Category: embarrasment


I’m applying for admission to an Interfaith Seminary, to get ordained as a generic spiritual leader and spiritual counselor.  Part of the application asks for a 2-3 page essay on my spiritual journey.  I was daunted at first, wondering how to put it into words and make it that SHORT.   A friend suggested to just write, and then edit it down later.  I got up early for the several days, before anyone else in the house, and this is what came… (and it comes in at exactly 3 pages!):

My early childhood was mostly non-religious.  We went to a Methodist church as a family until my parents divorced when I was six, then both parents stopped attending and religion was no longer a part of our lives.

Early in High School I got involved in the Christian youth group, Young Life, because a close friend invited me to go with her.  I felt compelled by the social acceptance and sense of community I felt there, and then started believing what was said about Jesus, the Bible, and God.  I found power and meaning especially in the Bible verses that glorified the power of God, emphasizing the works and laws of the spirit as greater than the works and laws of people.

I dove in, and attended all the weekly Bible studies, social evenings, and regional gatherings with other high schools.  I started dating a boy who identified strongly as a Christian, as did his whole family.  I attended church with them regularly, and we spent a summer teaching Vacation Bible School together.

Around this time, my mom started attending a Unity Church of “New Thought” Christianity.  At first, going with her to Unity felt like an extension of my new Christian identity, and I enthusiastically got involved in the high school group there.   The teachings of Unity about “Christ within” gave me an enriched understanding of Christianity that felt powerful and personal to me.  It brought all the history of the Bible into a new and relevant context.  Through new practices of meditation and guided self-reflection, I began to experience a connection with the sacred energy within me.

When my Christian boyfriend came to church with me, he was appalled by the blasphemy of the idea that all people have the same potential as Christ.  He said if I believed that, I wasn’t a real Christian.  After long hours of tearful debate, I conceded that I believed in “Christ within” more than the concepts of sin and salvation that we taught in Vacation Bible School.  He said he couldn’t date a non-Christian, and we ended our relationship.  His family, who had taken me in as a “third daughter”, told me they were very sad I was going to hell.

My new identity as a “non-Christian” was powerful to me, because it was a choice to go against what was socially acceptable for the sake of following my truth.  Looking for truth within me became my spiritual path.

For the rest of high school, I continued attending Unity and developing my understanding of the sacred flowing through all things, including through me.  I experienced deep self-acceptance, unconditional love with my peers, and respect from adults in the congregation.  The summer I graduated, I attended an international conference at Unity Village, where I participated in a long meditation to connect with my purpose in life.  When asked in the meditation “what are you here to do?”, the answer rose clear and strong from deep within me: “to help people learn to love”.   That was the first time I remember hearing the voice of spirit so clearly, and the message has been an important mantra of purpose throughout my life.

That same summer after graduating, we took a family vacation to Moab, Utah.  We camped out in the desert, and slept under a sky of stars that left me speechless.  Driving with my mom and her sister in an open Jeep through the wild canyons, laughing and singing, a new sense of inner freedom rooted in me.   We were “wild women”, full of power and potential, loving ourselves and each other and the amazing Earth that embraced us.

On the drive back to Denver, we stopped at a tiny truck stop on the side of the highway.  I took a walk through the woods to stretch my legs, and walked around a bend to witness a magnificent vista of a grand mountain rising above and reflected in a clear lake.  I stood in awe and gratitude, feeling my connection with the Earth and the spirit flowing through all things.  I got back into the car a changed person, devoted to the Earth on a spiritual level.

That moment marked the beginning of my exploration of Pagan spirituality.  I was fascinated by the practice of honoring the cycles of the seasons and using the elements of air, fire, water, and earth and the four directions for their different qualities.  In college I took weekly walks in the forest for “church”, learning to intentionally tap into that sense of connection.

My mother recently told me that she thought I had given up on spirituality while I was in college.  She didn’t know about those walks in the woods, and she also didn’t know the spiritual side of my academic work.  I majored in Religion, because those were the classes to which I felt most drawn. I studied “Myth and Symbol”, “Use of Dance in Aboriginal Rituals”, and “Images of the Divine in German Literature”. I eagerly explored the Bible as historical document, comparative analysis of Judaism and Christianity, the philosophy of religion, Confucianism, and Zen and Taoism.  These classes enlivened me.  Schoolwork wasn’t tedious – it was spiritual exploration.  In all my classes, I tried to weave the essence of the different teachings and doctrines into my spiritual understanding, and through that practice I developed a multifaceted sense of the sacred that transcended any one religion.  Since then, I’ve found it difficult to identify with any one religious category.

In parallel to my classes in Religion, I found myself passionate about the study of society and culture, and chose to also major in Sociology.  I loved wrapping my mind around all the ways that reality is filtered and obscured by the social meanings that we learn through our culture.  Learning to identify and disarm the social assumptions in my perception and understanding of the world around me became yet another spiritual practice.

My studies in Sociology led me to a determined belief that there must be a different way for people to live together, a culture that intentionally combats destructive social assumptions like racism, sexism, and classism, honors the Earth, and celebrates our connectedness instead of dividing people through economic competition.  A year after graduating from college, I learned about Twin Oaks, an “intentional community” (aka commune) in Virginia that had started in the 1960s and was still thriving.  I visited, loved it, and made it my home for 4 years.

At Twin Oaks I found a group of 100 people who were creating the life I had envisioned.  Working together, sharing, and cooperating were at the center of all social systems there.  I found myself connecting more deeply with people on a daily basis – in celebration and in conflict, but it was the depth of relationship that compelled me.  Our inherent connection with each other was undeniable.  So too was our connection with the Earth, as we lived rurally and ate from the garden, heated with wood from the forest, and worked and played outside most of the time.

At Twin Oaks I practiced the art of having integrity in relationships with others, and with myself – life on a commune doesn’t work, otherwise.  Through observation, mentorship, and trial and error, I learned how to be lovingly honest, compassionate, and accepting of hard truths.  This became a deeply spiritual practice of stepping beyond the layer of emotions and ego, learning to open my heart in the face of fear, developing a faith that what lay underneath my ego was far more powerful, and would lead me where I needed to go.  I attended, and eventually taught, workshops and retreats focused on various practices for creating healthy relationships based on these principles.  This became the bedrock of my current spiritual beliefs and practice.

I left Twin Oaks when I fell in love with a man who didn’t want to live there.  I knew deeply that he was my partner in life, and left the life I loved to marry him and create a life together.  I felt like I stepped off a cliff.  I stumbled through 4 years of early marriage and creating a life in mainstream culture.  My husband and I got tangled up in our differences and shut down to each other.  I sank quickly into the darkness of fear, self-judgment, and blame.  I didn’t recognize myself anymore, and I was so caught in the darkness that the idea of doing anything about it felt overwhelming.  I felt alone, ashamed, and hopeless, lost in the realm of ego.

After our daughter was born, I felt a spark inside me to get my life back on track, a refusal to raise my child in the life I was living.  I slowly recommitted to my practices of self-reflection and opening (writing, tarot, meditation), knowing I had to go through the painful process of looking at my life and facing what I had created, so I could change it.  I knew that the alternative of staying shut down and hopeless would ultimately be even more painful, for me and for the child who was looking to me for love and truth.

I began with the determined belief that a better life was possible, and stubbornly searched until new possibilities emerged.  My husband and I came back to conversations we had ignored because they created too much conflict.  We started to find the magic we had forgotten, the beauty of our differences working in tandem, and the joy of surrendering as individuals to the spirit of partnership between us.

Early in the process of recreating my life, I felt compelled to find a church.   After visiting the Quaker Meeting and the Unitarian Church several times and not finding what I wanted, I gave Unity a try again.  I immediately felt at home.  I cried through the service, and prayed with a chaplain afterwards to remember my strength and connection with spirit.

I started attending regularly.  Though the language didn’t match with what I had come to use for my spiritual experience, the message behind the words rang true.  I felt embraced by the congregation, supported lovingly in my process of coming back to myself.

I committed myself to my spiritual practice again, and the voice of spirit within me came clearer and stronger.  Listening and accepting became easier, and exciting. The teachings of Unity reminded me of the beauty and magic that unfold when I act in alignment with Spirit. My spiritual practice began to expand beyond self-reflection and contemplation, into the realm of action and creation, moving out of my mind and into my body.  I committed to the practice of following my inspirations, even when I didn’t understand them.

This has brought me to a new way of living in the world.  I tap into the web of energy that connects all things, and look to find my place in it, to feel inspiration.   I feel it as a tug within me, calling me forward.   When I struggle to feel the pull, I open again through writing, dancing, tarot, and meditation, listening for the distinct voice of spirit, the now familiar sense of knowing.

My current sense of this Divine Spirit is that it is the energy that composes all that is, the substance of the Universe.  It has a resonance and a movement that is growth, opening, and union.  Any sense of separateness is an illusion that distorts our perception, and this illusion is the source of fear, pain, and struggle.  When I release that illusion, surrender the ego to the flow of Spirit, my life aligns and resonates with all existence.  From that place, I know what is mine to do.

Moment by moment, again and again; this is the work of Living.

Advertisements

Walking the Web

dramatic

fragile or strong?

Jeffrey is skiing with the kids today, which means that he took the car up to the mountain after he dropped me off at church (Point A).  I had plans to be picked up by a friend, driven to a three-woman hangout (Point B) with another friend, who would later drive me to my evening rehearsal downtown (Point C), after which I’d ask my director to drive me home (Point D).  Or call Jeffrey to pick me up.

Friend #1, my ride from point A to point B, fell through, leaving me stranded at church trying to figure out the rest of my plans for the day.  I scanned my options as folks walked out of the foyer… I know most of them well enough to expect that they’d be happy to give me a ride downtown, but I was hesitant to ask.  What was it?  Partially embarrassment… I want to be seen as a responsible adult who has my shit together enough to know how I’m getting from Point A to Point B.  Only irresponsible teenagers ask for rides at the last minute (my snarky mind says)…

At the same time, I have a deep commitment to INTERdependence, and I feel great joy when I walk the web of friends…tribe… community.  I think part of my reluctance comes from not wanting to make others uncomfortable, those people who I don’t yet know if they want to be part of my web.  But really, aren’t we all automatically part of the same web, whether we want it or not?  In some ways, asking for help is a form of activism, making the web apparent by stepping out onto it, demonstrating its ability to hold me.

It’s different than a tightrope, because when the strand of Friend #1 fell through, there was another strand nearby to step onto.  I asked Lea, a woman I know better than many others, if she’d drive me downtown, where I could drink tea for the 4 hours until my rehearsal.  As we drove away from church, I noticed my disappointment at spending the entire afternoon alone downtown.  She offered to drive me home, if I could find a ride to rehearsal later on.  An afternoon alone at home!  A gift, to a mom and stepmom of 3 kids!  So, I called a few people from the cast, and quickly found someone who was willing to get me (but again, the same anxiety about asking for help).

Lea had to stop at her house first to pack her car with stuff to take to her daughter at a nearby college, because dropping me off at home would be on her way out of town.  We worked together, and finished quickly.  She was just as appreciative for my help as I was for getting a ride home!  Walking the web together…

And now, I’m home, enjoying the peace and beauty of this cabin in the woods, ready for my ride to come get me in a bit.

Reflecting…  I felt SO FRUSTRATED this afternoon, to the point of tears welling up in my eyes!  Frustrated with my friend for bailing on me, with Jeffrey for taking the car away all day, with the layout of this town and the lack of extensive public transportation (especially on Sundays), and with myself for all my anxieties and hangups and insecurity.  It’s times like this when I really miss the commune, where everything is in walking distance, where I had 100 people supporting my life, where I could always find a close friend who I could ask to help me.  This crazy town life, living in a community of thousands, mostly people I don’t know…  Can I trust this web?  That’s the anxiety… wanting to believe in interdependence, and feeling afraid of walking out on the web only to have it fall away beneath my feet.  When I put it that way, I know it’s one of my jobs out here to walk the web, to show its strength, to live the example of an interdependent life.

And with that, my ride is here…

The story of food stamps…

I’m finding it hard to start this post, because of a high level of embarrassment I have about it.  I remember writing a post several years ago about how useless embarassment is, and how we can all simply decide not to be embarrassed anymore.  Well, that was my arrogant early twenties, and here I am at almost 30… embarrassed, and finding it hard to step out of it.  In my early twenties, choices seemed clearer — obviously, I’ll act based on my ideals and stand proud and confident.  But now, as my choices have unearthed complexity beyond anything I could have imagined, and the “clear” ideals start to contradict each other, how do I justify choices that uphold one ideal while undermining another?  Maybe the escape hatch is in stepping away from trying to justify…  I write this post not to defend my choices, but to put some thoughts down and work with them, and to challenge my embarrassment by sharing myself as I am, wrinkles, confusion, and all.

Our kitchen is full of food again, and it feels relieving.  I feel it in my body, a deep release of tension and anxiety. Tension is still in my mind as I wrestle with ideals and plans and numbers, but my body has relaxed.  It’s a step.

We all went to the store together, when Jeffrey called on Friday afternoon and said the card had come in the mail.  We debated going to IGA or Whole Foods — convenience or quality? — and decided on Whole Foods.  Our plan is to go to small, local stores from now on, but the major restocking of the kitchen was best suited for the ample supply of the national chain.  When we got there, we told the kids they could choose whatever they wanted, just no candy.  I was impressed with our choices — mostly staples, with a few treats.  Lots of fruit and cheese and nuts, and other things we had stopped buying months ago, like hot sauce, salsa, and lemon juice.  The kids got really happy about boxed cereal and sour cream.   Their exuberance was contagious — despite my complicated emotions, I found my excitement in the bulk bins: dried figs, apricots, and blueberries, along with rice, flour, and cornmeal.  The family treats ended up being one chunk of chocolate, three packages of bacon, guacamole, yogurt, and orange juice.

As long as I remember that this is a chapter of our lives, not the whole book, I can roll with it.  We’re in a time of acute need, and this system exists to help people in need.  My judgement and frustration (and embarrassment) is that we knew we were headed in this direction, and we didn’t make the necessary changes or plans to keep us from here.  In my conception of how the world works, it seems like we should be punished for our failure to plan, instead of rewarded with free food.  We were granted almost twice as much as we usually spent on food, when we had more money.  I fear that it’ll be too easy to keep this crutch, and we’ll resist weaning ourselves from the luxury.  What’s the incentive now to make the changes to have a more sustainable life?  Integrity… My belief in cooperative life (I’d rather be served by people I’m serving than be served by a giant bureaucracy)…

I have friends who would argue that food isn’t a luxury, that it’s a basic human right that should be provided to anyone who needs it, and that providing people with food should be one of the main tasks of a government.  It’s a tricky balance… are those dried blueberries (at $14 a pound) a basic human right?  In my ideal vision, it’s the task of a community of people working together to provide food for themselves as a whole.  Government is something different… focused on facilitating the resolution of conflict.

Nothing feels clearer after writing this… I’m tempted to just erase it and try again another time, but the meaningful part of this exercise is in not hiding, stepping out of my shame.  So, here it is.  I don’t have it all figured out, no great philosophical justification or political rant… just pieces of the story.

I wrote a post almost a month ago about how things have been going better for me, how I got a massage table for Solstice and how much I enjoyed playing “Santa” on Solstice Eve after the kids had gone to bed.  It was a long, happy, hopeful post… and somehow it didn’t ever make it onto the blog.  I think I hit “preview” and never hit “post”… alas.

So today, we’re back to the doldrums.  I’m stuck deep down in my  muck. I wrote an email to a group of friends this morning, and I figured I’d post it here, too, since I have friends who check here periodically.  I wish I could write a more thoughtful or insightful post after being gone for so long… but this is all I can offer right now:

Hi there, lovelies…
I’m struggling pretty deeply these days, and this morning I had the brilliant idea to (gasp) ask for support.

Here’s my story: I’m in grad school, and at best I mildly enjoy it.  At worst, I’m miserable and see no purpose in my life.  There are many days I want to quit… and I don’t, because a)I’m worried that I’m just looking for immediate gratification and I’m impatient and if I quit now I’ll have wasted this year and if I stick it out for one more year I’ll have my Master’s Degree… and b)I don’t know what else I’d do.  This was my “plan”.  Other things I might want to do feel inaccessible because I’m partnered with an amazing man, and he has 3 kids and is tied to Central Virginia for at least 10 more years (becuase the mothers of his kids live here).

I’m feeling limited and scared and stuck in fear.  I’m not looking for possibilities or asking for what I want and I miss the me that I know who knows how to do that.  I miss myself.  I’m not passionate, and I’m not smiling.  I’m crying a lot, and I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning.

I have lots of self judgement about being such a mess about all this.  There are so many people struggling with so many other things (poverty, cancer, oppression)… I feel petty.  And, it’s what’s true for me right now.  I feel stuck and I feel hopeless about getting unstuck.  I’m scared of being in this stuck place for a long time.

I’m suprised about how difficult it is to ask for support.  All that self-judgement makes me worry about judgement from other people.  I don’t want other people to think I’m petty or weak… and of course, I know that those are stories.  Who cares if other people think I’m petty or weak? And in this dark place, that fear holds so much power.

I also think one of the traps of monogamy for me is getting focused on my one partner for all emotional support.  I’ve been doing that, and it’s stressing both of us and the relationship pretty significantly.  And then I remembered, I have other friends and lovers and people who want to support me!  And this group is full of them!

Asking for what I want:
Please write to me.
Questions help me a lot.  Questions help me acknowledge what’s really true for me.
I also welcome your perspective, reflecting what you see in me and hear from me.

whew.  I feel a raw and vulnerable, and I’m scared to press the “send” button.  I want to present a more powerful and wise self to you all… but I also want to present an authentic self, so this is what you get.

love,
tickledspirit

A friend just wrote in response to a depressed and distressed message I sent her. In her short note, she asked:

> tell me what’s in your heart right now that you
> don’t want to see or know! and what is keeping you
> going and sustaining you?

I replied:

Thanks for asking the great questions. What’s true for me that I don’t want to see? I’m changing… my identity as communard, radical lifestyle activist, and polyamorous multi-lovered independent spirit has diffused away, and I feel mainstream and uninteresting, unchallenging to a crazy system. I feel ineffective and unimportant, like my life is just becoming a part of the Machine. I’ve lost a sense of what I offer the world… I’ve lost a sense of purpose and passion. I don’t have a driving motivation behind what I do everyday… I just do it because I’m “supposed” to. This is the life I judged in other people from my lofty seat at Twin Oaks, where my life was grand and important and fulfilling a larger purpose. Now I’m judging my own life from that perspective, and I hate it. AND, the hardest part is that I don’t see a path towards something different, except back to TO, which isn’t a possibility as long as I’m with Free.

These are the thoughts that drag me down. What sustains me? Coming back to the belief that my purpose in the world is to share love and offer the experience of love to whoever I come in contact with. Remembering that I have the capacity to be open and loving whenever I choose it. Writing in my journal and working with tarot helps me remember, and dancing, and sitting in meditation. Crying to Free helps sometimes, when he just listens, and when I feel his love I remember my own capacity to love.

thanks for asking… it helps to acknowledge both pieces.

love,
tickledspirit

I’m having a hard day, acknowledging the ways that my life isn’t what I want it to be right now.  I feel like I’ve lost my passion — at least, I don’t know where it is right now.  My days are lazy compared to my days at Twin Oaks, so much routine, so much unimportant bullshit.  I haven’t created a meaningful life for myself out here.  I guess I should say, I haven’t done it YET.  A lot of what’s hard for me is getting stuck in despair and hopelessness.  My life isn’t what I want it to be and I don’t see the path towards it… (but really, that’s because I don’t have a clear vision of what I want!)

 I visited Twin Oaks this weekend for a birthday party for Jonah, a six year-old who turned 2 just months after I moved to the community.  I’ve watched him learn how to talk, count, and argue, and seen his personality develop through mirroring the many adults close to him.  It felt like home to be at his birthday party.  It was a Harry Potter party (yup, even on the commune, people are obsessed with Hogwarts!), and everyone dressed up as a character from the stories.  Jonah was Harry, and his 3 yr old sister was Hermione (as was my 6 yr old stepson Ruis, Jonah’s best friend).  An older man in the community (Jake, for those who know) was Dumbledore (using a green graduation robe from Commie Clothes, and his own gray beard!).  There was a Prof McGonagall (Madge) and a Prof Snape (Thomas).  A couple who just had a baby last year (Mala and Ezra) were Harry’s dead parents, and Zadek (their son) was baby Harry.  A red-haired boy was Ron (Rowan), and a redhead Canadian woman was a distant Weasly relative from Canada (Valerie).  I ran up to Commie Clothes (the collective free “thrift store”) before the party to find a costume, and settled on Moaning Myrtle.  It turned out that I wasn’t as original as I thought, because Hawina showed up crying with pigtails, too!  (There were also several muggles, who hadn’t found anything to wear as a costume)

 I loved being at the party, celebrating and playing dress-up with my (still) closest friends.  Jonah’s mom had arranged a treasure hunt as part of the party, and asked me and two other women to canoe around the pond and place lighted tea-lights in the water for the finale.  In the light of dusk, we rowed across the water and talked about our lives, lighting candles until we looked behind us and realized that the wind had blown almost all of them out.  Alas! When the kids came down to the pond they were still excited to be rowed across to the sauna, which was really Hagrid’s cabin, where they all received wands.  When the kids were safely across (life jackets and all), I curled up on the bank of the pond with my two friends.  We snuggled and talked about our lives until the sun went down and it was time for dinner.

Earlier in the day, before the party, I facilitated a meeting between two of my friends.  They work together as part of a team at Twin Oaks, and had been struggling some with personal dynamics, old issues for both of them.  We had all worked together as part of the same team, and they had asked me to come out and help them talk through some of the issues with each other.  I was honored to be asked, that they trusted me to hold the space for them to talk about hard things.  This is another thing that I miss out here… people who want to work through their issues and who take steps forward together.  There’s a deeper incentive to do it at Twin Oaks, because people are interwoven into each other’s lives.  Though not everyone at Twin Oaks does it, there’s an assumption that it’s at least a possibility, and many (if not most) pursue mediation together when there’s a conflict.

By dinnertime, I was feeling the power of life at Twin Oaks, a rich mixture of work and play.  I felt fulfilled in the work I had done to mediate the dialogue for my friends, and assist Thea with Jonah’s party (and take responsibility for childcare for Ruis all day!).  The whole time I was “working”, I was also engaged in deep connections with my close friends.  Everything I did was working towards strengthening relationships, and thus strengthening the community.  I miss that clarity of purpose, present through all kinds of different actions and experiences.  How can I find that out here, beyond the commune?  Can everything I do be a part of strengthening relationships when I don’t know the people around me?  When there are cultural expectations that foster isolation and superficial relationships?  How do I catapult beyond those?  And, how do I immunize myself against their influence… how do I keep myself from getting sucked in by the pervasive culture of isolation when I’m surrounded by people not making eye contact, ignoring the other people standing at the bus stop, sitting in a whole roomful of people and not interacting with a single one because they’re all staring straight forward at their computer screen?  How can I foster community here, when no one feels connected to people except who they’ve “chosen” as friends?  The KEY of community is recognizing our interdependence beyond our small sphere of experience.

 After dinner I hung out with two close friends while Ruis, Jonah, and Willow played down the hall.  Ah, the power of a communal residence.  We were in my friend Sky’s room, which is just up the stairs from Jonah and Gwen’s room (right next to their dad’s room), which is just down the hall from Willow and his mom’s rooms.  The kids bounced back and forth between Willow and Jonah’s rooms, and I didn’t have to worry at all about Ruis because he could easily come get me if he needed to.

 Sky and Kassia and I talked about our lives, relationships, fears, and possibilities… these are the kinds of conversations I miss.  Sharing deep reflections, laughing and snuggling, taking turns being in the middle… Is it just that I haven’t developed new relationships in my life out here, or is there something intrinsic to the communal experience?  I think it’s a little bit of both.  The depth to which we’re able to share with each other is rooted in our shared experience and our intense interdependence.

 I’m working on being patient, remembering that I left the community in part because I wanted to do the work of building community in the larger world.  I need to remember that it will take time and work, and I need to find other ways of nurturing myself while I’m doing this work.  Going back to Twin Oaks feels healthy, reminding me of what’s possible.  Instead of feeling hopeless because of how much of my life out here isn’t what I want it to be, I want to focus on the work that I want to do to offer something different.  What does that look like?  That’s the question I want to focus on… it’s all about believing that it’s possible.

Plans have changed. Instead of traveling on wild adventures around the country, I’m having wild adventures right here in central Virginia. Instead of journeying to distant lands, I spent yesterday at the first farmer’s market of the season in Charlottesville, selling mushrooms grown by my… ahem… fiance’ on “our” farm.

I’ve been growing and changing in so many ways over the past 2 months. I think I haven’t been writing because it’s been so overwhelming, and I’ve just barely been staying on top of my own changes, trying to understand them as it all flies by, grasping onto new understandings and ideas before they’ve dissolved into NEW understandings and ideas! I can’t explain it all to myself in my brain, much less put it into words. Now, though, things feel like they’re starting to settle into place. Roots are being established, getting used to the different nutrients of this new soil.

I left for the meditation retreat two months ago, and stayed for 8 days of the 10 day course. I could elaborate on what didn’t work for me, but mostly it just wasn’t a good fit for where I was emotionally at that point. I wanted to be out in the world, exploring and creating, and I got bored with sitting and existing in the moment. The moment was fine, but then I wanted to DO something with the moment! I wanted to write, or dance, or talk with people, or build something. I realized I’m not all that interested in enlightement right now — I want to live on the Earth and experience the cycles of joy and pain! So, a friend and I left together and hitchiked through rural Maryland to DC, where we caught a bus down to Charlottesville. She retured to Twin Oaks, and I returned to Free.

I also realized on my meditation course that I didn’t actually want to travel alone for the next several months. I wanted to start building my life in partnership with this man I’m in love with. Before I left on my travels, we both acknowledged our desire and intention to be partners for life. At some point, he asked me if I thought we’d ever get married. “Sure,” I said, and then he asked, “Is that a proposal?” “Sure!” I said, and it was done. We got rings from an antique store and announced it to our parents. Originally, the plan was that we’d start building our life together when I returned. In those 8 days of meditation, that quickly seemed ludicrous! Traveling around the country was an old dream, and not as powerful for me now as it was 4 years ago. What I want now is to start a garden and build a home and partnership so that I have a solid base when school starts in the fall (yes, I got in! With full funding!).

It’s an engaging and ever-evolving process, this “home creation” thing. He’s been here for nearly a year already, and so I’m moving into what’s already been established, finding the balance of fitting myself in to what exists and changing things to meet my needs. This extends into relationships with his three kids, as I become more a part of their lives and vice versa. They’re delighted to call me their “stepmom” and they make fun of Free and I when we’re too mushy. We have friendships already that have been established over the past 2 years, and now we’re exploring what it’s like to live together, and how discipline and boundary-setting fits into or changes our identities with each other. I got a book from the library about being a step-parent, and basically what it says is “it’s hard!”

Slowly, slowly, I’m settling in. l seeded a garden area with red clover last month, and the sprouts are now well-established and starting to grow. Just today I finished building a cold frame for early plants, and I have some lovely potted herbs in there now, gotten through barter at the farmer’s market. I love this life of growing and sharing and bartering and sharing… even better than the commune where it was institutionalized. Here it’s organic, direct from desire to action, without bureaucracy and systematic structure. In the last hour of the market, we traded nearly 5 pounds of mushrooms with other vendors, walking away with herbs, flowers, scones, cheese, and a pound of organic beef. Who says we’re poor? I just had a snack of fresh organic basil on slices of colby cheese, and it was incredibly luxurious, sitting in the double wide trailer that is now my home. I often lament this place, the poor soil, the beer can and candy wrap littered property, the poorly insulated, made-to-fall-apart building… the weight of my “white trash” stereotypes often turns down the edges of my mouth in a cynical sneer when I think about this place. The more I live here though, it becomes more “home” than “double wide”, more “life” than “labels”. I’m finding a new way of living, again.

Tonight I played, and I had a grand time.

So, the Matrix.  I loved the first movie.  I loved the idea of choosing raw, real Life over manipulated, manufactured experience.  I loved all of the wild bodily contortions and utter defiance of the “laws” of gravity and physics.  I loved the strong woman character who didn’t have long flowing hair and enormous breasts.  I cringed at the extreme violence, and the rest outweighed it.

I first saw the movie here on the commune a few years ago, with a whole group of Matrix-loving communards.  One of those was Valerie, a close friend of mine with whom I’ve had several exciting adventures (including an 18 hour roadtrip to Iowa — yeehaw!).  She and I have a similar love for feminism, dancing, chocolate, Madonna, and cultural revolution (not in that order).  We also love the Matrix.  We recently realized that neither of us had seen the third movie, so we decided to make a date to watch it together.  We both had seen the second one, and neither of us were particularly thrilled with it (one of the reasons why we hadn’t yet bothered to watch the third).  We figured it was time to complete the Matrix experience, so we set aside tonight to be the night and Valerie put in a TOR (a request to the daily “town tripper” to run any errand) for the DVD.

We planned on borrowing someone’s laptop to watch it  (we have several — 3? — actual DVD players hooked up to tv’s, but they were all signed out for the night).  Last night, I mentioned my  upcoming date to one of my lovers, an ex-member who lives in the nearby city of Charlottesville , and he suggested bringing the movie over to his place and watching it on the (gasp) wide screen television!  This morning I proposed it to Valerie, and we studied the vehicle log and found that someone else already had a car going in to Cville tonight and was planning to stay late.  We checked in with her and decided to carpool (it’s about a 45 min drive).

About 10 minutes before we had arranged to leave, I had a stroke of brilliance.  I ran up to Commie Clothes (our free thrift store) and found tight black pants and a tight black strappy tank top and a (gasp again!) long black leather jacket.  I grabbed them all, strode over to the office, grabbed Valerie and dragged her back up to “Commie” to find a similar outfit for her.  She’s very thin, and we were despairing about finding pants to fit her when suddenly I reached into the rack of pants and pulled out the perfect stretchy tight sexy black pants (how many times can I use the word “pants in one sentence?  What else can you call them?), which fit her deliciously.  And believe it or not, we found another long black leather jacket.  Commie Clothes is a treasure trove for creative costumes.

While we were wating for the other carpoolers to gather, we practiced our Matrix moves in the parking lot, jumping and spinning and cocking our arms at weird Fosse angles, swirling our leather jackets around dramatically.  When the other carpoolers showed up, we rolled over the hood of the car and jumped into the backseat.

The rest of the evening was more of the same.  When we showed up at Free’s place (yes, his name is Free), we Matrixed up to the front door and put on a show for him to let him know what he was in for.  We jumped around the living room and demonstrated how we could cut up the broccoli for dinner by throwing it in the air and chopping with many knives all at once.

Then we watched the movie, which wasn’t nearly as exciting as all the playing we were doing.  It was cheesy and violent and a too much of an extrapolation on the original concept of the first movie.  And still, we had a great time — lots of strong female characters, lots of non-white leading roles, and lots of wild body gymnastics.  And when the movie was over, we jumped and danced around some more to the music that played during the credits.

And then our ride came to pick us up, and we all drove back home (Valerie and I agreed that neither of us should drive, though, because of all the things we might attempt to do with the car).  We showed off our costumes to some people who were up late in the courtyard (who didn’t really get it), and then said goodnight.  I’m getting ready to head to bed, and I wanted to document my excitement before it diffused into the dreamworld.

All through the night, I felt a kind of freedom in the silliness of our costumes and antics.  Before we started the movie, we took Free’s car to the nearby grocery store to buy ice cream and popcorn.  I felt a relaxed excitement about going out in public in costume, and I loved that feeling of  “I’m living my life, having fun, being silly” without the fear or worry of other people thinking I’m weird.  That fear has played fairly big for me at other times in my life, and I think it’s really been my time at Twin Oaks that’s helped me to relax out of it.   I guess that by choosing to live on the commune, I have the experience of doing something that I really believe in despite the judgement of other people, and I’ve discovered that that’s okay.  I can handle that judgement; I can handle being thought of as weird.  So, I can give myself even more flexibility in that and dress up in costume and go to the grocery store and delight in dancing in the parking lot.  Another piece of it, I think, is that on the commune I have the experience of being honored as a whole, complex person.  When people know so much of Who I Am, doing “weird” things doesn’t automatically give me a “weird” label or devalue who I am; it just adds to the complexity that people already know.  And as a person  who has throughout my life highly valued what other people think of me (too much, oftentimes), I find abundant freedom in feeling known for more than just labels attributed in fleeting interactions.  I stop worrying constantly about what people think of me because of the look I just gave them or what I’m wearing, and I begin to focus more on the larger question of Who I Am, who I want to be, and how I want to engage with other people.

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve posted, and I’m hoping to get back into more regular posts.  It’s a bit difficult to find time to sit in front of a computer for very long lately, and I’m not complaining about that.  I have a whole queue of topics I want to write about… perhaps tomorrow (which is already today)….

I’m down at Tekiah again, the community in southern VA that I’ve visited a few times before. The community is dissolving after 13 years because they haven’t been making it financially and the woman who has really been the heart of it, Joy, is moving to New York. My partner Pax, his partner Hawina, their son Willow, and our friend Spot have been down here for a few weeks helping Joy finish things up here and saying goodbye to this place. This has been a significant place of retreat for us, a three hour drive from Twin Oaks. There have been major Samhain rituals and other healing rites held here. The land is beautiful and the community has been open and flexible. I came down a few days ago to help out and drive the clan back home tomorrow. We’re saying goodbye to the land, closing their hemp hammock business, and honoring the work that we’ve done here (especially interpersonally — Hawina and I have really evolved our relationship during our stays here, as have Hawina and Spot, Joy and Pax, and all of us as a group).

Last night we helped Joy host a farewell party in Floyd, the small funky town in which the community is located. About 40 local folks came, including many people who had lived in the community and then moved to town. We had a light solstice ritual, and then a “saying goodbye to Joy” ritual where she put on her coat and walked away, out the door, while we sang a song and waved goodbye. We rested for awhile in the feeling of having her gone, and then she came back in for cake and dancing! It was a sweet and powerful experience, for her especially.

My big news now is that I’m hurt. I was dancing at the party, right at the end, and I did something that squinched my back and now I’m having a hard time with pain whenever I move. Yikes. It feels pretty significant, like it will take awhile to heal. Joy and Hawina are both wonderfully talented healers, and they’ve been giving me a lot of love and attention. I noticed that my first instinct when I got hurt was to go hide in a corner behind a table and stretch on my own, but then Pax came and found me and got Joy to help me. It’s so interesting to me that my first instinct was to go hide by myself, when I was surrounded by people who I know are healers and who I know love and care about me. I think it was a “I have to be happy all the time” kind of thing, thinking that other people wouldn’t want to deal with me when I was struggling. And of course, that’s not what I THINK; on some level, I guess it’s what I BELIEVE.

When Joy came over to me, she had me lay down on a long cushion so she could work on my back. At one point she asked me to roll over so she could work on me from a different angle. I couldn’t. My muscles just couldn’t do it. Eventually a few people came over and helped me roll slowly onto my side. I laid there, with different people coming over to work on me and talk with me and just be with me, until the party and cleanup was all over. When we were ready to leave, I struggled to get up, wanting to do it myself and simply being unable to. Pax and Joy helped me get up, and I felt so sad and frustrated that I started growling. “Yes, do that!” said Hawina. “Do what?” “Do that release thing you were just doing. Let it out!” And I growled loudly, which turned into a yell and then a scream and then sobbing. “That’s it, let it out. Keep going,” Hawina said. And I screamed and cried and yelled and at some point I looked down and saw two year old Willow staring up at me with a huge smile on his face. He was just beaming. This morning I was hanging out with him and I told him I was having trouble moving because I got hurt last night, and I asked him if he remembered when I was crying and yelling. “Yeah, it was a song” he said. “A song?” “Yeah, it was like a song.”

So, here I am. I can walk slowly pretty well, and I can sit without pain. Getting up from laying down is very diffucult, and I haven’t figured out a way to put on my shoes successfully (Hawina and Joy have loved helping me with my shoes, kneeling down at my feet, each taking a foot). Joy has been massaging me hourly, and I’ve been doing ballet exercises in front of the woodstove — keeping my back completely straight and doing plies and other french-titled moves. I’m getting lots of love and allowing myself to recieve it. It’s amazing what a conscious choice that has to be — my first inclination is to feel guilty that I’m taking so much time and energy from them. ! What a fucked up mindtrip. When I realized that was going on in my head, I intentionally chose to trust that they were doing it out of a place of love, and if they didn’t wan’t to be doing it, they wouldn’t be. So there, all you messages of inadequacy perpetuated by mainstream culture! hah ha! I choose something different. I choose to nurture myself, and allow others to nurture me.