Saturday, January 29, 2011

Can I Get a Window Seat?

In the midst of all the controversy about Erykah Badu's video for the Window Seat, from her last album (that's right I said album!), the lyrics of this song got completely lost. This song is my freaking anthem.

When Ilya and I first split I called a friend to tell her about the pain I was feeling and her immediate response was to berate me for needing "attention." And to basically, without the benefit of knowing me or my marriage that well, tell me that the break was my fault. Because I wanted too much attention. Oh yes. In the middle of my tears, I stopped and really listened to what was being said and I apologized. WTF? I apologized to this person taking me in the weakest moment of my life and knocking my down.

That moment came back to me recently when I was responding to a friend on Facebook. She asked her friends to write how they met her. I borrowed the same status a few days later. But I wrote to her: "I met you during Freshman Orientation at Lawrence when you asked for a standing ovation!" We had the usual orientation company come in to do icebreakers and team building activities. But the hallmark of this particular group was having people ask for "standing ovations" at any point in the sessions that they felt they needed one and we would all stand up and give them a standing ovation. My friend Summer did the same thing at our IIN graduation - go Summer!

And I realized something. This friend was asking me to get small in my pain. To not own that I was hurt and that I needed attention and it was fine to ask for it. I, by virtue of my place on the planet, deserve it. As women, we cannot ask each other to get small. Never. If anything we need to hold each other up and ask us to grow and get bigger and stronger. And we should aid each other in that growth. And if you can't do that then for G-d's sake be quiet!

The last two weeks I have been sick. It was a real physical illness that caused weakness, vomiting and all over body aches, caused by my mind presenting its pain somatically. I am good for that. I have been known to lose my voice, literally, when I am not expressing the things in my heart that must be said. So the complete collapse of me this past week was really linked to an incredible mental tiredness. My mind trying to keep all the balls up in the air and make it look effortless. I did what I thought I was supposed to. I got small and didn't ask for my standing ovation. After all I must have brought all this pain on myself through poor life choices. And I, for some reason, put on Erykah. I had been listening to Bag Lady and thinking about all the bags I was carrying around with me and my intense desire to drop those suckers off at the nearest goodwill. Perhaps someone else could use my self-doubt, anger, frustration, fear and loathing. Something sent me to New Amerykah Part II and Window Seat. And these lyrics hit me so truthfully -

So, presently i’m standing
Here right now
You’re so demanding
Tell me what u want from me
Concentrating on my music , lover , and my babies
Makes me wanna ask the lady for a ticket outta town…
So can I get a window seat
Don’t want nobody next to me
I just want a ticket outta town
A look around
And a safe touch down

If anybody speak to Scotty
tell him beam me up!

Yes, I need that window seat. But she went on to say this:

But I need u to want me
Need you to miss me
I need your attention
I need you next me
I need someone to clap for me
I need your direction

But I need you to miss me
Need somebody come get me
Need your attention
Need your energy yes I do
Need someone to clap for me
Need your affection
Somebody say come back
Come back baby come back
I want u to need me

But can I get a window seat
Don’t want nobody next to me
I just want a ticket outta town
A look around
And a safe touch down…
I just need a chance to fly
A chance to cry
And a long
Bye bye..

Those needs are very real. And wanting that and searching for it - nothing wrong with it. Understanding, of course, that ultimately all of that love has to come from self. And sometimes, much like your kids, you just want someone to hold you and tell you it's gonna be okay. You know it probably won't fix anything but it will make you feel better in that moment when your heart is breaking. And you may be able to get up and keep it moving a little longer. That is the work of those who are in love with you - and remember for me that means anyone you are in a love relationship with. And we mothers, need that same love, since we give it all day long. And I can take care of my babies and my life and my work and still want/need that love and support. It does not make me weak or self-interested. It makes me a strong woman who asks for that which she cannot provide for herself. We don't have to be strong every second of every day. Sometimes we need a safe, soft place to fall.

So, I am going to get that window seat and go for my safe touchdown but I will be back asking for my standing ovation.

in peace tribe

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Cherish, the moment

Some of you know my almost obsessive love of all things Anna Deavere Smith. Last year her new play, "Let Me Down Easy" about the health care system and the power and resilience of the body, had it's longest run in NYC. I saw it three times. It is now at Arena Stage in D.C. and I am waffling about taking the Acela down there to see it again. Anna, like I know her, right, takes the words of people she interviews and re-creates them word for word onstage. Check her out here and here if you are not familiar, but you're my friend, so how could you NOT be familiar, right?!

Toward the end of the play "Let Me Down Easy" Anna portrays Rev. Peter Gomes, American preacher and Professor at Harvard's Divinity school. He speaks about being present in the moment when someone dies. And he advises us, his listeners, to "Cherish, the moment." I've heard Anna remark on this comment on Bill Moyers, that cherishing the moment may be a rather difficult thing for us to do in the moment of grief. We are not able to step outside ourselves and see this person's passing to another realm, or simply into eternal unconsciousness, as something we can cherish. Webster defines cherish as:
a : to hold dear : feel or show affection for
b : to keep or cultivate with care and affection : nurture
: to entertain or harbor in the mind deeply and resolutely .

I love the progression of time in this definition. We first hold the moment dear, we show and feel affection for it. Over time we keep it and cultivate it with care and affection until it is harbored deeply and resolutely in our mind. It is a part of us. The seamless tapestry that makes us who we are.

My life is a series of cherished moments. That is how I define myself and that is how I will remember myself at the moment of my passing. Moments. Snippets of film from the story of the life of Keisha. The ones that show up are the ones that I have held onto for my entire life. The moments I cherish. So when I stand in this moment and look back over my life, why is it that there are less than wonderful moments that show up? Do I cherish those too? Do I cherish loss and disease and death? Do I cherish betrayal and cruelty and violence? Do I cherish hatred and pain? I must because I have held them close to me and have harbored them deeply and resolutely in my mind. I have fed them a steady diet of attention so that they stay buried in there with the wonder. And I will not deny that those moments of despair have also molded me into the woman I am today. Either by getting through them and triumphing or reminding me that I still have work to do. But I no longer feel the need to "cherish" these moments, rather examine them.

Wouldn't it be lovely if we could click on bad memories and bad feelings and drag them into the trash? Yes, Steve Jobs get on that! And I am trying to make peace with those feelings. To sit with them and "feel the feelings." To stay in the uncomfortable. And you know what? It actually works. For years, I have made fun of psycho-babble. And I cannot speak for other directives, but this one, sitting with the bad, works. I had a moment that I was holding onto tightly. Because letting it go would mean letting the person go. And I wasn't ready to do that. So, no matter how painful the memories, I held on tightly, like my life depended on it. And it did, because it kept me in a state of anger and frustration. I cherished that moment. And it became more than I could hold onto. So, I sat. I let whatever feelings I had about it come and go. I cried and hit things. But I kept sitting. This took quite some time. In between I cooked, slept, took care of the kids, did laundry. But always made sure to come back and sit with this moment. And to not runaway from the feelings that came up or the way it made me feel in that moment. And I sat and sat and sat. And then the other day I no longer needed to sit. I thought of the moment and I was calm. It was just another moment in my personal history and definitely not one I would be seeing at the moment of my death.

Completely incredulous that this worked! And seeing the results has turned me into some kind of crazy-door-knocking-prosleytizer for sitting with the bad. And the moment no longer holds anger and frustration for me. I can see it as something that helped me grow and fight harder for my life.

I can still see and hear Anna in my head saying this line. I wish I could give you an audio version, right now but check out the Bill Moyers interview I linked above and you will see what I mean. The emphasis is on Cherish. To hold it dear, to nurture it and then harbor it deep within you. And even the painful moments can be turned into something useful, for why would we remember them if they weren't? Some things we remember and others slip away as if they never happened. I tend to think that if it stays with me, with all that is in my head, then it has some significance and I cannot just pretend it doesn't exist. It stayed to teach me some lesson.

Our lives are a series of moments. Some good, some bad, some - no emotional attachment whatsoever. But if it lives with you then cherish each and every one of them.

in peace tribe and may you be well

Photo Credit:The Faster
Anna Deavere Smith as the Rev. Peter Gomes in "Let Me Down Easy."

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Love Me

I am a very emotional person. And I cry easily - very easily. But not in front of other people. That takes time. My sister posted a song I adore on her Facebook page the other day - Addictive Love by BeBe & CeCe Winans. They are singing about their love for G-d for Jesus. And maybe it's because I was raised in a Baptist Church (and baptized there at the age of 7 - by choice)that this song wrings my heart and makes me so happy. I remember sitting in Fred Gaines' office and we were talking about the Gospel Choir at Lawrence. And he said he was listening to the lyrics of the songs and while they were singing to G-d they could have easily been singing to their child or parent or lover. And then the genius on my itunes account went and did it and played Seal's Love Divine. Waterworks. "Love can help me know my name."

Then the rainstorm came over me. And I felt my spirit break. I had lost all of my belief, you see. And I realized my mistake. I need love, love's divine, please forgive me now I see that I've been blind. Give me love, love can help me know my name. ~ Seal

I am so scared to write this post, my hands are shaking. Before I married Ilya I was a firm believer in a G-d with personalities traits and greatness that I could not comprehend. S/He listened to me and knew what I needed and interceded on my behalf. When I died I had some place to go - some place where I would fit in and I could call it my home. Ilya identified as an agnostic. He didn't know if G-d existed and didn't really care one way or the other. Over time that made more sense to me. Except the not-caring part. And when I was very sick I was okay with things ending. No more pain and suffering just loss of consciousness. We won't know anyway, right? What was more traumatic for me was the thought that I would be some place unable to hold those that I loved and be with them but to see them in their happy times but also in the bad times. To watch them suffering from afar unable to intercede. How cruel was this idea of heaven? Despite my desire to "see" certain people from my life again - I had to say that I don't think that is going to happen. But like today, I saw Fred briefly while listening to a love song.

And try as I might I cannot let go of the G-d part. I have never been a very logical person so why start now. I need to feel that there is something bigger than me that loves me perfectly, just as I am. I need that. People can and will disappoint you. We are imperfect, cruel and some of us malevolent. We go to church, meditate, climb mountains to conquer ourselves and become greater than that which chains us to the earth. When I was very young I would sit and ponder why I was here on earth. What was I supposed to do? What did G-d want from me? Then as I got older and I de-personalized G-d, changed his gender, made her a puff of smoke that my clinging to only caused suffering, wrote his name in another language, I never let G-d go. There must be something, someone out there who loves me as I am - no matter what, no matter the day or the hair style. Unconditionally. People cannot do that - and do not try to convince yourself that you can because you lose what love really is.

We re-negotiate the meaning of unconditional to mean so many different things. Well, no I can't allow you to do whatever you want, child, because I have to discipline you, keep you safe. Well, outside of playing in traffic which is how our ancestors learned and the strong survived, (but that is an entirely different post) whatever we ask of those we love - for whatever reason - is a condition. We tell ourselves it is not a condition of loving them - of course not. But it is. We have standards and requirements from those in our lives. Only makes sense it is our life after all and we should be able to control who enters and most importantly, who stays. And that is only human. It's alright.

But to be loved with no condition - by someone or something that stays with you your entire existence. Who will hold you and wipe your tears and remind you who you are deep-down when no one is looking. And I searched for that love. And looking for someone to save me. Studying every religion but never committing myself to any because all of their G-ds had requirements of me. And some of their gods actually worked against my happiness. Religion is still fascinating to me and allows me to go deeper into myself and see what is worth keeping and "with a breath of kindness blow the rest away."

"Ain't nobody gonna save you, Savior self." ~ Cree Summer

Really? All there is is me? Well, that's not going to do it because I am fucked up. I can't get my parents to do it? How about that boyfriend from 1996? NO ONE!!!
How could whoever created the universe do that to us? How could they just leave us fend for ourselves. FUCK. YOU. GOD.

"For you alone you are the everything." ~ REM

But that's the thing. If a "who"ever created us, then yea, this thing called life is going to be pointless because people can be pointless and petty and well, people. I don't want my creator to be like me - only greater. But what if we were an accident? Particles collided.....
Then THAT makes us extraordinary! Really? We evolved from nothing? At one point all of us takes the trip of the universe - that's how we got here. We were nothing, and then we were small, and we grew and we learned - much like the earth - how to survive to equalize ourselves. We created institutions and dogma and Steve Jobs. We are amazing. From nothing.

Grace. That is what I call that within me which will not die, will not surrender and will not kill me. That which makes me stronger and bolder and greater than before. That which whispers in my ear during the darkness of night, which can be so long, and tells me, it's alright - we've seen the Sun before and it will return. That which not only allows me to evolve but demands it of me. I have a friend who I love very much. And my moments with her were some of the moments that I saw perfection most clearly. Not that she gave them to me - but she was my 100th angel on so many things. She is adopted and the name on her birth certificate when she was given to her new family, was Grace. I am reminded of the work it took to bring her here. To bring each of us here. And just like the earth we have evolved over time into truly beautiful and bright beings.

"In you that journey is." ~ Angels in America

Grace and I are still working on our relationship. And I am hoping that we will continue to do that until my last breath. That she will continue to remind me that I am loved. That I am able to survive because, well, I am here. And that everything I ever need I already have and anything I ain't got - well, I'll never need. Grace's job isn't to teach me how to balance my checkbook or work my ipad. Grace's job is to remind me of all it took to bring me here. To allow me to see, unconditionally, the perfection I am. Like I said, she and I still have work to do.

"All I want to do is just explain...why I feel the way I do, what a joy to share with you." ~Addictive Love, BeBe and CeCe

Many of you have said to me either in writing or in person that you read this blog. That it touches you at various points. And I am not asking you to tell me those things - because this is, despite all the "I"s in this post to the contrary,not about me. Really it isn't. And of course my ego loves hearing your responses, but it is not necessary any longer. All I want to know is that I am not alone. That there are others around me working it out. Especially when it is hard. And always when it is joyful. So just write "ditto." And I got you! Feel me?

"Terror is just a small thing. Get ready for the burning, the yearning, the praying, the wishing." ~ Cree Summer

I wish each of you Grace.