The Art of Drawing a Treasure Map


Go easy on yourself tonight.

Whatever you’re feeling — feel it fully.

Whatever you’re loving, savor it.

Whatever you’re praying for, if you pray, pray hard.

In whatever ways these fit together, it’s your mosaic, no one else’s.

Think of one person in the world who has your back.
Say their name out loud. Find a way to say thank you.

Picture one person for whom you’d throw yourself on the tracks.
Let them know, in what ever way you can and want to.

Ask yourself what would have things be easy.

Decide what’s worth fighting for and fight with focus.

Gift yourself something you’ve always wanted but didn’t think you deserved. Whisper it. Buy it. Ask for it. Write it down.

Pick a confidante (this could be your cat).

Make something happen.

Let go of the thing you can’t make happen that was never yours to make in the first place.

Let go, let go, let go. Let go again.

Then hold tight to the treasures you keep on purpose.

Draw a picture of the treasures.

Draw a treasure map leading to the you you are when you no longer worry what other people think.

The Art of Detachment

This morning, my old friend and I went for our weekly run. We were both tired, but she came over anyway, and I rallied and laced up my sneakers, and out we went for our just-shy-of-25-minute jaunt north to UMass and then up through town, back to my driveway, where we stretched and kept talking for a while longer, then up to my kitchen, where I poured us both some water and we talked yet some more.

Our weekly run reminds me of when, years ago in Burlington, my friend Nan and I used to meet Friday mornings at my house, ostensibly for sitting practice. We did sit, mind you — usually for 10 or 15, sometimes as long as 20 minutes. And then we picked a card from the Carolyn Myss archetypes deck and talked. And talked and talked and talked. I’d joke that our sitting practice was really just cover for getting together, and it was.

When my life imploded, it was Nan I called, and the friendship that grew up inside of all that sitting and talking was a kind of bedrock. The same is true these days with Susa. The running is our presenting reason for a regular visit, and these visits are the stuff that makes a friendship become bedrock, even one that goes back 30+ years.
We were talking about how you really never know what’s going on in someone else’s world, not unless he or she tells you.

What if we moved through life seeing each other this way? She told me about a video that always makes her partner, a dharma teacher, well up with tears. In it, some guy is having One of Those Days. The kind where everything is hard, the world seems to be against him, conspiring to perpetuate his suffering. He gets cut off in traffic, someone at the coffee shop is rude to him — we’ve all been this person.

Then there’s the second version, with little bubbles above the other people’s heads. The driver of the car that cut off our disgruntled protagonist? Recently lost his wife to cancer. The jerk in the coffee shop ? Going through a brutal divorce.

You’ve probably seen this quote, even likelier in some pretty meme on Pinterest: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” There’s debate about its origin, which attests if anything to its universality and truth.

Where things can sticky, for me, is when I forget this. Because then it becomes easy for my own ego to take center stage (isn’t that where ego loves to hang out?). Historically, it has been really hard for me to have someone be unhappy. As a kid, I hated it when my mom was upset, even if I hadn’t been the one to upset her. Because life is kind in this way, I’ve had lots of practice with this trigger.

To this day, I still have to work on walking away when Aviva is upset or angry, be it with me or for any other reason. I’m not proud of this, but it’s true. “I’m getting better,” I want to say, and even there, I hear the plea, the not-so-subtle wish for approval: Look, world, I’m working on it! Look, Ma, no hands!

The good girl in me — I don’t trust her much anymore. She sees through distorted lenses. She might have 99 people who respect her, appreciate her, and enjoy her gifts and foibles alike. But guess what? It’s that 1% that catches her, hooks her, sinks her. Left to her own voices and devices, she’d be a cloying partner, a needy friend, and a helicopter mom. Oy.

The art of detachment. Other people’s opinions of me are none of my business. Complete sentences, like “No.” And, “I don’t want to.” And, “This doesn’t feel good to me.” And, “Best wishes.

Sometimes not everything goes your way, or mine. Maybe even a lot of time. Where did we — where did I — get this idea, that it should?

I think about raising resilient, well-prepared-for-real-life kids, and realize the best and perhaps only way I can do this is to live a real life. Hang the rejection letter on the fridge. Tell them I had an unhappy customer and didn’t understand why and couldn’t fix it because it wasn’t mine to fix. Keep doing my work with as much joy, integrity, and heart as I can. Focus on the 99% not as sugar-coating but because it feels good and fuels me.

I’m not polished. I’m not perfect. I’m not for everyone. You’re not for everyone. Some days are rough, but the truth is, as many beautiful moments happen as sucky ones. It’s just that the latter can eclipse everything if I let them.

What if we all saw those little bubbles over each other’s heads? What if we have one person, just one, who meets us exactly where we are, week after week after week, to sit, to run, or even just to drink coffee and laugh or cry or talk about all the broken and beautiful things until a day comes when oh, do we ever need that friend and there she is, waiting for you with a latte and a hug? What if we wished each other well and walked away when it didn’t feel good, and it was nobody’s fault? What if we were kinder to each other and ourselves, and didn’t take everything so personally?

I’m practicing the art of detachment. And something interesting is happening. It is getting easier to arrive at this freedom: I am here, you are there. This is mine, that is yours. My shadow is a dance partner who’s always pushing me to learn new steps.

It’s almost like she believes in me.

The Hawk, the Lioness, and the Cupcakes

featherI wanted to write something beautiful. And short. A poem about a hawk. Instead I made cupcakes from a mix, the funfetti kind. I am reading the words out loud as I type. Unbeknownst to me, Mani’s been in the same boat for the past hour or so; she clicked away from her own blank screen and has been watching The Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce. Now my tongue is stained red with frosting from a plastic container. And we are both writing.

But in addition to not writing while the cupcakes were the oven, I got caught up in looking at images on Pinterest of potential tattoos. A hawk feather. The one I wanted to write about. Mucha’s “The Moon,” a painting I’ve loved and identified with for nearly three decades, since I was a girl-woman, smoking out my bedroom window and pining for true love, for a voice.

Tomorrow the girls come home to us after almost a week with their dad, Grandma, and friends in Vermont. Pearl just ran up a few minutes ago though, to grab her snow pants and boots for night sledding, breathlessly excited that it finally looks and feels like winter. I offered her a cupcake and she gave me a hug — pretty great exchange rate, as far as I’m concerned.

I’m wearing Mani’s boyfriend jeans and really don’t want to write a rambling blog post.

I could write about her skin against mine. My god, where I belong. And how the pain in my lower back that’s been tight like a metal band for months now is situated between the first and second chakra — my family of origin and the one of my making. Oh, the body knows. The body knows where the growth spurts are, where the breaks occurred, where the healing hasn’t yet happened all the way but wants and needs to.

Last night, she said I was her lioness. Sleek, gorgeous, fierce,  hungry, protective. Our eyes so close, I could see all of the ocean and stars in hers. The hawk, soaring above us — a pair, in fact (they mate for life) who live in the trees behind our bedroom and circle high above the skylight at least once a day. We hear them hunting. They keep watch. “Hawk” is her Hebrew name, and her spirit’s, too. She watches. She soars. She sees.

The lioness is not my name, though for those moments, when she saw me and asked if I felt it, too, felt its power growing, I said yes.

I said yes. I was hers.

The lioness and the hawk. The moon and the silenced night beauty. The despair we all carry, I’m convinced, that comes with love. A mother on her knees, greeting her child, or mourning him. How can I write something beautiful?

So I made cupcakes. I folded laundry. I walked over to my parents house to say hello, because they are here, and I can. Because I have grown up and am not sixteen or twenty-three. Because it is enough, to trust my own experience and to be my own witness once again, without explanation and without danger.

muchaAs I walked home earlier, trudging carefully over the slushy sidewalk, I recited the beginnings of a letter to her, to that young woman. Oh, how she wanted a family like the one she’d known and grown up with. She wanted a husband and a house and babies. She didn’t know how to keep herself. For many years, I was devoted.

And then my abandoned self came ravaging out of the shadows, starving and ruthless and sorry-not-sorry.

She, me, I. I wanted to be taken care of. And now, wow. I have begun to see. To become someone I never imagined I would be, which is to say: The one I always wished would find me. I found myself.

Trite, but true.

Last night, I got a long massage. The massage therapist didn’t use any oils, in order to play it safe with regards to Mani’s potential for reacting to scents or ingredients. Instead, she worked only with her clean, bare, unlotioned hands. She began on my right foot and zeroed in on everything that’s been hurting for months. She asked about boundaries.

Today, as I recalled more about the massage, Mani asked me what scares me about having clearer boundaries. “Seeming cold,” I responded. “And things being harder.” She nodded, and then offered this: “I think things just get better and better as a result of boundaries.” My turn to nod.

Both feet on the ground, not one turned slightly outward as it has been for months — not so much a pull out the door as an unconscious expression of fear — fear of standing all the way inside of myself, my decisions and choices, my life as it is and is becoming.

I’m tired of being afraid. Afraid of seeming this or that way. Afraid of being scolded or reprimanded or cornered or challenged. Of elevating “nice” over honest. Of phantom dominance. As the year comes to a close, I will leave this fear behind me on the crumbling bridge. Set it down with a thank you and a kiss blown to vanishing. I’ll walk ahead, the fog is so thick I can no longer locate what I put down.

As Maz says in the new Star Wars: “The belonging you seek is not behind you, it is ahead.” Maybe that will be my next tattoo. TFA-Lupita-and-Maz

I am no longer willing to be afraid (yes, I feel her growing, sometimes hear her growling), or of the repercussions  I invent out of an arrested imagination that sometimes needs reminders of safety. I may choose to hold my hand to my lips, ssshhhhhhh. But to choose silence is very different from the imposed variety, be it from within or from without.

I am so in love. With my wife. With my kids. I want symbols of them painted in permanent ink on my body — the hawk, the moon, the arrow. Where or whether I actually get these tattoos, who knows. But the impulse to wear my love is strong. To carry myself and my loves with me not only in my bones and blood but on my skin — arms, shoulders, torso, feet, hipbones, anchored — I am coming to life, my whole body announcing itself, the stories of our names like flickering films across our lives. A kind of revival.

I wanted to write something short and beautiful. A poem. Oh, how I longed to write a poem. Instead, I made cupcakes and looked at Pinterest. There is no way to convey the wildness and knowing that my heart sometimes knows. Sometimes, the translation is seamless, when the words channel themselves from some place I’ll never share a map to.

But other times, no. They’re quiet and shy as a waning moon, or careful like prey, unwilling to be hunted. Sometimes the words hide from the hawk and other times, the hawk hides from the lioness. And sometimes, the words are great talons or teeth, clutching or bearing down and staking claim to the kill.

Tonight, all of these circle each other. That’s the whole picture. That is the poem. And now, I am going to eat another cupcake. Or three.