Today I Have Hope

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Today I have hope

Even though in this small world bombs are flying

And fingers are pointing to billions who are easy to blame

For the crimes of a few angry men and women

Who still choose hate

Today, I have hope.

Even though our own police force murders those they are sworn to protect

And even though some people say it is not about race

This hate

THIS HATE

TODAY

I have hope.

Even though in a place of prayer a man can gun down

Innocent and peaceful lives and we don’t cry out

TERRORIST!

Because he is

WHITE.

Today, I have hope.

Because those families forgave,

and in the midst of the greatest sorrow chose LOVE over hate

Today, I have hope.

Because when I awoke to hear about the bombing in Tunisia the beheading in France the hatred

The hatred

THE HATRED

and the ignorance

Today, I also saw rainbows

and tears of joy.

Today a marginalized group was given more of a voice.

Today a step was taken towards equality and freedom of choice.

Because LOVE won

Today

I have hope.

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Stephanie Strikes Again and The Power of Choice

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When I was around 10 years old I had a major growth spurt. Suddenly I was taller than all the kids in my class, boys and girls. I no longer knew where my body was in space, I was all gangly arms and legs. I can’t say coordination had ever been my strong suit but this really brought on a whole new level of not good enough, which for me was already a strong theme.

At home, we tried to have dinner together every night as a family. There was my coordinated and athletic father and older sister, and even my mom who though she was out of shape from motherhood and tried to diminish her skills was in fact a very coordinated individual and a beautiful skier. And then there was me. At every dinner a glass of milk, water, or whatever was on the table would inevitably encounter my seemingly disembodied arm and go flying. An exasperated sigh, or sometimes laughter, often the rolling of the eyes would ensue and along with whatever gesture the phrase that in part defined my adolescence was uttered; ‘Stephanie Strikes Again!’ This happened EVERY. NIGHT. For years. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure if I had a kid and that kid was dropping, spilling, and breaking her way through life I would also feel exasperation, frustration, a sense of humor around it, and myriad other emotions that likely passed through my family, none of them intending to harm me or make the matter worse.

My “condition” persisted after I left home. Clumsy was so ingrained in me that I didn’t really consider the possibility of being anything but. It was as much a part of my identity as being a skinny bookish nature girl. In my early college years I lived with an amazing woman, a true friend who changed my life with a few minutes of conversation. She said that my habits of spilling, dropping, tripping, and falling were all perpetuated by the never-ending exclamation of Stephanie Strikes Again. It had become expected of me, and I was fulfilling those expectations. Then came the miracle. She told me I could CHOOSE not to be clumsy anymore. CHOOSE to be aware of where my body was in space. From that conversation on, I literally stopped being a clumsy person. Not that accidents didn’t still happen, of course they did, and do to this day. They happen to everyone, but they do not define me any longer and there are many more days that go by where I don’t spill, drop, break or injure myself than those where I do. It is not inherent in me to be clumsy.

It’s pretty well known that humans in general try to live up to the expectations set for them. A common management tool that I have used with great success is to thank an employee for doing what you WANT THEM TO DO. Tell the chronic late person that you appreciate their timeliness. It doesn’t work on everyone of course, but most people try to live up. The same goes for negative expectations. Words are incredibly powerful, especially when coming from the people we respect, expect to learn from, and from whose behavior we model our own. Choice is even more powerful than expectations. Above all, how we see ourselves in the world, how we fit and how we don’t is a construct of our own creation. I choose that I am coordinated, aware, conscientious, thoughtful, and kind. Every day. If I drop something, I drop something, but I am STILL COORDINATED. I get to choose. Whatever happens, how I frame it and what I make it mean are my choice. That is real power.

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Love is Not Enough

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When I was young, I believed that once love came to my life, everything would fall into place. That whatever the trials it brought, whatever the lessons, love alone would be enough to sustain, a sort of glue that would bind two hearts in perpetuity.

He came into my life on a breath of wind from the desert. The first time we met I was so disoriented I got lost on my drive home. I described him to my friends as the most interesting man I had ever met, and qualified it with the statement that I would never date him. After all, he told me he was going back to Africa in 3 years, and when he spoke of his homeland, the love he felt for it filled all the spaces in the room. I was searching for a partner to share my life, so I decided he would be my friend. He decided the moment he looked at me that I was the love he had been waiting for. He texted me daily with morning greetings and evening good nights. It was strange that it didn’t irritate me. I thought it was kind of sweet. A few weeks after we met, I ran into him at a bar. I was with another man who I had just met. As soon as I saw him, all thoughts of being just a friend vanished. All I wanted was for the guy I was with to disappear (he did), so I could be with this most fascinating man. He is tall and strong, with quiet confidence. And when he put his arm around me that night I literally melted into him. When I kissed him I was completely lost. I don’t get overcome very easily, though I write about it in poetry, it’s always a feeling I want to experience, not one I AM experiencing. Yet here I was in the so desired state of bliss, with the comfort of those who have known each other for lifetimes. I felt like I was dating the most interesting man in town. Maybe even the whole state. Possibly the world.

I did what I do so often in relationships. I excused what I knew didn’t work for me, painted over it with all the parts that did work. I vowed never to date a smoker, a huge trigger for me from a childhood of watching my father die slowly, always with a cigarette in his hand. Here I was loving a man with a pack a day habit, listening to him tell me he was going to quit and believing in the strong mystique of his tribal fierceness that for him it would not be a problem.

I love to talk about life and emotions and what makes us the way we are. I love to extract the gems from the depths of our beings. Rabbit holes are my favorite hang out spot. Yet here I was loving a man who preferred not to speak at all, and when he did they were nostalgic stories. Fascinating stories, the stuff of dreams that were his formative years as a desert nomad. I clung to the moments of storytelling, living without any dialogue about our present states, who we were, who we wanted to be, what works for us. I dissolved into the exceptionally affectionate arms of a silent warrior. I felt protected. I felt like love was enough.

I believed that I was with a man who loved me as I was. Who never asked me to change. I felt guilt for all the things I wanted to change about him. I did ask for what I needed, and spoke candidly about what I wanted in the beginning. It was met with a firm ‘this is not who I am’. And I stayed, not honoring my needs, until I finally realized that while he did love me, it really wasn’t for me as I am. I chose to silence myself, until resentment built, until I no longer craved his embrace. When that moment happened I knew I could no longer explore the land of silence, it was time to talk about us.

The agony of anticipation wrecked my nervous system for a week. Delaying the inevitable until the timing was appropriate created a space for stories to be told, outcomes divined, nerves raw and stomach roiling in the unknown land of limbo. I did my best to center myself and finally believed I was okay with any outcome. I arrived at his house in a state of resolve, and none of the scenarios I played out beforehand were even close to the reality I encountered.

He too wanted to talk. For him, it is the inevitable leaving. Whether it’s because he is a desert dweller in a northern forest, or simply the nature of a nomad, we both know he is not happy living in my version of paradise. The desert he loves makes me sick with heat. The rain I love drowns his happiness.

As we talked and the layers of discontent were peeled away I found that the only thing left was the love we had for each other. I was somewhat surprised to discover my heart broken, shuddering tears as I left his arms. He asked me to stay, wanted me to stay, yet the feeling I had when he held me while I cried was the same solid strength and comfort of the beginning of our romance, and it burdened me with a torrent of grief. We resolved to be friends always, which mostly comforted but also left a residual ache. A wondering if we might get it right in the next lifetime. If we might arrive with what it takes to make love survive. For love alone is not enough.

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Relationships: Evolution through song

The Song:

Brandi Carlile, ‘What Can I Say’

The Story, Part 1:

You showed up at my studio, half drunk, missing my company. For two years we had been lovers, friends, travel companions. I didn’t listen to your words, instead I wrote the story of your actions. I wanted to be near you so I didn’t ever really leave, and you didn’t ask me to. I lived in your house, though I never moved anything over, never unpacked the pack that contained my clothes. I seem to remember hauling a laundry basket that would sit in the corner of your room. I think I may have hung a coat up in the hall closet. I took care not to place my things on your shelves, not to have a drawer or clothes in your closet. You didn’t want a relationship. I didn’t want to believe that. On the few occasions I went to my “house”, the place I paid rent, you usually showed up in the middle of the night to sleep with me. I wrote that as a relationship into the story I created about us. I decided definitions couldn’t define us.

 

I can’t say I was entirely surprised, though I was devastated on the evening we had gotten dressed up to go to an awards ceremony for my work. On the drive over you told me you had met a girl and you wanted to ask her out. Maybe you had already kissed her, I can’t remember the details anymore. I just know that I left. I moved out. It was pretty easy, though by then I do recall having more than just the laundry basket at your house.

 

I got a studio above my friends’ house. I painted it and hung artwork and I made it my own, my safe place to fall apart in. It was small, and it felt like those close walls couldn’t hold the pieces of me that had shattered. Then one night, a couple months later I think, you showed up. I can’t recall what was said, though I know I wanted to touch you, and I know I wanted to be strong. Then you asked me if I had heard the song. I had, you know I love her music. You told me you had been learning it on guitar and every time you played it you thought of me. It cut me down and put me back together all at once to know. We finally had a song. A broken hearted love song. A why would you choose someone else if that’s how you feel song. An I love you so strong I can’t even breathe song.

 

The Story, Part 2:

I guess it’s been eight years now since we split up. It could be nine, you know I’ve never been good with time. We accomplished the impossible, or at least the not at all recommended by our friends. We supported each other through the break up. Ok, that’s not fair. You supported me. You really took it on, in that serious way you have when you make up your mind. It couldn’t have been easy for you, having me push and test and ask the same questions over and over, hoping for a different answer. Yet we were resolved to having each other in our lives, damn the trials it would take to do it. For years that song would trigger in me emotions that lived so deeply they must have been petrified in my soul. Hearing it would send me into fits of despair, where I would end up calling you since hey, you agreed to support me through all this, and again ask you why. I don’t think I ever acknowledged that I must have smothered you. Both in our…relationship…and probably after as well. I didn’t really know it until I had someone who wouldn’t give me the space to breathe. Until I saw how hard it was to ask for that.

Well, that song doesn’t get much airplay anymore and for some reason when I put my music on shuffle, it doesn’t usually come up. I heard it the other day for the first time in a long time. I will always think of you when I do. Only now we live thousands of miles apart, you don’t show up on my doorstep anymore. I believe you are in love and I really like her, and knowing that does nothing but make my heart shine with happiness for you both. Now, when I hear the song, I don’t wonder why it wasn’t me. I am not broken by it anymore. I let it drift through the cracks I’ve mended and fill me up.   I remind myself that long ago, that song was you loving me. I know. We always will. And I don’t regret a second of it.

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Hunger

I think this poem is my favorite of all that I’ve written.  From last December.  I’ve been saving it, until I realized I don’t know what I’m saving it for.  I hope you enjoy, and would love to hear any thoughts you might have.  Thanks for reading!

 

I’ve been starved so long I can’t remember

The sated feeling you brought to the table of my surrender

When you split me open and feasted on the light

I murmured, my mind is hungry

Will you feed me tonight?

So you emptied my soul on the kitchen table

A pallet on the floor, two cushions for a cradle

Where you lay my head

My arms unable to reach around the space you had created

So I called out, my mind is hungry

Will you feed me tonight?

And you looked at me with eyes half remembering

The bondage of words, you were quick to tether me

To a precipice so steep it could not contain the images you had lain before me

And you left me

Clinging

To a word I could not speak

So I shouted

My mind is hungry

Feed me

Tonight.

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Screaming Heart

More often than not, when I write poetry, I feel like I can’t really take credit for it. Words come into my head from the ether, and if I happen to have a pen and paper handy they get written down. Sometimes they are modified but mostly what comes first stays. This one was a bit unusual in that it came out in song (just need someone to figure out the notes I was singing), and I had no idea what it related to at first. Only later did it come to me, that it was for a friend and their current situation. And for you, if you like it and can relate.

I am not responsible for your sometimes bleeding
Sometimes screaming heart
I can’t find the pieces anymore
For the things you think you want
I won’t be the rock for you to undermine
Turning me to dust
I must lay my own body to the ground
And find a way to fill me up
Fill me up
You are not responsible for my open heart
And the mess it’s got me in
You don’t need to look for the promises
That I wanted you to give
I don’t want a hero anymore
I’m flying on my own
I have wings you’ve never seen boy
I have wings you’ll never know
You’ll never know.
06.2014

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Wild Woman

More poetry, an older one.  I’ll run out of those already written that I wish to share soon, which should will prompt some fresh ones!  Hope you enjoy,
 

National Park Huerquehue, Chile

National Park Huerquehue, Chile


Wild Woman

I am a wild woman, I am at home here with the trees

Their bends and sways seem to convey this is all I’ll ever need

I am a wild woman, smoke rises inside of me

I am lifted beyond the mountains when their body is beneath my feet

I am a wild woman, breezes swim inside of me

They are gentle, strong, and honest

Like my lover ought to be

I am a wild woman, my life is written perfectly

In sandstone mesas, granite vistas, and the ever swirling sea

All of this speaks inside of me

That I am wild

That I am free.

Futaleufu, Chile

Futaleufu, Chile

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