Tend-and-befriender

It is odd to tell a story as if it was a thing that happened and it has an end and tra la la. This story is a chapter, it is a leaf only recently flipped over, and I am not sure which parts of its’ green vines to write, and which to leave for later.

Yet today, here, now, all I have is cute little me and my inhospitable life story and path. Here, friends, is a part.

August 2015 I am in a restaurant in Birmingham, Alabama with my best friend Emily. She is chewing red and yellow tortilla chips in the magical way only she can, and I gaze at the shiny bottles of alcohol propped on and around the bar caddy-corner to us.

“I’m just afraid that I will marry him and go to be with him and then hate it and not want to be there,” I say. Emily and I do not talk about everything but we talk about most things and all the deep things, yet somehow there is a unique heaviness to the fear I share in this moment. Emily nods like the sane, level-headed being she is, and validates my concern with restraint.

Sadly, utter heaviness was no stranger to my experience of life then, and still maintains a fairly reliable presence (always forward, always healing, always hopeful). At that point I was back from an emotionally stressful overseas trip, and had returned with a new tend-and-befriender. What is that, you ask? Using language from Teresa B. Pasquale’s book Sacred Wounds, tend-and-befriend is a defense mechanism used by someone in survival mode or trauma response. It is associated with the bonding hormone, oxytocin, that serves humans by helping us feel connected to others. It becomes nefarious, however, when a person is stuck in a trauma response and feels dependent emotionally on (often potentially hurtful) people or communities.

At the age of 21, I had spent the majority of my life (read: every second) moving from a stress response. The emotional and religious trauma of my developmental years left me stuck in frozen distress (things can get reeeeeally hairy there is distress-arctica, let me tell ya), and there I was, about two months after the difficult trip, feeling a deep obligation to return to be with someone in a foreign country who had helped me through a VERY rough 13 days. I felt that I owed him something, and that to return and live the life I assumed he wanted from or with me was the undeniable right thing to do.

I felt it not on a spiritual level, nor on a level of dutifulness, nor on an intellectual level. It was deeper than those parts of me, and now I know that when I feel that deep, guttural obligation it is coming from my very evolution. Those stress responses are a part of me because I am a part of an evolving body of humanity; sounds beautiful, sure, but in that moment, I was very stuck. Living in this kind of stress response is like trying to breath with air that is only 0.09% oxygen. It is having your insides in the fetal position when you need them to open and flourish and say things and be responsive to people. It is a jack-hammer in your mind that leaves you vulnerable to re-experiencing the abuse combined with a sense of badness that stings and prods like horse flies on the beach. It is no sleep and avoidance of every love-light ray that comes near your personal darkness.

The religious trauma compounded with this process has continually led me to my knees, trying to bargain with push-and-pull gods off in the cosmos who made me, so must want me, but also must not want me since here I am in this turmoil again.

Thankfully, the kind man who helped me when I was overseas, lived, yes, overseas. After 5+ months in contact with him, I suddenly cut all conversation–text, calls, video. He offered advice and was kind and looking back I think he must have sensed the turmoil I was in though he did not understand it either, and I said goodbye.

January 2016 I am at my part-time cleaning job the day after cutting off the relationship and the air is back to 20% oxygen. Sweet, sweet clear oxygen filling my shriveled lungs. I lift my Pledge-covered rag over my head and dance; I feel elated, happy, for the first time in months. I am happy because I see that I am mine. As the jack-hammer lifts off my mind, I am thinking over and over: this is my life. I clean this house. This is my heart. I feel these things. The fetus my insides had become is suddenly a seed of new life, rather than a posture of protection. I am mine again, independent, and my muchness is slipping back into the ghost of myself that has been living misguided and drained for the past months.

I still wonder if people without an over-active stress response system feel that elated all the time. I wonder how many times I will have to survive a response like that again until my Holy Trinity (body, mind, soul) can look a stressful situation in the face and know that I am enough, and that it is going to be okay and I am going to make it regardless of what goes down.

I never should have accessed this place of stress and trauma. I certainly never should have gotten stuck in it for so long. But this is my life. MY super unique and immense life, people. I am grateful that I get to live it, know it, figure it out. This life is path and path is where my insides and outsides come together and I experience joy and love and laughter. Here, on path, I take the hands of my loved-ones with my own, even when I feel that my hands are not worthy to be inside of someone else’s.

Last week someone I love very much was angry and I could see the anger that she was trying to protect me from as I stroked her black hair.

I could see. I have lived. It has hurt. I can see.

Live free, live inside of the Big Love.

Namaste, nomads.

 

LN

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Love Now, For Always

 

Nothing is forsaken since love seeps through

Shallow graves and dead stumps.

We weep for blights and injustices,
But even if we hung up our lyre,
The bluebirds and yellow­bellied sapsuckers
Sing for the weary, “There is love after death.”
–Becca Stevens

Patagonia & Hopeful Humanity

What is this mysery?

Frozen piece of earth,

with lives huddled together on its slender finger turned toward Antarctica.

Who are these mysteries?

Long eyebrows and faces pressed together even in the streets, asking me questions and hesitantly demonstrating the English that was handed to them in high school.

Who am I amidst these mysteries?

…These were questions I asked myself as I drove for hours to reach Coyhaique, a city in Patagonia. I never imagined myself so close to the turning of the globe, to the tip of South America!

2626272559_99a5cc902b

I was there for four full days and experienced the rich culture within the Chilean family of my friend and hosts. The past 3 weeks here in Temuco have been challenging. Trying to figure out communication, how to be me, how to thrive regardless of what goes on around me, all when I don’t know how to take out the trash or what the hell to eat…phew! Culture adjustment is a whirlwind: life with Chile up until my time in Coyhaique had been more of a wrestling match than a love affair.

Then I breathed some mountain air & sat in the fire light of an accepting and warm culture.

My soul exhaled.

When my soul exhales, I tend to write poems 🙂 Enjoy, dear ones.

 

The Taste of Human Hope

 

Life in Chile has a cheesecake flavor,

every bite silk against the tongue, chased by purple wine.

 

Housekeepers and brooms twirl in kitchens,

radios playing the tune of each caramelo swirl.

 

Mamás and Papás, grandmas and their babies tuck themselves into corners

while the whole thing stops for lunch.

 

Children bounce between gentle arms:

the community choreographs an artistic ritual of mild annoyance.

 

Birds with dry rubber bands in their throats ride updrafts to the base

of mountains bigger than I have seen before, as dogs nobody owns sniff my skirt hem.

 

Weak orange street lights draw lines in the evening haze,

dull silver knives massaging cheese and sweet sauces onto fresh buns.

 

Behind curtains cheeks are kissed, tables set with white clothes, tea cups, and small spoons,

weapons against the agitation of winter.

 

It seems that Chileans fight the frigidity I feel with sparks of loving invitations to dinner,

by tenderly cutting their salami and cheese sandwiches in half.

 

Tall trees frame the moon with crusty silhouettes. Under the clouds, in front of the velvet sky,

the star Love gave me winks mischievously.

 

Esperanza, Hope;

I am a child yet she is my winter light daughter.

 

Let us lie in the arms of one another,

first born of each other,

 

as I stand amidst the cold night air

and you pin back the blackness.

 

 

 

Hugs & hope,

Lydia Nomad

Loverfly

Fam!

In all honesty, I am a little embarassed that it has been almost a month since I posted. However, I have been listening to some lovely lady voices (Naomi Shihab Nye, The Indigo Girls, Regina Spektor, Audrey Assad, to name a few) & now find myself living in the Southern hemisphere for a while. A city in central Chile called Temuco is my current home. It is terrifying and enchanting to be here but the journey and settling in process could not have gone any smoother.

In the moments when everything, from the city streets, to the food, to the curtains and the bed where I sleep seems foreign and I become overwhelmed, these words have been an oar I use to paddle my way forward*:

By the light of day and by the dark of night your God has not forgotten you || Quran Daylight 93.1

&

Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. || Psalm 116:7

Sometimes the most difficult of big journeys (or just big changes) require me to sit, to return to silence, and remember God is not mad at me. I am not in trouble. It is all a gift to be enjoyed. And most important, and most difficult for me to believe, it all has a purpose. I have purpose.

Silence is the language of God, everything else is poor translation. || Rumi

It is interesting the internal furniture that is rearranged by travel. Sunday afternoon (my 5th day here) an old sorrow surfaced, like pieces of algea that ride the tips of ocean waves. It evoked a poem and a deep ache inside, connected to other aches. Pauline Boss says that the answer to human sadness is human connectedness (I have been listening to a lot of On Being with Krista Tippett, obviously) and I wonder if that is because sorrow touches every experience we have. Sadness is an ultimately integrated space and our interactions with others, those sweet moments when we touch and are touched, must be the only remedy broad and complex enough to greet the ache.

My liberation journey continues, now on a new continent. Dirt and sky, both ancient and savage, keep me company as I wait, breath, live one more day….yearning for gratitude, aching for new Life inside.

You, dear blog readers, always get the roughest, newest poetry. I hope you enjoy:

In a country new to me

I looked down and saw, for the first time,

the face of a miniature Chilean:

round, chapped cheeks and almond shaped eyes with dark brown fans for eyelashes.

I asked the unanswerable question: how does loving a child

make adopting an entire culture

that much easier?

 

Tucked away from the wind in the afternoon

one of the unanswerable questions I find is:

Why fall in love so often?

Why are humans so quick to embark on such a painful journey?

What foolhardy resilience are we busy cultivating

that we jump off the cliff time after time (to pursue cultures, experiences, people),

falling into something new with the old still all around us.

 

I keep this one love like dried beans in a secret, quiet place in my heart

where it is dry and cool

and where I don’t look very often;

I don’t know why.

It hurts to look, yet

for the sake of the future loves

I will be found taking the moments made for a look:

a gaze that is long and loving,

though he will never know.

It is the release of his thoughts of me,

of the white woman who came and went

without apology,

that simmers in me volcanously.

It is because he will never know, just as many who have loved me (of all genders and age) will never know,

that the purity and strength of their love was the fire under my feet.

Busy looking for what their love lacked,

they failed to see how love was all I needed

to keep healing, to move towards wholeness,

to walk the way of becoming just one step more.

I didn’t need anything more than what they had to give,

I couldn’t put a tidy bow or explanation on it because their love ran me out,

and what sense is that?

 

A whisper says, learn to not know

or understand,

because love leaves us speechless.

The profound nature of my desire to make it right

beats against my chest;

a silent kick drum against the part of me where I loved him, where I hold those tender memories.

Now the space between us is a chasm and there is no use asking it to decrease in breadth

because what would I say?

Still there is no sense,

only Love, a butterfly perched on my lips, where I smile anyway.

 

Ciao!

Lydia Nomad

 

*Naomi Shihab Nye, On Being with Krista Tippett, July 28, 2016

 

 

 

Glory & Guts

I’m singing out: YOUR LOVE LEAD ME!

 

There’s nothing that I have need of

There’s nothing you haven’t done

You make my soul alive

You put your life inside

There’s nothing that I have need of

There’s nothing you haven’t done

 

You make my soul alive

You put your life inside

 

You put your love inside

 

I’m giving you everything

 

~United Pursuit, Simple Gospel album

 

March toward freedom. Run when you’re unable to even stand. Use what could be your last breath (maybe feels like it IS the last breath of your soul) to hurl yourself toward light. Set your heels deeper in the mud and when they sink, keep pushing. You’re slaves but you don’t have to be. Stomp your foot in the face of that slavery. Sing out: there is a BEYOND for me. There is much to move towards. Restoration is a prize worth struggling unto death for. You may not know if anything good is true, but hope is essential. You have to believe it until it is true. You have to grind your teeth together and clench your fists until your fingernails draw blood. You have to wrestle the selfishness & despair within until you stand with your foot on its’ neck. There is more to be, more to believe, more life & abundance for the taking than you could ever imagine. You have access to all the strength that you need. The One who made you wants you back. Do you hear the song of love that the trees and waves and woodpeckers and thunder claps sing for you? The cry of Love’s broken heart: come back. Come back to the One from whom you came. You exist. You are. As surely as you are, you are loved. Newness is around the corner for you, powerful one. Nothing can limit your potential, your love, your light, your purpose. You were made to change & to change this planet. Whatever broken down places there are in you, they are redeemable. Whatever has been done to you can be undone. Whatever has been undone in you can be remade. There is no such thing as irreparable. There is no such thing as hopeless or helpless.

 

There is no such thing as a gift without price. This battle costs everything. It asks surrender of you. It asks devotion of you. But first, all it asks is belief. One movement (and a hundred more every day to follow) in the direction of “yes” to power beyond you will hurtle you into an extraordinary journey. An extraordinarily difficult journey. Every step requires a loss, and the losses will set you free. They’ll feel like betrayal. You will lose the only you you thought there was. You will find innumerable lies lodged in the foundation of your being and you will have to decide to let it crumble. In darkness the Enemy will whisper that you don’t love your family. In darkness the Enemy will accuse you of pride, of indulgence, of selfishness, of irresponsibility. In victorious moments all you will feel is struggle and doubt. Then you will look back & make an idol of the victory instead of the One from whom it came. In the hardest moments you will wonder why and how and your brow will be so tight that you get a headache. You will forget how hellish the slavery is and you will follow your flesh back to rock bottom. You will progress and you will regress. You will doubt and question and experience greater pain than you knew you had the capacity for. People won’t understand. People will throw darts. People will mock and people will wonder. They will worship you and that will hurt worse than anything else.

 

You won’t fit the mold anymore.

 

Your love changes everything.~United Pursuit

 

You will slowly lose your linear eyes. You will regain a poetic perspective and you will see beauty where no one else can. You will grow up and you will become a child again. The strong hands of your cravings won’t steer the boat anymore. You won’t be controlled by nerves, fear, or timidity. You won’t be running ragged and unsatisfied. You won’t hate the words coming out of your mouth; raw joy will take their place. You will run with hell at your heels towards one Being only & find that every other relationship can be fueled by the overflow from moment-by-moment encounters with Jesus. You will discover what you were made to do. Your skin will crawl and you won’t be able to live with that being the way it is anymore. You will see miracles & you will pedal and walk and run and jump and limp and crawl until the skin on your hands is calloused, your knees are knotty, and the cavern of your heart swollen. You will learn not to trust in life stages or relationship status but in an unchanging force whose tide is steady. You will eat less and sleep harder and dream bigger.

You will lose the ability to hate and have enemies. You will ache for someone besides yourself and you will offer that ache back to the One. Your soul will swell with joy & your time alone will be precious, full of laughter and dancing. Your fears will fall off your face in silver tears and the moon will replace them with determination and a fierce desire for home. Your need for admiration or adoration from your friends will turn into gratitude for the “amens” they speak over your life. People won’t make your decisions for you. People won’t disappoint and limit you. People won’t have the last word. People will speak curses and blessings over your head and what isn’t true just won’t matter. 

I saw your soul without the skin attached
You’ve got the guts of a coyote pack
We’ve been kissed, we’ve been cut
But we do what needs the doing
We’re just rainbows dreaming we’re human
~Cloud Cult

You will discover true glory. That hidden glory, familiar and sweet, will chase away the memories of every violation you have perpetrated against your soul and the souls of your neighbors. The glory will erase your shame and you will be baptized into forgiveness so often you lose count of the times you’ve come back up.

 

You were born as a spark.

Re-gain the spark that’s been pinched between the index finger and thumb of your life.

Give your spark space to breath.

Show it to no one but the warm wind of spring.

Protect it with your everything and beg the God of hope to let it grow.

Kneel in the wild and trust the small fire you have become to the flame of origin.

Accept no limitations.

Fight harder, win bigger.

Hunger for the Holy One more than for food.

Let Him/Her take you beyond.

The goodness is unending.

Dare to believe it.

Bet your vaporous life on it.

Everything changes.

sun hunt

Riding my bike, gears creaking, tires rattling, I look up at a small rock bluff.
Beautiful, I think. Then, as I ride by, it occurs to me that this could be a moment to encounter the divine. This could be a Mount Sinai (I’m always on alert for Mount Sinais. When I’m not on alert for homework, emotions, work, food, clothes, friends, that is). Turning around I leave the beaten path, lay my bicycle down on the grass, and tip-toe over rocks & through brambles whose thorn hands stretch out to grab the soft fabric of my dress. On the (short) way up I think about how every day it seems I am seeking the divine. Every day I am wanting to become a more spiritual being, on higher alert for the invisible, eternal world around & in us. So I do odd things like go to church on Sundays & have conversations with people who are different than me. (There is no formula, that I know of, other than getting outside of culture’s boxy perspective.)
I climb the rock, hopes high that I will feel something, experience some sort of rebirth, or get a word of encouragement for my own soul or someone else’s. Taking two long strides I come to the top. I edge to the overhang and look down. I look around. Trees. Fall trees. Rocks & dirt. The red sign of a Conoco peeks above tree-line, as do various other town buildings. I hear air whistling through my lungs. I feel my pulse. Try and think deep. Try and become meditative. But my bladder tugs attention away from eternity into the present moment. I try to ignore it, looking at a tree with limbs spread wide, watch the yellow leaves wave & blink. The leaves remind me of loved ones. I offer a silent prayer for those I know suffering. Those I know who need healing like they need the next breath of oxygen. I pray for words, for clarity about those situations. I hear nothing. I feel nothing, except the throbbing of my bladder again, and yellow sunlight on the hair of my arms. I pick at the pennys of mud thrown against my leggings by dry-rotted bike tires.
I pray. I lean into my own consciousness. I hope for something wonderful, something undeniably divine to blow my way. Nothing does.
So I say thanks for the trees, the grass, the skin holding my flesh in shape, the feet that got me up this mountain (over which a dear friend prayed for healing this morning–it didn’t come, not today), and the people I have the privilege of praying for.
I get on my bike & ride away. No story to tell. No words burning within. Maybe a gust of peace across the prairie of my mind. Nothing tangible, really. Just another interlude. An episode that matters because of the desire, chased down, that got no answer. A mystery every other moment mimics, carrying pleas for place and for significance away with the afternoon breeze.

So I said, “I’m here to do it your way, O God, the way it is described in your book.”~Hebrews 10, MSG

The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. ~Christopher McCandless

Wonderprints

It is truly no wonder that the God of the universe’s Isaiah 45 mantra is:
…none besides me; I am the Lord and there is no other…
What a God. Mid my (“training wheel fast”) restricted diet, I pant desperately for Him, & He subtly lets me know He is near. Gracious & merciful, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast LOVE, my Lord leaves fingerprints: a bread-crumb trail for me to follow (into His arms).
Thank you, God, for the pre-class conversation when my friend of 2 years asks if I party, asks about my faith. (God hears my prayers, He wants to give me opportunities to share Him; to point up there! up there!)
Thank you, God, for the moon hanging, like an egg yolk against deep navy felt, low behind me that I barely caught a glimpse of in the rear-view. It said to me, He is here.
Thank you, God, for the dimple your fingerprints left on this sin-crashed world in the shape of that North star, once leading brothers & sisters towards the hope of free lives. (Let us never stop hoping in free lives!)
Thank you, God, that when Your Spirit prompts me to pray over one Pei Wei employee, & I OBEY, we are blessed & hugs are exchanged.
Thank you, God, for the breath-taking stillness of moonlight against an ice manna carpet, muffled snow sounds, and crisp air that paints my exhales stark before my face.

Thank you, God, for your sublime ((Southern)) seasons that remind us how imminent winter-death is, and how utterly essential it is that we find spring-LIFE by seeking You now.