Allowing Myself

…to feel, to love, to be.

Tag: poem

The Day After

September 12th

I remember that day,
as we all do
And I remember the day after.

The sky a crystal clear blue
The air crisp but warm
the way it is with
summer in September.
The school field glistening with dew.

I’m sure I was wearing
some big knitted sweater,
the kind that you paired
with Birkenstocks
and twine bracelets
and smelled like wool.

Earthy + itchy + full of love.

I’m sure my parents went to
work that day,
though maybe my mom stayed home,
folding load after load
of laundry
in front of the endless news cycle
of a plan crashing into a
building
on a
loop.

Even though I grew up on Long Island
I didn’t understand
what or where the
“Twin Towers” were
But as we walked outside
with our science lab supplies,
off to collect samples of
dirt, or ants, or leaves
I remember smelling something else
on the wind
Like hot tar or burning rubber.

And my science teacher, in her bravery
to treat us like adults said,

“It’s the city burning.”

We were only 50 miles away
from it all.

And that is when it became real,
this weight that I carry
as a high school kid
from New York
the day after the towers fell.

Advertisements

On Being Married Two Years (a poem)

It’s probably still too early to tell,
but I think we’re jamming along just fine so far,
as husband and wife.

Our lives have picked up,
as they do around 30.
So many invites and obligations,
but we make the time to talk over really good coffee (because now we drink coffee, like adults)

(When did we become Adults
with bills and jobs and decisions like,
do you want to start a family?
And how much is too much money to spend on a gym membership?)

After two years, I know that your tone of voice is always caring,
your words truly never mean me harm.

After two years, I know that you think a lot more than you speak.
And I want to hear all of your thoughts.

After two years, I know you like my hands in your hair
and your back scratched
and when I hold your arm while we walk the dog.

They say it’s a marathon, not a sprint.
Commitment.
And I feel how this works now, though it’s only the start.

It’s not about any one moment, but the string of hours + days + months + years.
That this one pile of laundry actually doesn’t matter because we’ll do it
and there will be more.
Again and again.
Wearing our clothes. Piling them up. Sorting. Washing.
What does it matter if I do this load and you do the next?
So long as our clothes are still mixed up together.
So long as you still help me carry it down to the laundry room.
And help fold it all.
Or go pick up groceries while I am busy. Because we have to eat and if I add
One more thing to my to do list, I will cry.

You know this.
Like that time I was working late,
and you had bought food and made homemade guacamole.
So it was there, in a little glass bowl, under that yellow fridge light, for me, when I came home.

It really is the little things.

Like that time you told me not to worry about whatever anxiety was taking up space in my chest because it would all happen whether I planned or not.

After two years, I now know there’s no reason to pick a fight,
that I’m probably just tired.
And I need a nap.
And you will nap with me, and we will lay there, with the dog between us
And the floor fan humming,
and the curtains swaying,
and the swish of cars outside,
in the late afternoon light.
And my frustrations will ebb and my love for us will flow.

It’s probably still too early to tell,
but I think we’re jamming along just fine so far,
as husband and wife.

Jury Duty, Obstacles and Light

May wasn’t what I thought it would be and by that, I mean, completely steam-rolled by jury duty.

I’d just spent 6 weeks traveling for work and fun, having H’s family in town, and a major DIY of changing the floors in our apartment. I was looking forward to May being a full month at home where I could catch up on both work and personal things.

I knew I had jury duty scheduled the first full week of May, so I cleared my schedule prepared to be there all week.

First of all, listening to people say shit to get out of jury duty is its own kind of hell. They are difficult and say weird things, completely frustrated with each other and “the system”. Each time someone extra defensive was dismissed, I assured myself that at least I wouldn’t have to sit through deliberation with them.

My friend Steve texted me and said that this was an opportune chance to practice all of the self-care practices I’d developed in the past few years. He was right, of course, but that doesn’t mean I liked it. It took every self-care practice I could remember – making sure I got enough sleep, drinking enough water, taking every break the bailiff offered us, not putting sugar in my tea, not indulging in crappy food (like when the only woman preventing us from a unanimous decision brought in Randy’s Donuts. apsht.).

I even wore a temporary tattoo by Kal Barteski to have a constant reminder – this was temporary, we did not have to agree, it wasn’t my responsibility to make everyone get along, and I was OK. (Things I repeated to myself over and over again.)

The first few days of jury selection, I kept to myself, read a book during the breaks, and saw it as a socially acceptable excuse to skip out on real work. An excused absence. I would catch up on email when I returned. It was only a week.

By the third day of jury selection, I took to staring at the pattern of my dress and zoning out.

Then, out of nowhere it seemed, I was assigned to the jury panel, and sworn in so quickly I didn’t realize what had happened. That was it? I was done and now committed to the jury?? WTF.

The actual trial was interesting and boring. Yes, both. I resigned myself to the process – I had no idea how long anything would take or what the schedule was like – just that I had to show up at 11am each day and was allowed to leave at 4:30pm each afternoon. Again, an excellent break from work – I was trying to enjoy this weird doldrum development of my weeks, since I didn’t have a choice. Like Byron Katie says – if I was supposed to be somewhere else, I would’ve been somewhere else.

We were told it would be an 8-day trial but as time went on, different random things happened that pushed it later and later. We started late two different days b/c a juror had a doctor’s appt and then misunderstood what time we were called to show up. We ended slightly early a few days b/c of a lawyer wanting time to share whatever argument they planned.

On and on it went, for 8 days, and on the eighth day we just begun deliberation. My spirit was sinking.

Thankfully we had an amazing forewoman who was able to organize all the info, take charge calmly and quietly, and lead us as a group.

Unfortunately, we had one woman who would never budge on certain issues AND we needed a unanimous decision.

Turns out, I am not cut out for sitting in a room with 11 other people while they argue.

But that wasn’t the hardest part. It was the not knowing how long I would need to be in that room with those people that was the real struggle.

This was the first time I had to show up somewhere, on someone else’s schedule, and do things I didn’t want to do – in a very, very long time.

This was not a relaxing experience.

This was not a positive experience.

But it was an experience.

After the first full day of deliberation –  6+ hrs of sitting in a room and hearing people argue – I came home completely wiped out. Any HSP will tell you this is the sort of day that will break you. My adrenaline ran high, I felt so goddamn frustrated with people in general, and I couldn’t fathom having to do this for more days without an end in sight.

That night H made frozen pizza and we watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.  And I slept like a rock.

An LA heat wave struck that week – which made it difficult to be outside on our breaks and seemed to fry everyone’s nerves even more. Burnt. Frayed. Frazzled.

I started jury duty calmly accepting my sentence. I would suffer quietly and productively b/c this is a requirement of being a citizen and I had a duty to perform.

And then as it became more and more obvious this was not the place or the people for me, this was not what I would choose given the option, I started to panic…

I wish I’d found this poem during those two weeks b/c it would’ve helped so much. But instead, I found it the weekend after I was free from my civic duty, shared by Jill.

Because Even the Word Obstacle is an Obstacle
Try to love everything that gets in your way:
the Chinese women in flowered bathing caps
murmuring together in Mandarin, doing leg exercises in your lane
while you execute thirty-six furious laps,
one for every item on your to-do list.
The heavy-bellied man who goes thrashing through the water
like a horse with a harpoon stuck in its side,
whose breathless tsunamis rock you from your course.
Teachers all. Learn to be small
and swim through obstacles like a minnow
without grudges or memory. Dart 
toward your goal, sperm to egg. Thinking Obstacle
is another obstacle. Try to love the teenage girl
idly lounging against the ladder, showing off her new tattoo:
Cette vie est la mienne, This life is mine,
in thick blue-black letters on her ivory instep.
Be glad shell have that to look at all her life,
and keep going, keep going. Swim by an uncle
in the lane next to yours who is teaching his nephew
how to hold his breath underwater,
even though kids aren’t allowed at this hour. Someday,
years from now, this boy
who is kicking and flailing in the exact place
you want to touch and turn
will be a young man, at a wedding on a boat
raising his champagne glass in a toast
when a huge wave hits, washing everyone overboard.
He’ll come up coughing and spitting like he is now,
but he’ll come up like a cork,
alive. So your moment
of impatience must bow in service to a larger story,
because if something is in your way it is
going your way, the way
of all beings; towards darkness, towards light.
Alison Luterman

So, I hope that when the next thing blows me off course, I am able to adapt and understand and feel it and move through it anyways. That I am able to bow in service to the larger story, even if I don’t know what that is.

So many positive things came out of those two weeks:
– Absence from work, which gave me courage to revamp how I work
– Ideas about how to change my work
– Great conversation with another juror who told me to be a life coach (basically out of nowhere)
– Another juror who likes to hike and invites me to things now (tho I haven’t been able to attend)
– A good story to tell friends
– A nice little test of the work I’ve done for me the past few years
– Hearing some very cool family stories of another juror
– A drive to create more since I have such limited time
– A drive to create another stream of income b/c clearly I am not cut out for working on someone else’s schedule on projects I do not like.

Sometimes life is hard and sometimes it sucks and sometimes sitting in a jury box feels like the worse thing in the world. And sometimes the frustrations of not having things our way helps us reframe how we’d like things to be. Because if it’s in my way, if it’s in your way, it’s going our way… the way of all things… towards darkness, towards light.

xo

Returning Home From The Retreat

Your car, barreling down the 5 at 70mph. The last hour, torture.
The dog a whirling dervish of wiggles, following at your heels as you go back and forth
One, two, three times
to lug all of your shit in. Bags of clothes, food, camera and paintings.
Paintings.
Putting your hands in the wet acrylic pain. Was that just yesterday, a mere 36 hours ago?

It feels as if a lifetime happened at the retreat, and since.

Not a single thing is cleaned up or taken care of. Unscrewing the broken toilet paper holder from the wall, changing the garbage bag in the bathroom, stripping the bed and putting on a duvet cover – knowing that, even if the apartment is filthy, clean sheets will make you happy.

You already feel rusty.
Feeling the weight – the shoulds and responsibilities – come raging back. Not one load of laundry folded. Not one sink cleaned. Feeling like you have to do it all.

Then, you remember your practices, shooting photos on a walk with the dog – the golden hour, captured. Your heart beat calms.

Returning home from the retreat, you talk to Mom, eat leftover chili, watch football on in the background, text your sister, eat 5 Oreos, wait for a locksmith.
Get a new door knob.

Returning home from the retreat you see the sticky, dusty residue on the counter tops. Feel crap from the carpet stick to your toes. No one’s watered the plants so you pour water from the dog bowl over them.

Returning home from the retreat you can already feel the magic slipping away – bright and calm self squashed under the realities of “home”.

Is this how addicts feel – free from their programs, but not their minds? Is this when the “real work” starts? And what about soldiers? How do they leave the monotony, the camaraderie, the danger and go back to driving automatics and waking to an alarm?

All of us women scattered. The retreat a dream we once had – the magic and the calm dissipating – like ripples on a still pond.

Plop. One pebble after another.
A handful of rice tossed into the air on a wedding day.
A fist of balloons, released.
(It is everything and it is nothing an echo says)

Driving back into LA, you pine for the pines. The leaves falling. The sun at a different angle, less harsh. Cleans pants and a/c that works.

And you know you can build your own little world right (write) inside here. A nest or a hovel or a den. The way animals settle in and dream.

Returning home from the retreat.

day 5: close up

 

If you notice anything,
it leads you to notice
more
and more.

– mary oliver poem the moths

– – –

See all of my August Break 2013 posts here

Spatter-Painted Sky

The sky stretched out like a Jackson Pollack canvas
Spatter-painted with sparkling stars
Darkness came down to meet us
Dizzying space, so vast, so far

Pulsing with heat, we sunk our sheets in the river
Letting them swell out with the tide
We twisted our wrists to ring out the water
And balled them back up at our sides

We laid on our cots, wrapped in damp cotton
You reached your hand across to hold mine
The moon was a darkened figure
Satellites spiraling lines

And then, I was swept up by the sound of the river
Up into that diamond encrusted sky
My body weightlessly floating towards Heaven
As I contemplated my own death, the tiny Earth, our fragile lives

{This summer, I slept at the bottom of the Grand Canyon for an overnight river rafting trip. I’ve never seen so many stars in my life.}