May You Be Resilient

Dear Clara, 

This morning, I dropped you off at middle school. Your first day of 6th grade. This is a big moment - middle school is so different from elementary school. The stakes are higher, the perils and the promise are greater. I hope that your excitement and enthusiasm is met by wonderful teachers and delightful new friendships. 

I notice that when you enter a new grade, a new stage of your life, I am nearly always taken into a state of reflection on my experience at your age. As always - just in the living of your beautiful life - you are my teacher as much as I am your mother. 

"May you be shown kindness," was my prayer.

After I dropped you off, I went for a hike. Admittedly, I cried the first half of the hike. I asked (desperately) that you would be shown kindness in the new world you are entering - kindness that I did not experience.

This took me into a reflection of my own life in 6th grade:

  • My parents were newly divorced and both newly sober. These two people had no room left to deal with the broken pieces they left scattered around them in the wake of their alcoholism and divorce. In retrospect, I was traumatized - we all were. 
  • Everyone in town seemed to know what had happened - my family was the town disaster. I was shunned by my peers and treated with pity by my church community. 
  • My period started and my mother apologized to me for my female-ness - she was so sorry I had to endure such a horrible thing as having a female body. Then, in her ignorance, insisted that to use tampons, I had to have a note from the pastor of my church. {Insult, meet injury}
  • Sports, which had been such a balm to me {swimming and dancing} seemed completely overwhelming with a blossoming body and the people around me seemed to agree that a female body was not a body that was desirable, let alone strong and athletic. I quit everything.

None of these things, taken singularly or with a support structure of love and kindness, would have been earth-shattering. However, taken together, it was brutal, as school and early years can often be for humans.  

Oh, my heart. Brave girl. 

My heart opened so wide for the 6th grader I was, and with that, I felt gratitude, hope, and excitement for you. I thought about the incredible intelligence and strength of our bodies and minds to seek higher ground - at the end of the day, the experiences I had shaped me profoundly -- mostly for the better. 

From the vantage point of my 45-year old self looking back on my middle school self, I recognize I found my way to healing, eventually, with help. I wouldn't wish my childhood on anyone -- and at the same time, it has made me the woman and the mother that I am today - and I love that woman. 

But the most important part of all of this is that for the love of all that is beautiful and good in this world, your life experience is vastly different than mine. No alcoholism, no abuse, no distorted messages about being female, hell, about deserving to be alive. Parents who love you, and you know it not only through our words, but our actions.

You have every reason to trust yourself and the world. I am grateful for that. Grateful and fiercely committed to your continued wellbeing, sweet girl. And I know whatever you face, you will face will grace and strength. 

As I considered this, my prayer for you changed

May you be resilient, no matter what challenges you face in your life. May you always align with the magnetic north of your inner compass. May you be kind - to others, yes, but also to yourself. May you be courageous in speaking up for what you believe in. May you and your friends celebrate each other with abandon. May you pursue your passions and open your mind and let life be the adventure it most certainly is. 

And may you know, no matter what, that you are forever and always loved, just because you were born to this earth. May you remember that your Dad and I are 100% on your side, cheering wildly for you.

May it be so. May it be so. May it be so. 

Happy first day of middle school, Clara.

I hope it was great. 

xoxo.mom
 

Offering

"Let's go on an adventure" is what I said.

I am traveling. On the road with my girl through the American West for a whole, luxurious month. Marking a year of separation from my husband, with another year to go I say, "Let's go on an adventure, Clara." As if somehow, life itself isn't adventure enough. But I know that sometimes, too often, most of the time, really -- I need to step away from the day to day machinations of my life to appreciate the beauty, healing and vast abundance that life and nature offers.

Saying, "I love the land." is insufficient.

The earth's bones, her scars, the many types of skin, the contours, the rivers, like the blood of our bodies, the lakes and oceans, like the tides of breath that feed me... the earth, and my relationship to it, fills me with awe. I love it. I drive saying thank you, over and over in my hear, as I chat with my girl or we move through the landscapes in silence.

By this time in the trip (just one week in) I am covered in bug bites. Burnt. A bit tired. The after-glow of making love to life, to the earth herself, who opens her arms and welcomes me into her embrace over and over. In the face of what is happening in the world today, I wonder, is it enough? Is it enough to love? To see and appreciate the beauty of the world?

Does the small offering of my attention matter?

In the midst of our collective waking -- our chaotic, violent, present moment -- there is a sadness nipping at my heels during our travels. The sadness brings a gravitas to the incredible awe and joy and hope that I feel as I travel this country with my daughter - a fervent desire to live in a world where all the people at war with each other could sit next to a pristine river in sovereignty, peace and safety. To hear Aspens shiver in the breeze. To see endless seas of soft, golden grass undulate in the wind, or to taste the salt air of the Pacific Ocean with every breath. 

I remember that the recognition of wholeness, beauty and love in all it's forms heals both individually, and collectively. 

Yes, this offering is enough. 

I open my arms to beauty, to awe, to earth, to my daughter, to this life that is mine.

To my daughter's chagrin, I talk to everyone. I look each of them in the eye. The farmer selling the most beautiful flowers. The man who comes to clean the room. The woman who pumps my gas and amazingly, cleans all the bugs from my windshield. I smile. I say thank you and I really mean it. I feel so tender, so broken open by the vast, gorgeous world. This attention to the beauty of nature reminds me again that we humans, we are nature, too: deeply connected to the earth and one another in ways understood, and in ways that we can scarcely imagine.  This feels like an important remembering in this moment of our history.

May there be a remembering that we are all children of the stars, born of the earth's body - sisters and brothers. In the offering of attention, may we be gifted the bone-deep knowing that we are a small part of something so much larger than our minds can possibly comprehend. May we remember that the most important work is to tend to what is right here, an offering of open-hearted presence to life. 

May it be so. 

xoxo.nona
 

To Taste the Essence of Life

What does it mean to know the essence of life?

As my husband prepares to go back to Africa and I am left with an aching heart, I've recognized that what I've been considering THE experience of life's essence is pleasure - a focus on hitting the high notes. 

That's what I seem to want, what I have thought to be the essence of being fully present and in love with life. It seems that we humans want that. Prefer it, really. But what IF to taste the essence, the blissful nature of life on earth also requires a surrender to the sadness and the grief and the anger? 

With my partner's coming and going, this question comes around and opens me wider to life each time. 

Open to receive. 

My experience, though it continues to unfold, is that the more challenging emotions are just as vital to knowing the essence of life as the experiences we seek to hold onto. That the more challenging emotions have the ability to open us even wider to receive the goodness that life in a body has to offer. 

Don't miss the opportunity.

When I used to sit long Buddhist meditations, I would hear, "Life is Suffering." I believed my work in meditation (and living) was to rise above it all. I have wanted most every modality that I've learned: yoga, meditation, energy work and coaching to somehow help me avoid heartache and challenge. 

Now, I would call that a huge mistake, a missed opportunity to draw near to my own heart and the pulse of life. 

All experience is an invitation to make love to life. 

Beneath all fear, all grief, all sadness and all anger is the essence of life - our wholeness and vitality and desire for being fully alive. When I dive beneath the surface of the heartache of this moment, and many moments in the past, this is what I discover:  

  • When Erick comes and goes and my heart breaks, I find that underneath the loneliness is the deep love and joy that we share in our day to day lives. If I didn't love him, it wouldn't matter. Even through an aching heart, that is worth celebrating. 
  • When I am filled with grief and anger when Erick gets home, I find that underneath the surface is a knowing I can trust myself and our partnership. Sharing my anger and grief that we are separated speaks to the intimacy of our relationship and my trust that our relationship grows through truth, not being polite. 
  • When I am outraged by having my feelings or experience of missing my husband dismissed or diminished, I find that underneath the surface is a knowing of my own wholeness. The absolute rightness of my feelings and again, that it speaks to my respect for myself and the love that I feel for my husband. 

If I remain on the surface, I suffer mightily. 

When I stay on the surface of the anger, or the grief and hold on tight to the stories of separation and ruin that I can definitely spiral into, it hurts. And it distances me from myself, from Erick, from life -- from what is most important to me. 

However, when I  have the courage to dive in, when I go deeper, when I attune myself to what is happening beneath the surface something miraculous happens. My heart opens. The truth spills out. I can feel a blossoming of joy even in the middle of the swirling emotion because I love him, I love my life, that much. 

That is so good to know. 

Holy Holy. The essence of life. 

I am finding that whether I am afraid or sad or pissed or joyful or content, the essence of life pulses within me. I don't need to seek out a particular kind of experience or feeling-state because the quality of life, of living, is always available.

So today, I open to the joy and the heartache - the recognition that this man I've chosen to spend my life with with will come and go for another year. And that each day, every nuance of engagement I have with that circumstance, beneath the surface, is pointing me squarely toward love. Toward a deeper recognition of wholeness. Toward an ever-opening heart. Toward an intimacy with the essence of life.

You are Invited.

Whatever challenge you face, whatever difficult emotions you are pushing away or riding, I invite you to dive beneath the surface. Ask yourself how is this particular feeling or circumstance an invitation to taste the essence of life? Notice if you can find a hint of opening or pleasure when you dive beneath the surface. 

Tell me everything.

With all of my love. 
xoxo.nona