g a t h e r i n g s

At My Back

I trust this force at my back. It offers support and asks nothing in return. The weight at my back is centered within itself; it doesn’t lean in or threaten to withdraw. It invites me to stand straight, shoulders softly hanging from my bones, vertebrae gently stacked, legs and heart and gaze taking in the power of the millions of lives already lived at my back. In the space between what was and what will be, I am free to inhabit myself — to offer what I receive. It is warm from shoulder blade to shoulder blade. A little giggle in my spine as I feel them writing me into life, my fingers picking out the best keys to blend my vocabulary with theirs. Hah, a turn of the page; their page becomes mine becomes other pages. Here at the edge between before and after, touch is not transactional. They pour their life-force into the horizon; it is there for me to witness, to absorb, to move toward it.

This image rises up to meet other images carried in the pocket of a smaller world, the images that have so often felt like truth: the self-rejections that once arrived one after the other in their feathers and finery. That still do sometimes. Oh, and the terrible rejections of others I have offered in response. Where once I was madly in love with all of the disguises, I am more peacefully in agreement with something more now, the easy companionship of what has already been — a thousand years ago and just yesterday — the mother and the father, the mothers and the fathers, their love, their secrets, their guilt, their despair, and poverty, wealth, violence, goodness, creativity, isolation, joy. And mine too. Delicious freedom is in both inhale and exhale, in the breath that whispers, Let belonging flow into you and through you like oxygen.

I Am a Loser

I have taken way too many wrong turns to track, followed scores of emotional impulses rather than making plans. I have described myself to myself as “spontaneous,” sugar-coating the truth of disorganization and lack of foresight. And, wow, I have been stubborn about it.

Now it’s late, and looking back I can see that many of the tools I picked up as a little girl I continued to carry unquestioning far into the future. And, I didn’t listen when people encouraged me to change direction or to reach out for resources beyond my childhood roadmap. I protected my right to stay small. I defended my defenses with all of my strength, and I lost sight of opportunities in the exchange. I stayed loyal rather than break those early contracts. I stayed behind at important junctures, afraid to step out with the others moving forward. I let thousands of days and nights crumble and disappear.

But in these last years, the most difficult years, I have accidentally bumped into myself. I have begun to build an identity out of the threads and colors and connections gathered over time. Slowly, incrementally, I have let myself face the truth of not having moved through my life in a deliberative way.

Here it is. I am a loser. What a relief … to take myself gently, but certainly and finally, off the hook of the golden child. This moniker of golden child was a natural displacement from the first born, from my brother, who by virtue of birth was such a deep disappointment that he had to be hidden away, even from memory. Nobody had been given language or permission to mourn and so grief rippled and got stuck in the layers beneath knowing. It held us all.

It occurs to me only now — now that there is more life behind than ahead — that I could never have lived up to what my brother could not be. I believe I gave up immediately, and then lived daily giving up again and again. And in the stop-and-go of dreaming and waking, a whole past has filled in and filled up.

Still, now is a more mindful time. It’s time of gratitude — for the love that has been so generous to me even when I have been self-centered. It’s a time to sort through and account for, to finally separate from my brother, from my parents’ silent remorse, their guilt and sorrow. Being a loser isn’t so bad. Without having that shining crown balanced so precariously on my head, I am able to move more easily, speak more openly, understand my heart better. Being a loser feels like freedom.

Regret Is the Enemy of Change

How old are you? How long have you been doing what you are doing? Most people have been weighted down by their current entanglements since childhood even if they have only recognized it recently. The drag on the spirit takes myriad forms, has various personalities, and is the uninvited guest in love, at work, in friendship, and avocation.

Entanglement is first established at a time when we are learning voraciously. Oh my, to walk, to talk, to identify people and things — we are never again so accelerated in our learning. For many years we are moving forward, under that impression anyway — usually not realizing the places where we have already stopped. Traumatic events can imprison us, yes, but there is often a subtler sticky path. This path is paved with the messages from our caregivers. And we cannot discern qualities of good or bad, healthy or unhealthy, generous of spirit or self-absorbed; all of them are about our survival. Don’t cry. Stay quiet. Take care of Father. Support Mother. You are the last hope of the family. The scapegoat. The black sheep. A carbon copy of … These messages are their own unresolved inheritances.

Sometimes we are fortunate to have the vitality and suspicion that there might be other messages to access. Still, no matter when we decide to reach out for a different view — for help in locating and implementing a different way in the world — we have to remember that we will come face to face with the time we hadn’t counted. Days and years and decades have piled up, casting shadows on what’s left of the time that lies ahead.

And the response very often, the logical response in a way, is to let go of the hand we reached for, to withdraw from possibility. Our sense in the belly and heart is that there isn’t time for different, for better. Too late. What’s the point? I’m tired, anyway.

Here the drag on the spirit rises like a charcoal moth. Drawn to the light, it raises its wings so that we cannot see. Dark thoughts take form in the mind to replace what is actually there, right before our eyes, just beyond this flutter of fear.

Time is an image too. It is not that we will live forever and so can keep putting life off because there’s always going to be another day. No. That is childhood’s protective cloak. It is that today is our day. When we move closer to the moth, we can see that it's transparent.

The moth is regret. Let it be evermore fragile in the light.