Grandmothers and tutus

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My grandmother was a small, quiet woman. Almost waif-like. She seemed to move through the world like light. Everything around her seemed weightless somehow. Light. The way she sat, as though sitting was an art and she had mastered it. The way she walked, her steps delicate and silent. And the way she was in her body, like it was the best place to be.

“Do you see this plant?” she would say calmly as we took walks in the forest near our home, “It is good for toothache” Read More

The girl who lived inside the quiet

 

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She sits in the quiet like a rose petal sits in the gentle rain. Drinking in what is offered from heaven. Drinking and being washed all at the same time.

She notices the motion that lives at the center of quiet. The motion that causes her to peel herself open and look inside. It is irresistable, this desire that the quiet brings, to pry closer inwards; to watch for the rhythms the heart makes; and to find the meaning behind every heartbeat.

The quiet makes her search. She doesn’t want to but her hands, of their own free will, reach for the measuring tools so she can measure things – her growth, her metamorphosis. How wide has it been? How long? Has it been complete? Has she been illuminated?

She picks up the compass, the clippers and the map and follows the the old trails, calculating the miles and the heights. The journey to here has been full and sticky and hard and beautiful.

She has long fought the quiet. She stopped her ears so she couldn’t hear it and closed her eyes so she couldn’t see it. She much preferred the cacophony of the chaos, the discord that would keep her mind occupied instead of picking at itself. Then she wouldn’t have seen all the places where it had cracked.

It is much easier to avoid things. To push them away where we cannot reach for them. Until maybe we feel ready or we simply forget  that those things are there and they get swallowed up in the noise of daily routine.

But her destiny was sealed from day one. She was born in a quiet place, a little sleepy town on the edge of a country where the trees rose so high they could touch the sky. And the wind never shouted, just whispered in soft, hushed tones. Even though this quiet also lived inside of her, she wanted to escape, to run away, to scrap it all out from inside of her. She wanted to change herself.

But one day, sitting in the quiet, she realised the peaceful energy it brought. The nourishment. So she learned to curl into it and listen to all the wisdom and beauty it gave. She learned to honour it. She learned to honour herself.

Friday shots: Maya Angelou

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All the words have been taken. Hung up in gratitude and memory of you.

Emotion captured in perfect prose and rhyme.

There is naught left to say. For a girl like me who starry eyed looks upon those who tread the places you trod. A girl like me who craddles words like jackets in winter. The bread of the earth that fills her belly.

I think of your body now. The one you carried and the one you put down. So much history carved right into the skin, engraved for all to remember, to never forget.

It makes me want to settle closer into my own body. To pick up all the parts of me and lovingly notice them; eyes, legs, hair, hands, fingers…

It makes me want to be a woman…a phenomenal woman.

I hope my work offers, to someone else, the same kind of light that you have given. So they will follow the pulse. And we can keep the chain unbroken.

How does the girl begin to value herself?

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‘What you are looking for is acceptance’ she said, in a still, sure voice.

The words reached my heart before I could hear them with my ears. It made sense. It all made sense. The mumbled oceans of emotions and feelings I had tried to name in a million other syllables and metaphors all collected in the mesh of this one word – acceptance.

I was sitting in my counsellor’s office, with my body tucked underneath me. She has this huge window through which the sky pours itself right into the room and it feels like the world has opened up even when it is closed shut.

I love that window.

I can sit there and be aware of the tiniest things like the hairs on my body breathing even as I can see the sky change shape and form. It’s like being everything all at once.

But we don’t believe we can be that, do we? We don’t believe we can be everything, especially to ourselves. We pick and peel at ourselves and try to scab the sediments off our skin. Use any force necessary demands the memo that goes out to the rest of our being.

Maybe I am the worst human at this, the worst girl at slicing herself. The catastrophe of this is not that I am an amazing person. It is that I am a valuable human. And person. I just never truly believed it. The impact of that truth never found soft ground in me. I scattered my value to the four winds the day I stepped out of frame. I went looking for acceptance in all the wrong places. I wanted the world to tell me just how significant I am. I really wanted to hear it from the masses. I wanted it to reflect in my once-upon-a-time Facebook LIKES and Twitter feed.

I also went looking for it in the one-on-ones I have with people. And because I was hell-bent on finding it, all I saw were the ways it was not there. My focus was often on the wrong thing – the wanting to be declared a worthy being by another. This has its place in human relationships, for sure, but it is also completely dangerous to leave all of it in the hands of clay that is also being shaped…lest we form each other into hideous things.

Our desire to be valued and accepted is a perfectly normal human need. But the world teaches us to come out in full force with batons to beat this need down. Down, down where no one can see it. We are also not really taught how to handle this powerful need in a way that is healthy for our hearts. Instead we stitch titles to our sleeves that begin with needy, shameful and all the their synonym cousins.

To come to grips with this need, we start from where it hurts. We go there. We look. We see where that stuff is coming from. We take it back. And maybe we ask the question I asked: how does the girl begin to value herself?

And maybe we will find the same answer I found: through gratitude.

The rich arches of life truly are in the bounty of seeing grace where there is grace. And this is what a grateful heart does. It looks to find the grace and goodness that is already there. And builds a relationships with that goodness. Holding oneself tenderly and lovingly within one’s own embrace in the same way we do for other human beings.

Being valued is no small matter. But it has to start in our front yard, in our living-rooms and backrooms. We have to value ourselves. I submit to you that you cannot act properly human with another human if you withhold the same acts of loving kindness from yourself. You may be able to keep it up for a while but eventually it unravels and resentment comes to live in your rooms.

So don’t neglect you. Thank God for you, for the heart that beats in your chest, for your wonderful strengths and the things you did well today.

I will be doing the same.

When love takes so long to come

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Some people do love like the back of their hand. From the moment they are born it seems to flow to them like an enchanted river, ready to do their bidding. Pulling to them like a raw magnet. Irresistible. Inexplicable.

For some of us it doesn’t quite work like that. No matter how sensuously we sway our hips or bat our eye- lashes. For some of us love requires an intervention – a divine intervention. It requires miracles & magic; nothing short of God. He has to dig & explode things for us.

Often this takes years. It feels like a lifetime.

So what does she do when love takes so long to come?

Granted she can run ahead & try and make things happen for herself. She could shave her legs & powder her cheeks. Use every womanly wile to catch a man. She could do that. But maybe her mama taught her better – that a man that can be caught like a fish can also swim away at the sight of another pool of water.

Love is a beautiful dangerous thing. The stories that reach my ears of love found & then lost confirm my fears – we desperately ache for it but we don’t know how to do it well. Maybe it’s not our fault. We might just not have it in us. We can blame it on our pitiful nature. Or we can look ourselves squarely in the face.

I shudder at the thought of messing up love.

I want to do love like a superstar.

On the days I’m wearing my high heels & on the days my feet are closer to the ground. I want to show up in the arena with everything I’ve got, ready to work this love thing out. Expectations & responsibility perfectly balanced on my scales. Vulnerability & openness stapled to the sleeves of my heart. Resilience & patience filling the pockets of my soul. A tempered tongue that speaks tenderness & life into things. I want to do love like a superstar.

But what do I do when love takes so long to come?

Waiting is hard.

Especially when the world tells you you ought to ask for what you want now. Waiting has become a foreign concept & the woman who waits is too often ridiculed. & then there is the danger of whole of life feeling like a waiting game, as though you are waiting for life to begin. There is no magic portion to cure this malady. Waiting is hard. You have to have patience to wait. In that sense, the cure is in the perspective.

What does she do when love takes so long to come?

She lives; like it’s the only thing she knows to do well; like her whole life depended on it.

She practices everyday the art of being a lovely human being.

She collects nuggets of wisdom & sews them to her sinews & they become part of her flesh. Part of her.

She builds. things of beauty & things of hope. lovely in all their form.

She becomes the place where all rivers run to – full of fertile things & things that nourish.

She becomes the woman love will always choose. again & again & again.

She’s like moonbeams, she’s like September

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Ask me about being a woman.

I will tell you that it’s a celebration, an exultation. This is what I believed. Women in their big women’s outfits always appeared like god-like creatures to me. They seemed so right in the world. I was in awe. of the magnitude & depth of their hearts. of the magic & healing in their hands. And when they came together, the laughter that filled rooms could not be imprisoned by the walls & stories of love & sorrow crystalized in the air, an ever present well always to be returned to from that moment onwards. This is what I believed.

The thought of growing up into one of those god-like creatures rarely occurred me. Until one day I woke up & I had big women’s shoes & big women’s outfits. There was no training, no schooling. She just showed up & I had to open the door & let her in.  She said she was like moonbeams. She said she was like September. I didn’t believe her.

I tried to harness her. I tried to hammer her into shape, into the woman the world builds statues to.

The world’s take on woman is ridiculous, we all know & agree. And yet it is effective. When no one is looking save for that feminine creature with doe eyes staring back in the mirror, we apply the world’s standards to ourselves. We rub it in like sand paper, bruising ourselves like there is no tomorrow. I’ve done it countless times. I’ve felt worthless before, to the point where I’m not sure of the woman I’m supposed to be supporting & rooting for.

Becoming a woman has taught me that the enemy of my shame is my friend. She is like moonbeams & September. Ethereal. Whimsical. Fresh. Illuminating. Lush. Like a song strung with divine cords, delicate but yet raw, sturdy of heart & powerful. There is no designating corners around where her worth must be found. It does not sit in-between her legs or breasts or eyes. She is not just skin & hair. Even if you plucked her apart limb by limb, you will not find her worth there.

Her most striking loveliness is in how she expresses her heart, how the stuff that lives inside of her seeps through her smile, eyes, hands & feet moving her to be who she is. The sum of all the parts of her making love together, curving in, blending.

She is worth personified.

September is for new beginnings. Whether it be spring in Melbourne or autumn in Chicago, it is a start of a new season. She is as brave as she is vulnerable, running her course with dedication, exposed & tender. She reminds me of woman.

Womanhood is not something you arrive at, complete with a glorious entry, epiphanies & all. No, it is something you are & are constantly becoming. Part of feeling like a woman is knowing beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are.

So to all of you women, mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, god-mothers & friends whose hearts & stories are connected across sand & time, may this September be magical in what it brings to your door. May you be healthy & beautiful. whole & complete. You & all the men who love you.

 

 

Your side of the bed

side of the bedEvery morning I open my eyes & glance over to your side of the bed. This bed is too big for one person, I always think to myself. Why on earth did I get such a big bed?

I throw off the covers & I‘m ready for it. I’ve come a long way with my relationship with making the bed. It used to be my most despised chore but now I have grown to like it. to delight in it even.

Your side of the bed is always intact. perfect. unused. This bed is too big, I think again. It needs you in it. I need you in it.

When I was little, I used to think every woman had a man. Mama had Papa. & all my friend’s mommies had their pappies. I just knew it was the way of the world – that one day when I was all grown up, you would come along & complete the picture. easy, simple. 123.

It never crossed my mind that you would take so long – that I would become a woman of the world, accomplished in many ways & not have you to walk into when I was feeling threatened, vulnerable, teary & just down right weak. No, baby, I never thought you would take this long.

Sometimes I toss & turn. not because I can’t sleep but because this bed is too big & I can’t warm it all. Your side of the bed is cold & lonely. needing you. I need you.

In-between straightening the sheets, I think about my evolution. Of how I can tell you that I am not incomplete without you. I used to be. There is no hole in my heart that you can fill. & I don’t need you to. What I need is to love you senseless. to give you my all. because I can & because it has been given me to. I am complete in ways that make me feel safe in my incompleteness without you.

I fluff the pillows on your side of the bed & think of all the single ladies. just like me. who wait & wait & wait. Holding out for the best of you. My heart swells up with pride. Something has got to be said about them. them bold & beautiful women who value their hearts enough to put them in the right hands of a man.

I used to wait for you to come & change my life. to give meaning to it. I had handed you that power wrapped in coloured, silvery frills & ribbons. But I’m taking it back now. because it does not belong to you. It does not belong in your hands.

You are beautiful & intoxicating, no doubt, but you are not my saviour. I thought I had you figured out – I had you cornered & bound in intense feeling, emotion & passion. I didn’t see the other part – the privilege & opportunity for growth, adventure & service. You are all these things. You are my lover & friend. You are gold.

I am become free of you. so free that I can love you to bits & pieces. I can handle you under my skin. warm & thick like honey dripping. delicious. so very delicious.

I smile as I caress your side of the bed, thinking & knowing that when the time is right, you will come through that door & find your home. Besides me. In your side of the bed.

Making love to peace

Karoo_national_parkThe pit of my belly was hot with emotion. It was like a fire powerfully burrowing at my insides with all the force in the world.  It was beautiful. free & wild. It was liberating. It was empowering.

The fire that started in my belly seeped into every nook & cranny of me right into every bone. seeped in good & deep.

I had just spent two days with seven women. Seven women I had never met before. We had sat around each other to talk about peace – the kind of the inner & the kind that is sown out there in the world in neighbourhoods & communities. We laid it bare & naked before us, leaving nothing to the imagination.

Who would have thought dialogues about peace would uncover honesty, authenticity & the out-pouring of souls, so palpable you could touch it? & taste it on your lips?

Who would have thought I would be breathless & crying when asked to ponder peace & to speak of it from the heart?

I had it all figured out. I was a woman on a mission. I was going to walk into the meetings with my mind & my intellect ready to go: ‘Peace is A, B, C. Ok. Let’s go.’ After all, I am a thinker & I was ready to hammer peace into its place with my mind.

The very first thing the facilitator said was “this is not going to be a mental exercise on peace”. Suddenly, the rug that had comfortably sat beneath my feet was yanked away. This was not what I came for. It was meant to be in & out. surgical precision. clean & simple.

It turned out to be more beautiful than I could have imagined – the very right thing I needed at the right time.

It’s amazing what happens when you put whole-hearted women in a room. Masks come off & all that is left is a realness that is heartbreakingly beautiful.

As we undressed peace, he came & sat in the midst of us holding on tightly to his silver-ash gray suit but willing & ready to do his work. We were all women of different ages, from different cultures & backgrounds. We’ve all led different lives & yet all shared of our journey & had the opportunity to walk in each other’s shoes & to hold each other’s stories within our hearts. Forever. Imprinted & sealed.

Our discussion about creating peace in our lives & in the world became a discussion about fear, doubt, courage & faith. For to talk of peace is to talk about the things that bring war into our lives – the storms of life that sometimes sweep in violently changing our lives forever. Leaving their mark. To talk of peace is to talk of forgiveness & letting go of the hurts & pains that so easily seep into our beings & claim the right to define us. It is to talk of our hearts, because peace begins in the mind, heart & soul before it can flow to the person outside of us. Without that peace there can be no peace.

We didn’t just sit & talk. No, don’t get me wrong. We lovingly ripped ourselves apart & lovingly helped each other to put each other back together. I want you to take this seriously for it was a work that left all of us in awe. Our search & great desire to handle peace took us through mountains & valleys of personal breakdowns, trauma, divorce, sadness, mistrust, fear, pain, suffering, affirmations, life-callings, love-making, transitions & hope.

The world is in turmoil. People are hurting. We wouldn’t know because we all wear masks. But behind closed doors, our little souls quake with worries, fears & insecurities. We don’t actively seek peace as it should be sought. Peace is a lover we have to woo. He will never come of his own free will. & yet when we capture his heart, he touches the lives of those who come into contact with us. It is a beauty I do not have the words for.

I met some incredible women & I don’t know if my life can ever be the same again. From where he elegantly stood at the centre, peace cast longing gazes at me & promised to never leave. He romanced me with his emerald-green eyes.

The flame may burn dimly sometimes but it will never vanish.

As I stood around those gorgeous hearted women in the closing moments of our journey together with my belly full of fire, I felt the sacredness of the moment. I felt the sacredness of the work we had done. There was no doubt in my mind as I felt peace grab my hand & intertwine his long elegant fingers with mine. wrapping me up. so intimately. so fully. caressing me senseless. I was ready to make love.

Coming into rest

Men and women are different.
This is such a simple fact of life and yet it’s amazing how much misery it can cause when it’s misunderstood or overlooked.

Whenever I interact with men, I always marvel at how differently they think and react to things and situations. What may move me as a woman and bring tears to my eyes, to them might be a mere irritation. Sometimes they talk when I feel they really should be listening. And sometimes they run and hide when I want them to charge and pursue.

Yep, men are truly from another planet.

However, even with that said, I still find the difference between men and women fascinating.

Like most women, I am mesmerised by a man’s strength. His ability to hold, contain and protect; to enfold and enclose what he loves in a powerful embrace that shields off every hurtful thing; the ability to stand tall and have a presence that reeks masculine pride and confidence.

But even with all that strength, I love how a man can be reduced to mush and awkwardness in the presence of a woman he likes.

I love a man’s vulnerability.
It is indeed a rare and special thing and whenever it’s given to me, I treasure it.
I love the scent of a man who knows exactly what he’s about.

There’s just something different about men; a constant movement and churning; a restlessness; an untamed-ness that I find oh so absolutely alluring.
Maybe that is why I’m a woman. Because I am not a man.

Unlike men, women are softer.
The strength we have is a different kind of strength. It is not brutal but more sophisticated. It is the gentle endurance we exhibit on a daily basis. The capacity to take what life throws at us at every turn without completely falling apart.

There is a certain magic in being in the presence of a woman, especially one who is in tune with herself and her unique feminine beauty.
A woman comfortable in her own skin.
A woman who knows what she’s all about.

Whenever I find myself in the presence of such a woman, I instinctively take a breath and relax. It is as though her presence speaks to me and lets me know that all will be well. This is a woman who is at rest with herself and her journey.

Surprisingly, thinking about these differences between men and women helped me isolate the source of my unrest these last few weeks.

I had been striving within myself. Fighting. Surviving instead of living.
I had let old wounds fester. I had let the past become a burden. And so my heart and soul have been robbed of that special rest. 

I had become what Shakespeare would call a ‘troubled fountain’.

But I am coming into rest now.

If like me, you’ve had to fight for most opportunities and the good things in your life, you’ll know that that mentality has a way of sticking and it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that we have to fight for everything in life.

This is not so. Nor is it healthy.

Yes, a life well lived requires a fiery passion, hard work and commitment but it also requires a faithful surrender – a belief that beautiful things will come our way and we won’t always have to or need to fight for them.

So, if your soul has become a pool of troubled waters and you find yourself striving, the first thing you need to do is to stop. 

Stop fighting. Stop striving. Just stop.

Then listen.
Listen to what the troubled waters of your soul are saying to you. Often the answer to our rest is found in the voices and whispers of our strife.

When you listen, you will know what needs to be done. And I wish you all the strength and zeal to do it.

As I come into my own rest, I can’t help but be excited.

I’m excited about the tranquillity that comes with rest and how my presence will learn to speak and say “all is well and all will be well”.

I’m excited about that strong man I envision will soon walk into my life and I will be a type of rest to him and he, my constant churning and adrenalin.

I’m excited about growing the garden of my soul with beauty – a beauty that speaks, invites, nourishes, comforts, and inspires; a beauty that is lush, luxurious and luscious; a beauty that only I can give.

Watch me bloom…as I watch you.

Crushing

I am feeling incredibly overwhelmed.

My heart is not at rest and my mind refuses to stop fighting…fighting with what I know to do in order to have peace. And on top of that, shame insists on being my companion because the source of my trouble is a man. A man who infact does not know I exist and would not care less. A man who never talks to me and if and when he does, it is accompanied with what is akin to a dismissive look. So maybe I should be ashamed.

But then again, who said I have to be ashamed every time I like someone who doesn’t like me? Who said I have to be ashamed for wanting to be seen by a man I see? Where do these feelings of inadequacy that compel me to feel shame come from? I am beset by sheer desperation and I feel short-changed. I want to be seen. I want to be pursued. I want to be fought for. I want to be needed. I want to be loved. But is this really the sum of my life. Is this the major axis my life should oscillate around?

There is often a wonderful exhilaration when I meet or see that someone who makes my heart flatter. For me, crushes have always been welcome but at the same time annoying and exhausting. It so happens that somewhere down the line when I eventually learn that the guy I have my eye on is taken or unavailable, shame invades my system and conquers me. Now I realise the source of that shame – when a crush crashes I blame myself. Suddenly, in my mind, it is my fault that he doesn’t see me the way that I see him; it’s my fault that he’s already taken; it’s my fault he is not interested…I must have done something wrong or I didn’t do enough or something must be wrong with me. Of course this is all nonsense and untrue but and yet I feel it. I feel it so intensely that it ends up masquerading as truth. How can I possibly hold myself responsible for a man who does not and cannot see just how beautiful and special I am?

I have reached the crux and this is where it ends.

I am trading shame, fear and inadequacy for wisdom. The wisdom that will allow me to appreciate a man without losing my centre; the wisdom to live fully even as a single woman as I wait for the man who WILL see me; and the wisdom to wait on God’s unfailing providence. See, here is what I have come to see in vivid colour: for me, between God and a man, there can be no contest because while God can give me a man anytime and anywhere, a man CANNOT give me God. This is hard to keep in perspective especially because the very core of me is yearning for that one man who is flesh of my flesh and bone of my bones. But I have to make a choice.

So, as I walk down the corridor and the man I like is coming towards me looking so regal and incredibly appealing; as our eyes meet and stay locked and I wonder what he is thinking and whether he feels anything at all; as we pass each other with the fiery emotions churning within me and I forget to breathe…I will remember that I have no reason to feel shame.

There will be no more.
No more reckless crushing. And when I do crush, I will do it with wisdom by my side, grace in my outlook and elegance in my stride. This, I have resolved within myself.