The great big tumbling of time

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I sit on the porch and watch September roll in. It’s a welcome party of one. One girl in her purple socks, her feet curling into their warmth. Knees tightly pressed together and eyes fixed on the changing skies picking up the hints of red and mulberry that encircle the edges of twilight. It is more pronounced now. I see it and I leisurely pull it into my space. It means something. Seasons are revolving again. Coming round and going over. A big invisible turn we often miss because we are too busy doing what the living do.

Even the air smells different, the crispy, cool and fresh scent of evening leaves its traces on my skin. It’s time for a new perfume, the turning of the earth dictates so. I am thinking opening notes of spring water, green mandarin with a heart of white peony and jasmine.

I do this every year – wait for September. Only Septemebr gets this kind of special treatment. I don’t know. There is something about the month that pulls at my heartstrings. And I think of renewal and rebirth. I think of women and grace.

Women because I love them with a fierceness that is too big for my body. I am my mother’s daughter. A woman of faith and courage.

Women are mothers and sisters. Bestfriends and aunties. Wives and grandmothers. They carry things in their bosoms holding them tight and close – healing and covering in ways we will never be able to fully name. And they embody some of the grace too, in the way they are hewn from the ground. In the way they arrive and move through the world.

But the kind of grace that comes barreling alongside September in my mind is the kind that holds us even when the only thing we can be is a solid mass of rawness and nerve. When we mess up and have no clue what to do with ourselves.

And a lot of this powerful grace is offered to us in the passing of time.

A year ago in September, I was writing about women and autumn in Chicago and moonbeams. I was also fastening together the last dangling bits of my then mending heart. See, I had met this boy in the year before last Septemeber. He looked very much like the beginning of my world. And so when he dangled glimpses of his heart in front of me, naturally I reached out to grab them. I wanted them. All of them. Inside of me. I wanted them badly. But one day he said,

“I can’t figure out where you fit in my life”.

That boy broke my heart. But that boy didn’t know the grace that time would offer me – the good stuff that has become the woman I am because he hurt me.

It is not always clean and precise, this walk through grace. Sometimes the great big tumbling of time drags us through mud pits and dark caves and raging infernos. But we arrive. We most certainly arrive. To the point where grace finishes its work. And what was not becomes born. And time makes way for healing and it stitches together meaning for us.

I sit and wait for September. I can hear my watch ticking away. Every tick so quiet, so small, so seemingly inconsequential. So incomprehensible that the movement of a tiny tick reflects the big, great tumbling of time in and out of hours, days, months, years, decades, generations, milleniums, centuries, lifetimes.  And whenever and whereever time unwraps itself grace is always there in the fold. You may not see it but it’s there. In the silvery gray that begins to appear in your hairline; in the way your hand tightly and fully clasps another hand not being afraid of not wanting to let go; in the way having your way becomes less important than “Im sorry”.

With time we begin to understand these things, these things that take the shape of love, relationships, happiness, grief, life.

With time we begin to understand that time is really just another form of grace.

This post is brought to you by Robin Williams

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I don’t write about celebrities…their lives are often strangely clad in veneers of gold sequins that probably hide so much than we could ever imagine. But today is different. This one is different.

And I’m not really certain why but somehow the news of Robin Williams’ death imapcted my movement across the time and space of my life. I’m reaching for my cup of tea slower than usual, contemplating on the magic that makes the honey melt into the heat of the water. And where tea gets its unique flavour. It is not coffee nor is it cocoa or hot chocolate.

I’m staying longer on my knees, saying little to my God but feeling ripped apart by emotion. I’m starring fully at people, meeting their eyes and wondering if their world is bright and peaceful.

Robin Williams’ death has made me pause and reflect on the irony of life and death and the strangeness of this moment in time in our world. The situation we find ourselves in where some are pulling at life desperate to hold on it their fingernails clammering and clutching while others would do anything to make the pain they feel go away, even to stop being alive. Im not sure about you but my brain stops processing right about there.

I, too, watched Mrs. Doubtfire as a kid. It was a family event. An affair of laughter, family bonding and enjoyment. It wasn’t my favourite movie in the whole world  but it was just good to know that Robin Williams existed in the world.

I don’t know the man, and yet I know him enough to feel a sense of loss at his death. A heaviness in my chest. He seemed happy. He really did. How could he seem happy when he was dying inside?

There is something wrong in the world. Something wrong with our culture if we are walking around carrying daggers in our hearts, that we are secretly stabbing ourselves as we lie on our beds in the dark. Am I the only one who thinks there is something wrong with this picture?

Apparently 16 million Americans suffered from depression in 2012. Here in Australia, at least 6 people die from suicide every day. These are staggering figures. But even more disturbing is the realisation that there are real people behind those statistics. It is easy to distance myself by seeing them just as numbers but it always hits home when we undress those numbers and are left with hearts, minds and limbs just like our own.

So what can we do? What can I do?

I wish we could all hold hands and sing kumbaya till our voices get husky. I wish that very much. But that is a fantasy. The reality is that this issue is real and it is here. It is requiring courage and compassion. So much compassion.

Maybe there is little we can do. But if we know someone who is sitting in the dark somewhere tethering on the edge, all we can do is love them. Love them senseless. We can try.

Jim Norton says “one of the most important attributes humans don’t have is the ability to see themselves the way others do.”

I agree. And maybe one of our greatest failings is that we don’t say. We hide our voices and shroud them in silence; that we don’t tell these humans just how wonderful they are, that we hold back thinking surely they must know.

I’m not saying compliments will save people’s lives. But love can. At least we must give it a chance.

I don’t know when this heaviness I feel will lift. When I will no longer be plagued with the shock of Robin Williams’ death. My only antidote is the jealousy I feel for human life. The love I so unashamedly hold for every soul out there. I will rest my heart in that.

Friday shot: driver of the 703 blackburn bus

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I’m looking for that moment again. The one where your eyes found me.

Tell me you meant every word you said with the intense way they swept all over me. Even if you tried I don’t think you could have hidden that.

There was nothing in the world that could have stopped you from spilling yourself open for me in that moment. It seemed written in all the lines. In all my steps to you.

I saw the exact moment your guard fell. I couldn’t breath. I think you saw me melt into you and the bubble you were shaping around the two of us, shutting out everything and everyone.

I would have stayed there forever, you talking over me and I talking over you – our words about directions and getting lost falling all over each other, caressing and touching.

But what we were really saying was:

Why are you making me feel so beautifully raw here? Who are you? And how are you getting under my skin?

I’m looking for that moment again, driver of the 703 Blackburn bus, the moment when your eyes found me.

Sometimes normal days

lonely on benchAs I’m writing this, I’m sitting here. Here on the edge of my bed. Listening to the tree outside my window rumbling. Branches beating into each other, waving frantically in the boisterous wind. It’s a familiar sound. It tells me in vivid ways that my tree is alive. And that I, too, am still here on this brand new morning.

This noise, this rumbling, it mirrors the one unfolding inside of me. Un-settled, un-quiet, un-still. When I woke up, my feet sank into the same carpeted floor they touch every other morning. I smiled at something silly my mind said. I had my usual morning banter with God. I bemoaned the state of my kitchen and of the world as I scurried through the cold, empty corridor of my flat. It was a perfect morning and I was perfectly…well, I was perfectly Sunshine. Then there was that moment when the wind outside was all I could hear. It drowned out everything else. I thought it whispered something about uncertainty.

The whispers caught on my skin like leftover snowflakes and soon they were pouring right into my bones. And this, this is the simple explanation to why I’m sitting here with the churning wind inside of me. The longer explanation requires me to tell you what it means to be human, because sometimes normal days are like that.

You wake up with every intention to rock life’s socks off. You are a rock star afterall. You can do this. You got this. But these become just words that filter through your fingers like black burnt ash. One or two steps later, you are on the ground, not quite sure which thought or emotion took you down.

There are times when we mirror our external world – the ugly things people say to us, the doubts about us they whisper into the air, and the inadequacies they sew onto our sleeves. These become things we see in ourselves. Not that they are true but because they are reflected back to us. We are taught early on that mirror reflections cannot lie. But what they don’t tell us is that mirrors cannot capture the whole of us.

So sometimes normal days are made up of sorting out the dross reflections from the gold. Sitting with the rumbling inside and listening to what it is saying. And, yes, it is always saying something. Rumblings tell us where the insecurity hides, where the fear is, where we need most work.

I saw a woman seated on a bench, her big collared coffee-brown polyester jacket holding her body tight. She had this gorgeous red hair that made me look twice. Her gaze was stretched out across the Yarra River, far, far away. A dry autumn leaf sat in-between her fingers and she twirled it round and round and round. Her world seemed frozen in that moment. She oozed a sadness that was defined and complete. I could reach out and touch it. My heart went out to her and caught hers.

I haven’t been able to forget her.

As I walked away I thought about her. And I thought about myself. And of the thing we held in common in that instant my life grazed hers – the churning within.

I saw it in the noise of ordinary life that filled every corner of the city. There was a rhythm in the commotion. I fell right in step with it, with the beating of my heart and the noise inside on which it swung. But to catch the pulse required me to listen to the noise.

Sometimes normal days are not quiet. They force you to sit on the edge of your bed or on a lonely bench cupping yourself. But if you listen to the sounds of your own disquiet, you will notice the flow. The up and down, rise and fall of the moments that make us who we are.

We can feel these moments and not be paralysed or disintegrated. We can be in the rumbling and still hope for the quiet that comes after the storm. And we do this by staying. Noticing. Breathing. And breathing again. If you stay within yourself long enough, you will realise that there is nowhere else to go. And that you owe it to yourself to love you through the boisterous moments. And that some normal days come to test the muscles of your human spirit.

Staying put and reaching out for another hand is the victory of what it means to be human. When, as Ellen Bass poetizes “….you can hold life like a face between your palms, a plain face, no charming smile, no violet eyes, and you say, yes, I will take you. I will love you, again”

 

 

 

Love is…a renewable resource

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It is our most desired experience. We salivate and drink wine for it. And its pulp in our veins makes us do heroic things or convinces us that we can spread our wings and fly. But for the most part, our understanding of love is complicated. We tie so many things to it, a stranglehold that redefines it in our minds and alters what proceeds from our fingertips in its name. We believe love ends. Finishes. Dies. And we all have the evidence to prove it. We can trace relationships where love simply gave up its life; where love was not enough to save that connection. Separation was inevitable and the only way to peace. We know these stories oh so well. We all have them. They live on our skins.

Mine are written in red ink. Splattered all-over my life. Blots of pain here, regret there, and disappointment. They are reminders of the sheer difficulty of life and the hardness that lives in human relationships. I had reached a place where I believed real relationships were impossible. How could they not be? How could they not be when we are all just so imperfect? And love is never quite enough?

These are the questions I burrowed my whole being into for the last eleven years. I sat with them, ate with them, obsessed over them, had fights with them and wrote them down – looking for the colour, volume and texture that would finally explain their mystery to me. And I rewrote them, just incase I missed a syllable or letter; rephrasing and restructuring. Perhaps everything I have ever written before has been about trying to understand love and what humans do with it. And the truth of that is I simply wanted to know why my heart breaks so easily when it comes to people and love, and why these leave an indelible imprint on my canvass.

It turns out heartbreaks tell us something about how we are made to live and move through this world. Heartbreak, like any other pain, means something has not worked right. It means something is wrong; a malfunction. And this something is often, love. Or more accurately, our wielding of it. How we hold it in our hands and use it to express our unique souls to others.

In relationships, there is more coming to love than love coming to us. The act of walking towards love is a choice we make. This, in practice, means love is always there, holding its own and unending. An abundant resource that can be harnessed in the same way water runs through the whole earth in its cycle or the manner of grains coming out of the ground, again and again. Love is always there. What changes is us…our understanding of it and how it proceeds from our fingertips

Relationships get their structure from their core and their core is love. Because we are human we project our failings onto this core and when those failings cause a rupture in the skin of relationships we tell ourselves stories about how love ended, mainly to assuage ourselves. But love was always there. It just became too hard for us to use. From the depths of our being we could not reconcile our thoughts and feelings into the space love hedges. We do things to one another and in the process we forget to walk to love. And when it is just too hard, and sometimes situations indeed are, we walk away.

And this is why the heart breaks – because love doesn’t do its work.

I used to believe the world’s declaration of doom on real relationships, friendships and love. Until I met people who wanted to have this realness with me. My whole world changed with just one friend who is willing to love the way I love; fiercely and with sheer abandon to the requirements of love. And this is what happens when love is used, it changes people.

I am finally learning that love was created to be renewed, everyday.

Like the oxygen we breathe that is never used up but only rearranged, love is renewable because it is never depreciated but instead gets restored and replenished through a process of actions and commitments. Renewing love means constantly choosing it and going back to its beginning. This takes work, of course, but our misconception of love dying is precisely built around the belief that love is responsible for working out relationships, and therefore, when relationships fail, we believe it is because love was simply not strong enough.

Here is a fact: people are responsible for working out relationships, not love. Love is a resource, given to us to bind, grow and sweeten the beauty that is born out of people connecting. Love is the thing that makes relationships work the way they were designed to work. But the CATCH is, love has to be used BY people who are working out their relationships.

Human relationships are hard but love, when used well and full, is the hedge that keeps us from spilling out. Instead of saying love ended, let us be truthful that relationships end because we fail. And we fail to use love for its purpose

It has been many years since I first walked into the arena of the world, naïve and crazy pumped to love human beings with my little heart. Many years since my first heart break. Now, I have profound respect for the work of committed people that rise at dawn with the intention to love better than they did yesterday, people that take each day as another gift to love anew.

 

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.

Things falling from heaven

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She stood by the window transfixed. Afraid to move. This was the longest she had tamed her nerves. Everything in her had welled into a strange calmness. It was a gift and she was going to take it, no questions asked. Relief from the fiery questions, doubts & fears that plagued her day in and day out. she sighed. The sky was a transparent blue. She could easily get lost in that blueness just as easily as she had lost herself in Noah’s blue eyes. He had taken her by the hand and promised her the world. Who wouldn’t believe him when he stared at her like she was the most beautiful woman in the world?

She shook her head sternly banishing the thoughts. She knew exactly where these thoughts would lead – curled up on the cold floor drowning in her tears.

Her fingers’ grasp on the thin draperies tightened. The trembling seemed to start from the inside of her. It made her knees weak & her senses fill with nausea.

How did this happen? How could she have been so mistaken?

“I’ve never met anyone who understands me the way you do” he had said a mixture of shyness & excitement traced in every line on his face as he tilted his head to look at her. He was the most beautiful man she had ever seen. And he was here, saying these soul-moving things to her. She knew the moment was monumental, she could feel the electricity in her body & on the surface of her skin. & she knew then that if he ever touched her, it would be too much.

“You tick every box of mine…and…and I don’t want to go” he finished. She stared at him with no words or breath, her small chest constricting into its own. He made her so happy it hurt. This was the day she had been waiting for – the man she had chosen had chosen her in return. This is what they called love.

She shut her eyes to stifle the memory. The tears were running down her face and she lifted her face to the sky, wishing the blueness would just swallow her up.

Please God, she prayed. I need to know. Give me a sign. Anything.

Nobody had warned her that sometimes love is not true enough to last forever. & that sometimes people mean something else when they speak words of intimacy.

She had given of herself to him. The fairytale had ended as quickly as it had begun. He offered no explanation except;

“You are not the one for me…”

What about the beautiful words we exchanged? What about the promises…what about what was growing between us, the chemistry, friendship, trust, hope…

“I didn’t promise you anything. I was simply tasting…”

And so it ended there & the journey of her broken heart had began. Her dreams had been smashed into a million pieces & her hands were too small to gather all the pieces back together.

The tears came faster. Unbridled & bitter. The world did not take kindly to women like her – weepy over a man who had given her the wrong impression. A man who had dangled hope in her face and then retracted it as if it was something dirty. There was no sanctuary for this kind of condition. She had to toughen up & get on with life. Her shoulders convulsed in protest as her finger nails cut into the draperies. The cloud around her heart was thick & heavy.

Please God, she prayed again. I need to know. Will I ever mean more to a man? Give me a sign. Anything.

She swabbed at her eyes & that is when she saw the things falling from heaven. One, two, three and soon it was raining hope. The cloud melted. Her heart welled up and the laughter that escaped her throat was from that place deep down that she thought had died.

This was the sign. God had heard her prayer & even more so, he had breathed into her insides grace & compassion. She was not forgotten. She was not alone. The pain would pass & she would learn salvation in the process. This story ended here & its home was to be revisited no more. Hope had returned.