re-publish alert! this has never happened before

to those who regularly happen upon this space! please be aware that “let go for dear life” is also viewable at The Urban Howl as of today. that site is such a magical platform that i’d be remiss to not encourage going in that direction and exploring — so, please go forth and explore!

for personal purposes and maybe others’ interest, here is the re-post:

“For You Who Have Known Hope and Grace, Let Go For Dear Life”

(full-on article title their doing, but i quite like it.)

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let go for dear life

on letting go | part 3

let go for dear life

if there are end times, well, they may
as well have been yesterday,
and the way
you walk out your front door
ought to be more examined, friend,
even if this lady Terra Firma
actually has no end.

the evidence of loss is woven through and sewn into
her superficial cracks; likewise, into
yours.
they could be beautiful, if only you dared to look
at their curves,
their softer turns, and
their sharpness.

these are the kinds of thoughts that arrive
whenever someone leaves the world.

yesterday, a voice was lost
to what some would yet call The Void —
but then, what is a Void except
another opening, another space?
a presence chaos dared to try erase?

is it something we can face? i’ll dare.
even, yes, if there is nothing there.

yesterday, a voice was drowned;
today, it echoes. what will follow? more of the
same noise?
a swarm of every other shouting voice?

wish i knew. i stare
out my window at the calmer passers-by, and wish
i, too, cared not to know.
one day your heart is beating; then, it slows —

it’s beautiful and stark.
those prose words on missing a stair in the dark
ring awfully thick-bellied tonight.

yet i burn here on earth
for those who, too, still want a
better
fight.

for all of you who have known grace,
that silvery bird that darts through life
like moonlight does on water;

for you who have known hope,
that wellspring that still bubbles up in drought;

and for you who have sought both,
even when your candle was snuffed out.

i burn and channel words for you,
for i am you, and yours is mine.

the breath we share is life divine.

you have distilled the love you have been shown.
you need not be afraid of anything.
or, if you are — as i have been — i hope you choose
to say, move forward anyway, and sing.

pour water on a dry and thirsty land.
let go of comfort you’ve gripped in your hand.

and know that even when you do —
others may still try to step on you.
somewhere, someone will believe
they are goliath enough to try and crush you underfoot.

they will be blind to the reality —
the fact that

your spirit is immaterial, transcendent —
more —
and you are like the phoenix, but
better, because

you are no myth.
you are no mystery.

they will fail to understand that
you have died one thousand times
by others’ hands — the hands of those
who cared not for the raw nerves of your heart.
they will not see — but how you will! — that
every time
you have revived.

now you are again reborn. in spite of spite, in spite of scorn.
now you grow tall — won’t turn away       from what you have most longed to say.

now you are made braver, and made wise.
now there it is: the wherewithal to rise.

IMG_2297

*

“Perfection,” says the ballet director in Black Swan, “is not just about control. It’s also about letting go.”

What is control? What is it to let go?

Does freedom live in that in-between, too?

Can one only reclaim one’s life in seeking an intersection of those choices?

That is the crux of these words. It was written in the wake of Rachel Held Evans’ death, but how much more weight it has taken on since then. How many layers have unearthed themselves. All thanks to the massive waves of transformation and change going on all around each of us each day.

When we change, and when we look at what stays in the midst of change, who are we then?

It is so easy in the face of daily-reported atrocities to think of yourself as better than that. For grief and outrage to pour out of a sense that you cannot conceive of behaving in that way, of treating people so horribly. And perhaps you cannot, and would not, and that’s honest and real and part of who you are.

But none of us is good. At least not in the way that has been beaten into many of us by a Puritanically informed culture.

Goodness. Does it get in the way of real beauty? Of freedom, of a perfection that results from the presence of imperfection?

Maybe perfection and freedom are the same. Maybe perfection must contain imperfections, contrary to its very definition. The way every Persian-style rug has, by design, at least one intentional flaw. The way, as Leonard Cohen put it,

“There is a crack in everything / that’s how the light gets in.”

You wake up in the morning and you see the way things have shattered, and you grieve, and you rage, because you never would have let this happen if you had any say in it. But you have never been in charge. Have you ever let this happen in your own life, though, in any capacity? Possibly. Probably.

No, none of us is good. And yet in that, all of us are whole. Those things that break us, or that darken our doorways, make us so.

Never would I justify the horrors that have been exposed of late. But I would say, until one willingly looks at their own darkness, one cannot do much of anything about horrors of any kind.

That, I suppose, is what it is to die one thousand times. And one thousand times again. Maybe that is what could, someday, allow those who are only too aware of their flaws and darkness to summon the bravery to battle our modern beasts.

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This piece was also published on The Urban Howl as of 8/6/2019.

uprooted from a sometime somewhere

on letting go | part 2

uprooted from a sometime somewhere

IMG_2225

i miss a tender wilderness that
i’ve not ever (truly) known
it is a place so far away that
i’m not lonesome
though i am alone — because —

the columns of the
rainforest
the colors of the sky
blanket all my being as much
as a lullaby.
and when i cry it is
more like a wellspring, like relief than

it is a drain, or pain — because
there is more underneath —

because it is reflection. it is
everything i’ve known. it’s

valleys peaks and
tender breezes
don’t you see it, how your spirit spies
the prize, which is
the way you recognize it — and the
way it knows you, too.

the presence of a buried wisdom:
living, breathing, even when you
know not what to do.

yet how am i to commence with this?
i long for that old abstract wilderness.

*

There are words for this feeling. I haven’t found any of them in the English language (such a wonderful language and yet so limited). Except yearning, but even that is so general, so vaguely-formed, in comparison to

sehnsucht, or

saudade, or

fernweh.

For some, the feeling does apply to a certain somewhere or someone that is far-away. To others, it is a sense more ephemeral. Right now, when I think about it, I’m decidedly in the in-between: there are moments wherein I feel close to having captured this elusive it, almost, mostly right at twilight, when the sun is hitting that perfunctory point above the trees as it sets, maybe glinting off of nearby water. Everything has clarity then, both within and without. I yearn for a place that I do and do not know, and is almost right there.

In those moments, the feeling itself does live within and without. Even though what I yearn for is also almost-present, all around and centered inside.

I fear I am making this sound complicated, when it is far from complicated. Is it not a feeling of everything’s existence and occurrence at one time — of nothing being absent — of alignment?

It doesn’t last. It doesn’t have to. You keep seeking anyway, right?

Maybe.

That kind of seeking can go awry, I know. It can lead you down roads you never intended, detours that sort of pit you against who you really are or what you really want. I think of Into the Wild, for the most obvious of examples, of that heartbreaking coda of a scrawled half-sentence: “Happiness only real when shared.” I have been reading Women Who Run With the Wolves, which also speaks to the tragedy of losing touch with one’s wild edge: how it can do you one worse; how doing so can slingshot you back into too much of everything, of intensity and chaos.

So I suppose I wonder if it’s possible to let go of the search. To let people, places, things — truest selves, too — enter and ebb as they please.

*

erasure

on letting go | part 1

erasure

itfelliguess

saw a girl get baptized in the
roiling river this morning,

grey morning, still sticky but
cool from the stormclouds chased away

and i remembered,
some people still pray.

they do because they must.
because, sometimes, it’s nigh-impossible
to see a path until you pause
and let your eyes adjust

to courses far unlike any
expected or perceived.

it is less overrun with weeds and
fibrous roots than
you believed

and
anyway,
if you listen to the briny wind
between the leaves —
if you dare to breathe that rush of air
no matter how much grey you see —

you just might remember
that
everything around you,
every tree,

wants you to be cleansed now, too —
wants you to be
only you —
wants you to be

free.

*

 

bythejames

I like the river better when it rains. It has much more to say.

*

a very american anxiety

on letting go | an introduction called

a very american anxiety

Turbulence is the tone and timbre of late, here in America but also globally, and no reprieve has been promised. No end seems to be in sight. No captain is coming over the loudspeaker to let us know that this is just a brief foray, please fasten your seatbelts and hold tight, this will all be over momentarily.

I’ve heard it said before (and/or seen it on quotable cards) that peace has more to do with being in a place of chaos and staying with yourself than with finding a lack of chaos somewhere else.

Challenge accepted, I guess.

To go with the rising tide of chaos, anxiety is reportedly more and more common lately. At least on a clinical (?!) level (whatever that means). Anecdotally and statistically, though, this seems obvious. Here and here are a few interesting treatises on the matter, as a sidenote. (Skewing more cultural, for what it’s worth.)

As a lifelong anxious being (is that a curse I just put on myself? never mind), I am not all that shocked. I’m more impatiently here for it. Finally, I am not alone at this party.

I don’t mean to come off as cute in saying that. But when Sarah Wilson shared the nugget of wisdom that “if you’re not anxious, you’re not paying attention,” I felt that heavily. Sometimes that sense of disorder is a cue that something is wrong. Whether it’s a past or present something.

So if you are sort of already wired to pay attention—and if there are more people thusly wired these days—since there are more people overall—

Yeah. It’s something of a perfect storm. A gut-churning, eyelid-twitching, muscle-gripping, 4 AM-waking storm.

*

stormsky

I really wanted this to start off on the level of a big, gushing waterfall of a reason for all of us to be anxious. Or for anxiety to threaten. But there are and have been so many such reasons over the last few weeks. So let’s start with two.

We’ve got the whole slew of recent women’s health related lawmaking events—that-which-shall-not-be-named. I say this mostly because I don’t even know what to call such a fiasco. Our Collective Almost-Handmaid’s Tale? Is that too melodramatic for this space?

We’ve also suffered the loss of a writer wildly influential to so many, myself included. Rachel Held Evans passed away at the end of April and left a void that is unbelievably vast.

I want to talk about both of these things because that’s what you do. It’s how you survive.

But also because there is no turning around from this.

There is no turning around because the coinciding of both events puts in stark relief the fact that there’s a lot of nonsense in what we are doing anymore. The old-world sort of stance of trying to legislate something very private, intimate and personal—an action which, mind, contradicts the original philosophy behind said stance—is getting very old and tiresome and sad. Humans have physical and emotional needs foremost, and how did we all forget this very basic thing so quickly?!

(Not to sound too surprised. Clearly most of our institutions and ideas were started with a foundation of ignoring said needs for most groups of people.)

And I understand the opposite perspective. Really, with all my heart, I do. It used to be mine. But there is no getting to a deeper place spiritually or morally without reconciling with this piece first.

Furthermore, a very eloquent and measured writer who was part of the community that arguably planted the seeds of this conflict—which I’ll just go ahead and say because I used to be/am sort of part of it, too—is gone. She cannot chime in with wisdom and guidance regarding this mess.

This turbulence is for the remainder of the flight. This plane is not turning around.

*

skylight

None of this is meant in a battle-cry sort of way, but then, maybe it is. Because all of this, frankly, hurts, and on several levels. Personally, I am so sick of false lines being drawn that pit people against one another, and for people controlled by their fear and their pasts getting to make the rules, letting people stay stuck in cycles from which they may never emerge. It’s ridiculous: don’t we all want the same things, deep down? To be safe, known, loved?

Someone like Rachel Held Evans was in a powerful place: she knew how to cross those lines. We have so few people in that place: people willing to be unafraid, and who are unshaken by the fact that things are not as they should be.

That willingness is the only coping mechanism that counts, in the end.

Because there are so many coping tools we lovely anxious humans cling to, and if you’re only getting anxious now, these may be quite new to you. We get irritable, combative. Or addicted—to people, to substances. Or we freeze up, check out, dissociate. I suspect that last one has become incredibly garden-variety. Complacency—it’s a straightforward choice. Scrolling can be the sweetest thing.

Of course, when life keeps being scary and unpredictable, some of us get less complacent. That righteous anger bubbles up. Words are volleyed. Action is taken. Whew, that was a doozy. Now that’s over.

No. It’s not. This just keeps happening.

And so with these last several doozies, well, what do we do?

What, I’d ask instead, do we not do?

If life itself has truly become this ill-suited to everyone then a holistic overhaul is clearly due. Environmental reform. Maybe the kind that starts from within and works its way out on several levels.

I have no idea how to make that happen. That’s the goddamn million-dollar question, isn’t it? But this cycle is the unfortunate equivalent of trying many different kinds of band-aids (like an abortion ban! like a march in DC!) when the bleeding is internal.

And maybe it’s also to say, I’m aggrieved and exhausted of this national dysregulation—this existential crisis—and if you’re reading this, perhaps you are, too. Maybe all of these attempts at ideology are just twisting us more thoroughly into something not-us. And maybe we all need to take a breather from the way things should have been and used to be.

Maybe that’s the only road toward something better. Toward being all of who and what we can possibly be.

*

Residual | Part 6

residual | part 6

roots like veins

dyingleaves

Roots like veins:
How gently they reach first;
Then, not at all.
Suddenly they’re shoots that call
Unto the soil, the earth’s
Very core.

So doggedly
Will not dissolve
Until you know what
They have done so for.

I know this rhythm
All too well:
Overplayed song
I’ve listened to too long.

My garden was
A mess, my friend.
I woke up in July,
Realized all the green had died off;
Every vine, gone dry,

And
All those roots, so much like veins,
Were fallow.
I knelt and wept, because
Not one had a tomorrow, and
I had nothing else left.
Was hollow; so bereft.

But when the sun
Had crested, and
The sweat smothered my skin,
Ruthless, I ransacked it all—
Reckless, I could begin

To unravel and to reckon and to unroot
Every tree,
Those parchment-thin remnants of
All that could never be.

Every page has filled up and
I repeat the words now.
Because I have met my shadow, because
I know now
That I was once the grasshopper, sleeping
Beneath the song
Of what seemed to be rifer days.
But that exoskeleton’s gone.
Now it is the crusted-over chaff left
For the birds.
And I’m starting over with these seeds;
All I have are my words.

*

More gardens. More roots. More of that old life cycle—sprouting growth, fading death, rebirth. Maybe it is the most obvious of metaphors but it works for me.

It’s one that my porch reflects well. Every spring since moving here I have planted literal seeds there in pickle buckets and aluminum bins: cauliflower, carrots, calendula, cherry tomatoes. Every year, they’ve started to get their roots beneath them before the heat and humidity or lack of space or shuddering shadows get to them.

When it comes to the more figurative seeds, it seems to be the same situation. Highly temporal, slow to get going, fading fast.

Perhaps it’s a lack of the right timing. Perhaps it’s not the proper environment or soil. Perhaps they need fertilizer, or compost, or some kind of herbal medicine.

Or perhaps I don’t really know what I’m doing.

But what I am finally starting to integrate is this: the act and the art of trying, those are the important parts. Process over product. That is wherein lies the beauty.

A simple lesson, to be sure, but maybe one to learn anew each morning.

*

Residual | Part 5

residual | part 5

What if I were smiling, and running into your arms?
Would you see then what I see now?

We wait for so much beneath the embrace of fluorescent lights—
Lingering is a natural state of things.
It pushes us towards entropy, that slow-consuming enemy;
It eats at order we desire, and renders patience faint.

How can we take in truth with slumbering eyes,
As if we’re in the cool of a coma?
Dreams try to tell us we still do, but
There’s still the clinging feeling, is there not, that someone’s forgotten you?

How can we go on waiting?
We have rooms for such things.
If there were a cavernous one for us all, well,
Those walls would be heavy with song, with sadness.
For waiting to give life, or to receive it;
To leave, or to return home;
To change, or to see change;
To find someone, or to lose him.

If this story has a moral, perhaps it’s this:
Our names are not our lives,
Nor are they graven with any chisel, safe as that would seem.

Yet why should not the opposite be comfort?
Why not tend another’s garden just to see the bloom?
Why sleep curled, fetal, on the floor in yet another empty room?

While our veins are yet undrained of second chances,
Let us be not timid—bravery comes in quiet ways.

Waiting is not wrong—perhaps purgatory is
Like paradise—

And it ends, eventually, and all things are made new.

*

I have little to say about this one. But I do believe that, eventually, all things are made new, no matter how blighted or seemingly depleted. Sometimes it simply requires waiting—patience—to get that full abundant result. That new breath of life. That grace-filled renewal that is real.

*

title drawn from Into the Wild (film version)