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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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.

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…

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?

Following the Body

It’s getting harder and harder to think in a linear way, to think logically, to think beyond this experience.  I’ve been advised to write, but how can I write when I can’t think?  How can I try to make sense of thoughts that are following the body?  Not just the body that has passed through and on, but the body that is still here, recovering slowly, dripping at the edges with wasted nutrition, now only absorbed by starry hemp pads.  How can I allow words to be written down and follow the body down the rabbit hole, where sadness and grief reside?  The body doesn’t know it.  The body is oblivious.  The body believes it has just given birth, whole and breathing, and now expects closeness of both bodies, closure of something that has been opened.  The mind follows this body, my body, that follows the scent of his body, still residing on my body.  The seams are popping at the edges, craving touch, wanting to hold what is no longer here, he with bright red lips and feet too big for his body.  The thoughts are confused, riding the roller coaster of emotions that come and go, and come again unexpected, like waves, like tsunamis, of tears, of sweat, of breast milk.  They don’t understand; reason cannot back them up.  There is nothing.  There is only a void that gets filled with visions no more exciting, not sufficient to keep the mind alert and active.  The drive for life has died along with him – my little hummingbird.

The uterus is closing, the pores are drying up, the body is slowly healing and shrinking to fulfill the space once occupied, to bring the space back to its original state, before the seed was planted.  The only miracle remaining open is the heart where emotions go and dwell.  This space of love painfully expands, stretches to dimensions not yet comprehended.  It beats, steadily, and in that beat, echoes and sounds reverberate that used to represent Life itself, growing and becoming.  Now that Life has passed on to a place that the mind with its thoughts cannot perceive as real, cannot digest as food, cannot rationalize within this body.  The body is human, it knows only of what it’s been programmed to understand.  There is a glitch in the system that seemed so perfect, that has kept me in awe over the past seven months.  It is a virus, contaminating thoughts which have no mind of their own, which follow the naivety of the body.  How can I think when all appears irrational?  How can I free my thoughts from the grips of error, in life, in the system, in the body?  How can I write?