The Burning Ghats of Varanasi, India

ghats

I’m sitting downwind from the raging fires that are viciously swallowing up whatever still remains of the material manifestation of a once breathing, living body. The skin on the face peels back to reveal features which do not distinguish one from the other, but rather reveal our human sameness. Fingers curl and shrink into tiny bones, into ash, into nothingness. The skin shivers as it burns, shape shifts into a gum-like substance, then char, then dust, releasing from it an odor that my nose and throat repel. I am thrown into fits of coughing and desperately try to spit up whatever is slowly attaching itself to my bronchial tree, whatever is fighting with the tiny cilia soldiers which are loyally protecting my body from further invasion. But it’s too late, for death has already entered and is winning the gruesome battle. Death carried by wind, penetrating my hollow cavities and making its presence bitterly known. I can taste it on my tongue’s back palate; the spicy, pungent, acrid flavor of charred fingernails, and sizzling flesh, perhaps even some Indian spices consumed during the last supper. I want to run back to my room and wash my body, scrub my insides, even if the water for washing comes from the very river that holds the ashes from these hungry fires, along with the bodies of those who were above and beyond burning – the holy ones, the pregnant ones, the lepers, the snakebite victims, and, of course, the children. I want to escape and never come back, never look back, but I know I chose to come here, was summoned here, and I must respect the choice and the calling.Varanasi imageI can feel my stomach stirring, like it used to in the presence of cilantro, and decide to move away from the smoke of this barbecue to find a place to sit, which my senses can actually tolerate. I move to the side that tickles my wet finger when I hold it up to the wind. It’s a better view anyway, I can actually see the intricate details of what the blazing fire reveals. I pay close attention to the process of transformation from one thing to another, from bigger to smaller, from flesh to ash – alchemy at its greatest. It’s a motion picture that I know will be imprinted in my memory forever. How could it not be?

My attention shifts to the animate scene around the pyre and my stomach responds in sharp spasms. A dark skinned man with a single crooked tooth protruding out of his mouth as if it was meant to open cans, places his chapattis on the stack of burning wood that is containing a deceased man, and warms them up for lunch. It’s a grill of sorts for those who choose to see it as so. Young dogs who want to survive, follow the smell of flesh and await for a bit to come rolling down so that they, too, can have their lunch. A mysterious part of the body, beyond recognition, falls to the ground, and is at once the desired object of tug-of-war between three identical looking, mangy puppies. “Good food for dogs. Strong!” a lanky dark skinned man with a nose as wide as an elephant’s trunk, yells at me from ten feet away, when he catches a glimpse of curiosity mixed with bewilderment, in my eyes. I give an automatic wobbly head bobble, in between agreeing and disagreeing, for I am at a loss for thought or conviction of any sorts.

Life goes on at full throttle in this place, sharing sacred space with death, mystery, and the reality of impermanence. It’s a busy world for those who bear witness to these last rites on a daily basis – the children playing cricket, losing a ball or two to the Ganga or the ravishing flames, the chatty men surrounding godly chai stalls discussing trivial subjects, goats going about their goat business, jumping from step to step, bench to bench, toddlers wobbling around, trying hard to learn the mastery of balance from the jumping goats, monkeys making fists and screaming from the rooftops at anything that is not a monkey, cows making their holy way through the crowds, seemingly understanding that the world around is just an illusion, and the workers (untouchables) who tend to the fires with mundane expressions, like it’s garbage, or something other as irrelevant, that they are burning.burningOf course, there are also the pilgrims and foreigners, who stop and watch, sometimes taking pictures or filming, before they get reprimanded by locals for the invasion of something divine. Or those who cover their orifices and run by, as if death was famished enough to chase after them, giving into the fear which is said to be the greatest among humans. I find myself somewhere in the vast middle of these groups. I sit and watch the last tango between life and death, observing also my very real and present discomfort. I cover my mouth and nose to defend my vulnerable senses, but remain here, hours after every other gaper has moved on to bigger and better, and more alive. When I have my fill of emptiness, I depart and walk along the Great Mother Ganga. A sense of peace fills my being like I haven’t experienced in ages. I am silenced to pay my deepest respects.

***

I come back to the burning ghats every day, because each new body helps rid the conditioning of my fears, if only little by little. I breathe it in, until my own body no longer fights it. There is a beauty I recognize in the metamorphosis before my eyes that activates me, as if I have watched people burning for centuries, as if I have been burned in a pyre myself, at the stake as a witch, or an oven in a concentration camp. My ancestors are speaking to me through my DNA and I can only acknowledge their voices through the sensations in my body, through its full relaxation. The more I watch, the more I relax, and within that, a new dimension opens, one beyond life and death. Those who have died are suddenly alive, louder than India herself, silencing the whole world around, until nothing is left but a quiet passage. Here, in the midst of the last rites.

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She Sweetened my Life

puppy

I walk down a familiar alley, and look for the two sweet puppies that so excitedly nibble at my ankles. Stopping abruptly, I catch sight of one of them laying on her side, tongue out, motionless, stiff. The brother watches over his dead sister’s body, perhaps oblivious to the fact that she has been strangled by death’s embrace. I simply stand there, and, like the brother, guard the few-month-old rigamortised flesh that only recently housed a playful spirit, not having the energy to move or the will to look away. A blur of Indian busybodies walk passed me, unaware of, or uninterested in the dark angel’s work. I am frozen in space and time, seeing only that which was once licking the very feet that still surprisingly have the strength to hold up my body that’s growing heavier with the weight of grief by the everlasting moment. A startling light touch to my elbow, and I’m pulled out of the stillness of my shock – someone is trying to grab my attention. A short Indian man with a pregnant looking belly and red stained teeth is speaking to me in Hindi. I understand only one phrase, and know what I have to do. “Maa Ganga.”
I catch my breath and walk away, hearing the man yelling after me, telling me to do what he has no interest in doing himself. The cleanest dirty work to be done. “Maa Ganga! Maa Ganga!” I ignore his screams but do not ignore his message or instruction.
The alleyways seem narrower, as if the lingering cows swatting at the relentless flies have gotten bigger. I walk into the first of the many tailor shops and ask for a piece of fabric. My mind is focused, determined, to do the deed which was asked of me by forces that are greater than my understanding. I utter a few words about a dead dog and the shop owner goes into his sales mode, taking out beautiful silks of vibrant colors. “Orange,” I say. I am told orange is for the holy ones. “It was a holy dog,” I reply, sharply. At once, I am understood, perhaps for the first and last time in this business-oriented place. The shop owner takes out a small piece of orange silk, a scrap, just big enough for a puppy, and hands it over with soft eyes. “Pay what you wish, madam” he says. I scramble up some rupee notes, hungrily grab the fabric out of his hands, touch my heart with my hand out of custom, respect, or discomfort, and dart out of the shop.
I buy a couple of strings of marigolds from a woman who’s been trying to stop me for days, and run back like a maniacal person, zigzagging between sweaty bulls, clenching the orange scrap of material for dear life, until I reach my dreaded destination. There she is, still motionless, a curious attraction for the midday flies. I kneel down, touch her unbending body, and again lose the ability to move. Her loyal brother must have realized that she was no longer available to play, because he, along with the Indian busybodies, have abandoned the tragic scene. I count to ten, taking deep breaths in between each number, before I shove one side of the fabric under the lifeless lump, and try to wrap her up, conceal her, like the precious gift that she was until her very last breath. The fabric is too small but will have to do. I try to pick her up, but her head rolls back, exposing a puddle of drool on the hot pavement, and my arms lose their strength and go numb. I feel a panic attack coming on, until a warm hand on my shoulder brings me back. An Israeli man looks down at me and asks if he can help. “You’re strong and doing the right thing,” he says. He picks up the puppy and motions for me to put my backpack on. I follow his instructions like a robot, and then she’s in my arms – hard, hot, and heavy, drooling down my leg. He wraps the marigolds around her body, touches my feet, and gently pushed me on my way.
Maa Ganga is further away than I remember. The stairs seem steeper, more dangerous, but I’m on a mission and cannot stop. The only real is the weight in my arms, my cautious feet, and the glistening river below. People around me are colorful, but I cannot distinguish one from the other. Some stop me and touch my rushing feet, some stare, while others laugh. I am transforming by the minute, from holy, to crazy, to just plain strange, a foreign weirdo who’s spent too much time in Varanasi. But they’re not real, only the weight in my arms is. At last I reach the banks of the river, take off my sandals and walk right in. There are soggy flowers and garbage all around me, perhaps bacteria that would eat my flesh, or human bodies that might emerge from the bottom at any moment, but I don’t care. I only need to get this precious bundle into the water, away from anything that can still cause it harm. When I’m up to my waste in the holy waters, I place the bundle down and pray. I ask that she returns in better circumstances, that her sweet soul finds refuge along the way, that her suffering may end. I cry for her as I have for a lost child because I realize that life is life and death is still death. I bow in gratitude for this experience, for yet another life that has touched my own in the sweetest of ways, for my strength to enact these last rites, and for this precious and mysterious existence. I walk away without looking back, knowing that the Great Mother has taken her back, looking forward for her to also wash me clean in my pending lukewarm bath.

Something’s Gotta Give

paradox

Last month marked the 3-year anniversary of the most horrifying event of my life, and yet, the rollercoaster called life, just keeps on rolling. I was recently told by a Vedic astrologer, over Skype, that I’m a old Piscean soul. He was convinced from my chart, that it is not in my cards to have children in this lifetime, unless I have previously signed a contract with a soul, agreeing to bring it into this world. I’m searching the drawers of my DNA for this energetic handshake, but cannot locate its memory. In my desperation, I beat myself up for having the tendency to lose things.

He said that children are a beginning. I am here to complete.

A statement like that makes me wish I was living inside of a cartoon, could reach across the iridescent screen of my animated lop top to the other side of the matrix, and knock out the deliverer of this message. Slap him around at first, and then knock him back 10 ft with the big red glove that springs out of my small fist. I feel rage rise up in my tight diaphragm, and momentarily lose faith in the starry lights I love to observe on nights when the moon births herself anew. I curse this man, who knows nothing about my life or body, who does not have a clue about a woman’s longing for a child, who is not even Indian in this incarnation and yet prides himself as an expert in Indian astrology. But the seed has been planted, and I’m sure it’s GMO. My brain has been poisoned with this toxic doubt, re-opening a wound that has yet to heal.

I have been told again and again by witches and wizards of all walks of life, that my existence in this incarnation would be hard. That I am here to receive my P.h.D in life and conclude the cycles that have surely by now made me dizzy. I’ve had my moments of delight at these prophecies, imagining the withered crone fingers beneath my skin, awaiting the last beautiful sunset to turn into the still of winter darkness for good. I have felt proud of my growing pains, my battle scars, my birth marks, showing them off like a soldier who wears her shiny medals after surviving the bitter war. I have been known to think that this old twisted tree of a soul is ready to become food for all those little seedlings that are just beginning to sprout. I have felt drained, emaciated, and ancient. Experiencing humility in the deepest moments of arrogance.

These days, I long to be the very seedling that needs the old tree to die, and nourish the duration of my experience in this realm.  I want to go through the cycles of existence, all over again. I want to be an Arian soul, a baby, bringing forth lineages of babies.

It’s like scratching at a scab that won’t heal but will hurt so good in all of its itchy discomfort. Because living these lives is worth it, even amidst their maddening complexities. Although I’m often tired of this game, and ready to rest, somewhere out there in the void, or wherever it is that the elders find their permanent place of refuge, I cannot stop playing. Won’t stop playing. I’d rather feel the devastating spectrum of breath’s embrace than experience numbness, or lack of existence altogether. To exist or not to exist? –that is the question.

I feel the grips of life’s paradox tearing me apart. With more understanding, a flow of confusion pours in; disorientation. Because minds are not meant to grasp reality. I’m holding on, to have something to let go of. If I end, will I begin once more?

Swinging on this perpetual pendulum is exhausting. It’s killing and enlivening me all at once, helping find joy in the hollows of pain. I resist it but am enticed by it. Push and pull – life and death alike.

How do I hold the contradictions of life, without losing my sanity? Or do I have to lose it to find it? Is the trick to transcend the ego that perceives and experiences duality? Or to claw at duality to comprehend its wholeness? How do I hold both vantage points? And Is that even possible?

It appears that this laughable irony is most pronounced somewhere within the empty space between my heart and soul. This mental mess is finding its way to the realms of emotions, physics, and spirit, creating extraordinary chaos. Posing questions and proposing answers. Do I follow my heart, the component that’s loyal, content, tamed, and wants to remain whole and protected? Or do I give way to my wild and unruly soul, the very part of me that seeks magic, and chases white rabbits, even down the most shadowy holes?

I don’t know if I believe in free will, or even that we have any choice. I can pretend that I am choosing my path, but deeply trust that my path has actually chosen me. That it’s all a part of my destiny. I am following a calling and embarking on a journey that embraces the darker sides of existence. I am leaving behind all that’s familiar, those whom I love, and in that, stepping away from what my dear heart longs to salvage and keep forever close. Instead, I’m about to board a plane and pursue that which has brought me the most misery in this lifetime, the very spark behind this blog. I am chasing the elixir of death, and listening to the call of the wild, against all better judgment.

The dis-ease of letting go is tormenting at best, but the surrender and trust that follows is the sweet nectar that my soul yearns to taste. And yet my mind and heart rebel, because control is the illusory necessity. If I listen to those aspects, I am haunted by fate and destiny.  Is it my mapped out Piscean journey of completion?

Naturally I want it all. I want to have my cake and eat it too. But something’s gotta give. Or does it?

The Journey

journey

“You are ok,” was what my therapist told me during my next breakdown at the second emergency appointment, a year or so after sweet Leif left my womb. I looked at her unblinking stare through the thick dead-fish glaze that was hovering over my eyes, and then around her office for something to throw at her face. One of her many psychoanalytical books she quoted way too often. That’s how ok I was. Clenched jaw and fists, violent thoughts, and unpredictable outbursts of anger were becoming my norm. But maybe it was ok to want to hurt others and to cry, on and off all day, everyday. I was the definition of bi-polar, oscillating between my maniacal love for existence, and my “I-want-to-die-what-is-the-point-of-this-fucking-life” states. She had the tendency to say things that really pissed me off, trying to shine light in a room closed off, dark, far away from any chance of luminosity. She told me I was strong when I felt so fragile, I thought I could shatter to pieces if someone breathed too hard. She pointed out that I was still alive – young, bright, with a promising life ahead of me. What she didn’t know was that I actually played dead because I was terrified of life. When I would cry some more because I wanted to claw at her uterus, and didn’t know why I came to see her in the first place, she would hold immense space for me. She didn’t judge me or tell me that I was supposed to be something other than what I was. She allowed the storm to rage and pass. The space was often terrifying; too big, and too small, all at once. The world outside would explode, while my internal universe imploded, and always, at the end of each session, like all the others, I felt a bit better – all cried out and empty. Calm. The emptiness was somehow fullness. I was all Zen-ed out.   And then she would say that it was only going to get easier, that these storms would start losing their intensity, that I would be and feel right again. That’s how I would survive yet another day, another week, until my next breakdown.

I drank a lot because somehow my conscious mind was convinced that wine could drown out the pain. Little did I know then, but I missed my blind spot entirely. I drank and raged like a wild animal disillusioned by the deceitful thoughts that urged me to simply disappear. Nothing was ever drowned except for my liver. Alcohol brought up the 500-year floods of tears, the shame that I was burrowing in my intestines, and the thunderous anger I felt for life. It eventually, slowly, became clear, that I was actually trying to flee from the dullness. Some very twisted part of me wanted to drink up the pain.  Boozing brought back the visceral experience of emptiness. How can we comprehend this loud, echoing call of emptiness? Why in the world would I want to hurt? Part of myself was asking for one thing, but really wanting, and needing the opposite. Feeling was much better than not feeling at all. But my mind didn’t think so. I was torn between my own life and death.

Pain turned to fear. What could I lose next? How much would I have to swallow to never again spit back up? I grasped to those close to me so tight that I suffocated them. I imagined my loves ones dying at every moment they were not in my presence. I played the game of push and pull to see just how far I could get them away from my frantic, dangerous mind, only to desperately pull them back in. I hungered for love and security, fully knowing that both were illusory. But still, I hung on to deception.

I realized how things have changed when others asked me how I was doing. I would really feel into my answer, saying, “I’m alright…” I used to be “great,” and sparkly eyed and then the dead fish glaze set in. I rarely went into dissecting my “ok,” because I knew I would fall apart. I was ok with being ok, but really missed being alive.

Light shines in dark places to create life. Life finds itself, no matter how small, or lost. The Universe wants to evolve, move on, create, and become. It took many, many months of therapy, pain, and isolation to witness the path of unfolding. To feel the point between dying and rebirthing, the small space separating one from the other. Vast.

There is no exact time that these shifts began to take form. There was no intimate play with the witness. It was too gradual. You don’t just wake up one day and feel blissed out, like nothing ever happened. I mean, you could, but you would be hiding. Grief is its own entity; timeless. The beautiful crone.

Every experience of my life makes up who I am today. Sure, I would take some of those back, especially from the years where I was tiny and not able to remove myself from disserving circumstances. But this…I don’t know. A big part of me would not change a thing. It’s all part of the divine plan and I trust that. It altered my path and opened doors that would otherwise remain close. But the Mother in me is mourning. Always. She would take it all back.

It’s strange to write about this other Ania who I know still resides deep within, but is not present in this moment. At least not in this dimension, as I know it. I hold her in my heart so tenderly because I know all that she has gone through. And when I have a flashback, a relapse, or identify with the sadness of her soul, I hold so much compassion for her pain, because I know it far too well. But who am I now in relation to who I was back then, and what separates the two? Am I the progression? What is this unfolding?

I believe I am stronger in some ways, wearing my battle wounds with a mix of pain and pride. I am fascinated with death and birth, like never before. I see it happening all the time, in me, in those around me, in Nature. One experience swallows me up, only to spit me back to what was never before imagined. Energy moves, onward, only to be reborn again. I witness that in my garden when I rip out the roots of precious “weeds” to make space for the seedlings I planted. How is that any different from extracting a baby to create room for something greater and more inclined to flourish? I feel that I have been initiated into something deeper, darker, more transparent. I am learning how to surrender to powers greater than what my limited mind can comprehend. I am learning to give my heart away, trusting in its loyalty to never really abandon me. I trust in Life.

And I trust in Death.

This has been the greatest and most intense journey of my life. Putting it into words seems like it’s cheating the experience. But I try anyway, because somehow that is a gift I have been given, even in its limited form.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been over two years since those therapy appointments, and I can look back and not only feel right again, but also see that I was OK even then. Because the truth is that we’re always ok, even when it seems like the world is crumbling down. Even in the darkest corners, light penetrates, eventually. Creation wants to shapeshift, to keep on creating. How else could we experience the essence of light if we don’t experience the darkness, in whatever form it manifests?

In the end, my wise therapist was right. I was dunked under and came to resurface to witness Life anew. To find a purpose that’s awaited me. To let go of a vision not yet ready to be manifested. To miss and love the child I never got to hold in my arms alive. To dive deeper into the mystery. To be in awe of existence and trust in its coordinates. To open, and close, only to open again. To laugh and cry, seeing one as the necessary step to the other. To breathe in life. To breathe out. To die. To tell the story.

Gratitude

grate

I am grateful.

For all the people in my life who so tenderly supported me through this difficult journey.

For the anger I did not know existed that transmuted into explosive creativity.

For my partner who never gave up on love, and stuck by me throughout my madness.

For the mysteries I unveiled within the contours of my grief.

For my sister who flew out to hold me while I birthed a breathless being into the world, then cleaned, cooked, and held the most sacred space.

For my inner strength that kept me driven to come out on the other side.

For my best friend who was next to me when I found out the worst news of my life, and for driving my car back from California to be with me.

For the messages I received from friends and strangers, encouraging me to keep going.

For my therapist who kept insisting that the storms would eventually pass.

For  my heart that broke a hundred times over to let me know that I was alive.

For loving a being I grew and never really met in person.

For realizing that I am not in control, and learning how  to surrender.

For the darkness that could only show me the light.

For the questions I would not think to ask.

For the hope that rose out of the ashes of despair.

For being able to share my process and lift the spirits of others.

For vulnerability that otherwise would remain hardened.

For being thrown into the underworld where so much wisdom resides.

For the beautiful stories of others that somehow made it all ok.

For witnessing the societal fear in the transparency of death.

For surviving the unimaginable.

For just being with it.

As I sat at the Thanksgiving table with my lover’s family, I came to really ponder what it is that I am appreciative of.  I felt the throb of that deep scar in my heart as I watched the kids run around, wanting so much for Leif to be there, playing with his cousins.  It’s a sharp ache that returns in those moments, one that brings forth tender emotion and lucid remembrance.  I welcome it, for it speaks of love.  And for that, too,

I am grateful.

Effervescing

bubbles

Around and around we go.  One year.

***

Imagination calls for bodies, the sacred trilogy, naked, clean sheets, soft down, and sweet sounds of shallow sleep.  Wake to cries, then to laughter.  Bodies roll, bodies touch bodies.  Curious eyes take in the world fresh and safe.  Parallel to the womb, but better.  The etch sketch of the mind depicts pictures of love unwoven within the fabric of life undone.  Life recalled from happy lives of friends, from deepest desires, from broken hearts.  A picture perfect postcard of an unmanifested reality to salvage forever.

***

Life lost, Leif lost, vanished into the shadows of absent memories and blooming imagination.  In the mind’s eye, seeing body walking, clumsily, reaching out to touch familiar hands, looking for recognizable faces, grinning, loving.  Feet kicking, growing into crawling, walking…  where would he be right now?  What would he tell me if he could speak?  Would he speak?

***

Life lost of what the heart hoped for and the mind imagined, what it still imagines, in times of stillness, when centuries collapse and decades decay.  Who was my little hummingbird?  Why has he come to perch on my branch at all?  The Father, The Holy Ghost, and the Mother, remembering.  Swimming upstream of watery memories, tiny icebergs melting away.  How can I forget?

***

I can’t even recall the exact date.  I am numb in remembrance.  Flashes of dead flesh amidst a blur of a fast rolling film.  I cling to whatever my mind decided to save…shrapnel from the biggest explosion of my life.  I try to put it all together, but it’s still missing pieces.  The masterpiece never to be completed.

***

One year of tears that could flood the world, screams that created terrible earthquakes, and a billion unanswered questions.  I am still looking for the missing passengers of the train that was derailed.  Happy passengers, with minds full of bubbles.  Where have they gone, those missing pieces?  I am not a whole.  Will somebody tell me who burst all my bubbles?

***

Three hundred and sixty-four days of confusion.  No crossroads, no path either.  A desert, large and barren.  Not even a mirage for thought.  Many hallucinations from a stranger’s past.

***

Searching, searching for directions to elsewhere.  Anywhere but here.  Anywhere but lost.  Reading coordinates in Braille and following the sun, every new rotation, searching.  Waking to find yet another rise and get a step further away from the crash.  If I follow his shadow, will it devour me?

***

Promised land on the horizon with lush green laughter that may just quench the deepest thirst.  Burning feet, and I keep walking.  Further away and closer to.  Shadow.  Chasing my shadow.  Cycles conclude, and rain pours soulfully, effervescing a little more than a bountiful supply of life.

***

Never lost along with memories, never lost with the missing pieces, those passengers of myself.  Hope, the glue that somehow kept it all together, despite of Death, the bludgeon that broke it all apart.

***

It chewed me up and spat me out.  Standing firm on shaky legs, what can I now recover from all that was lost, besides a photo on inside of my medicine cabinet?  Month six ultrasound.  If memories are all that we have, then where do we go to find them?

***

I wake in the middle of the night to a soft movement in my belly.  Body memory, recalling his body.  Phantom memories summoning a ghost.  Maybe that’s how he’s meant to be saved; alive.  Before Death cast its hungry shadows.

 Imagination calls forth…

***

Blurry, as if behind a veil, he stands.  Lean and tall, with piercing blue eyes.  Deer eyes.

***

It rolls in slowly, suspended mid air.   We hold hands and take a deep breath.

Incoming storm of bubbles.

 

 

 

Heartbreak

I used to believe that if you truly love someone, you should set them free, and if they come back, then it was meant to be.  These days, I fight for love, believing that letting it go is giving up, and in that, a weakness.  Today, I had been set free, and maybe in the future, I will taste that freedom, but what I feel right now is nothing resembling a bird out of the cage.  On the contrary, I feel as if his love was never real.  I feel heartbroken and betrayed.

They say that over 90% of couples who lose a baby simply don’t make it.  The grief and the stress is too much.  I thought we beat the odds.  I truly believed that we were indestructible, because our love was just that strong.  I stripped down to the very core, stood there completely naked, lowered all guards, and exposed my vulnerability.  He then turned his head because what he saw was weakness, and I was meant to be his strong queen.  He missed to notice just how much strength resides in vulnerability.   He refused to witness the work.

How many times can one hit the same wall and not think to walk around it, instead of finally deciding to walk away?  How can one love and not want to do the work to make it real and lasting?  Relationship is work.  It is a beautiful opportunity for our demons to surface, and with the gentleness of our lovers’ touch, we can slay them together.  But work takes time, patience, and discipline.  Relationship takes commitment to get through it all, even the shit that’s not pleasant.  Isn’t that a big part of life?  To find that perfect union that fulfills us and challenges us at the same time?  But one needs to want to make it happen, to shift, and jump hurtles.

I have been labeled many things – a lover, a hypocrite, a child, an asshole, weak, kind, strong, sensitive, a yogi, an alcoholic, etc.  The point is that I am IT ALL.  I become one and then transcend to another.  I screw up and I do things right.  I am a deep, multi-dimensional being.  And each one of these dimensions only desires to love and be loved.  Why could he not love me in my most tender states, the ones that needed his love and support the most?

I am reliving deep pain from my parents.  My childhood is swallowing me up and I feel helpless, floating in this space with no ground.  Have I invested just way too much?  Where have I lost all my power?

I don’t want to become jaded.  I don’t want to stop believing in love.  I don’t want to lose trust.  I want to find freedom within love, not outside of it.  But we all love so differently, speaking foreign languages, so where can we find that common ground?  How can we really see one another for what is truly there?

And so the deep grief begins…anew.

Trigger

You can’t help but go down the rabbit hole.  Again.  You warned yourself, set caution, but you just don’t listen.  The hole is too big and your vision too blind.  There is no time to grab your crayons, or start a lavender bath.  If you sit and breathe, you will implode.

Bam.  You pull the trigger and you don’t even know it.  You’re firing bullets at the world around you, colored in sepia and black and white.  There is fear clawing at your insides, turning  to rage as it seeps out in froth, sweat, and screams.  All reason is gone.  You are on your own, without a life vest, drowning in the vast ocean of emotions too familiar.  You put yourself on pause and hit fast rewind.

The victim comes out and begs to be heard.  You are so very misunderstood – a walking lunatic, repeating the same cycles.  But to you, everyone is a predator and you’re fighting for your very own life, to save or forget a memory.

You are young again, asking for help in the form of rebellion because now you can.  Now, expression is possible, speak-able, yell-able, and sometimes, even fucking throw-able.  Now is your chance to set things straight.  To make things right.  To be seen.  You have resurfaced and you want to speak your truth; truth that at one point was stuck in your throat and hairballed out, only to be tucked away behind the medicine cabinet filled with anti-depressants, or the liquor cabinet, filled with fine wine.  You are not self-medicating.  Only clearing yourself of the past.  Your runaway plan is accepted because everyone else is running too.  They like you calm and thunder-less and only ask for the occasional ocean breeze.  Just so they know you’re still here.

You only want to know that it’s ok.  You want to hear it.  You yearn for them to see right through you, to see the plea in your eyes to be held.  You silently beg for their compassion.  You are literally fighting for love.  Sometimes, you’re even flighting for love.

You breathe the past, digest it, and store it away in your fat cells.  Your belly grows on memories, but you don’t remember.  There is only the now and the history of the world happens in this moment, in the now-to-now present.  You summon yourself back, shining the light down the hole where you found no rabbits.

As you crawl back up, you’re hoping that they’ll understand, that they will love you and embrace your return, no matter what.  You pray that you have not yet pushed them away.  You pray that the wounds will heal.  Next time, you will know, your promise.  Next time, you will see the bigger picture.  Next time, you will be in time.  In the meantime, you will try to remember.

Trauma – A Perfectly Healthy Dead Baby

It’s been a long, tumultuous, and taxing six months.  In certain indigenous cultures, six months is a marker – perhaps of survival beyond death, or the slow recovery process towards sanity.  At times, I no longer understand the “concept” of sanity, as my mind has become an act of its own, leaving my higher self with the devastating process of observing its scheming acts.  Just observing, without the capability of changing a thing.  For now.  Perhaps that’s where the sanity exists, somewhere in the future, some light years away, when I learn to shift and reside in my true nature, of the moment to moment peace and stillness.  I await for the light to engulf me, to inhale the stardust of the star I come from.  Until then, the world is chaotic and the stories evolve in a dramatic way.  I am Shakespeare and my life is a tragedy.

It’s a process.  A process.  A process.  I must constantly remind myself of this.  I cannot shed years and lifetimes of conditioning and embedded patters within a span of time that fits in a calendar.  But I’m working through it, minute by minute, day by day…six months.  It took death and loss to be a catalyst for growth, for the work to begin, where Pandora’s box opened wide and let the demons of my past come out of their hiding places.  The demons, the patterns, so deeply rooted.  And here I am now, getting to know the roots of these patters, their time of origin, pulling at them with all my might, and trying to discard while remaining grounded.  Once again, it is a game of balance.

I refuse to reside with the demons in the form in which they come.  I have opened the gates and allowed armies of them to enter.  My mind.  My body.  My soul.  From the unconscious to the conscious.  They have been found out.  There is no going back.  My work now is to understand them, accept them, and transform them.  They can no longer be hidden.  But where does the work really begin?

Trauma.

I don’t want to look up a definition of trauma because I have my own.  I have lived my own, and so I own my own.  It is the time and the space where things as we know, things that are safe, become strange and dangerous.  It is where space constricts and defenses raise.  It is when hearts break and the Earth shakes.  It is where boundaries and walls are built.  It is when patterns begin.  It is the root of fear.  The root of conditioning.  The root of a weed, which without control, can overtake one’s entire life.

I choose not to be bitter, sad, or resentful.  I don’t want to become addicted to pain.  I have met my highest potential and fell in love with her.  I have met her in a place of peace, deep understanding, and absolute surrender.  And though I know she is always with me, I cannot always find her.  And so I search for her, sometimes through this rough work of gardening, within the rocky soil, and beneath the hardy roots.

To extinguish the roots, I must know the roots, and to know the roots, I must live the roots.  At least.  One.  More.  Time.

It’s easy to hide a traumatic experience in the depths of the unconscious.  It’s easy to forget.  It’s convenient to forget.  But what is forgotten never really goes away.  It’s always with us, just tucked away under the carpet.  Only in times of stillness, the vacuuming and dusting gets done, and then Boom!  There it is.  Hello!

So  finally after months of resistance, I gained the courage to sit with my experience.

I have been fooling myself into thinking that I can meditate off the cushion.  I made every excuse not to sit …it’s too early in the morning…I have a headache…I’m tired, and so on.  We are the masters of excuses when our mind rebels against itself, or when the ego wants for the patterns to remain embedded.  There was so much up there for me to process that it was simply the intensity of the material that I feared most.  But I was pushed into sitting by my own actions.  I felt myself becoming a monster.  My anger was out of control and other extremities of my emotions impossible to handle.  I was drowning in the invisible forces.  I  attached my pain to anything tangible – my partner, the food I was eating, the driver who cut me off, my friends who were being assholes.  Living became hard.  I was going through the grieving process without really processing what has happened.  I was disconnected from my past because I refused to revisit it.  I subconsciously put a cover over my trauma and walked in circles around what was hidden, utterly frustrated by its mystery.  Within the first few days of sitting with my breath, the mystery was unveiled.  Memories came flooding in, replaying the movie of my experience with birthing death.

And so it goes…

Jan. 19th, 2012

I drove out to California with my best friend in the seventh month of my pregnancy to sit a final 10 day Vippassana course, before becoming a busy mother.  I figured, shit, this might be my last road trip for a while, and what could be better for the baby than a calm and peaceful mama?  I got in my car and headed west.  If women all over the world can work until the day they give birth, then why would I not be able to handle a short trip?  We followed all guidelines by stopping every hour or two to walk around and get the circulation flowing, and never drove for more than seven hours a day.  I was being safe and cautious.  We reached California within 3 days and arrived at the Vipassana center outside of Fresno just after sunset.  That night, right before I went to sleep, I felt Leif kick hard, for what was to be the last time.  I remember sitting in meditation the next morning, knowing somewhere deep inside that something was wrong.  I couldn’t focus on my breath because my mind or my intuition kept on coming back to the persistent urge to leave.  But I ignored my intuition, and went into the kitchen to work.  By noon, with still no sign of fetal movement, I began to freak out.  I called Nathan and he instructed me to go to the nearest hospital.  I waited for Jo to get out of meditation, made a million phone calls, trying to find a place where I could actually get an ultrasound without a referral, and left the center.

At the hospital, we were greeted with a bunch of stuck up people and a too many questions.  They brought me into a room with about 10 other women separated by thin curtains and checked for the heartbeat with a doppler.  No heartbeat.  I asked the woman,” what does that mean?”  “was there any possibility that the doppler was off, that perhaps the baby was in a weird position,” but she just looked at me and told me to wait.  Wait for what?  Wait for the worst?  Wait to find out that my baby might or might not be alive?  I waited.  I waited for almost three hours before anyone came back.  I can account to those three house being the worst of my entire life.  I was surrounded by heartbeats, loud and clear, from all the other women’s babies, echoing through the room, and there I was…waiting.  If Jo was not there with me, I would have lost my sanity.  But she was, holding my hand and drying my tears.  I loved her for being there then as I do now, but back then I needed Nathan.  I needed Leif’s father to hold me and tell me that we can get through this, no matter what the outcome is.  In came the machine, confirming the worst.  Leif was dead.

I had no idea what was to happen next.  I never expected this.  How could I?  I had tests done a week before, showing my body in ideal state.  My midwife told me that she wished all her clients were as healthy as I was.  But there I was, healthy and all, with a baby whose heart no longer beat.  They told me I would have to birth him.  I couldn’t believe it.  Wouldn’t believe it.  How could I birth a body that was still?  I didn’t fear giving birth up to that point because I knew that the life force would keep me going.  But without the life force, all that remained was fear and anxiety.  One of the nurses looked at me and said “don’t worry, it’s not that big of a deal.”  Are you fucking kidding me?  Not that big of a deal?  I knew instantly that I could not stay there, could not endure another second of the inhumane maltreatment I was subjected to.  I called my midwife, who in turn, told me of a smaller hospital, in San Francisco, three hours away.  Everything comes in threes, right?

Nathan was already at the Denver airport, three hours away from San Francisco as well.  We headed for  SFO to pick up the missing piece.  Numbness took over my body and mind.  I couldn’t even dare look down at my belly.  Reality was fused with a nightmare.  It was a reality of lost dreams, the beginning of the end.  I sat at the airport, waiting for almost an hour, while Jo circled around.  I watched all the people embracing, laughing, living a trauma free moment.  Some looked at me, but not for long.  Noone could handle looking at my swollen face, the emptiness in my bloodshot eyes, my enormous, motionless belly.  I wanted to disappear, to spare them the awful spectacle.  I didn’t want to see him when he appeared.  I wanted to crawl under something and become invisible.  We hugged a brief hug, not smiling or laughing, and went on our way towards the dreaded hospital.  More questions, more paperwork, and a room the size of my bathroom with no windows.  This was where I was to give birth.  Not home in bed, not in a big tub of water, not in the hands of my trusted midwife, but there, in the windowless cage, far away from home.  Another ultrasound confirming the already confirmed.  They told me I didn’t have to look, but I looked anyway, hoping that maybe someone somewhere was wrong.  But they weren’t.

They brought in an on call hospital midwife.  She told me that the baby must have just recently passed.  I already knew that, I felt him kick 24 hours before.  And then she said that she thought it would be better for me to go home to Boulder and be induced there.  She suggested that having my community and home nearby would be helpful.  At that point, I just wanted him out.  I couldn’t imagine flying.  What if I went into labor during my flight?  We had the night to think it over, but how can one think in the midst of the worst situation known to a woman?  There was a big black mama of a nurse who would come in and check on me.  She held me as I cried.  She was an angel, I’m sure of it.  I don’t know how or when but the decision was made to fly home and catch the six AM flight.

I took a pain killer before the flight.  As we took off, my body went into panic.  It could have been the meds or the hard reality setting in.  I’m not sure to this moment, but whatever triggered the panic made me feel like I, myself, was dying.  My vision went blurry, while my body was shaking and sweating.  I wanted to scream, and get off the plane, but I also wanted to get to Boulder.  I calmed myself down with cold water and soon after fell asleep with my head on Nathan’s lap, only to awake three hours later to a beautiful, sunny day in Boulder.  I left Boulder 4 days before with a completely different reality.  I left as a mama-to-be and came back a stranger carrying a lifeless body.

There was no hurry.  There was time for a shower and a nap.  There was time for rage and breakdowns.  There was time for my sister to get on a flight from Ct and arrive at the hospital hours before I was induced.  I was taken in by the Boulder midwives, although I have not met any of them before.  The hospital room was beautiful, even more so after my sister and Nathan brought in plants, Christmas lights, and wall hangings to make it seem more like home.  The midwife on call was incredible.  I was grateful to be in Boulder.

By 11 pm, I was induced.  I won’t go into the details of the labor for they are beyond words and somewhat fuzzy.  The two people who I love so dearly were with me the entire time – holding me, bathing me, supporting me.  The life force that was missing from Leif was inside of me still.  I felt myself connected to every woman from the past, present, and future.  I have given birth many times before, I am sure of it.  Leif’s body came out at 6 am, after two big pushes, and hours of intense contractions.  My little boy was as beautiful as any breathing baby I’ve ever seen.  He was almost three lbs, with a slim body and big feet, a perfect little replica of his parents.  The midwife was dumbfounded.  My blood work came back perfect.  The placenta looked healthy.  I have birthed a perfectly healthy dead baby.

I held him, kissed him, and handed him over.  He was my son but he was also just a body.  Dying flesh.  Material that my own body grew.  There was no sparkle in his eyes.  There was no giggles or screams.  There was only silence, and within that silence, I also managed to silence myself.  In that moment, I chose to forget.  Everything that followed was an acute reminder, but always held at a distance, just far enough for me to disassociate from.  And so most emotions that arose thereafter were not related to losing Leif, but to every other damn thing around me.  But it wasn’t until I sat with my mind that I came to this realization.

In the depths of stillness, I found the root of the many explosive emotions, sleepless nights, tears, and breakdowns.  It was too obvious, and everyone around me clearly knew.  But I couldn’t have known until it was discovered within my own mind, until I went down the rabbit hole and retrieved what has been stolen, or what I gave up so easily; handed right over to my unconscious.

I am recording this story so that I never again forget.  I am freezing a moment of fear and hopping right back on the horse, that threw me off, that I bit, that wasn’t a horse at all.  I am sharing this experience as one that forever changed my life.  I am seeing the root.  Sleeping with the root.  Admiring the root.  Conversing with the root.  I am becoming the root, so that I can stop the pattern from going deeper, and from planting other toxic seeds.

I have recognized a pattern.  It appears that the more patterns I identify, the more of them pop up.  It is never-ending, or so it seems – a bottomless pit of roots.   But they have to be realized because that is the only way I can become conscious of all that I put away in my unconscious.  Like I said, there is no going back.  And so I’m ready, in ways I don’t yet know, to find the roots, and transform the demons.   I need to be gentle with most, as they were formed at a young age.  Others are still hidden.  We are an accumulation of patterns, sprung from the roots of traumatic moments.  For me, it is time to awake from the unconscious.  But I must remember that it’s a process.  A process.  A process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rocky Road

As if the grief itself wasn’t enough, I have now been diagnosed with postpartum depression.   I was feeling the intensity of the grief gradually lessening and slowly peeling away, and now this whole new level of emotional complexity has slapped me in the face.  It’s not the kind of depression that makes me want to stay in bed, close the curtains, and become a vampire.  It’s the kind that makes me swing ever so high and low.  I alternate between bliss and gloom.  The highs are out of control, where life appears to be full of amazing options and possibilities, and I can’t wait to jump on all of them.  The world vibrates with color and yumminess.  The lows, on the other hand, are not as fun.  The fire of the drive gets extinguished and I become a lump of misery full of stagnation, surrounded by the theme of death and abandonment.  And to think that this is just the hormones playing their devious games!

I used to hold a theory that we are all moving in an upward spiral.  I say “used to” because these days I find myself running in circles, and even frequently spiraling downwards.  It’s as if I am turning back into a child; one that’s in a constant state of a tantrum.  Then for a minute, I snap out of it, become an adult once more, shake my head at my immature behaviors, and remind myself that this is a process.  Until again, the tantrums come on and I degrade one more level, back to where I started some years back.

I have always been a sensitive person but sensitivity has now gained a whole new meaning in my life.  I cry when someone gives me a bad look, or when I accidentally kill an ant in my attempt to bring it outside to safety.  I scream in my car when someone cuts me off or when the traffic is not moving.  I cry for being an angry person.  I yell at my partner for not being there for me, when I don’t even know how to be there for myself.  Again, I cry.  I push him away.  I pull him in.  I throw lamps, kick walls, break things.  And then I sob, uncontrollably.  In the midst of my tantrums, I turn into a wild animal.  There is no reasoning with my mind in that state because my mind has been emptied of reasons.  The only reasons that are left are the ones worth crying over.

Where are these crazy emotions coming from?  I was told that anger is one of those forces that once expressed, gains power instead of dissipating.  I also read somewhere that the more I reject a part of myself, the stronger it becomes.  But I am having a really hard time accepting this “new” me because it’s ruining my life.  And like I would never do to a child, I scold the one in me, afraid to accept it and love it.  Sometimes I think that I’ve created a child in my emotional being so that there is someone to take care of, in the face of losing Leif.  I’m constantly trying to find some sort of tangible explanation for my madness.  The hormones don’t always resonate with the mind that seeks a more solid explanation.  Where the hell is the off button?

I have chosen the naturopathic path to recovery, hoping to bring back some balance into my life through good old herbs and acupuncture.  I’m tired of running into the wall, and just  really want harmony present in my life.  This has been a bumpy ride on a rocky road, to say the least.  But I’m still learning through it all.  Perhaps the learning is the upward spiral, after all.  The mind/heart space is a deep and complex space and experiencing new depths of it, as hard as the experience might be, is always in some way enlightening, even when the lights appear to be out.  Onward, I move, to see what exists around the bend…

Surrender

We are here to learn.  Every experience, good or bad to our relative perception, is in some form a lesson.  Throughout the past three months, I kept on asking myself what exactly I have learned from the experience of losing Leif?  I am a different person than I was then, there is no doubt about it.  My capacity for love has broadened, I have discovered new depths of my being, worked through my own childhood trauma and conditionings, found a new sense of compassion for the suffering of others, and have been shown the magic of surrender.  I always knew that we had little control over our lives, but this concept became much clearer this time around.  It has lost its conceptual value and became pure experience.  We don’t learn from concepts, we learn from experience.  I thought I was in control of my pregnancy.  I ate the right food, did all the rights things to care for this growing being inside of me, and just like that, it was taken away.  Unknown acute infection, they said.  A mystery in a life where all seemed solid and in control.

The fact is that we never know what is going to happen.  My reality today is so different than it was three months ago, or even ten months ago.  It’s constantly changing.  The change does not always come about because we plan it so.  Most times, it occurs without our consent, or even knowing.  I can have plans to go to Hawaii with my partner in two months, but who knows what could and will happen between now and then?  The possibilities are endless, so then what are the odds that I will actually end up going?  Make a plan but do not attach yourself to its outcome – this is one of my most important ongoing lessons.  The only experience that is solid is the one that happens now.  Too often have I been disappointed by the lack of realization of future plans.  I am learning to surrender to the moment-to-moment experience and the unseen forces that control it.

Surrender to higher forces is a hard one to swallow and accept as part of life.  We have been taught from early on that our lives are in our hands.  When we run late for an appointment because we hit every damn red light on the way, it is still somehow our fault.  Most of us do not reach beyond the ordinary to see that every one of our actions creates a ripple effect in the world around us.  We don’t always mean to create these ripples, but they are necessary for existence to continue.  If we are late, it is because we were supposed to be late.  It is because we were supposed to be at this or that intersection in this or that moment.  We are always exactly where we’re supposed to be at all times, to fulfill our destiny.  With that hard understanding, surrender slowly seeps in.  I do not exclude the power of prayer, intention, or free will.  I strongly believe that they are all part of our path and manipulate the higher forces at hand.  However,  the lesson is to make the prayer or intention and let it go, or to make the choice and surrender to its outcome.  It’s a constant practice, but one so worth investing our souls into.  We are always ok, no matter what.  We are always learning.

Somehow with the process of surrender, life becomes more organic and trustworthy.  Expectations are gone, standards are lowered, and disappointments disappear.   We open the door for pure contentment.  Then why is it so hard to let go of this need for control?  Through my experience, I have come to understand that part of the reason is because of how we have been shaped and conditioned by our parents and society. As a child, I learned that if I don’t get something that I want, I should be sad and cry.  Nobody ever told me that it’s beyond my control.  I was told that when I grow up, and work hard, I can make anything happen.  I can have anything that I dream of.  I will gain control over my life.  The lesson of surrender comes with disassembling these hard beliefs.  I have yet to see the end of the process in my own life, but with each trial, the conditioning weakens.

Even when I drop my own expectations of myself, there are those of others.  Those around me expect me to be a certain way, needing to control that which is even further beyond their control than even their own lives.  How can we set expectations of others, if we can’t even control what happens in our lives?

I am making a vow to accept reality around me as it is, with the understanding that I am EXACTLY where I need to be at all times and that everything that happens in my life is for a higher purpose.  I am here to learn.

Make or Break

Break it or make it.  Break it.  Make it.  Break us.  Break me.  Break you.  Break the spell.  Take a break.  A clean break.  Break to pieces.  Make a choice.  Make sure.  Make up.  Make do.  Make ends meet.  Make love to salvage whatever remains, to bring back what made that which broke.  Make believe.  Break new ground.  Make up minds.  Make a family.  Make it possible.  Make babies.  Break babies.  Break the news.  Break hearts.  Break plans.  Break.  Let all hell break loose.  Break glass, break promises, break trust.  Make it harder.  Break in.  Break open.  Make amends.  Break bread.  Make effort.  Make a difference.  Make it better.  Break the ice.  Make out.  Make it real.  Make it last.  Break habits.  Make sense.  Make room.  Make mistakes.  Break up.  Break free.  Make it all disappear.  Break away.  Break out.  Make-up.  Break down.  Break through.

***

I have been told.  Warned.  How much pain can one withstand?  How much hurt can love endure?  I see the threads of this web spread out, thin, across invisible planes of existence.  It is a threshold of sorts; an initiation.  I’m swimming from depths of the oceanic floors, to raise above the skies, the clouds, concealing the radiant glow beyond.  A journey into the ether.  I thought we made it through the worst.  I thought the waters were receding.  I thought if I only held my breath long enough… but now, I’m growing gills.  Evolving.  To wings.  Fly with me, in search of what’s been lost.  Hold my hand as I stumble through the darkness, of mind, of spirit.  Break through the surface, spiraling upwards.   Make it last forever.

Healing

A slippery, synthetic duvet is slowly suffocating me, pressing me into the pillows that feel like they’re filled with rocks.  I’m tossing and turning to the sounds of the Beagle snoring at my feet, on top of my feet.  More heaviness.  I can’t breathe.  My throat feels like it’s clogged and someone is stomping on my chest.  It’s emotion.  Feeling displaced.  Both, it, and I…

Where am I?  This was a place I called home at some point, for some time.  The room has been transformed from a colorful teenage chaos filled with posters of Weimaraners dressed up as people and the beautiful face of Jim Morrison, to now, an office with two computer monitors and a couch that pulls out for my arrival.  My mother is sleeping in the room next door, ecstatic to have her little girl home, to tuck her in to a bed that was made with love for a sleepless night.  I drift in and out of consciousness, looking for home on this couch-bed, but home was left behind in Boulder, Colorado, and home is out, dancing and being free for a night away from me.

I try to push the Beagle over, to make some room for breath, for blood to reach my tingling feet, and in the innocence of her sleep, she growls.  Why am I here?  I gaze over and next to me, buried under a ton of heavy air sits “The Tibetan Book of The Dead,” and I remember that I am here to heal.   Here to process the anger that has been erupting like a volcano, being projected at home, on home; the anger that they say is the final stage in the grieving process.  But if grieving is cyclical and if grieving is a process, then how can there be a final step?  Perhaps, a spiral into the ether?

The healing has been slow.  Is slow.  I’ve allowed the past to partially scab over, but picking my scabs has become a bad habit.  Sometimes, I just don’t want to forget.  I scratch to remember what I have lost, longing to hold it close to my heart.  Other times, I wish is to forget, but I bump into things that remind me, and the wounds re-open, get dirty, infected.  I bump into babies on the street, or people who don’t know.  I run into people who know but are too uncomfortable to face me.  I bump into smells, sounds, tastes.  I run myself crazy with memories.

I don’t know what I bumped into tonight, in the room from my past or the room of my dreams, but I am startled awake, remembering and feeling; the density of life.  I miss my home.  I miss Leif.  I miss all that never was.  I’m learning how to live so that I know how to die.  I’m trying.

There will be scars, no doubt.  Wounds like these don’t go unnoticed.  Anger alone leaves streaks behind, welts the size of small mountains.  But I will take scars any day over fresh wounds.  The scars show that I’m a survivor.  My heart beats stronger, and day by day, I’m healing just a little bit more.

Writing through the Taboo


Why are we, as a society, so afraid of death?  Why is even the word itself so hard to say out loud?  Death is just as much a part of life as birth, and yet we celebrate one and shun the other.  Shouldn’t death be just as openly received as its counterpart?  And isn’t death just another birth?

I have stumbled upon these questions all my life, but their significance has never become as clear and apparent as it has in the past month.  I gave birth to death exactly 31 days ago.  But in the time since, I have come to notice just how much more was born out of this experience than just a still body.  I gave birth to love, pain, wonder, depth, friendships, compassion, faith, hope, questions, and so much more.  I, myself, have been reborn.  I touched upon places within myself that I didn’t even know existed.

We held a “Wiping of the Tears” ceremony for Leif on Sunday, which was led by a local Lakota Indian community leader.  The ceremony was beautiful and deeply moving, intended to cut emotional ties, and allow for the spirit to move on to “the better world.”  Since the Natives believe in the connectivity of all beings, seeing everything in nature as a relation, this kind of ceremony serves as a soothing balm for the pain of the survivors.  However, it is not about saying goodbye, but simply acknowledging the passing and understanding that souls always meet again in another time.  The ceremony was followed by a purification sweat, in which we All prayed, regardless of race, sex, religion, or age, as a family and a community.  The prayers extended from the micro world of myself, Nathan, and Leif, to the macro world of relatives, friends, strangers, animals, spirits, plants, and elements.  We prayed for peace, health, and harmony throughout.  As we cleansed our minds and bodies and purified our souls and intentions, I came to a still place of acceptance.

I am so blown away by the how the Lakota people regard death, and the way they honor the passage.  There is a deep understanding and open reception of the internal pain that resides in our souls following a loss.  There is also a strong sense of encouragement to move forward and feel gratitude for the lessons offered by the Creator, as well as everything that still remains in our lives.  With death, comes the appreciation for life.

I was raised in a culture much different from that of the Natives.  I’ve dreaded funerals in my life, finding them dark and depressing.  I never understood why I had to wear black, even to funerals of those who led extraordinary and joyful lives.  There have been times when I wanted to celebrate the life and not mourn the death, but my desire was not supported by the culture.  Whenever I mentioned death around anyone sick, I would stun the room into silence.  Even these days, certain people who know me try to look the other way when they see me approaching, avoiding the life-death connection at all cost, and escaping the discomfort that this taboo presents.

The only guarantee in life is death.  We can plan on experiencing many things, but nothing is ever certain or secure, except for the reality that every living thing will eventually leave this plane and move on to another.  And yet, I feel that we avoid talking about it, looking it in the face, in hopes of never experiencing it.  What is it that scares us the most?  Is it the pain?  The separation?  Or is it the journey into the unknown?  Perhaps breaking through the taboo, and letting go of the fear and discomfort associated with death, can create room for more appreciation and freedom in life.  Maybe with shedding the fear of loss, we can stop grasping and start loving.  How can our society open to the reality of the only inevitable?  How do we break through this taboo?

The Language of Suffering

It’s been almost four weeks since I delivered Leif.  I remember being at the hospital and wishing that I was not a part of the present.  I wanted to teleport into the future, to at least a month from where I was.  And here I am now, almost a month away from then, and a part of me is still longing to be in the future, the time when the pain will be gone.  But will the pain ever really be gone?  And is the pain ever really that bad?  I truly believe that the Universe never gives us more  than we can handle.  The grieving process is beautiful in its own way.  It has gotten me in touch with reality more than any other experience in the past.  It has put me in the present moment, even when at times, I wish so much that I could escape it.  It is in the present moment that I can really feel myself being alive.

There is suffering everywhere in the world.  It is part of life.  However, it is the perspective and the attitude that we take on the suffering that manages its intensity and duration.  I believe the worst kind of suffering is the mental kind.  I cannot say that a person starving or being subjected to atrocious genocide is suffering more than the CEO of some corporation, always on the go, always craving power and money, always dissatisfied.  I am in no way a judge in whose misery is easier or worse.  The starving person can have an understanding, the in-depth wisdom that recognizes the lessons and the blessings in every moment and situation.  Meanwhile, someone who we perceive as successful and happy could be tortured by his/her mind, by lack of love.  We just never know and yet assumptions, judgments, and projections come to us so easily, muddling authentic reality.

Suffering is suffering, no matter what form it shows up in.  Pain and suffering are Universal languages.  I am learning this innate language.  I feel connected to those who are experiencing pain, for we share this collective theme.  I listened to Democracy Now the other day and heard a 10-year-old Afghan girl testify against American soldiers for coming into her house in the middle of the night and murdering her family.  I cried in that moment for her loss.  Losing an entire family can be seen as much worse than losing a fetus, but pain is pain, regardless of its circumstance.  And in that pain, I can feel the pain of the world.  My grief is teaching me about compassion.  It has taken me out of my little Universe and opened me up to the world outside.  I am being shown the way to Love all beings, realizing that anyone might be suffering.  With small steps at a time, I am changing perspective on my own suffering.   I’m acquiring a new found sense of gratitude, inspired to be a more compassionate and loving human.

Meltdown


I’m bored with food, even when I’m hungry.  There is nothing that I crave, no food that I’m in the mood for.  The taste is bland, and no amount of spices can make it any better.  I cried tonight because I looked at a piece of fish after not eating for seven hours and nothing about it excited me.  It was a piece of wild caught salmon, food that used to satisfy my soul, and now it’s just a piece of dead fish lacking flavor that I feel so sorry for.  It has given its life to sustain me, and I can’t even appreciate it.  I look for food to satisfy me, to somehow fill this empty space, but it just doesn’t seem to do the trick.

I am so sad.  I realized tonight that I live between two worlds – the one in which I cry and get overpowered by feelings, and the one where I don’t feel much.  I weave in and out of these worlds, making the switch in my sub-conscious mind.  There is no choosing.  It chooses me.  While I’m in one world, the other one seems far away.  The world of my past in which I used to look forward to the next day, where I used to laugh and feel light, that world seems to have disappeared altogether.  I’m left with the memory and the hope that someday I will return there.

I write from a place of grief.  I write to relieve some of these feelings, to transcribe what goes on the inside to the world outside.  I write to share and to touch those places that lack emotion.  But as I read my posts once the switch is made from one world to the other, I feel completely detached, as if it was someone else who wrote those words, who exposed themselves so nakedly.  I listen to people express their sorrows for my grief and look at them, wanting so badly to console them.  I want to say, “Don’t be sorry.  Don’t feel sad.  I’m not.”  And I mean it in my mind, for sorry is not what I feel when feelings are not present.  But then I go home and I try to make dinner and I look at a piece of fish and feel sorry.  I feel sad for the fish, for the world, for myself.

When I’m numb, I long to feel.  When I feel, I crave numbness.  I’m lost in a sea of suffering and I want to find my way out.  I pray for it to end.  I’m trying to keep everything together but feel myself coming apart at the seams.  I want to run and hide but there is nowhere I can go where I won’t find myself.

I’m slowly melting down…

Awake

I used to sleep like a baby, and not one that’s teething.  Even my lover’s snores were a distant soundtrack to my astral explorations.   These nights, I awake to the heater going off.  I hear everything speaking to me, whispering my name, pulling me away from my dream world.  My sleep got lighter during pregnancy, but now it’s a whole new story.  My sub-conscious awaits the cry of a baby that is not here.  The Mama in me wants to feed a ghost in the middle of the night the milk that has already dried up.  I hear the sound of a ticking clock from another room.  What is it telling me?  What is it time for?  I crave sleep, I want to sleep, but sleep does not come.  There is the new pain under my right shoulder blade, the thirst for something that cannot be quenched, the uncomfortable pillow, the bladder a quarter full, and then there are the thoughts.  I watch them hover over me.  Who am I?  Who have I become?  I am a night owl.  An insomniac.

Nathan rents movies that he falls asleep to.  I watch them because I can’t sleep.  Most of them are crappy movies from the redbox that I don’t want to watch but I can’t turn them off because then I’m stuck with my movie, which is worse.

Sometimes I cry to exhaust myself.  I remember falling asleep after crying as a child.  It comes to me easily, almost too naturally.  All I have to do is think of Leif, connect to that space of emptiness in my soul, and tears come up and roll out in numbers, like armies of ants.  I feel them trickle down my cheeks, entertained by the sensations they create.  The wells empty out but I still can’t sleep.  I’m left with a stuffy nose and a headache.

I scan my thoughts that come and go, trying hard to detach and observe.  I don’t know where they come from, but there are so many.  I’m flooded with inquiries, with the childlike curiosity of what this life means.  What is my purpose here?  I’m searching for the real in reality, breaking down solidity into particles, concepts into words, into syllables.  I’m learning a whole new alphabet.  I’m learning.  This experience has become my teacher.  With each new question, the burst of every new bubble I create, I’m taught something significant.

Perhaps I needed all this to wake up from the illusion of a perfect tomorrow, to bring me into the now.  As I lie there awake, there is only the now.  There is only the being, here in this space, and feeling what it’s like to be human.  In the sleepless hours of the night, under the fullness of the gleaming Leo moon, I am awake to the world, completely open to receive.  As I finally surrender, sleep creeps up and I’m cradled in a womb, drifting into the silence of the dawn.

Waves

Three weeks ago, on my way out to California, night after night, I had repetitive dreams about huge tidal waves.  The dreams were all different.  In some, I was drowning beneath them, while in others, I was simply riding and playing amidst these gigantic swells, but even then, I experienced a sense of fear, dread, and anxiety.  Since I’m a very avid dreamer, remembering up to 15 dreams in full detail per night, I take them quite seriously, especially with their frequent reoccurrence.  And so I looked up what tidal waves in dreams represented, and here is what I found:

“A tidal wave is a very strong symbol and can simply indicate that there is something stronger and more powerful that will just sweep us away without warning. It may symbolize our wish to protect some vulnerable family member.”

The first thing that I thought of while reading this interpretation was little Leif in my belly, whose movements have slowed over that week.  I was worried about him and put my hand on my belly, only to feel him give me a strong kick a few minutes later, as if saying “I’m OK Mom, I’m here.”  At least that’s what I gathered from that interaction.  That same night was the last time I ever felt Leif’s movements.

It’s been so hard to look back and follow the course of events right before Leif’s death because I end up blaming myself, questioning what I could have done differently, or trying to rearrange the past that already happened and can’t be changed.  But as I sat up in bed in the middle of the night last night, I remembered the waves, as I felt myself drowning, not only in my own tears, but in grief.  These past two weeks have been all about dwelling in these waves of emotions, waiting for one wave to end so I can resurface and catch a breath before the next one comes in and crushes on top of me.  Did I actually foresee this coming?

At times I feel that life is trying to drown me, that I won’t have enough strength to get through the next sets of tsunamis coming at me.  I get beat up, held down at the bottom, only to come up with what seems like the last breath left in me, and experience a sea so calm, that all feels like a dream.  I am living my dreams, and I can’t seem to wake up.  Life has become spontaneous, unpredictable, deep,  and  demanding, and though I can’t foresee it lessen in intensity, at least I’m becoming a damn good swimmer.

Fears

Nathan half awoke in the middle of the night, asking me what was on my mind.  I responded, “everything.”  That’s all he inquired in between dreams and snores, sensing my restlessness, before he rolled back over and resumed his nightly excursions.  I envied his childlike sleep in that moment, frustrated with my over-active mind.   I had already laid there for hours, watching him breathe as my thoughts raced from one thing to the next, not following any particular pattern.  I was grateful for him then, as I am now – he, the father of my son, and the love in my life.  But as I watched him breathe, I also imagined him not breathing, and the grip around my heart grew tighter, throwing my body into shivers and plunging my mind into darkness.  Fear took over my being as it has many times in the past two weeks, poking my neurosis with the question, “what if something would happen to him?”  He gets irritated when my brain gets consumed with such paranoia, but the fear seems solid and ever-present and I struggle with both, facing it and making it go away.  I’ve become scared of losing the ones who I care about.  I’m afraid that losing everything of value is somehow a lesson in this lifetime that I need to learn.  I’m petrified of being alone.  In the frequent times that these fears arise, I strive to reach deep into the vast knowledge I’ve picked up over the years, perhaps over lifetimes, towards the source that tells me to trust.  I recall the Buddhist and yogic teachings of non-attachment and the impermanence of life.  It makes sense and settles my mind for some time until the part of me that’s human, the part that is so attached to this life and the people in it, the part that’s so deeply emotional, rebels against these concepts.  After all, that’s all that they are – just concepts.  I don’t know how to align my experience with these beautiful philosophies.  I get them, grasp them fully with my intellect, but my experience just doesn’t comprehend.  My heart loves, so deeply, and with that love comes attachment.  Is this the game of ignorance?  Am I completely blinded by this illusion of life?  How do I embody the wisdom that resides deep down, the insights that come from beyond just this life?  How can I learn to live out these concepts that make sense on one level and don’t on another?  The idea of an equanimous mind is lovely, but how can I not  be reactive to something as tragic as death touching a life that keeps going?  Where does the grey between experience and theory become distinguishable?

Questions

I am being haunted by questions, all the Whys of my life chasing me around.  I’m trying to understand this reality, these universal acts that occur without our active consent, these unpaved, bumpy roads that we find ourselves on – Lost.  I long to understand the reasons, the purpose behind each experience that changes the course of our lives so drastically.  Why did Leif have to die?  Why was he conceived, and why did I have to carry him for seven months?  Why is this a part of my path?  Why did we have to experience such an intense loss?  Why are there so many unwanted babies in this world?  Why did a baby that was so loved and wanted have to go?

I always believed that there is a higher purpose to everything that happens in our lives.  I’ve always preached it to those who were experiencing tough times, to those whom I believed were receiving lessons in their unfavorable circumstances.  But now, I am one of “those,” and the part of me that is buried beneath depths of grief is providing all the questions, fighting the idea of a higher purpose.  The part that is my Ego self wants to know why this happened to Me?  What could I have done differently?  What have I learned from this experience?  What has this prepared me for?  I grapple with these questions, this world of labyrinths and its dead ends, but all I get is more questions.  When will my life’s interrogation stop?  How long before I accept all that has been and is, and move on?  How long before I look back and see all the answers?