fear in a handful of dust

Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licóur
Of which vertú engendred is the flour… 

– geoffrey chaucer, prologue to the canterbury tales

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

– t. s. eliot, the wasteland

 

perspective.

growth is never easy. change, even wanted change full of passionate intensity, takes an immense amount of energy. it can be exhausting. and sometimes it asks of us absolutely everything.

while tadpoles slowly grow legs and their tails disappear and some inner changes occur that allow them to complete their lifecycle as frogs (and it is incredible)… this is not what happens to a caterpillar that enters a cocoon and emerges a butterfly. a caterpillar actually breaks itself down into a kind of primordial soup. it is no longer a living thing at all. and from that soup, the pieces are gathered and rearranged to form a completely new life. it’s amazing. it’s beautiful. it’s Terrifying.

some of our changes as humans happen because we simply grow up. physically, we become taller, our skin collects freckles and eventually wrinkles, we develop very different bodies with unique capabilities that our child bodies did not have. and we are quite present through all of this, even if some changes seem to appear between one glance in the mirror and the next. i remember many fitful nights when i was young, when i could feel my legbones stretching into their new shape, and i writhed in bed, unable to escape the processes happening inside me.

yet other changes happen because we experience and learn. things happen to us, those things have consequences, and we develop new rules and patterns to help us avoid or achieve certain outcomes. every relationship has some benefit to us, or we wouldn’t maintain it. from food and water to love and intimacy, we seek out what brings us pleasure and find ways to fulfill our simpler and more complicated needs. sometimes along the way we burn a hand, or break a heart. but slowly we learn to move like water around the life-sharpened stone. we soften our shores. we become comfortable. we relish the end of the draught.

but one kind of change can hurt us the most. and this kind doesn’t happen to us inevitably. we must move towards it and not turn away when we feel we are about to lose control. we have to seek it, the painful honest answers of our true selves; who we are, who we want to become, what we are or are not capable of. in some ways we must be willing to fully dissolve our old selves, letting go of that entire life, in order to enter the new one. the new one without any guarantees of being better, only more real. how cruel it can feel, stirring the dull and dusty roots with the incisive pins and needles of a cold spring rain.

the sleeping limb feels nothing but the sleeping limb cannot bear any weight. so,

awake.
awake my heart and mind.
peel open the lids
and let the steam of a boiling spirit escape.
sweet agony whistles through the narrowest of spaces,
making room for you to enter me
for me to enter

the cocoon of my becoming.

awake,
every sleeping fiber of my flesh
to the feeling of feeling
this cold exquisite raging
piercing to the root.
the delicious rains stirring memory and desire,
both cruel and divine,

both torment and necessity.

awake.
awake my self,
for you are not who you were
and not who you will be.
and though it may be anguish,
peel open thy shield with tenderness,
for without the ecstasy of this agony,
lilacs cannot bloom.

words and the world

a new puppy, in ways both similar and not at all similar to a new baby, has to learn early on about words and the world. watching him gather this knowledge and put it together to create a story of understanding is a truly an amazing evolution to witness. but while the learning of the fresh new brain gets so much attention and interest, the teaching of things deserves a little notice, too. this dynamic conversation can reveal some fascinating truths.

they say experience is the best teacher. from my life so far i can say that i definitely agree, but ranking it as the best doesn’t mean it’s the only, nor does it explain why. why do we mistrust the words of those we rely on most for everything else in our lives? why do we need to feel the agony and the ecstasy for ourselves?

odie

enter odysseus (that’s the puppy), loping around with his newly long and awkward legs, hips swaying as he flops each big paw in rhythm across the kitchen, nose twitching at the tiles, tail cocked at an angle somewhere between knowing and not knowing the mission of the body in front of it. in the air, a sudden change. a sweetness, a warmth. the body changes course, nose alternating between floor and air, the new information coming in stronger as he goes. in an instant he is approaching the oven that has just been opened.

“no, odie. HOT.” ashwin firmly explains. no reaction from the pup.

outside the oven door isn’t close enough for a proper investigation. maybe a nose bump or a lick would help. maybe getting inside just for a second to check out the scene, see what’s hanging around in this awesome cave that just appeared out of the wall. man the world is magical. why do they insist on keeping me from it? maybe they can’t smell. that’s probably it. no worries guys, i’ll go in for us and report back.

“odie, NO! HHHHOT,” ashwin explains again, hissing out the H sound and sharply cutting off the T, using every part of the word to help convey its seriousness.

but here’s the thing. not only has odie never heard the word hot before in his life, he has no idea what hot IS. before moving in with us, if he and his siblings got a little too warm in the sun, they moved into the shade. not much more thinking required. and ‘hot,’ unknowingly averted. the word hot means something to us, because we have bumped into the pan fresh off of the stove, or hopped into the shower when the water wasn’t adjusted correctly, or sat on that black leather car seat in midsummer. yes our parents told us don’t touch the stove because it’s hot. but that’s not how we understand hot. we had to experience it. then we could say, holy yes, i agree, too hot can hurt, and i would rather avoid that suffering. and we can, once we know more about words and the world.

odie will probably never know the meaning of the word hot, as it seems, sometimes, that he’ll never know his name, sit, stay, and a host of other useful and experientially accessible words. so, we’ll keep an eye on him whenever the oven is open, and be there to pull him back and keep him safe.

as for ourselves, ‘hot’ is only the tip of the melting iceberg of things we will ultimately truly understand only by doing. here’s hoping that we come out of all the magical caves we discover intact, with loving arms waiting to hold us and scratch us lovingly on the butt.

fear itself

Top 30 Greatest Fear Quotes

as i was reading through this list i kept wanting to copy and paste over and over; in the end, here is the link and you can read this good stuff for yourself.

fear is a powerful thing. fear of pain, suffering, death. fear of change. fear of not changing. fear keeps us from taking unacceptable risks, and in some ways can protect us from unsafe decisions. but sometimes our fear meter is calibrated a little too tightly. as we all know by now, the feeling of fear itself is its own suffering.

because we know that conquering of our fears is possible, albeit extremely difficult, i think we try to deny that our behaviors are often motivated by it. we tell ourselves all kinds of stories about who or what is responsible for what’s happening, or for the way we feel. we assign blame outside ourselves that allows us to play the helpless victim. and that is easier to manage than to see that we do have control, but taking that control would involve overcoming our fear. and that is so dang hard. it really is.

so we can understand why we do this. but at some point, if we look deeply, we can see that we are not actually avoiding suffering but instead replacing one suffering for another.

looking back over the month of november, #nablopomo, i can admit that i have failed. i have not written a blog every day, though i said i would do it. i promised my (2 or 3) readers. i promised myself. i feared criticism and judgment. i feared failure. now i look back and i can almost laugh at those feelings. what is criticism and judgment in this case but a response to the fact that i actually might have written something worthwhile, and that someone actually read it? what is failure in this case but a conscious choice to shift my priorities? for which, regarding either thing, i can say honestly that i have no regrets? in the end, harboring those worries was a waste of my time and energy. two resources that, at times, i am painfully aware are finite.

so stop it, people i love. stop being afraid. you are suffering right now; staying in that thankless job, pushing through your pains without seeking real answers, enabling that addicted loved one, sticking with it when it’s time to leave, keeping yourself from forgiveness or love that are yours for the taking, judging yourself harder than any other critic for your actions or inactions, relieving yourself of your power by making someone or something else responsible.

just try it. you might be surprised. you might still suffer (though no more than you already are), but then again you might look back and laugh at yourself. eventually you won’t even believe yourself that the other option is naturally worse, because you’ve never allowed yourself to go there. so GO THERE. leap, and the net will appear (john burroughs).

unless ‘there’ is some crazy high height. or toward a swarm of bees.

no need to go There.

60 days notice

nov. 24: have you ever rage-quit a job?

well, yes and no. it’s pretty hard to rage quit when you have to give 60 days notice.

… so, i wrote an entire post about this on thanksgiving morning. since then i have been advised that it’s probably not worth it to post the story in public, despite Obvious names and places being left out, and every word being truth. yeah, they’re probably right.

what would i get from it? i’m not sure. a big part of me still wants certain people to know what really happened. but hey, many did know, and many have also left since i left (for their own various reasons, but i’m sure in some small way informed by what happened to me). the reality is nothing can change the role of this business in the community, because there are no other options. so is it selfish of me? maybe it is. why know things that might make you feel conflicted about doing what you have to do anyway?

i’ve also been told that i didn’t actually leave in rage because being enraged causes one to think irrationally. but ultimately my decisions were rational, despite irrational fury-fueled moments. lots of them. so maybe my story doesn’t apply to this prompt anyway. so maybe the answer is no. in the end, my extremely emotional self is tempered by my spock-like rationality, and usually i choose who gets to speak.

so i’m going to choose not to post what i wrote. i think it’s the rational choice.

(BUT if you want to know and you don’t know already… drop a sister a line ;))

the christmas spirit

if the christmas spirit isn’t about warm homemade cookies, then i’m not really sure What it’s about. ok, that’s not entirely true. as today is 2 days after thanksgiving and we’re now “allowed” to begin the official christmas transition, i thought i’d take a brief moment to describe what the christmas spirit is to me. because i still believe in santa claus. and i want to explain myself.

[also i want to say that i personally grew up with christmas, but if i say merry christmas and you say happy holidays, #dontcare. christmas is just my word for the things i’m about to explain, and if you have a different word but you’ve taken the <1 second to say happy holidays, or whatever of the like, to me, i already know that we mean the same thing. so we can throw out that language barrier right off the bat.]

did you ever notice that starting some time in november and lasting, let’s say, to december 26th at 12:01am, people act just a little bit differently? people seem just slightly more likely to offer a smile or friendly greeting, to hold a door open, to give you space to change lanes on the highway. the salvation army definitely makes note of an increase in generosity around this time of year. to me, this is it. the christmas spirit. that general reminder to be nice, to bring a little warmth to a world that can sometimes otherwise feel so cold. it’s as if we all feel that santa might still be watching, or that we just want to get closer to the giving spirit, the goodness within ourselves. maybe it’s that we feel more willing to do it when we know it’s coming right back to us, and when everyone buys in, everyone benefits. like any good relationship, i suppose. this is the relationship and spirit of humanity at its best.

growing up in the northern hemisphere and not snuggled up to the equator, the holiday season has (until this year) been a winter / cold season for me. and this is also the case where the whole thing began, in israel, and spreading through the near east and to europe. so in accordance, popular holiday-themed songs and characters are generally winter season related; reindeer, snowmen, dreaming of white christmases, roasting edible things on open fires, hot chocolate and warm apple cider, a chubby bearded gentleman wrapped from head to toe in fur…

i know it’s going to be a little tough for me to experience christmas time this year in the warm weather of southern africa. it’s going to be even more tough for me to experience christmas without the familiar traditions i have shared with my family for as long as i have memory. and it will be toughest of all for me to experience christmas without them with me, regardless of what we wear outside or what we do inside. but i am hopeful that santa’s magic sleigh will be able to zip around the whole world in one night, bringing the christmas spirit where ever it goes. i am hopeful that the special magic of the holiday season isn’t season specific, and this will bring me warmth where it might otherwise feel a little bit cold.

and also, skype.

dsc00111

morgan’s christmas traditions: dinner at the grandparents’ house on christmas eve (this used to include watching santa’s red dot moving across the weather map on the evening news). new pajamas on our beds when we get home, which were a mystery for years as to how they got there. reading the night before christmas out loud as a family before bed. having trouble falling asleep, which used to be because omg santa and is now because omg 30. waking up earlier than reasonable on christmas day, and forcing ourselves to behave (not wake anyone else up) until a normal hour. trying to sneak back and forth to the bathroom without making noise, and without glancing in the living room to see what’s under the tree. but probably glancing in there anyway. finally waking everyone up for presents. in recent years, starting with the dog’s stockings (pictured on the right) so they have something to distract them while we open our presents – this has had mixed success. we humans also starting with the stockings every year, despite every year mom saying that’s Not how we do it, and sometimes ruining the surprise of another present by finding its accessories first. opening wrapped presents one at a time, rotating people. then eating a big cooked breakfast. then lazing around all day, enjoying our new things and just hanging out together. and last but not least, an amazing christmas dinner with the extended family and framily. then finally to bed, with a full belly and full heart.

feel free to share your holiday traditions in the comments below 🙂

traits of my best friends

taking the idea from a 30 day writing challenge, this is day 24: traits of your best friends.

the people in the pictures above are some pretty dang special people. and, they came out despite various unreasonable conditions to celebrate with me before my wedding earlier this year. and i’m super grateful for them every day. so, in the spirit of thanksgiving tomorow, i thought i’d talk about one of the things i’m most thankful for: my bffs. here’s an abridged list of some reasons why.

  • they are honest. i don’t always appreciate this trait in the moment it’s being exhibited 🙂 but when someone has to tell it to me like it is, these ladies have my back. honesty can sometimes seem mean, but these people do their best to be honest and also kind. their tough love truths remind me that they’re still my friends no matter what, and reassure me that when they say all that junk about me being awesome too, they mean it. that makes a girl feel pretty good. plus, when you know someone will be honest with you, that makes for some killer advice – which i am always going to these people in search of.
  • they listen. they don’t just hear (or read) what i’m saying, or for that matter, what others are saying. they want to understand, see the full picture. they try to move slowly to judgement. they want to give thoughtful feedback, and they know in order to do that, they should probably actually know what they’re talking about. and that seems like a rare commodity these days.
  • they admit when they’re wrong. which is rarely (hey, birds of a feather), but still. after all that active listening, it would be hard to say your opinions have never changed as a result. they are willing to take new information and adjust their previously held beliefs if necessary. some people get so stuck and inflexible, but these ladies care enough to be open to new possibilities. that means that over the years, we all continue to learn and grow together.
  • they’re strong. everyone has been through some tough stuff by now in life. some people crack under the pressure. these people have broad shoulders, for their families, partners, children, and friends. and when the weight does at times overwhelm, they find a way to keep their head above water, or get there, and fill those cracks with gold. this gives them empathy, patience, and a unique beauty that you wouldn’t just see by looking. of course, they’re all ridiculously good looking, too 🙂
  • they’re smart. math, science, law, history, literature, public relations… each of these people has a niche in which they blow me away with their knowledge and expertise. sometimes it’s not even what they do for a living! but they go out into the world with curiosity and come back with some amazing info (that i sometimes get to find out and have for myself! bonus!).
  • they like me for me. (not because i look like tyson beckford.) we may have different interests, different political or religious beliefs… but none of these people would judge me for being different (nor other people for that matter). in fact i like to think they enjoy our differences as i do, because due to all the traits listed above, this can make for some great conversation. or at times, knowing when to just leave it and say nothing 🙂 but i have no fear that something might come up some day where they would say, oh i didn’t know you felt that way, we can’t be friends.
  • they are loyal. i’m not saying they have never talked behind my back. hey, in some cases we have known each other since we were born. or 6. teenagers anyone? but i do know for a fact that they never did so with malice. and i also know that if they heard anyone else talking about me that way, they stood up for me even when i wasn’t around.

so, in summary, these are some solid people. and the amazing women in the photos above aren’t even the comprehensive list. i am beyond lucky to have these humans in my tribe and on my team. life is better when shared, and over the years i have come to share it with a truly rockstar cast. i hope they know they have a teammate for life, how much i love them, how much i appreciate who they are, that i am lifted and inspired by them every day.

morgan, circa 2016

nov. 14: what was it like to be you in 2016?

well, it was pretty hard. but here’s how i’m going to approach this, because there’s a lot i could vent, and yes it might help, but that would involve liberties with other people’s privacy and that is not my choice to make.

today i watched a segment of a series on cbs news called “note to self,” where someone addresses themselves at a younger age and tells them the story of their life. it was joe biden’s note to self, and i can only dream of having such a strong and inspirational letter written to the me today from the me after many tomorrows. but for now, this will be my best shot.

dear (ahem year old) morgan of 2016,

it gets better. i promise. well not everything. some things get worse. which is to say, don’t forget to appreciate the things that are really great right now. you are young, you are healthy, you have both of your parents and your ole sassy gram around. you have a great little sister on your team. she loves you (as your whole family loves you), and she “gets it” when it comes to that crazy family of yours. you are so lucky. not everyone has that.

you have a solid tribe of friends who love you, too. you have been through some lifey life with them by now, and your relationships will only get stronger over the years. you are going to be there for each other through some crazy shit. they are going to need you, and you are going to need them, in ways you might not even guess. but you’ll do that for each other without hesitating, and you are so lucky to have a bonus family out there in your corner. not everyone has that.

you may feel far away from them right now because, well, you are. i know it’s hard that you can’t pick up the phone at any time (different time zones) or hop in the car and grab lunch. but you do have technology to bridge that cold atlantic, and that is so lucky. not everyone has that. i don’t want to tell you where you end up because that would ruin the surprise. i know it’s hard not knowing where your life will go, not even in the smallest part of the picture. i know you feel a little adrift, a little without purpose. but i promise you it won’t always be so. in fact, it might change sooner than you think. here’s a secret i don’t mind sharing – you are a lot stronger than you know.

if you’re reading this at the end of the year, you are a newlywed now. this year is supposed to be hard. there is so much to learn about yourself, about your partner, about life. but you will figure it out and it will be so very worth it. if you can navigate this time of change and transition with love and respect and commitment, you will lay the foundation of the most solid partnership of your life. give it everything you have. no matter what else happens, if you both do your best, it will be good enough. morgan, know that you are enough.

you are going to learn so much in this life. i am almost jealous of you now, even though as i said, so much has gotten better. i am jealous of the wonderful discoveries you have yet to make. of your TIME. you have a tendency (and don’t deny it, i am still this way more than i’d like to be) to worry and fret. remember that quote you read in the past couple years about worry being like a rocking chair? it gives you something to do but it doesn’t get you anywhere. that is true. i know it’s impossible not to worry, but you will benefit the more you try. there will be time.

you’re going to do this, but let me give you a tip and maybe you’ll do it sooner. get back to yoga. dang that was good for me.

right now so much is up in the air, and the things that aren’t, are tough. a lot has happened this year and you have been hurt in ways you wouldn’t have guessed by people you wouldn’t have guessed. you have handled some things well and others… well, you’ll get better. i know you can’t help feeling unsure about so much. but morgan, trust yourself. trust me. it gets better, and it gets better because you are so capable of making it better. keep putting one foot in front of the other, and i promise they will take you amazing places.

love,

(ahem year old) morgan of the future