Being Sage: On Love

Fucking Valentine’s Day, man. Bringing up all kinds of shit. And then there’s this: my kids beaming this morning with hugs and chocolate “Feliz Dia de San Valentin, Miss June” and sweet texts from my love and a bff picking me up from school gifts in tow and a phone call with mom and inspiring collaborative Vola dinner date and love from co-workers and a group hug that turned tears to laughter and powerful soul bearing burlesque and incredible reminders from fellow writers and yogis about vulnerability, openness, and holding our love as much as our pain in our most sacred body space. Silly me, we all have more Valentines than we can count. To think I was holding onto tiny shreds of hurt when a whole universe full of light exists.

And to you beauties who are single and perfect in this moment, I see you. You fucking ROCK. You love the shit out of this crazy world no matter what. And I adore you.

And a self-love letter of the variation we wrote to ourselves in my last workshop:

Set yourself free:

Light your toes on fire

Burn the maps the back-up plans

Wrong is not your name/your name is your own your own your own! (June Jordan poem inspiration)

Even in the dirty wash-basin

You find pieces of glitter

Your unclean back
Among the stars.

 

Feeling Fierce & Understood

I’ve been reviewing stories, and honestly, trying to avoid the following chapter, but it’s the one that really stands out to me for being in my fully present in my mind/body…

In my early years or dating –still defining who I was and what I what in a relationship– I was with “The Asshole” (I really have a hard time recalling his name now!) for a year and a half.  I felt connected to this guy, as we shared a sentiment of disconnect from our families.  While he made me laugh, and could be sweet, he carried an arrogance about him, that I was ‘lucky to be with him.’  This air came out in ways he talked with me and behaved around me –mostly only when other people were around– and I often felt belittled and insignificant.

Our relationship happened in the mid 90s, when gangster rap was in its prime, and this W.A.S.B. (White Anglo Suburban Boy) was a big fan.  As he had the music pounding one day in my half of the house (he lived in the upper apartment), he was doing his ‘I’m a tough guy’ dance moves in my face while I sat in the lounge chair.  Having had my fill of the emotional abuse and disrespect, I pushed him away with my feet. He came back and shoved my shoulders.  Next thing I knew, we were scuffling with shouts, shoves, and slaps, for 5 minutes or so, until our friend came down from upstairs and pulled him away.

While I abhor violence, after he left, my lips were smiling and my body was tingling as my heart was racing with relief.  It felt I finally got to express all the emotional hurt he had been burying me in.  The experience was whole body gratifying, not because I made it an opportunity to hurt him ‘back,’ but rather that I got all the hurt out of my body; all the nooks and crannies of my joints and my muscles and my lungs and my physical heart was cleansed.

And it seemed to open his eyes up to the notion that I am a strong woman, who has boundaries on her compassion.

–Mizz Bitz, Boulder, 42

Why This Blog

Being Sage means moving the energy from my head to my toes. Sage was the name I called myself while walking to work some days, watching the thoughts swirl in my head. Feeling the doubt and nerves. As soon as I named myself Sage I opened the door for wisdom to enter. I felt something open in my body and then land. Lighter and heavier at the same time. Being Sage is the ability to notice different access points in our bodies. To articulate when our hearts feel open or heavy or our hips feel tight.

Being Sage is the understanding that we have multiple points of wisdom supporting us (not just our brains but yes our brains.) Being Sage is that clean feeling when salad actually tastes a lot better than cookies, when we can ask our bodies what they crave and listen, when we can powerfully respect our bodies. Being Sage is a deep knowing of our inherent beauty. Our whole selves. Our hands our feet our bellies, no matter the size or maybe yes for the size! because of the blemishes because of the aches and pains because of the old and wrinkles. We are whole.

Our bodies are what we have to bring. To the party the table the protest, to bring to bed with or without our lovers, to bring to love, to bring to our pocketbooks (with all the quesy and the frenzy,) to bring to those we love, to hold them.

Being Sage is recognizing resourcing from and taking care of our most important most tangible most permanent gift on this earth. Our breath. Our voice. Our hips. Our tongues. Our bodies. Being Sage is reconnecting with self in the face of self-doubting talk, abuse, media telling us we need to be something more. Being Sage is a big fuck you. It’s the biggest we can get. The strongest. And the stillest and the quietest. When do you start Being Sage?

 

I Created Myself Newly

When I’m snowboarding, my body feels like it’s flying and free. I just have to trust my body and my board, and I’ll be okay…I won’t fall or injure myself. Sometimes I do get nervous of course, but actually when I relax I notice I snowboard better than when my body is tense and nervous. When I’m in the zone, it’s exhilarating and it’s just me and the mountain. My mind is calm and I just want to go faster.

Learning how to snowboard has been a huge accomplishment for me because I only started really learning 3 years ago, and I have had to let go of thoughts of self doubt and wanting to give up. Snowboarding is really hard to learn at first because you’re just afraid to fall and you’re trying to balance on a thin board down a mountain! I remember on my first time I was so frustrated with myself for always falling. I felt like I was never going to get it. But I was determined and every time I went, I created myself newly, created that I would have fun.

Now I’m proud to say I’m pretty good at it. I’m still getting better and mastering it, but I have come a long way. Now I can keep up with Larry, my fiance, and his friends. My goal now is to be able to go faster and faster.

-Stephanie Wong, Age 31

Thornton, Colorado

 

 

Being Sage (on Rest Days)

I know many of us have been feeling overwhelmed this past week. In addition to any other stressors in our lives, many of us feel we are helpless anticipation of giving our country to the leadership of someone we deeply mistrust.

Physically I’ve been under the weather. Emotionally I am completely overwhelmed. I have a lot of changes coming up and a lot to think about. And I’m not moving through them in a big, powerful, “I know myself” kind of way. I have made very few big decisions in my life (if any) without gripping onto the handlebars first. So overwhelm to me means everything feels heavy on top of me and my body feels crushed by it all. My brain is so noisy I can’t think.

So, today I took a rest day. A day off from coordinating and planning and running faster and faster trying to beat the overwhelm. It caught me. And that’s actually OK.

I am not proud that my rest day involved eating a whole bag of ginger snaps, but I am still so grateful for the Kick-Ass Immune, soup, the junkiness of The Bachelor, and multiple naps. Life does have that pause button sometimes. And it’s OK to press it. Sometimes the most clarity and energy I feel is after one of these break days. And sometimes the most empowered my body (including my voice and mind) feels is when I have allowed it to rest.

Being Sage: “Stronger Than I Have Ever Imagined”

I was hiking in the Rocky Mountains with my boyfriend.  I was 25 years old.  We were taking  a steep trail.  I had always felt that I had weak legs, being short and stocky as I was.  But as we ascended the mountain, I could feel the muscles in my legs working harder and harder than they ever had.  I could feel muscles I never knew I had.  I am strong, I said to myself.  I am a small woman but there is a lot of strength in my entire body.  Otherwise, how could I climb this steep mountain like this?

We walked and walked and walked.  I thought it would never end.  Keep going, keep going, my boyfriend said, you can do it!  Finally, we got to the crest of the mountain.  We looked down, and, startled, realized we were at the top of a 500 foot waterfall!  The sheets of water were spilling down with a violent force, spiraling and curling, twisting and knotting up. It would take too long to backtrack. We would be hiking in the dark. We had to climb down the ladder next to the waterfall!

I was afraid of heights but I had no choice.  We started down the rickety ladder, my friend ahead of me and I was okay in the beginning.  Then, suddenly,  my legs locked, my knees froze and I could not move.  I was terrified.  Looking down, all I could see was the cascading waterfall with no end in sight.  Suddenly, I summoned the feeling I’d had hiking up the mountain.  My legs are strong, I said to myself, stronger than I have ever imagined.  I can make them move me down this ladder.  It took a few minutes, but slowly I made my knees unlock and I began to take tiny steps down the ladder.
It seemed like it took forever.  My boyfriend was egging me on.  I was telling myself I could do it, that I was stronger than I thought, stronger than ever, that my whole body was working in unison to summon the strength to walk down the waterfall.  Little by little, clinging to the sides of the ladder, drowning out the furry of the spilling water, I inched down the ladder until, at last, the end.  I did it!  I did it!  I had walked 500 feet down a waterfall in the Rocky Mountains and I was still alive!  I felt stronger than I had ever felt in my life!
-Joyce Lucarotti (Age 65, San Francisco CA)

Being Sage (at the Airport)

My flight to San Francisco was delayed several hours and I contentedly sat in my seat in the airport, charging my phone, and checking off my “to do” list while we waited. I’m always happy to get something done.

The man next to me talked loudly on his cell phone. I’m from San Francisco, so I am used to overhearing the best and strangest conversations. I smiled to myself, entertained, until I heard him say to the person on the other line: “I think I’ll get a hooker tonight. And I hope she only has two teeth (you know, to avoid the biting.) Or maybe I’ll knock out the rest too.”

All I can say is that my whole body clenched. I imagined my own teeth being knocked out and flinched. I imagined her teeth knocked out. I imagined the countless women whose teeth have ever been knocked out. My stomach churned, furious that I needed to sit here and listen to this.

I rolled my eyes a few times and gave him a look, but my angle was off. I turned to the woman next to me to gauge my obnoxious-tolerance level. Hers was triggered too. I wanted to say something to him. I texted my friend who was waiting to pick me up once I got into SFO. “I want to say something to him, but all I can think of is ‘You’re disgusting.'” Her response was “say fuck you.” Then no, report him. But I didn’t want to move and lose my seat. And I knew neither of those things would produce the end-result I wanted: a listening heart, a recognition of my own humanity as a woman.

So, heart totally stuck in my throat, throbbing red and fast through my whole body, I looked at the back of his head and contemplated how I would feel about myself if I simply let it go, and slunk away. I could rationalize and figure a way to forgive myself. I was being too sensitive anyway. I would say something next time.

But  I decided I wanted to be a stronger person, a more direct person. So, heart thumping at this point I tapped him on the shoulder and said, “I think next time you decide to talk about hookers in an airport you should think of those around you.”

He turned bright red. He was embarrassed. I was embarrassed. If not a little amused at his face. “I’m so sorry,” he stammered. “I tried to say it quietly. It was a joke.” Locker room talk. We’ve heard it before, especially this year. And though no matter who was around him or how I phrased it or the fact that he should never speak or think like this no matter where he is, I was still glad I said something. We both sat in the raw nerve that hovered around us.

But maybe next time  he’ll think twice. Maybe someone else won’t have to listen to the violence I listened to. And regardless of the outcome, I took a stand. I could walk away and feel strong in my body, proud of my courage. I walked down the aisle of the plane and I felt my heart drop back down into my chest, my stomach, grounded in my feet. I was able to return to myself.

I am in awe of this voice, that has returned me to my feet.

 

 

Enough.

If you are like me, and human, then you probably spend 99% of your thoughts on solving problems or improving things or idle worrying. But after cleaning and cooking and outreaching and inner resourcing and finding what I already had today, I had a new thought. Just a split second upon opening the door to leave the house that maybe everything was perfect as is. That there was already enough money, enough time, enough love. In this moment. I have enough. I am enough. I mean, the alien that landed in this human body got pretty lucky just to experience this crazy Earth. I felt like spreading my proverbial wings and flying off the front porch when the next thought fluttered into my head: that the rest is EXTRA! And how fun to play with that extra! While I am grateful for all that I have checked off the list in the last few days, I am also thrilled with this re-realizing of enough. Freedom! You are. Enough. Right now. Me too.

Below are photos of the beautiful space Vola gets to share every Monday evening  at the Boulder Creative Collective with the Boulder Writers Warehouse

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We emerged from the restorative yoga cocoon to watch a local theater group run through their play. The word between the hands is “MAKE.”

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Resting in Motion: The To Do List

Below are a few (seven) things I am experimenting with, re-learning, and learning anew about what I often perceive as my soul-crushing, bleary-eyed, reasons-I-am-not-good-enough to do lists at work and at home. I am trying to find the breath and the relaxation in the doing. Resting in motion.

1 Time isn’t real. I know it sounds super hippie, but it’s true. Often we think something will take longer or shorter time than it actually does. No matter how hard I look at it or how long, when I actually start working on things, time stretches in funny ways. The minutes are often too short, but sometimes incredibly long.

2 Often, I can’t clean or stay quiet for long periods of time without composing a poem or being distracted by something unearthed or beautiful. And perhaps this is a good thing. If we enjoyed our to do lists, maybe we would get more done. A friend commented on this as I raked leaves and photographed them at the same time. Something to the effect of, “This is what  happens when you give a writer a rake.” I noticed this middle leaf was in a color transition. It is also the most striking. It helps to think of my own transitions this way: as striking, poignant. Not just something to get through.

mleaf

3 Taking care of myself feels good. When all is said and done, making doctor’s appointments, paying bills, sweeping, renewing my virus software, all of it felt better than “resting” in front of the TV. Granted, both have their value, but I spend so much of my week taking care of others (I am the director of an elementary enrichment program) that even just attending to the minutia felt meditative and grounding. It also can help me feel alive and inspired! I’d like to remember this next time I want to scream while approaching my to do list.

4 And, to my next thought. Someone told me once to stop making lists. To just do it. I had kind of a meltdown earlier in the week, feeling crushed by doing doing doing and not being being being being. It woke me up. Even in the doing, self-care is first. I started making my to do list for the day, and half way down the page, I froze. I called a friend. Then I threw away the to do list. I knew what I needed to do to start. I could go back and write things down mid-doing if I needed to. The doing was so much better than getting stuck in the to do list.

5 Did I mention I called a friend? Turns out we were both a bit stuck. My friend feeling solitary and isolated, and me petrified. So, as we often do, he came over. He sat and worked on his to do list, while I did mine. We are both single, but it felt like living with family. Like we had community. Like despite individualist tendencies, we aren’t meant to do this whole damn life thing alone. The whole room shifted. I could breathe again. Everything felt a little yellow and familiar — warm. I felt supported and amused, as we interrupted the “to do” every once in awhile with a note of thought, or watching my foster cat out the window sitting in a pot anytime we took things too seriously. My cat is used to long pauses. We followed suit.

mbuddy

6 And then there is what I am calling the “after-list.” This is the re-written list of everything I did and potentially did well. I find that even after a productive day, I usually just stare at all the things that aren’t crossed off as if my entire sense of self worth depends on it. Well, my self worth does not depend on how productive I am. But I am employing harm reduction here, because my consciousness doesn’t always get that. So, while some part of my still thinks I am good if my productivity is good, then I will praise myself to high heavens for what I have accomplished, even if it is something as simple as finally washing my backpack, or taping my knee. I did it!! It was a struggle but goddamnit, I did it! And every time I do these things, I am telling myself I am important. I am an important person to take care of too. I matter.

7 Categories. I also revamped my to do list. Instead of a long list of minutia, I put things into categories like “health” or “clearing” or “career.” I gave myself and hour and a half to focus on each and just plug away at the bullet points living in those categories. But after awhile, it didn’t feel like plugging away. It felt like my spiritual practice. It felt like the big picture. It felt like it mattered.

Here, I worked a twelve hour day and thought, there is no way I can write something coherent in 30 minutes, but here it is! Ah, the glorious illusion of time. I don’t know if everyone struggles with their to do list like I do, but my guess is that I am not alone. Maybe some of these insights will help you to also rest in motion. And then, there’s also good old resting by the creek after a farmer’s market:

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Contemplative Cleaning

I spent most of this weekend cleaning, which for anyone who knows me, you will understand that this is an incredible feat.

If Martin Luther King, Jr. can accomplish everything he did in his lifetime, surely I can clean my room.

I woke up drinking a cup of coffee and listening to “Audacity of Hope.” There is a point where Obama explains why he is calm about most things. Because most things are not as terrible as what others have endured — like Mandela. This is true. And this is why I like Obama.

One of the reasons I decided clearing (or cleaning as the layperson or non-new agey person might say) was so important for me this weekend was because of my dating life.

And no, it’s not (only) because I’d like to make room for another person in my bed instead of piling it with dirty underwear.

It’s because I tend to collect things. And like most people I know, I don’t tend to throw them away with quite the efficiency or speed with which I acquire them. And while I clean, my mind goes nuts. There is always a deer in headlights moment where in my hands I have two mismatching socks, a granola bar wrapper, a book I want to read still, a worn-out favorite shirt… you get the idea. Once I’ve dodged the shame in realizing I’ve allowed myself to be this messy (that’s another post,) my mind still whirs and tangles along with the things in my room. “Where to put them? I said I would do this first, but then now there’s this other thing. I don’t even use any of this!” And once I’ve been cleaning a good long while, if I haven’t meditated beforehand, my mind spins the same old wheels, traveling along familiar “problem-solving” neural pathways of stories related to my relationship with my parents, friends, co-workers, reasons I’m not perfect, how much weight I need to lose, why I don’t have kids, whether I want kids, who my partner might be, and on and on and on. Of course I don’t want to clean if this is where my mind goes each time! Cleaning turns into an endless rebuilding of the sandcastle. “Why am I cleaning it now? It’s just going to get dirty again anyway.” Which is why I have finally had to see cleaning/clearing as a contemplative practice. Like the Buddhist monks who sweep the steps every morning at the Page Street Zen Center (San Francisco.) They’re, like, cleaning their minds too!! Duh.

And yes, it will get dirty again. And no, none of my cleaning this weekend resulted in an immaculate apartment. It’s functional. And a little prettier. And I get to see more of the things that are important to me. But I also have a list of 42 bags to go through: places where I’ve stored shit I don’t need but didn’t know what to do with. As I go through my stuff, there are a few important lessons I’ve learned (especially after reading Marie Kondo’s “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.” One important lesson is that my living space does indeed reflect the space inside my mind, and heart. I have to say, there was a palpable leap of joy in my chest when I threw all the trash out today. If that doesn’t clear my life for love, I’m not sure what will.

I also recently finished Aziz Ansari’s “Modern Romance”! Brilliant, witty, insightful. I’ll be the first to say that I wouldn’t mind having a little modern romance with Aziz Ansari. But, he’s taken. And his reflections towards the end of the book reflect what I love so much about Obama too: a respect for every human.

I am often dating multiple people or no one at all. Like with cleaning, I am distracted easily. Almost collecting people and experiences as much as I do things in my room. And as lovely as that is, there is a certain amount of mental and emotional clutter that stays. What do I want to keep? What really sparks joy? (Marie Kondo’s question.) And inevitably the choice to keep or throw away is a decision, an incision, a cutting away. And cutting away can be really painful. But it will help what we’ve chosen shine more.

There was a cough drop on my desk.

I almost threw it away.

I didn’t need it now. I’m not coughing. But oh, would that cough drop be gold when I needed it. So I kept it where I can see it. Keeping things visible seems to be key for me. Not for everyone, but for me.

This is another thing I have learned, actually with the help of someone from work who helped me organize our cabinets. The way I organize is not wrong. It simply is. And it simply is the way it suits me. For years I have beaten myself up over throwing clothes around and not hanging them up. But for whatever childhood trauma or lack thereof I have to blame, it does not fucking matter whether I hang up my clothes! (Kondo might disagree) It actually just matters that where I have them works for me. It turns out throwing them on the floor does not work for me. And neither does putting them in the closet (like I said, visible.) What does work for me is throwing them in a hamper. Even if they are clean. And when I say hamper I mean plastic white bin because I’m not that fancy.

Beyonce says “perfection is the disease of a nation.” And it’s true. Clearing my space really allows me to dive into my own imperfection, my constant disgusting smelly nostalgic greedy and still somehow loving imperfection. And come back up for air unscathed. Actually reveling in an ability to enter chaos and then come back to myself, many times over. To allow completion and in-completion to co-exist. Isn’t that just all of life?

And isn’t love simply a constant choice? The partner or partners, the moment, the self we choose to be with someone else. My greatest fear is that I will be trapped in an unhealthy relationship. Or maybe that my room will be completely clean. What I don’t always see is that the relationship is not one large narrative choice (as Aziz Ansari posits is one option) but a succession of tiny choices. I didn’t just clean the bathroom. I put in a new toilet paper roll, I relabeled a drawer, and if I’m lucky, I’ll keep relabeling. Allowing my relationships to evolve with my living space. The idea of living space has always felt too practical for a self-identified creative wanderer like me. “Who has time to clean? I wanna live!!!”

And what if they are the same thing? Living and cleaning. What if the mirror influences the rest of my world? What if my living space is an ongoing living art piece, reflecting the people things and experiences important to me? What if by some stretch of the imagination (and by all means not to stop here.) cleaning my living space is an act of resistance? A carving out my own piece of life. There are a few moments where I look at my made bed and think, “I deserve to be here. I work hard and love hard and even if I didn’t do those things, I still deserve to be here in my little corner of the world. The extension of my body. I am a woman and a caregiver and an activist and a writer and a human and I deserve to be here. So, I made my fucking bed! And it looks awesome!”