I have been to the desert...
We are meant to learn about the power of our thoughts, words, feelings, actions…and therefore, to discover the greater degree of choice that is inherent in their power, use…
Since I last wrote, I have been to the desert. I have been in Arizona and Nevada. I have walked into the desert mountains to see the wild yellow poppies as they swam their brief sojourn across the desert floor. I have sat in the heat of the sun and the dark of the night–and stood flayed in the banks of the serrated wind. I have lain awake in silence and slept in the day’s noise. I have swum, and I have hiked for hours navigating Ruby through swarms of jumping cholla, and I have thrown rocks far out into the Colorado River in which she’d swim and then wade along the rocky shore.
We walked red rock, hiked along Davis Dam, old mining towns, and would be settlements. We stared at the clear water and watched stars shoot off into the sea of night’s horizon. I cracked open the heels of my feet from too much dry ground; I burnt my skin in the glaring truth of the day. I spent all my time with family. Mostly, mostly, I was with my family–siblings and my mother. I have been to the desert–and the desert was hot and dry and clean.
In the desert, we are challenged.
And how beautiful, and painful, and surrendering it is.
I was in the desert. And all day some days, what stirred in my mind was the story of Jesus in the desert for forty days and forty nights: his visions, his challenges, the illusions. In the desert, we can drown. We can die from our illusions. And if it was not this story, then it was the Tibetan Buddhist saying, “Everyone has a mother…”
I have been to the desert and I have just arrived back to the sea, the Pacific Ocean, to find my way to the surface…
My mother is in her eighties. My mother is mostly not well. And it is not easy. It is not easy for my siblings, and in the past, it has not been easy for me. It never is.
My mother is not well.
And that deserves a story. But we have to remember that all stories are true, though I have had to learn that her story is not my story. I have had to learn to be connected without being attached, without taking things always personally–even though she is my mother. I have had to learn to not ask, “Why is this happening to me?” but “Why is this happening? What’s the lesson here for me to learn? What's the gift?” I have had to learn that though I came through her, I am not her. I have had to learn that she and the man who is my father did not mean their traumatic love, their violence, their unfurling into chaos so many days, year after year. That has not been easy, that has taken a long time. And I have had to learn that too is OK.
My mother is mostly not well. And when someone is not well, they are mostly not available, especially, emotionally. They are buried in the past, a past that changes color every day, every hour, every visit, every word uttered, every look that meant what it did not mean. The story always changes–depending on who’s listening, or on whether she can allow herself to hold a little of the pain deep inside her, allow herself to come up for air as she swims the deep.
My mother is mostly not. The things she has done and not done. The things that come out of her mouth. Or, the days and years and years and hours, she never reached out, never said, “I love you”. The days of your birthday and you are simply not there, not present. The way you return home one day and she is gone. Everything you owned. Gone. You were 15. Gone. The way she could never say, I’m sorry. Never forgive herself.
My mother is mostly in the deep. She is buried beneath pain, a pain that gets triggered–by me, by you, by the news, by the woman or man who walks by, by my siblings. There is always someone. Always. Someone who controls her computer, her phone, the tv, or someone who drank all the water or ruined the plants, someone who stole the mislaid necklace, someone who moved the paper, someone who wore out her chair. Someone about to say something that is a lie, or not her truth. Someone who ruined her body, lost her home, cost her her wellness.
Someone who never said she was loved. Though for years, she found love. It was all the others–the ones who never did, never said, “I love you.”
My mother is mostly not present. And then some days, she looks at you square in the eyes and says, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have talked to you like that.” Or “Everything you’ve achieved, you’ve done on your own. I didn’t do anything for you like I did the others...”
And still for years and years, I looked for her recognition, I looked for her to see who I am, who I was. And now these two pearls in the waning of her days. Two mother-of-pearls surfacing from years and years of unwanted friction, distance.
My mother is mostly. But still, I’ve loved her, love her… at a distance, up close, and sometimes silently. And sometimes not known to her at all. We all do.
Everyone has a mother.
Everyone comes into the world through being human.
And being human means having a story. A human story.
My mother’s story is human. Human stories are always true stories.
Every story is a true story.
And the stories of my sisters are true stories though not my stories. My stories are other. Though their stories too are filled with love and pain, and now joy too. As my oldest sibling said floating in the clear blue light of a pool, “We were never taught how to love each other…what it looked like…we were never shown.” That came later.
“Yes.” I nodded, “And you mustn’t blame yourself for what you didn’t see, couldn’t see...”
Some stories become too much.
Some stories are larger than we can bear. Especially, young.
So some stories…we never see…
Every story though is a true story–even the ones unseen.
What is true is that through all the years, across distance and space and silence, through frustration and jealousy, through fear and shame and accomplishment, and our own lives, I and my sisters have remained in contact, in connection. To piece it together. To remember. To know there was someone else who knew our story. To know that what comes up from the depths does not need to be held in silence, can be held in trust, be witnessed and acknowledged for what it was. For in that witnessing, acknowledgement, the letting go, the release occurs. Compassion happens–for ourselves, and for another.
Even when there is no story to tell itself...
It has not always been easy… for to be connected is also to remember, and to remember is to feel–Until the remembering no longer usurps the present, no longer rises as important as the now. Until the remembering is releasing…and the story’s knowing becomes us in our presence. In the joy of our being.
Every story is true. So, we have held the doors open. We have called out each other’s names–sometimes across the desert, sometimes across the sea. And some days, we have had to prop the doors wide. Mostly to remind ourselves.
Every story is a true story. It is fueled by love.
Either its lack, need, ache, thwarting, or its beautiful expression.
Love fuels the story. Even the sad ones. Especially those.
My sisters and I have had to unlearn a lot of stories: what we thought love was, what family is, what faith is, what kindness looked like, what nurturing and care did, what loving ourselves or another looks like. What partnership is and isn’t. What joy does. And what it means to be emotionally available. What it means to express love, sorrow, or anger in tenderness. What it means to be present with another. What it means to be oneself.
To be connected to one’s heart.
Love fuels the story.
And so we have learned to tell new stories–stories we tried on for size, stories we got temporarily lost in, stories we tripped over–stories that express joy, well-being, confidence, success, and stories of what we thought ‘having it all’ meant.
We are still telling and writing stories. Stories fueled by love. Especially the sad ones.
And we have learned to allow ourselves to know the world was meant for us too.
(And that was a big one. Still is. For the world is made of everyone's else's stories too.)
We have learned also that mothering and fathering are verbs–that they have no gender, regardless of what others or the culture might say. We are each full of mothering and fathering. And sometimes, we have to mother ourselves into Being. And sometimes, we have to allow others outside ourselves to help us. To reach out and allow someone to say, “Choose you.” “Be the witness. Be the observer who through your own Being, your own expression of Being love, allows another to come that much closer to loving themselves, to love itself.”
Now we know someone is always there to say the word ‘love’–for saying 'love' opens the heart, un-fists the fist, flows the blood, and literally produces the chemicals of well-being and joy that flood the body.
Love connects the heart, its energy.
And the heart's energy–it trues things. Makes all things possible.
And so we have kept the doors open–not just to ourselves, but to others, because we are each–all of us–somewhere on the journey towards self-love, to understanding what real love is. And we have kept the doors open too to remind each other, to remind ourselves.
To remind each other–
You are not to blame.
You are not marred.
You are not broken.
You are not unworthy.
You deserve love.
You deserve everything you desire–
What you have always dreamed of.
And your love is real.
Your grief is real
And because it is–
You can let it go.
You are always beautiful.
Just as you are…
You are so beautiful.
So you can be joy.
You can be love.
You are loved…
You are the love….
Every story is a love story.
Some are filled with pain.
Some are a fist and can hardly breathe.
Some die from lack of air, from lack of the word 'love…'
Some from being disconnected from the heart.
And it’s true, some humans get buried beneath the pain.
All stories though are love stories.
And so we have learned to embrace new stories–to breathe into them–and to release the old ones as the pieces float up into conscious daylight, into conscious clarity. We have learned to learn what we can–to share what we hear, “Does this make sense? Is this part of the story or hers alone?”
When the relatives of our parents were alive, we learned to ask them what we could, what they knew, what they were able–capable–of sharing themselves.
We have pieced the puzzle together as we’ve moved into broader, brighter ways of Being, as we have moved into more expansive ways of knowing– knowing love and life. Though now, our story too often involves reminding each other, “You are not responsible… Her heartbreak is not yours. You have lived it, breathed it, long enough. You can set it down. For all of us.”
Hers is a story that goes deep, cuts deep, a story that cuts across siblings, deaths by accident, choice, illness. A story that ran through glass, hid for days, weeks, in bruises, suffered poverty, prison, guilt, faithlessness, and came up through depression, silence. Hers is a story that wanted more, wanted more for herself and then for her daughters….
All of my mother’s stories are true–even the ones that are not. And, yes, there are days of clarity, days of tears that soften the hours. Days that can break your heart wide open for all their knowing…though those days…those days don't last long…
My mother is mostly not well. And when you have been loved–loved tenderly at moments, you think, want, desire, hope that love to be the expression of relation. You hope for some kind of sureness–that she herself will know that she is loved, was loved. But we cannot pressure the ones we love into healing, into knowing–no matter who they are, no matter how close we are to them. No matter how much we were birthed through their love, their pain. We cannot ask them to hold their pain, to know it in a way so that they might release it. We cannot force them to feel so that they might let it finally wash through them and gain back the fuel of their hearts. Their love.
We cannot save them–not even inside ourselves.
We have to honor where they are, what they are capable of, what they are or are not doing. We have to allow ourselves to remain connected though not attached. We have to back up and ensure our own love, our own safety, rest. We have to ride the waves of the past as the colors change day-by-day, hour-by-hour, and still know, all stories are true in the frequency of their telling. The frequency is all, even as low as it gets. And so, we have left the doors open. To care for her, and to care for us as we care for her, and to remind each other–you are not alone in your sadness, in your sorrow, that love is often buried, not expressed.
Even as she is loved and cared for.
Every story has been cared for, nurtured, coddled–either by us or someone else.
Even the hard ones. Especially the hard ones.
And so we have learned too, there are a lot of stories in the world that include pain, ugliness, sorrow, and more. Human stories–we all have them–in which the love is deep but also traumatic. Human stories in which there is tremendous loss, violence, greed, anger. Because someone got lost behind their pain. Because someone got stuck, buried, inside themselves. Because someone forgot what it meant to say, “I love you…”–that it heals most the one who says it.
I love you… I love you…and I love you… over and over…. And again…
Human as it is. There is no story that does not begin with love, that does not unravel finally into love. No matter how terrible it becomes, no matter how unloving it may appear. Trace it back, back further than you thought, than you experienced, and it begins with love–no matter how large, no matter how political, no matter how human….
All stories are human… Everyone has a mother…
We come into the world through the birth of pain. Pain deepens us into our humanity, tests and challenges the wells of our love–through pain, loss, power, riches, and pleasure for pleasure’s sake–even as we traverse the most beautiful and arid lands. As we swim in the flowers and roast in the dirt, love tests us–lest we forget that it is love’s frequency, love's currency, that fuels us.
Love made us…and makes us…but in the end, we have to choose love, surrender to it, surrender to its frequency, not just the idea of it, the vision of it. We have to know that it is larger than our humanness–holds all of our humanness. All of it.
Every story is fueled by love. Is a story of love… though we may not remember...
To keep the spark of its waters alive, to nourish it, to grow the brilliance of its truth–that is the task of our being human. Being love...
The desert is a beautiful place. It is hot and cold and clear. It challenges and jumps out at you with its prickly spines, its barren fullness. And it holds the most tenderest of blossoms–even if briefly. Even if those days, those colors, don't last long.
In loving gratitude,