Quote Challenge, day 3 of 3: Feeling… to the point that defies logic.

I’m admittedly sad this is my last day to share the words I love most. I want to thank my dear virtual friend, brandewijnwords again for the inspiration he always finds a way to elicit.

I’m of course breaking the rules, again. I couldn’t decide on one..so I picked five. There are just too many. (more of my favorites, visit @summoningmagic)

My response got a bit intense, but I guess I’m a little intense, so…

“There are no half measures in love, only all or nothing. And if it doesn’t make you tremble and go mad at the very thought of its absence, you should move on.”
~ Beau Taplin//Move on

“I understand now that I’m not a mess but a deeply feeling person in a messy world. I explain that now, when someone asks me why I cry so often, “For the same reason I laugh so often- because I’m paying attention.”     ~ Glennon Doyle 

“She loves deep and fast. With all of herself, or not one bit. She’ll give people all of her light, in turn struggle to understand when they don’t pay that back. She wants you to think she can’t be hurt, but truth is, she gets hurt easier than most. She is fierceness and tenderness, within the same breath. This is her beauty. In her total lack of in betweens.”
~ Carson Patrick Bowie

“I have this terrible urge to be reckless…and I am dreadfully frightened of becoming old and having no memories at all. And I know climbing forbidden fences is wrong, so I’ll stick to falling in love with the wrong people and falling off metaphorical trees. I am just dying to do something worth remembering. I suppose there is no logic, not really…only that if I bleed now, I’ll have a lifetime left to heal.”    ~ Sue Zhao

“It is both a blessing and a curse to feel everything so very deeply.”
David Jones


I’m not sure where to go with these, other than to address the underlying theme- feeling…to a point that defies logic. It is, in fact, a blessing and a curse.

The blessing-when I feel love or joy or see something beautiful, it fills me up completely, every part of me. You can see it my eyes and hear it in my voice. I’ve been told it’s infectious, affecting, even altering the mood of those around me.

But this is exactly why it’s also a curse. When I’m hurt or sad or angry, I wear it like a cloak. It penetrates every part of me…and also affects those around me.

It doesn’t last long. I can usually find ways to escape getting caught up in it. Most of the time, anyway.

I wish this was something I could manage better. But I’ve always been like this. I’ve always been extremely sensitive and seem to hurt easier than most. However, this never stopped me. I risked it every time. I’d feel a connection with someone and immediately love them with everything I had. And I got hurt over and over again.

I get hurt, over and over again.

Except now, it has intensified. I was too reckless. I got hurt to the point that something shattered. And it still feels like there’s a gaping wound in the depths of what is now my foundation. I can’t see it, but I feel it, always.

Now, every time I feel something, good or bad, it grazes that part of me that’s now exposed. It’s become sensitive to the touch, so much so, almost everything brings me to tears.

So it’s not just when something hurts, but also when I see or feel something beautiful…a feeling I never thought I would experience again. But when it’s something painful, it immediately takes me back to that place, that time, when something shattered, and I’m afraid it really will take a lifetime to heal.

But what’s the alternative? I play it safe, detach myself, avoid the risk of getting hurt, even if there’s the chance that it could be everything I want, that it could be magic?

I can’t. I won’t. I’ll keep trying, risking the fall, feeling everything…even it means getting hurt, over and over again.

“There are no half measures in love, only all or nothing. And if it doesn’t make you tremble and go mad at the very thought of its absence, you should move on.”

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Your attention, please.

I wasn’t feeling it today. It’s grey out. I don’t do well with grey (except to fend off black and white).

So instead of writing, I committed to catching up on reading and stumbled upon Behind the Scenes by Brandewijn Words.

It wasn’t his generous words that got me (although beyond humbled by and grateful for them), it was his message. I realized it plays into the same theme as the two posts I read immediately before, and the book I’m currently reading, What is in the Way is the Way, and a documentary  I just saw, Leaning into the Wind.

Apparently, there’s something I need to pay attention to.

The theme/s, more or less:

In BW’s words:
“…the way that the world grabs me sometimes. How it twists my perspective and I see it from a different angle… why it’s important to get on the ground, sometimes, and look at something from a completely different point of view.”

Andy Goldsworthy’s words: (Leaning into the Wind)
“There are two different ways of looking at the world. You can walk on the path, or you can walk through the hedge…step aside off the normal way of walking or looking.”

 The Incurable Dreamer’s: 
“Each step I took was with intent and an understanding that pain is what paints the sky with breath-taking beauty and ignites your soul in the grasp of darkness…even when your heart loves so deeply it threatens to destroy you, it is possible to feel blessed.”

Tom Being Tom’s: 
“But if we can learn the lessons of our past and focus our attention in the present…we can build the tomorrow that we want, instead of the one that we fear.”

In short, it’s about perspective, about paying attention to what’s happening in the moment, being curious, leaning into the questions, and most importantly, the emotions behind them, especially the uncomfortable ones

It’s the very thing we stop doing as we get older. We know all too well the spaces that hurt. We’ve experienced the pain of loss, heartbreak, disappointment, rejection, and failure. And we’ve become masters of avoiding them, no matter the cost.

Yes, we survived it, but it changed us. It scared us. Why risk feeling that way again? Running, numbing, suppressing, avoiding: these all seem like the safer bet. So we stop taking risks, “stay on the path”, chalk it up to life is hard and spend our days either stuck in the past or praying that things will get better in the future. Or, we lose ourselves in trying to control and fix everything that’s wrong.

Life, its unfolding, loses its color…and turns to grey.

“Fear needs time to exist. It needs stories of past and future in order to get a foothold in your mind.” – Mary O’Malley 

I see this happening all around me. I see this happening to (or with) me. I’m missing out on so much of the good that still exists, wasting what could be beautiful moments because I’m so focused on fixing the handful of things that are wrong,

But the pain is there to teach us, and the lessons will keep coming back until we learn them, increasing in intensity until running, numbing, and avoiding are no longer options if we’re going to survive.

The fucked up thing is these lessons stem from stories we made up based on beliefs we adopted when were tiny…based on fears we developed when we were tiny.

We run away from them, imagining the pain, shame, or anger will be too much to handle. But by doing so, we give them their power, letting them gain momentum and snowball into something so enormous, when it finally catches up with us, the blow is crushing.

Crushing, but not final.

“If we can learn the lessons of our past and focus our attention in the present…we can build the tomorrow that we want, instead of the one that we fear.” ~ Tom Cummings

The irony is we spend our entire lives trying to find happiness, experience joy and avoid pain. But it’s pain that amplifies our experience of happiness and joy. And neither joy nor happiness needs to be found. We always have access to them. We just get so focused on avoiding pain, we lose sight of them.

So what happens if we stop pushing pain away and invite it to stay instead? What if we just get curious about it, without berating or judging ourselves? Whether it comes from anger, shame, sadness, or fear, we simply ask where it’s coming from and why…and we listen.

What happens is we hear the same story we’ve heard for decades. The one we made up to try to understand the inexplicable when we were tiny, the one we play on repeat, that confirms our deepest fears.

If we’re not vigilant, if we don’t pay attention to our underlying agenda to play it safe and avoid the pain, the cycle continues: we get sucked back into the past, scared the future will hold more of the same…and we lose the moment.

So what if we try something different, change our perspective? Instead of doing whatever we normally do to escape it, we welcome it and give that tiny one the attention and compassion s/he has been screaming for?

I can’t answer that yet. My lesson, the one I thought I’d outrun, it caught me. And yes, the blow was crushing, the pain, excruciating. But there’s no more escaping it, and I’d rather not repeat. So, I’m leaning in.

You have my full attention.

I can say this, though: it isn’t screaming anymore. It still demands my attention, to be sure, but it has loosened its grip. It has also made it clear that I’m not in control. I don’t get to decide when or how, and there is no one clear path out of this. I just get to ask questions…and listen.

Oh, and the sun finally did come out, as it always does. But to be honest, the colors were more vivid before. I was just too focused on the grey to see them.

ionus.buffalo
* Image by Ionus Caras

“When she turned to face it, she transformed it. Her biggest fear became her greatest strength.” ~ b.breazeale

A Love Story of Sorts

In keeping with the theme this week, I’ll offer up a love story of sorts.

Okay, it’s not really a “love story”, in the traditional sense. But it is a story, and it does involve love.

In the romantic sense, love has proven itself to be a fickle companion. I’ve lost myself in it and also found myself. I’ve sworn it off completely, and then blindly plunged back in. I’ve felt it with a force as powerful as breath, and now find myself wondering if it even exists.

But I’m a romantic and seem to be incapable of giving up on it completely.

So that brings me to Valentine’s Day. I admittedly get seduced by it all: a day dedicated solely to celebrating the person I love and being spoiled by the person who loves me. It’s a subject I believe worthy of its own holiday.

But I’m also acutely aware that this day can place loneliness and heartbreak at center stage, making the absence of the person we love as consuming as their presence used to be liberating.

That’s the side of it I was on, once again. There was no lover to spoil. And besides the sweet guy at the coffee shop, I wasn’t the object of anyone’s affection. (okay, that didn’t prove to be entirely true, but we’ll stick to the subject at hand.)

All to say, I expected to be in the same place I was last year: front and center.

I am, in fact, front and center, but not in the same place.

It feels more like equilibrium.

There was no huge revelation that occurred. I didn’t even realize anything had changed until the sweet boy at the coffee shop gave me a chocolate heart. It made me happy. And I didn’t want it to be from anyone else. And I was completely content with the fact that I had the whole day to myself. And there wasn’t anyone I was missing (not entirely true, either. I miss Biscuit terribly but “subject at hand”.)

It seems I unknowingly declared a truce.

Despite the fact that I desperately wanted to move on, I kept looking back. I’ve recycled everything possible- memories, relationships, behaviors- all of which kept taking me back to the exact same place I was before…which was the last place I wanted to be.

This isn’t to say that my mind has completely stopped reminding me of what’s lurking beneath the surface. But I finally understand its tactics. I can catch it now, reel it in and release what has clearly been sustaining my demons all along.

Okay, confession.

There is this one last relationship I’m trying to rekindle. It’s risky to be sure. It was extremely messy before and full-on destructive when we parted ways. But I really do believe it will be different this time.

I think she’s finally realized she had something special that she came really close to losing.

and-suddenly-she-found-herself-grateful.

Remembering three boys I never knew

A year ago today, thirty minutes from now, three boys died. I hit them with my car, and they all died. I know it wasn’t my fault, most days. I was in the wrong place at the worst possible time. But there are still those moments when an undercurrent of guilt won’t fully submit to logic.

I think about them a lot, although not as much as what might be considered normal. Not because I am callous or unaffected by it. That’s not it at all. I just had to implement an emotional amputation of sorts. This was only one of a series of events that were so unbelievably heartbreaking, distancing myself from it mentally and emotionally was the only way I could avoid self-destruction.

But I think about them, especially on holidays. I think about their families trying to just get them over with. I picture the empty spot at the dinner table they pretend to ignore and the memories that must haunt them when they think about what they were doing this time last year. I think about what I was doing this time last year, which was sitting alone on a balcony in Arlington, Texas, just trying to get it over with, wondering why it was me who lived and not them, and kind of wishing it was the other way around.

But this isn’t about me. It’s about three boys who had their whole lives ahead of them. It’s to send out love to them, (wherever their souls reside) and to their families and friends who miss them terribly. It’s to say that I truly know the pain of having to wake up every morning and think about what I was doing that same day last year…when they were still alive…. when they still had their whole lives ahead of them.

It’s to say that I feel the weight of it all today, fully, and that it breaks my heart, and that I’m so very grateful that I still have my life ahead of me.

But I would give anything for there to be three less empty spots at the dinner table this Thanksgiving.

Original Post: The accident (warning: graphic in some parts…and sad.)

The Return of Magic

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I received a request to repost this one, which is very good to hear since this is the premise of my book…. which has admittedly been put on hold for a spell, due to the whole ‘trying to piece my life back together’ thing.

I contemplated adapting it to the present tense, but decided it could possibly be an offering of hope… or induce fear, depending on your vantage point.

I wrote this in the thick of a heartbreak that made anything that came before seem like a minor scratch. And although I am not where I had hoped I would be 9 months later, it might provide some sort of solace to know that there were a few other events that happened simultaneously, delaying my arrival to the finish line I keep hoping will emerge.

God, wouldn’t that be amazing? If there was this definitive line drawn, one we could see off in the distance that would confirm that every excruciating step was a tangible progression towards arriving on the other side, both feet planted firmly on the ground with no fear of that next step being negated by the two you just took back…yet again.

I wish I could tell you I was there, basking in the glory of victory, heart intact, fear nowhere to be seen. I’m not, not quite, but I’m close. And on a good day, I can almost hear the crowd cheering in the distance as I watch one more mile marker go by, signaling my arrival is imminent and there is in fact, hope.

But most importantly, she has returned, our protagonist. She never technically left, but I tend to forget how unruly she is and always write her off when she doesn’t show up how I want her to…

On the Subject of Magic

 

Definition of Magic (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

  “An extraordinary power or influence seemingly from a supernatural source.                                             Something that seems to cast a spell.”

I find a sense of irony is trying to define magic, just as I do with attempts to define love or evil or god. These all have very different meanings that are dependent on each person’s beliefs and experiences. But, this is what makes us human, I suppose. Our inherent need to define all that is around us, to place all things firmly and tangibly into reality, it is what I believe to be one of the worst tragedies; most things clearly defined leave little room for the extraordinary.

Of all things intangible, magic might very well be the most elusive. It is a very real force that influences almost every moment of our childhood, allowing us to navigate our world curious, uninhibited, full of wonder, and open to every possibility. But this elusive force will inevitably succumb to its nemesis. We all must grow up, right? We all must face reality.

So, like most people, Magic eluded me for decades, until reality had sucked all the life out of me, and I realized that the only one who could save me had gone missing.

Magic means different things to different people. It can be the thrill you feel when you throw your hands up and plunge down a rollercoaster when you hold your newborn baby in your arms when you reunite with an old friend or laugh so hard you cry. And, it can be the spark you feel when you meet the love of your life. Perhaps you don’t think of those things as ‘magic’. Maybe you label them as joy or happiness or fleeting moments of emotion. I guess they can be those things, too. I just see them as magic.

I know that experiencing those things and realizing they are precious moments that should be sought out regularly just gets harder to do when we are older. We have responsibilities, distractions, stress, and anxiety. We are in jobs we hate or relationships that aren’t working. We have been hurt and betrayed, disappointed and rejected. We become cynical,  jaded and complacent. And there is just no place for magic there.

But every once in a while, you encounter that person who has found it. This person exudes it and it is contagious. You want to be around them as much as possible, you want to feel what they feel. You want it to work its way into you. But they haven’t been through what you have, right? They don’t have the same past and stress and pain as you do. You would be ‘happy’ or ‘carefree’ or feel that magic, too if you weren’t in the life that yours has become. I can’t tell you how many times I have chalked it all up to that. I judge those people. I resent them….and I so envy them.

So, there I was, in my beautiful home, with my amazing husband, my precious dog, and my stable job. And I felt like the life was being sucked out of me. And now I question what everyone does after they completely blow their life up. Was I just completely selfish? Did I just not appreciate what I had? Is this the whole ‘grass is greener, holy grail’ thing? Maybe. Well let me be clear, the grass is not greener where I am sitting right now. In fact, I have never been in more pain and felt more hopeless than I have over the past 6 months.

But I can’t pretend it didn’t happen. It was magic, even if I was the only one who truly felt it. And it changed me, making it impossible to settle for anything less.

And so I’m back to the place where I spend most of my time, teetering between cynicism and steadfast conviction. I found it, the one who went missing. And as fleeting as it was, it was undeniable, filling in the empty spaces that had rendered me a slave to comfortable and safe. It was as if someone had pushed play and all the parts of me that had been dormant for years- that had craved inspiration, intense connection and the kind of love that made the thought of its absence unbearable- all came alive, all at once, and there was simply no going back.

But my god, the utter devastation that followed, the acute turned chronic pain that is so consuming the only way through is to try like hell to feel nothing at all. How could I not question whether it was magic at all and if such a thing even exists? It feels like I’m being forced to walk after finally learning how to fly.

To make things even more confusing, in those rare moments of clarity, I can get a glimpse of what might have actually been missing, that intangible thing I have been searching for. I think it might possibly be that little girl who always sought it out, magic, and worked like hell to bring it to everything she did. I lost her. She conformed and opted for ‘normal’ and ‘safe’ instead. As much as I wish I was, I’m just not these things. And it turns out, these are the things that most people choose. Perfect, right? I found what was missing and lost everything in the process.

So, that’s it. Sorry, but no ‘magical’ words of wisdom come to mind to share. I am a bit nervous, to be honest. If there was a time for me to be jaded, this would be it. What if I already am? What if the cynicism sticks? Is there no going back? Is this just how it’s going to feel from here on out?

No idea. So I do the only thing I can at this point. I get up in the morning. I try to do things that used to make me happy. I force a smile and initiate conversation. And I try to do what seems to work for most…I try to face reality.

Maybe there really is no such thing as magic.

 

11 months, 9 days re-re-visited (published in Elephant Journal)

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Seems shattered hearts are the latest trend. Don’t fall for it…utterly overrated.

Why we shouldn’t stop trying to piece back together a shattered heart

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2017/09/piecing-back-together-a-shattered-heart/

 

Eleven months and nine days

He walked in and sat down at his desk, glancing up at her and then back down.

“Well that doesn’t look good”, he said nonchalantly.

She didn’t bother responding.

“How long has it been bleeding like that?” He asked, still not looking up.

On and off for eleven months and 9 days.

“And it was broken, correct?”

Yes.

“How badly?”

Shattered

“Oh.”

Oh?

“Well, that just makes things…”

He glanced over at the instruments spread out on the tray beside him.

Makes things what? I mean, you can fix it, right? 

He shook his head.

“I’m afraid not. That’s like asking me to fix a shattered window. Your only option is to try and let it heal the way it is, and then wait and see. It will most likely function again, on some level, but just not like it did. The good news however, is that the pain will eventually go away and you probably won’t feel anything at all”.

What do you mean, ‘won’t feel anything at all’?

“Most times in these cases, it just goes numb when the bleeding finally stops. But that’s a good thing, right? I mean if it feels as bad as it looks…”

She slid off the table and made her way to the door. She couldn’t even look at him, suddenly feeling an overwhelming sense of shame that she had let this happen.

He offered her something to take that would numb the pain more quickly.  She paused, considering it.

No. I guess if this is the last thing I’m going to feel, I should ‘enjoy it’ while it lasts. I mean, it can’t last that much longer, right?

“It’s hard to say. But to be honest with you, yours is in pretty bad shape, so it could be awhile. The good thing though, is that no one will know but you. All you have to do is keep a smile on your face and the world will think you are completely normal.”

She closed the door behind her just in time to hear his final words echo down the hall.

“Remember to smile”, he said light-heartedly. “People might think your heart is broken.”

shattered

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