Tell Me Something I can hold

When I married I became a more acceptable thing
in the eyes of the religion I ran from.
Having a good man take me as his wife was a hall pass in this constricting world,
a ticket upgrade that gave me access to better hiding places
from the shame I felt dogged by in my youth.
Too young we said our vows and bought a house
and began making a new story that I believed if I lived well enough
would be strong medicine to erase my old pain.
Just fix it all with fresh paint
and rows of pretty flowers.

Someone was willing to have me,
right in front of God,
and I hoped this proof enough that
I might be salvaged,
along with the bits of my heart that shattered years before
when I let go my baby girl
to release her to another mother
because I wasn’t nearly enough
to remain hers.

So when into our fledgling marriage came another baby girl beautiful,
I loved her with the fury of one who has already lost one child
to her own unworthiness.
I loved her wholehearted and also fearful,
dogged by gnawing hunger to do right
because my heart had heard them hard, words like wrong and unfit
and would my fitness pass muster now these seven years since?
Then along came a boy-gift,  beloved and bright,
and then another son of sweetness – all the apples of my eyes.
My young heart spilled wild love;  they were my world.
And like a sea turtle returning to the beach where she was birthed,
I scrambled to the knowing tree,
with these bright beings
in tow.
To keep them safe and shield them
because it was the only way I’d known.

(This is my why I offer compassion instead of distain
for those trapped by fundamentalist thinking;
I know what it is to be a mamabear with bloody paw
caught in the steel teeth of that fearful-rigid trap.)

I hear people say how they have no regrets,
how they’re glad for what happened because it made them the people they are now.
I have no grid for that.
If I could bargain for it now, I’d paint their childhoods all over again
in a wholly different tone.
From a fiercely nourishing tree.
And from that Living tree I’ve poured forgiveness
on all the people, and especially myself,
and released that mom-guilt to the wind,
to the sacred river-running-through who does the restoring
of what my own hands
can’t mend.

This whole messy business of being a mother,
and now of loving grown up someones more than actual air,
but not knowing exactly how or how much or
what-just-now to offer….when or if to say the things.
Much of what I make and share spills from this place.
To leave it here for them to someday find
with a hopeful trust that it will splash them good in the living
when they need,
if they need,
but not swamp their boats when they don’t.

It grows my love for all the someones,
for all the beings learning how to be,
and for the Tree who scoops us all into a taller and more tender grace
than a body can imagine.
I often think my kids taught me to love,
or at least showed me how deep love goes.
And this new book – I made it for them.
It’s a smattering of the fruits I would have plucked from living tree
and grinned as the juice dribbled sweet down their chins
those short golden hours.

My imaginary do-over:)
The things I would go back and say.
The fistfull of flowers I want to leave some days at their doors
with a written note “for you” that means “oh how I’m for you,”
“and God only for you,”
and “ever always for you.”
Along with the words I long to have lived with them
instead of the ones I sometimes settled for
in the foreboding thicket
of the wrong-ass
tree.

I know we don’t get do-overs,
but we sometimes get more time.
This is the book I made with mine.

It’s available for you and yours,  too.
With love.
Pre-orders open over at http://singingriverstudios.com

“I love
you.
Tell me the words
you need to hear.
And I
will say them.
Over and over and over
until the echo sings
like whispered hymns
in the broken rubble
where churches
once stood.”
– Tyler Knott Gregson

Giving away a pre-order to a copy of Volume 2
to be mailed out as soon as it’s fresh off the press.
Just leave a comment and you’re in the drawing.

And,  hey,  I realize navigating religious weirdness doesn’t resonate with many.
It’s a niche of a story,  mine,  but it’s the one I’ve got and so I share
with hope that bits and pieces may be life to another heart
in the throes of healing and change.
Thanks for hearing me.

 

 

Safeheld in the tree that knows me….

(continued from previous post….)

I grew up amongst the two trees,
feeling the stirrings of them both.
The living tree was where I knew joy,  and a peaceable rest that sprung up
from feeling safe in the
easy just being.
I took refuge in these branches most often alone,  when stress and clamor didn’t steal
away the childlike yes it took to dwell there.
But when hot fever of shame sent my ego into storm,
I’d retreat to the thick branches of the knowing tree
where I’d take comfort in my narrative carefully written:
Who to side with – who was good.
And who or what to blame when feeling less than.

To figure it out,
so that I could feel justified and so at least safe
from the fear of judgement that came creeping
like a shadow in the dark,
lurking always when I felt undeserving of love and care.
And here in any shamestorm,  if I could play the right part hard enough,
I could get high on feeling  like I’d scrambled to a tower, lofty above the fray.
There were perks to dwelling in the tree that seemed to know,
like camaraderie among the approved.
We could be good together,
or against together,
or at least safe together in the camp of the upper-hand.
And even though as a child I had a soft spot for mystery,
it grew harder with every need to prove my right-standing,
to self-protect,
to know and be right.

Yeah I spent years driving nails into coffins
where I buried my wonder alive.

I broke up with the knowing tree years ago,
but I can slip,  and I do,
slip fast like an addict with just one sip.
I can be self-righteous
and I don’t want to live there anymore.
Where some god is propped behind a smoking curtain
while little men demand my attention to their booming bluster.
Especially in this season where the wizard behind the curtain seems to be
whipped into a frenzy,
and we’re called out as stupid if we don’t buy.
How dare I approach the great and powerful?

Well  I have a thing for this tree.
The living one.
This is where I want to spend myself.
On a love so safe that it’s shelter,
a knowing so wide that it’s wonderment
and a belonging so secure that I’m always and anywhere
home
with One who welcomes and wants me as I am.

And when the mad in me goes bitter,
when fear sends me scrambling for what I worry must be scarce,
when I feel somehow superior
or ashamed,
I can trace it back
to the fruit
I’ve been
eating
again.
Stupid tree.

God,
help me settle like a child into the tree growing up
like a fountain from your heart.

And in places where I’ve drawn back like a stranger to love
because I’ve taken on some lies
and missed the affectionate twinkle
in the only eyes that get to tell me who I am,

may I remember it again
and again
and as many times as it takes:
don’t eat from the tree
made of eyes that can never see or know me.

Again choosing life in the living
while the wind rustles love songs from God.

“I have refused to live
locked in the orderly house
of reasons and proofs.
The world I live in and believe in
is wider than that.  And anyway,
what’s wrong with Maybe?

You wouldn’t believe what once or
twice I have seen.  I’ll just
tell you this:
only if there are angels in your head will you
ever,  possibly,  see one.”
– Mary Oliver

Congrats to Rebecca Lanning on the name-draw.
I’ll be sending out your bundle this week
with a whole lot of love!

Two trees growing up in the garden…..

I’ve heard it told of two trees growing up in a garden,
two filters,  two perspectives,  two ways;
one a driven religion to be right and know,
to category and label living things.
Superiority feels like shelter in this system
and it demands that those who eat it’s fruit conform.

The second tree is freedom from this judgement,
instead it holds both the dark night cold and the clear sky blue
without fearing the colors and range.
Doesn’t demonize or categorize but
a spacious system supple enough to let people be where they are
until they aren’t.
This living-tree pulses powerful with compassion and grief
while the knowing tree draws from roots of punishment and shame.

These trees can be felt everywhere
like a river running through.
You can feel the slap and shove of the knowing tree when you
question,  when you try to listen open,
when you draw back from the fast food it’s selling.
It has no patience for growing and preparing food for thought,
no tolerance for the slowness of God.
There is a quietude to the living tree
because it doesn’t bristle,
controlling and scared.
 The knowing tree rages at this living tree’s generous way
because it fears the living,
doesn’t do the messy,
of living things.

And humans are hard to get to know
without a lot of time and trust and conversation,
especially if your goal is to narrow down the wide
into piles of evil and good.

Perhaps the human heart was never meant for dissecting at all.
Knowing someone can take a lifetime
and the knowing tree has no patience for this mystery.
It wants cliff notes filed through fast
instead of a novel to discover and digest.

Humans are bewildering to the knowing tree,
often simply problems to be solved.
So the way people are wired is a conundrum for the knowing tree
which likes to keep a tidy god,  well-managed and contained.
Left brained or right,
liberal or conservative,
religious or secular,
engineer or artist
– an impossibly ridiculous (and unnecessary) range.
This unholy mosh must be cooked down into a self-same stew
because there is no rest for those in the stranglehold of this system
if it can’t get a vice grip handle
on evil and good.

It has to be one or the other,
which is likely why the fruit from this tree
has such a harsh and bitter bite.

It will say,  with authority,  what it “knows”
as if it’s perfectly and positively true.
It scrambles to this knowing without question
and ascertains the motives of a heart,
what’s gonna happen next,
what someone meant by what they said or did,
and,  especially,
what God thinks and feels about
pretty much everything.

And this tree thrives because we humans have a powerful low tolerance
for looking stupid
so if we’re gonna live from a freer place
we have to make peace
with looking a fool.

Yeah,  the knowing tree has mastered the art of mocking.
Of the side-eye,  the eye roll,  the mic drop and the sneer.
And it offers up what Anne Lamott calls “snappy explanations for suffering.”
The knowing tree has it all figured out.
Oversimplified.
You can check your gut at the door and simply pick up your pre-approved script.
(to be continued…)

“There is nothing you can’t prove if only your outlook
is sufficiently limited.”
– Dorothy Sayers

(this feels like storytime with Jenny and I’m loving the telling,
my heart especially needs it now to hear.
I aim to come back next week with another portion;
I need to write this,
especially as I fall deeper in love with the living tree
and also grieve it out, all the unholy knowing that I’ve done.
~ thanks for your always generous patience
in my working it out.)

To celebrate the living in the tangle of these times,
I want to give away a bundle.
A signed book,  some art,  and some handwritten love
from me to you.
Leave a comment and your name goes into the drawing:)

Thank you note to where I am now……

Dear where and how I am just exactly now,
(dear reality)

I want to welcome you.
And apologize for the cold shoulder I’ve turned
instead of the warm embrace
that I offer now.
Honestly I’ve been scared to accept you
because you’re a really uncomfortable place for me
and it’s habit to dodge and resist something
that feels as dangerous as you seem.
I want deadlines and answers and,
honestly, I feel pretty homesick for the whole idea of “safe.”
Even if it always was an illusion,
the concept felt comforting and,  well,
you don’t.

I wasn’t able to have this conversation with you earlier
because I sort of froze up,
hunkered down from the fears and flares that keep flushing up sudden
like pheasants exploding from a field.
You’ve rattled me,  and I thought if I waited you out a little longer
you’d go back to wherever you came from and
then I’d cozy my mind into taking a breather
from the hornet’s nest of dread
that feels sometimes suspended from the dark corner of my imagination.

But here we are instead and clearly you’re here
until you aren’t.
And I haven’t even thanked you for coming
because, honestly,  I’ve resented the intrusion.
But I’ve been watching and listening and have to admit
that there is something beautiful about what’s happening here.

Like an awkward yoga pose
that holds and holds until I’m shaking and tottering;
there’s just no way to be smooth about you.
The fact that I’m feeling even more uncool than ever,
more uncertain,  more vulnerable,
is something I accept.
But here you are still,  and there’s something that I love
about how you’re pressing on my entitlement issues
until I have to feel them angry rising.

I never wanted or asked for this,
never was cavalier about the virus,
yet here I am.
Why can this land for me as somehow not right?
Why do I feel that maybe I should get a different road?
One that lets me feel large and in charge,  or at least safe.
What if here and now,  exactly as it is,  is happening
for me.
( not that some puppet master is playing me to build character or teach a lesson
– I don’t believe that –  but this storm may be raising the water levels
in some rivers that my soul will thrill to see).

Maybe I can learn to un-freeze
even in this,
to find the beauty in the breaking.
To shake off the fear (as many times as it takes)
and live wholehearted whatever cards this deck serves up.
Death comes to us all,
but I don’t want to turn my life in
more than once.
So I’m thinkin’ maybe stop un-living some of these hours,
especially since the glass is getting heavier on the bottom
every single day.

I want to meet this moment fully.
“May I meet it as a friend.”

“The moment in which the mind acknowledges,
‘this isn’t what I wanted but it’s what I got,’
is the point at which suffering disappears.
Sadness might remain present but the mind is free
to console,  free to support the mind’s acceptance of the situation,
free to allow space for new possibilities to come into view.”

– Sylvia Boorstein

Thanks for having a listen;  I appreciate the gift of your witness.
Just to clarify (writing words down = always the risk of misunderstanding):
I’m navigating the challenge of living fully and unafraid in fearful situations and times.
Not suggesting anyone ignore risks.
(I’m masking.  And distancing.  That’s not even on the table.)

The sweet and the sour and fruit on the vine…..

A whole heap of time has swirled past
since I last met with you here and I can’t say for sure why
except that I’ve opened this laptop often,  just brimming with words,
that then bottleneck and quickly subside like a low tide falling.
I let my fingers stammer for a little while and then release them to go outside
with a basket on my hip to work in the garden instead.
I come ’round to read your blogs  and my muscles draw me first
into the art room where I pour easy streams of paint into a paper plate
and begin swiping on another layer to hold space for the words
so that when they finally do tumble onto paper somehow,  they’ll have somewhere interesting
to land and maybe artfully arrange themselves.

Who am I even in this new season?
It’s taken me a minute to give a long and loving listen
to learn what this woman needs from me.

Quick back story:  I was immunosuppressed before Covid hit;
for years I’ve been extremely allergic,  tagged “overly” sensitive,
and so was super mindful to take care because I knew that if I got the virus
it may likely pound on me pretty violent,  as most viruses seem to do.
A common stomach virus can drop me because it’s gonna take a while.
I can’t actually physically throw up (lovely, right?).
I had an experimental surgery in the early 2000s because of reflux so severe
that my doctors at UNC guessed I needed to have a go.
Of mistakes I’ve made,  this was a big one.
Had I waited a few years,  as my intuition suggested,
I would’ve discovered that reflux is just one of the many
auto-immune symptoms that I’d need to navigate
with a lot of creativity and patience in the decades to come.

So it wasn’t totally shocking that Covid would hamstring me for a while with long haul symptoms.
But my healthy husband?  That shook me.

When after a vigorous move and  months of navigating my own confounding symptoms
my husband went suddenly ill with acute kidney failure,  I felt raw with fear.
For a short while I thought he may die.
Instead came the challenges of his living a newer normal –  high doses of prednisone,
insulin shots,  and wobbly with weakness.  And all the new what-do-we-do-now’s.
I had been pivoting away from our family business, gentling down, and suddenly that move
became as hardly do-able as all the other new necessities to navigate.
But ride each wave we did
and when anxiety stormed down a torrent,
I went out and dug in the garden like it was my only thing.
I guess trauma requires new dances
and this became mine.
Life became new normals and dances and gardens and ways.  And all of it mattered.

I hold them as delicious gifts now, the days when my body and brain show up in ways that I understand.
I’m learning new work-arounds for times when they don’t,
like using food enzymes to support a bum pancreas,
and implementing more structure to help with the buggy brain that can fog my windshield with sudden haze,
and talking myself through the panic that can jump me like a prowler
with a random wave of nausea or sudden chill.

Honestly it’s an unfamiliar place,  this learning to give myself some tender loving time.

To have to bend low and be patient,  sometimes as if with a toddler,  has been a level of care
I’ve never offered to myself before.
And as I do,  tentative and awkward,  I’ve felt this compassion rise
because I feel it vivid the spaces where this woman
could have used this kind of support always from,  well,  me.
How did I leave her last in a line
that never reaches the end?

This challenging stretch of road has been a ruthless and beautiful teacher.
I’m glad for these fresh cracks
and the way they’re letting the light crawl in,
bringing me somehow closer home.

Sometimes my heart flutters shy in this newer,  more tender relationship with myself
and I’m having to sit with it for a minute
before I can say the things.
I mean it sincere each time I write that I’ll be back to you more regular soon.
But I’m holding no space for the hurry I’ve long inflicted on myself;
I’ll be back when the wind fills my sails;
for now it’s maybe enough that I’m keeping them set.
And watching my garden grow:)

Sending love to you and to your own friendship with yourself;
you deserve the very most beautiful and best
there in that sacred space.
I hope you make some reservations to invest
and go gently.

“Inside your chest
lives a little nightingale
who never sleeps.”
– Alexandra Vasiliu

Big joy in sending out a package this week to Renee Clark
who likely doesn’t even remember leaving a comment
it was so long ago that I posted.
Baby steps:)
I’ll wait until I come back more consistently before offering another giveaway.