At tender age of twenty-four
I stood at the crossroads obscure.
The rightly path in front of me
lay thickets bare and thornily.
I could not muster courage strong
for that path so I chose the wrong.
I took the dead-end path instead
and danced and danced on feet that bled
until at last I came around.
Inside myself a new path found.
Through letting go in present tense
uncoded psychic dissonance.
This time I heeded inner call
walking without a fear to fall.
Darkness no longer terrifies
when clarity and truth belies.
Tag Archives: personal growth
At tender age of twenty-four
A friend of mine once said, “To know yourself is to know yourself in love and honey, at some point, you have to stop learning.”
I was in the middle of yet another ship-wrecked romantic entanglement, doing the love contortionist jig-a-ma-joo, bending, twisting, crunching, folding, tap-dancing and stretching myself into a shape I thought would make the relationship work, as though the problem could be fixed if I simply conformed to the image of his expectations, his needs. My partner was sweating just as hard, bouncing off of me at odd angles, trying to catch himself before he broke the furniture.
Of course it hurt to squeeze myself into an unnatural container but so did being alone. I hoped that a little hard work would compensate for a bad fit, but, of course, it didn’t. It never does. You can’t have a homely beauty queen, no matter how great her personality is, and that’s just the harsh truth Ruth.
When we’re young, we are easily swept away by the tidal-wave of romantic love. We expect it to hold the answer to the question of life. We hope it will show us the yellow brick road of our lost, confused souls. We will do anything to hold onto that love even when it hurts, when it scorches, when it consumes.
We go from relationship to relationship searching for fulfillment, as though such a thing as the hole of love can be fulfilled. We are too young to know that love and loss go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. Loss is the price we pay for having the gift of love. Period. There is no way to fix this. No remedy for such things. They are only meant to be lived, expressed and accepted.
I remember first meeting my fiance. I wasn’t looking for a man when he came into my life. I thought maybe it was time to let go of the whole romantic thing. I was ready to toss it in the trash with the curling irons and steam rollers from so many ill-fated hairdo’s.
A gay friend of mine once suggested that if neither one of us found a partner by a certain date, we would buy a house and move in together and just have each other as companions. We would write our own version of happily-ever-after. After so many failed relationships, on the brink of my fortieth birthday, I was considering taking him up on his offer.
But after a series of magical, sacred heart opening experiences (involving yoga retreats, sweat lodges, singing naked on a Vancouver beach, you know, my kinda stuff) my heart said yes to him. And my grizzly ole’ thumper ain’t never ever said yes to nobody! It’s not that I hadn’t loved before. I had. Deeply. It’s just that I’d never had the sanction of my inner voice.
In fact, once, when getting involved with a younger man, my inner voice said quite clearly: no no no no no! Now the inner voice is usually subtle. She speaks in metaphor, in feeling. But this time, sista came through loud and clear, saying, and I quote, “He does not belong to you. You will have to give him back.”
Did I listen to sista? Naaah! Of course not. I went on a roller-coaster ride of sorrow that lasted four years, not counting the year and a half it took me to get over him after we finally broke up.
But this time, with the man who is now my fiance (applause, applause, thank you) I got the go ahead from Inside. Sista said softly, at last, “Yes.” Our first real get together was at a party for a mutual friend. As I was getting ready (cute outfit, not too hoochy) sista spoke up again. She said something like, “Just go along with whatever happens tonight.” And I said, “Ok,” and she said, “Ok,” and we said, “Ok, Ok.”
The first stop of the party was at a drag show, and you know I love me some drag. But the show ended rather early (that’s Boston for you). Some people from our group wandered off, but about six or seven of us, including my suitor, were still itching to party. So we go to a strip club.
Now, this is where I have to remember what sista said because, Lord have mercy, I think of myself as a spiritual, feminist type. But strangely, at the suggestion of the strip club, my hackles do not go up. I play along.
[Mom, if you are reading this, please skip the next two paragraphs.]
All of the dancers look so young. All I can do is think about dey poor mamas at home, hunched over the kitchen table with a half-empty bottle of scotch, wringin’ dey hands with the worry, wondrin’ what went wrong. I am about to reconsider when a fine lookin’ sister starts her strut down the stairs to the stage. Suddenly, I hear a ding in the universe. She is hot hot HOT! Cyrille, my suitor, elbows me in the side. Says, “This is gonna be good.”
Indeed. Now, as a dancer, I gotta give her props. She was workin’ that pole like nobody’s business. She sported a hoe-stamp tatoo of the letter “T” and forever after, she is “Miss T” to us. She was like some Hindu goddess and we were under her spell. She broke through the barrier of fear around my heart like a knife through creamed cheese. We followed her, dazed, to the back room where Miss T gave us a lap dance and Cyrille and I shared our first kiss. And a little extra. Hehe ;).
Actually, it was.
And the rest is history.
Throughout our courtship, followed by moving in together and our engagement, there has been little resistance. My fear perked its ugly head up out of its rat-hole from time-to-time. Sniffed around. Poked Cyrille in the ribs here and there to see if he’s real, but eventually, I dropped my contortionist routine. I didn’t need it anymore. I started to let go. It’s not just that I love him, it’s that, well, to put it in new age-y lingo, our frequencies align.
Recently, I came across an old boyfriend on Facebook. My first love, in fact. We hadn’t spoken in over fifteen years. When I saw his face again, different and the same, I realized that the love was still there. It would always be there, but what I can see now that I couldn’t see before in the chaos of young love is that we could not be together in a long-lasting way because we are too different. I could never need the things he needs in life and vice versa. To love him is to honor that.
In other words, we can tune into each other’s frequency, but that takes some focus. The frequency that we tune to is too far from our normal resting, every day frequency. We have to work at finding the place where we meet. There’s nothing wrong with this. We do it naturally with others all the time. But a marriage, it does not make.
So, here goes. Marriage round two for both of our old, middle-aged asses. And I haven’t forgotten about the love and loss part I talked about earlier. I have to accept that. As much as I love to joke on this blog, knowing that we will change, that this state of affairs will someday end, hopefully in death, brings a stream of tears down my face.
Well, it’s good to cry. It means it’s special.
I grew up in a family of politicos whose views extended as far left as the eye could see, with the exception of my brother who briefly flirted with Republicanism, mostly out of rebellion towards my mother. Family dinners were a stew of heated debate. Though I sat mostly listening, silently enthralled, I never seemed to develop a political bug. I was an arteest.
I have always hated to watch the news, all doom and gloom. I’m sensitive. But at some point, art becomes political. Spirit becomes political. With all the stuff brewing in the world right now, I just can’t look away.
Funny thing about the news is there is so much obvious stuff that doesn’t get mentioned. Anchors tip-toe around the pink elephant in the news room, exhaling a sigh of relief when it’s time for sports and weather. Today, Hilary Clinton denounced the murder of the four white tourists yachting off the coast of Somalia as a tragedy. While I’m sorry that those people lost their lives, isn’t the real tragedy here, um, Somalia?
I don’t know the whole story of Somalia’s history, but I know the story of colonialism in Africa. My Somalian-born neighbor, Usef from up the street, gave me some gory details that made me sympathetic to the so-called pirates. Not the pirates responsible for the recent murders, but the Somali pirates in general. From his point of view, foreign colonizers and business interests were the real pirates. They started this fight. I’m not that smart, but if I was rich and white, or just rich, or just white, or just anybody come to think of it, now would not be the time to take a private cruise off the coast of Somalia.
And another thing, harumph, the corporations, as they have for decades, are trying to get rid of unions in order to get more power. As if they don’t have enough. Why isn’t the emphasis on taxing the rich instead of taking away a teacher’s friggin’ pension? People argue that high taxes push business away, and no jobs will be created, but those people have a short memory. That’s not how it started. Business left this country out of greed in the first place. Now, not only are they not paying their fair share of taxes, but they are also not creating jobs. And debt is the state workers’ fault? Well, we may not have a dictator to overthrow, but we got some seriously greedy business booty to bust. And they’re not armed. Yet.
Now that I’ve gotten myself all riled up as perhaps you get watching the evening news, it might be a good time to point out that, while I’m angry, I don’t want there to be a violent revolution here. I want there to be a revolution of love and consciousness. And I believe, as I’ve stated before, that, no matter what, everyone gets to grow. I don’t want anyone to be punished, not even corrupt politicians and corporate bosses. Let’s not waste any more time on that. I want us to expand our consciousness towards compassion. I want us to lead with love and consciousness instead of fear. Without that, we will eventually end up right back where we started.
Perhaps, since the time of “civilization,” we’ve suffered from the effects of CFG (competitive, fearful grasping). In politics and business, it’s things as usual. But I have the sense that something is changing. It’s not just that people are fed up. Something is changing in us spiritually. For the first time in history, people are becoming empowered to listen inwardly and develop a spirituality separate from organized religions.
While there is evidence everywhere of many structures falling apart, there is also evidence of things coming together in new ways. For instance, there is a stereotype of people who take yoga as being kinda granola-y. There is a stereotype of people who do hip-hop as being urban, mostly black, youth. But, I see the same demographic of people taking yoga as I do in my Saturday morning hip-hop class. And guess what? The demographic is everybody, all ages, cultures, sexual-orientations and colors. There was a time when that just would not happen, in Boston or anywhere.
Our inner voices are telling us that it’s ok to love what you or others previously held apart. We are listening and trusting that inner voice more and more. Even after over thirty years dancing, it’s still a little scary to show up to a new class. I can only imagine the courage it takes for someone who has never danced before, as is clearly the case for some. When I see a middle-aged, Asian business man for instance, strutting across the dance studio gettin’ his swag on, I think, wow, now that’s my nigga! Somethin’s changin’ y’all. And maybe things like yoga, spirituality and the arts are leading the way…
“What are you doing?” I ask Mr. Octopus.
“Gettin’ my krrrump on!”
“Oh, I was worried you were having a seizure.”
He’s right, as usual. It’s ok to get angry. To feel hurt, betrayed, but, God, Spirit, Ancestors, please grant me/us the grace, to, even in the throes of our anger, leave hate and love.
“Nothing, not even your breath is your own. You do not live, but are lived by the divine being.” –Adi Da Samraj
Ok, so we play these roles. It’s usually not all that conscious although every once in a while, I’ll catch myself in the mirror while playing “teacher” and wonder, who’s that with the big teeth?
As I grow older, the distinction between various roles softens, blurs at the edges, but is still there. I wonder if growing up has to do with some roles coalescing while others just slough off, until you are truly one person, like a big old pot of beef stew. In the meantime, while learning, or rather, remembering the One, I try to fulfill each role as best I can. To live my highest truth in the moment.
Blah, blah, blah. See? I was doing it just now: the bit about “living my highest truth in the moment,” otherwise known as propaganda for the role of “being spiritual.” Hahaha!
I guess I feel the most myself when I am alone, but we can’t be alone all the time. So we venture forth to find company and lo and behold, the role-playing starts. The presence of others makes us self-reflective. Largely, what informs the emergence of different roles is one’s perception of how he or she is perceived by others. We create our roles according to what we think others expect of us, or according to how we think people see us. This perspective is mostly inaccurate.
“You were funny last night,” says a mischievous Mr. Octopus.
“Yeah. We had people over, so I put on makeup, you know, wanting to look nice–”
“And, poor thing, couldn’t stop agonizing about whether or not red lipstick was appropriate for Super Bowl Sunday!”
“I missed all the commercials, distracted as I was!”
“That’s prrrobably for the best.”
“Was it too much? The red?”
“Daaahrling, you looked fabulous.”
Discipline plays an important part in sustaining these roles, but discipline has its limits, even for ex-ballerinas. It does, however, keep us going til the end, and I am a big fan of thoroughness. But eventually we outgrow even the most well-worn and comfortable of roles. They become like memories of another life. They die, often preceded by a final burst, an expansion, like a star before getting sucked into the black hole. It can be scary, but it’s usually our minds that make it so. Scary mind, scary death. I’m convinced it doesn’t have to be that way. I’m convinced that learning to shed out-dated roles gracefully is a preparation for the ultimate letting go.
Popular culture exploits our fear of letting go. A lot of money is generated by keeping us afraid of what might happen, of what we stand to lose. What would we buy if we actually lived with the acceptance of losing everything? With the acceptance that even our heartbeat is on lease. Clearance sale! Everything must go!
It takes a lot of effort to not get too caught up, to stay present with what actually is, now. Upon reflection, in spite of my fears, most of my transitions have been graceful and this gives me hope. A friend of mine once said that depression results when we resist change. Eventually, even the most stubborn among us will get a kick in the tuckas by spirit when we’ve over-stayed our welcome. They have a way of taking things into their own hands but their ways are sometimes not so nice. You know, those big, nasty, mafioso spirits that come by and bust you in the kneecaps every so often. Make you wake up and pay up!
There really is no going back.
Mythology warns us against even looking back, but of course we do. We look back, unless you’re some kind of enlightened master jedi or something. Hopefully, we take the time to mourn our lost roles and carry them with us for a while, usually until we’ve found a new one to inhabit. It’s hard to be completely without one, at peace with the void.
Sometimes I resist letting go because I feel like I have to sustain a role for the benefit of others who need me to remain as I am, but this is perhaps grandiose thinking. Perhaps what we really need and what is best for everyone is for all of us to be what we see ourselves as being.
I’m talking about letting ourselves be gently guided by that inner voice. To become our own unique flower. To have faith in the process and courageously let go of who we were for what we’ll be. To recognize and acknowledge that the more we practice letting go, the better it gets. And even then, with all that, to remember, in the midst of our identification with what we become and become and become, that we are more than anything we can become.
“That’s quite the agenda you got going there,” says Mr. Octopus.
“Yeah, well. What the hell? Might as well go for it.”