Archives for category: Relationships

‘A desert is a place without expectation.’
~ Nadine Gordimer

I am a mountain girl.

Not only does this mean that I find the beautiful in majestic snow-covered peaks,  monumental boulders and expansive woodlands but it also means that I find the common, the banal, the (dare I admit it?) the mundane.

I know!  Presented with such grandiose splendor how could I ever take it for granted?  How could it just fade into the backdrop?

But being a mountain girl is exactly the problem.   With such blatant glory as the setting for all of my days, all of my routine, all of my own ordinary… they can sometimes become ordinary too.

So you can imagine why I never gave any thought to the desert.  Promoted as being barren and desolate with little to no life, little to no color…  How could that be beautiful in comparison to the brilliant and luxurious mountains that are at times not enough to capture my attention?

And so I was in my thirties before I was startled aware by the the exceptional loveliness of the desert.  The delicacy of the microscopic life there, the subtlety of the many shades of orange and gold that exist in the world, the unexplored depth of the sky… or earth… or self…

And I learned that without expectation, I was greeted with wonder and novelty and delight.

I have been thinking about expectation and the fact that it doesn’t seem to offer me any benefit.

Either I have high and hopeful expectations…  As have been my expectations that my partner will do what he said and at least consult the medical professionals to determine his current state of health.

And these expectations,of something out of my control, seem to be directly tied to disappointment and frustration.  Like those I am experiencing nearly two weeks after that promise and two more canceled appointments later…

Or I have extremely low, nearly dismal expectations…  As I have been having with my on-going state of unemployment.  Bemoaning being a highly-skilled specialist in a very narrow field and becoming increasingly discouraged by not even being able to find work in a ‘menial, meaningless’ position.

The end result of this sort of expectation is typically that something unexpected and rewarding causes me to deride myself for my fear and lack of faith in the universe.  But then I am ridiculing myself and have already spent countless hours awake in anxiety…

No.  Neither one of these situations seems to be an advantageous use of my time or energy or spirit.

And so, I have decided to rid myself of expectation.

I am going to focus instead on the things I can control.  Who I am.  How I perceive the world and recognize all of its mystery and wonder.  What I have to offer right here and now.  How to welcome each moment as a new discovery.  How to remain open and faithful to the certainty that there are microcosms and macrocosms spinning around me whose splendor I will know when I need to .


‘May the Light of God surround you,

the Love of God enfold you,

the Power of God protect you,

the Wisdom of God counsel you,

the Peace of God permeate you,

the Grace of God heal you,

the Presence of God watch over you.’

‘Mindful choosing of friends and lovers, not to mention teachers, is critical to remaining conscious, remaining intuitive, remaining in charge of the fiery light that sees and knows.’ 

~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés

On my 30th birthday, with my lover MIA, my family distracted by their own living, and my baby with his dad,  an extraordinary friend danced with me across the anomalous sand dunes of a high mountain valley under the lucid watch of a full moon.

On my 35th birthday, with my heart breaking, my certainty failing, and my questions compounding, a luminous friend bounded with me along a secluded back-packing trail in full view of the surf and stars, illuminated and elusive.

These are the kinds of women I know and love.  The sort that I stumble upon occasionally and who are so precious and rare that I cannot let them go.

They are brilliant, bold and brave.  They challenge me and themselves to greater being and so I collect them into my heart and life.

Being as exceptional as they are, they are an uncommon find, and so are scattered across continents and cultures.

This dispersion is the reverse of most collecting and it can be difficult to care for a collection like this.

I was reminded this week that I want to be more diligent and attentive to its care.

I recently ran into a lovely woman I know (my partner’s ex, mother to his step-daughter) in the grocery store.  She was clearly in a delicate state, one I have known well in recent months.

Fruits and juices and other edibles falling out of her overloaded arms, I went to help her and saw that she also clutched onto a large book, Women Who Run with the Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, a fantastic folklorist and seductive storyteller.

I commented that I was glad J (the partner) had given it to her.  (He had recently picked it up for me at a flea market, but as I already own a well-tattered and marked up copy, I suggested he give it to her.)

She responded by saying that actually, she had just now bought it at the thrift store next door and that he hadn’t yet mentioned it to her.

The synchronicity struck me.

I haven’t read the book in years, and here it was coming up twice in as many weeks, and just when I have been feeling isolated, disconnected and alone.

(For those who haven’t read it, it is an amazing read about female archetypes and the collective spirit that runs through and fortifies the feminine.)

I promptly suggested that we read it together and put together a discussion group.

I know of a couple other women right now who are moving through their days with heavy burdens and unknown futures.  Each time I see them, I hug them and suggest that we get together… but we never do.

Today, I am making the deliberate decision to pull out the duster and polish up the somewhat neglected collection of amazing women that I already have.  I am writing letters of love and appreciation and creating art to reflect the color they bring to my spirit.

I am also taking conscious actions to add to that collection, here, where I am now.

I am going to gather together my tribe that we may teach each other and strengthen each other and care for each other.  There are remarkable women out there and I am going to make them mine!

‘If we are going to love others at all, we must make up our minds to love them well.’  

~ Thomas Merton

‘Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.’
~ Confucius

Being new to blogging, I didn’t anticipate either the extent or the excellence of the beauty I would find here.

The generosity with which life’s artists are willing to share their vision of the world, in rich image, word, sentiment and connection has drawn me in and keeps me spellbound.

I, for one, do my collecting and creating with words.  Within my mind’s databases, that is how my understanding of existence is stored and recalled as well.

If you were to look up an object under my personal Dewey  Decimal System, it does not hold a picture, as I imagine many others do.  No, mine simply has a listing of characteristics.  i.e.  ‘house’ : (in my part of the world…) typically rectangular, a door, windows, covered with a triangular lid , sealed from weather and threat, a place of safety, gathering and rest for individuals or groups of individuals…

And as I look through photographs, I notice that it is more important for me to secure visuals of moments with those I love than it is to capture nature’s splendor.

(Those images, cherished in my mind’s memory, are perhaps made even more beautiful by the gentle softening and shifting that takes place there.  But I don’t want to soften any of the hard-earned lines in my grandmother’s skin, the piercing intensity of my lover’s eyes,  or the indisputable delight in my son’s smile. )

I also notice a void in my albums.  The absence of me.

My current partner  (a musician, artist and photographer) loves taking photos of me.  Before we even went out on our first date he had taken more shots of me than my former boyfriend had in seven years.

I now have a plethora of texts and emails containing my face and I can only tolerate the quantity of Facebook posts because of his agreement not to tag me.  I sometimes want to hide from his lens.  But what is it that makes me so uncomfortable?

First, is a fear I’ve discovered about being seen; a phobia too unexplored to weigh in here…  But second, is my lack of familiarity at seeing myself as he does.

I consider myself to be rather objective and rational when it comes to such things.

I know that I have most of the traits included under the listing for ‘Western concepts of Caucasian feminine beauty’:   thin,  fit, long legs, long hair, large breasts, symmetrical face, fair skin, light eyes…  But then, so does an albino spider.

And yet, I can’t help but wonder at the evident beauty looking back at me from those photos.

I didn’t know that before.

Each time I see said ex, he tells me how good I look.  And I always  reply that I look the same.  — Which is both true and not true.

My face, my hair, my body and most of my wardrobe is the same as during the time we spent together.  But now I am being looked at differently.  I am being seen by one who looks for and wants to celebrate my beauty.

And I find that this vision is projected into reality.  A reality where others see me as he does, and where even I am coming to recognize that there is… something…

That beauty may be less in what is actually seen by the beholder, or even in the beholder’s personal categorizing of beauty, but in the magnificence of the beholder themselves…

In the beauty of a man who loves me so well, that his beauty is reflected onto and within me for all to see.

“Sir,” said Han, “he is a dragon.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” said the Mandarin.  “He’s a fat man who is tracking dirt on my fine carpets.  What do you want here, old man?”

“I have come to help you,” said the little fat man.  “But if you want a dragon to help you, you must treat him with courtesy.  I have come a long, weary way.  Give me something to eat and something to drink and speak to me politely, and I will save you.”

“Now, look here,” said the Mandarin.  “Everybody knows what a dragon looks like.”

~ Story by:  Jay Williams / Illustrated by: Mercer Mayer

My mom used to read that story to us over and over again.

Did she read it so much because we loved it?  Or did we love it because of the manifest joy it brought to her upon each telling?

My mom loves dragons.  Chinese Dragons, she was very clear to differentiate.

I remember them tucked into surreptitious corners throughout the house…  A set of 19th century painted candlesticks, a pair of carved bookends, a lamp base that sat on her private writing desk…

I didn’t really recognize them as dragons, having been raised on western dragon tales.  They looked like caricatured Shi Tzu’s to me, and it wasn’t until I was older that I understood there was also a distinction in their symbology.

For, while we in the west (used to stories of Hero-Knights saving Helpless-Maidens from Malevolent-Dragons) demonize the dragon, the Chinese know the dragon as a being of wisdom and grace, a divine ruler who protects the innocent and bestows ultimate good fortune.

Today is the start of the Chinese New Year.  This year (Jan. 23, 2012 – Feb. 9, 2013) is the Year of the Dragon.  This is to be a blessed year.

But I can’t help but wonder what this means for us westerners.  Have our own narratives conditioned in such a way that we will mistake the auspiciousness of this year’s dragon events as ill-fated?

Already, I am challenged to undress the Devil-Dragon and  search for the beneficent guardian underneath.

Last night, my partner spoke of an alternative cancer treatment option he had recently heard about.  He said that he had actually contacted a treatment center and sent them his medical history.

I know this means that he is feeling worse, and more consistently.

This seems bad.

I also know that the medical records he has are incomplete.

His most recent records are from an emergency hospitalization last May, during which he was told the cancer had metastasized to his liver.

In July, he never followed up with the clinic who found he had spindle cell carcinoma of the heart.  (He forgot, he said, when I asked about it yesterday.)

He intentionally missed a series of tests in December, meant to tell him what is currently going on and give him a view of his current state of well-being.

All of this seems really bad.  Like the Dreadful-Dragon of medieval legend rearing its ugly head…

But today, forced to confront these things in our conversation last night, he has promised to call the specialists.

It was the understanding that the spindle cell carcinoma isn’t some harmless little splinter, as he had allowed himself to imagine it to be.

It is a scary, menacing Cancer-Dragon that is enveloping his heart.

But my dragons-of-old could be defeated by David-like knights, and the Chinese Dragon, swooping in on us today, is a different creature, valiant and bold and divine…

‘I believe that my whole creative life stemmed from this magic hour under the stars on that hilltop.’

~ Ruth St. Denis

I love snow.  Big, huge, fluffy snowflakes that actually cover the ground, sticking to the leaves in the trees…  Muting  all artifice until you can’t help but hear the bird cry…

I love to be outside when it’s snowing — to feel it tickling my cheeks and eyelashes, to listen to its silence and all of the promises contained therein, to inhale that essence of transparency, purity…

I love first snows.  They may be among the most sacred experiences ever.  There is something amazing, magical; they overflow with anticipation, excitement, exhilaration…

To behold individual miracles dancing down with such abandon…  If you hold your breath, you have a sneak peek into the moment of creation’s transition — anything and everything can happen in that instant.

And the observer, also, is transformed by the encounter, in the opportunity to also be made different, new… all naïveté and curiosity, filled with wonder and joy and a million possibilities.

It is perhaps this quality of snow that always makes me think of fairy tales.

Do you know the story of Snow White and Rose Red?   A perfect story for any girl’s fantasies…  And the Little Match Girl; the Snow Queen; the Red Shoe; the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe… All of my favorite fairy tales taking place in the snow!

I think that, in my imagination, I even set other fairy tales in the snow, whether or not it’s mentioned… the Shoemaker, the Tinderbox, the Nightingale…  It is snow’s ability to usurp reality, to paint a whole new landscape – dreamscape – that makes it ideal for fancy, for caprice…

Much of my snow obsession is connected to my memory of course…Childhood hours, days, years spent in the snow, playing, laughing, dreaming…  But even my adult memories are filled with snow.  I can place most of the people I love in images of white…

Today, of course, I think of you.  The scene outside the window this morning the same as while I waited, thrilled, readied to see you on our first date.  A hike, an adventure, a piggy-back ride through teasing white expanses…

Actually, in my mind, I think of you as being nearly the same thing — you and snow.  I have the same sensations and reactions to both of you.

My sweetest, most treasured memories of you involve snow… hands touching for the first time, kissing you for the first time, hot-springing under the stars, skating in the dark, sleeping under ancient rafters, finding profound peace and tranquility with my head against your chest, seeing you in that mist sometimes left behind after the snow, talking of love and dreams, reading Proust while driving through a winter wonderland, savoring candlelit dinners and oatmeal breakfasts, loving, loving and so much love…

All a mingling of you, snow and lots of joy, wonder and delight.

Are you watching snow this morning?  Does it settle on the trees outside your window?  The eave above your door?

Do you hold memories of the same?  Music, candlelight, lavender… and the fairy tale ending we knew to be unfeigned?

‘Counting is the religion of this generation, it is its hope and its salvation.’
~Gertrude Stein

A couple of years ago, my roommate, another friend and I were trying to understand our individual relationship patterns and why it was they were not working for us.

Loverly L (the roommate/most treasured friend) suggested an activity in which we would list all of the characteristics that we wanted in a partner.  We would then slowly and methodically narrow them down to four,  the four most essential traits that our perfect partner would have to possess.

The idea was that perhaps we were settling, not necessarily for less than what society prescribes for a good partner, but settling in a way in which we were unknowingly compromising our personal values and desires.

Maybe if we consciously identified what we valued most in a partner and were to look for those things, then other traits, either frustratingly missing or present, may appear to be less significant.

For some reason I was unable to make this list.  As I later tried to complete it on my own, what I realized was that I am less concerned with personality traits than I am with relationship traits.

I find that, given the absence of psychopathy or mental deficiency, most people understand and are able to choose desirable behaviors when they want to.  When they want to be honest they are, when they want to be respectful they are, when they want to be attentive they are… when they don’t care, well…

People choose to behave in valued ways when they value the situation in which they find themselves.

Furthermore, I have no control over the behaviors another person chooses.  However, I do have control over what kind of relationship I am working to create.

The answer then seemed to be to create a context that is equally appreciated by myself and my partner, so that, on our own, we would each choose to behave in the ways that honor the relationship and each other.

I attempted the exercise once again and ultimately came up with four Core Traits that I wished to characterize my next relationship – Equity, Intimacy, Stimulation and Purpose.

Now it may come as a surprise to some of you, but I am an over-achiever.  And so I had to further explore what each of these concepts meant to me, discovering their subtleties and the expanse of their possible connotations…

  • Equity: balanced, respectful, reliable, generous, attentive, trustworthy, responsive, tender, sheltering, an exchange, supportive, holistic, integrated…
  • Intimacy: physical/emotional/spiritual closeness, conscious, present, nurturing, safe, affectionate, kind, generous, open, honest, aware, respectful, caring, compassionate, grateful, protective, joyful…
  • Stimulation: intellectual, communicative, spontaneous, exciting, interesting, surprising, educational, growing, challenging, adventurous, curious, creative, inquiring, wonder-filled, experimental, experiential…
  • Purpose: intentional, self-aware, centered, service-oriented, present, accountable, spiritual, conscious, empowering, prosperous…

Then I met my partner.

Does it still drive me crazy when his lateness makes me late?  Absolutely.

Does he hate the fact that I always turn off my ringer?  Pretty certain that’s a yes.

Are there other issues that I had no way of foreseeing?  Obviously.

But having this list has provided a good place to establish agreement on the form our relationship takes.  It has given a stable foundation on which we can build.  And it has provided a clear focal point to which we can return whenever we are uncertain…

‘Love is the condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.’                                       ~  Robert Heinlein

Yesterday was an amazingly lovely day, with warm weather and blue skies and hikes with lovers along mountain streams.  And this is the setting in which I thought I would attempt to broach the subject of doctors and health and understanding…

The discussion seemed to be going naturally in that direction, flowing with the water…

We were talking of money, my current lack of it, and his generous desire to help me with it.

Now, there is a whole history of reasons why I am uncomfortable taking money from others.  Culturally, we are conditioned to think that needing help, most especially financial help, indicates failure, an avoidable failure, had we only made better decisions, or been more attentive or more industrious or…

Those cultural reasons have been compounded by economic abuses that I have known in other relationships.  Where money was used to control and to shame and to punish.

We discussed those things and his desire to help without any pressure or coercion…  And his hope that I would offer him the chance to demonstrate that…

But I have no fear of his using money or anything else to control me.  He is sincerely respectful and kind and concerned.

But I have refused it thus-far anyway.  My concern is that he cannot truly afford to help me.

There are things that he could use any extra money for… like visiting a doctor.  And this is what I said.

And he just said, as he has said before, even in the midst of great pain, that the doctors can’t really do anything for him.

So I replied, in my typical need-to-know-everything fashion, “But they can at least give you an idea of where you are right now.  That would allow you to look at all of the options and choose whatever seems best for you.”

And he answered, “I am happier now than I have ever been…”

“I am afraid they will say something that will steal my happiness.”

… So, there you go.  How do you knowingly send anyone down a dark alley to have their happiness mugged?

How do you rob joy from anyone?  especially the dying?  especially the one you love?

How can my desire for preparation, essentially for some kind of control in this unmanageable situation, ever be worth stealing my lover’s happiness?

‘This show is a roller coaster of emotions – there’s comedy, anticipation, tears of joy… and no-one can take an audience on a better ride than that.’   ~Andrea Wong

Sometimes I cry when I’m overwhelmingly happy.

This can be disconcerting to observers, especially when they are more than observers and are actual participants in my happiness.  This might be most disconcerting to unsuspecting lovers.

Sex can sometimes make me very happy.  Happy to the point of overflowing tears.

There is a moment – you know the one, when I no longer need air, when I am wrapped in the splendor of split light, when whatever I once was has dissolved into the stardust of the universe – when all that remains is a suffusion of joy and love…

And tears.

I have known this state of moist emotion at the vast love that I have for another, at the expansion that happens when all the seeds of creation are waiting to germinate and bloom in the warmth of the love radiating from within me.

I have known this state of damp sensation at the immense love that another has offered me, at the sanctuary that exists when they have draped my body, mind and soul with the verdant branches of loving me so well.

I have known this flowing phenomenon at the great sadness that follows the pressing recognition that both stimuli are not present, together.

Why does it seem as if the balance of loving and being loved is just too delicate to achieve?

Why would I experience such ardorous depths for one who will never comprehend them?  Who will never value them or me or us in the same way?

Why would the profound tenderness and delight I have for another not match the passion proffered?   The adoration so worthy of being returned?