I ran this evening for the first time in six months. I write “ran”, although I’m not sure if what I was doing can actually be considered running. None-the-less, it was a start. My knee is healed, and it didn’t hurt at all, and I am so relieved.
Fact is: running keeps me on this side of crazy.
As a person who lives much, if not most, of my life in my head, running keeps me connected to my body and, consequently, connected to Earth. The combination of physical exertion, intense deep breathing, and a little pain does the trick. Running helps me find center. As a person with a Pagan spirit, Buddhist heart, Protestant work ethic, Catholic guilt, thick thighs, and an addictive personality, running is my best coping mechanism. Running is my drug of choice.
Over the course of these last six months I have felt myself slip into habitual patterns I thought were long erased. Adult life can be stressful, but added to my injury mix were twenty uninvited pounds and my unvoiced fear that maybe my running days were over, and that maybe I needed to listen to all those well intended voices telling me that running (especially at my age) was bad for my body, hard on my joints and bones, and probably enlarging my heart.
Frankly, unable to run, I have been a hot mess.
But that was all yesterday… This evening I ran, and the body that has begun to feel less and less like somewhere I want to reside felt like it was mine again. And while I know I’ll be sore tomorrow, and I know it will take a long time to for my body to feel strong, I also know that tomorrow I will run again, and I will be smiling, and I am so relieved.
I am interested in cycles, patterns that manifest over and over, or echoes that reverberate in a familiar tone. Like a memory on the tip of your tongue that you know that you know but can’t quite remember.
As an empath, when I have opened myself too wide for too long, my energetic immune system starts to resemble a pin cushion. With so much leaking, I become fatigued; I start to vibrate at an energy level that is low, and things start to unravel at an exponential rate, as I begin the downward spiral of not taking care of myself—of forgetting my connection to Source.
This is when I begin to unintentionally hook other people’s energy in order to sustain my own. This need for the light of others to fill me up manifests in a number of ways, but usually it involves some sort of unhealthy desire, want, or need that feels unquenchable. Usually I feel desperate. Usually I make bad decisions, which lead to a crack in my ego that grows into a fissure then into an abyss. There will be shame. There will be incredulous self-talk to the tune of “how the fuck did I end up here again?” There will be pain. There might be crazy.
Eventually, grace comes back to the table. Usually she speaks to me in my dreams, and she reminds me about all the things I know to do. She reminds me to meditate. She reminds me to eat clean. She reminds me to not mask my pain with sex or alcohol. She reminds me that true love does not expect anything in return. She reminds me that it is never wrong to love; regardless, as to what the greater culture says. She reminds me there are no mistakes.
And she reminds me that I need, especially as an empath, to remember to stay in a bubble of light so as not to absorb what I am not meant to carry. She reminds me to let go all that, which I have been accumulating. She reminds me that other people’s emotions are not mine to appropriate; however good my intentions.
And I start to heal. And I renew my spiritual practice. And I begin to manifest a gentler path. And I am better able to share my gifts.
But at a certain point I begin to take my blessings for granted. I slack a little in my practice. I start to drink to avoid the creeping sensation of irrelevance. I start to feel drained and unappreciated. I start to want fulfillment, and the whole opera crescendos… again and again…
Until I crash…again and again.
And always this is when my heart is broken into a million tiny pieces. And I will mourn every loss I have ever experienced imagined or real from beyond the veil of time.
And I specifically mourn the loss of you in your myriad forms: the one I eternally gravitate towards in my most vulnerable state. You remain sequestered in the cracks and fissures and the abyss that will always exist as scar tissue which binds the pieces of my heart back together. Because I can never really let you go. Not really. Not ever. Your existence is always what forces me back into the light. A necessary reminder: this reflection of my ego in all its seductive archetypal glory. And each time I return from the darkness it is with more clarity and more empathy and more heart than before. Because a broken heart once mended is an impenetrable shield. Even from myself.
Coyote appears again and again
Runs along-side my bike near the arroyo
Crosses in front of my car in the mountains
Howls in the orange groves
Less a warning, more an invitation.
“Come join me coyote girl,” he whispers
And despite the ancestral push and pull
Our history of seduction and betrayal
A growl bubbles in the pit of my stomach;
The fur stands up on the back of my neck
I typed this line: some things you don’t know about me if you’re someone who thinks you know me, and then I paused. And then I deleted the line. And then I paused. And then I retyped the line. And then I paused again too distracted by plummeting degrees, a head stuffed with brains, and dissolution to listen to the early morning voices. There are angels in the house and a mad woman in the attic that want to lift the crushing weight—the burden of flesh. But when it comes to spilling truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, even knowing this would mean the lightening of, I would rather enjoy tangled hair, cells, and seconds: all revolutionary attempts to disagree with language because I know there is no consensus here, and I know my fractured need for justification is holding me up: a temporary fix: like cataracts. For this I have been known to burn my journals, to hold myself up for a little while, to hide my constitution, that which I’m composed of.
I weigh one hundred and ninety pounds. This is at the very least thirty pounds too many. When I weighed thirty pounds less, this too was too much baggage. Twenty pounds before that. Even then I was not satisfied. An old friend sent me a picture of my teenage self in a polka dotted bikini with the caption, “you thought you were fat.” What I mean to say is this perception of body perfection has long been an issue. I would like to shed these weighted words about my weight and watch them drift: a cursive ocean.
I imagine that Individually they float free, yet anchored to me they create a fleshy barrier between myself and I, myself and you, as I search for a crucial independent variable. There are so many factors to affect: the smell of soap, her patent leather shoes and a wool jacket, the brood hen.
I have written about my body before. A history hidden between phrases, in the guttural breath between words unspoken. But you may have missed my message. My covert intention. How much I hate. It. My body. And how much I hate that I hate this form which should be bathed in something missing. I question how many pounds of words to write away to take this hate away before my daughters learn this ancestral language of repression and denial.
It might be too late. To write away the hate. They, my daughters, already reject innocence of the blank page; already are writing their own version of self- terrorism. No more pink pajamas and tie dyed t-shirts. The prophesy: a nail sticking haphazardly out of the swing waiting for confrontation. Flesh. Vows. The arbitrary panel of voyeurs snap chatting a diet of apparitions. There is no filter meant to expose.
Perhaps I need to go all the way back. To spill and purge severed trust. To eradicate the hiding. The words written in my journal whose memory I cannot contain: egg whites, aloe, a library and the tower. What can all this supple goodness mean? Is it possible to read between the symbols when the deck is slippery, lake temperatures are rising, and blackberry stains?
I paraphrase and tell my student to write it straight. The slant is inherent. I tell one in particular to stop circling. How his attempts lack discernment. He likes big words, but even as I say this all I can imagine is the old yellow barn filled with boats. The ambivalence of concrete. A new roll of black electrical tape. See? I understand the compulsion to hide In text. There are too many secrets here.
He suggests it is an act of love-this desire to thicken my skin. He aims to immunize me against despair born of untenable language, toughen me up. Especially now as we enter this alternative dystopian theater of rebirth: The Theater of the Unmentionable, how Equality longs for knowledge.
I want him to understand it is an active choice to remain permeable, to inhabit disquietude, to prevent the forgetting, how they want us to forget: humanity resides in the cupped hand, the blink of an eye, the heart tremor- a heart like his; to remember a thick skin also works in reverse, prevents flow, prevents the inside from spilling out, from merging with the greater sea of fragmented dreams.
Lest we forget there is strength in perceived frailty while others forget there is frailty in perceived strength.
YESTERDAY was a tough day. I had a difficult time addressing my students. It was hard to look into their young faces and not see a bleak future they had no way of anticipating. A few of them asked me questions about what was transpiring. Some wanted to understand why I was so unsettled. Some made sarcastic jokes for levity.
I tried to explain to them that at the core of my belief system there is a baseline of respect for all peoples. How fundamentally I cannot wrap my head around the possibility that one of the most powerful men on the planet, the man elected to represent our country, does not exhibit even the slightest respect…for anyone. I told them that for me, although the politics were important, they were less significant than my hopes and desires for humanity. I told them I was concerned for my friends of color, my friends in need of affordable health care, specifically affordable reproductive care, my LGBTQ friends, my Moslem friends, my indigenous friends, my undocumented friends, my friends with disabilities, my friends with vaginas. I told them I was concerned for the trees. I told them I was concerned for the young men and women who will most certainly be called to serve in our armed forces. I told them I was concerned for the future of education. I told them I was concerned, especially as a survivor of sexual assault, for all the daughters born into a climate of the normalization of misogyny. I told them I was afraid personally as a progressive, liberal, feminist, artist, academic because my beliefs were now directly and completely opposed to the nation state’s. I told them I was concerned because my most profound fear was that things were going to be even worse than I was letting myself imagine. I told them I was embarrassed.
And when they asked me how anyone could support him, vote for him, I really couldn’t answer. Because despite my understanding of the political machine and the nuance of disenfranchised voters, a dissipating middle class, financial instability, a desire for change, misleading media, big doners, a dislike for Hillary and the establishment, a religious agenda for social issues, and a fringe component of potentially racist, homophobic, Islamophobic, and/or xenophobic extremists, I still can’t understand how anyone can stomach to watch and or listen to him without a negative visceral response.
BUT THAT WAS YESTERDAY. Today I was overwhelmed and inspired by the best part of Democracy, the best part of humanity. As I watched the river of people swell and pour over its banks on six continents, as I listened to speaker after eloquent, passionate speaker talk of unity and love and inclusion, as I heard my voice echoed over and over in the voices of others and the power of language used for all things good, I remembered that we are in charge of this narrative. We are writing this river story. And this river will not simply flow. It will change everything as it cuts, moves, deposits, carves, and creates a new surface, a better future for all of us. Together.
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