The Proof And The Pudding

Photo May 03, 12 37 00 PM

I’m a believer. — It doesn’t take much.

There are days I’m a step up from gullible. But really, for the most part, it’s just that I have a enormous amount of faith. In people and in humanity. I live by my gut. And, some people will tell you this is my flaw — my hubris — but I believe that Belief is one of my greatest strengths.

So begins the second month in my Year of Happiness. And, you guessed it — our theme for the next four weeks is: Belief.

It may appear that I’ve taken things out of sequential order. Shouldn’t Belief come before Surrender, you ask? It’s a fair question. Believing in something before you Surrender yourself to it seems, well, logical. But, when it comes to Happiness, your logic is worthless. Your gut, however, — priceless.

You’ve heard it before: Seeing is Believing. It’s the hallmark slogan for the skeptical and faithless. For many, proof is required if they’re going to give an inch. People want to be sure when they invest their time, money, and yes, even their Happiness in something. They want a guarantee for the return on their investments. They want their dividends paid.

The thing is, when it comes to Happiness, there isn’t a formula. We can’t trade one stock for another and expect to finish out the day trading up twenty points. And, this is the reason we have to Surrender to Happiness before we believe in it. We have to turn ourselves over to Happiness long enough to buy into it. We take a risk. And, in doing so, we begin to see Happiness show up in our lives. We gain momentum. And, with that tiny bit of proof, we leverage enough confidence to believe in the possibility of our own Happiness.

Belief is more than knowing Happiness exists. Even if we are at the bottom of our barrel, we know that there is something more out there. We are designed to desire Happiness. It’s human nature. It’s achievement, I believe, is our purpose here on Earth. And Belief, when I talk about it in terms of Happiness, is intuiting and understanding that you are worthy of it.

In my career, I have played the part of the customer service guru. I know how to make you feel happy. I’ve worked with students, lawyers, chefs, corporate/celebrity clients, and upscale diners  — and it’s always been my job to identify what will make these people happy and get it to them quickly, and with a sparkling smile. Up until recent years, I believed that bringing other people joy was the thing that brought me the most joy. I was satisfied being a people-pleaser. — Or so I thought.

When I got sober, I realized that people-pleasing is its own drug. It gets you high, but, it’s euphoric buzz is short lived and it will bottom you out, fast. — Try falling helplessly in love with a heroin addict. You’ll learn very quickly, wanting to help and actually helping are two very different beasts.

After a long, hard fallout following my people-pleasing years, I discovered that if you don’t believe in yourself and you don’t make your own Happiness a priority, — you’ll never serve anyone else to the best of your ability.

Belief in your own Happiness, above all else, is essential. And, like Surrender, it’s a hard sell. We fight hard against the inclination to put ourselves before others, because we want to help. We want to make positive changes in the world. We want to create a place that others can believe in. And, that requires a lot of hard work. But, when you find the Belief within yourself to find your own joy and Happiness, you actually make it easier on yourself when it comes time to help others.

I’ve found, in just this short time living for my own Happiness, I have been able to connect and influence people around me in positive ways, effortlessly. When you are happy and connected to your own Belief in yourself, locked in to your unique way of being and seeing the world — people feel that energy, and they respond to it. It sounds woo-woo. And, maybe it is. I don’t have proof. There is no irrefutable data I can present to you — only my experience and observations.

This month, we’ll dive into our Beliefs around Happiness. Because, what we believe influences how we feel and act, exponentially. Happiness is a Belief. It’s a choice. A choice we make with little or no evidence to assure us. And, much like religion, Happiness requires us to trust something we will not always see standing in front of us.

Happiness asks that we be devoted. Reverent. And, the faith and Belief we have, in ourselves, our worth, and our right to Happiness — is the return on our investment. It pays our dividends. The proof isn’t in the pudding. — It is the pudding.

This week, I am starting small. I’m identifying the core Beliefs that have kept me removed from my own Happiness. And, I’ll have to take these results back to the drawing board. Because, if your Beliefs do not lead you to Happiness — you’re doing it wrong.

That’s my gut feeling. — And, it’s proof enough for me.

 

The Great, Woo-Woo Crusade

woowoo

“The Year of Happiness.”

I know. Just reading it makes me want to barf a little bit, too. But, this is how it starts? Right?

As someone who has been perpetually on the dark side of things, the mere mention of Happiness is like being dragged out from a dark cellar into the light of a blazing sun and being screamed at in Chinese. Which is to say — I have no idea what’s happening.

But, it’s happening.

I’ve mentioned that I’m a self-help junkie. Books. Movies. Workbooks. Day planners. Online lectures and seminars. You name it — I’m into it. I’m not ashamed. Not to toot my own horn here, but, seriously, I’m post-doctorate-level-well-read in this genre. From the critically acclaimed to the absolute-worst-ever dreck, my self-helping skill spans oceans and continents. And yes, sometimes, I watch Oprah.

I’ve had many people poo-poo my love of the woo-woo. I’ve been slighted, both on social media and by “real life” peeps. I don’t care. Honestly, I’ve learned heaps about myself, and others, by burying myself in this kind of material. I’ve implemented changes in my own life, and, I’ve seen results.

So, the idea to devote the year to  “Choosing Happiness” didn’t just appear out of the ether. I figured out, long ago, there’s got to be something to this deliberate Happiness thing. But, until now, I didn’t see any way to implement it. Pure, unadulterated Happiness never made it into my self-help arsenal.

If I were so motivated, I could sink my whole life into analyzing my clinical depression. I could unpack the roots and effects of my alcoholism. I could self-help my way through a few more decades with all the crap I’ve stowed on deck. But, there’s an inherent dishonesty in avoiding it. — Happiness. — I kinda know that’s where the answers I’ve been seeking live. Yet, I’ve never really committed myself to getting there. I haven’t really made an effort to sell myself on the concept. And, if Happiness really is the Holy Grail of all this self-help questing, then — I guess it’s time for a Crusade.

That’s right. When I say I’m committing to a Year Of Happiness, I fucking mean it you guys.

That said, I realize, especially for a person like me, this endeavor is going to take organization and planning. Strategery. That’s where this blog steps in. This is the place where I’m going to splay Happiness out in my very own, Dexter-style kill-room and take it apart piece by piece. I’m going to figure out how everything works, and then, by God — I’m going to make it work for me.

Each of the next 12 months will examine a theme — not unlike the 12 Steps. (Apropos, I know.) And, each week, I plan on unpacking said themes and examining how they play into the Happy Factor.

More than anything else, I plan on using this space to eradicate all my well-rehearsed excuses.

*               *               *

Before I sobered up, I was convinced Happiness and sobriety were synonymous. I figured if I could just stop using, I’d finally arrive at Happiness. But, with 3 1/2+ years of sobriety — I know that isn’t true. However, I am sure both require the same caliber of commitment.

In that vein, April’s theme is Surrender. Is it cheesy? Maybe. But, it’s one of the most difficult and complex things you can do in your life. We surrender to people, places, concepts, laws, governments, feelings, faith, and ourselves — every single day. But, surrendering with intention is extremely difficult.

Surrender means starting where you are — details be damned.

And, surrendering to Happiness? For many of us, that means forfeiting all the baggage we’ve been lugging around. That’s hard. Surrendering to sobriety meant giving up an addiction — a torrid love affair. So too is the trade off (up) for Happiness. We get the good door prizes for our sacrifice.

This week, surrender feels like a lot of effort. Quieting the gloomy voice that’s constantly speaking to me is difficult — and, at times, it’s impossible. But, that’s what The Year of Happiness is all about. Being willing. Surrendering old stories and giving voice to new ones.

It’s crusade time. You in?

 

Photo courtesy of Ebay: http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/GRAIL-CAT-spoof-funny-T-Shirt-Mens-6-sizes-8-colours-crusade-kitty-joke-/151276415654

 

 

Outline Outlaws

3630338227_004573113e

The only child of two juris doctors, some will say, I was born to be edited.

And, while my lineage might suggest otherwise — I, certainly, am no juris doctor.

I talk food over politics. In the course of our discourse, I am more likely to contribute a word of the four-letter variety than that of the SAT. I have more use for essential oils than I do for supreme court justices. And, I’ll take a trashy beach novel over legalese any day of the week.

For better or for worse — this is who I am.

But, how this came to be, I’ll never know. I remember spending long nights at my mother’s side, as she relentlessly scoured over my high school papers. Her red pen marked small notes in the margin. Misshapen circles ensconced periods at the ends of my sentences. She never provided answers — the circles were left there for me to ponder. And, it would eventually dawn on me, hours later, that semicolons were her preferred punctuation. I would return my pages to her bedside, having made the necessary changes, and a smile of approval would creep up the sides of her jaw.

My mother touted the merits of a well assembled outline. “If it’s any good, it’s harder to write than the actual paper,” she told me. “You have to decide what you want to say. Tell your reader, point by point, what you are going to do. And, then, you have to go about doing just that — with the proper citation!”

I sat at the dining room table, hovering over my stark canvas — an expository Alcatraz — a blank sheet of loose leaf paper. In those fruitless hours, I hated my mother for every moment that she had committed to my education.

An outline? What a fucking drag.

I was far too distracted for that kind of thing. I was meant to ramble. Free writing journals like W.B. Yeats and Maud Gonne. Run on sentences like Hubert Selby, Jr. Did J.D. Salinger make outlines? Kurt Vonnegut? John Updike? No. No, of course not. Writing was too much an act of the heart for such things.

Back then, I thought that being a good writer meant, without exception, you were an outline outlaw. — But, I wrote them anyway. For my mother. — And, as a result, every paper I turned in was a well comprised, point oriented, thoroughly convincing manifesto. To this day, I have never written for an editor that has surpassed her level of bad-assery.

While I set plans into motion, for whatever-the-hell-it-is I’m doing with my life, I keep returning to my mother’s advice. — Assemble a proper outline. — Even now, it seems a heartless chore. But, something urges me on. I still struggle to find some kind of framework.  The thing that tells me, point by point, what I am going to do. Placing me firmly in the reality I so often find myself skirting.

Back here, in this place I thought I’d left, I stand side by side with the thoughtful child I once was — outlaws seeking structure. Back in this writer’s house. My mother’s manila folders stacked on the dining room table, pregnant with white paper. My father’s den, a museum of dusty books stacked from the floor to the ceiling. If ever there were a place to make edits — to begin to write myself again — this is it.

With some effort, pieces slowly come together. Points and arguments. Opinions and footnotes. I learn how to write what’s coming next.

And, when I’m not sure how to punctuate my sentences, I just walk down the hall and run the pages by my live-in editor, clad in her full-length nightgown, red pen at-the-ready.

 

 

 

Drawing: Pete Scully; Materials: “Pens”; http://petescully.com/materials/

 

La Revolution

tumblr_lapm7drsiF1qa1ix6

Question: What is the difference between a teacher and a guru?

Answer: A teacher points the way. The guru is the Way. In the course of your awakening you will have thousands of teachers. Throughout all of this teaching, the guru waits, beckoning from beyond.

Be Here Now, Cook Book For A Sacred Life; Ram Dass, Pg. 6

I think we’re all waiting for the payoff.

The big reveal. — The moment of release. The summation of all this pain and toil. An unveiling of some blessed reason for the world’s continued suffering, and, what is certain to be, its ultimate demise.

We seek the guru because we tell ourselves it can’t be this. This place. This time. This cast of characters. This. It just can’t be. In our denial and disbelief, we gloss over the thing we know to be absolutely true. We beg answers of the teachers before us — but to truly know — we must go within. It’s clear to me now more than ever — relief is not around us. It is inside us. — Good lives within. — We must find it there and draw it out. A spiritual revolution.

I read the work of Baba Ram Dass daily. I love him. I’d love for him to be my guru. But the truth is, in my seeking him, I become more lost. What’s even more hilarious? — He taught me that lesson. Teachers are funny like that. They shine light where you’d rather not see, so, you go to another teacher, then another, then another. Soon you’ve seen too much, but really, you haven’t seen anything at all. I like to think you know what I mean, because I like to believe that we all are seekers.

I’m still in this funk, so, I’m stuck. I sit patiently and wait for instruction. From anyone, really. A customer. A coworker. A song. Sun glinting off the choppy waves of the water in the bay. — All messages from the Guru.

Recently, a few important people have drifted, unexpectedly, from my life. Teachers. — The best teachers. — And, watching them go has reminded me that there are new lessons I’m meant to learn. It’s not by my design. But, I must remind myself that if I allow myself to be stuck here, then I will continue to be just that. — Stuck here. Any design requires movement. Patience. Love. — Revolution.

Before my eyes, big cities have become incredibly small.

I turn off the television to avoid making myself sick. I embrace and abandon my own sense of place. I wait for healing. I look for apartments in Southern Vermont. I stare at a picture of a covered bridge surrounded by falling leaves, and, in another photo, the same bridge covered in snow. Different seasons. Each lonely and quiet. Isolated and still. It looks like a place my guru might wait for me. I feel myself moving closer to something. — We are all moving closer to something.

But life isn’t about moving. It’s about being. The most sacred lesson, more than any other lesson I’ve learned from my Baba, is the lesson of being. Not thinking, or seeking, or seeing, or knowing. It’s not a tangible trip. It’s not something you can destroy or embrace or free or trap. It’s not something you can kill. No amount of violence, inside or outside of us, can unsettle it.

It’s something we know because we are. All of us. Each one of us.

And, that’s the grist for the mill, Baba would say. — Becoming ourselves is the trip.

 

This moment, is a moment for the guru. — This moment, is the guru.

Vive La France. Vive La Revolution.

 

 

Jesus and Our Marbles

KOR_1297blog

Sunday. — I’m on my knees in a church pew, and — I’m waiting.

Sometimes church seems like the only appropriate place to go when my head feels like the inside of pinball machine. Voices are echoing and the organ is humming. And I’m not sure that anyone’s really listening, but, truth be told — I may not really be praying.

At St. Patrick’s, in Bay Ridge, the crucifix is painted on the wall. It’s a weird sorta mosaic. In most churches, it’s a statue or pillar — something three dimensional — just so you know that Christ is hanging right there in front of you. He’s solid. His limbs are smooth and round and the nails in his hands and feet are these tiny raised bumps that you can reach out and touch if you’re so inclined. But, not here. Not in this church.

I think about that — the dimensions of Christ — while I try to pray. I attempt to slow the thoughts that race around my brain. Today, there’s a lot going on. There are too many prayers. I can’t pick out just one. There isn’t enough time. I try to pray for everyone else and find some way to ignore all my crap. I mean, that’s what I should be doing. But then, where will I put it all? — All this stuff I brought here to iron out?

After the priest reads the gospel, our hearts spill all of their contents onto the floor like giant bags of marbles. Rolling wildly under the pews and across the aisle. No one else hears or sees them. — Well, maybe, mosaic Jesus does — but, if he does, he doesn’t move or change his expression. He’s still just casting his eyes down at Mary with that sad-face that all church Jesus’ have — I mean — he’s dying. And us, we’ve only lost our marbles.

At the end of the homily, my friend, who joined me for mass, grabs my knee. It was like everything that the priest said was tailored to us. With a sideways look, we silently acknowledge this. The strange thing is, we’d only walked down to St. Pat’s because Our Lady of Angels, twenty blocks away, had the wrong fucking mass times posted on the their website. So, when my buddy and I arrived at 11:30AM — missals blazing like spiritual gangsters — the priest was already sending parishioners off, in peace, to love and serve the Lord.

So, here we are, at St. Pat’s 12:30PM mass. Praying and not praying. Spilling our marbles. Waiting for JC to give us a sign that something good is headed our way. But, neither of us gets one. — JC is still motionless up there on the wall.

The mass ends, and after the priest and his posse file out, we follow suit. We leave our marbles scattered across the church floor. Because — it’s better that way. We know they’ll get sorted out here, even without us.

We walk down Third Avenue, where there’s a street fair in progress. There are bagpipers playing and little kids with painted faces and it smells like funnel cake and Italian sausages and my buddy keeps stopping in the middle of the street to adjust his shoe.

For some reason, around Eighty-Third Street, he and I both start to laugh. I’m not sure what came over us. I’m not sure what happened in that church. What we took. What we left behind. But, I will say this — even though I couldn’t say a prayer to save my life — I’m almost certain that one was answered.

 

 

Artwork Photo Credit: Jesus Christ, Painting in a Catholic Church in Maseok; http://d-roamingcat.blogspot.com/2013_02_01_archive.html?m=1

 

The Break-Up

letting-go

Breaking up is hard to do.

When I was a kid, I used to love it when the oldies station would play Neil Sedaka and it would spill out of the car-radio speakers. Back then, I had no idea what the lyrics meant, but, I gathered that holding onto love was important. And now, I know, much of our love is the kind that we hold on to, desperately. Not the adult kind where — you know — you let it go and it returns to you.

I’ve tried that tactic. Love seldom finds it’s way back to me. The letting go part is too hard.

I think that’s the beauty of getting older — beginning to see your own patterns. Internalizing them. Recognizing them as they’re happening. Developing a keen awareness of what our bodies and brains would have us do, even if we ourselves are totally checked out. It’s pretty amazing how we all have our own modus operandi. From folding laundry to getting our hearts broken, it’s a cycle — on repeat.

Now that I’m back in New York City, I’m starting to see them. — My old, Portland patterns beginning to emerge. Some good, and some that I was hoping to leave behind. I try not to overthink it. But, of course — I do.

New York. — It’s an old pattern, but, I have to see it in a new way. Because, it is new. I’m new.

I decide I have to break-up with myself. Because, my two selves — we’re in two different places. We’re at the pivotol moment when you realize that there’s this one thing — and it’s just not what you want. It’s a deal breaker. So, you have to let go. And, letting go is hard.

If it were the old me, the Portland-me, — I’d stay. I’d try to make it work. Tip-toe around it. Insert myself in little ways only to have my own current pull me back out to sea. I know the pattern.

I have to break-up with the girl who’s always just skirting the heart of the problem. I’ve decided to be straight forward with everyone now that I’m back home. — And, I’m realizing that I need to have that same candor with myself.

I’m breaking up with the girl who worries about what other people think of her. — Where she is in her life. — Her marital status, her veganism, her body, her life’s plan. I may be sleeping in the same room I was when I was 18, but, I am decidedly not that girl anymore. I’m a grown-ass woman. — I’m weathered and wise. Independent and inspired. I have my Portland-hippie roots grounding me, and, I’m not scared to set them down.

Breaking up with this part of myself is hard. But, it frees me up. It makes room for new love. — The adult kind. The kind that I was once so busy holding on to, I never had time to feel. — So, I say my goodbyes and I let her go…

And now, I stand here — ready to welcome whoever comes back for me.

 

Artwork: “Letting Go” By: Annalee Davis; http://www.annaleedavis.com/

 

Unedited Me

image

I keep asking myself — What am I really looking for in New York City?

I’ve never really sat down and thought about all the things I need in an analytical way. I usually just go with the flow, and, as things change — I make the necessary edits.

I was raised by two lawyers. So, I was editing myself before I even knew writing was a thing. And, when I did learn to write, because my folks had been coaching me, both consciously and unconsciously, to eliminate every unnecessary word, I never did beat around the bush. I always got right to the heart of the matter. Brevity. Was. King.

And, it’s true, frankness is all well and good — in expository writing. Brief writing. Law making. Compliance. Lawyer-y stuff. But, the trouble is — and always has been — I turned out to be more of a hippy-dippy spirit than my parents bargained for. I don’t mind if a sentence ends in a preposition. I won’t obsess about how my sentences begin — so long as I still have your attention when they end.

I see this pattern reflected everywhere. Especially in my sobriety. — I began the process of getting clean and sober, almost 3 years ago, in a completely analytical way. I made a checklist of all the things I could and could not do. I followed strict and specific rules. After all, brevity, I believed, would save me, so — I kept it short and sweet. And now, it’s all become second nature. As it happened, my own strict rules did not end up serving me in the way I had initially envisioned. So, I made edits. — My own, beautiful edits.

In the course of my life, I have edited everything. My love. My words. My body. My thoughts. I’ve tried so hard to squeeze all my things into a very precise framework. And, I truly believed, if I could just make everything fit, this plan of mine would produce some unblemished, polished, finished product. The perfect outcome.

On one of my epic walkabouts around Reed College campus, it hit me. — THE LESSON. — The thing that trumps all things I have learned here, and maybe, that I’ve learned in my entire life.

Scrap the edits.

It’s funny, because when I texted my father, the editor extraordinaire, in a panic about my big move, he texted me back with the great words of Julius Caesar before crossing the River Rubicon: Alea Iacta Est. — The Die Is Cast.

And, I see it now, when I look in the mirror. My face. My frame. My heart.

I see myself. Unedited. — And, my father was right. It is written. I am written.

I have put myself back together. All the things I have built — I have built from nothing. It took the better part of 6 years, but now, I am here. And, it’s too late for edits. — The trouble I could have saved myself. The heartache I could have been spared. The run-on sentences. The extra adverbs. The sentences that end in fucking prepositions. The EVERYTHING. — It’s all right here. She’s right herestaring back at me.

I tell my reflection: We won’t edit our love anymore. We get to own the heart we stitched back together. We won’t settle for less than we deserve. Our words, fair or foul — are ours. And, we speak for ourselves. We are our words — and sometimes — we’re dirty. Our body, it’s imperfect. We acknowledge our flaws. — Sometimes they’re all we have. We listen to our own quiet noise. You and I, we’re a team. The team.

*          *          *          *          *

Editing is for lawyers. And, I, I am a woo-woo-hippy-dippy-rule-breaker — with a semi-structured, somewhat-fool-proof plan. — An imperfect and beautiful representative of an unstable and curious humanity.

Alea Iacta Est. So, I scrap my practical edits and I ask myself again — What am I really looking for in New York City?

But, I think, the better question may be: What’s there, in New York City, looking for me? — The flawed, wounded, empowered and amazing — Unedited Me.

 

 

If I Could Talk Drunk To You

Photo Jul 14, 9 32 20 PM

Oregon, if I could talk drunk to you — I’d say too much.

But, in between botched and blurred sentences, I’d speak those gems. I’d say things that my heart kept pad-locked-up until we went ahead and blasted the doors off with a fifth of Jim Beam and a couple of cold, tall pints.

It’s been a long time since we’ve opened those doors. And it’s been even longer since my heart allowed me to hear the things you’ve been trying to say. But baby, if I could talk drunk to you, I’d ask you — Do you remember being young? Not that you’re some old man, but — we’re old enough now that when we’re asked if we remember being young — we know the answer.

Do you remember loving her? Some girl. Any girl. This girl. Maybe she was quiet and lost. Maybe she walked up and down your coast. Maybe she stood in the arch of The Vista House, her hair flying wildly over The Gorge as she screamed out your name across the Columbia River and cursed you. But, do you remember loving her? Do you remember how you’d give anything for her to just call, or show up at your door? She’d look at you in a way that made you feel. Like you were really there — like you existed. Not only existed, but, existed just for her. Do you remember — feeling that way?

Love made you feel. Can you remember when love was humbling? When you’d bow down before it, sovereign, wanting nothing more than for it to look upon you? Just. One. Brief. Moment. — To crown you? We all felt it when we were young. Sometimes, because we didn’t know any better. But, more often than not — we did. Know better.

It’s not something you can escape. It captures you. And baby, I may feel old, but when I love you — when I let you go — I’m young. And my heart was once your happy captive. Those ideals that you thought I’d soon abandon, well, — maybe I will someday — but not today. Not today. Today this love rules me. It runs laps around my heart. It crushes me with its casual distance. And maybe, after our most recent repairs — your heart looks pretty shabby too, baby.  But, if I could talk drunk to you, I’d tell you — It’s worth piecing together.

If I could talk drunk to you, I’d ask you to love me with that same, reckless abandon. I’d ask you to forget your old man heart and dive into mine, where things aren’t nearly as broken and battered as they were when I found you. I’d ask you why people give up on love when they’re finally old enough to feel it. I’d tell you, I may be young and stupid — but there are parts of me that are old — and I know more now than your green heart could handle. I’d tell you — I’m worth it. All of it. I’m that girl you couldn’t have back when you were seventeen. I’m the comfort that you never got from the women who held out their hands to light your cigarettes. I’m all that passion you beat down into your guts because you never thought you’d find someone who could match it.

Here I am.

If I could talk drunk to you, I’d tell you that — back then — before I met you, my love was like a paper cut. But now, your love fuels some massive inferno that turns my insides red-hot, and if it ever goes out, all that will remain is a burnt up cross where my heart used to be.

Oregon, you taught me to love. And, some days, I fear the love I have for you. You’ve broken me before. But, when you touch me, you spin that golden thread that pumps through my veins, straight to my heart. A drug that I’ll choose to give up, but, somewhere, I’ll always seek.

I should tell you — I’ve watched the sun rise over your head. And, that first time I told you I loved you, your sky said, “Oh baby, I love you too,” like I already knew, but, — I didn’t know. I never knew.

If I could talk drunk to you, I’d say that my love is crazy, and if you could see it, if it were an actual thing you could touch or hold — I know you’d want it. You’d want to keep it. You wouldn’t leave it on a shelf or stash it in some drawer. You’d wear it. You’d protect it. You’d carry it until whatever made you, made you no more.

If I could talk drunk to you, I’d tell you that — I know — I think too much. I wish it were that simple.

But, it’s not. Simple.

It’s time for me to go. But, you knew that already.

And, what good is talking drunk to you if I’m just telling you the things that you already know?

 

Photo: Allison Webber; http://www.allisonwebber.photography/

The Great Squirrel Chase

giphy

This weekend, I evicted a squirrel from my apartment.

I first saw his ratty, grey tail peeking out from under my enormous television set. First, I panicked. Next, I reached for my yoga mat. Which, obviously, I proceeded to wield as an unruly weapon.

Even in my hysteria, it seemed simple enough. — I just had to lock the cat in the back bedroom, open the front door, and then usher my squirrel guest out, with gusto, flopping my yoga mat this way and that.

As it turned out, we were both quite terrified. So, I called my friend Tony who lives across from me in our apartment complex. No answer. Then, I tried my landlord. No answer. Then, I called my father — in New York City. Though separated by five thousand miles, he was the one who did not fail me. And while he did laugh at me like a hyena for five minutes, he also remained on the line for my intense, steady, and, dare-I-say-it — hunter-like — progression of profanity. Which, progressed as follows:

“Holy shit! Oh my God he’s in the closet now! Fuck! He’s making noises! Holy fucking shit, I can’t see him! What if he fucking bites me, Dad? Dad — Stop laughing! That stupid fucker just ran into the kitchen. God, that asshole’s a stupid motherfucker. THE FRONT DOOR IS OPEN YOU ASSHOLE!!! Jesus fucking Christ, he just ran out the front door. He was, like, fuckin’ airborne Dad. He’s out. Holy shit. He’s out! Fuck.”

My heart was beating like rapid fire. — And, there I was, yoga mat in hand. — Alive.

In truth, I’m rarely present. I run over the past in my mind, I plan the future, I design escapes and intrigue. But, I’m not here. It’s tough to get me in the moment.

One evening, my ex, after hearing me spout off about this or that, asked me how it came to be that Ram Dass was my hero — my guru — if I was constantly struggling to “Be Here Now.” — “Why didn’t I try harder to live in the present?” He wondered. I didn’t have an answer. It’s hard to explain to someone else how you can love a person that has the one, intangible thing that you want most, but, can never seem to grasp. It’s not coveting. It’s reverence. And, it’s nearly impossible to describe to someone who cannot comprehend any spirit that’s bigger than their own.

It’s funny, because that very same ex got me a framed “Be Here Now” poster as a gift. — A reminder I guess. It’s purple with a white lotus flower in the center. And, even though my ex is gone, the poster remains, situated happily on my mantle. So, after I had called, texted, emailed, and tweeted to everyone I knew — I plopped down on my couch to draw in my breath and stare at my purple-poster. I smiled with my teeth for the first time in months.

Excitement. Joy. Suspense. Hilarity. A SQUIRREL. Here. Now. IN MY APARTMENT.

That squirrel was my gift. Maybe from Baba himself. The moment where I was reminded: I am a real, breathing creature, wielding a yoga mat and taming wild — albeit tiny — beasts. Even when the moment had passed — the tiny creature bounding out over my two-step stoop, the feeling he awakened in me remained. — A feeling that will not escape me so quickly.

Sometimes, we can only love those that are present — without us. We can bask in their light. Their awareness. Their true presence. We can read the words that they have spilled across thousands of pages in countless books, we can watch their YouTube channels, we can sing chants along with Krishna Das. We seek out the presence.

But, sometimes, it will come to you: A squirrel who shits all over your house —while you chase it wildly with a yoga mat — while your father laughs in your ear — while your heart pumps in your chest. At the end of it all, you watch something leap to freedom. — And, it’s you.

I thank the purple poster and, for old time’s sake, I text my ex.

Because, I need to tell someone — I’m here. Now.

“Now is now. Are you going to be here, or not?” — Baba Ram Das

A Mass In The Trees

Photo Jun 02, 9 31 35 PM

In bed, my eyes open and look upward. The world is white and dry like the paint that coats the ceiling. I turn my whole head to look at the bedside clock instead of moving each eyeball in its socket. 6:48AM. The world is still lighting up and the overcast hue of a Portland morning bleeds out from behind the red bed sheet that has served as my curtain for almost a year. I lay there, unmoving, until 7:02AM, when something shifts. My foot, or my thigh, I can’t remember. My own body, now separate from my head, pulled its legs from between the sheets. Stepped into dirty jeans, piled on the floor beside the bed. The pants rose up around my ankles without obvious help from my hands.

I stare into my mirrored face in the bathroom. Flecks of make-up and dust surround my reflected portrait. I look tired. Old. Worried. I think I need saving. I need a blessing. I need someone to hold their hand out over me and make me well. A brush to paint over the dark circles of my eyes and make me appear fresh and young. I need a priest.

As a child there was a magic in the church. The clergy. I still remember the robe, a long green smock with gold threads, that Father Kraus used to wear as he billowed back and forth across the altar of St. Charles Borromeo in Brooklyn Heights. My mother singing out in the folk choir as I sat in the front right pew, on my knees, waiting. Not for salvation or peace, but to be heard. The smell of something ancient and holy. The hollow cold of the marble and stone. Each face, frozen, in its station of the cross. Back then, I believed in something. I’m not sure it was Jesus, but that church, in it’s ethereal enormity, made me feel as if I were part of something larger than my body, two arms, two legs, and a head. I prayed. I knelt at the statue of Holy Mary, her eyes cast to the floor, just to the left of the lamb that bowed at her feet. Mother of God.

Father Kraus is dead and I am in Oregon. I walk out of my apartment and drive to morning mass at St. Ignatius on Powell Boulevard, which in stature, has only a fraction of St. Charles’ dignity. I haven’t been in a Catholic church in years. The light is yellow and everything is as gold as idols. Old biddies in beige shoes and nuns in habits chant the rosary and I don’t belong here. I could not belong here. I entered my pew and sat, eyes closed, and let the sound wash over me. A bell chimes. Enter the priest. His robes are purple and stiff, unlike Father Kraus’, who upon his entrances appeared a holy wizard. I allow the routine of the service return. The call and answers, the prayers, the kneeling, then standing, then kneeling, then standing, then kneeling, then standing again. I swallowed my communion, but, it didn’t taste the same. I genuflected leaving the pew and my knee hit the floor with force before reverence, there will be a bruise.

On the steps of St. Ignatius, I felt as empty upon my exit as I did when entering the heavy door into the stale, sour air. Outside again, new breath moved in my lungs and Oregon sky pulled me closer. There are mountains nearby.

At the trail head, leaves crunch under my feet. The trees arch around me like long arms, bending so slightly, to hold me to the path. A chilled gust of air moves their last leaves, ushering me forward. I walk in quiet, the sun burns off clouds and beams of light search for the ground through the canopy. Pine needles dance in circles as they fall to their soft beds, made of their fallen comrades. Fall color cascades. The earthen smell of damp moss reminds me of the wet cold smell of St. Charles. The landscape opens up as I near the clearing and the wind echos like my mother’s footsteps on the marble.

I walked for miles. And became a part of this church. Stopping at its stations to sit on stumps and draw air into nostrils, flaring and alive. At the top of Powell Butte, the sky is open. Mt. Hood is raised in the east like a statue. The sun cradles its peak like a halo, and a soft ring of clouds hangs at the crest, shrouding it in white and blue, like Holy Mary. A beam of sun cast to the Earth, just to the left of the lamb that bowed at her feet. Mother of God.

 

(A Mass In The Trees is an excerpt from my essay collection: The Ascent, And Other Essays.)