Those Toes

Whose little toes are those,

Are those?

Are those the ones,

The ones that I  nourished until they were born?

Are those mine or yours?

 

Whose tiny feet are these,

Are these?

Are these the ones,

The ones that were under my hanging rib that is bruised to date?

Do these belong to me or are they yours to take?

 

If in the end all you take with you,

is what you give away,

Then you can have them now, my darling,

A fair and even trade.

New year, Same bitch

Reopened, Receptive.  Past notions revived.

Remember, recapture the transient vibes.

Salvage, Reclaim, Synthesize.

Recycle Ideas, recreate and renew.

Simulate.

      Contemplate.

              Likeness to you.

I’ve never been one for the “new year, new me.” I’ve found that as refreshing as a new calendar can feel, I get way more gratification from looking back – reading old writing, journal entries, and manifestations from moons passed.

In 2016, I managed to actualize all the things I envisioned for my life as possible.  A cross country move to California, a new job, and most importantly a new life (really, a baby is growing inside me as I type).  The calendar doesn’t get to decide who I am and when, it’s the universe and myself working together in perfect harmony that have gotten me to this point.   I feel most renewed by knowing that I am the same me who wanted all these things but could hardly envision them as possible just a few months ago.

 What this poem meant to me years ago when I wrote it, is very different than what it means to me now. There was a time in the past -where I envisioned this perfect future- a perfection that is my current present moment. A vision I get to keep creating, and re-creating moment by moment. I’m recycling my own ideas.  While everything in my life has drastically changed, I feel more myself.  Looking back at what I have been able to co-create in my own life sparks a renewed sense of purpose, a refreshed perspective on intentional living, and reclaimed power that I had all along.

 

Ten Thousand Goosebumps

Skirts jump and pull in the wind

As a group of bare legs passes in front of me,

I think I can see

ten thousand goosebumps.

Even they can’t deny the chill to the breeze,

clinging to summer,

Each of them with no sleeves.

And me,

Already in my scarf.

Succulents: A love story

It’s not surprising or unique to read and research love. I imagine I’m like most people in that I spend a lot of time thinking about how to be loved, and how to be a better lover (and not always in the erotic sense). My quest has been recently focused on Erich Fromm’s The Art of Loving.  While imperfect (confines itself to the gender binary and other oppressive constructs of its time) for a 1950’s psychological text, I have found it both succinct and comprehensive, self-explanatory and subjectively thought provoking.  It operates on several assumptions; most of which I can agree with.

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That human existence is life being aware of itself, and while a gift, awareness comes with a myriad of problems put most simply; to attain individuality while remaining connected to others.  A conundrum to which we are all subjected. There are several answers to this problem, all imperfect, partial answers  to transcend the discomfort produced by separateness; according to Fromm.

1. Creativity and production

2. The use of drugs, alcohol and sexual experiences  (orgiastic experiences)

3. The most popular solution in modern society: conformity which is based on the false premise of equality.  Equality in it’s origins actually means oneness, all unique constructs of the same universe, whereas now we use it mean sameness.

 

The unity achieved in productive work is not interpersonal; the unity achieved in orgiastic fusion is transitory; the unity achieved by conformity is only pseudo-unity. Hence, there are only partial answers to the problem of existence.  The full answer lies in the achievement of interpersonal union, of fusion with another person, in love.

Love, the complete answer to the problem of human existence.

The four components of the art of loving:

  1. Care:  Love is the active concern for the life and growth of that which we love

  2. Responsibility – not tasks to be checked off -but to be ready, able and willing to respond.

  3. Respect:  not to look up to- but the root of the word “respicere = to look at.” The ability to see a person as she is to be aware of her unique individuality. “If I love the other person, I feel one with him or her, but with him as he is, not as I need him to be.”

  4. Knowledge: motivated by concern; not just of him or herself, of the person of affection, but of all people, of the nature of human life and existence. While this cannot be answered its motivation comes from concern.

    “While life in its merely biological aspects is a miracle and secret, man in his human aspects is an unfathomable secret to himself and his fellow man. One can tear things or people apart, simplify and dominate over them as a path to knowledge, much like the child who tears the wings off of the butterfly to know its secret. Or one can choose to love, to penetrate actively another person through fusion. ‘In the act of fusion I know you, I know myself, I know everybody and I know nothing.’”

An unexpected lesson on the Art of Loving:

I met Gerard on a gloomy August afternoon.  It was actually the same day I met Elizabeth.  They knew each other I think, had spent the last few months together.  I was introduced by my cousin, Jordan, who happened to live in the co-op like house behind me in a college town.  Jordan and his roommates had one day to move out: one day to transform the messy, personalized, intimate home into an empty, livable, house for the next renters to start their college story.  I had gone over to help, and by help I mean drink with them while they threw most of their belongings (garbage or not) into trash bags (because, college). I saw him reach for Gerard and Elizabeth off the windowsill.  The last two living plants there and he grouped them with the dead ones into the “throw away pile.”  They didn’t have those names yet, but as I lept forward to foster them, they seemed to name themselves.

Yes, Gerard and Elizabeth are plants.  I protested, and much to my cousin’s happiness offered to take them for my own.  We laughed as we named Gerard, a name that awkwardly stumbled from my Midwestern lips. He was half-dead, saggy, and had jagged leaves that almost looked cut by those design crafting scissors.  Elizabeth was pretty,  regal.  From her round sculpted full leaves to her white geometric patterned pot, she was everything I wanted in a plant and she would look beautiful in my little apartment.  I kept Elizabeth on a nice doily, in the center of the sorry excuse for living room in that one bedroom apartment.  I don’t even remember where I kept Gerard at that time.

I moved the following Fall into a slightly bigger apartment and accumulated more shelves.  Elizabeth kept her spot, front and center, but with the added shelf-space I decided Gerard could be placed on the top shelf and give some life to the bare white walls.

Months passed, as people came through our apartment they got to hear about Elizabeth and Gerard as if they were household pets or mascots; and they also knew who I favored and why.  I took care of Gerard, I watered him occasionally and got the dust off his leaves (I’m not a monster).  One day I went to water him after watering Elizabeth and thinking, “oops I kind of forgot about Gerard, there.”

He was on a high, now cluttered shelf. As I looked to him, I was overcome. There, the jagged plant in the cracked pot was, in full bloom, beautiful pink flowers on every leaf.  I remember saying his name out loud and bursting into tears. In case you couldn’t tell I’m little more emotive than the average human. I immediately called my husband and sent a picture, and he too was in awe.  All I could do was flash back in my mind to the things I thought, felt and said about him.  I felt guilty.  I pulled him down from the shelf and began to get to know about him.  I learned that he was a Christmas Cactus, months of dry cold elevation mimicked the conditions that produced those lovely flowers. My almost intentional neglect of an object simply based on comparison, of what I wanted him to be, kept me from loving him fully.

Gerard taught me one the greatest lessons about love in my life.  That if someone has the right to be whoever they are, and still be cared for, still be responded to, still be seen/respected, and attempted to be known, they can blossom and grow.  If I knew anything about him I could have loved him right away.  Instead I almost missed the opportunity  and nearly lost him,. I had to feel the guilt of withholding love because his simple being does not meet my own personal standards.  Ever since, Gerard stays in my bedroom, on his own special doily, on a table just for him.  I affirm him any chance I get, and he gives me the gift of knowing I can open my heart and foster growth in myself and others.

To bring this back to The Art of Loving:  Fromm makes some basic points about love.

Love is a mature construct and not a symbiotic union; “as I need you because I love you, not I love you because I need you.”

Love is an art.  It takes practice, it is intentional, it’s giving alone results in the “bringing to life”of some unique aspect of the other, to be received again by the giver. (“Not only in love does giving mean receiving: the teacher is taught by his students, the actor is stimulated by his audience, the therapist is cured by his patients.”) It is active not passive. “A standing in, not a falling for”

“It (love and its four aspects) is not different for the love for animals or even flowers.” Fromm says.

Just because someone’s flower is not as pretty as you want it to be, or their pot doesn’t compliment your decor, is no reason not to love them. In fact, every person you choose not to know, not to love, is part of yourself that you lose, because everyone has the potential to give and receive infinite love, and everyone deserves it.

 

Affirmations

I think and so

I am.

I might just think I can.

Can see reflections,

And I don’t need your mirror,

Finally it only took a year or…

Wait.

Am I here I just forgot,

Please tell me am I here or not?

Did that just happen, I didn’t tell you?

No one to convince

I don’t have to sell you

on this one, no.

I think and so

I am.

And I’m starting to feel I can.

But without you, I forget me,

There used to be a pond of you for me

To look and see

myself laughing back; but everyone’s skipping

rocks on my face and the water’s murky.

In the back, the clock ticks! So I ha, I exist even without your timekeeping in the mist.

I thought and I was there;

can’t take it away.

But, suddenly I’m feeling like a sculptor with no clay.

So wait, I’ll paint—but, ah, no canvas.

I’m sick.

I swear.

There’s just no illness.

I’m almost sure I’m here,

I know I shouldn’t doubt.

It’s just so hard to see me when I’m busy looking out.

Looking out for you, to affirm me

To confirm all the things I think I see

Ha, but that’s just it,

I’ll catch my own drift now

I don’t even need your mitt.

If I fell in the woods, I think I’d lay there.

You didn’t hear me, but I cried there.

I did, I cried, the tears they fell.

And there was not even a tree to tell.

It happened and I don’t doubt that now,

I guess that this is why and how

I think and thought and so

I am.

And I absolutely know I can.

Painfully Aware or Gently Present

I’m trying to do more things that are good for me. Because I want to be a better person, a different person. Someone who can take pride in herself. I know I should not be thinking these things about myself.  I should not be approaching my goals in yoga or mindfulness practice with the hidden agenda of “new-me-ness.”  I know I’m supposed to be accepting myself, in my entirety, right here right now.  And right now, here I am, in my living room upside down.

After practicing for many months, I can finally do a full backbend from the standing position in yoga. There, see, self? I can be committed, I can be healthy. For a second, I’m proud. A rare feeling, pride pulls the trigger; what haven’t I got to proud of, why don’t I always feel this way? A well rehearsed script, I’ve memorized this scene. Because I am lazy, judgmental and too sensitive. In my reflection, I can see my backbend is off. I am bent too far in my lower lumbar region. My upper spine unwilling to compensate, plateaus. I’m straining. What’s to be a gently spaced curve, appears more as a series of harsh edges and right angles.

I spend more time in the preparation for events than the doing of them. Being new to yoga, makes me feel unprepared, so I read a lot about it. I read that I’m doing something wrong. In my haphazard backbendings I’m not supposed to be doing opposite stretches to recover. That once I have concaved my spine, the impulse to convex it, is in fact incorrect. The best thing I can do for my spine is a series of neutral stretches and then to Simply Sit.

Any yogi knows yoga has a spiritual component that rejuvenates more than your body. Sitting, I think about what I’ve read about the backbend, not the how, but the intention behind it. It is a heart opening pose. It releases stress and tension that we carry in our chest. Simply sitting with my heart open I feel for myself, not about myself. I, like all of us, must do things in order to have a “right placeness,” because belongingness is a basic human need. This makes sense, I make sense. Mindfulness has allowed me to be present through observing and I’ve noticed that my actions and thoughts are valid, I’ve accepted them. Because this makes sense to me, I am less ashamed. I have compassion for myself, softly bridging the gap between self-improvement and self-acceptance; between painful awareness and gentle presence.

Three months ago I could barely lean back while standing. Now I can lean all the way back without falling, it just looks like a little rickety. This reminds me of something. I get a vivid image of my three year old niece my niece and I applying makeup on ourselves in the bathroom mirror. She puts way too much and in all the wrong places. She gets up close to the mirror, pauses for a moment and takes in the finished product.

“It’s a lil’ bit messy, but it still looks good.”  I recall seeing her satisfaction, her okayness, her belongingness and even her pride, and I felt it too. Her electric pink blush against the backdrop of unashamedness, an unfamiliar combination. I remember us laughing together. What would it be like she thought about herself the way I thought about myself. What if my little cherub didn’t know her own goodness?  It would be painful for me, because I know her and I know she is whole, perfect and lovable. It’s not a one sided relationship, she loves me, cherishes me even. What kind of model of self-acceptance am I providing? What does she feel about me? What would she feel about how I thought about myself? She knows my goodness, my wholeness.

My backbend is a little bit messy, but it is still good. I am a little messy, but I am good. When I opened my heart without compassion for myself, I felt shame about the distance between me and my higher self. I know I should be on the self-acceptance route instead of the self-improvement one. But I don’t want to backtrack or start over. I want to accept myself and be better.  I need a bridge.

Instead of reading how my backbend is wrong, I know that it is good and could be better. I read about ways to improve it. Many people have difficulty with an area of their spine. This is a common human experience. I feel connected to others in this struggle. It’s a common experience that is about more than just your body. In a full backbend the heart is far above the head the heart is opened. Anxiety, insecurity and stress are released and I feel them. This is what it feels like when a person struggles this way. I am doing okay, this is hard. I want to live with my heart open for the sake of it being open, not for a great looking backbend.
I lay shoulders down and begin to lift just my legs and hips, they are good at this. I slowly extend my arms straight on the mat keeping my shoulders on the ground. Bridge pose. I feel the parts of me that work well first and I thank them. I feel the parts of me that need work and I breathe into them. I do not need to push, I’m grounded. I’m doing things that are good for me. Because I am worthy person. A good person, worthy of goodness. I am someone who can give love freely when her heart is open. I can bridge the gap between me and my higher self through love and compassion. I am proud. My heart is full. I sit with it, simply full.

Nightly Narcissist

I was orbiting my own world for a stretch,

as a moon if I had to speculate.

Not that you’re making me,

but I know it felt better to do it in darkness.

I had some semblance of objectivity out there as an uninstructive observer.   

Duped by the distance and lack of light.

Just noticed the dizziness, revolving around.  

The pull inward.

The force I have heard tell about, by which all things are measured.

My arm raises not in question or conquest,

Not even on purpose,

Just to change my trajectory by three degrees so that I may get a glimpse of another realm,

one not within my purview. 

Web Presence: Living like you blog

selfy

thoughtful pose

 

I am not my name. I have met other Melissa’s.  Some smelled just as sweet.  You do not have to know my name to know me.  I look like a Melissa, but I am not my name.

I am not my face.  To attract more readers, to appeal to humanness, I should post a photo of me.  I took a lot of selfies, had my husband take a lot of wife-ies.  I’ll add my image to the posts of thoughts, but I am not my face.

I am not my thoughts.  I make thoughts. I am, therefore I think. Thoughts that I censor, reflect on, and type out.  Thoughts that I share. Just seconds ago, this was nothing.  I have made something from nothing.  My thoughts are in my image.  But I am not my thoughts.

I am not my blog.  I was feeling incomplete.  Like I was forgetting a part of myself by neglecting my writing, by waiting until I had all the just right things to say in just the right way.  Waiting until never. Finally, I have made a whole extension of myself here in the infinite abyss. I have made something in my likeness. But I am not my blog.

In a way, blogging is inherently mindful.  It asks you to be intentionally vulnerable, to be open.  To have a blog at all is to validate some part of you, on purpose.  It is saying yes, your thoughts matter.   

To have a successful blog, you must be continually present, with the goal of connecting. It is not enough just to make a blog.  Blogging is a practice.  An intentional practice in which you engage with your blog.  And your blog reaches others’, and gets mentioned in their blogs.  In this presence, you must value others.  You must have purpose. The web is timeless. There is no beginning, no end.  You must accept that what you type now may have an infinitely small or profound impact.   You must be willing to try new things, to be intentional about this extension of yourself.

We accept these realities about having a presence on the World Wide Web.  But we don’t accept the same complexities about living in the Whole Wide World.  Because we cannot turn it off, we cannot step outside it, we think we are not in control of our presence of the Whole Wide World.  

Just as we are not our blogs, we have to remind ourselves that we are not the labels and titles, the physical body, or the thinking styles that extend from us.  These things matter, we have some connection to them, but we forget that they are not us.  At our core, we are sensory beings.  Loving beings.  Creative beings.  Any other part of us, extends from one of these aspects of our core being.
I am not my name, face, thoughts, or blog.  But I do strive for a presence in which my being; my senses, love and creativity are the basis for each extension of me.

Like Nobody’s Watching

When I tend to get stuck on writing, I’m usually thinking about someone else reading it.  I think about what parts not to say, what to keep concealed for fear of being found out. Found out to be, whatever I am that is undesirable.  So I’ll tuck sentences away, and bolster other words instead until I’m muted completely. Stuck, thinking about the outcome.  I want to write words that resonate and mean something to someone.  When I’m off track, I’m stuck on justifying myself through my writing.  And then I get to the point of justifying my writing, in true Raison d’être fashion.  But this has never been my style. I don’t have an elaborate answer, or a why.  I write because of what the words mean to me and what they mean about me. I just write.  Magical things happen when I write, but they are not why I write.

Every time we remember something, we don’t remember the actual event, we remember the last time we remembered that event. When I write, I re-remember something about me.  Some lost part of me, some idea, notion or dream that I tucked away in my day-to-day life for fear of judgment, or perhaps because I’m judging myself. Writing helps me to be intentional about accepting all parts of myself.  The next time I remember this feeling, it will have new meaning, meaning that I wrote.  Each word a gentle letting go of the past, each letter one less slipped second into the future. It keeps me present.  When I write it creates space between me and my experiences, thoughts, worries and desires.

It can be easy for me to forget that I am separate from the aforementioned mental constructs.  I think too much and writing keeps me mindful.  Reciprocally, incorporating mindfulness [non-judgment, present-moment awareness, intention] into my writing has made me a better writer.  Better writing has made me a better communicator which improves all aspects of my life. As a therapist, I encourage my clients to exercise their basic personal rights; one being the right not to justify yourself to others.  Magic can happen when we stop justifications, when we accept that whatever is has a right to be.  When I write just to write, I write like nobody is reading.  I do it to be fully myself, without justification.  In these honest expressions, I get the opportunity to reflect, to observe myself through the looking glass of a cheap laptop screen.

Because I’m too self-conscious and have little rhythm on my feet, I let my words dance for me. I write because I do. And when I do, my words dance like nobody’s watching.

Raison D’être