Heart Wide Open Hurts

hanumanYou know how sometimes the water is so hot it feels cold? Or you are so overcome with emotion that it’s almost hard to distinguish between feeling and numbness? That’s how it felt as soon as we turned out the light.

I had been too tired even to watch our show, so it was on the early side — before 10:00pm. The meditation music began, and there it was — the constriction in my throat that somehow coupled with a sensation I can only describe as one of being a much younger woman, early 20s say. I’m reminded of how a few weeks ago, Pearl shared with me that she suddenly understood that we are ALL THE AGES we’ve ever been. So, she shared by way of example, if she’s really mad, maybe in that moment she’s actually four. It made perfect sense.

I lay there for a few minutes quietly while Mani pulled me in close; we take turns as we fall asleep with who’s the “big spoon,” and usually start out with her wrapped around me and me skooching my bum against the hollow of her belly as close as humanly possible. It’s my safe place, at least one of the top three.

And suddenly, I choked out these words with a sob. “Sometimes I feel like I’ve been lost my whole life.”

With that, I cried and cried, tears rolling one after another from my eyes down the side of my face, drenching the pillow. She didn’t say a word or ask any questions, but just kept her arms around me tight. I let myself sink into the body memory of living inside of myself in other cities, other moments in time, but with the common feeling of not quite knowing how to BE in the world. How to translate the boundarylessness of being, or if not translate it, contain it and apply it in some useful way. In other words, how to feel at peace, inside and out.

Eventually, I got up to blow my nose. When I came back to bed, Mani asked what brought that on. Apparently, I wasn’t done crying yet, as her question triggered another round of heaving sobs. Flooded by how much I love my kids, more than perhaps they will ever know, and feeling in my bones that this is how much my mother loves me. The immensity of love felt almost like too much to bear. Because it is also pain, and it is also loss. There is no picking and choosing here.

And she told me then, about an image of Hanuman, a Hindu god in the form of a monkey. In the depiction she was recalling, he has ripped open his chest to expose his heart. Here’s one version of this moment, excerpted from a longer story:

Hanuman is given a string of pearls as a token of appreciation. He immediately breaks the necklace and begins cracking each pearl open with his teeth. When asked why he is doing this,  Hanuman replies that he wants to see if Rama’s name is present in the pearls. If it isn’t, then the necklace has no value to him. Sita then asks Hanuman if Rama is inside of him as well. At this point, the monkey god rips open his chest to reveal the name of Rama inscribed on every organ, muscle and bone, and the images of Sita and Rama are found on his heart.

Heart wide open hurts. Heart wide open means alive, human. Chest wide open means heart exposed, and heart exposed means not numb. Means withstanding intensity of aliveness. Means riding waves of all the ages, more moments than would ever be possible to contain or count. We are uncontainable, really much too big for that. And yet here we are, walking around thanks to gravity inside of these skin-shaped vessels called bodies.

Someone gave me a string of pearls and I broke it open to see if God’s name was written there. It was as if I swallowed the pearls whole and took them into my heart, or strew them about in a fit among falling leaves. And then, the chest, the heart, the dark, the music, the holding and the letting loose of all the ages and all the ache and all the love that is too much to carry sometimes.

This morning, I saw their faces, the children I bore who I can only pray know my love. It’s literally in the brownies I made last night, and the way I sat while they ate breakfast and we chatted about this and that dream one of us had last night. It’s in my touch when I squeeze a shoulder or a thigh, my gaze when I’m doing that embarrassing mama thing, and it’s even underlying my annoyance or frustration when they’re fussing at me or each other. I wish my love was the very air they breathed, and I suppose in a way it is. Bigger than me or any of us. And no guarantee of ease.

It hurts sometimes to feel this much. And yes, sometimes I feel like I’ve been lost my whole life and still am. Because what is its opposite — found? Like “Amazing Grace,” is there such a moment when one arrives at the other shore? I’m not convinced. It’s more like a tide that carries me out and back, sometimes violently, sometimes so calmly I don’t even see how far I’ve drifted. There is floating and there are bouts of panic: Where are my people? Where is the ground?

And then there is surrender. To the currency of salt water and tears and ocean and the big sky that might be spacious enough for all of this, and the tightest hold that weathers me through.

Nasty Women Unite

“Such a nasty woman,” Trump said, interrupting HRC AGAIN in the third and final debate. Blech.

I’d already posted at least a dozen times on Facebook Wednesday night, but this one took the cake. “Nasty Women Unite,” I wrote, prompting my nasty friend Meghan Leahy to leave a comment suggesting a hashtag. In a  late-night, hell-hath-no-fury rush of adrenaline, I announced to the world that I’d make a t-shirt in the morning. Proceeds will go to Planned Parenthood.

Then the next morning came after too-little sleep, and two cups of coffee and one learning curve later, a Zazzle store was born. Every possible “nasty woman” store name was already taken, so I called mine “Jenafication.”  There are a number of styles and colors available. Get yours today and wear it to the polls.

Why? Because we will not be silenced, bullied, intimidated, or degraded. Because you can call us names and it will only galvanize us further and unite us to win this thing. Because let’s channel our fear, our fury, our trauma, our passion, and our love into action.

Buy yours here! Wear it proudly. And be sure to snap a picture and share it on Instagram or Facebook with the #nastywomenunite hashtag.


Things We’ll Never Know

yellowSome things we’ll never know
about each other’s lives.
Most, in fact.
The agony and the ecstasy,
for example.

Also, the things you talked about

in the car by yourself.
And the way it felt alone
all those months you were sure
the world had forgotten your name.
Maybe it did and this was for the best.

Or the times you laid awake

watching the moon move
from east to west.

Flossing. Standing on a bridge

overlooking a dry river bed.
Boarding a plane alone
after changing your return date.

So many moments, most of them,

in fact, that went unnoted, unrecorded,
unwritten, and unobserved,
the unremarkable and pivotal alike,
like stones some unseen hand
has arranged into small towers
next to trails covered over
by last summer’s leaves.

If you can get away with living

this quietly, tell us the secret.
We promise to keep it
as invisible as we fear

All the World’s a Stage

stage-seats    All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts…

William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act II Scene VII

I just shared some of these words in my current 2-week freewriting group, and then I poured a second cup of coffee and kept going.
Remember: This is PRACTICE.
Low stakes. Go for it. Splatter the paint. I mean, the words. Let it be messy. Don’t bother cleaning up when you’re finished. Just walk away and get on with your day and look at that — life will go on, whether you stumbled onto something amazing or happened to be totally unremarkable.
Every day is something different.
Every day is a new chance to practice missing the mark and trying again.
Every day is a hello, a goodbye, a series of interrupted conversations, an unexpected moment of grace, a shit storm, a halo.
Every day is go easy. Every day is fight hard.
Every day is the sun also rises and the moon falls beneath the horizon and clouds move across sky and all the time zones coexist.
Every day is 24 hours. Every day is 1,440 minutes. Every day is a cliche. Every day is a take your time or get ‘er done.
I know they say life is not a dress rehearsal, but seriously — that is a LOT of pressure to give the performance of a lifetime. We all wear many costumes. Take some time to chill backstage with your troop. Break with the script, walk out into the audience, and introduce yourself to a stranger.
We aren’t here to perfect being human or to perform or to pretend everything’s ok when it’s not.
Pay attention to the things you tell yourself. Do you talk to yourself in a different way than you talk to your kid or your partner or your bird or cat or dog?
The world will not end if you do less.
There is no “back” button. Breathe.
Pick three words. Mine, lately, have been “safe, loved, belong.”
Whisper these to yourself when you’re driving or falling asleep (hopefully not at the same time).
No one else has answers or a better life than you. Watch for where your mind creates shiny stories about other people’s (work, money, relationships, creativity, family life, homes, health, etc.). Or on the flip side, demonizing ones. (This is particularly intense for me, given the election.)
Every day, every one of us wakes up in a body. We pee, shit, eat, drink, shuffle and sprint.
This is not a drill. And this is practice. How both can be true is not something I understand, but I don’t really have to understand it. I just have to show up. And if I don’t feel like showing up, let me not show up with gusto.
Bottom line — I could’ve just started here and left it at that: It’s a brand new day. Be good to yourself and the other beings you encounter. And be sure to tell us how it goes.

An Open Letter to Trump Supporters

mailboxes2Dear Trump Supporter I Don’t Know I Know:

Knock, knock.

No, this is not a joke.

Since I’m not able to go canvassing in neighboring New Hampshire, this is basically my virtual equivalent of going door to door. I am not writing this as an invitation to ANY political debate. What I am doing is writing this open letter to my Facebook friends and blog readers, in case there are some Trump voters among you.

Last night I dreamed that someone shit in my office. I mean, I walked into my office and was at first confused, and then upset and disgusted, to see shit, literally a pile of it on the floor, smears of it, bits of shit on my leather jacket. Even the furniture had been moved around. It wasn’t clear if this had been some kind of bizarre accident or a really nasty and twisted act of aggression, but either way I felt almost paralyzed, unable to figure out how to confront the situation, where to even begin the clean up. I could barely face it, and I couldn’t bear to face it alone. I called in a few colleagues and they were also shocked.

Lying in bed this morning, in that space between sleep and waking, I realized that this is what it feels like when I imagine that someone I know, someone I invite into my everyday life through social media, with a very open heart and mind by sharing photos and writing and snippets from my daily life and the work I care so much about, might be a Trump supporter.

Yes, I live in that big of a bubble that I don’t interact firsthand, knowingly, with anyone who’s planning to vote for Trump. But just as, on the flip side, many people may think they don’t know any gay or transgender people, it’s highly unlikely that that’s true — they just don’t know that they do.

I have 1,599 Facebook friends. I happen to remember that in 2010, I had 451 Facebook friends — I remember this because the number reminded me of the Ray Bradbury novel featuring that number, and also because I have a weird penchant for remembering numbers and associating them with different moments in my life. In other words, in the past six years, well over one thousand more people have become in some way, near and far, through work, writing, kids, and just random inexplicable internet connections, part of my world.

Now, it would seem that of this many people, there MUST be some Trump voters. What I wonder is: If you’re out there, do you just not actually read anything I post, or do our personal and political differences not bother you? Maybe you you keep quiet for other reasons?

If you frequently do read what I share here, or even more close to home, participate in my writing groups, your Trump vote feels not unlike you shitting in my house.

Stay with me here.

I know this is so awful and disgusting, but it IS awful and disgusting. I’m bothering to write and post this because I decided, at 4:30am, that if ONE PERSON decided to change their vote, even if you only do so in the privacy of that little voting both, it would be worth it to share my dream and to tell you how deeply personal this is. If you’re planning to vote for Trump, please reconsider.

Quoting my friend Wendy Wisner, a fellow Jewish mama with a German last name: “There are so many similarities between Hitler and Trump. It’s terrifying. And I will not stay silent about it anymore. I will not stay silent about hate, because I know in my bones how quickly hate can turn into so much more.”

Thank you for answering the door and not slamming it in my face. Thank you for taking the time to listen, to read this letter, and to really consider the power of your vote.