Grounding Piles

I grew up on a farm. Behind the barn was a cow pasture. The pasture lay between the backside of the barn and the field that led to the woods. There were several routes one could take to the woods that lay behind the barn and through the field. Why I fancied the cow pasture route I'm not sure, but one day I climbed the fence to the cow pasture to traverse to the woods. I stood just over the fence facing the handful of cows milling aimlessly around the pasture. In front of me, like landmines in war, stood mountainous piles of cow shit haphazardly strewn between me and the other side of the pasture. 

Slowly I took off my shoes, and with a bit of fear of the cows and my Pippi Longstocking-ness strange tomboy ways, I took off running. I hit one of those cow shit piles full boar. It was still relatively fresh and warm as it gushed between my toes. Oddly, it felt strangely good. I ran through the next one and a handful more until I reached the other side of the pasture. 

In this our current society that is a form of grounding. Grounding is simply being barefoot and connecting to the earth.  It is said that it has energy and health benefits. This was long before that was a trendy thing. It was just a tomboy kid thing, a tomboy  experience that was oddly enough, kind of exhilarating. Tough and gross were not daunting for me. 

The cow pasture/cow shit landmine route became my path of choice. Usually, I saved it for my route FROM the woods back to the house so I could wash my feet immediately after. There was simply a wildness to running that fast from the cows through a maze of warm, soft cow piles that made me feel alive. The risk of bacteria was nowhere on my radar back then.

Shit isn't always totally 100% unpleasant. There can be found in it something palatable, maybe even a skill honed from it.


It was a dark and summer night . . .

 TMI. Too much information is what a dear soul of mine said in response to reading the words that cast a ray of light into the cracks of my life. I wondered if the response came from their vantage point of threads in my tapestry, or if there was just no way they could ever open up their own humanity in such a way. Though I greatly valued their binocular view and support, I knew my calling was different than theirs. 

Though I have morphed since childhood to a person mostly of order and neatness, I can with relative ease, be at home in well-lived and slightly askew too. Maybe that bi-polar mixture came and stayed as a direct result of living a duality of life for the vast majority of my existence in this human shell. It is the substrate of enduring grief - living methodically and even very disciplined outwardly but inwardly held precariously together with old bread twist-ies and frayed shoe strings. That was a most accurate word-picture to describe me.

Before you get the wrong impression of my survival and grit, or that I somehow maneuvered through the years of hardship when others waned or even careened off at a fraction of the stuff, it was nothing I did. There are only two things that saved me from ultimate self-annihilation and complete inward self destruction - God, and a personality I had no control in having.  I am gritty, tenacious, unrelenting. It's a great blessing in certain life-saving and accomplishing sorts of ways, but a damned curse in others.  It made me persevere, live with grand loss while continuing to not live the life I longed for and knew I was meant to live. It also made me unable to let loose of it as well.

I went off to college. It was yet again one of the many things I did going through the motions of living life. College was the next thing in a life of things I would do without him. The desire to experience that fundamental western world phase was lost on me. One of the only things that fueled or assaged me was nature - all things nature. Biking, wandering the woods, running, exploring the quiet outdoors alone was my zen. It was there, and still is, the place I can more readily find center, see and feel God without boundaries - both mine and the worlds.

He married another the summer before I was readying to leave for college. Late one hot summer night I went out for a run in the moonlight. It was somebody in my family's birthday celebration that evening. After the crowd cleared, with the summer night sounds playing their music, I headed down our country road soaking up the symphony and the moonlit road.  My mind paced its normal loop of thoughts as my legs quietly cut through the heat and darkness. In front of me, headed toward me I saw something. As my mind was frantically trying to figure out what was it was, a voice called out, "Nancy!"

It was a voice I knew without hesitation. With it came a flood of held in thoughts and love. His bike came to halt in front of me on that country road in the darkness of a summer night. Words came out like no time had passed between us. I wondered why he was biking in the darkness by my parents house - though I didn't ask, I knew. Leaving him that night on the same road he had left me on several years before was once again crushing.

It opened my never ending scab. A few weeks later, on another bike ride, we collided again. This time I could palpably feel his desire to grab and hug me and not let go. He was fighting it. I wondered what in his marriage was not so great that he tried to put himself near where he thought he might get to see me. Part of me felt bad for him. The shit decision he had made was now coming to light. Part of me felt angry. Angry of the time it had taken him to realize he had always loved me and to act on it. I didn't want to be his second choice, not then and not now, 

Summer faded to fall and I went off to college. One day someone yelled down the dorm hall, "Nancy, there's call for you!" There were no cell phones in 1984. A landline phone hung on the wall of the dorm hallway. As I walked to the phone I had no idea that HE was on the phone. 

I said "Hello". Then I heard a familiar voice that blew open my heart once again., "Nancy?" He asked if he could see me. My thoughts felt both buoyed and endless, "Of course!" I said. We settled on where and when to meet. In the days leading up to that meeting I thought about what I knew he probably wanted and whether I would give myself to the person I had loved for all these years.

SInce my brain works best with written words, I penned a novel to him. I planned to get to the designated place first and ask the cashier to give my letter to him. My soul didn't know if I saw him if I could let him go and walk away. He was early and I still held the letter in my hand. I wanted to touch him, to let it all loose. To unleash my deep love for him., I wanted to be with him.

. . . He told me his wife was pregnant with their first child and he realized he had made a mistake in marrying her. It was all the things I had known, wanted to hear and felt broken over. I handed him the letter. WIth all the resolve I had in me, I told him he could not leave his wife and unborn child. That again I would be second. That starting a life from hurt would not be good.

As we parted, I knew that would probably be the last time I saw his face. I told him that no matter where I went, or who I went with, it was him I would always love. I asked him to know that with each event that life would bring I was there in his heart. I told him I needed to try to be present in living life, but that my love for him would never leave. I had started dating a few weeks earlier, and maybe this could end up being something. I didn't have much of a choice other than try to make a life without him.

As we said goodbye, I once again stood and watched him slowly walk to his car. There was something about his walk, the slow gait, his shoulders down that I knew this time I had broke his heart. I had hoped that in breaking it he would be present for his wife and child. They deserved that. I watched for the second time in my life as he drove away from me. 

It was probably my deep love for him that didn't want him to experience the trauma of leaving his wife and child. It was gut wrenching to once again not be with him. I just could not be his it seemed. It is also why the movie "Yentl" is my favorite movie. And, why the mini-series "The Thornbirds" rips my insides out.

Love is a moniker and a thing. He was both to me.


Salty and Sweet

Who doesn't love a salt and a sweet together! It is incongruent that their pairing would bibe well on anyone's taste buds. I've often wondered the science behind that taste home run.  If you've ever eaten too many sweets, to return to a sort of body equilibrium, something saltly must be eaten. Might I suggest two of the most unlikely foods to combo - watermelon and bacon.  Very symbiotic. Very.

There are many things in life that somehow defy reason and do best in combination with something else. Better yet, they need the opposite to create their best self. Rainbows are like that. What has to occur to create a rainbow is the complete polar opposite of the beauty that is a rainbow. Those combos are life in general. Opposites co-exist, and many times, they are dependent upon the other.

That was me. Pain drives us deeper. My great loss of love, my grief, my inability to file it away pulled me deeper in to God. Without conscious thought I knew there was healing, a balm, a spring, a way to be sustained in the midst of heartbreak by speaking and acknowledging God's presence around and in me. My humanity, even at its worst, sought the God who made me. 

Maybe because there was this matzo ball of unreconciled loss that I couldn't make sense of, it was easier to not have to have God all figured out. I was ok that I didn't understand all His mystery. I only just knew that God was with me in it. That somehow my opposite from God life and God Himself could pair together. He was the watermelon to my bacon. I never sensed condemnation from the Almighty about my current choices or my inability to seemingly move out of the grief pit. I only sensed great love and closeness, much like when we care for one of our own sick children. Simply put, God was just in the swampie, shards of glass I was mired in.

As he drove away, down the road away from me, something quite simply died inside. I watched his car through the window of the garage as it slowly drove away from me. I stood transfixed, screaming silently, willing him to turn around until his car stopped being visible. I collapsed on the garage floor in sobbing, snotty heaves. I was broke.

I waited both for him to call and for me to stop waiting on something I knew would not happen. Waiting is agony. Period. Always. No matter what the wait is for. Waiting caused me to have a constant dialogue in motion; Did he feel a loss at all? Would he come to his senses? Did he love me? Why did he think doing what others wanted was his best choice? Had I interpreted our relationship wrong? He seemed to want me to talk him out of marrying her? Why didn't I? I felt most like me when I was with him, like he made the best parts of me bigger, did I do that for him? I cannot imagine ever feeling this again with anyone else. He will call, right? Something this big and cosmic just can't end. 

I'm pretty sure my parents sensed something was not ok with me. I went on dates, but never a lasting relationship. I didn't want one. My dad thought I needed help in the date arena and jokingly asked a table of single guys at our local pizza place if any of them would take me out. I was standing right there. If the floor had a trap door I would have opened it and disappeared. I didn't want those guys. What I wanted I couldn't have. I hung my head and laughed as my dad spoke so as not to give away my pain.

I'm sure my dad thought a good man might make things better. As a parent myself I understand where that came from in him. I felt loved deeply by his somewhat misguided gesture of care. One of those young men did call and ask me out. I declined whole heartedly and to the tenth power. I didn't want anything less than my loss I told myself. But the years of shielding myself with that loss were getting long.


Rain clouds go away, come again another day

Sometimes certain things can't be filed away neatly and concisely. Sometimes, they just cannot even be filed at all. Their bigness leaves no where to put them. It becomes an open, never-ending pending file. Navigating that at any age is a learned skill, but impossible when we're young. All I knew is I wanted my loss back. Desperately. There was just no where to put it.

I willed myself to function. To move about in life.  Despite my outward motion, inside I was deadly still. Stuck is not accurate for where I found myself. I was paralyzed and in the darkest mire of  massive depression. That is THE trademark of grief and loss.  I was lost in the loss which makes it nearly impossible to find your way out. 

Edna St. Vincent Millay describes it best with her words;

Where you used to be, there is a hole in the world, which I find myself constantly walking around in the daytime, and falling in at night. I miss you like hell.”

Holes are curious things. Why are there holes to begin with? They are curious too in their effect on us. We are not meant to live permanently with a hole. I know that very well. I tried filling my hole, drowning myself without care or even consciousness to the end result. My choices were leaving my life looking like a scene from the movie "Holes"  I was succeeding only at creating more divets around my original hole.

But then, grief is a hole with no bottom and slippery sides. I wondered if it would ever stop its relentless barrage. I wondered too how I would live if it didn't.

Wounds cause us to try to stop the trauma. And, I tried sopping up the gaping hole in my heart and soul with most anyone else. I didn't care one bit. Just wanted to deaden the pain,. To be validated by anyone. Sometimes it was with people that were close to him just to be as close to him as I could. I didn't care. Sex was a hollow diversion, but it never closed the gap I lived with. I didn't see much of that clearly or remotely emotionally intelligently at the time. Self preservation at its highest form can cross the line to very unhealthy. It's where I was.

It's odd to write about things that are not putting me in a great light. All of us, balls or not, have shit we just carry and don't speak of. I'm not unique at all. Human experience is extremely universal though very individual. Power is removed when we move it to the light. Empathy is grows when we speak our own raw and usually ugly self truth - when we expose our humanity at its base camp. It is always hard to peel back my cloak. I hold my cards tight and only a few know much of me. There is a mixture of fear of rejection, shame, and regret that gets buffeted against letting myself off the hook. I seek to encourage other souls with the fact that heartbreak is part of THE human experience. There is a work it does if we speak to it.

I had a lot of humanity. Lots. Humans can be oh so messy. 



A kaleidoscope is an optical instrument with two or more reflecting surfaces tilted to each other at an angle, so that one or more objects on one end of the mirrors are seen as a regular symmetrical pattern when viewed from the other end, due to repeated reflection.    [Wikipedia]

I had one as a child - who didn't. I was mesmerized by the colors, interactions and merges that bled from one view to another. It is said that a kaleidoscope produces actually 4 different color patterns based off the convergence of two mirrors. That's as far as my science-y lesson goes. 

Some patterns were most definitely more profoundly complex and vivid. Others seemed clear and simple. Both types were beautiful in different ways. My child brain knew enough to see that the next pattern actually needed the previous pattern to morph into itself. I just didn't quite know how much that paralleled real life . . . yet.

There is a lot of shit in life. Heaviness, pain, destruction, loss, conflicts, violence, apathy. It's all around us from annoying pestering to massive intrusive and devastating life-altering shit. There is also a lot of beauty in varying intensities interdependent on shit and independent of it. I have experienced both.

I see big inside my head and feel everything that beats around me - people and things. To be honest, it's taken me to my middle age to understand that not everyone is like that.  We all can only know what we know. We draw conclusions on our knows without consciously thinking through them many times. - like breathing happens automatically.

It's a good thing I didn't understand that fully as a kid or I might have felt stranger inside about myself than I did. Quite possibly maybe there's a psychological syndrome with a name for that. If so, I probably have it. Its unnamed diagnosis aside, it is just simply hardwired in me.

Seeing big is awesome. It's high def brain and emotion living. The wash of both of those things can be exhilarating and fuel a sort of relentlessness. It's a sponge way of life - absorbing all things around you, visually, emotionally, spiritually, atmospherically. 

Emotions are just that, emotions. They are not necessarily always truth and mostly transient to the next one. I remind myself of that a lot. It's another thing I wish we all could grasp in clearer windows when we are younger. Stupid youth is wasted on the young. It takes diminishing cells to be re-focused to understand what was always there just below the surface in our youth. Blessings of age. And, it's a great one! Enlightenment doesn't typically come without shit decisions and/or life experience. Age creates a collective pool of both.

When painting the exterior of my house recently, my neighbor commented, "All of us neighbors have never seen anyone like you. You are crazy and relentlessly driven." I laughed and assured her crazy comes in all different forms and we all have a bit of it in us. What she didn't really know is that because I absorb what is around me, I need to make beautiful anything that is presently in an un-beautiful state. My life has been a lot of houses and lots of people. I have always wanted to leave both more beautiful than I found them. Want is the key word.

I hate gray days. From my kaleidoscope they are not the most beautiful pattern. They drain my spirit and put a ceiling on everything. I hate being a sponge sometimes. I use music on those days to combat the gray I absorb. Music is liquid that can saturate. In fact its power is a sensory touch for most of us.

Some things are not always possible to make beautiful. That too took me more than 25 years to figure out. "Hope is a thing with feathers,"  the poet Emily Dickinson says. Two hands up and exuberantly waving, I believe that too. It is an inner mantra of mine - that good and beauty can be found/created/fostered in anything or anyone. Hope is the mechanism that keeps me in the game to seeing beauty come to life around me.

God writes through King Solomon, "there is a time and season for everything under heaven." I hold that belief as well. Its bigger umbrella is we are not necessarily always in direct control of everything. We like to think we are. That's actually a burdening belief to hold that all things are held in our control. We are containers, us humans are - finite thoughts, lives and see-it-think-it ways. God is outside of that. Thank God!

I have personally made some shit decisions in my years of living. Ones that had lasting effects. Some that changed the course of my life. They have though, been part of what has made up my life. Inside those shits were none-the-less some vivid colors of beauty. Isn't it strange how that happens. I'm quite confident that God is involved in the beautiful things whittled out of shit. Quite.

Shit decision number one was probably getting out of the car when the man I loved chose to marry another. I didn't articulate the bigness of what I felt for him, rather just opened the door and walked away. I didn't fight, pursue, argue he was making a mistake. With still to this day, the deepest seated tears streaming down my face, with no other response, I just exited the car. No one wants to expose their love further or beg to be loved to someone that obviously didn't have that same love or was probably too scared to do what he really deep down wanted to do. He made his own shit decision that day, I'm fairly confident anyway.

That shit decision led to pure internal agony for many years. What I didn't fully get back then was that it was grief I was drowning in. Grief is powerfully unrelenting until it isn't. It's agonizing to be left with love that big with no where to rest it. Ever. It directly led to my next big shit decision as well. They usually do until we get some understanding of how shit colors our thoughts and narrates our rationales, and then drives our decisions. Deadly combo. Deadly,

Damn it my kaleidoscope was in angry swirling patterns. The gray day came and stayed for a long, long time.