I realize that the most fool moments of my life have been the richest ones. Had I not been a fool, I never would have let myself love M. Had I been able to buy a clue, I would have kicked my high school sweetheart to the curb when I was 20. Had I not had a soft spot for wounded pups, I would have dumped several other exes at the roadside long before I did. However, the fact of the matter is, my foolish heart took risks. It took me to Europe to meet Elton John (which I did), to New York to write songs, to LA to write stories, and to Phoenix to find my calling as a writer and teacher. My capacity to be a fool led to most of the important discoveries I made about myself and my inner life. Had I played it safe, languishing in my hometown in some dead end office job, most of the person I am would fall in the might have been column. And that would have been a shame.
Be a freak. Be a big weirdo.
Proudly wear your unique and unrepeatable and luminous light out into the world.
Don't let anyone tell you you cannot do what you've set out to do. Others are already doing 'it,' so why not you? ('It' might be writing a marvelous book, or starting a yoga studio, or studying ancient history, or hiking the Pacific trail.)
See, we can't outrun darkness; we can't hide our light. We're here: carbon, constellations, pools, caves. Trees, leaves, worms, grout. Rust, polish, stillness, waves. We're here for the whole ride. Not just the nice parts. So, I am strapping on my big girl boots and pulling up my big girl pants, and I am marching into the fray. I am walking the El Camino de Santiago this summer. I am heading to Kenya to meet the elephants, one way or another. I am drinking wine and watching the stars drop into the ocean. I am writing books and sending my words out into the world. It's not that I am not afraid. I am. It's just that I am unwilling to stay small in order to stay safe.
We're here to love each other. Soon everything will burn, even you. Even me. We're here to stand in the sunlight and the rain and learn how to love each other. We're here to marvel under the stars and love each other. That's it.
Now what? As this phase of my life draws to a close, snakes come to signal another round of total transformation. Like Eve with her apple, I sit and wonder what the next bite will taste like, what will fill my soul's plate. I have inklings -- wispy ideas of what might be on the way -- but as usual there's nothing solid. God damn, isn't that just like change?! Rolling through causing mayhem and upset, without a single answer to a single question. Everything's a riddle. There's no use in a magic eight ball or in throwing the I-Ching. The answer's always the same: in time, it will become clear.
Although all of these things might make us want to collapse in a heap on the floor and cry well into the foreseeable future, we must cut a door in that wall of darkness, and step out under the stars. We must ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength. Everyone needs help. We all need each other. Desperately.
Everything cycles through birth, aging, sickness and death. Everything. The child becomes a maiden. The maiden becomes a mother. The mother becomes a matriarch. The matriarch becomes a grandparent and the cycle repeats.
She's my co-pilot and my confidant. She's my side-kick and my trickster sister. She embodies unconditional love. Miss Belly teaches me every single day to embrace my incandescence; to show my light, rather than hide it. She's the ultimate guru of woof-woof wisdom.
I came to this world to live: loudly, flamboyantly, openly. I want a life that tastes of persimmons and pomegranates, lemons and rosemary. I don't want to skim the surface of decades of beige. I don't want to live in quiet desperation (like so many do) obliterating my unhappiness with alcohol or food or drugs. I am not a tract home in a row of little boxes on the hillside. I was born to stand out, to shout hosannas, and to live the life I promised to live before I was ever born.
I love being awake while others sleep. It is as though I am living in a world within a world -- one that most folks miss out on, too busy walking briskly within the designated lines and structures of modern society. I like being the first to open the page of a new day. I like staring into its crisp white blankness and wondering what will unfold.
When I heard about Robin Williams' suicide, a tidal wave of sadness hit. In tears, I searched for images of him to look at his eyes. It was difficult to find a single photo where he didn't look completely bereft. He'd made millions laugh, but he himself was clearly in agony and had been for quite some time. He masked it well with his antics and his mirth and his extraordinary talent. But as anyone who has walked the halls of hell knows, it's easy to recognize a kindred, troubled, fellow inmate.
Broken. Dishes break. You slice your finger while chopping vegetables. You give your heart to the wrong person. You slip and suddenly realize -- mid-fall -- that absolutely nothing makes sense or feels solid. Not even the ground under your feet. Swirls of clouds spin above you as you look up from where you find yourself, only to discover that everything's shattered. Everything you thought you could count on, is gone. What now?
If you are awake, you know we're riding the waves right now. We're floating in boats without oars, under a dome of blinking stars, surrounded by glowing sea life, and the occasional humpback whale.
We're on our way somewhere new, but we don't know where. Yet.
Oh, hell, yes. I want to look back and see a juicy, balls-to-the-wall, no-stone-unturned, bittersweet, handmade life. I want to say, "Yes," when I'm on my deathbed. I want to see that, "hell, yes" sketched onto my face as I shuttle through the coming years. I want to write that yes, nothing-but-yes, across an azure sky.
As someone who was thirsty for knowledge my whole life, I often wondered why we have to slut-shame our girl, Eve. After all, what did she do that was so bad? She just wanted to take a bite of that juicy red apple.
I didn't use to feel like such a fish out of water, wearing my glass heart on my sleeve. I didn't use to feel as though I couldn't relate to the people that filled every corner of the world. These days, I feel like a stranger in a strange land. Like the main character in the novel, The Island of the Blue Dolphins, I feel as though I am the last of my people, standing on a desolate shore, unable to communicate. No one else speaks my language, and my words scatter around my feet like heavy stones.
You will be okay. You will figure it out. You will love again. You will find your voice and forgive yourself for how long it took you. You will become brave. You will throw your hat in the ring. You will piece and stitch language in ways that only you can, eventually writing stories and essays and poems. You will bite your lip and muster your courage and let words fly out of your chest, like a flock of ravens taking wing.
Solitary, but not lonely. I need naps, and time to watch the sky change color. I need time to fall into a book and have adventures. I need time to think and write and drink coffee and schlep around the house in my pajamas. Other people are wonderful in small doses. But without downtime by myself, I grow depleted very quickly. Yes. I am an introvert. An INFJ, to be exact.
If we resist what is, if we hang on -- claws out, hair on end -- we are missing out on all that might fill that blank space if we readily allowed it to empty. As terrifying as it is to venture into the void, to let ourselves off the hook, to float alone in this oceanic world, there are times that we simply must let go of what is. Otherwise, as the Zen proverb in the title above stipulates, we can look forward to being dragged until we do finally let go of whatever it is that is not for us.
...His words stagger under the weight of their burdens
One after another, they rush out of his chest
A flurry of song sparrows and desert wrens—
They nest in my hair, light on my shoulders
Their mouths filled with twigs, red thread and seed beads
I began to imagine a different ending. I imagined plowing all that dirt onto my past and carefully arranging a riot of flowers on the mound left over. I imagined dancing around the grave, bare feet caked with mud, dancing and dancing until I dropped to the ground. It's OK to mourn the passing away of one part of our lives. It's OK to sit -- grief-stricken and alone -- wondering if we'll ever feel right again.
So, celebrate the fact that you woke up today. Celebrate a good cup of coffee. Celebrate the person -- the beautiful stranger -- you are growing curious about. Celebrate the food piled on your table. Celebrate having enough blankets for your bed.
We are in earth school from the day we arrive until the day we die. This world will be saved by not only the people on the fire lines digging trenches and carrying water, but also by the monstrous actions of those people whose disconnectedness from life finally woke the rest of us up.