Tuesday, March 25, 2014

I'm Not Gone.

I've just been busy. Moving multiple times, finishing a degree I abandoned years ago, building a career, rebuilding relationships, and starting a loving relationship that is complex and beautiful and ugly, too.

If you're still here, thank you. I love you. And I'm coming back. Slowly but surely and new and more human than ever before. Time does that. And winter does that.

I'm almost ready to write again.

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I can't tell if the crunchy stuff in my salad is salt or dirt.  I didn't rinse the greens from the farmers market because I assumed they were already clean, but I'm thinking now that I was very wrong about that, and now I'm sure that I should watch my salad very closely as I eat it because there is a good chance I'll end up eating a bug if I don't.  You should always look at your food while you're eating it.  I've seen lots of half-eaten bugs in my time as a waitress in a farm-to-table restaurant and I'm sure it's something I don't want to experience.

I'm memorizing a poem as a part of the Writing Workshop I'm currently teaching (despite my lack of qualifications).  The poem is The Happiest Day, by Linda Pastan.  I'll attempt to rewrite it here from memory, right now.

It was early May, I think
A moment of lilac or dogwood
when so many promises are made it hardly matters if a few are broken.
My mother and father still hovered in the background, part of the scenery,
like the houses I grew up in.
And if they would be torn down
that was something I knew but didn't believe.
Our children were asleep or playing,
the youngest as new
as the new smell of lilacs.
And how could I have guessed their roots were shallow
and would be easily transplanted.
I didn't even guess that I was happy.
The small irritations that are like salt on melon
were what I dwelt on,
though in truth they only made the fruit taste sweeter.
So we sat on the porch in the cool morning, sipping hot coffee
behind the news of the day --
strikes and small wars, a fire somewhere--
I could see the top of your dark head
and thought not of public conflagrations,
but of how it might feel on my bare shoulder.

If someone could stop the camera then.
If someone could just stop the camera and ask me,
Are you happy?
Perhaps I would have noticed the way
the morning sun shown in the reflected color of lilac.
Yes, I might have said,
and offered a steaming cup of coffee.

(Linda Pastan)

So, I almost have it.  I cheated a little.  I'll practice again tomorrow.

There are many lines I love in this poem, but one in particular has been speaking to me recently: The small irritations that are like salt on melon were what I dwelt on, though in truth they only made the fruit taste sweeter. I am becoming more and more aware of myself looking at the small irritations and taking them so very personally.  I've noticed how I notice them, and how they become focal points for my life -- ways to dissect and analyze relationships, or push away, deny, dislike, expect more, etc.  Without too much analysis, let's just say, I notice this line, and I notice that I'm noticing it for a reason.

My blog is looking strange right now, which worries me.  It's says things like 'eggs os' where it used to say Endings & Beginnings.  This makes me nervous because it makes me think I've been hacked again.  We'll see soon enough. I've already found the sweetness from that salted fruit, but if I'm meant to taste it again, so be it.

Also, I'm on Facebook again, so.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Una Poca De Gracia (A Little Bit of Grace)

"What do you do when someone is begging you to help them die?" is the question I received via text from my mom this afternoon.  Earlier she told me that she and my dad were going to visit their long-time friend who was in Intensive Care.  He is around my dad's age, I believe.   He and my dad worked together many years ago at the State Penitentiary.  My parents knew him before he had an accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down.  From what I remember, he fell from a ladder while cutting branches from a tree in his front yard.  He's lived an excruciatingly difficult but full life in a wheelchair since then, with the support of his dedicated and resilient wife.  I saw he and his wife during my most recent trip home and spent some time talking to them.  He is bright, witty, and sarcastic.  His wife is gentle, hopeful, and adoring.

I don't know the details, but something happened recently that has made his health decline rapidly.  He is in the hospital today with tubes in his throat and on support, but he is coherent and desperate. I've had honest conversations with my parents about him recently.  They've told me that he has been surrendering.  They've told me that he is through with his struggle.  He has nothing left in him.  He has been honest and frank about his experience as a quadriplegic, he has never really painted it as a blessing to have survived that fall with such consequences.

As a young girl I remember being so intrigued by his story.  He had children, just like my dad.  He was doing something I've seen my own father do in our front yard.  He fell.  My dad never did.  I imagined what it would be like to have a dad that was so completely changed.  I remember feeling so fortunate.  I never want to make my own fortune out of someone else's pain, but it reminded me, as a child, that things can be taken from you in a moment, and that's something I've never forgotten.

So, my mom asked me that question and I started to answer from the heart.  And all I could think of was PRAY.  You pray.  You pray to anything, anyone, any entity.  You just throw your words and your compassion and your faith into the wind and hope that it lands someplace where it will land softly; some fertile ground where it will be tended by caring hands.  It's all you can do.  You pray for his relief, you pray for his family's relief from grief, you pray for peace.  It's all you can do, and that's not enough in those moments when your friend of several decades is begging you to help him leave his pain and the burden of his body.  But, I really think that's all there is.

I'm not of any religious conviction.  I've tried, and nothing has fit me.  But I am sure that living a spiritual life is possible without ever knowing of one god or entity, or following any specific scripture.  It's just that willingness to see another person suffering, to not turn away, and to pray for their comfort and peace.

I don't want to forget that there is suffering in this world.  I don't want to neglect my obligation to pray and hold light and send out as much love as I am able.  I know that I can do this by acknowledging with gratitude all the beauty and joy with which I am surrounded. And I know that I can do this by acknowledging the pain and suffering of others, in all it's manifestations, many of which are invisible to the eye.

Tonight I'll pray for him, and his wife and children.  Tonight I'll pray because all we can do is hope for a little bit of grace in the moments when we are stripped of our power and dignity, when we are in pain or suffering.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

When I'm Sixty-Four

On Monday my mom turned 64, and tomorrow so will my dad.  I don't know the exact age they were when they began dating, but it's been something close to 40 years since then.  When I called to talk to my parents on my mom's birthday, they told me about their shared morning; how my dad woke my mom up with a blueberry pastry adorned with a candle and then played the Beatles song 'When I'm 64.'   They explained that at some point during the early stages of their relationship, my dad heard this song and pointed out that one day, they would listen to it together on their 64th birthdays.  

My heart melted.  And I've been thinking about it since then.  

For a while now I've been considering the price we pay for our independence.  I've been thinking about all that we give away with each relationship.  I know that we learn and grow from each shared experience, but what has lingered with me is the sense that there are parts of me that I've given to others in the hope that it would be the one that lasted, and that those parts of myself are lost now,  in the way that I know I carry parts of others who have loved me.  They aren't scars or wounds or markings.  To me, the things I keep from each relationship are alive and need tending and call for attention at times.  They are feelings and memories and an ethereal presence.  I imagine that in a marriage, these same feelings exist.  The memories and feelings of time past, hurts healed, and shared joys and losses linger in each and in between both partners. The difference is that they are collected and shared in a sacred union between two people.  That the burden of all of the things and people they have known and have been are shared. 

When I recently wrote about love, I wrote this:  

LOVE is a burden.  Love is a heavy burden.  Sometimes someone comes along and helps us with it, the way my twin brother would walk behind me on the stairs in high school and lift my back pack just enough to make it weightless on my shoulders.  But when there isn't someone to lighten the load, we carry it alone on our backs and in our pockets and it's all quite heavy.  When we give it to someone and they don't accept it, what they give back weighs twice as much, so often we get heavier throughout our lives.  Some people take it and keep it.  When they do, they put it somewhere special and admire it often, like a painting or a sculpture.  They keep it safe and it makes them feel good.  Everyone is lighter then.  Babies always do this, and our truest loves do too, but even they sometimes misplace it in a move. 

I found a way to excuse myself from the commitment of marriage when I was younger, and what I've learned to do since then and in every relationship I've had is run when it gets uncomfortable.  Turn away when it stops making sense or reject when it feels like it's coming too close to taking anything away from my life.  What I've called strength, in choosing to avoid marriage and it's constraints, has been an avoidance of obligation, commitment, and full acceptance of another.  I wonder how this manifests in my relationship with self?

Maybe it's a lot to take away from a really beautiful moment and story.  I'm not missing the good in it.  I am beyond proud and honored to have the parents I have.  As an adult I am constantly seeing more clearly the people they are and just how lucky I am to know them. I am grateful.  And I am grateful for the reflection this has brought to me.  

I'm already more than half-way to 64, and I haven't found my love.  I'm not even sure that I've ever wished for it, or believed it was possible.  But now I do, and I do.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

50 Ways To Leave Your Longing

Today I deactivated my Facebook account.  It wasn't the first time and it might not be the last (although I hope it is).  I take very long breaks from it and end up back at a time when I feel disconnected or am longing to find someone with whom I regret losing touch.  Every time I'm there, staring, jaw-clenched, unblinking, at the screen, I am lost.  I am lost to myself, I am lost to the world, given to absolute mindlessness and disconnect.  When I come away, always abruptly as if waking from self-induced open-eyed coma, I feel empty and less happy.  I'd very rarely say I've come away with any sense of joy or fulfillment.  More often I come away feeling like an unrightful voyeur of other people's lives.  I feel like I've taken something that was not directly given to me; a thief of moments and thoughts and experiences not truly shared with intention.  Certainly not truly shared with me or for me, Chelsea Lynn Boyd.

This is not living.  This is not friendship.  This is not connection.  I am sure of this.

I long for connection and love because I am human.  The internet has crafted very alluring ways to supplement this human longing so that we don't have to leave our home, or our pajamas, or even brush our teeth.  We can design our images without ever doing more than typing a status update and carefully choosing the photographs we take from our iPhones.  We can create the image of a life full of thousands of friends and meaningful connections without ever even opening our mouths to utter a single word.  This scares me.

I know that being in the world can be scary. And I know that it can take a lot of work to maintain relationships, especially when one half of the relationship is still depending on tools like Facebook, Twitter, and email to know the details of another person's life.  But the truth as far as I'm concerned is: We aren't meant to have that many friends.  People are supposed to move fluidly in and out of our lives.  We are supposed to let go and make room and cherish the people we learn to love while they are present to us.  We have permission to let them go when the time comes.  We are technically required to let them go, even, or else everyone suffers to a degree.

It was scary to let go.  I'm no hero.  I am as afraid as anyone else to lose people I know and cherish.  But I'm willing to abandon that longing if it means that I will be more present to myself and the world around me, more available to the people who are in my life willfully and intentionally, and if it forces me to put more effort and authenticity into the interactions I share with people on a more personal level.  There will be loss, but there always is when we decide to live life more deeply.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Writing Wrongs

The word 'right' can mean a lot of things in the English language.  The need to be right is one of the driving forces in conflict/debate, having rights is a privilege enjoyed by very few people on this planet, and making something right is what we do when we fix a thing that's broken.  There's also the right way to do things, and the direction, right.  Lots of rights we have surrounding us.  More rights than wrongs.  I guess that's good.  

Being wrong is simple and seemingly undoable. There are a lot of ways to get there, but only one name for it.  It's easy to be wrong, but somehow easier to believe you aren't.  And maybe it's because it's this deadweight of a word -wrong- with no way out, that makes it so difficult to admit to being associated with it.  Wrong just sits like a stone in the bottom of a muddy riverbank, and it sounds like a low-pitched gong resonating loudly in your head and for everyone to hear for miles and miles. Right flits around changing shape and color and meaning as it pleases, it's whimsical and everyone loves it, it sounds like birds chirping or windchimes.  So pleasant.  If I could choose one, I'd choose right.  Who wouldn't?  And I have chosen it again and again throughout my life. 

Conflict is important to growth.  And what I'm learning is that I. Hate. It.  I wish I could avoid it altogether.  And even when I can't, I sometimes find a way by shutting down, out, or up completely.  And honestly, that's wrong.  What I do when I think I'm protecting myself is shut people out and choose what I see as right action (or inaction) to take over where peacemaking, resolution, or understanding could be present.  I could spend a lifetime writing out the wrongs inflicted upon me by others, while I wait for someone to apologize or validate what has hurt or felt unjustifiable.  I have written countless rants about the wrongs, and not enough about what people have done that has felt, right by me.  

My friend Jadyn said she'd learned that it's better to be happy than right.  She said every time she's confronted with conflict with another person she asks herself quietly, 'Would I rather be right?  Or happy?'  She almost always chooses happiness, and when she doesn't, she regrets it.  

I have been battling it out with a friend for months.  A miscommunication that turned quickly into an unfixable break that has seeped into these sacred places in my life.  It's inescapable.  It's not going away.  And I was refusing to face it because I didn't want anyone to see me as wrong.  What would that steal from me?  What amount of pride would it take away? 

I was riding my bike today and found myself drawn to her apartment.  I wrote a note on her car just asking what I need to do to make it right.  I wrote the note to begin making it right because, it isn't worth it.  It just isn't.  Sometimes I think that fights are just our internal conflicts manifested in another person.  Our personal battles, fears, and judgments projected onto each other and then of course amplified by our own unique inability to understand or help.  

I'd rather be happy than right.  I'd rather offer my friend and myself the right to a life without unnecessary conflict.  And I hope to keep trying to choose this, even though it is so hard.  I don't want to be the person who creates discord and unhappiness for anyone in this world.  And, as I've said before, this is where I have to start if I ever want to do things differently; with what's right in front of me.  Taking right action.  Making something right.  Writing a new set of rules. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Faith Needs A Backbone

There's a lesson stirring for me that I need to put into words.  Since I've let go, recently, and been floating in the quiet surrender of knowing that I'm moving east in September, I've felt like an observer of my own life.  I've been enjoying it, really.  I've been choosing to let go of the desire to control or demand things.  I've been trusting that each step along the way has been a part of the grand plan.  I haven't been questioning as much, which is a very new thing for me.  I thought.

When my roommate suggested we move into a one bedroom for the remainder of my time here, I was open to the idea.  It came suddenly and in reaction to a one-week consecutive stay at our apartment where our upstairs paranoid schizophrenic neighbor was raging on the streets, and our uniquely loud next door neighbors were having their usual high volume, repetitive conversations.  It was the standard cacophony of sound and insanity I've not yet grown accustomed to here, but have at least come to know.  I understood her reaction and let myself float along with the romantic idea of shared space for a brief period of time.  I imagined my bedroom in the living room and let myself see it as the dorm room experience I'd never had.  Even still, I imagined that she might change her mind while looking... perhaps realize that it was a hasty decision, and just stick it out with me until September.  I didn't say or question any of this out loud, though.  Just kept it in strong faith that it would work out, no matter what.  (Which I'm still sure it will.)

Things kept moving forward in the search.  She found a place she loved and I should have known then that it was inevitable she'd get it.  (She has a way of making these kinds of things happen through tenacious persistence and insistence.  It's admirable, really.)  But I still clung to the hope that she might change her mind, and if not, I still had that vision of living there together.  When she got the apartment, she came to talk to me about it.  It was the first time we had actually sat down and discussed it.  It was real.  She asked me what I would be taking with me.  I told her everything.  We started to discuss the logistics of it all.  I started realizing I'd have to find places to store my things.  That would be difficult, but I was willing.  I thought about moving twice in less than six months.  A bit overwhelming, but I was willing.  When I told her I'd keep my bed in the living room, I saw her wince just the tiniest bit, and at that I winced, too. Today, following that conversation, I received a text message explaining that I couldn't have my bed in the living room.  I knew then that I wouldn't be living there.

I haven't thought for a moment that this was intentional on her part.  I've not even given a second's thought to the possibility of her not caring.  I could spend some time writing about my feelings of disappointment or hurt or indignation or frustration, but I'm not going to.  Not here.  What I want to acknowledge is the lesson that San Diego just refused to let me leave without: Know how to honor what's best for me, even when it might inconvenience someone else, or ask of someone else, or feel uncomfortable to say.  Know how and when to ask, rather than find an answer.  I've given lip service to some of this, and to my credit I've gotten much better over the years.  But when it really comes down to it, in the moments of true need, in the moments of really having the choice to say the difficult thing, I still turn away.  I space out.  I hope that someone else will just take care of me.  I trust that someone else is considering me along with themselves.  I believe that this is possible, because it's what I do.  It's a hyper-awareness of others that, for me, often leads to a lack of self care and consideration.

I wish I had asked the questions.  I wish I had at least asked her to wait until we had the chance to discuss our ideas and needs.  So, even though I am sitting with a lot of emotions right now, I'm thankful.  I'm so thankful that I didn't leave without this one.  I'm so thankful that I've been given the opportunity to face this lesson knowing what I know now, being fully present to myself and in my life. I'm thankful that I can see so clearly where I abandoned myself in this situation.

No one in the world has an obligation or responsibility to me.  I won't put that on my roommate.  I won't project that sense of abandonment onto her, even though it would be easy to do.  She did what she needed and desired.  I could learn a lot from her in that respect.  What I promise to myself is that I'll raise my hand the next time I'm unsure of something and ASK.  I'll ask for time if I need it.  I'll acknowledge and honor the importance of my own needs when they might be compromised.  And I'll forgive myself and anyone else involved when it doesn't work out perfectly, because it always does work out.  So, my faith in humanity, in life, in spirit, carries me in many ways.  But, it doesn't always have to look like quiet surrender to circumstances.  Sometimes having faith means joining the conversation, feeling discomfort, asking of another.  When faith has a backbone, it speaks up and trusts that even when the questions/words/requests might not be welcome, that they will be received and acknowledged.  I'm looking forward to the next opportunity I have to put this into practice.