This feels like another day where I have to calculate and measure words accordingly. If I were to select a handful, what would they be? Would the be kind? Necessary? For the highest good for all involved?
I think about a handful of silence and what I can do with that. I can cut myself on it with ambiguity. I can move into restless rumblings and attempt to take the wheel of every circumstance around and inside of me because #ihatepowerlessness. For me, silence brings in a heavy sense of powerlessness.
I sit with that for a moment.
It could be an opportunity to sink deeply inward and find stillness and peace. It could be used to listen intently to the world around me and really hear what it has to say. But for me, silence equals a connection to a wound and I have a hard time sitting still in it. And I’m a Buddhist, so that’s a fun path.
Words and silence are in my hands, while in a place of waiting. Waiting for so many things to offer a clear and definite answer.
Is this the way? Is that? Is this the solution or a place of more destruction?
I will walk gently with this silence, as if I am carrying a small baby bird fast asleep in my palm. I do not wish to disturb anything with my hands anymore.
It just turned midnight, so it now counts as today, so there.
I was laying in bed watching some interesting videos that actually connect quite beautifully with the topic today, which is all about the phoenix.
I pick this specific theme because I have just submitted a third edition of my book for consideration at a new small press located in Texas. My creative work has itself phoenixed into its new form, and I am delighted with the changes that made its way into the world.
There is also an actual phoenix character, who was lovingly drawn from aspects of my own transformative nature, that catalyzes a major turning point in the book for a number of characters. When she transforms, her fiery wake laps at the core in others, moving them into their own shadow light dance.
My book series originally started as a memoir that was deemed unreadable and “of no interest” unless I had some famous name or if I was a clearly defined “somebody”. Within the sections of the original design was nestled a part dedicated to all of the ways that I’ve phoenixed into my current self through deep transformative work.
I decide to search through my apartment for the misplaced files that I’ve saved labeled “Phoenix” from that original concept. This file homes the parts of me that I had hoped to draw from to write this musing on personal transformation.
I’m scanning through all of the torn pages in my manilla folder and cannot find anything of use.
I have phoenixed past my original phoenix.
Well, at least partially.
Most of it feels too personal. It reminds me I have established sacred boundaries around my truth and all of the hard work that I have climbed through in order to find myself in the depths of shadow. At one point I wanted to share that journey- I was eager to rappel into the depths and retrieve the necessary wisdom for extraction.
Now it feels unnecessary.
What will I write about then?
I decide to try and rewrite a poem from several others in this same file. There is still something missing. I have to sit and wait for the answer.
Nothing appears worth salvaging.
That sometimes happens in the place of ash, when you’ve burned through something once familiar. Sometimes there are bones left to carry with you- to build upon. Sometimes you are left with nothing- your life becomes a full pyre.
I don’t recommend the latter. That was 2020 for me. House. Family. Friendships. Spiritual Community. Marriage. Job. Book contract. Book itself. Author name.
I fell into a darkness, leaving room for one thing only- the Golden flames of eternal Spirit to ignite me from within.
I had to carry on in some form, even if it was the imperfections of once was and ash.
I used to catalyze the phoenix- create unnecessary change and chaos. For a long time I never knew why I would do such a thing. Destroy creative work. Friendships. Myself at my own hand.
After years of healing work, I found out that it was a means for me to try and maintain control. As long as I was the one forcing a change, then the change wouldn’t come and surprise me- it couldn’t take anything from me- I would be a willing participant. I didn’t want to be a victim of anything- especially circumstance.
It’s a raw and destructive way to use your power and lifeforce, if you ask me. Things always have their season, and every season is none like the other. The shedding of the old will always look and feel a little different, even if it taps into the same layers of what fell away before.
I have come to believe that at the core of what transforms us is love. Love of the Divine moving us into our true form- moving us away from what no longer serves- moving us because that is the vitality of life itself. To move and be moved by the embers of the unseen within each of us. Love in another can also transform us into new being.
I never knew that I was capable of loving someone so deeply and truly until I became a mother. It opened up something fiercely healing inside of me and ushered in this stronger version I had never set eyes on.
She is with me now, as is all of the previous versions I have learned to cherish as teachers.
Love of self- and not in a misconstrued lens of self-centeredness- is another piece of the alchemy. The most potent ingredient, if I had a say in things.
What creates the most magical Mystery of emergence is the sacred Trinity of all three- walking hand in hand, we learn to move into new form through Spirit, through others, through the depths of loving all that lives within us.
I have also found that the only way to shine brightest is by plunging ourselves into the depths of the unknown territory of darkness within. Bring a lantern and a compass, of course, because you can and will get lost. I promise.
Those are some actual parts of my own phoenix story that I don’t speak of. Some things that we grapple with in the dark are not meant for reopening. Especially in a platform such as this.
I think of the phoenix, and stages come to mind. The rebirth/birth. The fledgling. The soaring/zenith. The molting/decay. The death/return.
All parts and versions of myself have gone through each of these stages every time I come into new form.
There is something newly emerging in me- she doesn’t quite yet have a name and is a little past fledgling and testing her wings at this moment. I look forward to where she will take me.
I sit and think of the latter stages and think of the element of powerlessness and control. I think of fear connected to losing self through ego death, through the falling away of what’s comfortable and seemingly safe. When I think of powerlessness when it comes to those stages- the tender vulnerable dependent nature of become senile to the once familiar- the once thriving- the once zenith of our loves or lives- I can see why I would try and take matters into my own hands. Push to flame before the decay gets me. Make it on my terms.
I’m getting better at this. I surrender better. Realize sooner. Open my hands a little more to things I typically hold tight to. I ask- how can I deepen in this taking away? How can I release? I move to go with the flame.
Thinking I can stay ahead of the phoenix is one way for me to try and “fix’ or alter a situation/relationship/circumstance. I’ve come to know this, even though it pains me.
I tap into the still silence and face myself- moment by moment- and see what reveals itself- what needs to stay- what isn’t working- what has become kindling and readily ignitable. A graceful retreat into surrender is the last thing I want to do in this place, but I do it anyway.
I do it anyway- because I remember what’s at the heart of that decision- the core of me is being re-Visioned through Spirit, through self, through others.
There are two amazing books that I read my daughter.
The Book with No Pictures, by B.J. Novak and The Mine-O-Saur by Sudipta Bardhan-Quallen.
Scratch that- three. The Monster at the End of the Book is a family tradition as well.
My father purchased the first one for my daughter for either Christmas or her birthday several years ago, and it has easily become a family favorite.
There’s a part of me that wants to tell you what that book is about, but there’s also this part of me that wants you to go find it and read it aloud, without expectation, to someone you love.
I promise, you won’t be disappointed.
I will stick with that decision and nudge you, oh wandering reader, to find this magic and embrace it. See what unfolds.
The second book I can gladly tell you is all about what happens when we are selfish. It’s a moral of the story situation when I read this to my daughter, but it also prompts me to use my silly voice that makes her fall into a fit of giggles, which I adore profusely. Her fit of giggles triggers mine, and we laugh like this- rebounding off of each other’s joy.
Her laughter is a straight shot of sunlight to my heart, so I aim to offer her opportunities to delight me with that joy as often as possible, which is a daily goal of mine.
Even when we disagree, which, when you’re a parent of a seven-year-old you find yourself face to face with many opportunities for that, I find a way to ease the tension with a smile or a chuckle. It always makes things better.
I’m thinking on the Mine-O-Saur and its application to adult humans, particularly the human that stares back at me from across the mirror.
I think on how I have been greedy in needing. How in that energy of my interactions I have left myself abandoned. How, when I move to a place of sharing, I am not alone.
This pops up another book, which is not quite my favorite, but it also makes my daughter laugh, so I will bring this into the theme of things that make her giggle. This book is called Just One More. Don’t ask me the author on this one because it’s lost under a stack of books I’m unwilling to search through.
Being in recovery, there is so much deeper meaning to this book for me, it’s laughable.
I mean, kids can be insatiable, right?
My problem, as an adult in recovery, is that I’ve been walking around with this wounded child within. Hungry. Greedy. Needing attention.
Wanting just one more out of a deficit. And that’s coming from a place of almost seventeen years sober.
See… I told you- deeper than a children’s book, right?
In the past twenty-four hours, I’ve been asked multiple times how much sober time I have, as a prerequisite. I can’t tell you what the prerequisite is for, but it is something of great importance to me.
It brings me back to my Rider, and asking for what I desire. It brings me back to thinking on what I’ve settled for in the name of connection without respecting my own boundaries linked to expectations and standards. Because, love, right?
I know better, which means I need to do better moving forward.
I can’t be all grabby at things that don’t belong to me. That don’t serve, even if they feel good. And sometimes they feel really good.
I have to ask, “What am I willing to allow?” And more importantly, “Why am I willing to allow this- why am I not requiring some prerequisites to be no-brainers and dealbreakers? Why am I allowing too much wiggle room?”
This showed up very powerfully for me yesterday and moved me to a place of considering what I am allowing into the sacred space of my desires that may not belong. That may not be serving the Highest Good.
Why can’t I just be a fleshy human being doing fleshy human being things without thoughts of remorse?
Because, fortunately for me, I have taken up a practice of facing moments of silence to take accountability. To hold myself to a higher standard for the Higher/Highest Good.
“I want to feel safe in the waiting,” I tell the door, as if an inanimate object could truly understand. It seems to be talking to me, so why not, right?
“This moment is full of many things. Is safe one of them?” the door replied.
I start to question everything. “Are we ever truly safe?”
A wild-eyed panic rises up like bile.
I start to shake.
“I don’t know how to feel safe on my own,” I plead.
I am still clamoring about in myself, trying to fix, to control, to manipulate my discomfort.
The door offered an energetic nod of acknowledgement. I didn’t know doors could do that kind of thing. I start to settle.
“Maybe it’s time to try that on your own. Nothing outside of you will secure you. You know that. Maybe it’s time you hold yourself.”
I close my eyes. Take in a breath, and descend into myself. Prepare for a tender embrace…
In this place of descent, I am drawn to reflect on a piece of writing that found me when I was nineteen, studying Gender Studies as a freshman in college, and claiming Undecided as my calling.
Borderlands: La Frontera, by the wonderous Gloria Anzaldua, introduced me to the figure Coatlicue (pg 69) at a time when I was hungry for understanding. I read about her, explored the shadowy depths of her nature as a state of embracing the darkness. It felt safe to explore this connection. Any fear associated with going within to retrieve oneself from the shadowlands was hushed into Knowing. It was the first time the Descent was presented from a frame that I resonated with- without stigma or being called depression.
I remember moving into my early twenties feeling a deep secretive need to obscure my connection to this particular piece. How dare I resonate with a Chicana poet? How dare I claim to understand? Especially at nineteen.
I felt I was trespassing, specifically due to the fact that every other article on my class syllabus spoke to the depths of appropriation, of the slaughter of people and cultures, of exposing every possible whitewashed corner of a homogenized and assimilated “reality”.
How could I even begin to look into this person’s words and find myself?
A divide split open within me at that point, and I never spoke of this quickening. My version of losing my voice in my own privileged circumstances of trauma could never be held up as a justifiable reason as to why I had permission to connect.
And yet, seeds were planted anyway- she showed me a way to a harmonious connection to the Descent.
Thus, began my journey of stepping out and into the world to understand why her words resonated so deeply within me. I am still on that journey, learning and unlearning a vast variety of why’s.
One of the many things that I have extracted from my experiences is that words can be a catalyst. They can catapult you far away from the here and now just as much as offer breadcrumbs back to yourself. They can even directly lend a rope for you to climb down into a place of retrieval.
I consider, in this moment, other tools that have helped me with my own retrieval over the years. Other stories. Other magic.
Women Who Run with the Wolves immediately comes to mind, so I find my worn paperback copy and open to the chapter Hunting: When the Heart Is a Lonely Hunter.
I spend the morning rereading Chapter Five, and take in the teaching of Skeleton Woman. There is mention of heart connections and the cyclical nature of love. The waning and waxing, wavering and strengthening of hearts as they move into understandings of vulnerable connection.
The words on the page take on a shadow, light, shadow dance within my thoughts. These things stand out: instinctual, trust, bonds, novas, startling, miraculous.
An alarm goes off. I am moved to purge my misunderstandings of connection in a moment’s notice in order to open to the unseen. What can this new place teach me?
Grief pulls heavy on my heart, for those words and ideals have yet to be fashioned in a true heartfelt connection. That awareness strikes me to the bone. I am shaken, yet silent in this awareness.
I am reminded of what I have offered with no return. I am reminded of the strings attached to my connections because of that recurring pattern. I am reminded that my needs deserve to be met, and the way in which I move to get them met have been dysfunctional in the past. I am reminded my past does not dictate my future. I am reminded that I am repatterning myself and am still in the remaking.
Reflecting on an element of my own internal workings, an aspect of myself I lovingly call the Great Forgetting which is an amnesia of sorts that I go through when my C-PTSD shows up, I think about how I’m influenced by brain chemicals to erase connections. The importance of them. The significance of the work that I have diligently put into them. In one fell swoop of fight or flight, I cut ties.
At least I used to.
I now sit tight a lot longer than before, but man that sitting tight takes everything within me to put down the fight.
I now hold on to the light within a connection instead of reducing it to its shadows. That old, ascribed way of relating often left me hungry when I took that position in love. It starved me any time I held fast to the “my way or the highway”.
That old way of relating often left me cold in my compromise- full of resentful list-making of all of the ways I deserved to be treated better. It often led me to a place of vengeful, self-righteous anger.
I also consider how, in those moments of compromise, I used to offer so many pieces of myself that only a swift circumstantial 4×4 could wake me up to what I’d lost within myself. What I’d truly given away. And that self-righteous anger made complete sense.
When compromise leaves you empty instead of full like that, you’re left with a head and heart full of doubt. When the idea of a vow lends energy to “all’s fair”, and when you’ve found yourself depleted by such a commitment, you have nothing left to do but offer it all up to the altar for prayer and healing.
And so I do.
And so it is…
I’m suddenly thrust into a state of resurfacing with a new sense of understanding, so it feels my descent was shorter-lived than expected.
I return to the page.
More words stand out: hunting, requirements, pursuit, Coatlique.
Again, with the shadow descent. The cycle begins anew.
I am filled with a powerful sense of Now and chills rush over me, from head to toe. I am swept away by this full circle and dance internally with the template of the cyclical nature of connections.
These two separate pieces of written work found their way to me, mere moments apart. The thread of the unseen led me here.
More chills rise as I open to this discovery.
I am reminded of the very thing that the title of this chapter links to- a hunger in a heart filled with deficit.
I’m currently in a place of new growth. Tiny shoots of green through the earth kind of new growth. Tender. Fragile. Determined for the sun.
I’m currently on a path of rebuilding and regrowing new sinew of Remembering and Reclaiming on the bones of what had been stripped away in 2020.
In a moment of reflection, I feel how my circumstances have been hungry, begging to be fed with what little had managed to return as newly formed flesh, as Spirit, as home.
I’ve been asked in this place of regrowth to slice away and feed others with the little I have and trust that in the giving there would be a receiving. I had many doubts. The math didn’t add up. I wanted to claim scarcity with my trembling hands.
But in a place of deficit, new connections were formed. New synapses reborn. New hands outreached. New surplus and plenty offered.
I have learned that for a supple return in life, there must be a fallow season- a bit of slash and burn in order to replenish the places and versions of ourselves we nurture the roots of. One must become the ash to rise up. One must be cleansed of everything to build a stronger structure of self. The Tower must fall, both inside and out, to take full advantage of gratitude, of each breath, of each moment.
And as anything else, when there is descent, there will always be another season of rising up again.
My eyes are finding a way back to being reanimated with a wide-angle lens- a lasting perspective and hope that things can improve. I can and will move from a place of deepest despair to replenishment.
This beautiful door’s invitation led me to a place where I was able to offer small pieces of my growing self to my growing self as well. I was able to graft a budding optimism with faith.
A way was born.
This door led me to consider how the union and connection with others creates magic and unimaginable endurance. How reaching out proves necessary and life-saving, for myself and others.
Decrease can and will be eclipsed with repair.
And “she who was beneath” can finally come back to the surface, phoenixing into new form. “She who was beneath” is not a prison of her circumstances, nor will she ever truly be defined by the transitory nature of them.
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I’m in the woods again, staring at three closed doors in front of me.
Well, I’m not actually in the woods. I am on this journey more in my mind’s eye.
This is where I go to when I hit a crossroads. This is the place I turn when I activate my Inner Knowing.
I’m standing on an unpaved path. I invite the multicolored doors in front of me to speak. To let me know which one is the true door of opportunity.
The door that calls to me is a deep hunter green. Passionflower vines snake their way around the trellis entranceway. I can almost feel the love and time that have been offered to the arched masonry that cradles this place of opening. It feels magic to me.
I step forward and turn the handle.
The cool, brass doorknob falls to the floor.
I’m locked out from the inside.
“What!” my mind screams.
“Is this a trick? Why would I be led to this?”
I don’t even see a keyhole to try and thieve my way through to open it.
“You cannot seek this way,” the door says.
I whittle away the moment into splinters of fret.
“Why can’t I go through?” I scream at this unmoving obstacle in front of me.
“Why would I be offered a closed door that I’m pulled to open?”
I rush to run my hands over the intricate carvings of the woodwork. It speaks even more to me, as if my fingertips are reading, without seeing, what’s on the other side.
I bang on the door in a disorderly mess. Scrape my fists in a frenzy. The ornate design has cut me.
“This cannot be. I have to get through. I have to get through!”
“I open from the inside…The opportunity has to present itself first,” the door replies.
“Oh, I’ll show you!”
Self-reliance kicks in. I turn around, scan my surroundings for something to pry it open. I find several sturdy branches I could attempt to beat the door down with. But that would destroy the beauty. That would demolish the lush greenery. The time that the Great Designer’s hands spent on building every single aspect of this beautiful door would be stolen in a moment of lost control.
I crumple to a pile in front of the door. Several small scrapes upon my palms from the fight with what is are aching. My insides completely torn to shreds. Self-will has taken the wheel again.
I thrash around a bit, fighting myself and what I want like a two-year-old begging for a candy bar. I create a nest of suffering in my being and I just nuzzle right on in. And I stay there, weeping.
As I lay in a heap on the ground, I remember to breathe. And breathe again. An objective moment delights my thoughts as I awaken to how I’m behaving. Shame overwhelms me- heavy waves that threaten to take me under. I waste more precious moments feeling sorry for myself before another objective moment comes to.
Straighten up. Shift. Adjust your sails, love.
I get quiet. Like uncomfortably quiet. A kind of quiet where my body speaks too loud and my mind crowds out my peace and I have to just sit still in all my thrashing. Just for a moment. And another moment.
And then it comes.
I can’t control this outcome. I want to, with all of my might, but I can’t.
I pop an eye open and scramble to my feet, convinced I have solved the riddle.
“Are you called Powerlessness?” I ask the door.
“Are you still trying to manipulate what is?” The door replied.
I drop to my knees and realize I am without the old tools, yet I am attempting to wield and reshape them with what I have, and what I have is to wait. I can feel this fight welling up inside of me, in an attempt to ruin my chance to step through at the right time. Who will I destroy first? This door or myself?
Why can’t I just be?
I empty my shame into silent pools of tears at my feet. I touch my forehead to the earth and sink into release. I don’t want to be the warrior in this place. I don’t want to scramble about and fight with the here and now. I want to be at peace.
“What do I do in the meantime?” I ask quietly, surrender close at hand.
“You could possibly pray for willingness to let things go. But don’t ask for patience, dear one,” the door offered empathetically.
“I wouldn’t dare, because I know I will get more of these uncomfortable tests and opportunities to practice what I’m asking for. I know I want patience in this place, but I don’t want the opportunity to practice it.”
“You know that’s the only way through, right?” the door said. I could almost hear a smile in its tone.
“This is the way you’ve always done things. It’s time to reconsider,” it offers encouragingly.
“You have this moment. Be grateful.”
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I am prompted today with a bit of self-consciousness in hand.
Joining a 30-day blog challenge feels a bit unnatural to me. I typically hate writing prompts and feel the full force of expectation breathing down my neck as I type these words.
And then I remember, this is all just words, right?
I know how to do this.
I settle in with the thought of how I will unfold in the next thirty days. Should I give myself an activity to find a daily theme? Should I just word vomit on the page to empty out like how I used to do my daily “Morning Pages” from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way? Should I plan everything out, tight-fisted and controlled? Should I just show up to the page to see what can be revealed?
I think to myself- Is this for me or for an audience? What is it that I truly want to express? In this place of expression, am I extracting the essence of what I want to say?
Do I have to say it all?
Do I have to say it all?
I consider, quietly, the walks I typically take in the woods and how often I feel torn to capture or release the beauty around me. We must inhale the world around us in order to awaken the one within. That’s my approach, anyway.
I think of that struggle when I make space for these words.
Am I approaching with trap in hand? Bait? A lure for myself and others?
Am I revealing too much in saying just that?
I take myself to the shower to anoint my feet with rose oil and think upon what I have to say, and if what I have to say is what I want to say.
I exfoliate and spread this expensive drop of oil upon my feet, thinking to myself how long it took for me to count myself deserving of this ritual of self-care. How long it took me to embrace offering myself a sacred moment of worthiness.
As I lather my feet, I consider the path that they have taken me on. How they have stood up for themselves in the face of adversity. How they have trodden a worn path and followed in other’s footsteps in order to finally find the rough, unexplored terrain of soul that they have been dying to dig their toes into.
It only took forty years, is all.
What will the next forty promise?
I circle back.
Realize I am on this page wondering – why am I talking about my feet? Why am I talking about my path? Why am I talking at all about the purpose of words and the place where souls meet?
And I remember, any and all who have reached out and have offered me the kindness of remembering myself. Any and all who have seen that my voice is important, even when it wavers. Any and all who have pointed the light on what I have to say and have exchanged a “thank you” for me being able to articulate what their heart has longed to share. I replace apprehension with gratitude.
I am refilled.
I am humbled that Spirit works through me in this way. I am humbled that there can be purpose spun into gold from the dark shadows of the past, and in that spinning, a fine, Divine thread can be carried from my heart to others.
I know not what tomorrow holds. Who knows what the next prompt will be. It may be a quiet listening to the breaking open of morning to find the pieces. To find the words. To find the thread.
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