Monday, June 22, 2015

Healing at the River

Last night to commemorate the summer solstice, I thought it would be nice to watch the sunset by the river. Normally when I go to the river (my favorite spot in the city), I feel pulled in an almost magnetic way to the walking bridge. I love that every time I go there, I see a mix of people unlike other places I go in the city.  Different races, different languages, different abilities, ages, and social class. And everyone seems to be enjoying their time on the bridge. Often there are vendors, buskers, bikers, runners, walkers, amblers, and sight-seers. Anyone who knows me knows I love the Big Four Bridge.

Last night I parked and, journal in hand, walked past the bridge without feeling the usual pull, instead moving towards what I thought might be a quiet place near the water to write. I passed the picnickers, the kids and grown-ups on the swings, and as I kept walking, I heard the familiar sound of salsa music.

There were a few years in my life (now long ago) when dancing to this music was part of my weekend routine - Friday nights at Utopia, Saturday nights at Cafe Kilimanjaro. Having learned to dance a little during my time in Central America, it was thanks to the patience of friends I made in Louisville from Ecuador, Cuba, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, and other places, that I really learned to move. How I loved it. Dancing liberated me from my serious nature, from any need for control as I followed the partners who knew how to lead. Dancing, I allowed myself to be fully in my body in a way that didn't otherwise often happen.

The music was my magnet last evening. My pace quickened with the anticipation of what I might find when I encountered its source. I was not disappointed.

This last week has been such a heavy one.  A Sudanese refugee killed by a police officer here in Louisville and an appalling response to his death by an FOP leader. The massacre of nine in Charleston. An arson attack on the Church of the Loaves and Fishes, a place I've visited numerous times, in the Galilee in Israel. And these were only the new devastations to top all of the ongoing ones. Over and over again my heart broke open.

And then I saw them - couples dancing a rueda de casino with utter abandon, living into - embodying - the deep knowledge of the goodness of the world. I include this video (not from yesterday), so that you might know a bit of this joy, too.

Because in the midst of hate and sorrow and anger and pain, there is reason to dance. We are alive. And while life doesn't always win, Life finds a way to triumph.

There is reason to laugh, because Joy and Delight can be found at every turn, if we seek it.

There is reason to hope, because in the midst of unimaginable horror, there are magnanimous offerings of Forgiveness that teach us how to live into our own divine nature. Looking into the eyes of the man who killed their loved ones, "I forgive you," said the relatives of the nine killed at Emmanuel AME.

There is reason to reach out, because Love is stronger than hate, even, or maybe especially, when it breaks us open. When we take the chance to extend ourselves beyond our hurt, or invite others into our new openness, Love weaves us back together, individually and collectively.

I found a place to sit and felt the spirit in my still body soar. I was entranced in hearing the rhythms and watching the bodies fluidly respond to it.

I chose not to dance last night. But I still felt Life, Joy, and Delight pulsing through my body. I felt the release that comes from letting go of what hurts as my heart swelled with Love for people I didn't even know.

I went to the river to renew my soul. I thought I'd find in a sunset (which I never saw). Instead I found it in a  group of strangers, dancing.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Asking for Help

I was having a rough time a few weeks ago. I had tried to make weekend plans with a few people and the people I asked were not available or didn't respond to my invitations. In general, I am content with my own company, but I was really craving the company of others. Really craving it.  But after a few no's or non-responses, I didn't want to risk any more. Another no seemed like more than I could bear. I wrote, "I find that, unlike alcohol, where greater consumption leads to greater tolerance, my ability to consume rejection, even when I know it's not personal and even when it is delivered kindly, goes down the more I taste it."

Thankfully, the wave of loneliness rolled out, but then it slammed back in again. At the time I described it as feeling like I was casually dating everyone I know, "even those who I know care deeply for me- we see each other at 'non-peak' hours, but we haven't made it to weekend plans or because other obligations have come, weekend are out." I felt raw, depleted. But by the time I wrote those words, I was ready to risk again; I couldn't stand feeling lonely any more. I wrote to a group of women - we describe ourselves as a "tribe" - who hadn't yet been around me when I was as low as I was that weekend. It felt scary to reach out, because though I knew they cared for me and supported me in theory, from afar, I wasn't sure how they'd be in the nitty-gritty, here-I-am-really-needing-some-support-RIGHT NOW. In writing to them, I made a general invitation (which felt to me like begging) to anyone who might have some time to go for a walk or grab some coffee. 

Almost immediately, one of the women responded, saying she was feeling restless and lonely, too, inviting me for a walk. We took a rainy walk and talked and talked. The rain, or actually the company, washed my soul clean, saturating it with the care it so needed.  Later in the day, I received messages from some of the others, letting me know that they were, in fact, there for me in my nitty-gritty neediness, my place of utter heart-baring vulnerability, and also assuring me that they'd been in the very same spot I'd been in at one time or another. My feelings were not unique; they were simply part of being human. The tribe came through.  

I am learning, particularly in the last few years, to ask for what I need - it's never been one of my great skills. I've had a crazy notion that people should know what I need without me telling them (a completely unreasonable expectation), or sometimes even denying I am struggling when they notice and ask (an even less helpful response). 

So I am trying to change my ways, learning  to walk a new walk, like a toddler stumbling and getting up again. Sometimes I reach out in the wrong places, where there's no hand to grasp, leaving me frustrated and judgmental of people who don't deserve my judgment. Sometimes I lean my full weight into people who aren't prepared to help me carry my burden, and I am again frustrated and hurt, even when it is because of their own burdens that they can't help support mine. 

Through these lessons, I am also learning who I can ask for help. I am learning that sometimes when I reach out in places where I feel more tentative, people who I wouldn't have expected offer a hand, or lift the yoke from my shoulders, or even carry me until I can walk again. I am learning to trust in a broader way. I am learning that admitting my vulnerability is better than faking independence - both for me and for my relationships. 

As I learn, I am also realizing that I am too often the one who can't be bothered to help, that I am the one who says, "I can't carry that," even when I can. I am trying to reconcile who I have been with who I'd like to be. In an effort to do this, I have been trying to say "yes" more often, trying (and I emphasize trying) to offer the same unconditional care that I have received time after time when I have asked for help. I've got a ways to go.

But I am learning: to ask for help and to offer it. Doing so leads me into deeper communion with others. I am so thankful for my helpers and for my teachers. 

Monday, June 8, 2015

My Heart A-Frayed

Look close -
you’ll see my heart a-frayed
(once woven together
so neatly, so tightly,
designs undamaged
innocence preserved)

strands ripped, cut,
used to exhaustion,
caught and snapped,
pulled and pulling
by chance and by choice
(not always mine)

the weave ever-changing
innocence gone

each loosening thread
leaves space

unknown and known
to twist in and through
add color, bring strength
nuance the weave

scared and excited,
calm and trusting,
some love tears out
more love winds
into the fabric


strong strands of wisdom

the heart shows herself
not so neat, not so tight
but open

intricacies reveal themselves
as this heart interweaves with the world.