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.

*

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

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.

*