So it turns out the ber months of 2011 kicked my ass.
I didn’t know it too, until the other day, that I had been beaten to a pulp. That I was minced meat. Pulverized by many things all happening at once. By the time I realized it though, I was already lying in a coma, attached to a breathing machine. It took me awhile to figure it out too that I had been running on fumes for weeks. I mean, I knew things were off and considering everything that has happened the past few months, you’d be off too. Between a series of unfortunate events happening to people and a place I care about to the pressure of what needed to be done to secure the next steps for my future, AND THEN being able to secure it…it was cognitive dissonance. Also, I guess feeling like I SHOULD be extremely happy (about the latter) versus not feel joy inside (because of the former) made me feel guilty and that aggravated the internal situation. I chalked it up to separation anxiety and exhaustion and moved like an energizer bunny on crack to take care of everyone else but myself. It must have been some time between October and November when I switched to survival mode. Once December arrived, my spirit has been non-stop sending me red flags, morse code, smoke signals that I was not all right but I didn’t prioritize paying close attention to anything internal. Which brings us here.
Looking back now, I should have known. I’ve been down this road before. Depression is an old codependent familiar and my psyche’s M.O. is predictable. First, my attitude deteriorates. I get snappish, negative and not fun to be around. Then there’s this deep, inconsolable melancholy, and lack of gratitude and inner peace. I don’t think about the things I say to people. I forget the why of everything that is worth it to me. I become lethargic, apathetic, demanding, paranoid and insecure. I forget what makes me happy. Reject exercise and eat a lot of dumb food. Then I melt into my couch and disappear into the lives of doctors, dysfunctional room mates, talented outcasts, overdressed teens in the upper East side, wannabe models, reality TV characters on the D-list, promising designers and top chefs. This deepens my guilt and speeds up the spiraling. Eventually, my body gives. In this case, it collapsed into a 38.9 degree fever on Christmas day. It left me flat for 48 hours and finally, it was this inability to stay awake between crappy sitcom series that convinced me that my heart was waving the white flag.
Sigh. At least now I know.
Anyway, it is amazing what being sick for two days, writing, girlfriend-wisdom, self-knowledge and surrender can do for someone with a broken spirit. After a late night skype conversation with S (where she laughed at my melodrama) and a long lunch with Gng. C, I finally allowed myself to unravel and articulate what I have been feeling for weeks. I finally got pen and paper and started putting all my icky emotions to words. It was tough to say everything aloud to a friend and to myself; more painful to see it on paper but once I plucked it out of my system, I pulled the plug and started breathing on my own again. Also, not being able to blog about so many things has been torture. I didn’t really have a choice in the matter. Just too many delicate things to publicly talk about and the lack of readiness on my part, to share something so wonderful and important left me silent. But maybe Ani di Franco had the bigger clue. Silence is violence sometimes.
And so it goes.
Knowledge is power and timing is everything. Ironically, once I realized and admitted that I was not okay, that’s when I started to feel okay. Metanoia. Suddenly yesterday, after weeks of feeling like I was slogging through debris and flashflood mud, and where genuine laughter and smiles were few and far between, I found myself and my joy again. Simple things like seeing my best friends from abroad for lunch would bring tears to my eyes. The breath in yoga class quickly filled me with gratitude and bliss. The view of the sky and the clouds and the majesty of the urban landscape had the ability to once again leave me speechless and overjoyed. Language and photography and music and the thought of my future in a new place filled me with love, hope, compassion, passion and creativity. I am so happy to say that the emptiness is gone and in its place, love, all around. Ah, I knew I was back when I fell in love with yesterday’s simplicity. And why? Because I understand now. Because I finally have the words for what I have been feeling. Because I finally know what the hell is going on inside me. And that’s the best way to end a roller coaster year, isn’t it? To get your voice and your wits back. To claim this season of sadness and exhaustion, to embrace the essence of its impermanence, and just surrender. Because hello, the future is so damn bright, I have to wear shades!
I have forgiven the ber months for knocking the wind out of me and have forgiven myself for letting it happen. By doing that I have my peace and grateful heart back. Yay!
Thanks, G. For everything. Here’s to 2012. I welcome it wholeheartedly and excitedly.
by Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
grateful slice: clarity and recovery
Sometimes she feels like an onion being peeled by expert Hands. No, not a butterfly mid-metamorphosis, but a big violet onion. As each layer is peeled away, she becomes less purple and more lilac. That’s not too bad, she thinks to herself, as she lets go of many things she knows. Deep down, there’s still some shade of violet in her.
Each thin layer removed, reveals more thin layers. She has a way to go, it is true, even if there’s so much of her already spread all over the kitchen floor. She realizes it’s the nature of the beast, this situation of changing skin.
There was joy at times, when the revelations came. Look ma, no tears and it felt like it had always meant to feel that great.
Other times, tears flowed as the layers of skin came off. The fumes stung her eyes and the truth hit her heart. That can’t be wrong, she thought, as she wept away the pain.
Still, other questions with the same spirit plague her heart as she watches more and more of the purple and translucent layers come off. Some revelations she willingly accepts, others she needs some time to stomach, then face because the past can be cruel and it doesn’t lie.
She patiently waits though. She is convinced the joy will come back again.
It always comes back. That’s the promise.
For today she soldiers on, layer after layer.
She wonders what she will find at the core of it all,
if she hasn’t already found what she’s looking for.
grateful slice: patience and the seasons
We are down to the last hour.
You met me every step of the way during this time.
I am being still because I know who you are. (Psalm 46:10)
grateful slice: the past seven days of prayer and fasting
Your eyes can’t focus but when you try hard enough, you can still blog or mark students’ papers for some reason.
Your stomach is at the mercy of your choice and it is freaking pissed off.
Tears come very easily and so does the cold. Bring a jacket to the meeting tonight.
Your jaw hurts as you clench your teeth and swirl your saliva around your mouth every other second. You brush your teeth four times more often in a day.
You drink water all day but your throat is parched and your gums dry.
Your bladder is wondering WTH and your ADHD is having a heyday. Can’t.Seem.To.Concentrate. Took you awhile to write this entry.
your heart is glad, that you are doing this. It is not sure why right now exactly, but it remains glad. He said be aggressive about the fast this year…so your heart blindly obeyed. And what will be revealed, will be revealed. You can hardly wait.
grateful slice: distractions and discernment
Two years ago, I realized I had managed to make myself invisible. I’d often glance at who I was and would find myself staring back at an elusive ghostlike figure that would be there one minute, gone another. I was so focused on making my relationship work then, that I had forgotten what was important to me, what I desired, what made me passionate, what was inspiring, what was magical, what made me laugh, what made me healthy. Often times I felt like an impostor, a pretender, a performer, a stranger; all those things but never myself. I remember thinking, it was probably better when I was angry. At least then I felt something. Stood for something. When you’re angry you’re still fighting for a part of yourself, even if you are foaming in the mouth. At least, there’s a part of you that’s still palpable. But one fine day, two years ago, it hit me. I was unrecognizable because I was invisible. Into thin air, I had disappeared.
So, I decided to change, do and be many things to fix that.
One thing I did was create this memory wall of simple achievements and love reminders. I needed to somehow tell myself everyday that I was so much more than this ghost. That there were very cool things that made me, me. That I still believed in my voice, was still passionate about life, love and was bigger than my despair. And it had to be something in my face, and not just a red string around my finger or a post it on my mirror. By Dec 25, 2010, this is what the wall looked like:
It was a pretty rudimentary move to help transcend a life of invisibility but slowly, and surely, I started to recognize myself again. I re-discovered, learned, unlearned and discovered new things. It was peaks and valleys for awhile. I cried, laughed, laughed harder, felt pain, and mourned. And boy did I mourn. But through it, I recorded all the moments that reminded me that I was not blank or gone. From words to images to stuff my students made, my blank wall was eventually filled with love and life and yes, hope. I stuck photos, letters, postcards, race bibs, e-tickets, boarding passes, match books, merchandise stickers, art work, newspaper articles, itunes cards and more race bibs. I also put G at the center of this vision drawing Tara and I did some week night in 09. It was to signify my finally letting G back into my life. And that decision was so much more than my great wall of stuff. I didn’t want to get in the way of His way anymore, so I put him right smack in the middle of everything and just let him lead me to the X that marked the spot. By the end of 2010, since I had run out of space, I had to extend my wall to another …
Soon, I became flesh, rosy-cheeked and visible again. Larger than life. Happy. At peace. And here we are…at the beginning of 2011.
Last week, as the end of another year was slowly rolling in, I decided to take down everything that was up there. I realized that I have been restored. That I am a new creation. That what I cherish, what I hold most dear is already embedded in my heart. That just as long as I fix my gaze on what and who matter, I will never, ever disappear again. Wall or no wall. So I have dismantled the old, to make way for the new. Here’s what my wall looks like now. It’s up for a different purpose, it’s signifying something else. A fresh start, the next step, the huge pond outside this small one…a reminder in my face. Where to, G?
grateful slice: Being visible, the new year, big plans and moving on
The messy or pristine state of my room usually reflects the state of my heart and mind. Right now, my room is a mess; like Grendel passed through there post a rude awakening and a monster tantrum.
Well, it’s time. Tomorrow I will pick up the little scraps of chewed up book pages Marsellus gnaws at to wake me up in the morning; keep the pairs of Converse sneakers, Havaianas, stilletos strewn all over the floor, arrange the books by my lamp, fold the clothes and scarves on my bed/trunk/throw pillows and make my bed before I leave for work.
Am thinking, maybe if I fix my room, I will also fix my head.
It’s worth a shot.
grateful slice: expiration dates
Took a real day off a few weeks ago and decided to spend it watching movies. From “Time Traveler’s Wife” to “Hangover” and Pixar’s “UP,” it was truly a day well spent. Nothing like eating a spicy Jamaican Patty and drinking a Big Chill fruit shake while watching a flick in the theater. I would not have spent that free Friday any other way. I would have to say though, that “UP” really left an impression on me.
I loved the first 15 minutes of silent storytelling, can relate to wanting to keep a talking dog and found the bizarre looking, chocolate loving, colorful bird ironic. I especially liked the idea of letting go of something you have been dragging along for a long time and unloading things you thought were important to finally create new adventures. When Mr. Whatshisname started to unload the stuff from the house he was dragging around, to lighten the load, so he could fly upward to save Russell — I totally dug that. Then when he finally watched his house float away into oblivion, I knew the movie was whapacking me in the face with some kind of moment of clarity. There’s no space for the new, if I keep on lugging the old shit around. That’s just the freaking truth.
The next time I feel like wearing my own cone of shame, I can just think of Russell and Paradise Falls, and one old man’s fight to find new meaning in his life.
And he was only really able to do that when he opened his eyes, looked at what was in front of him and finally let go of his house.
grateful slice: the clarity of metaphors