Ghosting

“I drove by your house,” Jeff said, “but the light wasn’t on, so I didn’t go in.”

After Jeff died, I left the light on for years. Nearly a decade.

Jeff had hazel green eyes, large and liquid, fringed with thick lashes like a deer. He had sensitive hands, calloused from his love of welding, work, painting, building, creating; but long-fingered and inclined to go in funny muppet-shapes when he was caught up in the description of something that ignited him; I loved him fiercely. I loved him in the blind, all-encompassing way that only young children or parents can love.

He struggled with depression, and I felt he needed me. I was running around the world raw, with no counseling under my belt to teach me where I ended and a person I loved began. So I broke off pieces of myself to try to heal him; I could see his magnificence, and didn’t understand why he couldn’t. To me, that was love- with no end to the love I could give another, not myself.

Jeff’s death was sudden, incomprehensible, unexplained, and cataclysmic to all who loved him. It changed us forever. I am not sure how I interacted with others for about 5-8 years; I hope I didn’t hurt anyone, because I wasn’t even there.

I finally encountered a rabbi in a way that felt like fate; he offered to counsel me, and it didn’t feel scary-he felt like a gentle father figure, so I gratefully opened the painful, acid-burned scar that was a decade of lost love, and asked him for guidance. I knew I needed to regrow my life.

After a year, he told me he was jealous of my ghost, of the unwavering love I had for him, and that he was in love with me. Well, not me – to be precise- he said he was in love with my “light” and my “heart.”

It felt authentic- because never before had I shown anyone my “true” self, the depth of this grief. At the time, I thought my grief was myself. I have compassion for this sweet girl running around the world in need of a counselor, but I wish I could tell her she chose the wrong counselor, and that predators will find people who are shattered, because broken winged birds are easy to catch and keep.

It was an affair; there is no way to gloss that over. Yes, I believed him when he painted a picture of entrapment and coldness, a story of terror and victimization straight out of Castle Otranto; I believed him because my protective instincts were stronger than my reasoning capacities, and I needed to feel like I was rescuing someone.

Not myself. Someone else.

It was a tormented, dramatic and toxic situation. It was harmful to two good-hearted, trusting women. It’s a novel in itself. (reader, I made amends with her as best I could. That awesome, ill-treated woman. I mourn her still.)

And then came the day when the man I had committed to in a (secret) engagement with betrothal ceremony (useful to be a rabbi, I guess?) with religious hoodoo-voodoo that had the added bonus of I’d already bought into the religious trappings with the naive and wholeheartedly I’m-drinking-this-punch commitment of a zealous brand-new believer,

the man I was going to go to nursing school in order to conduct my future life as a proper caretaker for,

swore to me on the Torah he wasn’t leaving me,

kissed me on the lips and said “I can’t wait to kiss these lips again,”

walked away,

cut off his phone line, his email, erased all tracks of himself,

and (I later found out), moved to Bali.

I waited for him, and finally a year later, I cleared myself of the vows I had made. Yes, I was that naive. I am inclined that way still, and have to work hard to break vows, words, ties.
So forgive me if I can no longer believe.

Forgive me if I can no longer leave the light on.

Forgive me if my loyalty now has a time limit.

This heart still runs deep and loyal. I protect it better now. I bestow it better now. I value it more now.

I have had years of counseling now, with two incredible, kick-ass women who have taught me that my life is valuable. That my life and energy and heart are more valuable than anything else, because my life and energy and heart are the only things that are mine. I get to nurture them and use them to create a story with my time here in this life. It’s the only thing of my choosing, the story I write while I’m here, the actions, words and choices I make.

I don’t get to choose for anyone else. That no one else’s life, story, heart or energy comes first, is very foreign to me and extremely difficult. I struggle with it daily.

But two good rabbi-teachers, (one male and one female,) a Maggid-teacher (female) and two life coaches (female) and the aforementioned counselors later,  I have learned how to release ghosts.

Do not carry the departed, no matter in what way they left. The dead would not want you to waste your life carrying them, and the living made their own choice. Let their absence teach you how to live more brightly. Let their absence turn your story into a wing, a torch, a promise.

We’re all going to have to leave, at some point – it’s the deal we make when we come in the door of this life. So don’t waste a moment carrying someone else’s life or leaving.

How magnificently the trees blaze as they let go; I wish to burn as brightly.

Expand into the unknown with fierce courage – it is all we have, and anything else is an illusion.

Ghosting is a choice that says nothing about you or your worth. As Brene Brown says, “We are not here to negotiate our worth with other people.”

For a still-living person to ghost another is a choice they make which expresses their own life story in this world. It has nothing to do with you.

IF they have told you why, learn what you can, know they’re taking care of their needs, and move on. If they haven’t, learn what you can, and move on.

I myself have cut off contact with three people in my life- and I gave them plenty of warning before I had to take that step. I asked for what I needed; I communicated clearly and respectfully. I told them what step I would need to take, and I took it. The behavior was severe and grievous that caused me to choose to leave no door open. There does come a time when we have to “bless and release,” even the Dalai Lama does that.

But people who abandon without the respect of communication? They have chosen to become ghosts, no longer a part of your story. I don’t really feel the need to make any judgment statements about it- just know they aren’t your people, and move on with your awesome life. Don’t leave the light on. Don’t waste a month, let alone a decade.

Mourn, excavate the story of what/who you believed they were, and release. If they have passed away, know that moving forward doesn’t equal forgetting. Grieving is a process of unraveling everything they were to you and knitting yourself back up together again. It takes a long time; it takes love and patience. But while you give yourself that grieving space and time, also release fast! Do the grieving for your own healing, and let them go. You can still love, and let go. Life is waiting for your heart and the light, undimmed, that you alone can give.

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Talisman

People don’t seem to be at all suspicious of bad fortune.

When something good happens, something we wanted and maybe worked for, we look for the loophole- all of a sudden, we’ve stumbled into the dangerous and unpredictable realm of the Goblins (or Fairies or Elves- all equally twisty for us human folk), and we are wary, tense, ready for the hidden dagger, the tragic trap in the Fairies’ Gold, the hidden twist in the Genie’s wish.

But when something bad happens, we aren’t hunting for the hidden promise, the gift. “Ah! Of course,” we say knowingly, feeling good in a strange, dark (and Goblin-like, if we could only see ourselves) way, that if we didn’t see it coming, we at least foresaw something bad- and even if we weren’t quite as prepared as we thought we would be, at least we knew. We watched the news, didn’t we, in order to know, to be informed, in readiness for just such a happening as this. Dark triumph.

And with the laws of finite probability, we can live years -decades, even- ready for “something bad”; prepping for it, experiencing it internally over and over, and it will come eventually! It is a relative certainty.
And maybe there’s something good – good possibility and promise sparkling around the edges of our life, so we might even get specific and define that something Bad as a threat to the something Good that’s nosing toward us, wagging its tail. “Look out behind you,” we call to Good Thing, even while we absolutely know with every power in our Goblin-made lenses, that the Bad Thing will gobble up the Good before it reaches us.

Until the moment something bad finally actually happens, and we’re almost relieved. “At last- it’s here- I can face it.”

This is how we call in “bad luck,” and make a home for it. This is, in fact, how we create it. Fairies and Goblins alike tremble at the power we humans have to create “bad fortune.”

This is how we fail to use the powerful magic lenses, the talisman we’ve been given. (It was originally supposed to protect us!) We can choose, really. We get to find our way into the Fairy halls, passing the throne and the ballroom, with hardly a wistful glance at the glittering gowns and impeccable tailoring, at the swirling, dancing, laughing party guests in their elaborate masks, with certainly not one single taste of the vast, gleaming array of steaming dishes, savory and sweet, ripe fruit bursting with promise, and every kind of drink or nectar we can imagine (and many we can’t)- we can be strong, ignore it all, and make our purposeful way to the Forge. We can set our lenses there in the crucible that’s been sitting unused, and we can take up the ladle of molten, liquid Dream and pour it gently on our lenses. We can coat them in any powerful transformative substance we wish.

Or, we can stalk through our lives in human instinct, as human beings created with a negative bias in our brains (so we could survive in the caves and dwellings that Bad Experiences taught us to seek, and gather around our campfires and tell stories that taught us all, deeply, how to Survive when the Night gathered outside the ring of our fires) We can magnify our talismanic lenses with Doom and Prediction of Failure and all the substances that fairies find so horribly unfashionable, so they mostly exist right here in our world, all ready to hand – it’s not even hard to gather them. It requires no quest. We can even do the re-coating of our lenses while sitting on the couch!

We can continue to seek and call Bad “fortune” to us, and look for it even when Good is determined to find us- we can continue to look for the Bad as avidly as any lover in the marketplace, sure his heart’s desire is around the next corner.

This is just to say: I am writing fairytales. In them are clues I’ve hidden; clues that will help any humans that should happen to stumble accidentally into the Other realm. The hidden things will help you survive, and they’ll even help you build a kingdom successfully, if that is what you desire.

I’ve been forbidden to simply tell these rules outright, because it is another truth of humans that we have to work for things, or we don’t see their sovereign nature, and run the risk of simply discarding that which is valuable beyond our ability to imagine.

Do you have what it takes to craft your talisman? You will need it – your very life depends on it.

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Choosing the Warrior’s Path…again

When times get a little rough, when we have chronic strife, we can choose to complain about another person and make them wrong, make them small in any way our brain chooses to present evidence for that – or we can choose to learn. We can choose curiosity.

I know which I choose.

I have to actively make the choice; as I sit with anger coiled like bitter fire in my belly, the anger resolves into words – it recites the wrongs to me. It recites the good things I’ve given and the wrongs I’ve perceived and received, in my imagination. As I breathe and listen, I start to hear a pattern. The self-righteous bluster is flat, like the old-time stage scenery that was painted skillfully on plywood, shaded to look like structures of depth and substance. The more I look at it, the more I see deep grief underneath. The grief of a dream tarnished, a dream I’ve rebuilt, a dream I’m afraid of losing- a dream that was created by a child, a very young me.

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The grief turns into questions. “Was it real? Am I a fool?” and flashes quickly into labels like “Betrayal.” Then it moves to list what I did wrong, where I messed up. It holds some truth, here – I could have done better. I can do better. But the self-hatred that shows up is a twisted form of the “bargaining” stage of grief. I breathe and observe.

Then anger begins again. The list starts repeating itself. I don’t do or say anything; I used to journal, but I found that writing gave the anger more substance. I am a storyteller; when I write things, I paint them in great detail in my mind, most of which are edited off the page. The world takes on life; the things I write breathe in me, and grow. I do not wish to feed and give life and substance to this bitter dragon, so I watch, and wait.

I consider compassion. Not empathy-that isn’t a road to take here – identifying and plunging in with a heart all to ready to imagine, feel, and perhaps project, is not wise in this instance. Compassion is bigger than that. Compassion breathes and says “Yes.” Yes, what you are experiencing is valid. Yes, you are held and supported. Support doesn’t mean I agree with the stories that create what I’m experiencing, or what you are experiencing – it means that beyond the stories and the pain, there is support that sees my, your, brightest light. Support can also mean taking no action at all. Compassion doesn’t seek to control. It simply IS, and I breathe it in.

I stop writing stories about what the other person is thinking, feeling, choosing. I stop trying to follow the labyrinth of “WHY” to find some way to comfort my rational mind, which seeks to understand and seeks to answer every criticism it can imagine is leveled in my direction. Trying to understand, or think I understand, is a form of control. I breathe again and feel the knot loosen.

I survey the future I had built for myself: the vision, the lovely castle in my mind and heart. I breathe in again when a knot of grief, followed by resentment, quickly followed by story (“can’t they see what I saw?”)  forms. It loosens quickly, almost sheepishly. Good.

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This is the warrior’s path. This takes patience, self-compassion, and commitment.

I have this commitment to myself, and to the life I have been given. I made this commitment years ago, when I put on boxing gloves for the first time in earnest, and chose healing instead of despair. When I chose to walk on coals far hotter than anything I’m experiencing now. When I chose every day to face violent storms again, and again, and again – choosing day after day, even though my legs would freeze up and refuse to carry me some days; even though my hands would shake and refuse to hold my pen; even though the symptoms of the war I fought sometimes showed up in humiliating ways, stripping me in public, rendering me unable to hide PTSD; even when the symptoms made each miniscule step forward an enormous effort- an effort that took everything I had. I have often made mistakes, been unskillful and emotionally irresponsible, but I showed up. I learned to deeply celebrate the smallest of victories. I fell into self-reproach when I stumbled, but I kept showing up. I got myself to the counselor. I got myself to the boxing bags. I made the healthy food. I walked away from abuse. I chose myself. I apologized and took responsibility. I suited up, wrapped my hands, allowed my tears to fall in prayer, and showed up with relentless determination.

From that time, I know a core of strength lives in me that nothing can destroy. I’ve obscured it lately with self-reproach and unkind words, self-blame. I have assaulted myself, as though if I could figure out what was wrong with me and uproot it at the source, I would finally be chosen. I would finally be seen.
I kept learning, kept taking responsibility, kept building more lesson plans for myself and seeking out what I had done wrong. thinking I was still on the warrior’s path, the path of wisdom.

Do you see the disconnect, here? I only saw it this morning. The ego got fairly tricky on me, and decided to disguise itself as betterment. As “healing.” As thinking I know what someone else is choosing, and what they’re experiencing. “This person is angry at you because you are flawed and you messed up.  You messed everything up. Again.” There are so many flaws in this belief. This is all a form of control. It’s ego, thinking I know what is going on in someone else. Seeking to control someone else’s choices and the perception *I invented*, by changing myself. It’s choosing an imaginary someone else before myself, my real self.

It’s Black Panther’s brother, choosing death “instead of slavery,” when really, he was choosing death instead of the firewalk that is swallowing pride, making peace, honoring himself, and choosing to live. Choosing to learn. Choosing the fight towards freedom that comes with walking the warrior’s path. pri_66417644

Other people’s choices HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. Others’ perceptions aren’t my business. And so I release it.
I return to my power by realizing my worth. By focusing on myself again, my own life, and what a deep gift it is, and has been. I return to my power by focusing on what I choose. By choosing my own life.

I ask a question: If what someone else chooses for their life has nothing to do with me, and “self-improvement” is not what I thought it was, how, then, can I transform this? I thought I had let go. Apparently, it’s a matter of letting go, then letting go again. Maybe we’re never really “done” with releasing. Maybe that’s one of the most important lessons to learn in this life.
Love and release. Love and release. Love doesn’t seek to bind. Love allows. Even when my mind doesn’t comprehend another’s choice, love says “Good. Choose. Choose for you. If you don’t choose me, it isn’t personal.” Release. Love myself.

This is what I can learn, here. Lessons and self improvement that come with a sense of self-compassion, love and curiosity, those are the lessons I will follow, now.
Because how can I be walking the warrior’s path of love, if I refuse compassion to myself? So I just gently bring myself back to the path. This time, I feel so much lighter. I feel joy – this will be a dance.

I breathe again. I hold the fluttering bird that is wounded me in this instance. Her eyes are dull with pain, and she’s thrashing around a bit, one broken wing trailing stiffly through my fingers. I can feel her heart stuttering wildly, panicked, in my palm. She’s nearly incoherent – “he was- I thought – we had- he said – he hasn’t – he chose – but I brought – I was- why can’t -” these are the words that she gasps. I just hold her, breathe, soothe her. I imagine her surrounded in warmth, safety, comfort, and also freedom- I don’t restrain her with my hand. She is free to fly at any time.

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I whisper to her, so gently, the way I’d talk softly to a child who had awakened from a nightmare – “it is all unfolding as it should. whatever you are trying to make happen, release your hold. come back, now. Come back to my heart, and when you are ready, open up again with me. believe again with me. trust again with me. love again with me. it is all unfolding as it should. You will see; the painting of this life will be a beautiful masterpiece, when we are done.”  I stroke her feathers, and feel her calm. “I know it hurts. It is okay. Let it hurt. Let go of blame. Let go of reasons. Let it hurt, accept the hurt, and let go of any thought of why or predictions of what. Just be.”

The choice I make again: what can I learn from this? What can I learn in curiosity and playfulness, without reproach to self or others; how can I expand from this, how can my life and my heart become a bigger place?

This is the warrior’s path. It is deceptively gentle at times. It seeks stillness in the midst of story, talk, jagged energies that blame and criticize, rumor, choices not made from the highest self – and, as I just learned, it also recognizes self-harm in the seductive form of self-reproach and self-blame; it walks back to center, takes responsibility, which doesn’t look like shame- it looks like a gift. The gift of learning and improving.
How wonderful, really – the opportunity to see where my aim was off, my arrow didn’t fly true, and improve my aim,

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The warrior’s path winds to the center of the labyrinth and tries again. Patiently, without pride, without carrying anything but determination and curiosity, slow step by slow step, firmly, never giving up.

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Mirror, mirror (On Frogs and Princes, Dragons and a random Mycroft Holmes)

I think it’s one of my big talents that I mess up, so you don’t have to.

Every dungeon-going team has to have a clown, don’t they, who stumbles forward and sets off all the traps, so the group can move forward into the dungeon safely (and somehow the clown avoids being incapacitated simply because they’re goofy and clueless?) well: that would be me.

This is a story about my real-life prince. He told me a thousand ways that he loved me: I didn’t see them. He told me in the most beautiful letter I have ever received, and in the most incredibly thoughtful, perfect gifts. Seriously the jewelry he chose for me is my favorite color, elegant, fun, with an element of playfulness to it- it could have all been tailor made just for me. A lot of thought and heart and a whole heck of a lot of generosity went into the choosing of these gifts. And I won’t even describe (because this is a memory for me alone to cherish) the tenderness in his eyes when he watched me open them and put them on.

I still saw lack. We don’t have this, we don’t have that. We aren’t engaged. We aren’t in Hawaii. (Seriously – I have been a cranky, awful, difficult little princess!)

He patiently addressed my upset. He didn’t tell me I was being an awful little princess.

Instead of being excited for what we have now, and loving the moment we are in and the loving way we are together,

I became the worst version of myself. The Wicked Queen may as well have had my heart stabbed and held hostage in a box; I was lost and deeply sad. He loved me anyway.SW_Heart_Box

Last night I felt a deep well of patience, tenderness, love and honor in him that I tremble in fear to think I could have lost.

Look; he’s not perfect- I’m not putting him on a pedestal. I already did that early on, and he toppled off pretty hard. But he’s still the absolute best man for me and the best example of a good man that I know.

And I nearly threw this away.

How? I’ll tell you, so you can avoid it.

Frog Farming.

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I have a prince. I was very busy trying to turn him back into a frog.

Why? Fear. Past lessons that need to be actively un-learned.

If I fall into lack of self-love, I can’t receive the love he gives – I can’t even see it. Deep down, I don’t feel I deserve it, so I can’t receive it. Self-esteem battered and low from previous relationships, having fallen into a vengeance-minded frog pond of my own, (“well, Fine! If this is what they think I’m worth, If this is how they think I deserve to be treated, then this is how it will be! I won’t eat, I won’t take care of myself, in fact, I won’t be good to myself at all!”) I threw my crown into the deepest, muddiest part of the pond, simply because the frogs I dated treated me, not like a princess, but like a frog. Do you see how this doesn’t work? *Don’t join them in their pond if you wish to marry a king, my dear. If you would marry a King, you must first be a Queen.*

Then when he gives, on some level I actually *fight* him, which manifests itself in the feeling that he’s not giving in exactly the right way or saying the magic exact words, so therefore it isn’t real! It’s somehow evidence that he doesn’t care, just like all the other frogs!

And asking for what I need? Forget it- that’s telling him what to do, and if he didn’t read my mind and think of it himself, it isn’t real. I’ve done that, the inner-wicked-Queen voice insists. I’ve done that! All those frogs I told over and over what I wished for and wanted and what would tell me I was truly loved, and they turned and used those things against me!

And – assuming that he really loves me? Knowing it and being secure in that? Forget it. I can’t assume it, because something in me whispers to me that if I DO, I’m deluding myself and falling in to making excuses, and doing it all for a man again.

A-ha. *There* it is. That’s the answer. Notice that “again.”

This is, I think, the key to frog farming.

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In the past, I dated frogs. Frogs that I pretended for a long time were princes. I’d make excuses for their behavior, and I’d stick with them. I’d give myself what I needed in order to “fix” that they didn’t.

(There are needs it is good to take care of for yourself, and needs that absolutely go along with relationship. But that’s a whole ‘nother blog post.)

I’d hang on even though they treated me very badly, because I was proud of my loyalty. I thought eventually they’d see my amazing, loyal heart, and they’d start being kind to me. I thought if I treated them well, they’d learn from my example. I didn’t just join them in the mud- as I’ve said, eventually I helped them, by taking off my own crown and throwing it into the deepest part of the pond.

So here’s the part where I hold up the magic mirror that shows things as they truly are, and I take a good, long, look.

I came into this relationship limping with so many wounds, my princess dress in tatters, it’s a miracle I still have a heart to give.

I saw him for the Honorable, incredible king-to-be that he is. I took a terrifying chance, and when he asked, I gave him all my heart. (With a moment of second-thought near running away, thinking for a second I was in a dragon cave after all. But that is a story for another time 😉 )

Yes, the wonderful man I am with says stupid things sometimes. Things that hurt my feelings. He also apologizes and makes amends. I took those human mistakes as signs he was a frog, and I refused to let him prove otherwise. He is NOT a frog like those others, but for a long time, I held on to the memory of the warning signs because I thought I was protecting myself.

“I won’t make excuses for him! See that thing he said, and that one, too!”

The problem is that over time, someone’s behavior and choices WILL show who they are. Consistently! Only I wasn’t seeing it. Not all the time. Yes, I appreciated him, but I still hung on to every single “proof” I could find that he was like the others. My crown was still in the mud, and I kept trying to kiss him back into being a frog.

Because somehow, that would make me safe?

No. Denying myself love, sabotaging it and making it into the hurtful dragon cave, frog-pond trap I had always experienced “love” to be, did *not* make me safe.

The human brain likes to predict… in fact it is important that it learns to do so, as it is a “supercomputer” that still can’t store enough, so it develops shortcuts and memorizes patterns.

Then it can see a pattern, label it, and utilize most of its resources for synthesizing new information it encounters that doesn’t fit patterns.

The problem is, sometimes it will get pretty shifty about trying to MAKE things fit patterns it recognizes, so it can move on. It’s like a lazy Mycroft Holmes, in love with its old filing system.

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So rather than allow me to have THE love I have been looking all my life for, this Holmes of mine that sits in his library in his old dressing gown and worn slippers would rather turn the new love into the old relationships that hurt and failed me.

To keep things just as they used to be.

So. This is all to say: I messed up, now you don’t have to.

Reclaim your crown. Clean the mud off, put it back on, straighten it, and know you deserve love- the love you have always given others.
See him for who he really is; see him without fear-lenses clouding your vision.

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It’s a fine line. Test your love, observe and see his choices, but once you’ve found out that he’s truly honorable, *don’t bloody turn him into a frog.*

Because eventually, even the most loyal and persistent of princes won’t want to live in a mud pond. Welcome him into the palace that is your heart, that you’ve been making ready just for him. If it took him a long, long time to find you, understand that it will be harder to open the doors. The hinges will be stiff – but he worked hard to be here, so you can work hard too.

Believe. Be brave. Re-knight your love. You truly do deserve it.
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magic earrings from my prince!

Leap

“What if I fall?
but oh, my darling…what if you fly?” – Erin Hanson

When did you stop dancing?

 I once asked Baryshnikov how he leaped, so high and so free. How he broke the chains of gravity.

He said (and it’s the only thing he’s ever said to me, so listen up:) “When I leap, I do not think about the ground.”

So today in crossfit I had a crazy experience.

This was coming on the heels of an emotional drive there, in which I gave myself a pep talk. “It’s time for you to stop hiding,” I decided. “You thought it served you. It doesn’t. You put on weight, you slouched, you did everything you could in order to hide. You thought it would make you safe; that people wouldn’t look at you, then.
But safety isn’t going to help you rise. You’ve got to leave it behind now. Time to hold your head up. Expand. You’re afraid the scary men will come for you if you shine too brightly, aren’t you. Let them- you are strong now. You can defend yourself.”

There’s this thing called box jump. It seems a bit silly and not very difficult – you just jump onto a box. that’s it. with both feet at the same time. I couldn’t do it – I could do one foot at a time. I’d go as fast as possible; I’d alternate legs – I made it challenging for myself to make up for the fact that I was too afraid to take both feet off the ground at once.

 Now – I can jump rope, and I can do it fast. Both feet at once. But I can’t go very high, or so I told myself, which kept me from progressing to more advanced moves…

 today, my trainer Aaron Anderson said : try with both feet.

I said no, Aaron, this is a mental thing. I truly can’t .

 He said, okay, so just stack two weights on the ground. Start low. do it with both feet.

 So I did …

and I encountered a young me who used to fly. She was a dancer. She broke the chains of gravity and she really flew. She was proud of her leaps… I had forgotten all about her, and how those moments off the ground felt like the reason I was living. How flying became an obsession. How, in my pre-Juilliard days, my joy, my reason for living, was dance. I felt my spirit unleashed when I danced – I felt set free.

 and then, I fell.

It’s not the falling that is the hard part. injuries heal, though my knee will never be the same …

it’s the fear that stays with you.

 I was in a show – I had to dance, something I had choreographed myself, on a little walkway that was built around a live orchestra. The audience and orchestra were below me – and they seemed so FAR below me… and I fell one night.

 It wasn’t a big deal. After that, I was more careful. But something happened …

 I apparently wrote stories in order to protect myself.

 “you are too heavy.”

“you are a more earthy dancer. Do modern, Stick to the ground.”
“you have big, strong legs. You weren’t made lightly – you weren’t made to fly.”

 Now I know what it was that came up and choked me, when I spoke to Baryshnikov.

 That longing came up again today. So silly – so small…. jumping on to a stack of weights, and jumping off again.

 Every single jump (there were about 150 total, then I added another weight and did more)

 I was terrified. Paralyzed. Legs shaking.

 I was sobbing in crossfit; I could hear myself over the music, my breathing fast, panting like a terrified little girl.

 I kept going.

 This is a small thing….but each jump, I was taking that little girl by the hand and asking her to choose.

 Leave the ground.

Leave the ground.

Don’t think about falling.

weightsleap

photo by Mark Edward Lewis

IT’s not the falling itself or the injuries – it’s the feeling of terror that shocks through your entire body when you feel the unknown, the loss of control. Unsure where you’ll land or what will happen next.

 That blind panic has kept me grounded for so many years. In trying to protect myself from ever feeling that fear again, I was actually living inside it. I was knee-locked, grounded, weighted down, my wings clipped, never to feel the joy of reaching as high as I could again…

 I had thrown stones at my own mockingbird, and I had killed her with the relentless weight of my fear.

 So, here’s the thing: a big step can look ridiculous to anyone on the outside. Those weights looked like nothing. People thought I was injured; they were kind –

They didn’t know I was forcing myself through the scariest thing I have experienced in years.

 But I did it.

 It doesn’t matter how low that leap was. I did it, over and over until the little girl inside me released her stranglehold on the ground.

 Leap. Leap. Do not think about the ground.

 We are not here in this life to be as safe and comfortable as possible until the day we die.

 Leap. For your dreams, for your crazy desire to feel free of this earth for one moment, for the thing your heart yearns for that comes up in your throat and chokes you with tears when you try to speak it aloud —

 Leap.

 And do not think about the ground.

Do Not Try This at Home

When are you going to listen to her,
put her first
before the din of voices
“I am doing this for you,” they say, reproachfully,
and you are grateful, so very grateful –
as you put her needs aside just one more time,
just one more time,
you smile and laugh and thank them for their generosity,
and give and give and give the listening, support, presence – you can’t figure out why they want it-
your presence you diminish in your mind,
your presence you apologize for,
and so you let them decide for you. What you need. What you like. What you are so grateful to receive.

She gets so frustrated your stomach pitches as the wind buffets your house;
she’s shrill and childlike so you feed her
sugary treats to keep her quiet,
chips and, well, whatever she wants… because food is easy.
You grow soft as she pads herself thick,
inside this house she cannot defend.

fire

What if you spoke her aloud?
What if you said “what I really want is time,”
what if you said “I want to do my work,”
what if you said “I am in pain, I want someone to rub my back, please, would you do that?”
What if you said “I would like to hear that you are proud of me,”
what if you said “I do not have the energy right now that you are asking for,”

Okay. So one day you do,

and they do not hear.
They continue as though lightning hasn’t struck the old house
as though it isn’t heating up the night as the flames consume its creaking, groaning beams

still, it’s burning.
Will you continue to live there, because to them, it still looks like the old house?

The point of this is simply:
one day, you’re going to have to let someone down. Maybe a lot.
Don’t let it be you. Not any more. Your very life depends on it.

Iliad

this was written for Rabbi David Zaslow on his request for poetry dealing with light and darkness. Thank you, Rabbi David – 

 

Iliad
By Rivkah Raven Wood

firedancerhawaii

fire dancer – photo by Rivkah Wood

today i hold the sun
on one shoulder,
my arm curled around it
painfully; it burns, but i blaze joyous – I can.
a woman walking to the river
with a bright jug- lush colors painted
to hide the cracks, the scars, sunlight gilding the mended places;
ancient traumas survived, traced and mapped in molten fire.
I breathe and lift my head to the light- this is the heaviest task.
Always the desire in art is that it seem easy,
effortless, simple.
I am Achilles of Troy
triumphant
defiant against that early darkness that comes with my choice.
Tomorrow, perhaps, I’ll lay down the sun;
its glory trumpeting scarlet, oranges, shading the mountains in luminous gold
may I shine my life so unabashed; may my releasing burn so brightly
as I sink beyond the horizon –
letting go never came quietly to me.

 

JeffreyS

Jeffrey Staver, New Year’s Eve 2000 by me (in the mirror behind him.) 

 

 

 

Power of a Word

(*note: if you use this facebook app thingy, after you’re done, go right away into settings – apps – and delete it, because apparently it accesses a ridiculous amount of information.)

I did that Facebook word collage thing. My most used word was “love.” It’s a pretty nifty way to check in with the “word of the year” one-word new year resolution.

image

Yes. 2015 has been about love. Finding out what love is. Learning what love feels like (dear wounded young-me: it doesn’t feel unsafe. It doesn’t feel like longing. It doesn’t feel like lack or pity or regret. It doesn’t feel like fear and danger, scrambling to prove your worth, make up for someone else’s accusations and blame. It doesn’t feel like lack or  inadequacy. You only thought it did, so you found, allowed, and created those things. Love feels like safety, peace and growing. Love feels rooted in honor. Love feels like questions and risking only in that it might be time to shift the status quo, It might be time to leap and listen to someone else’s perspective. Love feels like respect – for one’s self and one’s own needs and boundaries, and for the other and their needs and boundaries. Love feels like home. Love isn’t the games you thought you had to play in order to be interesting, or the manipulations and power plays that left you so confused, shaking and dizzy.  Love feels intrinsically interesting in simply being authentic with another, and learning their true self. Love feels like trust – and when the Demons of fear come up to tell you to distrust, love feels like completely knowing those are just fear and damage voices from your own past. Of your own creation. Love feels like being trusted, and holding your head up with shining heart, knowing your lover believes in you – love feels like choosing actions that show love and gratitude for his belief in you. love feels like abundance. Love feels like an energy flow of giving and receiving, not hanging on and holding back. Love feels like loving yourself, nurturing the relationship entity, and loving him are all in harmony and a constant flow.)

I’m so grateful to the counselors, healers, teachers, hard work, and examples in life who all helped me see completion of that particular broken place, that Groundhog Day lesson on endless repeat. Over. Finally.  2015, thank you for realizing my one-word intention in life. I taught myself how love feels through the long, slow and difficult process of becoming whole. Of loving this flawed being that I am – as I am.

look- I’m not perfect in this. I’m still struggling with the idea that I can be beautiful to him even though I’m not blonde and tall. I still struggle with perfectionism and fear. I always will, because I am human. The difference is, I am now safe to know I’ll be true to myself  I’ll walk away from anyone who tries to crumble my self-worth by telling me I’m not honorable and not trustworthy. I’ll walk away from anyone who tries to tell me I deserve unkindness and lack-mentality living. I love my life and myself enough to let go of anything that dims my light  and doesn’t appreciate my heart.

When the self-talk becomes kinder and more compassionate, what we accept and allow in our lives shifts, too.

This is how to make room for love. Teach ourselves how love feels by having the courage to practice love-in-action.

2016: I’d like to see love still infusing the collage, of course; it’s a garden that needs watering, and it’s a joy to nurture. I’d like the central word to be: writing. Completion. It’s time to see my novels, my babies finally born. I’ve worked on them so long. Time to laser focus. Love makes this possible – it’s a solid foundation from which to build. Success will be what form it needs to take. I don’t know what it looks like, but I know what it feels like: completion.

What will your collage look like in 2016? What is your central word intention?

Apparently, we don’t have to know how to do it, or what it will look like. We just have to set the intention and leap.
Loving and living into it : now. Today.

image

 

Making a Change for Good

I’m so grateful to be alive this day and about to begin work on my books.

We all have so much – it would be easy to focus on the things we lack, the little complaints- they can fill our consciousness.
I’ve grown so allergic to complaints, I will actually walk away if I hear them. Life force and time are far too precious to me to spend focusing on the things that come along with being alive.

I had an awesome boxing session last night. Instead of “it’s too hot,” we enjoyed a shorter warmup time and the benefits of bikram boxing. 😉

Seriously! I know it sounds “Pollyanna,” as our world is addicted to complaining, goissiping, criticizing and whining – behaviors that keep us stuck in a lack mentality- (focusing on what we lack, operating from what we perceive we lack)

I dare you- on this day I dare you to begin the mental shift. Let’s focus on what we have. Beginning with life.
It can be actually physically painful to carve new neural pathways – but with persistence and practice, life will shift in profound ways.

And if you’re talking and I walk away from you, gently reminding you first that I’ve taken all the victim-talk I can tolerate, the choice is yours…scoff, get offended, insist on your complaints, or step up with me.

image

Start Again, I Heard Them Say…

The birds, they sang at the break of day

‘start again,’ I heard them say – ‘don’t dwell on what has passed away

or what is yet to be.’

Ring the bells that still can ring

forget your perfect offering

there is a crack, a crack in everything – that’s how the light gets in

Anthem, Leonard Cohen

High Holy Days took me by surprise this year. I had gotten off the plane at 3am from visiting my new love, opening door after door into a new life that holds both promise and challenges; trembling with fear and a last-minute feeling of unreadiness,

my center hadn’t arrived home yet. My body had, but the rest hadn’t caught up yet.

“I’ll go to this service tonight just to catch up,” I thought, not really defining what “catch up” meant.

“To get centered again in my community and spiritual life.” and then, the famous last words I have said every year so far: “It’s just Slichot. That’s just the threshhold of High Holy Days – not one of the heavy services. I can handle it.”

It’s “just” Slichot.

Slichot – when we do the heavy work of forgiveness. I don’t know about you, but forgiving is sometimes far more difficult for me than owning my sh*t and apologizing. With apology, I can do my own work – I can use compassion, which is my strongest muscle. I can take accountability and it doesn’t matter whether someone accepts my true apology or chooses unkindness in response – I have done my work. I keep doing it. I take responsibility and work toward closure.

Forgiving others isn’t so hard, either…

except this year. This year, I have been thrown with jarring force against some boulders in the stream.
One who has taken his own life by his own choice,

and one who left me years ago without a single word of apology or explanation.

These both I am having trouble forgiving.

On a deeper level, I am having trouble forgiving myself.

What for? What did I do, that I cannot forgive myself for these losses?
It’s not always rational, the way the heart cries out.

So, I just listen. I listen and sit with the grief this year. The grief, the anger, the incomprehension.

The name that keeps repeating itself in my life – all three men bear the same name –

Friend who killed himself. Teacher who betrayed. Love who has become in many ways my guardian angel, for better and for worse – they all have brought me deep challenges.

As I grow older I am learning we aren’t always blessed with answers, with closure. Sometimes we just have to sit with what is, as wild, messy and incomprehensible as it may be.

So I find myself this year in a dark wood, the right road lost …

and yet, I know I’m exactly where I need to be.

Sitting with the anger, the mourning, I breathe in simple gratitude for my life as it unfolds around me. In the stillness, which is really the sounds of my neighbors coughing, shuffling, a whisper here, a sigh there – the usual sounds of stifled laughter markedly absent from this service, although there was laughter even this time –

I call in courage. Courage to grow larger than this grief, so I may contain it;
courage to expand and adventure bravely, and laugh again around the sharp edges of fear –

Courage to open my heart yet again to someone who, simply because he’s human, is given the power to cause hurt –

Courage to shift into a new rhythm that means traveling, being open to change, sitting with the fear every day and moment it arises, as it is hitting me hard and fast now in the shock of such deep changes –

“I work on forgiveness,”
not
“I forgive,”  as the rational mind can’t set a timeline for the heart.

I work on forgiveness.