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.

 

Love In & All Around Us

 

I sit and feel the rage — mine, and that which doesn’t belong to me –. the pain of

violence–words and actions–and I notice the yellow sunlight throw itself

against the leaves; complete trust in its’ trajectory.

 

My heart is big enough to swallow the world with every surgical mask, homeless man, and seething crowd in it. Like the feathers of a duck swallow the eggs

beneath her.

 

A duck with a red beak and brown feathers warms that nest of eggs and watches me

warily like she did last spring when

someone else walked by her sacred workplace and the crises on our lips

were not yet anticipated.

 

Crises bubble up, toxic tar ignored past expiration, a message

as blatant as nature’s rhythms:

we are dying

nature keeps living, keeps

 

thrumming her steady bass note:

love woven into the calloused bark,

cutting currents–like whiplashes–down the trunk, telling

us the story of ourselves.

Trauma

Trying to explain what my trauma is like, and how it affects me, feels like trying to explain why my heartbeats, or how two clouds overlap in the sky. It feels beyond me and also to close to me to see. It is something that I cannot articulate but will try all my life to put into words, because these words call me home to myself, and may just call someone else home to herself.

There is the afterglow of intercourse, the nourishment of conversation, the clinking of wine glasses, and the smooth texture of soft cheese. Then there is laughter from the gut, there is the satisfaction of a job well done, there is the exhaustion that comes after a long, full day.

There is all of that, but only until the wire is tripped. It’s unspeakably wonderful until

the damn wire is tripped and there I am inside of the worst memory I have only I’m not there

I’m still in the moment I was in when the wire tripped, but now the moment has the memory superimposed over it like words stamped across

a poster with a photo as the background. My reality becomes the background and

the memory is the words that traipse across, obscuring

any real view of the photograph itself.

The tripwire could be a word (mine or someone else’s), a thought, the recollection of a memory (perhaps brought on by a building, or driving down a certain street, or hearing a certain stringing of words on the radio). It could be the harmless lack of a response to a message I send, it could be a

breakup. Once it is tripped, I am stuck. There isn’t texture, there’s no glow inside, I’m not sure I even have a body. 

No one has seen me, no one ever will. I may never feel anything positive again, and I am utterly, truly alone. I am utterly at the memory’s mercy, anyone it says

that I am with no hopes of being

anyone–or anything–else, ever. Existence becomes static rather than dynamic because

I am triggered. Memory clouds my vision. Was there ever a clear photograph behind the words or has it always been these blocky, irritating words that obscure anything beautiful.

The words aren’t right. The essence of trauma eludes me, even now, as it has me wrapped inside its’ talons. Mercy is that every time I trip the wire is another chance

to put into words this ruthless phenomenon that I and so many others experience daily, weekly, maybe foreverly (I don’t know):

trauma. It is ours, though, and we carry it courageously forward.

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.

 

 

 

Seva Unity Fund

In honor of the four young people who I have mentored for nearly ten years, I have created a Pay Pal money pool into which I will put 10% of the profit that I earn for giving yoga classes. Class attendees are also welcome to donate to the money pool at any time. Two of the young people that I have been mentoring for years are approaching college age. I remember the struggles that I had as a college student with little-to-no family support. Car problems and small expenses could have become major setbacks for me if it weren’t for the community of generous people who surrounded and supported me at that time. Ginger, my employer when I started college, gave me a used laptop that worked until I graduated from college. Lisa let me live with her for an entire semester of college and I stayed (rent-free also) in Kristin’s spare bedroom for almost three full semesters. Not to mention that my (financially stable) parents paid my phone bill throughout that time, despite the status of our broken relationship. The point is, I had a community of privileged people who were the safety net that I couldn’t have graduated college without. 

Not everyone has the luxury of such a community. Very few people are given a free laptop. Many people’s parents cannot afford to keep their grown children on their Verizon Family Plan for four extra years.

Small expenses and inconveniences can become complete roadblocks when a young person doesn’t have financial support to fall back on. It costs over $60 to take the ACT, a price that could keep someone from being able to take it once, much less take it multiple times in an attempt to score high enough to earn an academic scholarship. Good laptops cost $500 or more. That is just a couple of expenses that can make it nearly impossible for young people from low-income homes to get accepted to and find success in college.

Both of the students that I mentor come from single, working parent homes.

They come from homes with multiple siblings.

They are people of color in a racist world.

One of them comes from a family ridden with untreated mental health problems and addiction.

Both of these students have so much to give. I have known them since they were vivacious little kiddos! They have unique talents and ideas, as well as great work ethics.

They deserve the chance to excel in college and not be held back by what should be minor concerns.

The money we are going to start gathering in the Seva Unity Fund will allow me to step in when these two students face a financial setback. It will allow them to take the ACT without being stopped by the cost. Hopefully, it will allow them to purchase functional laptops that they can use throughout their college education (and beyond)!

This fund is Love Yoga’s way of giving back. Seva is the yogic ideal of selfless service. This is our Seva. It will connect the practices that we share every week here in Little Rock to a purpose greater than ourselves. We are beings capable of moving for our own sake and for the sake of others. We practice, we share, we exist as one.

 

Namaste!

 

https://paypal.me/pools/c/8pcxnA9wKp

tell me

tell me

what I said that made you think

I belong to you

 

tell me

what I did that seemed to prove

I belong to you

 

tell me

how I touched you that made you feel

I belong to you

 

tell me

what detail of my life I shared that told you

I want to belong to you

 

Lovers of mine,

tell me. So I can

take it all back, spend those nights

alone and free.

I had Forgotten

Life is cyclical in many ways. I experience something, move to the heart of it, through it, and continue on until I return to the same or a similar experience. I face something and it brings so many torturous feelings over me that I look away. When I encounter that something again I am able to stave off the looking away for longer this time. Something small angers me. The next time that something small arises, I am able to notice my anger and have more agency over my response. I experience a beautiful setting, feeling, relationship, and then I forget. I experience it again, and I remember. I forget, I experience, I remember. I forget, I remember. Forget. Remember.

Quarantine–the word that’s shaping daily existence around the world right now–is reminding me of what I have forgotten. Ten years ago I knew the importance of being outdoors, be it blazingly hot, or bone-chillingly cold. I knew that I had to keep moving, no matter what. I knew how important it was to pay close attention to the books I read from start to finish. I knew that my friends were the most important people alive, I knew that I needed them and their hugs to survive. I couldn’t have explained to you why those were all important, nor how I knew. But I remember The Knowing, and I acted on that Knowing; it shaped how I spent my time. Five years ago, The Knowing was so strong that I spent entire weekends on the untamed riverside property between Arkansas and Oklahoma. The wildness of that space nurtured places in my soul that I had never before been aware of. During that time I safeguarded my solitude like a nun under a vow of silence. I held my beloved friends and the memories we shared closer to my heart than even the blood that surges there. I allowed myself hours–even days–with my cell phone turned off and that, in turn, allowed my mind and spirit to unwind. That time was an unfurling. I couldn’t have explained to you why those things benefited me, nor why in that moment I was able to prioritize them so (a fair dollop of privilege, yes, singleness, and no children, also), other than because I was tired of the way I had been in the world up until then. Other than I knew I had to find a different way to be in the world or my life would become toxic.

My life would become toxic. My life had become toxic again. This time, I didn’t have the privilege of time to spend away from the world. This time, I had bills and a husband and a salaried position, and a sense of importance in the world that existed side-by-side with a fear of being irrelevant and getting left behind professionally. Just a few weeks ago, those were the barriers between myself and all that I had forgotten. The responsibilities and fears stood between myself and The Knowing. Until the barrier fell. Until a literal government mandate took what I held to so tightly and made it more than irrelevant–made it off-limits. Until the barrier fell, I had forgotten. Actually, until the barrier fell, and I fought the new way of being for a week–give or take a few days. I fought it because I had traveled far from The Knowing. I fought it because the forgetfulness had overcome the memory of the way my soul unfurls when it gets what it needs.

I am remembering now the nourishment that leaves hold for my spirit: their veins and vibrancy carrying a story that speaks past my mind into my psyche. Leaves that wave under the sun, blinking and winking at whoever is or is not beneath them. Leaves that float downward without struggle, and ride the stream’s current wherever it takes them. Leaves that are green like the grass under my feet, ever regenerative and pure.

I am remembering now the essential nature of every human touch. Be it a hug, the brush of an elbow or the touch of your hand to someone else’s when they loan you a pen or a piece of gum. Be it love-making, hair-brushing, or the gentle holding between your hands the impressionable, expressive face of a little one.

It is coming back to me how close I feel to myself and everyone else when I spend those quiet, solitary hours, allowing my hands to release their desperate hold on the false security of busyness and control. I am unfurling again because life’s cycle led me back to this place where the barrier between myself and The Knowing has fallen against my volition.

I am given no choice but to remember, and the memory is sweet. Didn’t an author once say “every bitter thing is sweet”? Well, they were right.

I had forgotten, until I remembered.

 

 

 

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.