In Defense of a Simple Life

I can’t sleep. Up too late with thoughts running circles round my mind. It seems that life is moving faster all the time, each year, no, each month, swifter than the last. I can’t catch up. Here, in this culture where woman wear busyness like a badge of honor, I just want it all to slow down.

I an eternal optimist, I can’t help it, I try to be surly at times but to no avail. I always optimistically believe, despite evidence to the contrary, that I will have more “free” time, sometime in the near future…but sometime is never here. It looms, ever in the future, just out of reach, I could almost touch it if I just reach a little bit farther.

The ideal of the woman who can do everything is a crock of shit. I know this,I feel it in my bones. I know how marketing works, how swindled we all are. If it isn’t a fashion mag we are comparing ourselves with, its that perfect remodel on HGTV. There is no end to the cascade of false ideals dumped on our doorsteps each day. How can we know what is real amidst this storm of consumerist coercion? It insidiously creeps into our minds, thoughts we thought were our own, when opened for examination have no origin in us. This is madness. This drives us to madness.

I myself, am in a daily struggle. The desire to “produce” more, be it income, social capital, or even beauty. Weighed against the truth that I am tired, and I don’t want to play the game anymore.  I cannot hold it all up, and hold it to the standard that I desire to. Things begin to crumble. I cannot be it all, I cannot do it all. I feel this, and I am in a two income family with one grown child. What must this feel like for my friends with little ones at home and bills piling up on bills? Is this the equality we have been fighting for? Somehow it feels like we have missed the mark. “killin it” seems to be killing us.
And yes, of course this is a grand generalization, and I can only speak from my point of view. Still, I see so many women suffering under the delusion that we can multi-task our way to a picture perfect life, that it is time to pull back the curtain on that lie, expose it’s ugly underbelly and begin to engage in some real revolutionary work.

Could it be that in my relentless pursuit of becoming, I have lost myself? Lost the thread I am meant to hold throughout my life, the thread that William Stafford calls to us to cling tightly to? If this is what matters, and I think it does, what has to be sacrificed? What must I lay down in order to have a hand to hold the thread in?

There is this thing, called “too much” that surrounds us. We are so inundated by the cultural messages of acquisition that we fail to see how deep this patterning is. Peers of mine who eschew the commercialized ideals of the “American Dream” (who knows what that even means anymore) still ascribe to the doctrine of acquisition and hope, through a Hodge podge of progressive spiritual ideals that are in fact selling us the same thing. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss. I am not above this, how many weekend courses have I taken trying to become a better version of me? How many crystals and smudges do I have right now in this very room where I write? Spiritual capitalism at its finest.

It seems that the only way to get off this mad train is to turn and face it looming behind me. To stand firmly in my two shoes and say “no more!” I am unwilling to trade growth for depth any longer. I am unwilling to sacrifice the sanctity of my life to meet some ideal that is not even my own. I will no longer be 3 miles wide and 2 inches deep, I want to be a  well, a spring,  dig deep and find sweet water, here.

I am learning to identify barriers to connection in my life, competition is one, perfectionism is right up there as well. What can I reclaim, or claim for the first time to bring sanity back into my life? I’ve been thinking on this and simple as it sounds, and not surprisingly, I think it has something to do with vulnerability and acceptance. If I can learn to see all the ways I am striving towards unreal expectations or doctrines, than maybe I can turn myself around. Connection is the antidote to bullshit, in fact,  I am pretty sure it is the antidote to all the woes of western civilization.

When I allow myself to be vulnerable, to show my multi layered imperfection, I am open to connection. I can have friends at my house that is messy, I can eat with joy and abandon without concern for what others think of my size or shape, I can speak my mind and heart, not tip toe around others. Which in this PC world feels like it is more an more necessary. Truly, it is not. Disagreeing with someone does not mean you don’t love them. In fact, differing opinions are a healthy thing, if we are all the same it is pretty boring out there.

So I am learning to be uncomfortable, to listen when the feelings of ” I need to be….” arise. It takes so many forms, there are so many things and ways I have been taught I need to be to, to  be worthy, to be accepted. It is a lie. I am, and will be, a whole healthy human woman, even if I don’t meet the standards, even if I look a little frazzled at the edges. I am taking a stand. Because you know what? No one else is going to do it for me. I am going deep, holy well deep. I plant my feet on this soil I call home and I will stay here. I will joyfully  grow my food, raise my hens, sleep beside my husband. I will listen to the quite yearning of my own sweet heart, and stay, home. I will, day by day divorce myself from the system that says I must be more. I am enough. I am woman,  I am home, and I am grateful.

Marianna Louise Jones

*image is of St Fumac’s holy well, Canmore Scotland

 

 

 

 

 

 

Longing for Home

There is living in me a deep yearning. It pulls at me, like the ocean waves dragging back out at low tide. The intensity changes, the force ebbs and flows, but the tide always comes back in and goes back out again. I am not sure quite what the yearning is for, it is a somehow felt sense that there is more than all of this. More than work and play, more than family and obligations, more than creative work, even more than joy. It is a pull equal to the calling of the magnetized lines of the earth that call to the flocks of geese that make there way south in the winter, spilling out in long v shaped formations through the sky overhead. There is something missing, we have lost that which makes us human, I do not know my way home anymore, I do not know if home exists. Not here, not now. How do we make home alive again? How do we learn to become human?

A wise man once told me “hold on to your NO.” This is the “NO” that screams in the night, that this is not the way it all should be, we are built for more than this. We have been robbed. This is the “NO” that echoes in my bones and pulls at my heart like that ebbing tide. People talk all the time, this is wrong, that is wrong, it is all wrong. Hell, I am one of those people….but this “NO” is deeper. This does not speak simply of what is wrong, but of where we went wrong. What befell a people whereby more than half the women take medicine to make their lives palatable? Whereby children are drugged to sit in school all day, forced to ignore the innate wisdom of their own young bodies urge to be free? Oh, wait, there I go again…asking what is wrong, it’s a beginning I will give you that, but a sorely one. My skill at deeper questioning is still a developing one, I am a fledgling, seeking meaning, falling hard onto rough ground.

As Painful as it is to hold this aching longing in me, to feel the resounding NO! that echoes in the air… there is beauty here too. To have this heart that sees the folly of our cultural doctrines and searches desperately for more, is a true gift. If I could not feel the pull, I would not dare to ask the questions, or to embark on the perilous journey of seeing what is hidden, hearing what is silenced, feeling what hurts so deeply. The cult of hope and potential would have me firmly in its grip. As it stands I have found a chink in the armor of this empire, a small fissure in the stone of cultures wall. I can place my finger tip there, and feel a breeze on the other side. The whisper of how it all could be. I have abandoned hope, but I have something much truer, faith. I have faith that we can learn, and unlearn, break down and build up, fetch and carry. Grow a new way of living in right relationship with the wild eyed world we dwell on and in.

I hold my “NO” close to my breast, I hold it like a soft flame, tending it from the wind that blows, like a tiny rabbit, so small yet so strong. My body feels the “NO”  and tells me when I must remember to kindle it alive. When I am torn between ease and rigor, when I might choose the shortest way but the longest is the truer path, when I might say what I do not mean but mean what I do not say. My “NO” beats loudly in my ears and whispers sweetly but urgently…”Don’t go back to sleep….”

Sometimes I do not know where to turn, what comes next, how to proceed or believe. Yet I do feel the silent aching pull of my body, calling for home. I know ways to connect and give. I know the power of 3 breaths in silence before I act. I know that others too feel the call for home, for something more than all this chaos. All these busy days and sleepless nights, torrents of noise and light, the stars hiding their faces behind the glow of cityscapes electric fog. From a 1000 miles away I can feel your hand reaching for mine. I can feel soft soil calling for our feet to bless her with their footprints. I can hear a soft high fiddle that plays as we gather around the fire at night, voices joining with her stringed melody. I know the feeling of your body warm and swaying next to mine, hand in hand. Visions of home calling us. I can taste it on my tongue. I am hungry.

 

Mine is the Morning

Rising before dawn, greeting the day to come, a steaming kettle, my pen and ink, real writing on real paper. The air is sweet and cool still, Autumns turning feels fresh on my skin, I love edge times. When seasons bleed into each other, chilled mornings and bright afternoons, the potential for change is ripe.

Morning has always been my time, when Alice was young it was the time I had to spend a few minutes alone, frequently writing, praying or a combination thereof, with my morning coffee comfortably beside me. My ritual is much the same, now, Alice may be readying herself for work, or sleeping in. I no longer wake her and ready her for the day. Our relationship is no longer one of hands on parenting in that sense, at 19 she’s now her own morning maker. I find myself with more space for quite goodness, reconciling with the day to come, more writing, some yoga and perhaps an extra cup of coffee some days.

I have this image in my mind of gathering back together, like pieces of a broken mirror, or rough edges of quilt patchwork being lined up before stitching. I feel this way, I am unstitched. Sleep seems to separate me somehow, it is hard to put into words, morning gathering time. All of me arriving in one place, as if perhaps I travelled elsewhere through the night and only now arrive home. Maybe it is so, dreams seem to hold a power and purpose of which I cannot claim to begin to understand.

I have read about the idea of a “power morning.” A purposeful start to the day, early morning achievements to set the tone for positivity and productivity. I have even been accused of this practice by some well meaning folk. This is not so, my morning ritual is one of habit rather than one of virtue. As often as I find myself in simple contentment  I find myself in a fractured sorrow and wondering what the meaning of this all is, if there is a meaning at all. Quiet reverie is lovely and all, but this is real life, and real life hurts.

What I notice in my experience is that this time, be it in joy or in sorrow, connects me to myself. Mornings of bustled busyness and podcast listening as a get ready for work, feel like an attempt to not feel me. A scattered escape into the worlds demands, a diversion from really feeling. Stephen Harrod Buehner, one of the great thinkers of our time says that Descartes got it all wrong when he famously said ” I think therefore I am.” Stephen’s take on this is that ” I feel therefore I am” would be much more accurate portrayal of what it means to me human. We feel, some of us feel a lot. Unless we keep ourselves too busy, distracted and medicated to allow the feeling to enter.

I am a feeler. Sometimes to my great detriment, or that is the perception I grapple with. Sometimes feeling a little less would seem to be an easier path. I often wonder how other people do it, by it I mean make it through the daily deluge of human sorrow, and non human sorrow that surrounds our lives. Yet, I guess I make it too. I am here after all, writing these words as the sun streams in and simultaneously rain falls. A wonderful image for me as a look deeper into the many waves of feeling and being that make up my experience.

My morning rituals help me to bring presence to my life, and create space for the feelings. I settle in the same spot most mornings. A little nest I create on my floor by the bed. A blanket over my legs and a cushion to rest my journal on. A bookshelf serves as my coffee table. I have a view of the oaks from there, and one splendid Big Leaf Maple. Often a cat is resting his head on my shoulder as he sleeps on the bed, and my old Jasper dog curls up beside me. This is my perfect space to think, feel, and write. Sometimes the words I put on the page are beautiful, sometimes a list of fears and worries. It is not so much what I write as it is that I write that makes meaning of my morning time. I have these journal all the way back to my teen years.

I learn myself through writing. I see my patterns, my thoughts, my fears and my beauty. Sitting and sipping a hot creamy cup, breathing and looking out at the trees. Until the words come, and spill forth on the page just as they are meant to. This is my first act. From here the rest of my day grows, and in a sense from here the rest of my life grows. Quite time, then movement, then what ever else may need to happen.

I am in general not a very consistent women. My interests change, I fly off in new directions of fascination and inspiration frequently. I start and do not finish many things. Yet I always find myself back here, pen in hand, and a full heart waiting to pour onto the page. This feels like grace. A small wonder that holds me together, the pieces fitting back in place, a renewal of some sort, or an offering…to who or what I do not know. Perhaps it is an offering to myself, this ritual act of writing. If so, I accept it, and hold alive in me the wish that 70 years from now I will be still sitting and writing, and that birds will still sing to me as morning arises from the dark earth.

A Measure of Worth

What does it mean to be worthy? This thought has been gathering in the corners of my mind for some time now, and in fact I have done some writing on this line of inquiry, but nothing that seems to articulate the true question I have fermenting in my heart. It is not how does one become worthy, but what does this worthy even mean, and where did this concept originate from?

In Indigenous cultures living their original life ways the idea that one could be worthy or unworthy would seem preposterous. Being human, being alive, you are obviously part of the fabric of life and therefore belonging to your people, sharing in life and community, and the joys and struggles therein. I am reminded as I write this of the stories of early missionaries attempting to bring the concept of original sin and baptism to native populations, who were so thrown off by the idea that they would just laugh at the missionaries. It was preposterous! Of course babies are not born as sinners, what an insane concept that it. I believe those cultures, so much older and wiser then our own, would have had the same reaction to this idea, spoken and unspoken that we all carry here in the west, that we are somehow unworthy and can attain worthiness through actions and appearances. Through becoming something other than what we are right now.

The etymological roots of the word worth come from multiple sources and cultures and vary some through the ages.  Many sources state a connection to value, price or merit. Old English, weorp, has the meaning of high value, equivalent, prized, but also hence, and toward. So you see even woven into the roots of this word we so casually and thoughtlessly use is this idea that we are heading toward something, that we are becoming. My teacher Stephen Jenkinson eloquently speaks about the concept of hope being a cruel sort of tyranny. I would propose that this idea of worth and the false god of hope live very close to one another, perhaps they are even bedfellows.

The idea that hope is anything less than a supreme healing and guiding force has been a hard sell for me I must say. I have long loved and quoted our dear Emily Dickenson’s poem that so beautifully states “hope is the thing with feathers that perches on the soul, and sings the tune without the words and never stops at all.” It has taken some time, sweat and befuddlement to arrive where I sit today, knowing that in hope we lose the moment we are in, forgoing the life we are in for an illusory golden someday that will, as much as we desire it to, never come to pass. When I fall into judgment of how my life looks, when I question my value in the world, my worth, I collapse into the idea that someday I will be more than I am now. This is a false belief.

I do not mean to say that I will never change, no contrary to that, I am changing all the time. I grow older, and a little wiser. I become more grounded and kinder. All this is true. And yes I can make more money and travel, finally write a book, get in better shape. All this can happen. Yet none of this changes who I am , and none of it affects my worth, or perceived lack there of. I am, by birthright, whole. This idea that is lodged in our culture and thereby in me, that I will someday be more worthy, is an illusion, a false god, a decoy.

I believe that trying to be of more worth, takes me away from the deeper work of  trying to be more me. It isn’t just me suffering with this affliction. I would wager that most of us, living in the west, suffer with this same damaged and distorted thinking. Fall prey tp that false god of perfection and attainment, and go to bed worrying about what we aren’t and what we could be, if we tried harder, if we had more self control, if we had a different set of circumstances at our doorstep. I know I do. I know many nights my last thought is a plan of how I will do better tomorrow, and on waking my first thought is how I will do better today. The idea of just being ok with how I am now, and now, and now…seems almost impossible. What would I do with my life if I was not chasing some ghost of perfection and worth?

The self help world does not help. I can scarcely begin to imagine how many guides to finding your worth, creating self worth rituals and becoming worthy there are lining the shelves of the local new age bookstores. The sorrowful thing is that as well meaning as this all is, it is actually nothing more than a distraction and a fantasy. What if we could simply feel that we were already worthy, that we have great value, that we are in fact mandatory to life as we know it. How would it feel to live in that reality? Awesome, it would feel awesome. You know who would not feel awesome about it? The publishers of self help books, the marketers that sell us products, the fashion industry, the car sales lots. The list could go on and on.

The capitalist, puritanical, colonizing voice of our culture sings loudly in our ears, ‘you are not enough” from the cradle to the grave, and we listen. We listen and we purchase. If we stay distracted by this never ending hunt for value and a sense of worth, we will continue chasing our tails in circles in a dark room. It is by turning to face the faceless voice that beguiles us, and challenging it that we can begin to come into right relationship with our own lives and the lives of those around us. You cannot put a price on that. It is valueless, or, is in invaluable.

As a woman living in North America I am personally deeply and darkly acquainted with this quest for feeling enough, and I see it in other woman as well. We all walk around quoting the same two lies, I am fine, and everything is ok. We say it so much we believe it, we say it so much when another woman breaks the mold, we condemn her. We are our own thought police. Living in cages that we have created and enforced, the cell walls of our own denial of suffering. In failing to speak our fears and inadequacies we add bars to the cage, so that less light can come through. All this is part of the ruthless oppression of the concept of worth and the constant searching and hoping that we can become more worthy and more whole.

I do not know how to banish from  mind and spirit the idea that I am unworthy. I do not know how to disconnect from my cultural conditioning and let go of these thought patterns that live so deeply in me. This way of viewing myself and my life may be here for the long haul. Thank god I do know, that I do not have to believe everything I think, and that shame cannot live in the light. It is dwells in the unspoken darkness and does not care for conversation. In being brave enough to dissect in myself this worthiness lie, and speaking of this process to others, I am putting a nail in the coffin of this manifestation of our cultural madness.

Healing does not happen in isolation, it happens in community. In the community that I share my sorrow, grief and shame in, and in my own inner community. I am learning to welcome home the parts of me that I have been hiding from. Learning that the very things I have felt made me unworthy are actually some of my greatest gifts. Retrieving  the pieces of me that I abandoned and beginning to do the work of figuring out why I abandoned them in the first place. This internal family that makes up who I am.

Instead of measuring my worth, I want to feel my life. Knowing that simply being here is enough.. The pleasures of having a body, a quite moment alone before dawn, the unspeakable beauty of morning birdsong. I am as whole as the birds that sing, as worthy of life’s beauty and abundance as the squirrels that visit each day. I do not have to be, do or change anything in order to claim my place in the order of things. I simply and sweetly show up in my life, and today, that is enough.

 

 

The Age of Lonesome Hearts

I have a confession to make. I am a lonely woman. Surrounded by love and friendship, with work that feeds my heart and creativity that feeds my soul, I am lonely all the same. I have been witnessing in myself and in others for some time now this deep and tender longing for community. Not the fragmented and separate social interactions so many of us call friendship. Not the frenetic busyness of activity and obligation. Not the planned excursions and classes. Though these all have value in their own way, they are a  poor balm for the deep wound of the lost web of a tribe.  No, what I am hungry for, ravenously craving, is the village.

What has befallen us as a people and a culture that we have arrived here, in this state of abject relational poverty, disconnected from the sense of wholeness that in all times before our own held us together as a single living organism. An interconnected system of reciprocal relationship, a messy, gloriously burdensome and indebted way of being  whole, that at this point in time is nothing but the glimmer of a memory in our blood. The bonds that once held us, in true interdependence have frayed at the ends, fibers worn and giving way, sacrificed to the Gods of independence and autonomy. Words that ring of freedom in this time, yet on a closer examination taste of cold steel and sorrow.

For all the years that humans have lived on this land we call home, this earth, we have walked together, ate together, slept together and raised families together. We find ourselves now in a place of extreme separation, so much so, I would propose, that the idea of living in interdependence with others sounds terrifying to most of us. Myself include. Not only terrifying, but also undesirable. We believe that we need space, privacy, independence. And indeed, living in the times that we do, with the current cultural conditioning that we have been subjected to, we may actually need that space to feel comfortable. What a poverty that is.

The rise of the nuclear family, which I will point out here is a uniquely modern arrangement, has left us separated from the feeling of tribal, communal inter-being and strapped us fully to the wheels of capitalism and all its tyranny. When we have to have an individual family home, two cars, two kids, and a houseful of barely used, foreign made belongings to feel good, we have become slaves to our way of life. Working to simply pay for our home, to pay for our appliances and tools, to pay for childcare, home maintenance, all of it I could go on and on, but you get the picture. The choice to live as single families is a deeply debt ridden and isolating idea, that causes pain and suffering for the individual family as well as the collective.

Humans, being social animals need companionship to thrive. We need support to thrive. The type of support that we can receive only form being in deep relationship with many people, not just a spouse or our children, a living active network of others, with shared values and shared work. I believe this is how we were born to live, and the deep sorrow, depression and addiction that plague our people is tells a story. Our needs are unmet, we are desperately lonely.

So where do we go from here, where do I go from here? Knowing this poverty, holding it in my hands, feeling the ache. How can I, busy, overworked and so time tight that I feel almost paralyzed, create community? Not just online, but right here in my own home. I have no answers and in fact at times I feel hopeless, but I do have some ideas, and I think they may be worth something so I will share them here. In hopes that also they may be of some value to another lonely human out there, perhaps reading this, known to me or unknown to me.

So here it is, my few tender ideas that could perhaps bring more connection and joy to my life and the lives of others. I think in fact I can sum it up into one main vain of thought- To have more – we must have less.
We must have less because in order to have and keep and own and store all that we feel we need is a prison. We must have less in the way of property and perceived material wealth so that we can learn what real wealth is. We must have less so that we can work less and love more. Somehow we must step out of this tyranny of time scarcity and delve into a relational space where we share what we have and create a new way of being. This is our system, we can dismantle it, we are not powerless.

Sacrifice is called for. Vulnerability is called for. Can I learn to break down the walls of perceived safety and connect? Invite the neighbors in, even when the house is messy and I am unsure if they are “my kind if people”. Borrow and lend tools and services, ask for help when I need it, offer help when I see it is needed? Can I extend the invitation that neighbors and friends can come pick from my garden, and ask for help with canning? These may seem small things, In fact I feel some shame that I am not comfortable with these action now, but they are not small for me. I am so conditioned to believe that mine is mine and that I have to, in a sense defend my territory. I did not choose this, I inherited it.

Could there come a day when I could give up my own sense of needing so much space, so many boundaries, that I could live with other families in the way my heart calls, screams and begs for? I don’t know, but I sure as fuck want to believe that. I don’t want to be lonely anymore.

As I tear down the walls of my conditioned beliefs and look into the lies I have agreed to live in and ignore, the social norms, the way things are. I cannot help but feel , mixed inextricably with the anger and despair a sense of purpose and knowing that this is not how things should be. And in that knowing is a strength and power to change. It starts with me, here, today. Putting these words on this page and saying out loud, or in print, that I am longing for something different, and that I am willing to sacrifice to see it come to birth in my life.  If perhaps you who read this feel a tugging in your heart as you read my words I invite you to reach out to me, to let me in. I want to talk about this hunger, and how we can feel full, together.

 

 

 

The Humans Weep

Poems have been pouring forth since I have returned from Orphan Wisdom School. On the plane home I sat, set pen to paper and they began to come. A mournful pursuit poetry can be at times. Mournful, joyful, encumbered, yet free, but most importantly true. The words that come through as I write poems are all true stories. Expressions of the joy and sorrow of my aliveness and my wonderings. I plan to begin sharing them more frequently here, may they fall upon the ears of those who need them.

 

The humans are crying tonight
Darkness gathers in the corners of our lives
Just out of sight-you have to turn to look at it
Trouble is brewing, dangerous times are these
Flick your eye, just left of center
There it waits-terrible trouble indeed
In fact- if you are not crying tonight
You may not be human at all
Or perhaps you have forgotten how to be
Or were, never properly shown
In the first place
What it means to be woman, or be man
But the humans weep tonight
Raise voices in a howl of grief
So keening and wrenching
That only the wolves understand
They know the sound of a heart breaking
They know the exquisite beauty of the moon
They  know loneliness, and kinship and pride
Tonight as the humans weep
On the dark warm Earth
Wolf lays downs-belly to the same Earth
Licks her paws and sighs…
“Oh yes, welcome home Kin, welcome home-
It is time you know despair and hunger again”
Wolf rests her head on her paws softly
And the weeping fills the night sky

Marianna – 2017

When Myth Knocks Three Times, Answer the Damn Door

I have been blessed and fortunate too, to spend much of my life in the company of myth, legend and story. In childhood I literally sat in the lap of story, the lap of a master teller, my own father, as he wove from his past, his learning and his mind, stories that delighted, haunted and taught me much. I would not know this world without the layers of meaning and mystery that this teaching delivered to me at a young age, and continue to deliver to me now. Nor would I want to know this world, bereft of the stories that hold the whole together, weave the fabric of our lives into some semblance of meaning, and give us strength to carry on in troubled times.

I recognize that not all humans live with this richness and I give great thanks for the wondrous fact that to me, the tales have been an integral part of who I am, company on a sometimes lonely path, and inspiration to guide me on and help to understand pain of life. Characters I know so well have traveled always with me, Robin Hood, King Arthur and his noble knights, Elsie Pittock, live in me and teach me how to be human, how to be kind, how to be human and Wonder-Filled. I am learning more each day how rare a gift wonder is in a time where we have already decided we know everything, that doesn’t leave much space to play or to grow. In fact, knowing seems the surest path to drudgery that you could find or choose.

Being steeped in story, I have learned a few things in my days. One of those being that numbers show up in stories and they are not to be ignored. Three wishes, seven sons, nine fair daughters… I could go on and on, and surely scholars have delved into this territory of number symbolism to a depth that I will not attempt here. I share this only to bring to light that I am tuned in enough to know, in my life, when things begin to happen in three’s, I am on mythological ground. A sacred place to be indeed, and one that requires my full attention.

Teaching tales of all sorts live  in the realm of myth, and in our hearts if we are touched by them and give them lodging there. I am often so touched by the tales Michael Meade chooses to tell. Indeed his work has been a part of my becoming who I am and I see him as a wise elder in my life. A truth teller and a man of mystery, all intriguing qualities indeed.  I saw him live recently, in Portland at a beautiful church. The house was full of people seeking connection to something deeper than the merely physical realm in which we dwell, connection to a deeper truth, an older truth.  A sip of the sweetness of the land of myth and mystery.
One story he shared, that night was one of Zusya the Rabbi. A man of great wisdom and elder hood. Who found himself on his dying bed, surrounded by his students and grappling with the reality of his demise and his soon to be reckoning with God and the Great Beyond. In the story his students say to him “Rabbi, you are wise and learned, pure and righteous. You have the courage of Jacob, the leadership of Abraham and the vison of Moses, why for should you be afraid?” Zusya replies, ” I am not afraid that God will ask me, Zusya, why have you not been more like Moses, or Jacob or Abraham? I am afraid that God will ask me, Zusya, why have you not been more like Zusya? And for that I will not have an answer.” And with that Zusya dies. Teaching with even his last breath, giving of himself even to his very end.

This story hit me in the heart, The kind of feeling that grows and fills all the space that exists in the body and then expands past that physical barrier into something unseen yet tangible and real all the same. I gasped, a hard lump rising in my throat, a wail building in my gut, a sob racking through me with a shudder. Sucking for air as my eyes filled with tears. ” Why have I not been more myself?” When I do come to the end of days there is no sin I want less to confess, and yet, how frequently I separate from who I am to be who I think I should be. How often do I withhold my truth, even from myself? why is this fear of being me so strong and overpowering? Zusya is teaching me too, long from this world and far away as well, but present here for me. This is the power of myth.

I let it settle. I have been taught by my wise father that when a story claims you in such a way as this, it is an occurrence that is worthy of investigation and attention, with some expedience employed in that pursuit.  Why am I not more myself? What happened to the pieces of me that I cast aside, left in dark corners long ago, wondering what became of me and hence what will become of them. Is it fear of failure or fear of splendor that causes me to disown some of who and what I am, or perhaps a strange and perplexing tangle of the two? A half breed love child of my unclaimed selves, a shadow of my fullness, a discarded remnant of my gifts…I don’t know yet, I am seeking and sometimes the seeking before the finding is where the sweet meat is.

A week after the live event with Michael Meade, I tuned in as I often do to hear his voice come to my ears through his podcast Living myth. There was Zusya waiting for me again. Told in the same characteristic and urgent style that Michael so deftly gifts the world with. I listened well to what the story had to say, deepening into my inquiry of how I can be more myself. I felt a bit surprised to find the story placed on my lap again so soon, but not overly so, life seems to give us what we need and it is obvious that I needed to hear and feel this now. A welcomed guest at my fireside, I let Zusya in.

One more week passed, as weeks are ought to do and I found myself scrolling through my podcast app, seeking something nourishing to listen to. I had listened once or twice before to a show called Women in Depth and decided to give it another go, selecting an episode almost at random, of course, nothing is random…however I did not put much careful thought into my selection. The episode was about metaphor and the use of story in psychological  practice. I was enjoying the show but not overly tuned in, until the speaker began to tell Zusya’s story. She called him by another name Akiba, but the story was the same one. Here he was again, Rabbi Zusya calling me to live my life as me. I pulled my car to the side of the road. In awe and wonder of the ways that life speaks to me and guides me always to right where I need to be. Obviously this story is for me, I need it, here and now. I am so glad it came to me. I am paying attention.

It seems almost an impossible thing, to not live as oneself, but I see after examination that almost know one is truly who they are. We are so afraid to be seen in all our flaws and human-ness, so afraid of being unlovable or rejected that we hold a front up. This may feel safe, and may seem to be the only way, yet soon the mask becomes a prison we no longer know how to escape. We become trapped in a life of our own making, a life of silent compromises, aching heart and lost dreams.

So here I sit. Zusya close by. My heart full of questions and my path unclear. I know that now I choose to live as me, I know there is no way to do this that won’t hurt. Fallout happens when great change occurs. When one changes the structure, the whole has to change as well, be that a plant, a workplace, or a family. To listen to the calling of my heart means I will become a new me, already this has been happening, and it has not been easy. In fact it has been utterly painful to find myself amid the ashes of what I used to know and hold dear, reeling and looking about for something solid to hold onto. Learning to live fully as myself means learning to say no, and to say yes, to stretch to where I can’t touch bottom anymore, to boldly take the risks calling to me….
There is so much fear, and so much freedom beckoning from a doorway deep within me. Can I step through? Can I claim myself and all I am to be?…..I know this, I am willing to give my life to the pursuit. When I leave earth I want to leave having fully lived the life I came here for. May we all be so blessed.

Zusya,
A Rabbi’s wisdom reaching out
from beyond the grave
catches hold of my skirt hem
and holds on
“Why was I not more myself- for this I have no answer”
My greatest fear, lives in your words
I wonder- did God ask you
when you crossed his threshold there?
Were comparisons to Abraham and Moses made of you?
Did your head hang heavy as you spoke the truth-
“I wasn’t me, I wasn’t me, I wasn’t….”
For me- I choose another path
cast off my city body
and my cloak of sameness
though it be cold and I, naked and alone
I choose to be all that I am-
ardent, sweet, and dangerous
much like a wild hive of bees-
hungry and seeking nectar.

© Marianna Louise 2017

 

Simple Gifts

“Tis a gift to be simple tis a gift to be free! Tis a gift to come round where you ought to be…and when you find yourself in the place just right you will be in the valley of love and delight. ”

These words danced from my mothers lips throughout my childhood. The sweet and simple tune, a lilting soft spun sound, like the rhythm of waves lapping at the shore. She sang as she cleaned the house or drove in the car, as we walked through the streets of Northwest Portland. Sweet hymns where her songs and they became mine too. Simple gifts was her mothers song as well,  so it is truly in my blood, my generational memory, my DNA as well as my heart.  A song which now holds the power to make my heart swell to twice its size simply on hearing the first notes of the melody. This song has in fact become one of my own simple gifts. A treasure I carry with me, a comfort, a portable  piece of home I can never misplace.

I mostly sing this song in praise and moments of joy, I snuggle up beside it. The familiar feel of its presence so companionable. I sing it for Grandma Marjorie, an audible prayer of remembrance and devotion. It says “I won’t forget where I came from, my home is in your heart and yours in mine.” It is one of the ways I carry the bones of my ancestors with me. I sing it for the girl child I once was. Small sticky hand pressed into my Mama’s larger, less sticky hand. I sing it because I remember the feel of her cheek on mine. How her hair would fall over my face, that long heavy braid engulfing me. A curtain of Mom. Could anything be as beautiful as her hair?

Simple Gifts is a teaching song. Teaching a lesson we desperately need to learn. As life grows faster and faster with each passing generation. Simplicity is losing its place at the table. Being replaced by gadgets and gizmos, social media and netfilx binges. Can this small  song serve as a vessel to reconnect me to what really matters? The simple, free and beautiful blessings that life is made up of? Can I hold the teaching close enough to feel it?

I walk out in the morning. Rain falls softly, of course it does, it is spring in Portland. I do not have much time before the hustle of the day begins. Morning is my time, I make it my own. My thoughts are dark this morning. Life feels hard, how will I make it? How can I ever fulfill my dreams when I work so much and seem to have so little? Seem to save so little, my world feels little. I am a pawn in a system I cannot change, the thoughts begin their downward spiral once again…then I see the bird. Small, so small. A bushtit I believe. A fluttering of brown in the low shrub I am passing. The roundness of the birds body, stark contrast to the long angles of the branches. There is no fear of failure in his bright eye. No self pity in his morning foraging. It looks like joy, the way he moves through the shrub, onto the ground for just a wee moment and then brightly returns to the shrub. Watching me, head cocked just so in greeting.

I remember….Simple gifts. This is the gift to be free. To walk in the morning with an old dog beside me. Now so deaf that he hardly pulls on the leash at all. The bushtits calls do not attract his attention, he just keeps on sauntering, smelling, peeing every few feet. This is the gift, pure and simple. The gift to be in my life. Fully present and aware. To see that sweet bird and let his fearless joy for life swell in my heart. The unspeakable tenderness for this shared experience of the sacredness of life. This connection of being alive on this planet together, us three. Bird, dog and woman. Intrinsically linked in this pursuit we call life.

 

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When true simplicity is gained to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed…..