The Light After the Candle is Extinguished

The relationship that I left four months (plus about a week) ago, and events that happened since have truly helped me identify how my values play out in my life. I had read books and taken a quiz about core values, and I thought I was familiar with my own. The first major romantic relationship I had, the difficulties within it, and the subsequent fallout, all helped me see more tangibly the importance of my values, and how they manifest in my life. I also learned oh-so-much about love (but I know for certain there is infinitesimally more that I do not know about it).

The relationship lasted three and a half years in total, and we tried hard to build a life together for one and a half years of that. At least I speak for myself when I say that we tried hard; I like to assume the best, that he tried hard also. Life can jam-pack lessons into short periods of time. That year and a half was a whirlwind of new challenges, ones that I wasn’t ready to face.

The cohabitation hit like a bolt of lightning, and we tried to weld two lives into one with great fervor and hope, but it didn’t work. I can’t say why. Why couldn’t we establish a nourishing home base for both of us? Why couldn’t we find a healthy way to communicate our needs and priorities? Why did our relationship become strained and stuffy and reductive?

Those are treasure chests of information that I can’t yet unlock and absorb. I trust that time will give me the key, and the grace I need to receive the truth. I can, however, now say that I learned some things about myself, big and small.

I learned that I need a place to go to sleep alone at least a few nights out of the week, and I need that not to be taken personally by my partner. I need to know that my boundaries will be respected, and I need to respect the boundaries of my partner, and question my own motives thoroughly when I am inclined to do otherwise.

I learned that a person who triggers me cannot be my confidant, and that I cannot have a partner whose friends are racist. I cannot live with someone who does not practically and theoretically support the flourishing of all human beings, just as they are.

Looking back on the relationship, what irked and depleted me within it, I can identify needs that I have within intimate partnerships. I see now that I need a partner who can listen to and trust the things that I say–even when they have no frame of reference for the depths of my emotional labyrinth. I need this partner to choose me over my family. I need them to be loyal to what we are trying to build together, just as I need them to be wildly independent and committed to building their own selfhood (as I always must be too). I need sexual freedom, and I’d like a partner who knows and respects their needs as well, however out-of-the-box they may be.

Most importantly, I have learned that there are values that shape the practical decisions of my life, regarding which I am not willing to compromise. I have learned that I will create and sustain a life of purpose–because I am incomplete if I do not. I recognize now that the strongest force in me is my undying desire to make the world a better place for all–through those whose lives I can touch. I will choose to love people who are different than me, I will share my resources, my home, my self, and my heart with them, because I see that we aren’t that different, and I know how life can wear on you when others don’t rise up out of their own pain to offer you support.

Through this relationship I learned that love can overcome anything, but when the love is lost, little things become insurmountable. Over the past two years I learned the truth that you can choose a certain someone, really want them, love them with every cell in your bones, long for a life with them from the depths of your soul, and there is still no guarantee that it will work out.

My naivety had me convinced that if I chose someone, and put my all into the relationship, there would be success: a bright future together. I overestimated the power of my choice. I didn’t know that I could choose, I could want, I could pour out my soul, and the candle could go out anyway. I learned that my choice has no bearing on someone else’s. I learned that as powerful as I am, I don’t have power over anyone else, and at the end of the day, I don’t want that power anyway.

I couldn’t manifest what wasn’t meant to be. There can be love, and then that love can be gone. I remember the moment the candle’s wick was cold. Or maybe it was the moment that I realized there just wasn’t a candle anymore. I was standing in our kitchen, and suddenly I lived with a stranger. I looked inward and saw that I had become a stranger to myself. The relationship had led me away from my values, and in that compromise, my selfhood was banished from my own life.

The cold draft of that insight freckled my skin with goose pimples, and I sat down in a kitchen chair so I could think, and make plans to become reacquainted with myself, no matter the cost.

When I realized that the flame was blown out, I knew that more was lost than just a candle (my naivety, for one), but I also knew that some lights cannot be extinguished. Some lights burn low and steady, an unquenchable blaze, ready to fuel the life you are meant to live.

 

a list of healing things

I’m healing myself, again. It might be

the hundredth time, I’m not sure. Anyway,

I’m keeping a list of what works:

(it’s an odd list, I’ll admit)

 

eating three meals a day–seated, not standing, with good manners and frequent pauses–

using colorful Sharpies to fill blank pages with swirls and triangles

squishy yoga poses that feel so good I want to take a picture of myself in them and send it to someone

water, remembering to drink it (and not just right before bed when it will keep me up all night on trips to the bathroom)

ignoring calls I don’t want to take (actually making the calls I need to, too)

writing letters to people I like and putting stickers on the outside of the envelope

knowing deep down (in my bones) that I am doing what I can to make the world a better place (and thus not feeling compelled to blast my opinion socially on the social medias about the latest injustice committed in the world. The peace that comes as a result of action: that’s enough to allow my silence.)

sex. The kind of sex that doesn’t mean I belong to someone. Actually, they taught me that if I had sex without handing a man the legally binding deed to my belonging (a document drawn up by the father at any woman’s birth, they said), I would be immediately dismembered. I would be irreversibly damaged. Barbarously maimed. Beamed up, Scotty. Something along those lines, they said, is what would have happened, they said, had I have had sex without a husband. They said, with a no-husband, it would have been horrendous, horribly. Suffice it to say that somehow sex is on the list of things that are healing me. (They couldn’t have been more wrong, could they?)

books, quiet indulgent hours with my nose close to the page

walks first thing in the morning to awaken my legs

telling trustworthy friends what I need to tell them, and staying quiet about the things I’m not yet ready to share

practicing the art of to listen to (another person)

listening, also, to the bluejays and insistent sparrows

baths

taking my medicine and talking to my therapist

meditating with my legs hung over the big black cushion that I bought several years ago, which was a time slightly after the time that I last healed myself.

 

Life in Pain

Living with chronic pain & health problems is a lot of things. Easy isn’t one of them. For a person who wants to give & give & give to the people around her, it can be difficult to communicate my own needs. It can be nearly impossible for me to hedge myself in rather than opening up to the needs of others. These are the things I need to say for my own healing, & because most days I can’t get the words out to my loved ones.

Living with chronic pain & health problems is being run over by a freight train before you get out of bed every morning. It is a thousand nights of crying & asking “why” under the steady stream of the shower head. It is being someone whose existence makes other people uncomfortable. It is being married to pain & suffering, wondering if they are your soul mate. It is 1,000 existential questions before breakfast and trying to predict how bad the day will be although the day itself offers only positives.

Living with chronic pain is walking down the hall knowing you might pass out & then accidentally spilling your tea into your lap because you were too busy thinking about the possibility of passing out to notice the mug there. It is having high hopes for an outing & finding yourself gritting your teeth & trying to get through it instead of enjoying what you had looked forward to.

It is learning to accept that you’re going to cry in front of your co-workers sometimes & doing your job well anyway.

It is forgiving your body 1,000 times & forgiving yourself for being unable to heal your body 1,000 times more. It is knowing what you need to do to improve your situation but being too paralyzed by the pain to follow through with it. It is listening to people make the same suggestions of things you’ve tried over & over because your unresolved pain makes them uncomfortable.

It’s being mad at yourself for being unable to give your best–or anything–in your work & relationships. It is millions of tiny sacrifices that you make in order to salvage enough energy to get you to the end of the day.

Living with chronic pain & unresolved health problems is hoping that every day will be better than the last.

I see those of you who suffer. In my suffering, I am united to you. We are one as a body of pain. Our stories overlap in this most difficult way & mysteriously it makes us more beautiful. One grueling moment at a time, our love for ourselves & each other overcomes this pain. How do I know? Because we are still here.

 

 

 

The Veil & The Edge

There are times when the veil is thin between insanity & wholeness. Sometimes we think that in order to be whole, well, okay, we have to be as far away from insanity as possible. We buy the lie that in order to be anything orderly & good we must be light years away from chaos & evil.

What if we belong to the chaos as much as we belong to the order? What if we are equal parts good & bad? What if that’s okay?

I’ve heard people talk about a veil between themselves and their loved ones. We watch & read countless stories about that veil, that part-way space between here & the mystery of there. When there is a ouija board or tarot cards or a Bible passage or a loved one breathing their last breath, we want to be as close to that space as we can. We lean up against it as though it isn’t the most terrifying place to be. We do that because we are desperate for a connection to what (or who) we believe–what we know-to be on the other side.

There’s another veil, I see it now, shielding me from the brunt of my emotions. Just as death feels to us like swirling, scary chaos, so our bottled emotions can appear threatening. We pull things into the space between us and the feelings we were made to feel because we feel letting the darkness in. We fear the sleepless nights. We fear saying things to our loved ones that we will deeply regret. We fear letting anyone–even ourselves–into the dark abyss of what we feel lurking beneath the surface of our emotional sphere. We fear that we’ll be labeled “crazy”, that we’ll cross a limit where “mentally ill” will be indelibly stamped upon us. We feel we will never come back up for air; that it will be relentless darkness upsurging until we are no more. We fear that our bodies aren’t big enough to hold the pain that laces each wave.

When the emotions are strong I feel that they will overcome me & I will not be okay.

What does it mean to not be okay? Have I ever not been okay? I have felt that I was not okay more times than I can count on two hands, but none of those feelings have been final. None of that chaos has had the last word.

Some of us smoke, drink, binge, overwork, snark, or over-exercise to deflect the cloud of dark emotions that threatens to envelope us. I tend to bring people and situations and feelings into the space between myself and those feelings, rather than allowing myself to be in the present moment, and to feel those feelings I was made to feel.

I deflect and disassociate rather than face them. The fear of darkness is lodged so deep in me that I’d rather abandon myself than face that darkness with a united front.

The work is to face it. The work is to open yourself up, to let it in, to feel it all, though it drive you bonkers. There is a space where all is chaos; you don’t belong to that space, but you sure as hell have the strength to move in & through it. You might be mentally ill because you won’t let yourself feel it deeply enough. Because you’re deeper & stronger than you ever knew.

I have the strength to move in & through it. There is a part of me that says I won’t make it through if I stop disassociating & deflecting and just bow to the chaotic woundedness of my soul. The truth is that every time I have faced it I have made it through, and it has made me better.

Inside of religion we honor the veil. When we face death we honor the veil. Even our superstitions pay homage to the veil between the known and unknown.

Why not also honor it while we live? Why not fiercely move towards it, fully aware of our own indelible ability to overcome whatever we face in life? We have the ability to keep moving, and avoiding the darkness & the message it brings only inhibits the journey that each one of us is on.

What if we feel the most terrible things in the world, and stand strong in their aftermath? What if we let the darkness in as readily as the light? It may make us crazy. It may push us over the edge.

Maybe that’s because we were meant to fly.

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.

 

 

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.

hostile/rejection

Within the within

of me I insert

my hands emerge with

a dark, grotesque cobwebbed mass entangled around my true self:

a beating heart.

True self is a heartbeat wrapped in the lies

I have told, the truths I have

not told, banished beneath embarassments, memories of off-kelter nights, wrong

words, knives pointed inward, wrists 

slit, betrayals knit, lack, flaws, every

thing else I am or am not that I think I should or should not be

myself.

My hands press into the grungy blob I can’t feel

the beat of true self hidden within

my within. Husk the fragment, feel

needles of light, a closeness not claustrophobic like

clouds hung low in the sky no

rain drops fall. The space this pressure creates peels the layers away, feels

beat of true self hidden within my

within.

The heartbeat is there, fragile as

a fairy whisper of wonder: will she ever leave

me alone? The compulsion to caress and near the heartbeat is overshadowed by

the need to change

–reject–

her.

 

(At the end) I find the opaque blob to be the sum:

pain + shame + fear = separation from essence. The cruelest sensation known

to humankind.

Upon the self that is roped within

my self I inflict

this home-cooked hostility

habitually.