Who or What

Who or what is this thing called God?
God is the one who directs my studies,
who nods and smiles approvingly
and pats me on the back and says
Job well done
while another of God’s countless hands
is pulling the rug out from under my feet.
And as I go down,
hitting my head on every sharp corner,
and somehow finding with my heart,
exposed and open in my moment of accomplishment,
the one long slender thorn, hard as steel,
growing up from below,
and managing, as though destined, to run myself through,
I look up, bleeding, and see God
smiling and nodding, and saying
with infinite kindness,
Very well done.

More art from the Althea Center for Engaged Spirituality.

The Thirty-Fivesies

Alert readers will notice that I have not posted to this blog since I got my new job this summer. I actually got hired on my birthday, and haven’t really had time to update this blog since then. (Apologies to all of the people who read that post and have since asked “how’s the new job going?” It’s going great, and thank you for asking!)

But since it has been so long and since it is now sort of the New Year (I mean, it’s definitely 2015, but it would be a bit stretch to say it’s still, like, part of the New Years holiday) I kind of feel inclined to look at how my life has changed since last New Year, sort of like those holiday letters that my more organized friends send, only more about the inner plane. And I sense it is going to be a long ass post, so if you get bored and quit reading I won’t be offended. In a sense I’m drawn to write as much for my own integration of the past year as for anything else. With so much head-spinning busyness over the past six months I have been in need of a reassessment: where am I right now? How did I get here? And where the hell am I going?

Well, here’s where I am in time: 35 years old. According to the calligraphy sign hanging above me at the Mean Bean coffee shop right now:


I don’t know if either of those statements is exactly true for me — I wouldn’t say my head is together and my body isn’t quite falling apart yet (though when it does, there will at least be plenty of cushioning to soften the impact). But I did coin a term to describe this phase of life that I find myself in:

The Thirty-Fivesies.

Sounds cute, doesn’t it? Well, that’s deceptive. It’s an ass-kicker, but somehow a happy one.

For me, at least, the Thirty-Fivesies refers to a change point, and a kind of progression from one set of lessons to the next. Sort of like an elementary school graduation. Like, it’s not like I know everything or anything, but I’m going to a new school now and the desks are bigger and the hallways are taller and longer and I can pretty much trust that the multiplication tables are committed to memory so I don’t have to keep quizzing myself on them. Oh yeah, and since I’m moving to a whole new school I kind of have a new identity, or part of one.

To use a different metaphor, the Pagan perspective tends to view a woman’s life cycle as a progression through the three stages of Maiden, Mother, and Crone. It can be hard for those of us who don’t have actual children to know when we have moved into the Mother stage, but it’s associated with a general sense of competence, of being able to tend to the community’s needs, of being someone who basically knows what she is doing and is empowered to use her creative capacity in a variety of ways — to create her own life, to create that which she wants to see in the world.

It’s hard for me to say “yes, this is me” because of my long-trained terror of speaking well of myself — one of the strongest lessons I took away from my childhood was that bragging was one of the most “sinful”, possibly most dangerous things I could do — so I am almost pathologically incapable today of saying to anyone besides my partner, “Yes, I did a good job.” But here’s the thing: that’s part of what the Thirty-Fivesies and the Mother stage and the elementary school graduation are about for me: completing that lesson, and other lessons, that I’ve been working in since kid-hood, and getting to move on to something new.

It means I’m moving from practicing self-abnegation to practicing self-value. It means that when it comes to creating my life, I’m moving from “What’s the crappiest thing I can stand?” to “What’s the best thing I can imagine?”

And without all the self-hate and self-limiting and convictions of unworthiness, who am I now?

I think it’s no coincidence that I got the new job right on my birthday. It was the first evidence of my valuing myself on an inner level, and starting to believe that the work that I do is worthy of compensation. This has only grown since then. And this is part of the graduation feeling; it’s like I’m not stressing about or pushing for it any more — I’m just creating it. On some level I’ve actually taught myself to believe in my value, at least economically. That’s shocking to me. And it tells me I’ve actually finally learned something.

So maybe there is something to that catch phrase in the picture — maybe I AM starting to get my head together.

But then there’s my heart, and gosh, I feel like all year it’s been getting tenderized — like a piece of steak getting beaten with a mallet. Though not necessarily in a bad way. Tender is good, for hearts. Open is good.

And sometimes to open something, you have to smash it.

I have this heart-and-wings pendant that one of my Sufi friends in Missouri gave me on my 30th birthday. At one point this year I thought I had lost it and felt sad. Then it came back to me unexpectedly — but with a little dent.


Man, I should have considered myself warned.

If you know me, you know I’ve always been kind of an anti-romantic — even cynical about love. When characters in books or movies fell in love, I was of the opinion that they were just spoiling a perfectly great friendship. As a kid, I never imagined my wedding day, but I had elaborate fantasies about my adventures post-divorce. (Some of these involved moving to Texas on a motorcycle with two Shelties in the saddlebags.) Even when I did get married I was very cautious about what exactly I was promising.

This year I realized how much I have kept my heart in check.

I realized that I had developed such an over-reliance on my brain as the “go-to” source of information, insight, ideas, dreams, plans, analysis, etc. that it was hard for me to even sense my heart at all. And if I couldn’t sense my own heart, it stood to reason that the people and organizations that I loved — probably didn’t know that I loved them.

I realized that because of my fears about letting love in (or out), I’ve tried to fill the spaces with all kinds of other things, not always to my benefit. I’ve refrained from putting my whole self into things. I’ve believed myself to be unworthy or incapable of experiencing all the love that is out there, constantly surrounding me and pouring over me and waiting with endless patience for me to become willing to receive it.

So I’ve started trying to change that. I started trying to pass my communications through my heart instead of my brain. (Or at least, through both. Darn, brain, where is that off switch???)

Here’s what happened:

I asked for Divine help in opening my heart. The whisper said, ask the Angels to help you open the door. And they did. And I was overwhelmed by the feeling of light pouring in … and out.


I started calling it the energy of the Open Door Heart. Suddenly I started WANTING. And haven’t stopped.

I started allowing the true desires of my heart to guide what I am seeking for in life. And it is changing me.

It means I’m more sensitive. It means that I’m less guarded. It means that since I’m allowing myself to want, I’m more vulnerable to disappointment.

I’m trying to bring my full heart to my relationships and I’m finding that this too makes me want more. I want deeper friendships, I want family bonds, I want more-than-friendships. I want to expand …

And that challenges me to, well, get out of my comfort zone.

It’s chilly in my comfort zone. It’s restrained and controlled and there is not a lot of sizzle or surprise.

But as soon as I try to stick a toe out of the bubble I realize I have none of the skills needed to create something different, and I don’t know if I am brave enough to try. I guess that’s the definition of a comfort zone. Going out of it is like — graduating from elementary school and feeling lost among all the big kids in junior high.

And knowing that at some point I’m gonna get stuffed into my own locker because I’m such a darn dork. (That never actually happened to me in middle school so I know I’m overdue.)

But what the hey. Once you graduate, you’re stuck with the new school and the new curriculum. You can’t just keep doing the same lessons over and over again just because they’re easy and it makes you feel smart. You have to reach for something new.

Last year’s theme was “Year of Art.” This year it’s going to be “Year of the Heart.” We’ll see where it takes me.

The Box: A Reunion Story

My partner Sam and I moved from Missouri to Colorado nearly three years ago.  We procrastinated on packing, and ended up pulling two all-nighters in a row, emptying out our apartment and setting out in our cross-state U-Haul-pickup-truck caravan, let’s just say, later than we’d planned.  And though I remembered packing it, distinctly remembered placing it in a larger box that held a bunch of other random stuff, one thing that never turned up in the unpacking process was the shoebox I’d had since college, which contained all of my most treasured souvenirs of my travels, beginning with the year I studied abroad in Spain — postcards and small artworks,  bumper stickers, poems, and newspaper clippings, the things I bought or collected to remember places and times, when I was traveling on a very tight budget.  Then there were some love letters, some scenic pictures from calendars, and possibly a scrap of fabric from a certain Taco Bell flag that was minutely vandalized during a statement against cultural imperialism.

During those three years in which the box was missing, I was of two minds.  On one side, I thought I should not be attached to things, even those gathered with passion and tenderness, as presents I bought myself to celebrate moments of perfect contentment or exquisite bittersweetness.  I had a surprising degree of success with this.  I felt wistful but accepting when I thought that the collection was lost for good; even this outcome had a certain romance to it.  But maybe I had such an easy time accepting the box’s absence because, on the other side, I never really stopped believing that it would be uncovered yet, nestled down in some yet-to-be-unpacked box.  (Yes, even after three years, there are such boxes in our house.)

Well, long story short, I did in fact finally find it the other day, and was reunited, with great joy and delight, with a relatively small but personally important bunch of markers from my own history.  And I thought it was interesting that I found this right after I was writing the last post, and going back and actually thinking about the insanity, and also the survival, and also the fun and the learning of those years.  The hands that gathered these mementos, the eyes that selected them, are similar to and different from those with which I see and touch the world today.  I am still in a process of reclamation, of gradually becoming able to face and meet all of those parts of myself that I’ve denied, been afraid of, run away from.  I want to reconnect the electricity flowing to the creative and strange and engaged parts of myself that have shut down for various reasons over the years.  That’s my vision and intention for spring rebirth.


This box!!!


What would Wellstone do, indeed???


I stand by both of these.


My big shopping splurge was in a department store in Bilbao, where I bought A TON of tourist stuff that said Euskadi or had the Basque flag because I was totally in love with the Basque Country. … That’s just the kind of nerd I am.


These are some of the postcards; the postcard-shopping experience was part of how I narrated my experiences abroad to myself.


I received this cloth painting of Kali as a gift at my graduation/30th birthday party — then she was lost for three years. I guess it’s time to really welcome her ferocious energy in! Where will it take me? Let’s go!