Fluent Self Saguaro

Image: Saguaro National Forest (please admire my enormous spiky friends, I like to imagine that they are gathering round for story hour and hugs!)

(Burn before reading)

This piece of writing feels so raw, unprotected. Maybe because it comes from the heart and is therefore also a bit unhinged, given that my heart is currently a place of anguish. If you are looking for something comforting or reassuring, I am not sure if what I have to say here can do that. These are the words I have in this moment, and they are a reflection of love, in that they are truthful, and the absolute most I can manage right now.

The blue door

I wanted to write about the blue door and I can’t, it turns out that I can’t bear to write about the blue door.

Then I didn’t want to think about writing anything for a long time.

Then the words came back, as they do, in their time, and I thought I wanted to write about Graceland or maybe grace landing, except it turns out I can’t do that either.

The cards said wait, and so I waited, this is the waiting, I am waiting.

In waiting

This is the waiting, I am waiting, I am in waiting, a state of not-yet, maybe-later, someday, who knows, who can say.

Waiting for what, exactly?

Waiting to be done with the waiting, waiting for my luck to change.

But when? When does it happen and when will I know?

I am so impatient and so lonely.

Will I recognize this mysterious I-don’t-know-what-it-is (who can say) that will tell me my luck has changed?

When will I know it is time to stop waiting?

Driving

In the essay I’m currently not-writing, the theme I am mostly not-writing about when I am not-writing is loss, and the person I am not writing about is myself of course, but I have also been not-writing about Justin Townes Earle.

Somehow I hadn’t known he died in August, may his memory be a blessing, but maybe that is why he has been so close, in my head and heart, with his way of expressing things that are hard to express.

And I just learned this week that he died of an accidental overdose. So. Peace be with you, Justin Townes Earle, maybe that’s why I listen to your voice when I go into the forest that is not a forest each day to mourn whatever it is I am mourning.

I know what I am mourning

Of course I know what I am mourning: my mother, my home, this year that wasn’t, my heart that doesn’t know how to want anymore, my ability to write words, the wishes I used to wish when I knew how to wish wishes, my ability to wish wishes itself, any inclination to love or to trust love or be in proximity to love.

I have lost my drive, and so I go for a drive, to mourn, in a forest that is not a forest, and I don’t find anything on my drive to recover my drive.

Maybe because I am still waiting for whatever it is the cards want me to wait for.

I guess it’s a delayed reaction mourning, what else is there when everything else is gone.

When I am driving I am listening

I drive through Saguaro National Forest when I am sad and able.

To clarify, I am sad all the time, sometimes much too sad to get out of bed, and quite often too sad to drive, but when I have the drive to drive, I drive towards the forest and let me repeat that it is nothing like a forest, except in that it extends forever.

The saguaro are enormously tall and breathtaking, full of love, these are tree-like things, yes.

They feel more like guardians than trees, but more like trees than other things that are not trees.

What is: a definition

Birds nest in them. They are alive in their aliveness and they glow love. So really, the absolute definition of trees.

But also spiky and solitudinal, sentient sentries, and you cannot hug them though sometimes they hug each other, which is extremely cute and makes you want to hug them even more.

Anyway the point remains that they are exactly nothing like trees in almost the same amount as how they are basically trees. It’s honestly bewildering to conceptualize, like everything else these days.

Unrecognizable

This year does not look like a year. The days do not look like anything.

This mourning does not look like mourning. I do not recognize myself nor do I recognize me from March, and I certainly don’t recognize my January selves, bless their hilarious naive goal-making and strategizing, their receptivity to life and willingness to plan.

Anyway, when I am driving (away, towards, ongoing) in my sadness, I am listening to Graceland. I am listening to Justin Townes Earle cover Paul Simon’s Graceland and make it his own.

The absolute ballsiness of covering a song like Graceland, amazing.

And to break it by making it just a little new. Renewed and slightly altered through being repeated lovingly in a new voice. You recognize it, this song you know intimately from childhood, and you don’t, because it is Justin’s now.

Tumbling

He has this little laugh when he tells you about the girl in New York City who calls herself the human trampoline, and this what I listen to (listen for) on repeat when I drive through the saguaro:

Oh so *this* is what she means?

He laughs the tiniest bit as he sings it, because it is both so familiar and so improbable to be falling, flying, tumbling in turmoil, so this is what she means.

So this is what she means. So, this is what she means? Yes. Tumbling in turmoil.

I drive and keep driving: Ironwood, Greasewood, Gates Pass, Picture Rock, winding roads composed of impossible dips, it feels more like flying than driving, irresponsible and dangerous.

Tossing and tumbling into grace, and landing, if you land.

(If you know what I mean, so this is what she means…)

Justin / Justin

I have never known a Justin, and then I was staying at the home of one, and constantly listening to another one. This just in. Justins, just in. There’s two of everything right now, with names, in my life. If I meet anyone new, I immediately meet someone else with their exact name. This just in.

And yet I am dying of loneliness and have no one to talk to. This just in.

People are showing up and waiting in the wings. The cards said wait and I am waiting. I just want to talk to someone but mostly I talk to the dead.

I read about how Fauci has federal agents accompanying him everywhere, because people threatened to behead him, which is of course absolutely wild and terrifying and wrong, like everything else this year, but my first thought was wow, your own federal agents, must be nice to have someone to talk to. This just in.

Oh, so this is what he means?

Dead or somewhere in between

I had a lover for one night, no, wait, no, there is something I have to tell you first.

Do I even remember enough to tell you the story? Something about a Catholic pilgrimage in Oregon that you can’t remember, when you’re tumbling into turmoil, and you say oh so this is what she means.

I went on a pilgrimage and I can’t remember the circumstances. Graceland is a pilgrimage too, of course. You go to be received, but you go for the going, to go, to have gone, for reasons that cannot be explained, that is part of the nature of pilgrimage.

Edges

Somehow we (four of us?) were in a car driving to Mt Angel in Oregon, to a Catholic pilgrimage spot, I don’t know why, I certainly don’t think any of us were catholic and so the pilgrimage was a combination day trip and short hike, maybe, who can say.

We were in the car headed there or returning, whatever the circumstances behind this trip, this is many years ago, the backstory has been erased at the edges.

One person I didn’t know, I think she was a friend of someone I met at a networking event, and it turned out she was a past life channeler, someone who helps you access your past lives.

Maps

I said, perhaps tactlessly, that I didn’t believe in past lives, which I’m sure I thought was true because why else would I have said it, but was also something of a hilarious lie given that when I first moved to Berlin, having never visited, I discovered on my very first walk that my brain came equipped with a built-in map of the entire city.

And that internal map was not nearly as disorienting as the many location-specific memories that were not mine.

But anyway, that’s what I said in the moment, on this pilgrimage, and in the moment it was true, or at least it must have felt true.

And she laughed and said she didn’t believe either.

Points

She said that in her mind believing is not the point.

Which is a very Jewish thing to say on the way to a Catholic pilgrimage, though I don’t think she was Jewish, the whole memory is so vague that I’m not entirely sure this happened.

(But I just checked with a friend who confirms it did.)

Who can say.

Can’t argue with that

The point, she said, is that she’d found past life regressions to be a useful way to help people release enormous amounts of trauma, and where is it written that we need to believe in something (or anything) for it to benefit you and others.

And isn’t that benefit ultimately its own reward. Can’t argue with that.

Though I did.

I asked way too many questions, all of which were unnecessary, and she was patient with my impatience.

For reasons

For reasons I cannot explain
There’s some part of me wants to see Graceland
And I may be obliged to defend
Every love, every ending
Or maybe there’s no obligations now

Many happy returns

Mainly I wanted to know about overlap.

If I burst into fits of overwhelming tears (which I do) each time I think of British soldiers in the trenches of WWI, how does this square with my sense memory of every street in Berlin and the dreams I have about Germany in the late 1920s, what of the abandoned ballroom where I remember dancing, I used to sing on a stage that no longer exists, I remember.

I don’t believe, because it’s illogical, but I do remember, in flashes.

And sometimes I remember other things, I remember being a nun and devoting myself to the son of god, even though I don’t believe in a god at all never mind one who has a son.

Certainly I remember places I have never been to and have never seen. Sometimes I will catch a glimpse of a location in a movie I’ve never seen, and recognize this place from a recurring dream. I know exactly where that staircase leads.

Explain that, car friend.

Memories

She laughed warmly and said they’re only called past lives at all because we are so completely unable to truly conceptualize that time is all happening at once, it breaks our brain and so the idea of “past” lives being from the past is like a cheat code, a shorthand.

I think you’re maybe trying to be linear about time, she said, when time is not-that.

Illusion

Progression and sequence are illusion, and time is round or around us or maybe it is in motion, in flow, who can say, time is mysterious, but it is definitely not sequential, that’s the thing.

In other words, trying to impose order on not-order feels like an endeavor in service of sanity but it actually does the opposite.

You gotta wake up each morning and celebrate the chaos, you know? Because what else is there. I didn’t know that, and I still don’t know how, but I try.

A glamorous assassin at the end of the world. Agent Chaos, chaos agent. At your service, by which I mean at my service.

Too much to hold / too much to be held

Locating alternate memories in the past becomes a way to discuss errant painful rememberings, while simultaneously imagining that this experience is behind us and not simultaneously unfolding, because that would be too much for our poor overloaded brains.

The universe is somehow both too big and too tight if you try to think about time too much or too deeply, and sure, maybe time is collapsing in on itself either way, but this sensation gets more uncomfortable when we poke at time.

Don’t provoke time, don’t feed it, don’t take photographs, don’t get too close.

I could be wrong.

Essence

Putting all discomfort around the great mystery aside for a moment, if time is all happening at once, or if we imagine that it is all unfolding in this moment, then really you can be anyone or everyone, at any time, you know? You can experience various forms of being.

Choose your player. Take a breath. Let’s go.

Call on a wise courageous loving self, let’s have an adventure.

Sanctuary

I last wrote here in September, which feels like years ago, I wrote nine thousand words about baby sloths and about sanctuary. I wrote it from the sanctuary of my sanctuary, which is now gone, it was gone faster than it came.

Have I written anything since then? I have been moving and on the move. I lost my sanctuary and it broke my heart.

I know from being alive that everything that needs to be said percolates for as long as it percolates, you give it time because that’s a form of love.

For me, writing is always about trust. The next piece will come when it comes. Do not rush a seed.

But everything else I know from being alive turned out to be wrong, so maybe that is not true either. Still, what is there but to wait for the words to whisper to me again?

Feelings

What do I feel? Bereft, distraught, anguished, so very alone.

My sanctuary, which I had worked so hard to bring into being, turned out to be the opposite of that, my peace and quiet was not-peace and not-quiet.

And what I thought was my sanctuary turned out in fact to be the place I had to immediately flee.

Don’t ask what or why, because I do not know

I still don’t understand what happened, all I know is that I truly believed I had found a resting spot for recovery, and so imagine my astonishment when it ended up being much worse than the situation I needed to recover from.

It’s not so much that the treatment was worse than the wound. It’s more like the treatment was a lie.

I thought I had landed, I thought I had found my place. My thoughts were bees to flower, consumed with how best to support rest.

Finally I had arrived in the quiet place, so the only question became how to soften into it, but there was no quiet and there was no rest, I was back on the run.

It seems laughable now, to have been so deep in delusion or illusion, and not have known what was coming, but who could have foretold otherwise?

Who can say

In a way I am in awe of how vulnerable September-me was willing to be, how ready to receive that rest, the bravery of agreeing to soften into safety, acquiesce to recovery after the most painful summer.

But that’s not what happened, my sanctuary was not the place for any of that, it was the place I had to run from.

The whole experience of sanctuary just folding in on itself, like time, and like memory.

To find, to found, to lose and be lost

Anyway, to make a long year short: I left the dome in the desert behind and somehow from chaos and loss was able to find (or is that to found) a dragon sanctuary, and then almost immediately had to flee that sanctuary.

And then because somehow things weren’t bad enough, my property was vandalized, someone attacked my car, I got in an accident, this all somehow happened in one day, and it’s not even the worst of it.

But I don’t have more energy to tell you what happened, and I had no more reserves of anything in me, everything hurt, and the cards said wait.

I rented a tiny house in Tucson and mostly stayed in bed.

Nothing is what it sounds like

Two weeks recovery in a tiny house sounded like dream life but it was also not in fact peaceful or restful or anything good.

Helicopters circled overhead, private planes, military planes, mystery jets. Meanwhile next door jackhammers, drills, endless all-day construction. Motorcycles raced at night. Opinionated chickens. Someone was always smoking outside. It was like a personal hell designed just for me.

As if the sanctuary that was not sanctuary had followed me in spirit.

Graceland

Eventually I had to get out of bed.

I drove to see the saguaro because that’s where I go when I am hopeless. I maintain, still, that you cannot stay in a bad mood when those enormous beings are waving at you with so much affection, they are the sweetest and goofiest guardians of this earth, think redwoods but with a quirkier sense of humor.

I drove through the painted rocks admiring the light that turns the mountains pink then red then purple, I drove through and past sunset and a car behind me was flashing its brights for no apparent reason. I drove fast and spoke the names of the streets like a spell.

There is a fire (there is a fire)

Not sure how to broach this topic because it sounds made-up and it is not, but I am in a weird twilight zone situation with my car, specifically with the music player that helpfully lights up the name of the song that is playing.

The songs report what is happening as it is happening, and it is bewildering.

I was driving near my sanctuary that turned out to not be a sanctuary (not mine and not a sanctuary), and there was a fire in the forest of mystery, and I panicked and looked at the dashboard and saw a message: THERE IS A FIRE.

THERE IS A FIRE.

Naming what is

It turned out this was the name of the song that was mysteriously playing, while there was a fire. There is a fire. There is a fire.

Pulled over by the side of the road, frantically calling 911 to explain there is a fire, while the words there is a fire play on the screen.

There is a fire, I said. There is a fire, my car said. We know about the fire, the lady on the phone explained.

There is a fire, insisted my car. I didn’t know whether to drive away or towards.

Blinding lights (blinding lights)

There is a fire, there is a fire, said the song.

There is a fire and it’s burning in my heart. (Is there? Is it? I don’t know about that part, it is desolate and lonely in my heart.)

Then later when the truck was flashing its lights at me on the mountain roads over and over again, the console showed me the words Blinding Lights, and I was like, yes, I know, but why?

Blinding lights was a song, as it turned out.

The songs are telling me what is happening as it is happening but I don’t know why it is happening, I don’t know why any of this is happening.

Held

I had a lover for one night, and if you’re thinking wow that doesn’t sound like you, that’s because I thought it was going to be for a very, very long forever sort of time.

My lover held me in their arms and I remembered them, remembered being held exactly like that, and I do not mean being held exactly like that by someone else, I mean that I remembered being held exactly like that by this person.

I remembered us together in dozens of lifetimes, which again I do not believe in, I remembered this person holding me like this, exactly like this, we didn’t always look the same but it was us, and I sobbed because it was so familiar and beautiful and painful all at the same time.

How did you find me? I can’t believe you found me. How did you know it was me.

Always, I will always find you if you want me, my forever lover said. And then they didn’t find me again.

Even though I am right here.

Wanting versus not wanting, versus versus versus versus

I’m not sure I want to be held if being held is gonna be like that…versus I don’t want to be held at all if it’s not.

This is the forever conundrum now.

I hate this loneliness that is making me lose my mind, and I also don’t see the point of being around anyone if I can’t be held exactly like that, in the way of lifetimes.

I saw the way it ended in the other lives, and it was not awesome. Sometimes it was violent and sometimes it was heartbreakingly sad.

But I still want it. It doesn’t have to make sense. Nothing else does.

Company (versus)

Driving to visit the saguaro when I am sad, with the dead for my company, this is what I do. I keep thinking about the phrase dead or in between.

Is my lover dead or in between?

How are we recovering from the trauma of this time?

I drove with my lover to the saguaro forest once, on the night that felt like the beginning of entirely new forevers, and they immediately fell asleep next to me, even as we bounced along on dirt roads full of rocks.

I drive, and I talk to myself, and I remember. How are we recovering from the trauma of this time? Will I remember this road?

Do I remember this road in a parallel life, is my lover asleep next to me there, where are we going?

To be (held) or not to be (held)

Obviously these questions (to be held or not to be held, that is the question, though I think Hamlet’s question was about death, and maybe everything is about death) are for a post-pandemic landscape, a place I don’t know how to imagine into.

It must exist, this place I’m holding on for, this place where being held is possible, because all paths are possible, all lifetimes and lifelines, but it’s also not a consideration that needs to be solved now.

(And yet, still, here I am, considering it.)

Don’t go

The more I think about Graceland, the more I become convinced that Graceland is definitely about death, and I’m not sure why it took me decades of hearing this song to understand this, and suddenly I don’t want Justin Townes Earle to visit Graceland, I want to tell him not to go, no need to pilgrimage to a place we’ll all arrive at eventually, not every location needs to be visited and revisited, stay with us, choose life, don’t go yet.

Hold on, I say to Justin Townes Earle. Hold on, kid, we need you.

Stay, says the console in my car, announcing the next song.

Dress for the job you want

On days when I get out of bed, I dress for the job I want, and the job I want is glamorous assassin at the end of the world.

My dear friend and favorite yoga teacher told me about seeing her identical twin sister dressed to the nines, and asked, “What are you doing, dressed up all sexy on a Tuesday in quarantine?”

And her sister said, “It’s the end of the fucking world. Get your goddess on.”

Get your goddess on. Dress for the job you want.

Who can say

I wake up in the middle of the night, and I don’t know what to do about my disturbing dreams or any of the mysteries, and so I ask for Clarity, Miracles and peaceful simple obvious solutions.

In my dreams, I am always moving (packing, cleaning, gathering), and I am always making terrible irreversible mistakes, for example, I need to give someone a tour of a house I don’t live in, and I just have to make sure to do this one seemingly easy thing, like oh just don’t let the goose out of the attic, or just don’t let the puppy into the room full of antique stained glass statues, but I am never able to get it right, and chaos ensues. I wake up exhausted and anxious, not sure how to make anything right.

In my waking, I practice rest and sorcery, I try to live by the glamorous assassin motto of Do Less To Get More.

I am waiting to learn what is beneath the exhaustion, and taking notes about what leads to the exhaustion.

Seeing / the window

And I see losing love is like a window in your heart
Well, everybody sees you’re blown apart, everybody sees the wind blow

But I don’t think they see it.

People ask how I’m doing and it doesn’t seem to matter what I say, if I say that I’m not fine, that the wind is blowing through my heart, blowing me apart, I’m just tumbling into turmoil, some days my project is just staying alive. And they say, yeah yeah same.

I don’t know if we understand each other a lot or not at all, who can say.

The blue door

Three summers ago in Jackson, Wyoming, I bought a tiny camper, a replica, tiny enough to hold in my hand, it was made of wood and had a blue door, I bought it to remind me about my dreams of small, cozy, portable, and road-worthy.

Two years ago in a small town in Arizona close to the Mexican border, I moved into a 72 sq ft camper with a blue door.

This year in a town near Santa Barbara, California, I bought a 150 sq ft trailer with a blue door.

It is extremely rare to find a trailer with a blue door but I keep moving into them and then moving out of them.

A familiar feeling, painful and beautiful, the blue door is the like the arms of the lover who disappears and returns in another lifeline. I know the blue door when I see it, and I forget it when it’s gone. Ending, beginning, opening, who can say.

Looking

I am looking for the next blue door. I am looking for that familiar smile that lights me up from within.

I’ll know it when I see it, or I will know it when it’s gone, though does it matter if I know, or how well I know it, Justin Townes Earle sings it for me each time I drive through the saguaros.

She comes back to tell me she’s gone
As if I didn’t know that
As if I didn’t know my own bed
As if I’d never noticed
The way she brushed her hair from her forehead

Landing

My uncle called to see if I was looking at the full moon and I cried and he comforted me:

you didn’t make bad choices
we do the best we can
you can’t know
I’m continually surprised at myself for making plans and yet I still make them
the world is strange right now and you’re always welcome here
it will work out, it will get clear
yes keep waiting hold on
very soon, it will shift
it’s a cloud, yes, it certainly is,
but there’s some blue sky behind it
I have ultimate faith and confidence in you

I am waiting because the cards said wait, I am waiting because my uncle is always right, I am waiting and getting dressed in my most glamorous assassin outfit because it’s the end of the world and might as well
play my favorite character (me).

Waiting and driving and dancing and remembering. This just in.

Breaking to make new

My favorite part of a good cover is the way it makes me hear in a new way, what else can you make new through breaking?

I like the way his voice breaks, how it makes me listen differently, what else is made new through being broken?

My console chimes in helpfully with a suggestion: HELLO MY OLD HEART.

I am thinking about what is broken (heart, wishes, sanctuary), I am thinking about what is new and renewed (heart, wishes, sanctuary), I am driving through dips and gullies.

Strong enough, suggests my console.

Gasoline, suggests my console. When the storm is near. Rise.

Gaining in joy / a dedication

It is Hanukkah soon, a festival of lights, and the name, the word itself means dedication, you dedicate a space by clearing it and naming it, you light lights and reclaim space, these themes feel so vital right now in the devastation of this year.

I wish so much I had a home to be in dedication with, but I have internal space, and the space of memory, and the space of knowing into the unknowns (if all the then is now, and all the now is simultaneous, then choose a path, choose a player, let’s go).

To increase in joy

I have been thinking about the thousand-year-old argument between Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel about lighting the candles, which might also be happening now, if we can stop being linear about time, which makes me laugh every time I say it, because I don’t know how to not be linear without spiraling.

Get it? I am spiraling out and time is spiraling in.

Anyway, Shammai wanted us to light eight candles the first night, and decrease the candles lit each night, while Hillel argued that you want to begin with one and add a candle each night so you have all eight candles lit on the final night of Hanukkah.

Unsurprisingly I am team Hillel all the way on this (increasing joy is definitely a superpower I’m wishing for these days, as is expanding dedication), and as it turns out, as you know if you’ve ever lit Hanukkah candles, his way is in fact the way we do it now, but if all timelines are happening at once, then joy is simultaneously increasing and decreasing in our windows.

Into and towards

Joy is increasing and flickering and (I hope) increasing again, candles are being lit in ascending and descending order, sanctuaries are being built and sanctuaries are being destroyed, founded and lost, they are lost and I remain, reminding and refinding, remembering and rededicating.

Or maybe joy is steady and we just can’t tell as we watch the lights change and flicker, who can say.

Joy is rededicating my heart space, lighting up the window of my heart, kneeling at heart-hearth, slowly but steadily increasing glow power and, I hope, a renewed capacity for joy, one more candle at a time

Happy holiday of lights, I whisper into the dark spaces, into the window in my heart where no one sees what is being blown apart, into the places where I hope or where I am remembering how to hope; this is the practice of loving the seeds without rushing them, choose your player, here’s to incoming joy and many happy returns.

Let’s keep company if you like

I’m here, in the comments, we can take breaths and share space here.

Maybe you want to say hi, or share anything sparked for you while reading or let us know what you’re up to (are any of us up to anything, are we surviving this year somehow or at all, I hope you’re hanging in there, stay with us), and of course you’re welcome to call in any superpowers you’d like for these challenging times. It all works for me, I love having the company and presence is medicine.

As always, it’s just space to be which means we don’t give advice, we just (try to) meet ourselves and each other with as much kindness as we can glow in the moment.

I’m on Instagram as @thefluentself when I remember to post, so we can hang out there as well.

And if you were in my Integration of Incomings space this year, I extended it (will send out an email) so there’s still time to play.

Glowing love for-and-with you and lighting some more lights,
h

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