Wonder

When I was struck speechless by beauty that spoke to my soul,

in words of line and color, patina and composition,

he grew impatient, angry, scornful.

“It is confronting to me,”

he said in the beginning, when he was still making an effort to be kind,

“when you delight in things.”

Never pledge your life to someone who seeks to shame you when your soul expands.

when something in this world calls to you and has your heart lift, gives you wings,

if the person whom you think you love, whom you think loves you,

shames you.

Leave.

If you are in such a relationship now,

Leave it.

Do whatever it takes.

The right person won’t tell you that you’re extra, too much, you’re too sensitive, you feel things too deeply.

The right person will not seek to smother the flame burning in you.

They’ll delight in your light and they’ll even add fuel.

“Wonder” was to be engraved in our wedding rings.

He called it his word, but no- it was mine.

It could have been ours- I was willing-

But he shamed the wonder in me.

Wonder was to be “our intention word,” but not really mine. My “wonder” that was allowed in his eyes was a highly controlled substance.

It would be doled out by him; only approved in small drips, in the way I echoed him, admired him, stood in his shadow as his acolyte.

My wildish, Celtic, dragon heart was to be dampened, shamed, caged, silenced.

Then after he broke up, he gave the word to a procession of blondes that followed. I’m sure it was his own version, though – hemmed in with a lot of rules, defining them as “summers” or “springs,” manipulating, “fixing,” and telling them who they are allowed to be, telling them how to be “Queens,” in a trite, dull, petty, utterly shallow way of controlling women, which any thinking person can see through rather quickly – and so it has nothing whatsoever to do with MY intention word, and the way I walk in this world.

Someone who has all the answers, and goes through life giving them, filling the silence with his determinations and taking up space, never leaving a pause for something else to come in, never giving air to something outside his echo-chamber, will never be able to live in the questions, which is wonder. Will never be able to truly discover, without his own pre-conceived definitions, another person. With curiosity, with openness, with … wonder.

I could have shown him that, but he wasn’t interested in learning anything. He was interested in controlling, while he supposedly yearned for wonder. I feel profound pity for him.


But did he ever once feel any remorse for the way he treated me- no.
I learned to accept the apology I was never given, so that I could forgive.

Wonder- in the rings that were to symbolize our union- was not for me in his world. Support his wonder, perhaps, but my own? Absolutely not. Too dangerous. Never too much wonder, don’t be too alive, don’t sink into Breathing in the line and color and examining the negative space, shadow shapes and patina like you did with your beloved grandma when you were a tiny girl-

Don’t speak the language you knew before words,

and above all, do not feel too much.

My heart is how I see. The questions are where I live.

I will never again be with someone who wishes to blindfold me in this world, to shrink and stifle my life force,
who sees my dragon wings unfurling and throws a net on them to shrink me, and attempts to dominate by silencing my power.

And oh – wonder! – a spirit-igniter that is available to all, and is only the more joyous when it is shared, was to be squashed and bullied, belittled and mocked out of me. And of course, we would both focus on his. Celebrate his, whatever wonder could twist itself into small enough, predictable enough shapes to make it past the security laser beams in his controlling, rule-bound brain.

There was one rule for him, and another rule for me. I could hold him while his emotions racked him; I could hold space without judgment for every one of his emotional and thought experiences, as is my gift, but I was not allowed to feel, (unless the feelings were shame, guilt, and brokenness, of course) or break out of the confines of the little, boxed, polite, beruffled yes-doll he wished me to be, so he could feel powerful.

The great knight, who convinced the dragon to shrink herself and bank the fire of her questioning, limitless, expanding heart, so he could conquer her, but oh, she had to be small, shrinking and beaten, before he could.

I tried to explain to him, over ice cream in Clarabelle’s, after he had told me that people were laughing and making fun of me when I was gazing so long at the marketplace, falling up into that jewel-bright creation, learning its lights and shadows, absorbing the rich colors and soaring, free-

I cried as I tried to tell him, to defend the exquisite joy that he had smashed with his mockery, joining with others to throw stones at the lovely, fragile bird that was my heart in the marketplace, “you don’t know what I’m doing when I do that,”

“No. I don’t.” He said. And, impatiently, “why are you crying?”

“It makes a jagged tear; it is painful, to hear you join the people making fun of me, rather than stand up for me, believe in me, be curious about what ignites my soul.”

but he never did hear what my grandmother had taught me to see. He never did hear how lovely it was to see, and see again, and see even more deeply, and to imprint things on the heart so I could paint them, later, capture the energy, not just the outward form. He didn’t hear, because he was NOT interested. Not interested in the magic and mystery and – wonder – that makes me, Me.

Never. Again.

My ring is engraved with wonder

Because I have a vow that I will honor my heart first. Anyone who shames the expansion of my spirit will be shut out of my inner sanctum.

They will not be allowed to know my heart. They will get only so far as the surface, and no further, for the rest of my life.

there are dragons guarding my gates, now.

If I am too big for someone, too much, “I’m so sorry, but it looks like you’re not on the guest list for this party,” the ever-so-polite guards at the door will say. “Do you have an invitation?”

That person will hold out the invitation they once had, and the guards will look it over.

“Oh dear me,” they’ll say, shaking their heads in sympathy (and warning),

“It appears this has expired. Kindly leave, we wouldn’t want to make a scene, now, would we.”

If something ignites your heart and spirit in this world, drink it in. If something lifts your heart, fly, unapologetically.

This is some of your gift. Take it. Be it. It is your ability to wonder, and your soul’s path to soar above this society where threatened ones would seek to keep us controlled, within their approval, homogenized, mediocre, non-questioning.

Exile anyone who seeks to silence, shame, dominate, own, or control your fire. Shed them ruthlessly. Fall into the limitless sky and soar, and never let anyone weigh you to the ground.

Do what you have to. Whatever it takes, to follow your own wonder.

Days 4-8: No Bat Belt

There’s a scene in Dark Knight Rises where Batman is trying to climb out of a prison. The climb could mean death if he falls- so he has a safety rope tied around his waist. He works out, gets stronger, makes the leap, and falls. The only person to make this leap and survive was a child, with nothing but desperation and fear to spur him.

Bat man’s prison mate says:

“make the climb as the child did. Without the rope.”

He doesn’t need more strength; he needs to let go of his last tether to safety. He needs to know that there is nothing to break his fall, and he’s truly risking everything when he leaps.

This weekend was a time of removing my bat belt, my safety, my rope. Strand by strand, I unraveled and dissolved it, thanking it deeply for all the times it had saved me, but also recognizing that I hadn’t yet been ready for it. I wasn’t yet worthy of a bat-belt, a lightsaber, or a spear; I needed to learn to be strong on my own, first. Leaning on the assistance had me not trust my own strength or worth, to the point where I felt helpless, scared, certain I couldn’t make it on my own.

Dark Knight Rises: Prison Escape Scene

And so, I took off the rope. It was a painful, days’-long process.

I’m preparing for the climb again now.

These days had some victories: I discovered again how good exercise has me feel. On days I couldn’t go to the gym, I went on hour-long walks, bringing my focus to breath, and the feel of my feet on the ground as they rolled from heel to toe. I canceled some friend dates (thank you for being so understanding, friends ❤️) and I also reached out and called people, and wrote to one friend, when the despair got too heavy to carry alone. (Thank you for lending your steady strength and compassion in my dark pit, friends ❤️)

I’ve leaned on trainers, a counselor, and friends – but I haven’t leaned too much. There’s a balance. There’s a time when no one can prep us for the climb but ourselves.

I realized I had been hanging onto someone as he made the climb for us both, and we both fell.

But accepting help from community with deep gratitude is an important step for me. Hitting rock bottom and not being able to show a “perfect” face to the world has had me discover that many people are understanding, kind, and empathetic. They didn’t judge me. They didn’t even seem to think twice, just held me or let me cancel…

yes, there were those who surprised me with a lack of empathy, but having no resources to deal with that also made turning away from those few, and dropping those communications very easy.

There’s nothing like having absolutely nothing left, to teach a person how to say no, and how to say thank you.

And so here we are at Day 8 of the training. I’ve bribed myself with inspiring shirts to get me in the mood to go work out 😉

Day 8: Padawan

I’ve stuck with the challenge of dietary change (I’ll put a sample day’s meals here, one of these blog posts…maybe tomorrow …), of drinking half my body weight in ounces of water daily, (not as hard as it sounds, especially if you get some exercise in,) and of exercise.

I have discovered that I am most unhappy when I don’t allow myself to be as expansive as my nature demands: so when I was living in the “shoulds” of: closed off, reproachful blame, and victimhood; when I wanted above all things to understand why, I felt sick. I don’t need to know someone’s reason – all I need to know is that they chose.

As soon as I allowed myself to do what people told me I “shouldn’t,” which is: love, forgive, understand, be okay about things, let go, be actually happy about things just as they are, AND continue to wear my rings because they mean that I belong to myself now, and are inscribed a with these words: Present and Wonder, that I must live in now,

I felt better. I feel – good.

Ready to make the climb and leap with no rope, no bat belt.

What if I fall? Oh,but my darling,what if you fly? -Erin Hanson

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.