Breathing

“Sometimes I get up early and even my soul is wet.” Pablo Neruda

My muse calls on me at this appointed hour each morning. . Caught between sleep and awake. She holds me here suspended in time, waiting.

“What will it be today”

Thoughts turn to a friendship that has grown over many years. One in which I have revealed pieces of my soul to him, and he has gently carried them with grace and honor. We spoke last night with ease and trust. It was like breathing.

“What else do you have for me?”

My family. Bonds, not only of blood, but of love, forged in the crucible of life. There is no rivalry or judgement. In joy or despair, food is on the table, laughter is present, and hearts are open. It is like breathing.

“I know there is more.”

The women. In this I have sometimes walked with purpose and have sometimes stumbled. After all these travels, I find myself on the shores of something new. I am a man in a mans world, and will never know the fears, the frustrations, the anger, the shear weight that women carry living in a world that holds them down. I have been complicit on some level, of this I am sure, by the mere fact of being a male. This I cannot change. But I can open my eyes, my ears, my heart. I can allow them to breathe.

“And”

Sexuality. Honoring it. Facing the shame and guilt I have felt. Being with it. Celebrating passion. It is breathing!

Silence.

Stella. Her presence. Her love. My love. In every inhalation. In every exhalation. She is in every breath.

Myself. In the solitude of my room, awake now, I am breathing.

Oh Morning!

Oh morning!

What delights will you bring me?

Or will it be sorrows?

And yet,

caught between serenity and uncertainty,

thoughts turn to past and present,

to regret and hope,

to woman.

To a mother’s unconditional love.

To the girl of my youth whose sadness and mystery I can recall every autumn when leaves turn and fall.

To a relationship born of fire, doomed from the beginning.

What price my soul would pay?

To nights of passion, trying to recover the shards of my heart that had gone missing.

To the solace and grace that love and companionship bring.

To the hope that is my daughter.

Each time I thought I had solved the mystery, that I was home, that I was saved,

love walked away from me.

Or did I abandon it?

Oh day!

What delights and sorrows will you bring?

Caught between here and there,

little by little,

in each unfolding moment,

my heart awakens,

enveloped in love.

An opening heart

I left work last night with a feeling of anticipation and uncertainty fueled, I’m sure, by the fact that I haven’t had a cigarette in ten days. Yet another attempt to quit.

I have a confession to make though. Right before I arrived home I pulled into a 7-11 and bought a pack. I sat in my car for a few minutes, thinking over the decision, finally opening the pack, pulling three cigarettes out, and left the rest perched atop the trash can outside the store. One to smoke when I got home. A second to hide somewhere in my house for an “emergency”, and a third in case the one I planned to smoke, tasted so good to my body and psyche that I would want to have another right after, without depleting the soon to be stashed back up. An addict with a plan.

I awoke early with a start. Some image from my dream state jostling the sleep from my body. I try to shake it off, but it doesn’t work, so I resign myself to the inevitable. I will be tired and wanting of sleep sometime in the afternoon in the middle of my first of three days with Stella I have every week.

My thoughts turn to her. She will be full of enthusiasm upon her arrival in a few hours and filled with ideas of how our day should proceed. I will acquiesce at first, glad to be in her company again, and we will fill one another in on the days spent apart. Then my sleep deprived body will demand some attention. I’ll need a plan that doesn’t involve a cigarette.

She is almost seven now and the past couple of months has seen a shift in our relationship. She has become more autonomous. We are engaging on a whole new level and a friendship is emerging. I imagined this happening when she was older, not sure why, when her survival did not hinge on my every decision. It’s an easy friendship filled with laughter and ease.

Other friendships have also taken hold this past year.

They used to come easier to me in my youth. Some have been fleeting and others endure. Time and distance has changed their content, but the substance remains the same. My heart has been opening to the idea that friendship is still possible. That it is allowable and necessary. That may sound strange, but it’s perhaps how one navigates through life when your heart closes itself against the world. When fear takes hold. Fear of being rejected by another human. Fear of the intimacy needed for true friendship. Fear that you are not worthy.

These new emerging friends have been kind and patient with my insecurities and doubts and I am grateful for it. I am trying to be a better man. A better human. I am willing to allow myself to stumble as I navigate this new terrain. And I am sorry to those that have tried in the past only to be met with my fear.

And what of that feeling of anticipation and uncertainty from last night? Those feelings I tried to control with a cigarette? They are still there. They are part of what an opening heart looks like. Being vulnerable is what feeds the fear. Allowing myself to be vulnerable to the emotions that are unleashed by an open heart is the first step against fear.

The second step is to invite others in.

Thank you for holding my sadness

Many years ago, during a period of despair in my life, crying uncontrollably on the floor of my kitchen, alone, I telephoned my older brother in New York. I wanted someone to take the pain away. To say something that would fix it.

He listened as I sobbed. Consoling me, time from time, with the usual platitudes people say at moments like that. But as he listened and five minutes turned into ten, and ten into twenty, and on until an hour had passed, the uncontrollable sobs lessened. The tears that had covered my face mixed with the snot running from my nose had been wiped clean. I was able to speak more clearly and calmly. My breathing softened.

He spoke.

“I can’t take your pain away. No one can. You have to walk through it. I’m here to walk with you. I’m here to witness your sorrow. I love you and I can hold your sadness for a little while.”

Those words have always stayed with me. I have passed them on to others in their times of despair. And I have asked others to be witness to my pain.

Just yesterday I asked it of a dear friend. It doesn’t take it away. But I am now not so alone with it.

So friend. Thank you for holding my sadness.

Muse

The words come at this hour most every day. Like a fever. The muse lay dormant for so long I forgot what it felt like to feel her. To hold her. To listen to and be heard.

Where have you been? Why have you returned now? At this moment in my life? At this hour of the day?

Will you stay?

It’s been difficult to quiet my mind these past few weeks. I go to bed wondering if she’ll be there in the morning at her appointed hour. Will something be revealed? If so, will I be able to understand?

Stella sleeps. She seems, as most children do, to live in happy balance with her muse. It’s a part of her. I lived like that once as a child. It seemed so natural. Like breathing.

So.

I invite her into my life once more. I will embrace her like a lover. I will be vulnerable and open. I will feel and be touched. I’ll bare my soul and listen with my heart. I will wake with delight knowing she is there. I will have gratitude for her presence in my life at this moment. At this hour.

And.

I will despair when she leaves.

All things I seek …

I woke a few times during the night, briefly, allowing the pieces of my dreams to filter into consciousness, held them a moment, then slipped back into an easy slumber. Now. Before sun and Stella I sip coffee out of a cup given to me a few years back, with the words, “All things I seek are now seeking me,” painted on it. I drink from this cup often, more for practical than inspirational reasons. It’s a good solid cup that’s holds the perfect amount of coffee to start my day.

But this morning, at this moment in my life, it holds the perfect amount of wisdom. I read, and reread the words, holding the phrase in my mind, just as I hold the coffee I drink from it, briefly tasting its strength, before swallowing.

The words were written by author, Florence Scovel Shinn, an artist and illustrator who became a New Thought spiritual teacher in the early 20th century.

Shinn expressed her philosophy as:

“The invisible forces are ever working for man who is always ‘pulling the strings’ himself, though he does not know it. Owing to the vibratory power of words, whatever man voices, he begins to attract.” The Game of Life, Florence Scovel Shinn

I try not to overthink all this. When a phrase or an idea strikes, I tend to pick it up emotionally or psychologically rather than intellectually. How does it feel? Does it resonate deep down in my psyche?

Today it does. Something has been shifting inside. Body, mind, and soul are trying to realign themselves. It is what I want. What I seek. And in so seeking, my heart is opening and my connection to the energy around me is heightened. Because of this vulnerable state, everything I’m feeling, from delight to anxiety, is also heightened.

People and moments are affecting me in ways I have not anticipated. I had learned to build a wall around my emotions that very few were allowed to pass through the gates of. I can analyze the fuck out of the reasons why, but those reasons don’t matter. I’m here now, seeking and receiving. I’m willing to be vulnerable to the mystery unfolding before me. I’m willing to take chances and drink from the cup.

4 in the morning

I awake with a start and feel as though I’ve forgotten something. Not something important, but a small trifling. I immediately search for the phone thinking that perhaps the answer lies there. Nothing. But the bright screen pushes sleep further away and I toss it aside, silently cursing my technological dependency and think that, yes, the robots will one day rule us.

It’s then that I notice the rain. Not just rain, but thunder, and somehow it’s disorienting. Something primal kicks in and I go to Stella’s room. She’s sleeping soundly. I pull the covers up and close her window against the storm. I begin to make my way around the house, checking windows, and turning off lights I had left on the night before. The bathroom beckons and I oblige.

Back in bed, covers pulled up, eyes closed.

Mind begins to race. I’ve been here before and it’s at this point I try to convince myself that sleep is necessary and desired. Give yourself two more hours and you’ll be better for it.

Five minutes later I’m brewing coffee.

Cup in hand I crawl back into bed and I sit sipping in the dark. I try to recall what I may have been dreaming right before I woke. Perhaps that holds the answer as to why I’m up at this hour.

Nothing.

What about the night before? Was something troubling me? I mean, more than the usual unresolved feelings. A slight anxiety seems to be festering right below the surface so I try to take some focused breaths and come back to center. This works for a short time but my mind will have none of it. It’s off and running. It’s racing through a day that has yet to happen.

And then a thought crosses my mind.

Maybe it’s not anxiety. Or a dream. Or something negative.

It’s more like a feeling of anticipation. Excitement slowly bubbling to the surface for no other reason than feeling good. I’m not talking about feeling good because of a decision or an action. Something deeper. Something primal. Something honest. Something playful.

Then it comes to me.

Joy.

It’s been awhile but here it is. I want to reach inside and shake hands with it. I want to say “Hello old friend. How I’ve missed you.”

The rain has stopped and the first strands of sunlight are making their way into my bedroom. Stella will be up soon and the promise of a new day will shine fresh upon her face.

I’m awake now.

Awake to the possibilities and to the magic. Awake to the muse who I thought left me, but was merely waiting. Awake to my heart. A heart that was there for Stella, but locked against the storm of life.

I realize now what I had forgotten. Turns out it is no small trifling, but something important.

I’d forgotten to allow joy to happen.

I just wanted to say

The last three years have been both a sorrow and a joy. My marriage ending, and with it the promise of forever, has been the sorrow. The fear was, I had taken something away from the people I loved most, that I had failed. With this sense of failure came anger and resentment. Two emotions that want to devour all that is good and noble in us. I didn’t want to heal myself, to move on, to grieve. I wanted to wallow in it. My ego was threatened and needed to be proved right. I allowed something beautiful to slip through my fingers.

The joy has been to see all three of us, Stella, Lindsay, and I begin to grow, in small ways and large, that have transformed that promise of forever. I have begun to grieve the loss of something I held dear, and with grieving, the clouds are parting. Exposing my ego to light has stopped the festering of not only the wound of this failure, but, hopefully, old wounds that have caused harm to many relationships.

The constellation of “We Three” spinning through the cosmos still exists. It has merely changed into something different. Something bigger. Other stars have, and will, join its orbit. The dance will continue with a new promise. The marriage may have ended, but that hasn’t changed the love that we give Stella or our ability to nurture her.

There is a center to this new constellation.

Stella.

Her light will always shine brighter than all the others.

This past summer has seen a burst of growth for her. She has become more confident emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Curiosity abounds and compassion flourishes. Mornings start with a smile and she walks with joy throughout the day.

“Dad.”

“Yes, sweet.”

“I just wanted to say I love you.”

This simple dialogue which occurs daily, at such random moments, is a constant reminder of the light that is within her and her ability to be in the moment, recognize it and express her delight in the purest way.

I’ve also experienced some growth this past summer. I’m learning to let go of resentment and shame through compassion and self care. Stella is showing me how to walk with joy and to allow myself to be in the world again. To embrace the moment with a sense of wonder and delight.

To all the stars in my constellation,

big and small,

near and far,

old and new,

“I just wanted to say I love you.”