry, she decided within the fear, before she had the answers.

Like I did, when I determined to be done with my husband, but still, I shaved his back that one last time. Change called me before how answered.

America released the relationship, the tangle of truth and lies, the betrayal of time gone by, with her standing by his side. But how?

She knew a man named Joe, an old friend, someone she could trust in her unsteadiness.

As I did in 2011. Considering divorce and desperate to determine my direction, I escaped for 10 days in Arizona at my friend Joe’s resort-like home. Under blue skies and sitting poolside, I redrew my boundaries and excavated my values.

Joe fed me, asked good questions, and listened. He asked if I could give my husband more time to change. I’d given all I could and tried in all the ways I knew. Joe’s girlfriend said my husband would be devastated. She knew him well.

Still, I voted for myself, like America did.

One day, in a new year, America’s shoulders relaxed. Smiles spread, even behind masks. Protective forces gathered. Honor filled the air of America’s lungs. She breathed in safety and her whole body swallowed gratitude like an elixir.

Joe stayed consistent and that made all the difference. He did what he said he was going to do.

America knew her path forward wouldn’t be easy, but like me, she craved authenticity. So, willingness became her, engaged her.

Finding myself suddenly single after investing a decade in a marriage while wanting more, better, different, little things took on new meaning. I walked out of my 500-square-foot apartment in St. Paul, MN. Sunshine sparkled on the sidewalk where poetry was carved into the pavement, on purpose, like a love note from the universe.

Poetry kissed me when I walked the bridge between yesterday and tomorrow.

She kissed America, too—in a way only poetry can do. This time, it wasn’t words on sidewalks. This time, sunshine spilled on the face of the future. America glowed as Amanda Gorman became her new best friend.

Listening to Amanda’s words, America thought: Justice. Just us. We, the people.

Fear descended from her head and heart, down from the frantic fibers of a frayed nervous system, through her blood and bones, confused cells and misaligned structure. Down, down, through America’s belly, hips, legs, and feet, fear fell into the hallowed ground beneath her.

America’s shoulders drew back, her heart forward, and her head high. Unexplainable giddiness coursed through her veins.

Nothing appeared the same, as if she’d awoken from a bad dream. She accepted the call to do hard things.

America still wasn’t sure how, but now, finally, willingness stirred within her. Like me, after years of struggle, America looked in the mirror and got greeted by her own beauty.

She cried.

That night, she attended a party with people she appreciated: Joe and Kamala, Bill, George, and Barack. Tom Hanks held her hand. Jon Bon Jovi and J.T. serenaded her.

America felt held. She felt safe. She felt happy. And the fireworks! LIT HER UP!

For the first time in a long time, America felt free, beautiful, and ready to begin again. Like she’d been waiting to exhale.

That night, America dreamed.

How a Big Sister Changes the World

Dear Sister,

If I live to 192, I could never thank you enough for all you’ve done for me as a sister, friend, protector, companion, and an example of how to walk your path in the world while respecting, encouraging, and believing in your loved ones’ journeys.

You’ve shown me how to hold steady and how to let go when you don’t want to. Yet, you never told me, or even implied, that your way of loving, living, or grieving is the way I, or anyone, must emulate.

You live and love with open arms, even though those arms held your everything and fell empty. I know how broken you were when your husband of 33 years died. You climbed out of a steep, treacherous canyon.

I feel like I’m in Havasu Canyon following you up the switchbacks with a too-big backpack, boots with blistered feet, and no water.

You keep saying, “Come on, Alice. You’ve got this.” I’m muttering under my breath about how my feet hurt, I’m tired, and I want to sit down.

I haven’t tied my boots right, so I trip and fall, backpack of crap plunging me onto my hands and knees. I come up covered in dirt, like I’ve fallen face forward into an arroyo of mud and tears.

Although you’ve made miles ahead, you instinctively know. When I look up to see how far I have to go and possibly admit defeat, you’re there beside me, picking me up, sharing your water, and laughing about the mess on my face. You take a few things out of my pack and tell me I don’t have far to go now.

You say, “Just around the corner, the view is so beautiful, better than the Valle Grande!”

I know I must keep climbing, but I don’t want to.

“Is it better than the Great Barrier Reef?” I ask.

You laugh and say, “You’ll have to see for yourself.”

For 56 years, my dear big sister, you’ve helped me see the world for myself. Because of you, I envision a brighter, more colorful and expansive world, and I see the axis of my world spins into balance when shared.

Thank you for sharing the last seven years with me: opening your home, allowing me to be present in your intense grief (a great honor), witnessing you as an evolving, grown-ass woman mom would swell with pride for, showing me the epitome of partnership and generosity, believing in me when I doubted, encouraging me to risk and dive into the most exquisite experience of sacred love, being there for me when my beloved died and I fell deep into the canyon of grief, supporting me and my writing dream without ever insinuating quid pro quo, and always wanting me to be happy, but never at the expense of your own happiness.

I appreciate your honesty and directness, and I’ve become especially fond of the part of you that’s remembered how to play at life. Our now-gone brother Bill throws his head back in laughter, “Finally!” He’s been telling us, “Life’s a party!” and dances when we lighten up.

This summer with you, Sis—the one that lasted seven years—has been my favorite. Better than riding our bikes to East Park Pool as kids, swimming all day, eating green chile cheeseburgers, and getting our noses sunburned.

Today, I gather in my heart the gift of our shared experiences:  Australia, Pies & Pints, Jamaica, Florida Everglades, Bloody Mary Sundays, Outlander and This Is Us, walks around the neighborhood, you calling my dog “Wiggle Butt” and being there when she ate her first hot dog and took her last breath, trips to MI and time with your kids, road trips to NC, NM, and Nashville, beaches, bike rides, and beers, sitting outside at “The Pig,” writing and editing projects, movies and yoga, secrets and reflections of growing up in the 70s in Los Alamos, and 10,000 enlightening conversations helping me grow more whole, wise, and peaceful.

I tie a bow on these memories and wrap them in a blue sky, just the way you like. I decorate them with sunshine, and drop them into your heart with love, hoping they warm you and remind you of what a gift you are in my life.

Sister, you’re a star when my world is dark and the beach when it’s sunny.

I love you and being part of your world. Happy Birthday!

Enter Here.

“It’s good to do uncomfortable things. It’s weight training for life.” ~ Anne Lamott

Come in, into the quiet center.

Sit in the darkness, the fear, the fucked-up reality of humanity.

Embrace her. In you. Then, welcome the light of stars in the dark night

and the rise of the sun in early morning. Let her shine on you and in you.

Feel her warmth on your skin. Lift your chin, your arms, your everything to the vast and changing sky.

Let her drama dazzle you. Walk in nature. Study the sway of tree and leaves waving in the wind.

You don’t have to save the world, but someone must.

Traveler from dark to light and all the layers in between, why not you?

Save her with poetry and kindness. No need to be famous.

Be you. Invite deep solace. Begin by going in.

Go in while there’s time.

Go into your body. Connect with your soul.

Get out of your mind and the mayhem.

Stay on your mat.

In your chair.

Home.

Drop into your heart and be the peace you’ve been praying for.

How I Dance with Grief.

Grief is a force of nature, like the ocean. She can be calm, the waves gentle, just a noise in the background, as she’s been for me over the last several months.

Four years after my beloved died unexpectedly in his sleep, I drew another line goodbye. Kevin died March 4, 2016. That day this year, I visited his home state of Florida. I emotionally kissed him goodbye. I meant it this time!

By the grace of God, the gift of time, and sheer will, I released Grief’s grip on my being. I regained a sense of self, strength, and quieting of the incessant internal screaming. The ocean waves blew soft.

Now, it’s August. Grief threatens my calm. She’s not mean, but she’s present, reminding me my two truest soul connections in my 55 years on earth no longer inhabit this place. Queen Obvious!

My soulmate dog Phoenix, a lover in a Black Lab body, died last year after 11 spent glued to me. Of course, I grieved her, but I also used my brain to dismiss the pain since her death made sense in a way Kevin’s didn’t. She lived a full life.

Now, she’s back in my dreams, standing by my bed, staring at me with her caramel-brown eyes stirring me awake, nudging me into yesterday’s grin. But she’s not there.

Logic and grief get along like math and poetry. I know, that’s a thing, but not for me.

Grief aligns as the ultimate juxtaposition—the truths we resist and those we cling to.

My sister Jayne and I both started dating new men in 2014, after losing our husbands to death and divorce, respectively. In early May, I visited a friend of double decades and let’s just say, it was on. Walls crumbled, hearts opened, and Kevin and I became Fire & Ice.

In December of the same year, my sister went speed dating and met her mate, Dean. They danced and tripped over baggage and learned to step toward rather than away in ways that work for them.

Dean was in our home that day in 2016 as we all awaited Kevin’s arrival. The guys would meet for the first time. We had reservations at The Melting Pot. I don’t know if we ever cancelled.

I know I was worried when Kevin, king of communication, didn’t call and was late, so out of character. Dean said, “Everything will be okay.” He lacked my experience of death whispering on the wind before she’s announced. Everything was not alright.

The police went to Kevin’s house and found him “unresponsive” in his bed, with his bag packed, the sweater he intended to give me inside. One last surprise from the greatest gift God ever gave me.

I grieved the loss of my Fire actively. Like a mermaid, I dove to the depths and found the treasures. Four years later, “I’m fine” found truth in me.

Here’s the juxtaposition. Well, one of many. My sister’s love with Dean has progressed naturally. I prayed for her to find a special relationship again after Grief almost crushed her under the weight of losing her husband of 33 years. So, I celebrate her engagement.

This morning, sitting alone at the kitchen table that currently sits in the home I share with my sister, while she stays with her fiancé, Grief joined me for coffee.

Like a frenemy, she asked: What if Kevin would’ve lived and Dean would’ve died? You’d be planning your wedding. Grief can be such a b*tch!

No, I wouldn’t want that, either. Grief persisted. Look how happy Jayne is!

It reminded me of Kevin insisting, “Sometimes it’s good to put yourself first.” He said, “Icey, if there was only going to be one book contract, wouldn’t you want it to go to you?” I gave in. “Yeah, I would.” That’s not how it works, though.

Besides, this thought is different. It invokes shame in its existence. It screams to be suppressed. Jealousy over my own sister’s happiness? I want to spit it out like a cockroach on my tongue.

Still, I recall after Jayne’s husband died, she found it difficult to be in the company of other happy couples, even her children and especial my friends. Bittersweet is the taste of what you lost staring you in the face.

I’m a Scorpio. I turn into pain, not away. Truth nourishes my soul. So, here it is: I’m jealous my sister gets to marry the man she connected with in 2014 while I still grieve mine.

In my 20s, I would’ve suppressed that truth into the bowels of the earth and walked away. Or ran.

Maturity is the ability to hold two truths—or five. I’m honestly giddy for my 60-year-old sister getting to plan a wedding for the first time in her life. I’ve gotten to do it twice. Her first vows were spoken at the Justice of the Peace.

Now, my heart flutters with the same butterfly-joy Jayne emanated when I married my second husband—the sure bet. On that day, my sister’s Great-Barrier-Reef-blue eyes reflected what I felt in my gut.

Recently, my sister and I donned our masks (hello 2020) and ventured to her appointment at David’s Bridal. I stood on a stoop below, witnessing the dresses doing their number on my sister. Facing herself as the glowing bride in the mirror, she sparkled.

I took in the show and captured photos. Jayne tried on gowns until she found the one. A surprising smile rose from my belly into a balloon expanding in my heart with its string tied to my tongue.

My sister shown like a sunbeam. Our (deceased) mom’s presence floated in the air like perfume.

Yes, to the dress.

Yes, to love, wherever we find it within life’s juxtapositions.

Welcome present moment, with all your messy, authentic, bold, and beautiful feelings. I celebrate and anticipate Jayne and Dean’s upcoming spring wedding. You can bet I’ll be dancing.

How I Let My Mind Go Blank.

“We’ve been conditioned to turn away, to not feel.” ~ Sarah Entrup

My kundalini yoga practice consists of a nervous system overhaul set, which requires lying on my back, raising my legs to 90 degrees, and crisscrossing while doing breath of fire (equal breaths in and out through the nose). Then, more sets with leg lifts, crisscrossing, and sit-ups with legs still in the 90-degree position.

At the end of the set, my instructor Sarah tells me, via video, to lie flat on my back and completely relax. I do.

Until my throat tightens.

The neckline of my shirt pulled down my back makes me claustrophobic. In my mind, I see George Floyd and imagine a knee on my neck, although I’m face up.

Halfway through this resting pose, called corpse pose in some yoga, Sarah says, “Let it all go. Let it be a reset. A death. A completion.”

I remember in the now-embedded-in-my-mind video, Mr. Floyd said, “I’m through.”

In my practice, on my mat, I let go. My mind goes blank for this one moment each day.

Later, I think of how he said mama. I choose to believe she was there with him in his final moments, that he said it to the sight of her and a gang of angels greeting him.

I don’t think about that during my practice. I let the moment be a letting go of all thought.

Then, as instructed, I do what George Floyd could not. I move my wrists and ankles, bring my own knees into my chest, and roll up into easy pose to begin my next set.

It’s called subagh kriya and I’m told it helps me align with my destiny.

I like to believe in the big picture, and that maybe George Floyd, the knee on his neck, his tragic death, meant something along the lines of his soul’s destiny.

Not that the man George Floyd would choose that, but Jesus… May George Floyd’s destiny serve our great awakening.

The Spirit These Times Require.

Same thought, different reasons.

Alice in Authorland

So, my dear,
you’ve learned to cry.

Not just reactionary tears,
earnest ones born of
your brave heart.

You see the darkness and refuse
to disrespect yourself
into denial.
Bravo.

Welcome to the juxtaposition:
No one asked you
to lay down
your joy.

Claim it again.
Be a warrior, enlightened.

To fight for light,
enter the darkness
dancing.

Let them hear your laughter.

Flash your smile
like a peace sign
as you pledge to do your part.

In one bucket, carry the problems.
In the other, the spirit with
which to transform them.

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How to Transform a Heart.

“After all, most people see no reason to question their own beliefs, much less solicit yours.” ~ David Bayles & Ted Orland, Art & Fear

Fire, Water, Mother Earth, God, Angels, transform me.

Rebirth me. Pull me from the ashes. I welcome the metamorphosis.

I do not resist. I do not go numb or deaf or die. I awaken.

I’m a seedling under the cement—screaming to bloom.

I’m parched for water and sunshine. I seek the light with my every cell.

In this black night, I see the stars. I’m enchanted.

I feel angels hovering over us, making way for breakthrough.

Everything is different now: my brain, health, vision, belief, expectation…

The sky sings lavender tanzanite. Clouds dance the purest white.

Our voice, tears, and physical presence shift. We stand hearty.

Present for the party of the people, hangover and all.

Learning to be. Remembering to listen.

Seeing anew.

Walls fall. Boundaries clarify.

Scars expose themselves without apology.

Dreams arise, not from the mind, but the heart.

Time ticks precious. Moment by moment. Intention for joy: everyone’s.

Acceptance of pain. Connected. Alive. In all the messiness.

All that it means. What no longer matters.

Beauty to behold. Unafraid. Unattached.

Free to embrace what comes next.

My White Privilege Told Me I Was a Princess.

 “I blame the White House for encouraging white supremacy. Yes. That is correct.” ~ Glennon Doyle

Dear God,

I sign up for the Army of Light. Send me into the Darkness.

Hold me accountable for my whiteness, for being a blind witness and an unknowing accomplice. Because white privilege told me I was a princess.

I didn’t have to look hard at hard things. I could cut racism out of my life, set it safely on the sidelines, see it on TV, and bitch about it as if that made me more than part of the problem.

I held my head high because I dated, loved, and developed friendships with black people.

Like a man thinks he understands women’s plight because he slept with them, even loved and lived with the special ones.

A man cannot know what it means to walk as a woman. Let me not forget I walk as a privileged, protected, white woman. Because we played into the hands of white patriarchy throughout history.

Played victim to blackness so white men would rescue us. Not me! Alright. All white.

Amy Cooper connected us to George Floyd in ways we don’t want to see.

Not me! Using emotions for power.

Emmet Till. Emmet Till. Emmet Till. STILL.

Amy revealed us. Despicable.

Of course, I judged her for doing something I’d never do. You’d never.

Place blame. Play victim. Avoid responsibility.

Fragile. Damsel in distress. White woman. White witness.

White lies we tell ourselves and pretend we’ve helped bridge the gap of racism, simply because we don’t exercise it ourselves.

I would never make the call Amy Cooper made. My privilege lies in the fact that I could.

With freedom comes responsibility. Can we see others don’t share our freedoms? Not in this country.

Could Christian Cooper have called the police on a belligerent white bitch? It’s laughable.

Who is the victim? Who gets blamed? Who gets killed? Does it make it better when we say, “African American,” Karen?

We’re all Karens, even if we’re not abusing our power like Amy. Let’s stop pretending the color of our skin doesn’t offer us protection. Just because we’d never make that racist, life-threatening call doesn’t make us reliable allies.

Until we do something, our anti-racist values are as good as dollar bills kept in a shoebox under the bed.

When will we do our white work? When will I do my white work? What does that mean? I vow to learn.

Is what’s happening in our country enough to wake us up? Now what?

Can I and all the other Karens watch the entire video of George Floyd without whining, “It’s just too hard for me to watch”?

Our privilege allows us not to. We haven’t really been looking for a long-damned time.

We don’t want to watch George Floyd be murdered by a white man with all the power, granted by much more than a badge, but a society—that’s us—who repeatedly insists the black men killed somehow deserve it.

We tell ourselves, because our white privilege allows us to, that the police are just doing their job, that most cops are good.

Most cops are good. My nephew is a good cop.

None of this negates systematic racism in multiple departments throughout our country and history. It’s not like that now, we tell ourselves.

White women, we’ve always had the privilege of looking away. Let’s not.

What’s possible if we look at our privilege? What’s possible if we stop pretending everything is ok?

It’s uncomfortable. We might feel guilt or shame. Good. Now we’re getting somewhere.

In order to be part of the solution, we must stop being part of the problem. We’re part of the problem when we refuse to see it.

Like the boss who refuses to see his employee act as a bully or engage in sexual harassment, right under his nose.

We were blind. Now, will we see?

Look. Watch the entire video—not the short version—of George Floyd being sacrificed for us to wake up.

Why do people riot? Why do they turn violent?

Partly because over and over and over and over for the entire history of our country we, the Karens, played along, sitting in our comfortable positions holding up white patriarchy by refusing to look.

I sign up. I don’t know anything, yet. I’m willing to learn to act on the values I profess.

Use me, God. Let me look and see. Let me listen and hear. Let me use my whiteness for something good.

How Coronavirus is Helping Us Wake Up.

“The path of fearlessness begins with the discovery of fear.” ~ Chogyam Trungpa

We’re dancing between the COVID-19 reality and a world of re-awakening intuition, grace, and spirituality.

I’m a news and fact-finding addict, but also a writer, seeker, and yoga and meditation practitioner.

As we face this pandemic, I’ve done double nickels on earth. If you’ve been around for a while, you knew the curtain call on the wizard was coming.

We’ve repeated too many patterns of our ancestors.

No more slaves, but young black men are game for white hunters. Women sit in board rooms, but the movie Bombshell tells tales of what we too often endure.

Covid-19 is new, yet what it reveals about our lack-of-healthcare system isn’t. Bernie told us for decades. Hillary tried. Obama barely got it through.

As a country, we act as if how we treat our most vulnerable belongs in bipartisan boxes.

Oh, the boxes we created. Boxes for politics. Boxes to drive in, work in, shop in. The boxes bulged until they broke.

We want to blame it on one thing—COVID-19, or one person—Donald Trump.

What if instead of looking at him as the Liar-in-Chief, we see him as the truth-teller about our society and our weakening values?

He’s showing us who we are and what we’re willing to put up with.

Protesters claim themselves peaceful as they carry rocket launchers into a Subway sandwich shop. Governors get death threats for trying to protect.

We are NOT the greatest generation.

Our immaturity bangs like a toddler playing drums on pots and pans.

The world is laughing at us and crying for us. People are dying, not just in America, but everywhere. Why aren’t we uniting?

When the virus hits children, we respond as well as we have to school shootings.

We fight for our freedom like 16-year-olds resisting curfew, somehow forgetting that with freedom comes responsibility.

Yet, humanity is rising.

Courses on authenticity, resilience, intuition, and open heartedness abound, many for free. Women and men gather together while apart, connected by higher purposes and other-than-this world tools.

We’re tapping into our hearts and souls, the juicy parts of ourselves we were told to set aside so we could thrive, succeed, get more, be more, and make more money, money, money.

We’re learning we’re enough and helping those who don’t have enough.

We’re sitting with our sisters and brothers, singing our souls’ songs. We’re quieting our egos and honoring our unspoken non-compete clauses with each other.

We’re not striving to get back into the box.

It’s taken time and will require more to let go of the old paradigms of patriarchy, still throwing parades and acting as paparazzi to the Donald, their daddy.

Oh, yeah. Daddy issues are on the kitchen table of our society.

But, mama’s cooking more than dinner. She’s caring for more than the kids. Resourcefulness, creativity, and kindness are rebirthing themselves.

People pushed to the sidelines stand witness to the violent, greedy games.

Someone (Barr) said history is written by the winners. He’s as cute as the cheating husband clueless to his wife hiring an attorney and a private investigator.

Deceit is rampant. People are livid.

Sh*t gets real when someone you know or love dies. Until then, it’s surreal. You’re immune. You’re invincible.

Everything changes when death dines at your family’s table.

Those at the top preach predetermine outcome, as if. They can’t see we’ve opted out and moved to a higher understanding, surrendering to the unknowing, believing in something better, like the nurses, doctors, and grocery store workers showing up and risking their lives for what some claim is hyped.

Right. And teenagers don’t get pregnant. Ha, right now they don’t!

This is big. Nothing and no one gets a pass. No business, school, sport, or family. For some, gravity hasn’t hit yet.

But, light shines in darkness. May we be willing to open our eyes and ask, what would you have us see? Who will we become?

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.