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Last night, I was feeling really good about the way my students’ writing is progressing. On my drive home, I noticed the moon hovering in the sky, like a giant apricot. The evening felt ripe and delicious.
I remembered a snippet of verse from the 17th century poet Mizuta Masahide.
the burn is burnt down
i can see the moon.
In the elevator on my way up to my apartment, I began to feel it.
My muse, kicking in, nudging me to paint from these bits of inspiration: the moon & the verse.
Over the last 4 years, there have been many losses.
Benozo withdrawal and divorce delivered serious blows resulting in enormous personal losses.
But I see it now.
How, if you just hold on, eventually things begin to change.
My health is returning, and I’m seeing the blessings that come out of the wreckage.
Like this painting stuff.
It’s still miraculous to me, this becoming who I am stuff.
So last night, I was up until 1 AM painting this:
I felt good about her, but I knew she wasn’t finished.
Something was missing.
This morning, when I looked at her, I knew exactly what needed to be done ~ and it is with this new clarity that I added a few extra touches. Do you see the difference?
It feels right, this intuitive way of painting.
These days, I apply what I learn in my painting practice to my life.
And I know this: If I’m feeling stuck, after a short break, the answer will come.
(And isn’t that always the case?)
What lessons have you learned recently?
Please follow me on Facebook. Every share helps me to expand my reach.
Many years ago, I inherited one of my grandmother’s plants: a heavy pot of thick roots and tens of long, robust green leaves with rounded tips. At first, I thought it was an orchid, but after showing it several florists who could not identify it, I decided to love my weird, unknown plant, no matter what it was.
I’ve had this plant for over thirty years now, and I remember how – just a few days after I moved into my first house – eight gorgeous orange blossoms appeared clustered atop one tall, flat stem. I hadn’t seen the stem growing or noticed any buds, so it was a complete surprise when it arrived on the scene.
Before that day, I had no idea the plant ever bore flowers, and I remember feeling a strong connection with my grandmother, a complicated woman, to whom I was always very close.
Despite the fact that my husband fed and watered it dutifully, decades passed and my plant never flowered again.
In fact, I kind of forgot that the plant flowered at all…
…until last June…
…when my plant burst into color for the first time since 1997.
At the time, I posted a photo of it on Facebook, asking if anyone could identify what it was.
Almost immediately, my friend Regina sent me a link about a rare African lily, Clivia Amaryllidceae, which – according to the article – stated that the plant normally blooms once every 20-25 years.
And as you can imagine, I was beside myself and I spent way too much time telling everyone about my amazing rare lily.
I loved seeing my plant bloom again, and I made peace with the idea that its beauty would be impermanent.
A week later, as each petal shriveled and fell off the stem and onto the floor, I thought about how grateful I was to have been able to enjoy such a simple pleasure so fully.
I resumed regular care of my lily, which meant ignoring it watering it on Saturdays, and I figured I’d have to wait another 20 years or so before I’d see it bloom again.
But guess what?
This morning I walked in to my living room and there it was, in full-bloom again, one year later, to the day.
My yoga practice teaches me to expand and deepen my appreciation of delightful moments, so I sat down on the floor next to my plant and took the time to really appreciate each flower. This time, I noticed how each orange petal is actually also yellow and green, too. I counted 7 stamens in each open blossom, and I wondered how nature knows how to do that.
There was a period where my brain was so damaged that the concept of love was just a memory of an idea. I could feel nothing at all. If a friend tied to touch me, her hand was too rough. If the sun was shining, it was too bright. If children were laughing, it was too loud. I was certain people were trying to hurt me. I was certain my food had been poisoned.
Trapped in a pain cycle, all the highly paid “experts” told me I was crazy, that it was “absolutely impossible” for me to still be experiencing withdrawal symptoms after 24 months.
And while the best conventional minds told me I was mad, there were others who knew better. People reached out to me and told me that I would be okay. That I just needed to hold on for another moment.
And another moment.
They reassured me that all the tiny moments would add up.
They said the moments would grow into minutes.
Which would grow into hours.
Which would grow into days.
They told me there would be days where I would go backwards, where my symptoms would intensify. They told me it was all part of the healing.
They told me to trust the nature of things.
Nature knows what to do, they told me.
I’ve always believed in angels, and I believe — more than ever – that we are all surrounded by a powerful, invisible magic. I’ve tried to speak of this many times while I was growing up, of my intense connection to something beyond the visible, a cosmic force that I have experienced directly many times, but I was teased and laughed at.
Today, I realize I’m in touch with something that other people don’t have.
(Or don’t want to have.)
I have an incredible power.
A sixth sense.
I have it and I listen to it.
I know that to “normal people” that sounds crazy.
Guess what? I don’t give a fuck.
My life is not going to be normal.
My path is going to be crazy.
Today, I am certain that my grandmother is communicating with me via this plant that we share, this tender life that we have spent over 60 years nurturing, separately, yet together. Today, she is telling me that I’m on the right path, reminding me that beautiful things happen when we aren’t looking, or waiting, or expecting or trying to control everything.
I don’t have much to offer these days.
No fancy home.
No fancy clothes.
But I can promise you this.
Whenever you are in the midst of something dark, whenever you find yourself in the midst of so much uncomfortable change, underneath all the fear and the dread, I can tell you with absolute certainty that you’re going to be okay.
Trust the helpers.
Trust the flowers.
Have you ever had an experience where you have felt the Universe was sending you a message? Please share!
I used to practice yoga, but when I started teaching again — I stopped.
I was too busy. I had papers to grade. I had lessons to plan.
Blah blah blah.
Recently, I found my yoga mat and attended an outdoor yoga session.
It felt good for a hundred reasons.
But especially because I did feel a mind-body connection that I haven’t felt in a long time.
I’ve been running on auto-pilot for a while now, planning my son’s bar mitzvah, schlepping to and from fencing lessons, to and from religious school, to and from meetings about things that feel important but really aren’t.
Going through the poses made me slow down and focus on my hands, my hips, my breath.
At one point, I started weeping and I curled up in a ball and just let it come out.
I didn’t even know I had all that sadness trapped inside.
The instructor encouraged me to just be with it, so I allowed myself to cry. In public. I wasn’t exactly quiet. But I wasn’t embarrassed either.
Later, I felt lighter. Ad I decided I’m going to try to continue my yoga – even if it means practicing alone at home to a DVD.
I am a pretty organized person. In fact, there was an eight year stint where I worked as a professional organizer and was paid to go into people’s homes and help make systems to create order out of the chaos that surrounded them. And I was really good at it.
Truth be told, I am supremely organized. I used to lie about my house being as neat as it is. It doesn’t look quite as fabulous as the homes in Style Magazine or House Beautiful, you know, where everything has been staged to perfection – the beds heaped with fluffy, organic linens with a thread count of two million and smoothed so they 100% lump-free; every knick-knack is interesting and placed at the proper angle; the glass in the picture frames on the side tables sparkle, and the familes in the frames sparkle too.
It’s not like that here. Things here aren’t perfect; I just know where my stuff is.
Except when I don’t. Because that happens sometimes.
One night, around 10 pm, while I was folding laundry and my husband was out enjoying a Jeff Beck concert, my son apparently realized he had lost his book, Pendragon: The Quillan Games, (#7 in the series) somewhere at school. Pendragon is not a book he checked out at school; it is a library book. A thick, hardcover library book. Apparently, he laid there in the dark perseverating. You know, that thing we do that gets us absolutely nowhere except more freaked out? He was running “what if” scenarios over and over in his head, trying to figure out where he might have left his book, even though he thought it was probably in his desk. Alone in his bedroom he was thinking, What if I can’t find the book? What if it’s really gone? What if I left it on the playground? What if the library charges me three times as much as a new copy would cost. What if my parents get really mad at me for losing the book and don’t trust me and won’t let me take out any more library books? (For a voracious reader, that would be a major punishment.)
Apparently, he tortured himself like this for about thirty minutes before he finally exercised the good sense to come downstairs and explain his dilemma.
My child is the responsible type. He doesn’t like to lose things. He doesn’t like to miss deadlines or due dates. The thought is abhorrent to him. I understand this – apples don’t fall from pear trees, right? – so I was glad when I was able to share something with him that a friend of mine helped me with not too long ago with when I was freaking out about something insignificant, that seemed really big at the moment.
I asked my son to sit on the floor beside me, to close his eyes, and listen to my voice. I told him I was going to take him to the worst case scenario: His worst fear.
“Are you ready?” I asked.
“The book is, in fact, lost. You will have to pay for the book, maybe even three times the price.” Then I added this part: “But you are okay. You aren’t sick. We are all healthy. You have dad and me. We have a home. We have food and clothes, and we love you like crazy.”
He was calmer. Quieter. It was working. (Plus, he was really tired.) And because he was being quiet, I added, “And just so you know, assuming you live a long time – and I hope you do – you are going to lose stuff. A lot. It happens. I lose things all the time. I write notes to myself on slips of paper and they disappear. I don’t know where they go. I lose bills and receipts. Bottom line is, you have to know that you are going to lose shit, and you have to know it’s not worth losing your mind when you lose something.”
“What?” I asked.
“You said the ‘s-word’.”
Drawing on sage advice from my friend Jennifer Hess and her children’s yoga practice, I asked my son to take a deep breath, take in as much air as he could, and then exhale as if he were blowing out a million candles. At first, he couldn’t do it. He felt stupid, he said. But I insisted that he keep trying. He got it right on the third try.
“That felt good,” he said, calmer now.
Walking upstairs together, he let me hold his hand – something he doesn’t always let me do these days.
I hope he gets it: That adults aren’t perfect. We can strive to be organized and have our perfectly-perfect systems, but nothing is fool-proof or fail-safe. The important thing is to have the perspective to understand that what feels so terribly, awfully, overwhelmingly, miserable at one moment can be dealt with and the awful feeling will pass. Even when it is a big something – the loss of a friendship, a major illness, even death – these things have to be dealt with calmly too. Freaking out doesn’t help.
That night was about a lost book.
That night I counted our blessings.
Afternote: Boy found the book at school the next day.It was rescued just as it was about to be sent back to the public library. All’s well that ends well. He is now well into Pendragon Book #8.