Published Essay Links

Hi,

Many of you have asked me in person where you can find my published essay.  Well, here are 2 links of the 2 literary magazines that published it.  Enjoy and feel free to leave any comments if you would like.

Cheers!

Megan

The Raven’s Perch:

http://www.theravensperch.com/unto-death-do-i-part-by-megan-hoelscher/

 

Foliate Oak:

http://www.foliateoak.com/megan-hoelscher.html

Advertisements

The Menstruation Manifesto

It’s Personal.

The wait in the gynecologist’s office was longer than the process of having my IUD removed.  While I waited, however, I did get to examine my vagina and my internal reproductive organs quite thoroughly.  “What kind of mirror do they have in that exam room?!” you ask?  Well, I confess I carefully studied the poster version of what my vagina, uterus, and ovaries medically look like.  (By the way, did you know vaginas have ridges?  I feel more enlightened now that I know other things besides potato chips have ridges.)

img_3152As I stared at the poster on the back of the examining room door, I couldn’t help but wonder if all of that area inside me is truly the colors of Pepto Bismol and purple SweetTarts.  A concoction of pinks and purples and whites housed in a sterile environment where no mess of blood, hormones, mucus, fatty tissue, or water float around.  And, if the poster is accurate, then all women should have 10-15 wisps of pubic hairs around their genitalia; and that hair would be short, soft, and smooth and brownish-blonde, not a Brillo pad of “little, black. . .little, black. . .little, black, curly hairs.”

The female gynecologist and her nurse came in.  She asked me to lean back and put my feet in the stirrups as the pink paper cloth covered my nakedness from the waist down.  I felt the metal clamp open up my cervix and a slight cramp seize my lower abdomen.  The doctor looked up and threw the tiny “T” shaped piece of plastic and black thread into the trash.  “All done,” she said.  She peeled off her latex gloves, tossed them into the trash, and stood up.  I sat up and took a deep breath.  I felt slightly different, but not too much.  I got the entire lecture of using condoms and protecting myself from STDs.  She reminded me that I probably would start bleeding in a few days, so I should purchase some tampons and pads.  Right as I asked for a small “maxi pad” (an outdated term showing I haven’t had a period in years), the nurse opened the cabinet on cue and handed me the neatly packaged in pink period pad.  I thanked them both and dressed myself (noting that the blood was already trickling out of my poster-perfect pelvic region).

A few months prior to this visit, I had my annual gynecological exam at this office by the same doctor and nurse.  When I mentioned that I wanted to have my IUD, the doctor looked questioningly at me.  “Are you trying to get pregnant?” she asked after a short pause.

“No, I just want it removed,” I replied.

“Huh.  Why?” she asked as she reviewed her clipboard with my medical history attached to it.

“I just want to feel where I’m at in my body.  In my menstrual cycle,”  I explained.  “I want my period back.  It’s been gone for 3 years and I just am curious and want to see how I’m doing,” I rambled on and on like this while their silence filled the room.

“You want your period back!” she exclaimed.  “You’re crazy!  I never want to experience that again.”

I blushed, not out of embarrassment, but out of anger.  I didn’t want to explain or justify myself, but here I was doing just that.  I resorted to my defense mechanism of humor and laughed and said, “I just want to be able to use the 30 Rock Liz Lemon excuse ‘Oh, no, my period!’ whenever I am feeling emotional or stressed out.”  Chuckles filled the room and their attention was diverted.

imgres-1

I get their response, though.  The period is 100% an inconvenience most of the time.  It is bloody, messy, and painful when your cramps amp up and you have a headache.  When you have to go through two tampons in two hours or you use almost a whole roll of toilet paper just to feel “clean.” Or when you spend more time in the bathroom at a restaurant, you want to die a million deaths.  Achy breasts and emotional waves of sadness and anger can be painful both physically and psychologically.  And the cost of an environmentally friendly box of tampons or panty liners can put a dent in your pocketbook. (I guess environmentally friendly feminine products are the new trend along with gluten free and non GMOs in food.  Toxic shock syndrome aside,you want to make sure the sewer water isn’t polluted by your blood, right?)

After declining on my first visit to allow a male student resident to examine me (and feeling guilty while Doogie Howser bumbled through the preliminary exam questions), I began to realize that our healthcare system favors the rote questioning and sterile treatment of patients.  I noted some practitioners don’t listen to our basic needs or see us as individuals.  If I was indirectly being shamed for wanting to feel my body and its flow again, how must other women feel when they want to have their tubes tied, ask for contraception, learn they have an STD, or have a doctor jam his finger up her anus while he presses on her stomach to check for ovarian cysts all the while telling her to calm down and that it’s not as bad as a prostate exam? (True story.)

For me, my body is an amazing vessel and a wise teacher.  It teaches me about pain, about where my emotions are stuck, where I am holding my breath and why, and it allows me to feel pleasure and joy among many other things. (Oh yeah, and it allows me to justify to eat lots and lots of carbs and sweets whenever I feel ravenous and drained of energy.)  My menstrual cycle has always given me guidance and allowed me to tap into my intuition and sync my actions with the phases of this ancient cycle that has been in sync with the moon for most of my womanhood.  Why, then, must I try to justify what is a personal decision to listen to my body’s wisdom?

It’s Political.

The answer to the above question is that I have to fight to protect my body.  My body bleeds for me, literally.  It is my duty as a woman to take care of it and to protect its wisdom and its daily functions.  When I showed up for my annual gynecological exam a few months ago, I presented my insurance card.  Insurance that I am paying for through the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  I am not ashamed that I have chosen to use the ACA as a way to insure myself and be able to afford (and that’s the big word – afford) to be able to have my lady parts examined for optimal health.

But “The Man” is trying to keep me down.  (To keep us all down, honestly.)  Even before reproductive rights became a legal issue, with Roe v. Wade being at the forefront of that debate, women’s inner plumbing was a “hush hush” topic.  Deemed impolite and improper to talk about not only in mixed company but also between mothers and daughters and women and their friends.  Don’t believe me?  Ask your mother or her grandmother if they ever had  necessary, in-depth discussions about puberty, menstruation, hygiene, sexually transmitted diseases, sexuality, childbirth, abortion, or (God forbid) orgasms.

It’s 2017 and some of the taboos on those topics have been lifted.  Yet, we are a nation wrapped up in a patriarchal system who still clings to outdated Puritanical undertones of wanting to repress women (including transgendered men and women) and strip away rights to their own bodies.  Want affordable healthcare so you can get screened for breast cancer and ovarian cysts?  Sorry.  You’re a bottom-feeder who is trying to strip away taxpayer’s money.  Need to have a hysterectomy and go on hormone replacement therapy?  Well, it will cost you.  Lots. And we will judge you for being “less of a woman” too.  Want to go to Planned Parenthood for education on safe sex or affordable gynecological exams to ensure you are not living with the HPV virus?  Sorry.  You’re a baby-killer and you should go straight to Hell, and do NOT pass “Go” (because it would fall on the taxpayer to get your ass out of jail or keep you in there, anyway).

But:  want to keep your penis up and going all night long?  Sure.  Here are some pills and tons of commercials to make you purchase these magic beans.  And, your health insurance will cover that, so no worries.  Just check and make sure your heart is up for the ride.  (We have pills for that, too, by the way.  Just ask your doctor.)

The fact that we feed into this divide by supporting either “Republicans” or “Democrats” on issues of sexuality, reproductive health, and gender stereotypes (to name a few), shows how we are looking at the issues from a divided mind.  We cheer on our political “team” and boo “the opposition” and we demonize the acts and consequences of sex and pretend that the complications of being human and engaging our sexuality and using our bodies can be regulated only by state and federal law.

Rape, abuse, and abortion happen.  Frequently.  We cannot deny it and we should have open discussions about this, not just in Congress where one party is fighting the other party for political power and aligning themselves with either alt-right religious zealots or ultra-liberal elitists, or PACs and lobbyists, all who can be equally as intolerant and self-serving.  Instead we should have these conversations in our circle of friends and within our families and communities.  And although this blog is a digital medium I willfully use it the way I want to, online discussions and news clips on Facebook statuses only go so far as well.

img_3572To be a woman in this body which has the potential to hold life and invite in a man to her fullest depths is so hard and so scary and so intimidating at times.  I can’t think of a time when I haven’t felt vulnerable carrying around my sexuality or my sensuality.  I have stories, as I know most women in my circle do too, where I have been violated or humiliated.  Or made to feel somewhat criminal or unethical for supporting abortion (which I cannot stress enough is a personal and moral decision that can only  be made by the one whose body is experiencing her individual journey through this life).  I have guilt and shame wrapped around the idea that touching my body when I am alone in my own home is gross and ugly and debasing and somehow just wrong and proves that I am a lonely old spinster who can’t get a man to do it for her and make her feel complete.

I’ll be damned (and I’ll not pass “Go” and I’ll not collect $200) if I sit back these next four years (for the rest of my life, actually) and allow decisions to be made about the bodies of the other half of the human equation without my voice being heard.

And if we’re lucky, maybe Morgan Freeman, as the “voice of God,” will call from the heavens that Viagra and Cialis are no longer covered by insurance companies.

It’s Spiritual.

Long before my body was part of a political agenda, I inhabited it fully with the innocence and knowing of a child.   I swiveled my hips in the kitchen of my childhood home while I listened to Michael Jackson (and then later Janet Jackson and Madonna) and knew instinctively where the beat would drop at the same time one of my hips and shoulders dropped too.  The beat was inside of me – resonating all through my feet, hips, heart, hands, shoulders, and head.  When I danced, I felt connected to a greater realm that went beyond the four walls of my house.

Somewhere along the way, people (some family members, teachers, preachers, and creepy peepers in the form of neighbors) told me to stop shaking my hips and acting “sexy”.  I didn’t understand what that meant.  I was dancing out of a sense of joy and pleasure.  I felt so connected to my body.  And I felt powerful and strong and alive.  How was that bad?  But, over the years I hid that part of myself and it translated into hiding my beauty, my sensuality, and eventually  being afraid to fully express myself sexually.  Yoga returned some of that life back into me, as did therapy, burlesque and belly dance dance classes, along with sheer will and determination.  And all of that led me to this place in my life where I dropped the school marm act and stepped more deeply into my wildness.

In this day and age, we have become too domesticated.  We have put ourselves on mental and emotional leashes and tried to turn everything and everyone around us into a more docile or subservient form of the truth.  We walk around with jaws clenched and take shallow breaths.  Our shoulders and necks ache.  We turn to our phones and check to see if the latest statuses on our social media either correspond with our ways of thinking or evoke any forms of emotions in us so we can click “like” or “love” or “laugh” or occasionally “sad” or “angry”.

And we ignore and shun the seat of our creativity – our hips, pelvis, low back area – and we become achy, stiff, tight, and wobbly.  True, some of the physical pain is straight up gravity and DNA.  We also have to take into account our modern way of living.  But underneath all of that, our emotions are trapped and our joys are blocked.  We believe that sensual pleasure is a dirty term.  We equate sensuality with pornography and romance, when what it really means is engaging all of the senses to experience the world we live in.  Our senses and our emotions, just like our bodies, are our wisest and most ancient teachers.

However, in today’s world, these three entities (emotions, senses, and our bodies) are put into boxes, analyzed, examined, and ruled over.  The mind-body-spirit connection is “poo-pooed” in some circles of society as being “metaphysical mumbo-jumbo” or just for “weird hippies” and “alternative thinkers”.  So, we close up our bodies, our hearts, our minds and subject them to domesticity and a linear way of being.  Yet, our hips cry out to be expressive.  Our desires ask to be heard.  The drums of our inner selves beat incessantly and we turn up the chatter on the news to drown it all out or give into our fears that the risk to be joyful, wild, playful beings is not worth it.

This is why I returned my body to its most natural state to let it be fully heard.  If I’m lucky, I will have a choice to get contraceptives again if I so desire.  But right now, I desire more to tune into that part of me that knows the flow like that of the creeks and the ancient rivers.

My period is a monthly reminder that “This too shall pass.” That I have another cycle of emotions, regeneration, growth, and daily deaths to pass through where I wax and wane and move and flow through my life.

I once read a passage by the scholar and philosopher, John O’Donahue, where he writes “The body is in the soul.”  What a beautiful concept.  It resonates so deeply with me.  How can I be “unholy” when I physically live within my soul’s realm?  How can my emotions, my sensuality, my sexuality, my personal expression of my outer and inner worlds be regulated by unjust laws and regulations and cruel judgments placed on me by some extreme lawmakers and their constituents who use religion as a way to control the spirituality that I wake up into every day of my life?

We put way too much emphasis on the biological aspect of giving birth to a human, or what constitutes a human being and when, instead of making space for all of the women and men who can harness the powerful, nurturing Divine Feminine within themselves and give birth to their own creative, individual lives by following the innocence and knowing of their heart’s desires.  We travel through this life in our own physical vehicle that either has a penis or a vagina (or in the case of transgender people who have had the unique experience of traveling in both types of bodies).  The body is in our soul’s field of play and consciousness.

For me, my soul does not play and create  in the field of mythology where my body came from the rib of a man to give him comfort and pleasure.  Nor did it arise out of a temptation to convince him to sin and be expelled from a paradise or be shunned by an angry and vengeful god.  It did not arise from a woman who gave birth to two sons who were so divisive that one murdered the other out of blind rage and then started a race of exiled beings who had to spend the rest of their lives punishing themselves and each other; sacrificing their sons or their flocks or cutting flesh from their genitals to appease a god who demanded their repentance through constant sacrifices, war, and death and only spoke to chosen men through visions or burning bushes.

imagesInsteadimgres-2, my soul plays and creates in the realm of dreams and wilderness where creek beds turn into mountain streams; where soft, lush moss grows on ancient stones mixed with quartz, mica, hematite, and garnet.  Where ferns gather around the tall oaks, maples, and hickories and listen as the birds sing their unique and fleeting songs.  Where mushrooms grow from the decay of life that once was and their underworld of dark rich humus and beneficial bacteria help trees send messages to their sisters and brothers miles away.  Where visions of goddesses and stags, crones and ravens roam this wilderness and whisper their words of encouragement while lighting my path as I come out of the grogginess of a deep sleep.  Where I shed my fears and insecurities and step fully into not just my womanhood but my being with human skin.

In the Midst of Confusion

You should see the sunset behind the mountains here in Asheville, NC.  The mountain ridge’s silhouette is framed by a deep red and orange sinking sun and a deep purple burst of clouds fan out and stretch upward to touch a gray blue sky with even grayer clouds floating above.  It’s beauty is not lost on me this evening as we move into the winter solstice:  the darkest time of year.

I live on top of a small hill on the second floor of an apartment complex.  The tulip poplars’ limbs reach upward and I can see eye level with their small branches that have ridges and grooves where leaves will sprout out in the spring.  These trees act as a fence and along with the pine trees and mighty oaks and regal maples they keep the soil intact so we don’t slide down onto the busy street below.

Fifteen minutes have passed since writing the first words, and the sun has disappeared behind the mountains.  It is pitch black, save the streetlights in the parking lot below.  The solstice is upon us and like the black bears here in the area, it is time to go inside and hibernate.  Except, I am already indoors nursing a mild cold that creeped up on me yesterday evening.  Metaphor then calls for me to know the next step of going inside:  to drop into my heart center and seek the mystery that has been calling me for awhile now.

Truthfully, I never fully understood why I came out here this past summer.  I told my friends and family it was just a breakaway from my old life and a chance to explore and do something new and different before I got too stuck in my ways.  On the surface, it was really that.  So, I put all of my attention and energy there and explored the city and met interesting people.

I also had grandiose ideas of starting my freelance writing career and making money by writing copy and profiles for businesses and small organizations.  I did that for awhile and I put all of my attention and energy there.  It was exhausting and not as rewarding as I thought it would be.  And, I wasn’t making any money.  That was Ok if I could drum up the business, but I was in a new town, a new environment, and without a lot of chances to network nor had I enough experience yet to even charge for my services.  I also had to admit that I was putting on a good show for myself and my friends and family as a way to prove that I would drum up business and support myself financially and one day this would become my means of support.  I see now that I was trying to put on airs to make this move, this leap, not appear so scary to me or others.  A way to justify my need to be accepted as a mainstream, career writer with a solid vocation that fit into society.

Then, I heard a voice tell me that it is inevitable that I should become a published writer since I am a former English teacher.  So, I put all of my attention and energy there.  And, that felt better, yet it was still exhausting and I realized I was going on a path where my ego was getting the better of me and telling me I was worthless as a writer if I didn’t publish anything any time soon.  I went to writer’s workshops and writer’s circles, and even joined a critique group.  And, I failed and I fell.  Hard.  (See last blog post about a  piece of fiction I workshopped before it was worth showing to anyone.)  I was expecting my transformation as a writer to happen over night because it is what I want.  In September, I had written one of the most beautiful pieces of my life and now it sits in online queues at numerous literary journals.  There is one rejection letter already in my email folder.  I tell myself that it’s all Ok because it’s the name of the game.

img_3153After a little soul searching, and laying my persona of an English teacher and an academic to rest, I returned to my first love of drawing.  I started a doodle of a sugar maple leaf and it turned into something that lit me up inside.  Here, tucked inside the leaf, were images of butterfly wings, pine bark, rocks from a creek bed, elderberries, and mountain ash berries and so many more things from my daily nature walks.  “Maybe, just maybe, I can consider myself an artist?” I thought to myself.  In a classic self-loathing fashion, however, I berated myself and told myself that I was a fraud on all creative levels because I never went to school for art and I spent most of my writing time in a classroom reading teenager’s essays and re-reading and discussing pieces of literature and poetry from textbooks.

I didn’t give up on drawing, however, and saw it as a new form of meditation that could replace my daily journal writing, which was becoming cumbersome, melodramatic and morose.  And so I went about my days drawing, working at Trader Joe’s, teaching yoga, and going on nature walks when I had the time and energy.

All seemed well and good at this point.  My easy-going lifestyle was nice when I was in the flow and enjoying my creative pursuits simply for pleasure and a release of years of pent up creativity that had no time or outlet to come forth.  But, life happened to me.  I began to get scared about why I was here in Asheville.  I worried again about living on a mix of a low income from the grocery store and my stored up savings account.  I began brainstorming of ways to fast track my creative pursuits and think of how I could develop them quickly and prove to myself and others that I wasn’t wasting my time here.  And worse, I began thinking of how to make my creativity the center of a new vocation or career based on the shaky skills I had pulled out from years of hiding deep inside of my psyche.

The universe brought to me an opportunity to teach a yoga and journaling workshop on overcoming and transforming fear.  I was (and still am) excited about it.  I even met with a doctor who has been practicing yoga and meditation for 30 years.  He overheard me talking about my workshop to a couple I know at Trader Joe’s.  To make a long story short, we met and he wants me to teach at his practice and also wants to introduce me to some friends of his that run a retreat center in the area.  So I thought to myself, “Aha!  This is what I’m supposed to do!  I can combine my love of teaching and yoga with my skills on how to write and I can make a living from this down the line.”  I abandoned my drawing and poured myself into my research and practiced breathing techniques and wrote lesson plans like I used to do when I was an English teacher.

I started to become confused.  Which path of creativity should I take in order to make a new life for myself?  Is this what I’m supposed to be doing with my life while I’m here?  How long am I going to be here in Asheville?  Will I stay forever or will I return to the Midwest or will I move somewhere else and do something else?  Will I run out of money before I accomplish anything in this world worth doing?  Am I on the right track?  Am I happy?  Where has my passion and my spirituality and deep connection to my heart and to the earth gone?  Why am I not feeling anything?  Why do I feel like I am off course?  What the hell am I doing here?  What the hell are we all doing here?  And down and down and down the rabbit hole I went.

I slipped into a mild depression without realizing it.   It didn’t help anything that I had suffered a very bad haircut.  A mop of hair with two different dye-jobs and  silver-white chunks sitting precariously on top of my head.  Zits popped up and a few pounds stuck to my cheeks (on both ends) from the treats at work.  Even my apartment appeared cluttered and small.  I piled up dishes in the sink and pulled out clean ones from the dishwasher. A tumbleweed of loose hair (mine and my pets’) drifted across the bathroom floor as I walked in and brushed my teeth the other day.  I shut off the sink and the lights when I finished and simply walked away.  Too tired to pick up a tiny mess.

A few days ago, I experienced the throws of angst in my body 2 hours before I went to work.  I was sweating.  My breathing was shallow.  I was jittery and couldn’t sit still.  My mind jumped around to all the “what ifs” and projected worries and difficulties that could and would happen.  I had the same exact feelings and thoughts I used to have before I walked into the hallways of Belleville West high school where I used to teach.  Trader Joe’s is a simple, albeit very physical, job.  There is no stress or pressure to it (although, there is some drama and some very real frustrations of dealing with a few of the arrogant young men that work there…I’ll save all of that for a later post).  Fortunately, I have an arsenal of resources and techniques I’ve cultivated over the years (ones that I will share at my workshop), and I tamed and curbed my anxiety and understood it for what it was:  an old biological and psychological pattern that is from my past and is revealing itself in my present.  The only control I have over it is to not let it be a part of my future.

My body wasn’t done with me just yet, however.  Yesterday was a full day of practicing and teaching yoga, meeting with a spiritual teacher for personal and workshop reasons, working on a writing project for him, all the while neglecting housework and life’s necessary drudgeries.  I sat down on my couch for a few minutes before getting ready to meet with a friend for a bluegrass concert, and my body took over.  I felt heavy and achy.  My eyes watered and a dry cough started in my throat.  I tried to fall asleep on my couch, but my dog barked at every single noise my upstairs neighbors and their wild dogs made.  I forced back tears and got up, showered, and went to my friend’s house and later the concert.  The food we ate was delicious and the band was amazing.  That perked me up until they took a break and I realized I needed a mental, emotional, and physical break as well.

I didn’t go to work today.  I knew it was time to purge myself of this cold and these negative thoughts.  To awaken my body again to its resiliency and awaken my spirit as well.  I took it easy this a.m. and when I had enough energy, I cleaned my apartment in a mindful way.  I threw out or donated what was no longer serving me.  In my spare bedroom closet, I came across a stack of my old journals with beautiful ideas and words in them.  I smiled and a memory of my 10-year-old self came back when I realized I loved words and wrote poetry about soaring eagles or about the soft glow of the streetlight as I walked our family dog, Oscar.  I also found a stack of drawings and doodles I did on my free time when I had a career.  They’re not too bad and they show that I do have an innate sense of perspective, color, and design and a creative and unique approach to my subject matter.

IMG_3313.JPG

img_3316

img_3317

More importantly, I know how I felt channeling the words and the images through my mind.  My hands.  My heart.  I know that mythical time is there to support me and this linear time of moving about my day and earning money does not always have to be 100% in alignment with that.  Times like the winter solstice can help us go inward and empty out all that is dead and not working for us.  We can open up space and shine a light inside our hearts as a way to nurture what is to grow next. We cannot force its growth.  It must germinate and emerge from the depths of our souls on its own time.  Just like Persephone’s return from the Underworld.  Her mother’s sadness of losing her daughter is the world’s gain in the future when Persephone walks the earth with her mother again for a short while.

img_3323img_3318

When I found these drawings, I almost wanted to say “Fuck off” to my old self who had locked my mind, body, and spirit into a very unhealthy way of being where I consumed myself with martyrdom, angst, worry, and an authoritarian mentality inside a world confined to a small classroom inside a brick building.   But I brought compassion to that old part of me that is still somewhat wired in my brain and my body and comes out in awkward moments like I mentioned.  What I do know is that inside me all along has been the writer, the artist, the communicator, the teacher who can express the tenderness and beauty of the subtle and mysterious world.  Who can tell stories and myths and weave them into a yoga class or a blog post.  Who can help guide people through their own personal journey that is riddled with fear and grief.  Who knows the way to creating a body-mind-heart connection, even if it is for a brief moment.  Who is not a fraud, but a growing being with human skin and bones.  Imperfect but authentic in her pursuit of something bigger and more meaningful and helpful to humanity that only her blip of a moment on this planet can provide.

img_3319

 

A Permission Slip

permission-slip

I’ve been institutionalized now for 35 years.

It all started when I was sent to kindergarten at the sweet age of 4 1/2 (before the cutoff dates started).  And it has lasted up to this point as a 40 year old adult teaching English at a public high school.  Throughout these 35 years, I have felt at times like I was in a straight jacket – mostly because I chose to be the straight-laced kid who followed the rules, got good grades, did as my teachers and parents asked, and strived to be the best student in the whole entire school, or the state, the country, the world, nay, the universe.  And I put that burden on myself as a teacher, too.

Stirring inside of me, however, was (and still is) a rebellious, free-spirited, creative soul longing for self-expression and connection.  A longing to live sensually.  To touch, taste, smell, see, hear the bounties of the earth and then artistically share the experience with others.  To tap into emotions and open the heart and feel everything as deeply and fully and passionately as possibly and then release it to the universe with gratitude so as to keep experiencing the richness of the inner and outer world.  To tread lightly (and preferably barefoot) on moss covered earth.  To sink into the muddy earth on a hot summer day and let the mud squish and smear all over me.  Then to dip into a cool stream after the sun has baked me and feel the weight of the mud (the weight of the world) slip off of my skin as the water cleanses my body.  To dance like a wild gypsy.  To sing and play like a child.  To laugh like a cackling old crone who then tosses off her cloak to reveal a goddess.  To draw.  To write.  To create.  And to steal from my hero Henry David Thoreau: “. . . to live deep and suck out all the marrow in life.”

Yet, I chose to play it safe.  Forces within me and forces outside of me kept telling me “Not yet” or “You’re creativity and ideas are too much for others to handle.” “You’ll be laughed at.”  “You’ll be taken advantage of.”  “People in our part of the world don’t act or think or talk or dress or express themselves like that.  Hold it in and one day you can release it.”

These safety measures are no longer working for me.

I’m re-reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book Big Magic:  Creative Living Beyond Fear.  The woman doesn’t mince words, and I’m grateful for that.  One of the chapters is titled “Permission” and she mentions how it is our God-given write as human beings to be creative and live in a way that best supports that creativity.  That is our permission slip.  No need for validation.  (By the way, creative living doesn’t only apply to self-proclaimed artists, writers, musicians.  It’s for anyone who wants to march to the beat of their own drum and do what lights them up and follow the threads of their own curiosity.)  She writes about creative entitlement in a positive light:  “Creative entitlement doesn’t mean behaving like a princess, or acting like the world owes you anything whatsoever.  No, creative entitlement simply means believing that you are allowed to be here, and that -merely by being here- you are allowed to have a voice and a vision of your own.”  Now that’s some powerful stuff.  I want in on that.  I’m taking the sentiment of her words as my metaphorical permission slip from the universe to get busy living a life I’ve always imagined.

A good friend told me once that when you free yourself, you free others.  That may be true, but I honestly believe that when you free yourself, when you give yourself permission to be a creative force in the universe and to unearth hidden jewels buried deep inside of you, then your life becomes a playground, a treasure hunt, an epic quest filled with adventure, a life worth living.  If it inspires others, so be it.  But, I’m starting to learn you don’t have to live for other people’s sake.  You don’t truly need permission to tap into who you are at your very core.  You’ve been meant to discover that all along.  This post isn’t about asking for permission from others.  It isn’t even a way to reassure myself (or convince myself) that I am allowed to listen to my inner voice of strength, of intuition, of love. (Ok, maybe it is just a little bit.)  If this post inspires others to begin unlocking hidden doors within themselves and following their path of creative living, then I’m really lucky to have been a part of that.  And finally, this post isn’t about showing how I’m no more or less worthy than any other person.  It’s just my time that’s all.

It’s my time to breathe fully and release what is no longer serving the person I’ve transformed into.  My time to take off the tightly woven, itchy sweater of my life that is constraining and blocking my creative, sensual, earthy, talent-filled flow.  And that’s scary because what I’m saying to the universe is:  “Destroy so I can rebuild.”  The earth is already quaking under my feet and all those inner and outer doubting voices are getting louder in my mind and in my daily encounters.  But, so is the urge to destroy so I can rebuild.

I’ve decided to give myself permission to let it all crumble down, burn up, shape-shift, wash away, dissolve.  For, there really is nothing to be scared of.  (In theory.  In practice I’m still a scaredy-cat some of the time.  But that’s Ok.)  When we pull weeds or cut back old growth in our garden, new and glorious living things arise and flourish.  When we clean out our closets we open more space for new things to come in. When we toss things on the compost pile, organic material later nourishes our flower and vegetable beds.  When blossoms scatter to the winds, fruit ripens and glistens in the sun.

I want to glisten in the sun.

FullSizeRender

How to Find Your True Love

FullSizeRenderLooking for love in all the wrong places?  Feel free to read this blog post for unsolicited and free advice on how to find your true love.

My 8 year old nephew, Ben, is a hopeless romantic, I think.  He struck up the following conversation with me on our drive to my house this weekend.  We were at a rest stop letting my dog, Lucy, use the restroom.  Ben saw a man with his two dogs (but didn’t see the other man with him).  When we got back in the car, Ben told me that I should have asked that man out.

Me:  He already has a boyfriend, Ben.

Ben:  What?!  Boys can love boys?

Me:  Yes.  Just like girls can love girls.  It doesn’t matter.

Ben:  No. True love is true love.

Me:  Yes, it is.  What brought this conversation on?

Ben:  Well, you know how you have said that you are open to love?

Me:  Yes, that is my  saying on my board at home.  You remember reading that at Thanksgiving?  I can’t believe you remember.  That’s so sweet.

Ben:  Well, yeah!  It’s important!  I want you to find your true love.

Me:  Awww.

Ben:  I also want that because I want an uncle and I want to know what that’s like.  And I want cousins.  I’m so bored being by myself.  So, we gotta get a move on it, woman!  Ha ha!

Me:  Oh geez Louise.  So, this is about you, huh?

Ben:  Well, yeah.  Kinda.  But, I’m your guide to true love.  You will be walking your dog one day and you’ll see your true love and you have to stop him and say, “Hi, I’m Megan.”  Do you think you can do that?

Me:  (chuckling) I think I can manage that.

Ben:  (serious)  Ok.  Good.  Because you’ll have to keep the conversation going and that’s a good way to start.

Me:  How do you know all of this stuff?

Ben:  (blushing)  Well, I got like 5 girlfriends.  Duh.

Me:  How’s that possible?!

Ben:  I just say, “Hi, my name’s Ben.  What’s yours?”  Then, I help them carry things and I wink at them.

Me:  (laughing)

Ben:  And you need someone now to help you carry things and wink at you.  It’s important.

Me:  Yes.  It is.  And, how will I recognize my true love?

Ben:  He will be Russian.  Well, he will look Russian or even Japanese and he’ll teach me how to speak Russian and Japanese.  He will have blonde hair and he will be really nice.  He is silly too.

Me:  How can he be Japanese and have blonde hair?

Ben:  Well, he will have brown or black hair, but he will be able to speak Russian or Japanese.  He may be American or European (pronounced Yer-a-pen).

Me:  (chuckling).  European, Ben. Like Yer-a-pee-in.  And will he be kind?

Ben:  Definitely.

Me:  Tall?

Ben:  Really tall!

Me:  Handsome?

Ben:  Oh yeah!  He’ll be good-looking, too.  And he’ll teach me how to hunt with a 450 pound bow.  He’s a hunter and he’ll let me shoot with a rifle or a b.b. gun.  And he’ll teach me how to box.  Because it’s important that a guy knows how to box.  But, not in a UFC or a mega-Chinese wrestler way.

Me:  Sounds like you’re in love with this guy.  Are you sure I will be, too?

Ben:  Well, duh!  Yeah!  He’s your true love!

Me:  What’s his name?

Ben:  Ryan.  Or maybe Corbin.  Or maybe Matt.  Or Jack.  Hank is a good name, too.

Me:  All good names.

Ben:  And, Meeda, you’ll meet him very soon.  Trust me.  If not this year, then next year.  (laughter)  Get it?  Next year is pretty soon.  So, don’t worry.  That won’t be too long at all.

Me:  (laughing and a bit nervous.  What if his prediction comes true?  Will I owe the meeting of my true love to my nephew?)

Ben:  Oh, and Meeda!  He will have 2 cats, and a dog!

Me:  Any kids?

Ben:  Yes.

Me:  He will have kids, or we will have kids?

Ben:  Both.

Me:  What if we adopted kids?

Ben:  That would be better so your stomach wouldn’t hurt every single day and night.  Then, I’d have cousins right away.  But, you would have to buy them first.

Me:  You don’t buy kids.  You adopt them from orphanages or foster homes.  You welcome those kids into your family because they don’t have a family.

Ben:  (shakes head affirmatively)

Me:  What is true love to you?

Ben:  It is, um, love and. . .and. . .(embarrassed laughter)

Me:  Kissing and stuff?

Ben:  (blushing)  Sure.  Whatever.

Me:  Isn’t it more than just that, though?

Ben:  Yeah.  It’s when you meet your true love, help him, and wink at him.  And you’re friends.  You’re in a relationship and you’re best friends.  You play together.  You have fun together.  Friendship is all kinds of stuff.  It’s a good thing.

Me:  Well, I feel like it is time for me to get a true love if it is as great as you make it out to be.

Ben:  It really is.  And, I’m your guide to true love, remember.IMG_0271

 

 

A High School English Teacher’s Dilemma

Today is the beginning of semester exams.  Today is also the ending of rational thought and behavior.

Forget everything that teachers have taught their students.  Forget the appreciation of literature, the analysis of symbolism, the construction of a well-written essay.  All of that has been tossed out the window in a panic to make room for the perfect grade – a meager percentage which will keep a student at her perfect “A” or keep another from failing the class.

Students wander, push, shove, fall, slink, and slam into the classroom.  They yell obscenities at one another in the hallway and get tangled up in each other’s earbuds while trying to kiss, hug, and say goodbye to the love of their young life.  Ninety minutes of isolation from one another seem unbearable and cruel, although each one promises to text the other to ensure the relationship is still going strong.

2bornot2bThe bell rings.  The teacher steps up to the front of the classroom, wondering if it is truly nobler to “suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” and to endure a series of irrelevant, off-topic, base questions; or if it is easier to just tell them to all be quiet and then handout a trivial exam that will only adjust their overall grade by a small percentage.  A “Hail, Mary” pass for only a small few who are on the brink of going up or down a letter grade.

After the exam has started, one student opens up a bag of chips and starts crunching and munching.  The teacher gives him the stank eye.  Another girl shakes a bag of hot flame Cheetohs in her mouth and then smears the orange flakes of dust across the exam.  The teacher gives her the stank eye and then casually walks over and takes the Cheetohs and bag of chips from these students and throws them in the trash all while giving them the stank eye.  One young girl doesn’t understand why it’s not Ok to make a tuna fish sandwich in class during the exam, while another boy has just gotten kicked out of class for bringing in White Castle in which the grease that has leaked out of the bag is now smeared on a desk.

In the middle of the exam, another student from another class walks in and asks if the teacher will edit his final essay.  She gives him the stank eye but sits him down and marks up his paper for revision so he’ll get a passing grade.  And after the final bell rings,  all the students leave class pushing, shoving, falling, slinking, and slamming into one another in the hallways and getting their earbuds interlaced with the arms of their long lost boyfriends and girlfriends.  Just when the teacher thinks it is safe, another student walks in and demands she grade his late work so he doesn’t fail her class.  The late work is from late September and early November.  Today is December 17th.  The teacher gives him the stank eye and tells him to leave her class and go see his counselor.  He will need to give up one of his “easy” classes next semester so as to retake the English class.  One he could have passed had he turned in his work the day it was due.7019ff94ebe1a7d22703d1e3008140e9

As the teacher stands in the middle of this  hurricane of hairy, hormonally-challenged humans, she mutters a mantra that she has been reciting since the beginning of the week:  “Please don’t let me murder my students.  Please don’t let me murder my students.  Please don’t let me murder my students.  And if I do, please spare the one who just left a box of milk chocolate truffles on my desk.  Unless it is a bribe to get me to change his grade.  Then, may the blow of my red ink pen be swift and fierce.”

i_m_fluent_in_all_4_english_540

 

 

Love Is Tough

Witnessing someone in pain is difficult.

You aren’t sure what to do.  What to say.  Exactly how to act.

You provide a moment of safe space for that person to simply vent his frustration.  You think you are just being there for him, but then you walk away realizing his funk has now become yours.  Or his anger is stuck on you.  Your hips ache.  Your shoulders are tight.  It feels like some type of green slime has been smeared over your body and you feel sticky and stuck.

What do you do?  You’re now in pain.  Someone’s suffering has become your suffering.

Offer him tough love.  Or love yourself enough to get tough and shield yourself from the green goo of misplaced emotions that is starting to ooze in your direction.images

What does that look like?  It all depends, I guess.  I watched a friend give some tough love to his students today.  He was so angry with a group of freshmen students who made fun of someone’s “weirdness” yesterday.  They mocked him.  Teased him for his differences.  And my friend spent 2 hours of his work time counseling this student, getting him some help, watching this student rage, curse, and cry his way to a physical, mental, and emotional breakdown.

My friend was drained and needed to eat lunch so I agreed to spend the first part of my lunch hour in his room so he could eat.  I walked in the room and he started his class with a powerful, passionate, articulate speech about the treatment of a person who is going through a difficult time.  He reminded his students that it is his job to protect and take care of his students, and that means not just each of them individually, but students at this school collectively.  I can’t even begin to capture his words he so eloquently said to them, but by the end students’ heads were hanging in shame and you could feel how their emotions shifted from animosity to embarrassment to love – love for the individual who was mocked and love for their teacher who cared enough to be so bold and straightforward with them while revealing his authentic emotions in the moment.  It was beautiful.  And it was tough love in its fiercest and purest form.

I left his classroom later that hour with an open heart and a desire to be authentic.

I also knew that if my heart was open, I needed to carry an imaginary shield to fend of the emotional goo of others.  I didn’t want to get sucked into a deep, dark hole of someone else’s suffering, fear, rage, or sadness.  There’s enough of my own pain that I must tend to on occasion anyway.

I didn’t want to do battle, but I didn’t want to be in an open field during hunting season either.

How can openness and protection go hand in hand?

I guess it comes with acknowledging the other person, first and foremost.

After subbing for my friend’s class, I ate a quick lunch and joined another teacher for hall duty.  We stand out in front of the cafeteria during a lunch period and keep the herd from going out to pasture before the bell rings.

One student needed to go to his locker.  He was of Middle-Eastern origin and was wearing a black sweatshirt that read “Palestine vs. The World.”  He was not in dress code, so I asked him to remove his sweatshirt.  He was visibly angry, but decided not to test us, so he removed it.  I told him I would escort him to his locker (kids aren’t allowed to leave the area without a pass from another teacher).  He tried to antagonize me verbally.  I put up my shield and smiled genuinely at him.  He didn’t really know how to react to that.

He asked about my sweatshirt I was wearing.  It has our school’s diversity club logo on it.  Our club is called “Harambee” which means “Let’s all pull together” in Swahili.  I mentioned it to him and that I am one of the sponsors of the club.  He asked a bit about it and I told him some of the fun activities we do and our annual show we put on for the school and the public.  I then asked him about his sweatshirt.  He got embarrassed and said he wasn’t really sure what it meant, but that his older brother wears it and his brother is angry all the time and very political.

We talked about the possible connotations of the sweatshirt and how others may view it as well.  He said, “I really didn’t know what it could mean.  I guess it seems a little aggressive, doesn’t it?”  I said, “Probably at this time in the world’s trials, yes, but it is also a statement of pain and misunderstanding.”  He just shook his head in contemplation.  We started our walk back to the cafeteria after he grabbed what he needed from his locker and put his sweatshirt away.  I asked him if he had family from Palestine, and he told me he was born there and goes back every year to celebrate Ramadan with his grandparents and aunts and uncles.

He got so excited to share about his culture and was even more excited that I knew what Ramadan is and some of the customs that go along with it.  I asked him if he spoke Arabic (his English was flawless with no trace of an accent).  He smiled really big and said, “Yes.”  I told him I knew a few words, and he asked me what I knew.  I smiled and said, “Asalam alaikum” (which loosely translated means “Allah’s (or God’s) peace to you”).  He grabbed my hand in true Arabic fashion, pressed his other hand on top of mine and said, “Alaikum asalam” (“Peace be unto you as well”).

Before I sound too emotionally gooey here, know that after that a butthead freshman came along and tested my limits.  He was rude, crude, and obnoxious, and I wasn’t so open and understanding with him.  I got tough and let him get himself in trouble.  I wrote him up and realized that I couldn’t get through to him because he didn’t want to reach out to me.  Not my problem.  I chose love of myself for this one and put on my Wonder Woman bracelets and became a brick wall that he could only bounce off of.  The job of “getting through to him” would come later, from someone else.  Until then, he could go sit with his anger and animosity in the office, away from me and other kids who don’t have the skill to shake off his negative vibes.imgres

And the day kept rolling on like that:  open my heart, smile, use my words, protect with shield, or deflect with Wonder Woman bracelets.  Each student’s energy determining what form of love I would show to them, and to myself.imgres-1

 

 

 

 

Birds of a Feather: A Return to the Wild Mind, Part 2

The first morning after arriving at Shadowcliff Lodge near Grand Lake, Colorado, I decided to get up early and do yoga on the rocks that faced the looming mountains in the east.  I dressed in layers, zipped myself up in my black jacket, and pulled on sparkly red, fingerless gloves.  When I walked outside, the cold mountain air was a shock to my system and I was a bit confused that I could see my breath in mid-August.

I climbed up on an outcropping not too far from the lodge.  I started breathing in while reaching my arms overhead and breathing out while lowering my hands to my side.  I noticed one of my group members, Sarah, on another outcropping not too far from me.  She was doing tai chi with grace and ease.  Meanwhile, I was fumbling to hold myself upright with my left hand pressed up against the boulder behind me while my right ankle was over my knee as I was squatting so as to get a good hip stretch.

The sun slowly began inching its way over the top of the mountain as frustration and tension began rising up my spine, lodging into my tense neck and facial muscles.  “Why am I not doing my yoga right?” I thought to myself.  “Why doesn’t this feel as organic and beautiful as it should?  I’m in the Rocky Mountains as the sun is coming up, damn’t.  This should feel like a profound and heart-opening moment right now.”  I chalked it up to the chill in the air and the fact that I had just spent the night on a bunk bed in which I could feel every spring and wooden slat in the mattress.

I knew those weren’t the real reasons why I felt a resistance inside of me, however.  It was because I was trying to force my mind and body into a meditative and serene state of being by doing linear poses that were in alignment with my inhale and exhale.  My breath was forced.  My poses were forced.  My beliefs that this specific moment would bring me instant inner peace and knowing were forced.  The whole experience was forced.  So, I forced myself to stop moving and to watch the woman in front of me instead.  She is in her early 50s, tall, athletic, with her brown hair cut in a youthful and pretty bob.  That morning, her down-filled vest looked like the color of the morning’s sky.  In my mind’s eye, she seemed to be surrounded by a soft mountain mist that artfully blurred the edges of her and her surroundings.  She was so fluid and smooth in her movements:  leaning and pushing with her arms, swooping down and around with her hips and knees, holding and steadying herself before her body took on another fluid, organic shape.

About this time, I heard a solitary wind flute as if a Native American ceremony was happening somewhere in the valley below us.  The sun’s angle transformed her into a silhouette.  Every rise and fall of the notes from the flute moved her more gracefully into herself then out into the air, the trees, the boulders, the creek below, and the mountains in the distance and back again.  I took all of this to be a sign and closed my eyes and forgot about the fact that I could tumble down a rocky outcropping.  (I reassured myself if I did fall, I would survive by landing somewhat ungracefully on the gravel trail not too far below).  I grounded my legs and feet and started moving with the flute sounds.  This grounding and slow movement turned into my breath, which then in turn circled around inside of my body and breathed out into the crisp morning air and back again.  My hips circled and swayed.  I moved my fingers and arms as I opened my chest and pulled back my shoulders.  I felt as graceful as the osprey and the eagles that glided on the wind in the valley below me.  I was as alert as the two chipmunk that scurried around my feet and the shrubs around me.

11219084_10206746494773043_5811621499951009225_n

The flute music came to an end and I opened my eyes.  Sarah was walking towards my area and we greeted each other.  The breeze, the chill, and the brightness of the morning sun had brought water to my eyes and I had already the beginnings of post-nasal drip.  I laughed and wiped away the tears that probably looked like they belonged to an emotional basket case.  I asked her if she had heard the flute player as we were practicing our morning movements.  She grinned and told me that was the music she had on her cellphone and uses every morning for her tai chi exercises.  Albeit, the revelation of this fact was less glamourous that my romantic notion of a rustic, magical mountain man stepping out of his log cabin below to greet us and the morning sun; yet I couldn’t help to think how lovely everything synced up this morning to pull me out of my stuck thoughts and back into my body and my heart center.

We chatted a few more minutes and then she went inside to eat breakfast.  I stayed a little longer in hopes to capture the sun’s rays on my face, and to also hold on to the brief moment of fluidity and sensuality that arose in my body not more than five minutes ago.

I stood there, facing east, waiting again to feel a sense of enlightenment or rapture at being out in the wild.  A breeze blew over me and I filled my lungs deeply, cursing slightly at the slight headache and dryness in my nose, both lingering effects of yesterday’s altitude sickness.  I turned and began walking back to the big lodge.  Just when I thought the magic had faded from my morning, two hummingbirds swooped up over my head.  Hoping for a drop of nectar, they dove down, hovered over my hands, and brushed up against my red sequenced, fingerless gloves.  I stopped in the middle of climbing the stairs and held out my hands, palms up.  I heard the motorized fluttering of their wings and tiny chirps of communication between the two of them.  As fast as they had arrived, they left and landed in a pine tree a few feet away.

I got to the top of the stairs and leaned up against the banister of the deck that wrapped around the dining lodge.  Sage, one of our guides, came out with her cup of coffee and stood next to me silently, like a patient teacher waiting for the curious yet guarded student to ask a question or spark a conversation.  I took the bait and told her about my two hummingbirds.  I laughed off the encounter as a fluke due to the fact that I was wearing bright red.  She took a sip of coffee and leaned up against the banister as well.  She simply nodded her head and said, “Mmmm. . .”  I smiled, recognizing that as both acknowledgment of my statement and a prompt to really dig deeper and trust my intuition that the encounter was also a sign or a communication from the larger world that houses both the outer and inner wilderness of ourselves.  These hummingbirds were reintroducing me back to my natural, beautiful, sweet, sensual self that I had lost along the way as a full-fledged adult caught up in the railroad track of life (to paraphrase Henry David Thoreau).  At least these were my thoughts I finally uncovered as Sage stood there listening to me babbling on and on.  She gazed off into the valley below us and paraphrased what I had just said, adding on, “That sounds like a lovely way to start this journey.  I wouldn’t be surprised if your hummingbirds came back to check in on you.”

Later that day, I went farther down the trail by the lodge and spotted two huge boulders.  I started to climb up one, and heard some rustling right below it.  It was Bernard, one of the older men in our group, and a great lover of the Earth.  He had nestled himself next to the boulder that was balanced on and supported by another smaller boulder below it.  He told me it was solid but that it wasn’t the best idea to climb on top of it.  I asked him if he was Ok if I sat on the boulder next to his for the afternoon’s contemplation exercise.  He welcomed me and I climbed a little ways up the hill and scampered up the boulder.  I shrugged off my backpack and unzipped my black jacket to use as a seat cover.  I pushed up the red sleeves of my thin shirt and faced east again.  I could see and hear the running creek below.  I got very quiet, settling in to simply watch the full afternoon sunlight dance off the rippling waves.  That’s when I heard the beautiful, light drumming coming from Bernard’s direction.

He was humming with a lovely sing-song voice in sync with the constant drumming of his handheld Native American drum.  He was there to offer prayers and blessings to the four boulders in that area that he called “Grandfather Rocks”.  My thoughts and worries dropped away from me and I was lulled by the sound of the creek, the beat of the drum, and Bernard’s shamanistic humming that was soothing and rhythmic at the same time.  Tears swelled up to my eyes, real ones this time.  The modern world faded away and I no longer saw the town of Grand Lake with its telephone wires, speed boats, early afternoon traffic below.  Instead, the creek came alive even more and I watched as a hawk swooped down and skimmed the surface of the water.  Chipmunks came out of their hiding places and danced around in the brush below me.  Grasshoppers with snapping-sounding wings jumped and danced around me.  A butterfly flitted by and was carried on the breeze.  Still I heard the rushing of the creek, the constant beat of the drum, and the rhythmic pulses of Bernard’s humming, which all now sounded ancient yet alive at the same time.

10540772_10206746495133052_5585222964969155004_n

My heart swelled and I felt so alive in not only my body but in the moment.  Nothing else mattered.  No one desire welled up inside of me yet everything I’ve ever wanted seemed possible and tangible.  Just then, two hummingbirds danced around my head.  One dive-bombed my shirt and I felt the ripple of its wings caressing my back left shoulder as I heard their motor-like hum purring in my ear.  A slight wind from the fast motion of its wings lifted wisps of my hair and tickled my neck.  I sat as still as I possibly could.  It kept flying away into the air and back again, this time moving to the center of my spine, right between both shoulder blades at the back of my heart.  Back and forth, keeping time with the drumbeat.  And I could swear that I felt my heart pounding more strongly than I have in my life.  The sound of the creek became more distinct.  The hummingbird’s wings created a tattoo of small pulses on my back.  The drumbeat stayed constant and strong.  The ancient voice issued forth from this modern man connected to the land.   If this was being alive, truly alive, then I was experiencing it, not thinking it.  My heartbeat, the drumbeat.  My heart’s desires, the hummingbird’s wings.  My tears, my heart’s song flowing like the voices of the ancient ones.  All gathered here on this rock:  unwavering, feeling, and living in sync with the wilderness both outside and inside of myself.

It’s Gonna Be a Shitty Day, A Shitty Day, A Shitty Day. . .

I woke up at 6 a.m. this morning with my 7 year old nephew’s hand on my face.  He is visiting for the week, and he apparently woke up in the middle of the night and climbed into my bed.  The day before he had been worried if a tornado was going to come and kill us.  At midnight he woke me up and asked me if we were going to die.  At 1 a.m. I caught him sleepwalking in the living room and walked him back to bed.  At 2 a.m. I woke up to that question and had to help him get back to sleep.  At 3 a.m. I caught him sleepwalking in the living room again, and sometime between then and 6 he had crawled into my bed surreptitiously.  At 6, my dog woke me up for her morning walk.

I had a reprieve for a few hours and caught up on my coffee and reading time.  At 8 a.m. he came into the living room, curled up on the couch and fell asleep for another 2 hours.  I took advantage to start laundry and clean up my house a little bit.  I went to the main bathroom and found that my toilet wasn’t flushing after I had already done my morning business.  I went out to the garage and got the plunger.  No luck.

I decided to clean up and finish my last bit of dishes while Ben and the dog sawed logs on the couch.  That’s when I noticed the washing machine was finished earlier than usual.  I opened up the lid and found none of the water had drained and the machine hadn’t switched cycles.  I messed with it a few times to no avail.  I decided I would go back to finishing at least one task and started on the dishes and noticed my garbage disposal wasn’t draining well enough.  By this time, I was anxious and nervous about my house, my nephew, my skills as a homemaker and aunt, plus, I was also holding back bodily functions for fear that my other good toilet would clog as well.

I went back to the bathroom to plunge the toilet and this time some toilet paper and a dead mosquito floated to the top.  By this time, my stomach was hurting and my back was aching, but I pushed through and cleaned up the bathroom as best as possible.  It was time to call the plumber.

While waiting on him (for over 3 hours), I made a delicious lunch for my nephew who woke up to the sounds of the monthly tornado siren check (which launched a 3 hour question-answer & reassurance session about tornadoes and if we were going to die).  I managed to put the dog in her kennel, usher the plumber in, and finish Ben’s lunch when the plumber came in to tell me that the washing machine was an electric problem, the garbage disposal was draining fine (although I could buy a special cleaner for $60).  He gave me a $200 estimate for taking an auger to the toilet.

Ten minutes later, the plumber comes into the kitchen with wide eyes and a surprised look on his face.  I asked him what was wrong, and he said, “You had a mound of poop backed up that no plunger would’ve fixed.”  My mouth dropped open.  He then said, “You’re not gonna want to know the rest.  There was a lot of paper too.  And other stuff.”

The smells from the oven and stove were still wafting in the kitchen where we stood, but a wave of nausea came over me as he told me this (and as I wrote out the hefty check).  To make me feel better, he told me the toilet was an old model and was probably coming to the end of its life.  He said I should invest in an American Standard brand or better yet an industrial strength toilet with a hard suction.  I started laughing as I thought about the damage a 7 year old boy could do for a plumber to tell me this.

I paid my bill and then checked in on Ben who had eaten all of his waffle fries, gnawed on three cherries and only eaten a quarter of the homemade cheeseburger I made him.  I had had enough.  It was a shitty day all around.  I was in a pair of trendy yoga pants, and apron and a junky t-shirt (because my matching top was soaking in the laundry) and my wild hair was tossed up into a pony tail.  Then, I jumped and realized the laundry had been sitting in sudsy water for almost 3 hours.  I ran to the laundry room and started pulling out soaking wet clothes and ringing them out and tossing them into the utility sink nearby.  I was elbow deep when Ben walked in and asked “What’s that smell?” and I realized that it was the laundry.  It smelled like poop too.

He ran back into the living room and I ran to the sink and scrubbed my arms and hands thoroughly while also trying to not gag.  I finally got around to cooking my lunch.  At this stage, I was a little woosy and needed to take a bathroom break (especially now that the plumber had finished his job).  I took advantage of Ben watching a stupid show called “Uncle Grandpa” while I did all of that and ate my lunch in a bit of peace.  I was texting my mom my sorrows and out of nowhere I started crying.  As if right on cue, Ben came in with his plate and his barely eaten food.  This made me cry even more.  He asked what was wrong and I said, “I made that for you and I was happy that you were going to eat something delicious.  And you didn’t eat it.”  I started crying even harder and told him I ate all the food he made last night and he could’ve done the same for me.

He came up to me and put his arms around me and said, “I do like what you made me, but it was hard to eat.  I did the best I could,” and I cried even more.  We talked about how even adults have emotions and sometimes they need to cry to let them out.  We also talked about pooping and how he shouldn’t hold his poop because he’s embarrassed and nervous about pooping at other people’s houses.

This discussion prompted us to do an art project while we waited on the repairman for the washing machine (who by the way, never showed up after 5 hours of waiting and our clothes are still in the utility sink and stagnant water is still in the machine).  I picked up a marker and started drawing out shapes, letting them morph into a picture.  Ben asked what I was doing and I said, “Drawing my emotions.”  He liked that idea and he did that too.  And we sat for over an hour, coloring, talking, drawing, and listening to music.  This is what became of our project:

photo 1photo 2

That’s when I stopped worrying about providing a “good day” for him and making sure everything was “perfect” and running smoothly.  Sometimes, we just get backed up, whether that’s physically, mentally or emotionally and we have to figure out some creative way to release it all.  In order to do that, you have to start by accepting that you’re backed up in the first place.  So, I accepted the fact that my stomach was hurting and that I needed to release the tension I was holding inside of my body.  I acknowledged my hips and back were hurting and I sat down and just breathed and colored with a 7 year old.  I accepted that he wasn’t going to change out of his pajamas or eat his entire meal or quit watching stupid shows like “Uncle Grandpa” and instead I just provided a space for him to be a kid who wanted to wear his pajamas all day, watch TV and build a fort and for me to be an imperfect adult who needed to just cry and accept that the day had turned to shit and would get better from there.

photo

Wow Man!

My 7 year old nephew, Ben, is staying with me for the week.  This evening, we were driving to Monkey Joe’s playhouse and we had the following spontaneous conversation.  (I’m so grateful that I carry a small notebook with me so I can record moments like this.)

B:  Meeda, do people in Russia and China and Africa and Japan care about Jesus?

M:  (suppressing a giggle):  Yes, they do.  And other people there and in the rest of the world care about Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, Vishnu and so on.  There are lots of different names for God, did you know that?

B:  Oh wow!  I didn’t.  Even Yo-Ho-Va or Ya-ya-may?

M:  Um, you mean Jehovah and Yahweh?

B:  Yeah.  Can you pray to them?

M:  Yes.  You can pray to any of them as long as you know you’re praying to a higher power that you feel a strong connection to.

B:  Well, if I could name God I would name him “Wow Man!”  Ha ha!  I would you know why?

M:  Wow Man?!  I love it!  Why that name?

B:  I would say “Wow Man!  You made all of this!  You’re awesome!”

M:  (suppressing tears) That’s beautiful Ben!

B:  Yeah.  I would pray to Wow Man and say “Wow Man, thanks.  You made all of the nature.  Everything that is beautiful in this world.  And you made even the aliens, real or not real (because we don’t know just yet).  And you made the streetlights and guns and arrows and bullets and lasers.”  And he made you and me, Meeda.  Well, he is you and me, Meeda.  Did you know that?

M:  (goosebumps, swelling of the heart and tears in my eyes)  I do now, Ben.  Thanks.  That’s so beautiful.

B:  Yeah.  It is.  And did you know that all the clouds are are the face of God?  And the tornadoes are his feet?  Are we going to have a tornado, Meeda?  Are we?

M:  No, Ben.  What you are saying though is so beautiful and it makes me really happy.  I’m glad you’re telling me all of this.

B:  Well, thanks.  And do you think God’s sister would like hearing all of this?

M:  (dumbfounded but really amused, excited and convinced that God has a Divine Sister):  I think she would.  I like that God has a sister.

B:  Well, yeah.  God has a big family.  Who do you think looks after them all?  His sister. And you know how some sisters can be bothersome, Meeda?

M:  (laughing):  She’s not bothersome, is she?

B:  No!  She’s really, really nice!

M:  (pulling into the parking lot) That’s good to know.

B:  Yeah!!!!!  Monkey Joes!  Monkey Joes!  Hey Meeda?  Do you think kids can be astronauts?

M:  Huh?

B:  I am going to jump so high here that I will go to outer space.  Well, once I jumped so high I broke my back, but I’m Ok now.  Can I get some cotton candy?  How long are we going to stay here?  Did you say I can get some cotton candy?

M:  Wow.  Man.