Monday, February 16, 2015

To Care for Your Own Beating Heart

My son was sick all week. A high fever that lasted for days. Little appetite. A deep cough. It wasn’t terrible. We spent most days alternating between cartoons, books, naps, and toys. He was calmer than usual, we (mostly) didn’t have our usual power struggles. I felt concern and sweet tenderness towards him, taking his temperature under his arm, measuring out small cups of syrupy pink medicine, offering juice and Popsicles like small salves for his (my) feverish soul. I was concerned, but never alarmed. Then finally he started to get better. And although he is still tired and coughing from a deep troubling place, I have faith in his health again and can move on and tend to myself.

The timing couldn’t have been better: two days alone on a sunny holiday weekend, after a week where I had to cancel all of my plans and where very little got checked off the list that I usually rely on to make myself feel better. Thankfully, I did not have any major deadlines that couldn’t be put off. But perhaps this is always the case. Maybe there is always nothing that can’t be put on hold when you are needed to care for your child. If only we prioritized our own health and healing in the same way.

Usually, when I have a weekend alone (gifted by my husband whisking our child away somewhere else), I write. I write for pleasure and healing, but it is also my Work. I tackle the list of pieces to be edited, publishers to query, or lessons to plan. Occasionally, I have enough time and mental space to begin a new piece. And at the end of the weekend, I rattle off my accomplishments: look at how much I got done in a couple days! More than I usually accomplish in many weeks, or even months, of piecing together little chunks of childfree time during the week.

But this weekend, I was tired. Physically tired after caring for my son. And emotionally and spiritually tired after a hard week/month/year. So I gave myself permission to relax. To not tackle the big new piece to be edited if I didn’t feel like it. To not tackle the newsletter to be written. To not even leave the house to enjoy the sunshine if I didn’t feel like it. Mostly, just to be home in my little nest of retreat. To take in deep conscious breaths several different times throughout the day. To listen to my old soundtrack of contemplative music that has been recently liberated from the stored away stacks of c.d.s and uploaded into our computer: Yungchen Llamo, Ali Farka Toure, Nusrat Fateh Ali Kahn, Ayub Ogada, Ali Akbar Khan. Bring it. Music that lights up forgotten pathways in my chest, neurons, memories of yearning, inner deep resources, and tears.

This weekend I’ve also been reading. Sitting at the window seat in the sun, staring out at the mossy yard. Sitting where Frank used to sit, the man and my friend who left me this cabin. Frank, who knew more than most people in the world about what was important. About not striving for great wealth or achievement, but enjoying what you have. About appreciating the freedom to be home, with your books and your squirrels and a pot of tea. About appreciating what you have.

This weekend I’ve read from: Pema Chodron’s Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears; Emily Kendal Frey’s The Grief Performance; and Brenda Miller and Holly Hughe’s The Pen and the Bell: Mindful Writing in a Busy World. There were more books I wanted to get to, but this is what surfaced. And this was enough. A few chapters at a time, no hurry, take it in, scribble a note or two, an idea, a phrase.

This weekend I’ve also been preparing my body, mind, and heart for Ovum Siahl, a butoh-inspired offering that Matthew and I will be a part of. Neither of us have danced butoh for many, many years. I really only studied it for a semester at Evergreen, then danced occasionally in my bedroom in the months that followed. Danced to express some kind of essential longing and pain. Pain, informed by love. Longing informed by breath, by fire, by rage, by prayer, by need.

Some essential seed of this dance, its core, has been stored in my body for over a decade. In hibernation. I honestly didn’t know if I’d ever dance it again. Butoh seemed far away from my current list of priorities. Writing and publishing were up near the top. Exercise, therapy, planning date nights, confirming childcare, teaching workshops, updating bios, social networking, planning play dates, assessing marketability and employability, and many other things such as buying a new refrigerator occupied my mind instead.

But somewhere in between exercise and therapy this thing called Butoh has slipped back into my consciousness, unconsciousness. Somewhere in between “I need to find a new Zumba class” and “I need to prioritize my relationships, set boundaries, find my bottom line, express my feelings,” Butoh has reappeared. Just three rehearsals, one performance/offering, a scattering of hours. Manageable. But, of course, it has to enter in deeper. It can’t just be a few hours and then I’ll be on my way. There is a glorious timing to these things. To Matthew and I dancing Butoh together. To Matthew and I doing something creative and new, yet old, and slightly scary and WTF?! together.

It feels right. We have both become too removed from our own essential longing. Our pull, that pulled us together. Our need to express in deep and meaningful ways besides our most familiar paths: writing for me, fishing for him. Which are both keys to our sanity and passions in life, but which we do separate from each other. So here, now, is a gift to finally share Butoh together. A dance we both were trained in and gravitated to, a dance we have both witnessed in others and professed to love, but never danced together. Isn’t that strange? How do two people share something yet never really share it?

So here we are, here I am. A total beginner. My body weighing more than it has in years, not having exercised beyond an occasional walk for over a year. My core weak, my body stiff, my range of movement untended. Here I am, about to perform? It’s best not to think of it as a performance. Think: offering. Think: take my soft and trampled body. I will give you what I have. Here. You appeared, and I am listening. Here. I will do this because we both said, Yes.

This is what I have done this weekend: I have read dharma books and poetry; I have listened to old music; I have lit candles and donned white and danced, a little. I have fed myself and showered and done a load of laundry. I have still taken care of a few tasks I owe to others, yes emails because I’m responsible like that, but mostly I have gifted myself this weekend to be slow, to be receptive, to be dumb. To not accomplish anything that great, not even to “take advantage of the great weather.” To just be here and enjoy the quiet of my usually not-so-quiet home. To enjoy waking up slowly with the cat at my side. To enjoy paying attention to my breath and to drinking enough water. To take care of myself and my heart in a slow, measured way. My heart who has been neglected for too long. Forced to have just a quick cry, before turning to greet my son. Or just a quick conversation that brings up all kinds of layers of shit, but that you don’t have time to fully process because life and dinner and dishes and bedtime simply must go on.

Oh, my heart. I am tending to you now. I am loving you. My sweet and tender heart. You are mine. I know you. I feel you. I accept you. I massage you and your needs. I honor you and your pain. I touch you and will your layers of resistance to slowly dissolve away. I am here, you are here, I am here, you are here. Feed me, I will feed you. Love me, I will love you.

You must ask for what you really want.

All of this moment. All of this breath. All of this beauty, in here, out there. I want to stay with it all. I want to not be afraid to show you my tears. I will wait for you to meet me here. I have been waiting a long time.


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