Questions Knocking

April starts tomorrow. We’re looking towards it with a sense of foreboding. We feel our questions bubbling up inside of us like we’re a soda can and we’ve been shaken.

We fear we might explode. We feel that every outlet and every coping mechanism that we’ve counted on for years has been taken from us and we understand why, cognitively, but we are asking ourselves: can I be okay without it all?

What if April is an exact replica of the past 17 days? What if we’re stuck here, the virus worsens, I lose my job, or I get evicted because I already lost my job and unemployment is alarmingly high?

What if the economy takes decades to recover? What if my kids don’t return to school for the rest of the academic year? What if I can’t hug my friends until summer?

The questions swell within us, they press in behind every thought and interaction we have with ourselves and each other.

The questions are in us. But they are not us.

Uncertainty is at the door and it is ringing the damn doorbell. We decide on a daily basis whether to open the door or not, and honestly, it’s exhausting either way. We ask ourselves: will I open the door without a bra, without washing my face, without good manners? Or will I put actual clothes on, take a shower, and show up to the door to guard my home from the thoughts that won’t stop knocking?

Damned if I know.

It feels like the walls are closing in on us but the entire universe may actually be opening up within us. We start to notice our little salvations: the cat wedging herself between the blinds and the window. The cherry blossoms winking against the clouded sky. Kisses in the morning and sticky kid hands helping with household tasks. Inner restlessness abating as we sleep through the night for the first time in a long time.

Perhaps we aren’t the questions. Perhaps we’re the bright spring green of leaves where droplets perch regally after a rain. Perhaps we’re the mystery of the sun’s rise and set.

We may just be every breath of stubborn, hopeful resistance that floods our lungs. We are: no matter what is on the other side of that door and no matter how I choose to face it, we can make it through.

The questions are rising in us. But they aren’t us.

Would Love Actually Drown Us?

My life was one thing, now it is a completely different thing. My life was a man and a cat in an apartment downtown. There were beautiful things about that life, but I see (as I saw then, though then it was looking through a fogged glass) that I was emotionally disconnected, alone. The apartment had toilet paper, clean dishes, napkins, all the necessities except for the oxygen my heart needs to breath: showing up for each other emotionally. He wouldn’t (perhaps couldn’t) meet me on that level. Our life together didn’t expand to include the tossing waters of emotion and growth that we both contained within our individual selves. The emotion expanded, the space between us didn’t.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I know now that I would have felt so alone, continuously, had I stayed. My best friends saw it. I couldn’t stay without continually forfeiting the parts of me that I have worked so hard to resurrect. I couldn’t stay and let emotional abandonment have the last word in my life. I had to go in order to undo that narrative.

I just wonder if it would have been more beautiful had I stuck it out until things were better. (Was there ever going to be a better, like he promised me there would be, so many times?) I hear that fear in the voices of some friends–behind their words they whisper (or I project): What if you had loved better? What if your love had been stronger, more healing? What if you could have shown a better sort of love, a love that would over shadow your needs? (That sounds like drowning). But where is your nobility, Lydia? Where is your faith in human togetherness? It was there when you signed the page in the presence of the judge called last minute to say the words. Where is that faith? Where is the God within? Why couldn’t you have tried harder, have saved the relationship? Wy couldn’t you save him?

Because he needed me to save him. Or, more accurately, he thought he did. That was the hand pushing me down into the river. That was the force that would have drowned me.

Why weren’t you enough?

Because it wasn’t meant to be.

Because the beauty of the relationship and all it was meant to be had run its’ course. Perhaps it was never meant to last longer than those three and a half years full of invaluable lessons. Lessons you couldn’t have gotten any other way.

I didn’t die for something that refused to be saved. I walked away to save myself (and him too, I hope).

My love wasn’t big enough to save him, or to save the relationship, but it was big enough to save me, to propel me away from the water and the hand pushing me down into it. My love was big enough to save me, and that’s actually enough.

I’m still here. That’s enough. That’s love.

 

Love in Real Time

 

 

The Last Mess We Made

When you make the bed–

the last one you’ll ever share–

for the final time and

your heart nearly stops, but

instead starts to beat

harder, faster, and

you feel free for

the first time in

a long time.

 

Ode to Love in Real Time

I realized that

I had chosen him over

me which would kill

me, and us, if I didn’t

say “no more”, “sleep

in the living room”, and

“I am my greatest

treasure.”

Always. We may or may

not last, but I will, for

I will go on

forever.

 

Try Me

Something inside

of me cracked open–letting

light in, softly–when

it occurred to me that

I may sleep with other men and

I may have the chance to try someone different and

allow them to

try me.

 

We’ll See

We will see if

you want this as badly as

I do (how badly do I want it, I don’t know). All the dishes

and messages despite

utter busyness. All the

nights spent waiting to be

seen and engaged while you

chose anything other

than me. We’ll see if

this time you really mean

it when you say that forlorn,

“But I love you.”

 

Labyrinth Within

IMG_20191227_100908

A thread

for the first time

in a long

time. An entrance

Into the verdant interior laid out

as a labyrinth. A thread is

for following fist over fist while

footprints form in the soil.

The verdure closes behind

the imprint of each. Apprehensive

breaths catch in the throat of she

for whom

ignoring the thread

was never an option.

 

 

The Cadence of Contradiction

Everything makes no sense at all. In travel, I find myself far from myself, but closer to the truth. I expect the truth to be clear, defined, but it isn’t at all. At least not in the ways that I would like it to be.

How can a place be in my bloodstream alongside my blood?

The wisest people don’t shy away from uncomfortable paradox. The wise ones among us open the door to what is contradictory, because nothing exists without an opposite.

I’ve been missing God for so long. I’ve felt heavy the absence of the Spirit in me, that tingling sensation of energetic liveliness which glorifies even the most regular day. Yet walking, soaking up sunlight, eating healthy food, sleeping, are holy activities.

I slid down to a stream during my afternoon walk, getting my Skechers muddy in the process. The smelly earth gave way beneath my feet, I almost sank into the mud at the water’s edge. The water made tinkling noises as it swept over the smooth, round stones. I’m not there anymore, but I bet the noise continues now against the evening darkness. Just like the trees laden with guindas bear their fruit regardless of whether it is harvested or not from season to season.

Beside the clear stream it occurred to me to pray; lately–for the first time in a long time–it has been a beneficial practice. I inclined my mind and heart toward the beyond (i.e. somewhere else), then realized the absurdity. The water was there speaking to me, its’ radiance motivated me to pray, and I consciously diverted my attention away from its’ voice. Like someone reading and sending text messages while claiming to be listening to the conversation at hand. Utterly ridiculous to seek God in clouds that I can’t touch when inspiration itself is within reach of my fingertips.

I realized that God was there as water, just as God was there as sun. The sun and the water, the stones and the mud were already telling me a transformative story. I didn’t need to travel away in my prayers, I needed to move in connection toward the revelations surrounding me.

The Spirit was there within me, and always will be, though my mind travel great distances. I don’t know much about classical music, I won’t deny that my shit stinks. I go to a Unitarian church once or twice a month. I don’t go anywhere on Holidays. Yet there is holiness woven into the tapestry of my life; it is there in my bloodstream alongside the air of every place I have visited.

How is it that the mind feels God as remote, while the body is here moving through the motions of Incarnation daily?

There is suppleness in my joints and pain populates my days. The God I knew as a child has died in me a thousand times, and I love the structure of ideas set foward by Jesus more everyday (they too are in my bloodstream). The country that I am from is wealthier than any other and nothing within its’ borders is valuable. Humanity has progressed profoundly, and we are a far cry from a loving community.

The wise respect the paradox at the heart of existence. We are living and we are also dead. God is here and God is also there, if there is indeed a there.

The water that glided through my fingers, the millions of drops that kart-wheeled past me according to their natural cadence in a stream here in Temuco, Chile, were full of God. I, too, am full of God. Divinity breaths love in and around me, whether I seperate myself, or draw near in humble awareness. The stream flows and the trees grow, whether they are tended and observed, whether their water is tasted or their fruits harvested.

Paradox is interwoven with the blood pumping through my veins. Life has purpose, and there is no purpose to be found in life.

The only thing that makes sense is to keep traveling, to move forward, however little sense it makes.

 

 

Why This Christmas?

 

 

My soul has questions. It came to me like this. I’m fairly certain my soul thinks this whole life thing is an interrogation. I face questions everyday such as: why am I here? What is the purpose of my life? Where can I find meaning? Do humans all find the same meaning in life? Why are we so fractured? 

The list goes on. When I was a child the questions were a crushing weight (no adults seemed to have answers that I could hang my hat on); now, well, we get along better.

I suffered severe depression and anxiety from the latter part of 2016 until the fall of 2019. For those blessed to not have experienced this ailment of soul, body, and mind, allow me to make something inescapably clear: spirituality doesn’t work when you’re depressed. Honestly, the desperate struggle that I made to hold onto my spirituality contributed to my depression (that’s another story). 

My current working theory on this is that (western) spirituality becomes unhelpful when one is depressed because depression disconnects us from our body, and muddles the mind terribly (think slicing pain, forgetfulness, loss of will to live. You’re jealous, I know.). Traditionally in the West we have held our spirituality in the mind and spirit. See how the two don’t jive? Depression=mind muddled, disconnection from body. Western spirituality=lives in the mind and spirit, rather than in the body. See?

Leading up to and during this season of depression (not my first, probably not my last, but, hey, I’m getting good at it!) my faith slowly slipped away. You say Jesus, my mind says “but was he real? And resurrection…really? Even if it did happen, how is that relevant to my inability to get off this couch?” You say mysticism, my spirit says, “I still want to die, and no matter how much you meditate, that feeling won’t go away.” See what I mean? Spirituality just didn’t work for me anymore, so the faith of my mind and spirit, well, it slipped away. 

Not that I didn’t try to hold onto it. Desperately. If I was Jack Dawson and the door under Rose was faith, I was pushing her off to save myself. That’s how fervently I wanted to keep believing. Even if I didn’t go to church. Even if my relationships with practicing (mostly conservative) Christians continued to deteriorate. I wanted Jesus. I wanted the moral code that I had studied and followed for my entire life. I wanted to be able to read Psalm 139 without throwing my Bible against the wall. I wanted the comfort that spiritual songs used to bring me. But I couldn’t do any of it. Trying to was nearly torture. 

My beliefs in Jesus from strong, to non-existent, to a gentle acceptance of it all.

What stopped my clinging to the Christian tradition and finally pushed me over the edge, you ask?

The Christians. The people I would have called my community. The self-proclaimed gate-keepers of the Kingdom (so much for Peter, up there taking heavenly role). People who had seen me energetically greet refugees and immigrants from other countries. People who had funded missions trips I went on and bragged about my service and joy. 

I kept my distance from the entire Christian community during the course of my depression (except for a select few friends who manage to love and respect me despite our differences), not wanting to kick the hornet’s nest. Then, through a series of events involving a roommate (you know how that usually goes, damn it), word got out that I was–gasp–a universalist. 

The Christians couldn’t take it. I was met with, told I was wrong, told I was no longer invited to their community. 

A social media post about my new, more open and inclusive beliefs, that I hadn’t posted with the attention of offending anyone, was met with pages of cruel comments. I was told that I could say blank but I could not say blank. It wouldn’t have hurt, I would have written them off as your run-of-the-mill jerks, if it wasn’t people who had known me for so long. If it wasn’t the same thing that I had grown up hearing. If it wasn’t what my own blood says. 

It hurt. I was done. Christianity could die a cruel death (the tradition has a history with that sort of death anyway). 

That was, until Christmas this year. 

Of course, it wasn’t just Christmas season popping up that helped me find my way back to a loose hold on Jesus. I had remembered, over the past few months, the importance of stopping to smell the roses. I’ve never been a fan of how roses smell, personally, but it’s the concept I am after here: pauses are essential components of mental and emotional health. Pausing to absorb something good all the way into the body is a holy practice. Returning to meditative practices such as reading poetry slowly, taking walks, letting go of fear-driven action, and pausing to look at flowers, trees, my cat, etc. had begun to pull me out of the lingering fog of depression and anxiety (along with good food, deep rest, and frequent exercise) by the time Christmas decor appeared in the Anthropologie window display. 

My relationship with Christmas over the years hasn’t been particularly noteworthy–I don’t watch Lifetime movies and I’ll be fine if I never walk into another Hallmark store. 

As a child, I did love staying up late in my room on Christmas Eve to soak up the soft glow of the Christmas lights hung over my curtains. My family took a yearly trip to visit relatives that left me over-stimulated (I hadn’t yet learned the importance of 10-20 minutes per day with my eyes closed and my legs up the wall to reduce my ever-present anxiety), over fed with rich food that caused me severe stomach aches (gluten intolerance and dairy sensitivity, both unidentified until I was in high school), and uncomfortable (I have needed regular movement since I was a child, and was generally denied it on these trips). 

So, by the time I broke ties with my family when I was 18, I needed a break from Christmas. One year I was suicidal on Christmas and spent the evening in my car listening to beautiful, melancholy songs by one of my favorite bands, Gungor. Later, I spent two years overseas for Christmas (in a country that celebrates the holiday on a far less extravagant scale).

That was my break from Christmas. Last year, I felt pretty meh about it as well. 

This year is different. Oh ho ho, my friend, this year, some magic has infiltrated me. Did you know there are stickers in the shape of glittery gingerbread shaped men at Michael’s? Do you know how delectable the Holiday Spice Yankee Candle smells? Have you felt the utter joy of sitting on a couch in the dark, staring at the lights and ornaments on a two-foot-tall tree with your hand stroking a black cat’s smooth fur? 

I know it isn’t the Christmas things that are making me feel this way. Not entirely, that is. But since I have cultivated that practice again of pausing and absorbing, and probably due to the long break from engaging with Christmas, the Christmas ish is digging its way through sensations in my body, into my soul. The Christmas lights pinned against dark winter nights, the yumminess of Christmas cards, the warmth emitted by Thistle Farms candles, the exchanges of good cheer and song. It’s priceless, and it is bringing my heart, body, and spirit back together as one. 

 Last Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Church that I semi-regularly attend (per the insistence of my inquisitive soul that relentlessly longs for conversation about all that is impossible to put into words, i.e., spirituality), the Reverend Jan said something that made me catch my breath: “We need not leave behind the stories that hold meaning in our hearts.”

We need not leave behind the stories that hold meaning in our hearts.

Jesus. I need not leave behind Jesus. 

I need not leave behind Christmas–a holiday who is shrouded in painful memories for myself and many people–because it brings light into my dark spaces. I need not leave behind the stories of Jesus, and of unconditional, all-encompassing Divine Love that the Christian tradition handed to me.

Let the bullshit be as it is. Let Jesus be who he has been for you, Lydia. Let the Psalms be what they have been. Leave the rest out of your mind. 

If Christmas can be redeemed and redemptive in my life, than maybe Christianity can too. 

As my favorite Christian author, Sarah Bessey said in her new book, “I pray that you will bless the box you once needed for God and that you will treat it tenderly even as you leave it behind.”

 

There is tons more to this story. Religion and spiritual beliefs are an undeniable, inevitable part of my life (how else could I hold this soul?). I’ve experienced my greatest pain and greatest joy at the hand of religion, of this idea of Jesus, of God. I’ve read books about indigenous sacred beliefs that are arguably more peaceful and inclusive than the Bible. There is the reality that I am a white woman of European descent and I’m not sure about how I feel that my people have hijacked the holy book of the Jews. There’s a lot to this. Clearly. But for now, this is the story of Christmas season for me this year, and a splish of redemption in my story of spiritual exploration

Re-embracing the stories that hold meaning in my heart may be just as sacred and healing of a practice as staring at my Christmas tree and its’ beautiful orbs of light nearly every December evening is. Encountering abysmal darkness on the path of our lives is unavoidable. We may as well allow every light–even that of the smallest or most inexplicable candle–to glimmer over our secret souls. I can let the stories of Jesus, and my memories of Christmas, shape-shift before my eyes. Holding them loosely allows them to breathe, allows them to become relevant to my constantly changing experience.

 

That being said, I’ll leave you with a blessing:

 

May the scent and sensation of Christmas light fill your spirit. And if your spirit is lost to you this Christmas, and you are unable to connect enough with your body to feel the goodness of the Holiday in your bones, because of depression or any other suffering you face, may you experience a breath of relief and a whiff of hope on the heels of this season. 

“There is a light in us that only darkness itself can illuminate. It is the glowing calm that comes over us when we finally surrender to the ultimate truth of creation: that there is a God and we are not it.” ~ Joan Chittister

Favorite Things List

 

  1. (A list inside of a list) The books I have read during the last revolution around the sun, that have shown new light on my spirit: The City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert, Becoming by Michelle Obama, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens, An American Marriage by Tayari Jones, Dreams from My Father by Barack Obama, When They Call you a Terrorist by Patrisee Khan-Cullors, Rumbo Hacia el Norte por Luis Alberto Urrea, Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell.
  2. The cool humidity that seeps under the windows into my apartment on rainy fall days.
  3. Remembering (for the thousandth time) that what other people think about what I do doesn’t matter one iota.
  4. The sound of my pencil scratching across the page as I pour thoughts and feelings onto the page, and slowly some painful knot inside of me is undone.
  5. Movement & the way my breath changes when I ride a stationary bicycle, walk, do a yoga practice, or swim laps. The way my muscles tighten and slacken consistently, on the pendulum of physical action or inaction.
  6. The bold disregard of children–they don’t care if their words make sense, if they have been said before, or if they’re sharing horribly ignorant ideas. They just speak. They speak because they have a voice and they’re practicing the use of it!
  7. The circle of colored light that the Christmas lights strung over my bedroom window cast onto the wall behind them.
  8. The circle of Love that I enjoy; my intimacy partner, my cat, myself, wrapped around one another on rainy or sunny days. We whisper love to one another. We breath together in the kitchen after, before work. We trip over one another’s feet, paws, and feelings, We do nice things to make the  home more homely for the three of us, we eat together, we cry as one, we sigh when it is already Monday again. We ride the waves of beauty and struggle that life washes our way, together. No wonder the Holy Trinity is three: father, son, spirit, all hung together in unity, harmony, teaching us to exchange Love relentlessly.
  9. Fair compensation laid in my hand after I provide quality instruction, be it yoga, meditation, English, Spanish, or otherwise. I will never stop working because so far it has not ceased to give me a sense of dignity and a place in this world. I love when people tell me that my work was good, because it confirms what I already know, what I have worked so hard to bring into the world.
  10. Friends who laugh at the same things as I do, even from afar. Friends who I dream of going on adventures with, waking and sleeping. Friends whose messages bring light to my spirit. Friends whom I hold loosely in my hands, grateful for their existence, trusting the Universe to bring them to me in person, in Her own sweet time.

 

Shalom, all.

Let’s Talk About Money (TCICF Part 5)

 

Let’s talk about money. Let’s talk about how it makes us feel, how it makes our children feel.

During a study hall class period in my room last week I heard students discussing the wealth of one of their classmates’ family.

“His home is called Garrett Manor. Can you believe that?” The tone was sneering, cynical, envious. As an energetically sensitive person, I could tell that this was a recurrent conversation topic & I was glad the 14 year old boy who they were talking about wasn’t there at the time.

Let’s talk about how paranoid I have been about money for so long. It isn’t that I compulsively check my bank account. Oh no, I wouldn’t do something that ridiculous. But often I shake my head when I realize I’ve been lost in a day dream (more like day sweat) about ways to earn more money, to line my bank account.

Let’s talk about how wealthy folks compare themselves only to the even wealthier (similar to how men compare their life to those men who have “everything”. Ever noticed that?), creating a skewed perspective of economic dynamics in society. Two students went to buy chocolate for me from the vending machine (yes, I’ll shamelessly admit this. It was a study hall–of course I didn’t send them to get my snacks during instruction! Have some faith, people ;)). They got back & returned my dollar looking uncomfortable. “You didn’t have enough,” they said.

“How much are the M&M’s?!” I asked.

“$1.75.”

“Oh, I’m not spending that.” They looked pinched now & one sheepishly mentioned having a dollar to loan me. “No way!” I said. “I have the money but I won’t pay that price for a tiny bag of M&M’s.”

That interaction has stayed with me because of how uncomfortable it made them feel that I hadn’t given them enough. I’ve spent time with people whose lives are defined by not enough. More people than not, actually. Yet these children of wealthy families could barely handle the idea of not enough. They would have preferred to give me some of their own, than witness me experience not enough.

Let’s talk about parental concerns about money effect their children. How children will go above & beyond to save their parents pennies — even to the point of stealing or going hungry.

Let’s talk about how if a parent tells their child they will lose all financial support should they come out as gay/trans/bi, refuse to be a member of a specific religious sect, date a certain person, or otherwise act in a way contrary to that parents’ own viewpoint. Let’s talk about the pain that causes the child who is then forced to choose between their own conscience & their physical safety. Instead of being protected they are attacked from within–the dagger of betrayal drawing a line in the sand between family & true self, forcing an isolating choice.

Let’s talk about sleepless nights, years without seeing a doctor (either for lack of resources or due to a paranoic need to conserve resources), and months of eating only what is on the Kroger sale rack–or worse–what is offered cheaply from the closest Fast Food joint.

Let’s talk about feeling inferior for having less money than some, & feeling guilt for having more than others. There is at once the urge to give the money you have away, & the desire to hoard until you too have enough to make you good (enough).

There is a desert created by people who spend their money on immediate external things. It is dry & shallow there, a moment dominated by the dictatorship of pop culture.

The oasis is where people invest their money, able to put away, indulge a bit, & invest continually in education, & a better world. Let’s talk about how that should be the reality for everyone.

Why do we feel wrong no matter how much money we have or don’t have? Why is it so easy for wealthy people to write off & minimize the ferocious dilemma of poverty?

Money is a topic infrequently broached because of the dark emotions it is hidden beneath. Were we to shed those emotions like heavy cloaks we could see that underneath is the same skin. Beneath the costume we face the same questions & fears. We need to look in one another’s eyes & say confidently, “there is enough for you.” Then we need to live it.

The Cloth I’m Cut From (Part 4)

 

Last Friday & yesterday there has been a homeless man posted on the corner with a limp cardboard sign. He panhandles early in the morning, in the burgeoning Arkansas heat. I encounter homeless folks multiple times every day because of the neighborhood I live in, & because it is nearly impossible not to in Little Rock. According to this site there are 9 homeless folks for every 10,000 members of our general population.

When I passed that man the first time, his hair slightly dreadlocked, I tried to make eye contact but saw that his eyes were unfocused. He was grunting & talking to himself, making jerky movements with his hands & neck. Signs of internal suffering were there as clearly as the dirt under his fingernails.

I won’t say that folks who are not Cut from the Same Cloth as I (any number not 4 on the Enneagram ) would not see this man with compassion. I do, however, know that an innate part of me makes it impossible to not identify a part of myself in that homeless man.

A couple of weeks ago I sat at my parents’ long dinner table with Christian conservative friends of theirs. The opinionated woman of the couple said, “I felt bad coming out of this fancy sushi restaurant while homeless people stood outside.” She laughed, the flab on her arms waving. “A lot of them are crazy, you know.”

That’s a perspective that I have never seen people from, a distanced other-ing. It is clear to me that circumstances beyond our control are what make or break us. Imagining myself in those oversized lace-less shoes on the street corner (pictured above) is easy.

Part of who I am is an active imagination, the compulsive tendency to identify with the suffering of others.

I missed that man when I drove by & he wasn’t there this morning. His suffering (although vastly different from my own suffering) feels familiar; it reminds me of my vulnerability. The Cloth I’m Cut From ensures that I tire of guarded, shallow interaction. The honesty of homelessness breaks open my heart in a way that grounds me. I want every person to have a home, but as long as they don’t, I want to see it on my way to work. 

 The sky was clear this morning, heavenly.

Until Earth becomes Heaven I want to bear witness to what makes it Hell. Probably because of the Cloth I’m Cut From.

The Cloth [We’re] Cut From (Part 3)

If I plan to spend time with someone cut from the same cloth as I, I prepare. Mentally, I rid myself of distractions in order to be able to engage with the waterfall of dialogue that is coming. Emotionally, I check in to be sure that my boundaries are stable. Physically, I get my workout in early because when these folks are in social mode, exercise isn’t the priority.

Connection is.

What we have loved, others will love, and we will show them how. ~ Wordsworth

I had the privilege of traveling with a friend from college named Dolly to her homeland of Puerto Rico in 2016. It was an intimate trip as her three young adult children were there, and we visited her (Puerto Rican) parents more than once. Her kids slept in & were glued to their phones nearly every morning. Dolly & I, however, being Cut From the same Cloth, woke early, excited for the day.

One day, she & I get in her rental & drive to a beach. On the way we attempt conversations in Spanish (my Spanish at the time was very broken), & then I ask questions to lead the conversation somewhere deeper. Once started, she sermonizes about her Capstone paper about Spanish literature. Her long, twisty hair is tinted with blonde highlights, & her voice melodic. The conversation–like most of our conversations– veers toward the spiritual. The passion rises in Dolly’s voice as she speaks of the Divine, of God, & of the relationship she has with “him”. Her perfect fingernails & the thin bands on her fingers reflect the light that sneaks through the trees along the Puerto Rican backroads. She is an intensely beautiful person & I revel in this time together.

That night, we are in the car again, & she talks about motherhood. Yet rather than cookie-cutter, her attitude is comical. Her words are along the lines of: “My son tells me everything about his sex life. I’m like, honey, I don’t want to know this. And then he says he doesn’t have a good relationship with his dad so who else is he gonna talk to.”

She says she doesn’t want to know, yet I see that she is holding space for that information from him. People like me don’t shut others down, especially not those who look up to us. Dolly didn’t want to know about her adult son’s sex life, but she never responded to the information by shaming him, or becoming angry. That’s not how we roll. I love us for it.

While in Puerto Rico I didn’t worry about using her space, her car, her food budget. I knew she wasn’t keeping score–because of who I am, & who I knew her to be. That’s a rare relief to experience: having your needs met in a foreign place without concern of racking up debts or resentment in the hostess.

That ability to be no-strings-attached generous, passionate about spiritual conversations, & a safe sounding board for young people to talk about issues that are often responded to with shame, show a commitment to preserving connection no matter the personal price. It is a skill common in people Cut From the same Cloth as I. 

We live to love & be loved. 

We are sensitive.

We are present (on good days).

We are unique.

We are undercover leaders.  

“…I keep dying because I love to live.” ~Maya Angelou