transformation. part one.

I am fascinated by life cycles, transformation, changing from one into another, shifting shapes and forms into something better, cleaner, finer. The idea that if you work very, very hard in one stage, you will earn the next, a graduation of a lesser self into a higher one. Safer. Less predatory. I believed that action created station, that leaning forward created the next stage, the next swift climb into a cushioned space, noise blunted and sweet.

Endurance was essential. Never letting up; the trying was the way to reach the elusive place of peace. When I became tired, it was a weakness, a thing to be healed, strengthened, fortified, all so I could keep trying to be well, keep doing the thing that made me tired, ill, unwell.

When I was somewhere in my late 30’s I became very, very tired. I was sick all the time, a rash on my skin, pale and pregnant feeling, without proof I was growing anything in my body except weariness. I went to the doctor, thinking it was mono, the long slow illness of fatigue and loss of normal. A blood test revealed a low thyroid, very low in fact, how am I still functioning they asked me? I wasn’t, I just hadn’t stopped trying.

After medication and further blood tests showed I was now healed, all well, I still was not. I slept, rested, napped and lay through each day, and asked to test my blood again. Again, the tests were normal, but I was not; something was not right. For many months, and maybe a year, tired and still a rash, now and again showing up–an unknown stigmata, a morse code of attention. I did not know it was wheat slowly weighing me to the ground, my immune system fighting and fighting; trying to be well, while I kept doing the thing that made me sick. Soon, my joints began to ache, swell, keep me awake at night, my head hurt, my skin felt tight and stretched, and always, always so very tired.

When the idea that this was a food allergy, an autoimmune response to a sweet and savory poison I was eating every day, the suggestion was to stop, just for a week, and then eat it again. The eating it again was a birthday cake, 7 days after none, and that night, the rash came to celebrate.

It would seem simple, then, just to stop, but it was not. There was another year, maybe two, of debate, argument, struggle, followed by a quiet acceptance and a new way of living, not chosen, but necessary. I missed so much, I yearned and grieved my not-normal-ness. Slowly, I began to feel better. What I had consumed was no longer consuming me.

I began a job a few years after this recovery, a new stage, the next stage for me in my career, and endurance was essential. When I became tired, I persevered, that weakness un-allowed; I kept doing the thing that made me tired, ill, unwell, always trying to do it better. When I became burned out, I kept trying, trying to find the cure, the wellness as elusive as the riddle of my earlier illness, and because I did not know the cause I kept doing the thing that was making me sick, burned out. Soon, my fatigue turned into lethargy, my head hurt, my heart ached into dullness, and I no longer cared about healing. I no longer cared. I wanted escape, to be let out of this never ending spin of trying another way to work in a job that was like the bread I used to be able to eat, and could no longer tolerate.

When a butterfly lays an egg, she does so on a leaf that will be its first food, the hatching of it creating such an appetite, the resting place needs to be its first sustenance. The caterpillar is born, with its first and only purpose to consume; it eats and eats and eats its way through each day, inching along branches and leaves, stringing itself on invisible threads to new trees, new sources of green and growing nourishment. As it grows, its skin becomes tighter, and it sheds, up to four and five times, it’s exoskeleton left behind, as it inches again, ever expanding. The last shedding is done higher up, sometimes under the leaf that fed it, hidden and hung by the silken tie it created itself, it spins, alone and quiet, and for a moment it could be seen as an unwell caterpillar. But thats not it, is it? It isn’t unwell, it is unbecoming.

When I learned this, I understood something I did not know before, the consumption was the cause, and the illness; what I had consumed, was consuming me.

(to be continued).

new.

New moons are dark. No light found to guide a path or direct the way, no reflection from windows to see where the barns are, the dusted storage of past hopes and hurts kept alive and still. No wind shuttling clouds to the side of a giant lit circle of possibilities. No, the new moon is dark.

Something new has no light, not quite yet. What you bring to the darkness is yours alone, heavy and cool in a palm weighted by old dreams ready to slip under the surface of who you have been. The new moon lets you do this unseen, unwatched, the blackness a gift of private reconstruction on your own quiet stage.

How many ways we try to light this path that needs darkness in order to begin. How many lamps, lights, torches and companions we reach for when there is no agreement that can happen in this night. It isn’t meant to always share, some things can be left alone.

All day I have reached for my phone, and set it down, wanted to explain, or try, to anyone who might understand, and then, finally I understood. What I am going to bring to this night is mine, and there is no ‘me too’ that will change the uneasiness, no commiseration or trying to talk it out that will change the unknowing of it.

Sometimes others want to know what you are thinking, feeling, seeing when you talk, write or explain a day in the life of you. This new moon uncovers within you a knowing that some things are meant to be held, unexplained, all your own. Some things can belong to only you. Take them out tonight to this new moon and dance with them—alone, free and silent in your shaded unseen circle. All yours. All new. Let them begin.

burnout.

Being burned out in this world as it is, feels like the last slow steps of a march that has brought me to stand in front of a tangled map, the ‘you are here’ emblazoned in the middle of winding ways, no clear path to get out of the maze of quick fixes offered in this endless wandering for a cure.

Coming to a place of burnout is not the end, it is many staggered ends. The sparks from a fire lit so long ago, fueled by beliefs about worth and how to earn it. The pace of life and how to keep it. The measure of life as the next step, the bigger step, the finish line always pulling farther out. Burnout is the flickering light of this is not enough, of chasing the tide of the right to be in this place, and then trying to fit in. It is the pressing of who you truly are under who you wished you were.

But what if burnout could be the blessed fire of the end of all this? After almost three years of this intense and consistently exhausting way of living, this is what I now know. Burnout is saying yes when you meant no, it is polling the room to see if what you want to do is what they want you to do; it is the insidious repetition of things that don’t work, not because you needed to do them better, but because you needed to do them differently. And then never did.

Burnout was my life saying ‘you’ve worn a pattern in the rug, stop pacing.’

Somehow, in the living of our days, we have learned to be beholden, to be traced, tracked and our location known, our life smaller and endlessly available. We have come to believe we owe others our predictability and an explanation for any variance, and in so doing have wound our lives into ever tighter circles. The change forward is radical, needs to be radical; it is not finding a new ‘you are here’ on a map, not running away from the pull of the old tide— it is the parting of your own Red Sea, a crossing into a land unknown and uncharted, a place you have never been.

So how do you avoid burnout? You don’t. You run toward it, raise your fist, shake your hair and yell your biggest ‘NO’ into the winded waves. Then you stop, still, and cast the spell of your new life. The one growing like new pines reaching through the charred forest floor. Green, brave and new; radically growing in the direction of what you have been dying to say. Every inside, unsaid no.

I won’t ever let the fire of this burnout die. I will keep a small flame alive and carry it from camp to camp, to throw in it the things that have stopped working. It will always tell me when I cannot keep walking the same way, the endless way.

Being a fire keeper, a truth teller, and the wild author of my own life is uncharted land; and from here, I can see the shore, brave and green.

solstice.

Mid life has been an interesting turn of the needles, moments of stark honesty knit one and avoiding them, purl two. A darkening storm of truth in a coffee shop, eyes across a table saying ‘I’m okay’, hands reaching back over words thrown on a telephone line. This hat created to cover my eyes, until mid years when I rolled it back up, saw it for the warmth not the burrowing.

Middle age has been a turn on the wheel of dried clay wondering, inching toward the ways of the way I used to be when I was free of the fear of cracking. It has been a whirling warmed oven reach toward knowing that heat doesn’t mend but it does protect, being fired in the hottest kiln creating tolerance for lower temperatures.

These years have been recreating a life I dreamed of crafting before I began to buy what I wanted. The on sale clothing safer and surer than the wild glittering fabrics that could have been sewn into whatever I wanted, when I wanted it. When my daughter was young, my mother bought her a length of shiny cloth, and for years that became countless outfits, tents, barriers and blankets. It was endlessly entertaining, joyous and fluid in its uses, and throughout it all it remained open and possible.

There is a new possible at this age, a movement unprescribed and unexpected and so sweetly free. I can knit, mold and sew with this starlit cloth that has no edges except the ones I look for. I have always owned it, and no matter now how many times I looked away it sat at the end of my vision, shimmering in moon lit fields.

What I know now is creating doesn’t mean trying, it doesn’t include pushing into corners of belonging or weeding out weaknesses to showcase anything better. It is the soft fall into what we already love. It is the turning toward the darkening hurts and giving them light, air, honor; creating something lovely from what is ours to give, not from what we wished we had received.

Coming out of the blue hour into the ending of the longest night has a bewitching power, there in the shadows she has been waiting for me, that girl, this woman, this life, this moment, turning deliberately, brilliantly toward the longest possible day.

whole.

There is a place I have not yet gone, the last home I moved from, a few miles from here, Utah homogenized and church silent, I lived there. The pictures from that time are of a growing baby, my baby, adored and life filling, in a small miners cottage on a road between two unloved places, who I was, and who I would become.

I have a stone, unplaced, waiting to honor that desperate spot I lived, in a mind addled by the arrival of the baby that almost was the death of the body that tried so hard to birth her. And now, in the birthing of this next new real self, I know what this last stage means.

I am familiar with the moments before blood leaves a body, seeping out faster than panicked raised voice staff know how to stem. I know the tide that pulls deliciously under, the green lean into rest and the quiet sacrifice of no more repenting. I know this place, and I know I need to return, my head dropped below my body to stop the release of life everyone around me so valiantly saved.

I was saved for this, for three more glorious turns of motherhood, for partnership that is solid and kind and so everlasting loyal. For family that jump me to my feet in the pure loving of them. For friendships that are tenuous ties to the core of loveliness in this world. For a job that has threatened to pull me under the mind tow oblivion of defeat but has brought me alongside love that is a woven basket of laughter soaked belonging.

Was it ever about wholeness or was it always about the whole of us? I could not find it because I was looking at me, and that wasn’t ever where it lived. It lived in the spaces where our hands touched, our laughter blended, our eyes held across tables and spanned miles of empty air. It was in those who stayed and those who left, the empty spaces of where they used to be the pages I could now write; the stanzas of separation, an unbroken love song, a song of goodbye, of thank you, of I understand.

Could it be these are the places I needed to live, and the people I needed to love and lose to see the self I was?

She was always there, abiding each move, each line of wondering what the next place would hold for her. She was afraid what she believed was true but did not know how to weld all the parts together to be good enough to inhabit the space she apologized for living in. She was small and she was quiet and she was unceasingly bound together by the hope that somewhere there was a mirror that reflected back to her who she was when all her staggered attempts hummed together in the song of her. And she hoped there was a book, not so empty anymore that she would continue to write. Each word a communion, a kneeling head bowed letter from who she had been in every home, to who she was becoming, and how her journey brought her back to what she had always been; whole.

whole.

perseverance.

I am beginning to understand the weight of wild things, why someone else’s all is never enough for the endings we seek. The end to our suffering, the end to believing we do not fill up the skin of our life in ways that make us stretch toward the beauty that lands on the swirled shell of our truest self. What we want is that someone else’s everything matches the need of our many one things. That someone else must forever be in their best self to somehow protect our worst.

I am beginning to tell myself it’s okay that it wasn’t enough for them and it’s okay that it was everything for me. My all was not their ending, my efforts didn’t reach the line of their expectations.

I wonder why it is so hard to believe that someone else’s best day does not fit in with our worst. That someone’s history of pain and panic does not align with the need to avoid ours. How is it that we put others on pedestals or in prisons designed for one and then think ourselves in circles about why they aren’t more like us? Why do they not do what we need them to do to make what we do feel better? In that gap there is either grace or a gawking disbelieving script of ‘can you believe it’? The endless circle of our own need for validation signed by the pen we placed in their distracted hand.

This did not seem fair and yet my world was filled with these solitary confinements in the city of my wanting and my indifference. My steps ahead chased my parts that lagged behind in the hope there was someone out there better than me who could smooth the pained edges that kept bumping into the worst of me. I was both the creator and crated, assigned to these solitary spaces I then made comfortable enough to stay.

The key to these small spaces was held in my clenched hand, and the way to open that hand was to first open the other one. To reach with that open hand beyond the bars of my own agreement and touch the steel of someone else’s and say yes, yes I understand in the waiting for someone to save us. That clattering release of the other handed key could open the doors for us both.

In order to do the next thing, you might just need to grieve the last thing. In order to grieve the last thing, it needs to belong to you.

It wasn’t what someone else failed to do for me that brought me here, it was what I failed to look toward, my book of bereft grievances held tightly in my one free hand, the one that could have connected, the one that stayed cold and even calculated in its grip.

When I moved north from those gold hued campus mountains, I knew when I first came out of the canyon to the valley farmlands that I would love this place I stayed for the next year or two. It was lush and kind in its long snowfalls and summer sounded late nights.

The next trip to my last selves ended here, at the higher end of the state. Green treed and cold high mountains guiding me back to where I lived for a time, where I started my next family, with the one who partners me still. Living in a lovely little townhouse filled with our newly knowing each other fighting that is so funny and foreign to us now.

When I returned the first word that I felt was family. This was where it began, the beginnings of my own small circle who I will end my days with, some of them waiting in the car as I walked by the place they collectively started. The word I took with me was the thing any of us need to continue to look toward the only one who can uncreate our prisons and pedestals, the one who needs a certain measure of it to begin and keep the relentless turning back toward the one who can save you.

perseverance.