Anger covers denial. Denial covers fear. Fear covers truth. Truth is freedom. The big world beckons.
Sometimes I feel like I need a bigger stage, a bigger place to play, to run, walk, sing, laugh, cry, be. And sometimes all I want is to retreat.
I retreated last winter to Vieques to connect with myself, to rest, swim, write. A year later, I want some big city streets to walk. Alone or arm-in-arm? Alone and arm-in-arm. Here I am, still wanting it all. I used to say this to Greg, for years I’ve said it. In our lighter moments during the hell of last summer we could even joke about it; how little did we know, that my wanting it all could mean us not being together, not in the way that we were at least?
For a long time, I told myself that I had it all. And it was true, as honest as I could have been with myself at the time. Sometimes I berated myself; who was I to feel longing for more, something other, to respond to a restlessness I couldn’t name? But mostly, I returned again and again to the practice of forgiving myself.
And then I named it–in one blindsiding rush of knowledge that undid my life as I had come to define it: I wanted to be with a woman, I wanted to be free in ways that meant heartbreak and loss and discovery and change bigger than anything I could previously had allowed myself to consider possible. I wanted to be so me, to put an end to the struggle of protecting the system, bursting both out of and into myself. And with that sudden opening, I was both undone and complete in one fell swoop. Ultimately, this did not feel like a choice. It felt like God speaking to me very directly and assuring me that it was safe to listen.
Asking what anything “means” only sends me to my head, and we know what comes of that. “Life is only confusing when you’re trying to figure it out,” Maezen has written. And I understand that now, how trying to understand things can itself be a form of denial, and that truth is in a way free of meaning because it just is. It doesn’t need explanation. Maybe even defies it. And this, I realize, is how I lived for a long time, defying categorization because something didn’t quite fit but I didn’t know what it was.
The truth just is. Like the ocean, like the heart, like music that penetrates to your core and moves through your body, making your body move. It just is, the way touching your own face softly or stroking a child’s bangs back or submerging your aching body in a scalding bath just is. The truth just is, the way fruit just grows on trees or bushes or vines, without instructions; its only purpose is to ripen, to fall, to nourish. The truth is a slide guitar, a dog running to catch a frisbee, a little girl flying down the beach under a flawless sky, pure and unbounded. The truth is a bird in flight, the fading light, solitude and simultaneity and holding all of it, all of these clashing co-existing realities, and not choosing, not competing, not conquering and coveting, not pitting one part of life against another but letting it all be, letting it all be so true. The tears, the missing, the finding, the losing and gaining, the honesty that lets them fall freely, without recrimination. Just letting it all out, letting it all go, rain dripping and draining from gutters and snow falling and melting and ice drifting and sun setting. That horoscope from last October: You’ve combined ingredients that no one thought could be blended.
This afternoon, Greg and the girls arrived in Vieques, greeted by my parents. Aviva called me as they drove to the crescent-shaped Sombe, Sun Bay. Her sweet voice carried the smell of the salt air, the delicious warmth of the sun. Run free, beautiful girl. Wild horses on the beach grazing, galloping. I’m sad today not to be there with them. I’m looking at pictures from our last trip there together. I see myself, my girls two years younger, Greg, feel our aliveness. And yet there was more, is more. So there they are, and here I am, the world a big stage with us its players and nothing more to understand but that life is for the living, the smell of fresh jasmine and the long, long winter, all at once, at one.
In a couple of days, I will drive first to Amherst for a visit with one of my sisters, and then Friday further south to the Isabella Freedman Center in the Connecticut Berkshires, a place I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. I had to push myself a bit, to sign up for this, to put myself out there, the retreat I signed up for a form of not retreating.
As I was writing this post, I received an email confirming my participation, with the following words of welcome:
Over the past few years we–Nehirim and especially the Women’s Retreat–have begun to build the Mishkan, the holy space where we can come together to create an amazing community. Now at this year’s event we are chazaka–we are strengthened! We are a community. We are a group of people coming together expanding and exploring who we are and at the same time enjoying that we are on the map–we are already built.
If this is your first retreat, Welcome! YOU are important to our building and expanding. If you are an old timer, Welcome Back! You are a vital part in our building, taking apart, and rebuilding. We look forward to seeing you again. For all of us, whether seasoned or brand new ones, we ask with curiosity, Who are you? Really–who are you today? and how can we come together and create the magic that is Community?
Without denial, I’ve begun to move through old fears. Without the fears, I am free to discover myself in new ways, true ways. I am done hesitating at thresholds and standing behind forbidden border crossings, no longer sitting on fences, always on the verge of something other than the life I’m already living. I like this notion, that I am already built. At the same time, if I’m going to continue expanding and exploring who I am, if my identity has in some ways shattered, then healing requires me to step in. And to come out.