What's in the gallery?

We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

What's in the gallery?

We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

Origin story

pale pink yoga rug dragon tongue

Image: a pale red-pink long rug where I do my morning stretching in the sun, you can imagine (I do) it is a dragon tongue, I dance from the flames…

pre-

This is the longest and possibly most intimate piece I’ve ever shared online, long even for me, a winding road that wanted to take its time and asked me to take mine. It’s nearly nine thousand words, three times what you might be used to from me.

All this to say you might want a mug of something warm or cool, maybe some snacks. Make yourself comfortable. We have ground to cover, landscapes to wonder at, mysteries, awe. Entering a space as I wish to be in it, for me right now, this is a clue about the tantalizing superpowers of grounded excitement, unhurried anticipation.

I am taking a breath of thankfulness: thankful that you are here, that I am here, here’s to the superpowers of keep on keeping on, to beginnings and entry.

In the beginning

In the beginning (of this summer).

That’s when the hornet stung me. Maybe that was the beginning.

My friend and I were walking in the wildlife refuge. I was in a crisis of renewed joy, so happy and relieved to see her, after having been so lonely and so isolated alone in the dome, for months, undone by the wild winds.

I had understood my state of misery to be standard-order depression combined with the anxiety of pandemic life and the devastating heat of summer, but depression doesn’t generally lift magically and instantaneously, and as soon as I saw my friend, I felt joyful and at ease again, hope-filled.

Disguise

This sudden shift into joy meant I had to consider that maybe it had all been loneliness and sorrow in disguise.

To be honest, I had not expected to feel lonely in quarantine life; I spend most of my time alone anyway and mostly prefer it that way. The New Normal was a new lonely, and it threw me for a loop, how utterly different isolation feels when it chooses you, and you don’t get to choose, because all the choices are gone.

How do you anticipate being completely reconfigured?

How do you recognize yourself when nothing makes sense?

Reside in the desert at your own peril

I was musing on these themes, and enjoying seeing my friend, enjoying the hills and the trees. I registered the hornet coming towards me, but it seemed to be headed past, and Arizona is just generally oriented towards everything trying to kill you, so you kind of get used to it.

Hard to get too worked up over potential death when every aspect of your environment wants you to perish. This is one of the many reasons I was unsurprised the virus did so much damage; precautions are not the Arizona way.

Yeah that’s a rattlesnake in the road but it’s sleepy and all the way over there. Sure, we’ll sit on this porch and chat, it’s probably covered in scorpions but whatever, yes that decorative cactus will slice your hand off.

Isolation

On the topic of perishing, sometimes these crises of self (who am I when I am not the self I thought I knew) are a form of death too.

My friend Kathryn calls this an acid bath of the soul, and my months of total isolation in the desert delivered so many of those that I am still reeling my way through recovery.

A sharp awakening

The hornet did go past me but then it dove back to sting me on the back of the neck.

A mob hit. Precise, cruel, completely intentional.

Which direction is safety, is there a direction towards safety

In Arizona, if any kind of bee gets aggressive with you for no reason, a swarm is coming for you, a swarm and death if you can’t outrun the swarm, and so I ran.

I ran, confused by the pain, trying to remember the distance you have to go to outrun the swarm, was I running in a useful direction, would the swarm come from behind me?

My friend Matthew was once chased by hornets all the way to his front porch, stung three times and then the swarm just stopped. Okay we reached the periphery and we’re done here!

And he made it through the door. I was thinking about that. Where is my door? What is my version of a door?

Absence of X

I ran. I noticed my friend was not running. Maybe she is not impressed by killer bees, maybe she didn’t understand.

There was still no swarm.

We walked through the fields of dead sunflowers. What does it feel like to not anticipate a painful terrifying death?

Dissonance

Dissonance amplifies trauma, that is the best way I can sum up this time.

Pandemic life in the United States means not only existing inside an unfolding disaster, but doing this while the danger is inexplicably invisible to half the people in the country.

There’s a premise for a disaster movie, or just a disaster. An alien invasion, but half the people can’t see them. Terrible fires, and half the people don’t feel the heat and insist they can’t smell smoke.

An earthquake that topples everything while half the population insists it hasn’t happened at all.

It is so deeply bewildering to be in the disaster, but it is more bewildering to interact with people acting like there is no disaster. My friend casually meandering and not running from an impending hornet swarm was almost a mirroring of that.

This situation is also a reflection of the insidious nature of structural racism, who sees and perceives and who does not, and I am also reminded of the Kavanaugh confirmation, the gendered gap in grief-rage.

Recovery

My friend gave me arnica capsules and a salve for the sting. The pain did not subside.

I somehow drove ninety minutes back to my loneliness, and slept for a week.

The back of my neck swelled into half a golf ball, and then larger, purple and bruised. It kept getting larger. I had to remind myself that I had been stung; my fingers touching it wanted to read it as a tumor. Oh no, babe, no, this is just what recovery looks like.

Poison

I didn’t see the point of taking any of this to a doctor. There is regular living-in-the-wild-desert danger involved in sharing space with poisonous everything, and then there is going to a doctor during a pandemic.

Anyway, I knew what a wise doctor would say, if I were lucky enough to find one of those. People vary. You’re someone with heightened sensitivities, intense reactions to everything, and now your body is having an intense reaction to being poisoned. Rest up. Wait and see.

That’s what I did.

Origin story

Maybe this will be my origin story, I joked to a friend by text, maybe this will finally unleash all those dormant powers if I don’t die.

Maybe this is how it begins, the catalyst, the pre-story, this is the tale of how our lost and lonely protagonist Havi Bell Brooks transforms into The Desert Assassin, the Sorceress of Snakes & Self, the Vixen of Vs, the X of Xs.

Welcome, welcome, all aspects of self, these glowingly powerful power-personas, forged from the fires of isolation, desert heat and this dose of venom.

A chrysalis from venom

Maybe this recovery period is like a chrysalis formed from my interaction with venom, maybe this is what we exist-through before the emergence. A slow motion montage of gaining in powers.

That didn’t happen.

Or who knows, maybe it did.

Maybe this is exactly what happened and it hasn’t been made visible yet. Maybe new vision is part of this too. Learning to recognize myself again.

Deep

After about ten days, the swelling went down, a large marble, and eventually it subsided.

Here is another thing that happened this summer: My brain stopped working.

I lost all focus, I slipped deeper into listlessness, the days were long and confusing; I spent most of them staring into space having forgotten what it was I was trying to do.

You can do this babe, one step at a time, we’ve got this, let’s fucking go, I would say, and then three hours would be gone.

I started calling it a win if I could make myself eat once a day. I tried to maintain a sense of humor about my total inability to remember anything or care about anything.

Where were we? Oh yes, the pits of despair!

Question marks

But really is any or all of this the lived reality of deep sustained forced isolation, or is it the consequence of the depth and location of a particularly cruel hornet sting? Who can say?

Is this a story about poison and brain inflammation? Or is it more that humans aren’t meant to go four months without seeing other humans or animal companions?

Or a combination of these and other factors, combined with the cumulative weight of fear about the pandemic and fascism and environmental disaster, combined with the dissonance of everyone else pretending it‘s all a big joke?

My neighbors had pandemic parties every weekend; I heard their laughter echoing through the desert.

Meanwhile the closest thing to a human interaction for me other than a monthly grocery run and the hike into hornet territory was catching a glimpse of the UPS truck on the road and waving to the delivery person inside, a boat just in sight of my deserted island.

More questions

When I finally made it to safety last week, to the dragon sanctuary nestled between the cliffs of wonder and the forest of mystery, I discovered I am allergic to something in the land of enchantment.

Here’s a fascinating conundrum: only my left side has this allergy, these symptoms.

My left eye wells up, turns red and sheds tears, my left nostril is either mysteriously blocked or mysteriously weepy. My right side is unaffected.

It reminds me of something my chiropractor in Tucson always says: “Bodies are weird, dude.”

That’s fair. Wise and fair. Existing in a body is odd and complicated even at the best of times.

Four summers ago

Four summers ago on a bus from Astoria, Oregon headed to Portland. A drunk man wouldn’t stop talking to me, and I looked around for someone I might know, and in lieu of that, someone who might be safer to sit with.

My eyes landed on someone I’d briefly chatted with at the bakery that morning (he’d asked about my laptop, and we’d talked tech supplies for a couple minutes), and he immediately read the situation and was like, “Hey old friend, long time no see!”

We shared stories about our various adventures on the road as the bus made its way through the lush green of Oregon. He had recently acquired a sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica.

Sanctuary

Apparently sometimes baby sloths just fall out of the trees, and because some sloth stereotypes are true, the mothers are like, hmm that seems like a long way down, and it would just take so much effort to go get you, oh well…

And let’s just be honest, that’s so relatable, and I say that both as someone who has no energy for most things these days, and as someone who never got the genetic memo about wanting to parent.

But of course how can you not also worry about the poor, tiny, helpless baby sloths, alone and disoriented, orphaned by circumstance (the circumstances of sloths), and in the path of predators.

Of course I’m not the only one who is worried about them, hence the sloth sanctuary. Good news, my friends. The sloth babies are safe there!

It’s a sanctuary, for sloths

The growing sloths climb all day, very slowly, the sanctuary is basically things to climb on and things to eat, and my bus ride companion showed me hilarious long videos of a baby sloth taking forever to ascend a low wooden deck and getting bored about ten different times along the way.

It was charming, entertaining, and again, highly relatable content.

I think about the sloth sanctuary a lot.

What I think about when I am thinking about the sloth sanctuary

How awful and disorienting it is to be loved and then not loved, safe and then not safe, cared for and then not cared for, to belong and then not belong.

Everything ends, that is the truth of life, but sometimes these endings are so surprising, disruptive, and unfathomable.

For years I had a beloved mentor I adored and trusted, I thought he always had my back, my protector and champion, the one I could always turn to in an hour of need, until one day I woke up from a nap to a surprise lawsuit, to anger and attorneys in my inbox. No way to see it coming. Etc.

Etc

By etc, I mean this is not even close to my only experience of suddenly your perch is gone, the ground is somewhere else, you cannot get back to your tree home and don’t know if you’d even want to given the option, now that you know how expendable you were. Nothing makes sense.

Etc as in the memory of that moment, reading that letter and unable to comprehend its meaning, this is an example of a category.

The pain of betrayal is the first layer, but the bafflement and disbelief is what really fucks you up. Etc is the world you know crumbling.

Agency

Etc is the name on a drawer of a steel filing cabinet in the secret home office of a retired detective. This is where the the unsolved cases live, the pain-memories of betrayal.

Welcome to the Agency of the Ungraspable and Unsolvable.

The Agency of Recovery.

And also the Agency of recovering agency.

We talk about recovering memories in the sense of what is lost re-emerging. But what if the memories themselves are in a process of recovery, this is a hopeful imagining for me, and I’ll take it. A memory sanctuary.

The real deal (hope)

What if there is sanctuary? And: What is sanctuary?

Sanctuary. A place to land and recover while doing only your favorite things in your own timing. And, sometimes, a place for prayer.

Climb or exert the tiniest amount, nap, eat, nap, repeat sequence.

I hope the abandoned sloths don’t know their origin story.

I hope they think sanctuary life is the real deal. I hope they know there’s nothing better than being a sloth in a sloth sanctuary.

Nothing but question marks

In the dream I was supposed to be teaching a class, and I suddenly realized I had no idea what kind of class. What was this class about? I wasn’t even sure if it was a movement class or a class about concepts.

My entire brain was just: ?????

I had done the most I was able to do by showing up, and the rest remained a mystery.

Make way for ducklings

There was a group of people sitting on the floor. A dad had brought two little kids, and the kids had brought baby ducks, and one of them (one of the ducks) was wearing a tiny dress and an elaborate soft round hat that gave the impression of a furry halo.

The ducklings were funny; little energetic speed-monsters zooming around the floor, everyone was entertained and happy, laughing.

The ducks noticed me and came careening towards me enthusiastically, they seemed oddly happy to see me and I felt happy to see them.

Happiness composed almost entirely of relief

I knew that I knew these ducks, I had a memory of them, a flash of having met them when they were just tiny little hatchlings.

This was more information. If I knew the ducks, I was clearly not here in error, and presumably I must know some of these people too.

Also it was now safe to assume this class would be fun for everyone involved, because it came with ducks. Ducks taking the pressure off, good job, ducks.

“Excellent!”, I said in a cheery voice, crossing the room briskly in search for any clues in the space that could point me towards what my class might be about. “Glad to see our duck friends showed up today, they’ve grown so fast.”

The clues of Not X

What I was saying to myself in my head though was more like this:

“Excellent. At least now we know this isn’t a class about concentrating on things, and it also isn’t a class that requires concentrating on things, because there are adorable ducklings wandering around in outfits, and probably no one would bring that whole situation to, say, a meditation class.”

“This is not a meditation session which means we know a little bit more about what this is not. That’s a start, babe, keep going.”

Keep going. Not X is a clue.

Although, it occurs to me while reading my scribbled dream notes, I did in fact used to teach meditation classes with a rubber duck as my co-teacher, so there’s that.

Signs you are in the right (or wrong) place

I walked into the lobby to see if my class had a name (?) that might be posted somewhere (???), but found only a chalkboard stand offering the following non-information:

Room A: Regular Class
Room B: Regular Plus

The door I had just emerged from was marked with a B, so apparently I was teaching the regular class PLUS, whatever the plus meant.

Something plus something. Unknown quantity X with the addition of Unknown Y.

Plus ça change

Someone else was in the lobby, so I pointed at the sign and asked, “Plus what?”, and they said, “Ahhhh, we used to call that the one with the chocolate chips!”

Then they laughed conspiratorially like this was an in-joke I was definitely in on.

The more things change, the more they stay the same, I said, as if I also knew what we were talking about.

Then the most impossibly beautiful human I have ever seen walked past us into classroom A and smiled at me. I forgot how to breathe.

The person who had just given me enigmatic information regarding possibly metaphorical chocolate chips said, “Oh, that’s Stephaney, with an -ey, you will love her!”

Oh right, that

A couple walked in off the street and they seemed even more confused by the sign than I was. “Just TWO classes? Only TWO? What happened to all the other classes?”

“Well”, explained the person I’d been talking to, “This is our pandemic schedule.”

“FINE”, they huffed, “We will just come back in a YEAR!”

Oh shit, I thought, I forgot about the pandemic.

Except then I was even more confused: Do we not have masks? How is this safe? How did I end up here? How did I agree to this? None of this seems like me.

Stephaney, Stephaney

Stephaney with an -ey came back out and immediately erased my brain by being impossibly beautiful and existing.

Stephaney with an -ey had spikey hair dyed with neon yellow highlights, and spikey earrings. Giant brown eyes and a giant smile aimed entirely at me. I was the living embodiment of the heart-eyes emoji.

Stephaney with an -ey kissed me not quite on the cheek and not exactly near my mouth.

Stephaney with an -ey said she had heard so much about me and absolutely everyone had told her we need to meet, and that she couldn’t wait to hang out after.

After vs after

“After class?”
“After the pandemic.”
“Fuck. I forgot about the pandemic again. But you just kissed me?”
“Right, we shouldn’t do that, it’s a pandemic.”

Stephaney with an -ey disappeared into Classroom A, and I tried to guess from her clothing (black leggings, red and black plaid flannel button-down shirt, boots) what kind of class it might be.

But maybe that was just her style or maybe it meant we were in Portland, and then I realized I also didn’t know what part of the country we were in.

Location location location (location?)

In the past two months, I’ve been back and forth between New Mexico, Arizona, and California, first in pursuit of the dragon sanctuary, and then searching for the rescue dragon. Rescue a dragon, be rescued by a dragon, who knows.

Much must be done for a dragon sanctuary to come into existence.

It takes work, determination and preparation to properly welcome a dragon.

The dragon is not me, the dragon is a piece of art that emerged from grief and loss, and the dragon is also my new home on a trailer.

Though to be fair, maybe I am the dragon too. Maybe I am more wounded dragon breathing fire than bewildered baby sloth.

Place (this must be the)

In the past years, I’ve been wandering: mostly California, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington.

But also Wyoming and South Dakota to Michigan, Ohio, and Kentucky, with a bit of Nebraska in there for a while too, until ending up in New Mexico and Arizona, with a lot of back and forth with Oregon, tracing paths between southwest and northwest.

No wonder dream me couldn’t even make a guess.

Land as a verb, land as an experience

In non-dream life aka my current fugue-state of being in recovery, while also moving locations while definitely not getting enough sleep, I finally have a place.

It was quite the complex adventure to land the dragon after two long months on the road following clues.

I am thinking about the amount of trust involved in even embarking on that rescue mission after the long and lonely months of confusion that preceded it, packing up the dome in the desert, preparing to exit, not knowing where I was headed, unable to make plans. Not only due to a lack of options, but because my brain had been turned off, and I couldn’t find the switch.

Switch

I existed in a stupor of loss, sorrow, isolation and hornet venom.

But we made it. Land ahoy.

Land ahoy

I felt the existence of the dragon sanctuary before I could catch a glimpse of it, before I knew what it was or where it would be located.

Pointing the remains of my ship towards. The trade winds did the rest.

Land

Land as an active verb: we gathered strength, and landed the dragon.

Land as a passive verb: look, a baby sloth fell from the tree and landed on the ground.

Land as a place: location, location, location, between the forest of mystery and the cliffs of hope.

Land as not-a-place: sanctuary, worlds internal, imagined lands that compose the geography of my mind.

Land as earth: the scent after the rain, the source of blooming sunflowers, the richness of a garden to be.

This is command, over and out

The dragon has landed. I repeat: The dragon has landed.

Time to rest into what is next.

Rattling

It feels lovely and odd to have keys again, the keys to the dragon make so much noise. They rattle, and I am bewildered by the sound.

Before I lost my brain this year, sometime around hornet sting time, I was writing a long essay about rattlesnakes, and I can’t tell you more than that because I don’t know where it is, but rattled already held a place in my mind as a word that verbs and then is verbed into a new meaning:

The snakes rattle in your direction to let you know they are having an anxiety episode and they need you to back off, and then you are rattled, your spine is rattled, a visceral ancient knowing about DEATH, the anxiety episode has transferred to you.

My keys rattle. I am rattled.

But also I have a sanctuary again, a dragon sanctuary, a place to become un-rattled, to recover from the unraveling, let the sky and trees do their healing work on me while I remember where I am.

In the ether, maybe

Due to the one-two punch of ADHD and having my brain erased by [pandemic, grief, loss, depression, hornets, moving, a flash of Stephaney with an -ey, who knows what else, the many origin stories], I cannot remember anything at all these days.

I know that I cannot remember, and so I write it down.

That’s the one thing I remember: write it down.

But do I remember where I have written it? Rarely. Almost never.

A whisper of a shadow of what is already gone

In my bartending years in Tel Aviv, one bar owner liked to be served a vodka martini just so.

And “just so” meant he wanted you to lightly swish the martini glass with a splash of vermouth, and then pour it out into the sink, shaking out every drop before adding the chilled vodka that had been stirred with ice and itself for sixty seconds exactly.

“You want a kiss, a whisper, a hint! Your vermouth was in the room but it left before you arrived”, he would say, waxing rhapsodic, and very, very drunk, in between crimes.

Real

I would teasingly tell him to just order vodka in a martini glass (a legitimate choice, want what you want), and he would retort that the real purists only lift the open bottle of vermouth reverentially while giving the most subtle nod in the direction of France, and the purists of the purists don’t open the bottle at all.

Of course, one could argue the real purists drink their martinis with gin and not vodka, but we were already in tipsy-turvy world, and I wasn’t going to argue anything.

Don’t get blown up tonight, he would say while leaving. Oh right, death. No suicide bombers tonight, please.

Ritual

The act of writing down information I intend to remember or wish to be reminded of in the future is like raising a bottle in a direction: symbolic, intentional, and in that sense, powerful and meaningful, though let’s also be clear it’s not actually doing anything.

And so I distinctly remember how my boss twenty years ago preferred every possible type of drink, but I cannot begin to imagine where I recorded the very important information about the location of my storage locker where all my belongings have been waiting patiently for me to collect them.

What is the number of the unit, which part of the storage facility, what would I have chosen to be the combination to the lock, what was the seemingly very obvious place where I put this information? It’s all a mystery.

Convey

Writing things down is not so much a system as it is a symbolic reverential ritual.

Even in the moment of crafting these reminder notes for myself, I am at least partially aware that I am lifting a bottle of vermouth and touching it to my forehead, hoping this will be enough to convey the rememberance.

Let this be enough. Maybe this will be enough. Sometimes it is enough.

Sometimes it is enough and sometimes you have to break into a storage locker with a blow torch.

A criminal endeavor

It’s rural New Mexico, and the owner of the storage unit lives a couple minutes away. I called her from the gas station, and she brought her husband and a blow torch.

Honestly the blow torch thing was hot. Obviously literally, but I mean the part about feeling LIKE A CRIMINAL. I am never going to even bother learning a code again? This is the only way I ever want to get into a storage locker now.

ADHD trauma brain is full of fun surprises like that.

I get so frustrated when I can’t remember a number, or a clue about a number, or where I put the clue about the number. But then I get to watch a cool old man in a denim vest casually blow-torch my lock off. Everybody wins.

Surprise

I got to keep the remains of the lock, a souvenir to remind me of not remembering.

Then they handed me twenty five whole American dollars, which was another fun surprise because of course I had also forgotten about the deposit, which I get back for emptying my storage unit.

They were confused by my joy, but then they were also confused by my mask, so we exist in different minds and different worlds, and that is just a summary of the way things are right now.

I spent this surprise windfall in another small town at the hardware store, where I was enthusiastically greeted with HELLO LADY and then GOODBYE LADY upon my exit.

Blowing flames

The blow torch itself is a small dragon that you can procure for yourself with money.

Breathe fire, direct heat and power where you like, shoot sparks in a direction, be fiery and ever more fiery but never consumed.

In the morning I open the doors of the dragon and spread the nearly ten feet of long pale red rug onto the deck, so I can stretch like a bobcat and salute the sun on this sleepy dragon’s tongue.

I am the flame. I am the flame-delivery service. Fear me. I am formidable.

Formidable, tender and sleepy. A wounded baby dragon in recovery.

Watch.

Watch. I draw breath from source and alchemy happens: turning breath into passion, passion into words, words into wishes. Fiery.

I entered the dragon and suddenly had words to write again, so many words, after months and months of not being able to write anything other than the scribbled clues I knew I’d lose.

Shehechezarta

Prayer is a complicated word, maybe, you can translate it as you like, but for me it sometimes means sound, chanting, words, crying, and all of this has been how I communicate with myself and the land.

Prayer was my sanctuary these long months, and since arriving at the dragon sanctuary, I have been turning to — or is that returning to? — Hebrew prayers long forgotten (by me).

Returning in the sense of remembering, but maybe also in other senses, since this is the month of Elul, a month of repentance, a word which literally means returning, leading up to tonight and a new year.

A completed cycle. Many happy returns.

Good morning, being alive (a prayer for this)

Speaking of returning, a morning prayer about being returned:

modah ani (I am thankful / I am thanking) l’fanecha (before you)
melech chai v’kayam (king, alive and existing)
shehechezarta bi nishmati (for returning my soul to me / breath back in me)
b’chemla (with compassion, graciously)
raba emunatecha (great is your faith)

Thanks given for today, hello new day, this experience of right here right now.

Textual reading, because I can’t help it, it’s what we do

I love I am thanking, and how verb-like it is, how it feels more active than simply feeling grateful, for me.

I love before you as in: I am in a state of thankfulness before you. I am in front of you, facing you, turned towards you.

Not just thankful generally but thankful in relationship to source, with source, pointing myself towards. How I am thankful towards the juniper and the cottonwoods, the fields of wildflowers, the cliffs.

I love how you can read king who is alive and existing in different ways, for me it’s more like sovereign of aliveness! Otherwise known as the Survive And Thrive superpowers of keep on keeping on.

As if god in god’s godness is like, oh yeah I know this is rough, kiddo, existing is messy, I believe in you. Let’s try this alive and existing thing again today.

Hang in there, little sloth, the rescue squad is coming!

More love for these words

I love for returning my soul into me, replacing it, placing it where it belongs, like you would a lost baby sloth, a return, many happy returns, nestled. And I love the interplay in Hebrew between soul and breath, how they live a vowel apart.

I love graciously, and how it implies that while of course I am thankful for having been returned to myself, reunited with soul and breath this morning, I am especially expressing thanks for that having been done kindly when it could have been otherwise.

My appreciation is for the way this returning was arranged (with compassion, mercy, a sweetness) and not just that it happened.

I don’t know if the baby sloths know how much they are cherished, but even if it doesn’t matter to the baby sloth, it matters to me.

Great is your faith

I love great is your faith, in me, apparently. More often we think of prayer or worship as being about our faith in [divine, source, something greater], but this is like, nope, source has faith in me.

And sure, I am more of a tree-hugging atheist type of jewish than anything else, but apparently that doesn’t change how source-love feels about me at all.

What an honor, the power in that great is your faith, what does it mean to believe in me like that, to believe in my power, my pain, my rage-fury, my grace, my returning.

Mini therapy session right here

You can also read faith as loyalty-adjacent. In Hebrew the words faith, belief, and loyalty all come from the same root, and so I have a flash of a sense that [loving source, loving a loving source, being a love-source who draws source-love from source] also means a love that won’t betray me.

If I were my own therapist, I would be frantically scribbling notes about that one, so let’s just say we are putting a pin in that theme to revisit later. It’s been noted, my pain over the endless betrayal stories has been noted.

Layers

My people love textual analysis and uncovering layers within layers, and by “my people” I of course mean poets of pain, but also yes, there is something very jewish about both obsessive textual analysis and being a poet of pain.

Play + dissection + intersection + revelation + uncovering + recovering + the joy in discovering a fragment of pottery at your feet. A tel of fragments. What is hopeful or informative in the mound of ruins.

The same beloved mentor, the one who unexpectedly chose to level a lawsuit at me rather than ask me even one question in the interest of untangling a misunderstanding, used to say (before all this), there is good experience and there is useful experience.

To the river.

My grief river runs high.

My grief river runs so high I fear it will flood the whole town, washing everything away. I cannot, I cannot, there is simply no more capacity, the river banks won’t hold, we cannot take on any more loss.

And yet, what is life if not a series of losses, fragments of pain poetry and pain pottery. Another mystery.

Where will these waters go?

A memory-marker.

Meanwhile my trust river is more like a mostly dried up riverbed, a trickle so minimal as to be functionally non-existent, more of a marker that tells a story about what once was.

Sometimes I don’t even have the memory, I only remember touching an unopened bottle of trust and nodding imperceptibly towards France.

I don’t remember the taste of trust.

But still flowing

And still I wake up in the morning, thankful before you, I have been returned to this life, great is your faith.

Some days I feel the fullness of heart gratitude for spirit in that line about great is your faith, and some days I wonder-suspect if it might not actually have been intended to be said with a little dagger of sarcasm, my people are funny that way.

Thanks for waking me up, asshole, now I have to deal with being in a body. That would be a very Jewish prayer, just saying.

Many happy returns

I am returned to myself, many happy returns.

I cannot betray myself, I continue to love myself fiercely. I cannot be betrayed by this bigger love, who trusts me and wakes me again.

And so I do what I can which is observe the land and my landscape, and reorient.

Four words that in Hebrew are alive

Water, sky, life, god.

In Hebrew, these words are dynamic and flowing, fluid and in motion, plentiful and replenished, alive.

In English you say the water is cold or the sky is blue, life is good (or life is hard), god is whatever god is. In Hebrew, the waters are refreshing, the skies are beautiful, life are complicated, god remains whatever god is, a vast oneness, but the word echoes that same form.

Water, sky, life, god.

Alive and existing, alive and in motion.

By the river

My first name comes from the Hebrew word for life, a variation on Eve, who was em kol chai, the mother of aliveness, the mother of that which is alive, the origin of living.

My name itself is alive. My middle name is a resonant bell echoing, amplifying and reverberating. My last name is a body of water that exists in plural, like water and life in Hebrew. Origin story naming.

Alive, resonant, flowing. Keep on keeping on.

I have been lying about my name

The thing with rural life, or a thing about rural life, I want to describe a phenomenon and I don’t know what it’s called, a thing white people do with other white people they suspect might not be as white? It’s a game they love to play. The game of Are You Really White Or Are Ya Faking?

My god, the layers of constructs within that, how exhausting. And yet at the same time, so much privilege embodied in being someone they can play this tiresome game with. I can choose to answer in a way that preserves my safety.

Anyway, there is a very specific way that people in these parts ask about my name, this particular flavor of curiosity that is very not-neutral.

They are trying to determine what kind of foreign name I have, how foreign am I exactly, in what ways am I different, how much should they other me, how much do they get to other me?

The dreaded question when I say my name.

What’s that from? Where are you from? Where are your people from?

That’s a foreign name, isn’t it, you don’t look foreign, what is that?

They frown in consternation at the combination of my undeniable whiteness and a name that doesn’t add up. Light skin, light hair, light eyes, a name that sets off bells.

They need to know, and they keep asking until they get an answer. “Haaaaaavi, what an interesting naaaaaaaaame, could that be Scandinavian, or is it JEWISHHHH?”

Contrast

You can tell by the contrast in their voice, the way they try to scrape that last word off their tongue to get it out of their mouth, you know which answer is “right”. You know you can give an answer that ensures easy comfortable conversation, and you know how things go the other way.

Tell them your name comes from Hebrew, and things turn chilly fast. It’s disorienting, the speed of the shift, a friendly conversation into a wall.

Or they fetishize you in some creepy way and try to convert you, or they tell you that their cousin’s wife’s sister married “a Hebrew” and that he is “pretty nice actually” and “makes a lot of money”. It’s never good, basically.

Speaking my name comes with dread for me, but I want the opposite of that. I want the utterance of my name to breathe boundaries of fire.

Recognition

It feels important to emphasize the vast privilege built into in this choice I am given, the ability to make a selection, two doors always available, privilege is having the option to ensure invisibility and safety for myself by just opting out of the truth.

White privilege is the realest, and it keeps me safe all day every day.

And I hear in their tone how much they would love the chance to rescind it, from their personal perspective at least.

Contrast, again

It’s not that people don’t ask about my name in cities, but there the question usually feels more neutral, the curiosity less dangerous. “Oh that’s so pretty!” or “Cool, a name I’ve never heard!”

Not to mention that in cities, people have met jews before, we aren’t abstract, and the conversation is mercifully not headed into y’all killed Jesus territory. IT WAS THE ROMANS, CATCH UP.

So anyway, I’m Finnish now.

I told my neighbors that it’s a family name, which is true.

But when they wanted to know where the family name is from (that word again), I joked that we don’t know but probably not the Hungarian side because there aren’t enough letters, so best guess says it comes from the Finnish side.

The Finnish side is my dad. He used to tell people he was from Finland when he was wandering the world in the sixties and they wanted to know where he was from, and wouldn’t accept “American” as an answer.

So really you could say pretending to be Finnish is a time honored Brooks family tradition. A ritual, if you will.

The protective force field of a secret identity

Finland, land of a thousand lakes, land of the midnight sun, land of the northern lights, perhaps a place where my Russian-to-Nordic imagined ancestors might have ended up on their wanderings, who knows.

It’s certainly a more appealing way to explain how I look than the violent alternative.

And anyway, I feel the most jewish when I’m lying about my jewish identity.

(Take notes on that, imaginary therapist!)

Funny, you don’t look Finnish

Did I ever tell you about my Finnish doppelgänger? You’ll have to let me know in the comments, I have been writing here for so many years, I cannot remember what I have told you or not told you.

The first time I was in Germany, my friends there had a dinner party to introduce me to an exchange student from Finland who everyone said looked exactly like me.

I hadn’t believed them of course, because that’s just a thing people say, oh so-and-so looks just like you, and then you meet that person and they don’t look like you at all, but this young woman, well, she looked exactly like me. Like a reflection.

She looked exactly like me in a way that was as disorienting as falling from a tree or waking up to a lawsuit or being smiled at by Stephaney with an -ey.

I didn’t know what to do about having a twin who was no relation.

No connection

I didn’t realize the effect of the hornet sting, how it poisoned me and erased my brain and my sense of self, and probably in retrospect was the genesis of my devastating summer depression.

I didn’t even really remember that week of sleeping it off and hoping the pain meant I was transmogrifying into a super heroine, until a bee found its way into my car the other day. It landed on my neck and I screamed, and then the connections were all there, along with the absolute terror that it could happen again.

Genesis / origin

The hornet sting in my neck was where it all began, maybe.

In Hebrew, Genesis is b’reishit. We translate it as in the beginning, and it does mean that, but literally it means at the head of things.

And here we are, heading into the new year, rosh hashana is literally that, the head of the year.

The month of turning and returning. New cycle. Breath in, breath out.

Recommitting to life, asking to be written down in the Book of Life, as if god in god’s godness is shining god-light, aiming the rays though a bottle of vermouth to touch the gin, nodding towards France. Remember me to life.

Towards France

Generally I am against anthropomorphizing the unknowable (if source is, then source is infinite and ungraspable, alive and dynamic: water and sky and life), but I love this image and this imagining.

Thinking about a divine nod towards France is making me laugh out loud right now, and also reminding me of God Says Yes To Me by Kaylin Haught, which is a poem that works as a prayer, or maybe a prayer that is a poem, and full of truth.

As my dad the rabbinical school dropout says, “If there is a god, I hope she’s listening…”

There is no back

A wise compassionate mentor-friend said this to me years ago.

“I can’t wait to go back there”, I said, speaking of a place I deeply loved and treasured, imagining the scent, the orchard of citrus trees, the place I planned to live.

“There is no back.”

Impatience

In the moment I felt impatient with my friend and her insistence that going back did not exist, could not exist, that back was unattainable.

Of course she knew what I meant. It’s a phrase. You go back to a place you’ve been.

It doesn’t have to mean regressing or capitulating. And you can still move forward while returning to a place you’ve been.

And of course, from a philosophical perspective, the river is always in motion, right? So of course the place you are attempting to return to changes over time, and you have also changed, so when you meet again, you are both new.

But she was right, and I was wrong.

Uprooted

I went to that place I thought I was going back to, and it no longer was.

That was very bewildering and disorienting too.

Uprooted, active and passive verb.

They uprooted my trees. I was uprooted.

Dislodged, unmoored, lost, vulnerable, a bewildered baby sloth bruised from both the unexpected toppling and from not being wanted. They took my trees away. My orchards were and then were not.

Each day I am new, familiar and unfamiliar, returned to myself, back together but also not back, because that does not exist. Not-back as a state of being. Where am I? Not-back. Not sure. Pointed towards.

What am I teaching when I am not teaching

I don’t know what happened for my dream self, if she taught her class or not, I woke up from a world of unknowns into another world of unknowns, and that’s all I remember.

Let’s raise an unopened bottle towards the light, for dream-me and for Stephaney with an -ey, and for hope.

However, I will say that the dream about [teaching something without knowing what it is] seems like a surprisingly accurate description of what I already do.

Urgent note to self! Figure out how to get paid for this???? Wow, I am lifting the most beautiful bottle of vermouth in the direction of this wish, letting rays of light shine through it and placing it back down. The wish has been wished.

Dream as story

This dream also feels like a story about pandemic brain and trauma brain, and possibly about depression brain, but also about living with ADHD.

Dreaming about forgetting is really about wishing I could forget, aka the lived dissonance of daily life.

It is deeply confusing to be someone who forgets things other people can remember and remembers things other people can forget.

I can’t remember where my keys might be or what day it is, and cannot forget about the death in the air, pandemic, climate crisis, or a hurtful lie my trusted teacher spread about me nearly ten years ago which, in retrospect, was a hornet sting I did not recover from.

How delicious and refreshing to be able to forget, a reprieve.

What is my job now

I am laughing a bit at figure out how to get paid for this, whatever this is, because that question was already a fairly mysterious mystery for me in the before times, given that hosting retreats is labor-intensive and not lucrative.

Not to mention that the administrative work behind them is non-fucking-stop, and I get depleted easily and never know how much energy I will have.

However, now this question is further complicated significantly:
a) I have no working brain much of the time,
b) the retreat industry is no more,
c) I don’t have the bandwidth to do online retreats,
d) I meant that in the mental-emotional sense, but also very literally I am hiding out at a mostly off-grid dragon sanctuary and rarely get signal. Eventually I will drive forty five minutes to wifi to publish this for you to read, on a good day when my brain and wrists are working at the same time, and neither of those are super dependable.

Golden tickets, chocolate bars, mystery

Anyway, this feels like one of those ancient (in internet time) meme joke formats…

Step 1: Be a muse, trust, teach through not-teaching…
Step 2: ??????
Step 3: Profit

I have no plan, so a plan will have to emerge.

Just gotta keep existing as a creative spirit who engages with the process of being alive, that is the plan, and that’s also about as close to [whatever teaching is] as I would like to get. Keep on keeping on.

Appreciation (I exist in a state of)

After my last essay here where I mused on [life and not-that], and how intensely challenging these last six months have been in my world, several readers sent me funds by way of Barrington’s Discretionary, and wow, a blessing, I feel so loved and also so thankful. Thank you, thank you. For the love and for the surprise money.

Thank you. I am thankful before you, also in the sense of being thankful before your offering of thankfulness, here in our circle of joyful appreciation.

And then immediately after that glowing wondrous experience of full body gratitude, I had this funny moment in my head that you have to read in a 1940s movie gangster voice:

“See? That’s the ticket, you hold yourself for ransom! Pay up, folks, if you want to keep Havi alive and writing!”

Which of course made me think of The Big Lebowski, the truest noir homage.

She kidnapped herself, dude

It’s so simple and so obvious, she kidnapped herself! Who did? Bunny Lebowski!

Anyway, I need to have a moving sale, because moving is complicated and expensive, and I don’t know what a Moving Sale is or looks like yet, and again, some days I can rely on my brain now, other days still waiting for the hornet poison alchemy to kick in, change form. Cue the slow motion transmogrification recovery montage.

Maybe a bundle of some of the many ebooks I’ve written over the years, deposits on future retreats, maybe an idea spark will come to me when I stop trying to solve this.

Maybe I will kidnap myself and visit the giant fields of sunflowers in sunflower season, which was going to be one of the secret retreats I was so excited about offering (Operation Sunflowers!), before this year changed shape in the ways that it did.

Walking in fields of sunflowers is the most cheerful way to be in a transition state. I will walk and ask what the sunflowers know, and in the meantime, anyone who has the capacity, ability and desire is welcome to sneak some appreciation money into Barrington’s fund, hey, bribe me to write more, it just might work…

Go fast don’t die

In Tucson: a guy on a motorcycle with Alabama plates, wearing absolutely no motorcycle gear other than gloves, and a black helmet that said GO FAST DON’T DIE.

Other than that, he wore just ripped jeans and a ripped t-shirt, so obviously he’s gonna die.

And yeah, we all die but he’s really rushing towards it a bit too enthusiastically. Between his choice to forgo protective gear and the jaw-droppingly reckless way people drive out here in the wild west, I don’t see this ending well. And yet.

And yet…

Go fast don’t die, go fast don’t die, I can’t stop saying it, like a mantra, rewriting neural pathways through loving-repetition, turning it over to return to it.

Go fast don’t die.

Sidebar: Why am I so attracted to people who consistently make unwise life decisions, who can say. Another mystery for the filing cabinet. I am honestly so hot for that entire situation, but especially that helmet.

Go fast don’t die.

Chrysalis at the dragon sanctuary

I am giving myself four weeks reprieve at the dragon sanctuary, new moon to full moon and back again (except there is no back, so forward again), before trying to make sense of any of the projects. It might take longer but this is a seed, a chrysalis and an intention.

My plan is to hydrate, stretch, bask in the sun, talk to the trees, observe the dragon, observe how it feels to live somewhere again, to be in sanctuary state, and really nothing else. Just to be and to experience being in a state of not-doing.

I am ready to meet the me who emerges, who has landed, who knows how to land.

And then we’ll see from there.

From there

I want to cook on dragon fire, and light candles. I want to kiss the palms of my hands and touch them to my cheeks.

And I want to lift a bottle towards France (Let France = Better Things), and let light stream through the liquid aliveness of my life-wishes, illuminating them and turning them into blessings.

Let’s keep company if you like

I’m here, in the comments, we can take breaths and share some sharing if we want.

Maybe you want to say hi, or share anything sparked for you while reading or what you’re up to, call in some superpowers you’d like for these challenging times. All good.

Presence as medicine. I’m glad to be able to be here again and that we can connect here.

And this too is sanctuary space which means we don’t go into care-taking mode and we don’t give advice, we make space, we meet ourselves and each other with as much kindness as we can glow in the moment.
xox
h

preserves

saguaro extending a bouquet of flowers

Image: an especially friendly tall saguaro points towards the path while presenting you with a bouquet of flowers (for perspective, the flowers are at the height of a tall person’s head!)

Rescue mission

I took the above photograph (with my phone) on a day of intense falling apart.

A friend rescued me and took me to see the saguaro bloom, it was magical and transformative. The saguaro were loving and charming, playful, quiet, steady, vibrant, watchful, caring, and I especially fell for this one extending an armful of flowers while pointing out the way.

Anyway, this picture is a reminder for me of something I want to remember, that in one moment I had felt so impossibly isolated and alone, but then on the very same day, my friend conjured a rescue mission for me out of nowhere, and the saguaro were steady love embodied.

What do we want to preserve?

The title of this piece is is a joke that was funny inside my head when nothing else was funny.

I couldn’t write for months because it was too hard to think, never mind find energy to form words, and then when words returned, I didn’t want (or couldn’t bear) to write about any of what has been going on, so I wrote about jam.

This essay is mostly about jam, but also about staying alive, choosing towards life, aka preserving life.

Preserving.

Let us preserve something from this difficult time, and sweeten it so that it changes form.

Here’s to the slow alchemy of sweetening and transformation.

And a content warning

I want to include a CW for suicide, though I also want to emphasize: this essay is not about suicide, but about life.

That said, while writing about life, this does reference an aspect of life (for some people) which is going through periods in which continually choosing towards life is extra difficult.

So if that’s a painful and distressing topic for you, that is reasonable and understandable, and maybe this is not what you want to read. Either way, let this serve as a reminder for all of us that the best thing we can do for ourselves remains being conscious and loving with ourselves. We are in process with ourselves, not an easy thing.

If you are going through it, here is a crisis text line for anyone in the US, Canada, UK, or Ireland. You can text them at any time, and it is definitely better to text before you’re in crisis, no need to wait for things to get “worse”, what if we just normalized connecting to someone for support way before getting to the edge, I know, wild.

Safety first!

Let’s consciously keep choosing towards safety, let’s do what’s best for us, and either way: force fields activated.

Black Lives Matter (and are to be cherished)

A lot has transpired in our world since I last wrote anything in this space, so let’s begin with a breath and a prayer, or whatever words and feelings you wish to substitute for that.

What I mean by prayer is whatever happens when we combine Heart-Felt + Heart-Depth + Intention + Tenderness of Wishing + May It Be So: Black lives matter and are to be cherished!

This prayer for me is a commitment to cherishing: breathing love, protection, sanctuary and justice for black lives, calling in force fields of safety along with a just wind carrying justice.

Cherishing from the heart

I read online somewhere about how two versions of American Sign Language exist, due to [the entire history of racism and segregation in this country], and in ASL signed by white people, BLM translates to Black Lives Are Important, and in Black ASL, you say Black Lives Are Cherished, and this distinction matters too, and so I want to say both in my prayers, say it and sign it from the heart of things, from the root of things, from the truth of truth.

Heart-felt: I want to live in a world where Black lives are valued, celebrated and protected.

And, like so many white people in North America, I have not said this enough; I have not said it out loud when it needs to be shouted from the rooftops, I am remorseful about the absence of my shouting, all times of not shouting when shouting was needed.

A prayer of love & undoing, for justice

And so here we are, in this moment and in this prayer (prayers up but also prayers in, prayers circling through body, mind and body-mind), a prayer of undoing, a rewriting and a restoration for good.

May all racist and bigoted thoughts or aspects of self, whatever accrued cruelty, falseness or misunderstanding still may reside in my body and cells from being steeped in a culture of structural injustice, may it be undone, on every level, with renewed commitment to this undoing every day.

I am asking for this undoing for myself and for the whole, letting this request echo into the bigger culture:

May this rising up for justice, this reckoning in the name of justice be a real meaningful undoing within me of all that needs to be undone, so I can be a better advocate, a better truth-seeker, a better human and someone who participates in the undoing of all unjust systems, amen.

Jam

I have things to say about jam, and really maybe none of this is about jam.

I mean, is jam a proxy?

Maybe, maybe not, hard to say, probably yes.

All I know is that focus is difficult for me right now, and there isn’t anything else I feel drawn to share about in the moment. In other words, [Jam] is what remains when I give myself permission to not-write about the other things.

Maybe: Jam

Maybe jam feels safe in the way that the other topics (rage, futility, despair, revolution, vengeance, the knowns, the unknowns, justice, injustice, the challenges, the questions, deep depression, doubt, the trajectory of the world) do not right now.

So we are gonna talk about jam, my friends.

And who knows, maybe we’ll cover some of those other themes too.

Or maybe they will just be folded in, that’s a joke just for you if the last season of Schitt’s Creek was your jam (and that’s a joke just for me, a jam joke!), otherwise it is just a phrase.

Tart

My wise yoga teacher friend in New Mexico made a very tart jam from cherry plums in her yard, she warned me that it is very, very tart, even after adding raisins and dates for sweetening, and salt which is supposed to cut the sour and make the tartness bearable…

She said, Havi, do you like things with a very strong flavor, and I said, oh indeed I do, and she said, I hope you like extremely tart things, and I said, I love tart things, the tarter the better, and she was like, okaaaaaayyyyy

A taste

She then brought me the world’s tiniest ramekin (tiny!) with a miniature spoonful of tart cherry plum jam in it.

She added that I don’t have to actually eat it, just tasting is okay, because everyone finds it too sour to consume. I tasted and she watched.

After I insisted that it was delicious and amazing, which was true, she offered me more, thinking I would say no.

Tart joy

And that’s how I ended up with multiple jars of tart cherry plum preserves, because apparently no one else appreciates how very, very, many-verys of tart this very tart jam is, except I love it!

[Edit: I have eaten all the jam already, I’m sorry, you can’t have any, it is gone, but Cate showed me where these plums live so there will be more next year, something to look forward to, another year, let’s make it there, sweet friends in flavor, let’s keep going.]

Happiness, what is this feeling

Eating this jam, I am the happiest (not about most things, but yes, in the moment, about this moment, specifically, my mouth is happy and my heart is happy, and not just happy about it but also full of wonder: who even knew I would be blessed with new friends who would want to gift me the most delicious thing in the world?!

I have not felt anything even remotely approximating happiness in many, many months and so this was special, this moment with jam and with my friend.

She said she would have made more had she known that there was even one person in her life who could stand it, and that’s fair, this jam is certainly bracing and intense, an experience, a special kind of love.

This is also what I want for myself, to treasure myself with a special love, to love myself with an intensity, a powerful there-ness, presence and wonder.

Bracing & intense

The tart-tart-tartness of the preserves is bracing and intense, and I think, okay, THIS is what I have been needing, to be reminded of aliveness.

I keep the word ALIVE in my compass, so I say it to myself (I AM ALIVE) at minimum twelve times a day while doing my rounds of sundulations, undulating sun salutations, inspired by my bobcat friend.

This is part of my training: strength for the collective. Movement for the collective. Grounded embodied presence for the collective.

But staying alive this summer has not been particularly easy, and I mean that in a variety of ways, beyond the most obvious way.

(Whispered explanations)

(Staying alive has not been easy this year, since March at least, for me, in the sense that we are all doing our fucking best navigating the fluctuations and uncertainties of this life while keenly aware of the invisible killer of a virus that lives in the air and cares not for our feelings about it, including but not limited to feelings of disbelief and apathy which people have unfortunately been demonstrating in abundance in Arizona, where I have been isolating.)

(Staying alive has not been easy for me in isolation, thanks to the killer combination of agonizing, unbearable loneliness and a total inability to focus on anything at all.)

(Staying alive was certainly made more challenging for me, when, left to my own devices for months on end in the desert with no one to talk to, I lost interest in the most basic life-adjacent things like feeding myself or sleeping or showering, or finding the energy to care about anything.)

(But I am here. Renewed in my here-ness.)

But/and: I am here

Still here. Still celebrating that:

I am alive. I am committed to life and Aliveness.

Committed to sensation and breath and moving through [moments, crises, perceptions of crises] with faith that circumstances can shift and change for the better, and often with greater speed and magic than we expect.

And so I am committed to staying alive, to preserving life, this is a half-joke about preserves and reserves, and a truth about what I know now, having been through these five months of hell and having recently re-emerged into a new something-or-other, whatever is happening now.

I can’t describe it exactly but I somehow made it through, to this place I knew must exist for me and was steadily aiming myself towards, a place where there is taste and pleasure and hope again. Preserved and renewed.

Extreme

Maybe it is more simple than any of that. Maybe I do just really appreciate extreme flavors, and was also magically gifted with the right taste buds needed to appreciate this deeply sour fruitiness of Cate’s extra-tart preserves.

Lately I have been catching myself wishing I had interest in cooking again because I want to do interesting things with these tart preserves, maybe layer them over a meaty stew with rice, but “interest” sounds like energy and passion, and I do not have these in any quantities at the moment, so eating it with a spoon is where I’m at.

(I wrote these words a month ago, and now I am having a taste, haha, a taste of what energy and passion might feel like, so thank you, preserves, for preserving this in me and for preserving me so that I might arrive here at renewal.)

A new palate for these troubled times

I described this jam situation to my friend Kathryn via video, while eating the tart jam in question from a jar, and laughing my head off about how bizarre it is that almost no food has appealed to me since quarantine began, and yet I will happily consume the tartest of tart jams by the spoonful like it’s no big deal.

Her response is below and it filled me with joy because there is nothing in this world like a friend who really gets you and your weird shit, no matter how weird that weird shit is:

Danger foods

“I love you eating that tart jam”, Kathryn said, “I love it so much, I love this entire notion, I am imagining that all you eat are Challenge Foods, foods that would kill mere mortals, but you would eat them, laughing delightedly while everyone else writhes in suffering, I’m very into this for you, it’s very on brand and assassin-like, your palate is so good, and this is about the all-important questions:”

”What does a Havi do in the wild? What does a Havi eat in the wild?”

“And it’s all just, like, Danger Foods, that is so good, I love it for you!”

Something about intensity

Alyssa Harad has had some inspiring things to say lately on this topic of craving intensity of taste and sensation while in quarantine, when everything feels off and odd, vague and dulled, familiar and unfamiliar.

I think this was my favorite quote from her, she has said many other wonderful things that I am not going to find, so let’s go with her words here:

“So far my plan to assault despair with strong flavors is going pretty well, if only because all the prep work keeps me off the internet. Also, instant endorphin boost.”

I feel this deep within me.

That everything has been so bleak and unappealing since mid-March (for me), and so I crave intensity: bright colors, a richness of taste.

I have taken to putting bitters in sparkling water to get myself to drink. Quite often I don’t feel like eating anything but I try to tempt myself with whatever is most colorful and flavorful: a plate of berries and manchego cheese.

Lavish amounts of Cutino’s hot sauces on everything. I need my nourishment to spark something for me, and sometimes I honestly just need it to punch me in the face.

May this shock of flavor remind me that I am alive and that this is a good thing. May I taste my way back to my wise loving self who is a LIVE-er of life, a lover of life.

Twilight zone of the soul

For about a month or so, I found myself continually slipping into strange twilight zone states, perpetually getting not-lost-exactly, but effectively taken out of the regular world, in impossible ways, unable to return to it.

One friend described these experiences as an Escher holding pattern, and another called it a non-consensual hellish shamanic underworld journey that won’t end, but everyone confirmed that it was surreal, bizarre and deeply unfair that I was going through this. Ah, fun stuff.

I don’t know how to explain these episodes, all I can do is to to try to orient them in time, space and psyche, because describing them does not actually capture how deeply disorienting they were.

More like a psychotic break than getting lost, except I wasn’t the one breaking, the world was breaking around me, and maybe that’s a metaphor for everything else that has been happening, but also it was happening in reality at the same time.

A story

So, one example, I was trying to head to New Mexico from Arizona, to visit my friend with the preserves, and not only could I not get there but I couldn’t even embark on the trip, no matter how hard I tried.

I wanted to fill the gas tank before leaving, and at each gas station something interfered.

At one place no one was observing the mask ordinance and so I left; another place was inexplicably crowded with cars moving in circles, and no one would let me into the line or even anywhere near a pump.

The next place was mysteriously closed, and so on, until suddenly hours had gone by and I was still just circling my neighborhood on almost-empty, and then it was too late to drive over the mountain.

A memory

Do you remember The Truman Show? Are you remembering the part where our protagonist finally attempts to leave the island he has always lived on, and various vehicles continually move and reconfigure in such a way that he can never reach the bridge?

It was exactly like that.

And now I am staying in a casita with a tiny dog named Truman who comes to check on me twice a day.

On repeat

The next day I tried again to leave Arizona, and something similar happened. I somehow missed a turn that I make all the time, and then everything sort of stopped working, and I wasn’t able to turn around.

Eventually I ended up at a surprise police barricade that had absolutely no business being in the most rural, out of the way nowhere place. They said they were there to spread awareness about the Fourth of July? Does that even sound real, we all know about the Fourth of July, and also we’re in a pandemic in the top hotspot for dying of the virus, but they made a special barricade for the purpose of handing you informative flyers through your window?

It made no sense and I felt outside of reality, unable to reconnect, and then I couldn’t turn the car around because of the barricade, and ended up just roaming around endless gated communities for hours trying to find a road that went anywhere, but there were no roads.

And again

Once I made Santa Fe, this happened again. I found myself near the cemetery where I had visited Waverly, and thought, ah I know where I am, and then suddenly I was off on the wrong road, and again ended up in some endless swirl of gated communities with seemingly no way to return to the freeway.

This time though I didn’t have water or food in the car because I had thought I was just out for a three minute errand. I didn’t know where I was or how to get back. And I had to pee.

Also I was out of range of service, so my phone couldn’t give me directions, or it would, on occasion, but then the directions were out of sync with where I was. So it would suddenly direct me to TURN LEFT but left meant going over a cliff into the abyss.

Nothing, more nothing, just stuck

No one was around to ask for help.

Nothing happened.

There was no music to listen to.

I was tired and thirsty and in agony, traversing the same circular similar roads again and again, trying every possible turn to see if this time one would let me out.

A parody of quarantine in a way. Quarantine, or depression, you choose. You hate it and it’s terrible and it makes no sense and you can’t leave.

LET ME OUT

And I was so tired of these cursed otherworldly twilight zone episodes where none of the regular rules of life seem to apply.

After a couple hours of going in circles, I became convinced that I was in a simulation. I drove and drove while screaming LET ME OUT LET ME OUT LET ME OUT, but nothing changed.

I will be uncomfortably honest here and tell you that I did in fact consider just going left and driving over the cliff to find out.

But then I remembered that I had just made it through (by the skin of my teeth) several rough months of not particularly wanting to be alive only to choose life again, so we weren’t going to do that. I re-chose life. And then I was back on the freeway, back on my road, back to the complicated world of unknowns but at least it was a world that I recognized again.

Except there is no “back”, right? There is only new and renewed.

Here’s to the weird miracles

To preserving and being preserved, to cherishing life, to surprise good luck.

Where I’m at

I said goodbye to the dome in the desert.

In two weeks I am relocating to a place with trees and quiet and cool breezes.

I am renewed in my commitment to doing what helps me thrive.

Right now, for me, that looks like making sure I am in bed at nine, drinking enough water, stretching like a bobcat in the morning, moving slowly, taking so much more time than I think I need, relinquishing guilt over what I have not yet achieved or solved, taking myself to see the saguaro and wave at them and be loved by them, making sure I connect with people-friends and tree-friends and dog-friends and hawk-friends.

I am learning that what I think of as Plentiful Rest is actually more like a tiny taste of the actual amount of recovery time that I need, and that maybe I can stop thinking of this as a bad thing, when it’s just neutral information that I can use to my benefit.

Reminders of what is important (to me)

In addition to resting more, I am pursuing flavor and taste, playing with interior design (my long lost passion), practicing self-forgiveness, and making room for things to be as they are, while also making room for things to be different than they are.

I am reminding myself over and over again that SELF-RESCUE IS SELF-LOVE, as Incoming Me likes to say, and I can do this for myself.

I can take myself to be loved by the saguaro, take myself to the best tacos, to different air, to clearer skies.

The forever practice of change my place to change my fortune and re-orient my setting(s), reorient myself within my setting and in relationship to setting.

Everything is changing right now, so why not for good. Towards good.

If there are endless alternative universes, let’s pop over into a more fun one, a more equitable and just world, a place for good dreaming, wild clarity, creative possibilities, a willingness to be surprised by life.

Let’s keep company if you like

I’m here, in the comments, let’s take some breaths and share some sharing.

Maybe you just want to say hi, or tell us about something delicious you have eaten (I will be genuinely excited for you, I promise), or you can share anything sparked for you while reading, or name some superpowers you’d like to call in for these challenging times.

Presence is medicine, presence as medicine. I’m glad to be able to be here again and glad we can connect here.

And this is sanctuary space which means we don’t go into care-taking mode and we don’t give advice, we make space for each other, we meet ourselves and each other with as much kindness as we can glow in the moment.
xox
h

(some yoga resources)

the quickest update!

just a quickie update because people have been asking about yoga resources, and wanting to start / do more / get back to it, and what if you don’t have experience, and online is overwhelming and and and

I get it, yeah, this is all a lot

luckily one bonus of youtube/zoom yoga is no one can see you and you can just go hide and put legs up the wall whenever you don’t want to do a pose, or at least that’s what I do

try online class with Madeleine

if you’ve never done yoga or also if you’ve done lots of yoga, I recommend Madeleine Lohman, her youtube page is Mad Yoga and she teaches a live class every Saturday at 11am PST (I almost never recommend people but would give a money-back guarantee on anything Madeleine-related, her yoga glows with acceptance and All Bodies Are Welcome, she lives it, expect gentleness, compassion, humor and lots of ways to adapt poses to different needs!)

yoga for immune support

on tuesdays & thursdays, I like to take yoga for immune support with Sonya who teaches 8:30-10am MST at Shree yoga in Taos, a favorite studio of mine, class now available via Zoom, you can try it once for free with code STAYHOME, this is not a sweating exertion class (though sometimes I do just from concentrating hard and focusing on the breath), and I pretty much always feel better about [the everything and the many mysteries and my relationship to them] after this class

props

if you need props, I am a huge fan of yoga blocks (I get mine from Yogaware), and have mostly just been using stuff around the house (bathrobe tie for a strap, giant pillow for a bolster), but if you might want actual props, Shree & Hugger Mugger are doing a promotion, 20% off through April 30 and if you use this link, Shree will get 10% which is great because they are a place that is very dear to my heart and could use the help

accessible yoga

I have been meaning to check out Practice with Dana (Falsetti) since Kathryn told me about her years ago, and this might be the time, looks like a great variety and includes wrist-free classes too!

just a starting point

will update more on this and other topics when I have more focus but this is just some places to start

and maybe will do a mini video on IG even though I don’t teach movement anything anymore, it will probably focus on my obsessive love of neck stretching and/or the feldenkrais concept of moving on an endless continuum from the impossible to possible, possible to easy, easy to elegant, without any end point or perceived pressure or hurrying to get to the next bit

sixteen breaths

we can always do compass breaths and yawn our heads off, and that counts too!

what is time and how does it work

Fluent Self smudging ritual

No answers, only questions

Fair warning that this piece answers neither of the questions posed in the title, so hope you aren’t looking for wisdom on that front, haha or on any front really because I don’t know if I have any insights for us today.

This piece also involves a lot of cussing, really a lot, more so than usual, so if that is not your thing, now you know, and maybe you give it a pass. Or maybe let it all wash over and past, take the gems and let the rest go. A good approach for anything really. Up to you.

Force fields on, powers up. Let’s practice, my friends. And however we are practicing is how we’re practicing. See, there’s an insight. We’re onto something. Let’s do this. Let’s breathe breaths and have some words.

Hey hay

My neighbor has taken up hay-hauling.

And while I very much get that we are all hustling right now to survive, and it’s all about the side hustle, and really, WHO AMONG US has not been engaging or at least considering in engaging in some semi-questionable side-hustles in this hellscape plaguetime isolation madness, this specific hay-hauling side-hustle involves an absolutely massive semi-truck that lurches through our shared gulley of a dirt road at five in the damn morning.

It is an unacceptable amount of noise at any hour, it shakes the dome, it rattles me, I awaken panicked and ready for a fight.

Time

I am both pleased and displeased to report that this 5am gravel road maneuvering situation now only briefly wakes me, just long enough to put a middle finger to the sky, and then I somehow immediately fall back asleep and the truck reincorporates itself into my dreams. A repurposing.

Dream

In my dream, someone I was friends with in high school, someone I have not thought of in years, someone with a name so unlikely that if I shared it with you, you’d think I made it up expressly for the sake of entertaining you and dressing up this dream-story, this person picked me up in a converted semi-truck. They live in this truck now apparently, or at least they do in my dream.

Dream-person gave me a dreamscape ride over narrow bumpy roads and we kissed, which was extremely unexpected both in that it happened at all and in the passionate intensity of it, and also the whole thing was surprisingly not terrible at all, and then I was at my dad’s house.

So that’s all normal and fine, glad I’m not in therapy and don’t have to discuss that with anyone.

Deep

I am deep deep deep inside the mysteries of time, the mystery of how it just took me an hour and a half to wash dishes, take vitamins, get dressed, take care of one bucket of hand-washing, and put on the tiniest amount of makeup.

All of which fall into the category of helpful things if you are a me.

(People Vary, of course, and if you are not a me, these might not be relevant or helpful things for you at all, but my life is improved when I take time for these, and so the time for them is vital, but somehow always so much more than anticipated.)

The mystery and the deception

There were no distractions as there often are.

I wasn’t online or texting as I often am.

I wasn’t despair-walking in aimless circles as I quite often am, more often than I care to admit.

And I wasn’t dancing to a song which then turns into ten songs, as I almost always am, like at pretty much any given time I can be found doing exactly this.

Nope, I was just doing these very mundane things that needed to be done, not particularly focused but also not unfocused, and here we are, and that’s just how long it took.

Intel is neutral

The assassin likes to say this. Intel Is Neutral.

She says this about everything, and she says it about this, and I get it, or I think I do.

It’s like a cousin to IIWIMI (It Is What It Motherfucking Is), and I am sure she is right.

And also, at the same time, I am noticing how frustrating it is for me to work with this seemingly unwieldy and nonsensical intel, it feels part and parcel of all the hard things right now.

For example (hard things)

For example, the Great Molasses Kryptonite Fatigue of 2020 and the particular way that I move in and out of it, or maybe it moves in and around me.

For example, Hey Nothing Makes Sense And Maybe It Never Did.

For example, Not Only Did I Not Sign Up For This Marathon But There Appears To Be No Finish Line.

And are we in trauma fugue state or is this just what happens when you combine ADHD with a month of intense solitude.

Refresh Refresh

(If you are also having trouble finding your spark or any spark, even if/when things or some things are objectively fine, you are in very good company, because literally everyone I know is for the most part just stumbling in and out of the foggiest fog.)

And again, What Is Time, and how do we get even very basic things done?

How do we motate, motivate, galvanize? Come on in, refreshing new energy! The door is open…

Truth

She’s right though. The assassin in my head who is always right is always right.

Intel is neutral. If that’s how long it takes, then it doesn’t matter if I expect it to take a third of the time it actually takes.

Gotta work with what is.

And maybe it will change. It will or it won’t. We’ll pay attention. And we’ll receive more neutral intel.

Excitement where did you go

I mostly have not been feeling particularly excited (understatement) about any of the many things that need to be done today, or this month, or at all, and I wish I could either get excited or be more okay with my inability to conjure some energy, and in some moments I can, but a lot of the time I can’t do either, and that’s how it is.

Both online yoga classes I took this week focused on gratitude, and honestly I feel the same way about gratitude as I do excitement:

I just don’t fucking care right now.

I know of course there is so much to be grateful for, especially my health, which is truly a glowing miracle, and the great fortune that I can hide out here in the desert and do yoga all day with a beautiful view, but for the most part I have not been feeling grateful, I quite often feel lonely and depressed, and then alternately terrified or blank about future plans.

Moments

There are moments in which gratitude magically appears (sometimes astounding amounts of it, and often for seemingly very small things, like cuticle oil, a treasure procured by past-me for this exact moment of need, good job, past-me, a true hero for these troubled times).

And there are moments in which it genuinely feels like I will never be able to conjure it or access that feeling again.

There are moments of lightness and lightheartedness, of wild laughter and a sort of James Bond in-under-the-wire belief that hell yeah we’re gonna figure this all out because that’s the only option! I catch a glimpse of playful-me who is fluid and alive, who flirts outrageously with life and solves things through play.

And there are moments when I lose the thread of that too. IIWIMI.

Clearing / a clearing

Maybe this is the rebellious self who has never liked forced gratitude practices, haha, I went through the blog archives and found an example from way back in 2008 where I was talking about this same theme, so there ya go.

And maybe it’s just that I know which entryways work for me.

I know gratitude works for me like a clearing in the forest that I stumble upon delightedly. If I don’t plan for it, gratitude will surprise me.

And I know that gratitude does not work well for me as a door that I knock on each day hoping it might open.

Some people I love and admire talk a lot about how they have found daily gratitude practice to be transformative, they say it’s like a muscle that you have to work.

I get the metaphor, it is just not joyful for me. As my wise friend says, having to manufacture gratitude is a bummer, and maybe that’s it too, I don’t want to manufacture it, the best thing about gratitude is how it just shows up when I least expect it?

Self-demolishing

So I am going to let all shoulds just demolish themselves, I don’t have to feel grateful right now. I’ll feel what I feel when I get around to it, and right now I’m not there.

These are the superpowers of It Is What It Motherfucking Is and A True Rebel Assassin Knows How To Work With What Is.

Aka hey you know what, if Gratitude is not in the grab bag today, then fuck it, we will rig something else to work, using what we have, because we know how to improvise, that’s part of the job!

Superpowers of Use What We Have! MacGyver has nothing on me!

Writing

I think I told you last time abut how I have not been writing because I met something I was not ready to deal with.

And also I know that it often helps me to sort of piece things together by writing words for someone other than myself. Writing helps.

But also I think I am afraid of discovering how angry I am.

Which is a funny thing to say because I was already pretty fucking angry, and I’m pretty sure that’s mostly what I’ve been writing about for the last couple years at least.

Snakes

Twenty three years ago I had the most terrifying dream about a cardboard box filled with writhing snakes (I wrote about this too when I was writing about the things that made me stop writing), and my wise therapist Meirav saw the snakes as a possible symbol of the emerging memories I am afraid to look at.

The snakes were actual boxes of plastic snakes that my terrible housemate was storing in the room that I wanted to move into, and he wouldn’t move them because he was isolating, yes, I know, this is interesting, and his isolation is going to have to remain a story for another day because it is a different thread I want to follow here.

But yes, Meirav was not wrong, there was certainly no shortage of self-opening dusty boxes in my mind that I did not wish to peek into. You can always play “on another level”, with dreams, with boxes and with snakes.

Not afraid / afraid / not afraid

I am not afraid of the writhing in my consciousness, and I am not afraid of boxes.

My roommate, the one with the useless collection of garbage snakes, went over a cliff and died, and I was happy. Pure and unconflicted happiness. So maybe I am a little afraid of the part of me who rejoices easily in the demise of people I do not like, people who wish to cause me harm…

But maybe that’s why I channel an assassin, to teach me about what is neutral and what is not. She doesn’t find my anger too much. She doesn’t find anything about me too much.

I WILL DANCE AT YOUR FUNERAL, I shout in the direction of my neighbor with the semi truck.

C’mon, the assassin says. Morning is here. Let’s train. Meet you at the northeast window in twenty.

It is what it is and a breath for what is

I was back and forth on whether I would join my favorite yoga for immune support class this morning.

(The obvious pro being that this class always makes me feel better about everything, and it gets me to really deeply be with my breath in a way that I can almost never replicate in my own practice, and the minus being that I wasn’t sure if I had the energy for what felt like the absolutely massive effort required to put on clothing.)

But I made it to class aka to opening my tablet and briefly unmuting myself, and I participated in the parts that appealed to me, and did in fact feel much better, as predicted.

The theme for class was hey okay let’s just be with what is.

(Bow to what is, honor what is, because it just is, yes, here we are in the momentary truth of the moment.)

And I will be honest, that was really exactly what I needed to balance out all those extremely irritating classes on “can we just be graaaaaaateful”…

Neutral & loving

Being with what is means it is okay that I don’t know where my gratitude went, it’s okay that I don’t know where my focus went, it’s okay that I don’t agree that any of this is okay.

It’s neutral. It’s of the moment. And in noticing the moment, I am taking a snapshot of it, and I can be the photographer who finds beauty in everything.

I become the one who thinks everything is breathtaking, this moment, this breath, this light, worthy of capturing, worthy of noting and admiring.

A wonder, a hero and a star (1)

This is how the Assassin feels about this Havi who screams at the sky and rages uncontrollably at the howling wind, this Havi who wishes death and destruction upon 5am semi-truck driving neighbor, this Havi who cried off all her makeup two minutes after putting it on, this Havi who can get overwhelmed to the point of tears by a pile of dishes, or a list with more than three items on it.

The Assassin loves the Havi of each moment, because while each moment is neutral, Havi is a wonder in all of them, a wonder, a hero and a star.

This is why I like working with Incoming Selves, because they are neutral about everything but not about me, they love me unconditionally, in my moments and in my moments.

They want what is good for me, and they never judge when I fight it.

They see me, all of me, and they love me, always, fully and completely, unwaveringly, and I admire them for this, and they admire me for existing.

A wonder, a hero and a star (2)

This is what I say to my friends, and myself, all day, for accomplishing literally anything or for doing nothing at all.

A wonder, a hero and a star for getting out of bed. A wonder, a hero and a star for existing.

We are living with an exacerbated mental load that takes a toll (haha understatement, anything I could say about this is so trite and everyone has said it and also it’s true).

Literally if all this were a movie, we’d have long since given up watching, we would have thrown up our collective hands like, you know what, this is garbage, who wrote this, no one can suspend disbelief this much, the villains are too cruel, too vain and too foolish, the plot holes are tremendous, this is just laughably bad, an insultingly poor script, truly how did this straight to video disaster movie even get made?

And yet, here we are, in it, persisting, trying our best; wonders, heroes and stars.

Parade time, again

And so anything we do (washing one dish, for the collective), is an act of glorious rebellion and worthy of a trillion sparklepoints and a parade, at least.

One of my favorite yoga people says, “Can we make the breath more fascinating than our thoughts?”

Sometimes I can, and sometimes I can’t, but the photographer of the moment lives inside that fascination.

Fascinated

Observing how I am navigating this Zombie Molasses Kryptonite Fatigue Fog.

Smitten by the light.

Naming & generating superpowers

(Which is itself the superpower of self-generating superpowers!)

Permission to skip gratitude practice is the superpower of Trusting That It Will Come In Right Timing.

Hand washing clothes in the sink is the superpower of The True Assassin who always has fresh garments, and The True Sorceress of the clear cauldron who always clears the cauldron for a new spell.

An unexpected thing that must be done no matter what is the superpower of the unexpected side quest. Can I delight in the side quest? Can I channel some sparks for discovery and anticipation and guess what is next?

Pausing for some slow gentle neck stretches is the superpower of soften and release to clear the channel.

SIDE NOTE!

SIDE NOTE! Neck stretches are also a way we can coax the enteric brain (gut wisdom) to communicate better with mission control brain wisdom, this is also a way to connect with Slightly Wiser Selves on the physical level, and I wrote about this for our course on Integrating Incoming Selves, which is actually the one thing I am very excited about, see, I knew there was something I am excited about!

In extreme zombie kryptonite molasses fatigue state…

In times of extreme zombie kryptonite molasses fatigue state, don’t break glass.

I made myself do dishes and I am a wonder, a hero and a star, and I lit incense, and I finished taking my vitamins.

That’s the level of fatigue I’m dealing with on the rough days, sometimes I get too tired taking vitamins to finish taking my vitamins. I do not need advice about this or diagnoses, that’s not why I’m sharing this. I’m sharing it because vulnerable honesty is the way I can be in a state of loving presence with you right now.

And I screamed at the wind again because it is so loud and I have not seen a person in nearly forty days and I really just need a hug but the nearest huggable person is a seven hour drive away, and I am busy trying to solve some mysteries here, and I don’t even know what I want.

What is the superpower in believing I don’t what I want?

Aha, it’s the power of [If you don’t know what you want, make a wish and go back to bed], which is honestly one of the all time best powers, a nap as a portal to healing.

This of course brought out the monsters of You Wasted Another Day, but that’s just the superpower of heyyy if we are already wasting this day let’s waste it in style!

And I was not able to sleep but Back To Bed was still the most luscious decadent life choice I could have made and therefore the best choice, I truly am a hero for these times.

Rest is healing, and I remain someone who makes good choices because whatever choice I made is the one the photographer lovingly photographed, with a deep sigh of approval.

An unexpected answer (an answering answer, a call and response)

I was pondering this ongoing conundrum of knowing that gratitude practice is not working for me in the moment.

And the practice of being with what is, well, I’m doing it, and it’s meaningful and important to me, and also it’s just fucking hard sometimes. And then we get to be with that? Yup! Good guess.

But then I was fortunate enough (and yes, grateful to) be able to take class with Chris Calarco, a favorite Portland teacher, and he spoke a clue directly to my innermost heart:

Come how you are. Maybe you’re here channeling strength and positivity, and maybe you’ve arrived from a state of collapse and despair, come and be, come be with it and with us, because Presence Is Medicine.

Yes, that’s the door for me.

Strengthening medicine (double meaning)

My presence, with everything, with myself, my moods, my fury, my breath, screaming at the wind, all the rest of it, all of this being-with is medicine.

And this act of presence-with-self will always strengthen me, bringing me just enough quiet clarity to feel into my next step.

My presence is medicine, my presence strengthens the medicine, and the strengthening medicine strengthens me.

What I do not know and what I know

I still am convinced I don’t know what I want, but I know that the path is pare down and glow up, and that the method is ritual ritual ritual.

The path is pare down and glow up.

The method is ritual and more ritual.

And also I bet I do know what I want, and I bet that it scares me a little.

So I will follow the path and trust the method, and my wish will reveal itself when I’m ready for it.

Crown on

I almost didn’t write about this because it comes across as so trite, and that’s not how I mean it at all, but back to the theme of current reality as a movie that is so hilariously bad that it’s unwatchable….

This virus is literally named Crown. It is the crown virus, the living lesson of crown on, and because it has no treatment (yet), the only way to try and live through it is to glow powerful BOUNDARIES and Do Less.

Again, if this were a movie, you’d roll your eyes at the obnoxiously over-the-top symbolism.

Boundaries, boundaries and more boundaries. Ritual, ritual, and more ritual.

A training ground for learning to say BACK OFF. A training ground for deep rest. Am I saying these are good things? I am not saying that. I don’t like them either, I don’t like any of this. But it’s interesting.

Speaking of sparks of interest

In 2002 or 2003 I took a year-long yoga teacher training with the person who became my beloved mentor and then betrayed me, because he assumed I’d betrayed him first, which I would never do, and didn’t bother to check that assumption before acting on it, kinda seems like I might have more to say about that, though definitely not today.

Anyway, whoosh goodbye to so many things, the boring mysteries, the old stories, and let us draw focus back to what is sparking my interest here.

Back then, he was then more or less the age I am today, and at the time he was spending six months of the year in a monastery in Nepal, spending his days in meditation, doing prostrations for six hours a day, and I admired him tremendously, and I also remember thinking that no matter what unexpected twists and turns my life might take, it would never take me there.

And now here I am, living in utter solitude in a dome in the desert, forty three years old, I woke up and flipped off my neighbor, watched the sunrise, meditated, did close to two hundred sun salutations, cursed some more, cried some more, meditated some more, listened to an om echo through the dome. Resounding. Roundness in the round.

My life does not look like any version of it that I ever envisioned, and it does not look like the one I thought I was avoiding, but it is kind of funny that here I am anyway.

Isolation, prostrations, meditation, reverberation. The pillars of recovery. Or another possible version of that.

Allies

None of the people I thought would have my back did. None of the people I thought would be in my life forever are in my life now.

I also have truly wonderful friends who are so loving, supportive, hilarious, warm, and endlessly kind. They are for me, they always want my good, they think whatever I do is brilliant (yes, going back to bed, yes to crying for an entire day, get after that crying jag, you’re a star!), and, WAIT FOR IT, THERE IT IS, I am welling up with an overflowing grateful heart for the friendships in my life.

And, just as important, I am my own ally. I know that I am my own ally.

I am my own ally

When I have a brutal early morning panic episode over how expensive and terrifying quarantine is, combined with my complete lack of ability to focus on work projects or anything at all, my Incoming Selves show up with total love and total calm.

They hold a sea of love for me, they show me how to ride the trade winds of trust and wisdom when I can’t remember, and I keep repeating BABE YOU’VE GOT THIS / YOU ARE SAFE / YOU ARE LOVED / THIS IS SOLVABLE until I fall back asleep.

And maybe some of my monsters (self-criticism collective) disagree with most or all of these statements, but the thing about Incoming Selves is that they are here to love me unconditionally, to protect me and guide me, to help me do the things that quiet my mind until the next small indicated first step is revealed.

REST RESET RESTART

I like small Resets these days. Rolling my feet on the garnet orb that Melisa found at the gem show. Massaging Sophia’s oil into my hands.

Soup

I have not had a real human interaction in well over a month, other than whispering thank you to the masked man who put soup in the trunk of my car (now there’s a future no one envisioned, that’s the future liberals want!), and haha I have lots of in-jokes with myself now.

In-jokes with yourself. You can’t get more in than that!

The other day I asked the dome, Really though, who among us has not been conned by a fast talking Gemini, Leo or Aquarius with grandiose delusions, and the dome was like, yeah okay but most people don’t get conned by all three?

Then we laughed for like ten minutes.

It was really only funny to me, but it also only needed to be funny to me.

The soup from 5 Points Tucson was beyond, just astoundingly good soup. I absolutely feel grateful about the soup.

Grateful

I am grateful to the masked man and to the soup-makers, and to Instagram, which is where I go to leave pictures of soup and sky, and occasional racy pics of Incoming selves because we like to do smoking hot photo shoots these days, and mainly I like it as a place to have brief sweet moments of connection and sharing.

I am thankful for all the loving clues and reminders that I find there and in nature that help me return to what’s important: rest, reset, restore, restart.

Rest and rest to restart. Start to restart. Restart to start.

Yes. Each reset is a restarting, but also it is just a starting.

A starting point. Leave everything you know behind.

Begin anew. Blank slate. New breath.

Speaking of thankful, I appreciate all of you who have been so patient and warm and loving in your interactions with me as I figure things out, and I am genuinely heart-overflowing grateful for everyone who’s been leaving appreciation money for me through Barrington’s Discretionary or buys something from the shop, you are the best, and I feel Safe & Loved & Appreciated every time someone does this, and these are such good things to feel.

And this generosity of heart-spirit and sharing is also helping me feel Reassured.

(A breath for all superpowers of This Is Doable, This Is Solvable, I Will Find The Path To The Clearing Again Or I Will Make A New Path Or There Will Be A New Clearing!)

Keep me company

I’m here, in the comments, let’s take some breaths and share some sharing.

I will also note that I wrote this piece a week ago and am doing better these last couple days, feeling more like my playful creative self, and having some good heart-spark moments of fullness, grateful for that too.

Anyway, I’m here. Maybe you just want to say hi, or maybe you want to share anything sparked for you while reading, or maybe you want to name some superpowers you’d like to call on and in for these challenging times.

(And if you want to join us in the course on Integrating Your Incoming Self, sale price is still a thing, so come on in, the water is warm!)

Presence is medicine, presence as medicine. It’s cool that we get to connect like this. I appreciate it. A lot.

And this is sanctuary space which means we don’t do care-taking and we don’t give advice, and we meet ourselves and each other with as much kindness as we can glow in the moment.

xox
h

I am thinking about (what am I thinking about?)

Fluent Self desert sky

This is Anna’s favorite tree, and also the tree where one of my hawk friends lives.

When we can’t write

I was writing about something intense and personal, and then something in me tightened, and I couldn’t write anymore, about anything, at all.

Luckily for us, I remembered that some things (for example, a tightening, an inability to express) require calling on superpowers.

I am talking about the superpowers of Incubation, Percolation, Clearing The Path, Trust and Process, Trust In Process. What if we can give ourselves (and our writing) that grace? I think we can.

And, we can also always write about what is in front of us, we can describe what we see, we can play with what is true and what else is true

This is not a writing prompt / Ceci n’est pas une prompt

I am so deeply resistant to “writing prompts”, as you probably know.

Maybe because I am the rebellious one, and the word PROMPT makes me want to refuse to do as prompted.

So I use the imagery of stone skipping instead, dropping a question into consciousness, like a stone skipping across the water, watching the lovely concentric circles that echo out from our question-stone.

Today’s question-stone / questing-stone is I am thinking about…

I am thinking about

I am thinking about Fluid Motion, and the hawk soaring outside, as I watch from the window, all grace and precision, its purposeful arc. I am thinking about purposeful arcs.

And I am rooting for the hawk, my ally in my ongoing war with the mice who want to live in my car.

Hawk-like. Hawk-honed. I want to glide with fierce power and strike terror as I move through the world with my graceful precision, my purposeful arc.

I am thinking about

I am thinking about Consolidation, as a word and as a concept or theme in my life.

CONSOLIDATE.

This keeps coming up, in scribbled notes, in a Monday Meeting, in meditation.

Consolidation in the pantry: how can I make quarantine easier to navigate by being able so see what is here? What can be combined? What can be stored together?

Consolidation of ideas and projects, how can these interrelated ideas and concepts support each other???

Consolidation of things, again, let’s see what we have. Inventory. Clarity.

I am thinking about

I am thinking about Congruence and Harmony, in interior design and in very interior design (inside of us, internal world).

Instinctively I know what needs to be right in my space.

But I don’t always respect that knowing. Sometimes I try to logic my way out of that knowing.

I am thinking about

I am thinking about Mysteries Of Laundry.

There is no washing machine at the dome (there was and now there is not, long story), and so far have been keeping up on hand-washing, but at a certain point there will need to be a washing of things like sheets and blankets, jeans and sweaters, and I have no plan for that yet.

Day 18 of Isolation. Currently my plan is waiting as long as possible, then visit a laundromat armed with gloves and homemade hand sanitizer, and then presumably head right back into quarantine because laundromats are kind of gross under the best of circumstances.

Laundry is kind of a proxy-worry for the many unsolvable mysteries, but the good thing about a proxy-worry is that if I can find a solution for it, that solution will apply to lots of other things.

And if I can’t find a solution, I can keep asking for one, or seek a solution for something else, all mysteries are related, this will be solved.

I am thinking about

I am thinking about Possible Futures, many meanings to those two words combined.

Mostly trying to imagine some positive outcomes and the superpower of Good Surprises, but also thinking about a lot of ways things could go, and how to adapt.

Certainly my industry (hosting retreats) no longer exists, and many other industries will no longer exist. It’s quite possible that there won’t be yoga studios, or at least those that exist in physical space, or gyms or hair salons or many in person places at all, there will be new forms and new solutions we haven’t thought of yet.

Very excited for silver hair to be in fashion. Very excited to find out what my new job will be and how it will work. Haha understatement.

Can we concentrate hard and hold hands and skip over to a parallel reality where some of these mysteries have been joyfully solved?

I am thinking about

I am thinking about Getting Lost.

Whenever I get lost, I pay close attention to every detail of my surroundings.

That’s because I like to imagine (or pretend?) that a me from a parallel life will need this information some day, and I want to remember it for them, I want them to be able to draw on the good fortune of this moment of lost right now.

They’ll be like, oh right there’s the post office, that was already in my mental map.

Yup, because I put it there! High five, Havi from other dimensions, past, future, parallel, I love you babe, hope you find what you’re looking for, I’m rooting for you, always.

I am thinking about

I am thinking about the words TAKE NOTE.

They are on the cover of a notebook that I never use, I put it in the spot where I do my morning and evening practice, because I always wanted to jot down a reminder note for later, but now that it lives there, I do not take notes.

Among the many mysteries: let us take note of the not-taking-note.

Take note like LET US MARK THIS MOMENT, take note like hey let’s write this down and then it is a spell, take note like okay, let us observe what is.

Let’s take note. What’s true and what’s also true? What is Known? A lot of unknowns, and that’s real and that’s a lot, but what is known?

I am thinking about

I am thinking about Fog Clearing.

For the first week of Quarantine, I was lost in the foggiest fog and so was nearly everyone I know.

I have so many useful Fog Clearing techniques that are really essential to self-fluency skills, because goodness it is so easy to get caught up in external fog. Anyway, had been thinking I would write something about that for you and then I didn’t.

Then yesterday the fog came back, in the form of a day that was entirely made of molasses but the molasses was made of kryptonite.

And now I am out of the fog, which is a delight, and I am pondering if I want to write out some techniques for people or do a brief class, but thinking I need to take time with that and maybe gather powers and encouragement, because my What’s The Point monsters are very loud at the moment.

Hopelessness and fog go together. Taking breaths for Wild Clarity, Seeing Through, Remembering Truth. We got this. Fog is temporary, like so many things.

I am thinking about

I am thinking about Noon Reset, this is something my friends and I have been doing to interrupt fog patterns, and this is something I could write about too.

Noon Reset is still happening at noon, though now we are resetting every two hours at least, because tremendous times requires tremendous everything. Don’t they though.

I am thinking about

I am thinking about Amends, and how they are different from regrets.

A lot has happened in the past sixteen years since this business came into being. A lot of astonishingly beautiful things and also a lot of sad things, and just a lot, in general. Life is tumultuous, especially right now.

Friendships have ended, I have made choices I regret, and said words I wish I had not said. This is what I was writing about when I stopped being able to write.

I am thinking about how to make amends, and what this means and the forms it could take, and actually this is not new, this has been the main theme on my mind over the last two years at least. There isn’t a way to right wrongs, but there is a way to apologize.

I am thinking about

I am thinking about Roll Call / Role Call, which is how I begin my Monday Meetings with my Incoming Selves and my projects.

Who is here? What roles are here for me? What are we here for?

I gather with my selves: me of right now, me of next week, Hard Femme Hellcat M, The True Assassin, The Desert Sorceress, and the projects which right now are all going by acronyms.

We gather and I skip a stone for us, asking a question by dropping it into the water, and each of us answers or channels a response.

Hellcat M reminded me that I once made a reflecting collage that had the most marvelous clue: Your Specialty Glow Flash, Your Famous (Fill In The Blank)

What is my famous Fill In The Blank? Maybe that’s a question for the next meeting.

I am thinking about

I am thinking about Good Fortune, and all the ways that I am tremendously fortunate right now in my quarantine, in addition to all the many magic beans of white cis abled privilege which make my life easier, in all ways and especially now.

Fortune that I already often spend long chunks of time in isolation, I am used to this, I have trained for this, I already know how to make one hug last two weeks.

Fortune that my backyard is hundreds of acres of state land with endless trails to follow if I wish to be outdoors and meander without seeing other humans.

Fortune that my windows feature gorgeous views of ocotillo and prickly pear and agave, and light on the mountains. I am visited daily by road runners, bunnies, quail.

The bobcat visits at night and leaves me loving gifts in the form of poop statues by the front door, my precious baby is an artist.

Fortune in the form of the absolutely lovely community of wise and fun people who hang out here and work with the concepts I write about, I adore and appreciate all of you.

I play the game of what fantastic unexpected luckiness, and it helps.

I am thinking about

I am thinking about Hardships, both real and perceived, real and remembered, past and present, and the variety of ways that quarantine is hard for me, in general and right now.

In addition to the loss of my job and loss of income (all retreats canceled, and I needed to refund so many people at once, glowing a loving thank you everyone who is still waiting patiently, I appreciate you more than I can say, and we are going to solve this!), there are other challenges.

Okay so right now I don’t particularly feel like writing about them, in part because we all have our big challenges right now and in part because it just feels so vulnerable, but yeah, they exist, and each day I have to talk my way through, and remind myself of the bigger truths.

I am thinking about

I am thinking about Sharing (all meanings, sharing like in kindergarten, sharing of ourselves, sharing resources, sharing by showing up for each other with presence, empathy and endless sparklepoints), and how we are all in this.

I am thinking about how I can best be of service.

And I am thinking about how life circumstances right now are asking us to get very creative and agile, while at the same time be able to calm ourselves down enough to focus on the creative and agile solutions that are still incoming.

This is where self-fluency is so useful, the ability to recognize monsters, to lovingly speak truth to fear, to take exquisite care of ourselves, to soothe past versions of us who have forgotten that Now Is Not Then, and so on.

Doing the work, because the work works, and we get to make it playful too.

I am thinking about

I am thinking about the Steadiness of Ritual.

In early September, my incoming selves got VERY serious about morning and evening practice. They wanted it to start on time. They wanted it to be consistent and to follow a sequence that I would be able to remember.

They were very clear that I should not be depending on mood or youtube or a teacher. They wanted me to show the fuck up and do my practice, in a way that required no thought or planning, nothing other than being there.

Some days I’d be like, come onnnnn, can we just go into the city and take a yoga class with someone please? And they were really clear that this was not the way.

They kept saying, Listen, you need the skill and the stamina of a consistent home practice, of being unwavering in your practice, you need to prioritize this and not let anything else come first.

And so that was weird. Until now.

The easiest part of quarantine has been my morning and evening practice, because those were already solidly in place.

And I will be very honest, these stabilizing practices are keeping me from being a total mess. I held the ritual, and now ritual is holding me.

(Sidebar!)

Obviously everything changes and everything is allowed to change, I am not advocating a formal restrictive practice with lots of rules. I am just noticing how I am being held right now by my movement practice.

I am thinking about

I am thinking about Companionship and Community and conscious intentional forms of Interdependence, and what a big deal this all is, especially when we are isolating, but really always.

The way we can glow for each other, conjure sparklepoints together, call in/up/on superpowers together, do things with intention, even when we are alone, we are doing our alone things for the collective, for each other.

Isn’t that magnificent? It cheers me up to think about it.

It means so much to me that you are here, that we are thinking these thoughts together and in relationship (as in: I think my thoughts in my ways, you think your thoughts in your ways, we are equal, we are in an ongoing relationship with our own process).

Anyway, I am glad you’re here. We’re not alone in this. We are breathing breaths and channeling superpowers for ourselves and each other, in connection.

Come play with me!

You are welcome to play with me in the comments, maybe you would also like to do a round or many rounds of the not-a-prompt of I Am Thinking About, or maybe you want to share anything sparked for you from reading this, or maybe you just want to keep me company.

Which is awesome, because again, I have not seen a human in eighteen days and I could use all the company.

I am wishing ease for you, and lightness and joyful realizations. Thank you for being here with me while we figure things out together.

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