the stuff of dreams

Bee flower nest, National Geographic
Bee flower nest, National Geographic

In my dream, I am in a vibrant learning center, like the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Healing or the avant-garde middle school of my youth–spherically shaped with large open spaces.

I find myself outside the main chamber, octagonally-shaped, and flanked by halls. The place has the feeling of a bee hive, particularly with hum of activity all around.

I am to assist a group of 3 women spiritual teachers, one of whom is on her knees on the floor, outside the main chamber, in front of a long strip of white butcher block, upon which is a life-size tracing of a body, like those in the years I assisted at my son’s preschool.

I realize that this teacher and her colleagues are Spanish-speaking, so with the sensitivity gained from my time working with an international organization, I tell her that it will be okay if they want to speak Spanish among themselves in the morning when they are preparing; even though I only speak English.

The next day, I find myself rushing into the hall from yet another chamber, while the main room is buzzing with activity as it gradually fills with participants in anticipation of a presentation. The room is cool and carpeted, and it is dimly lit in preparation for a projection onto a large screen. Just like a Ted Talk.

I am late, or almost late, or about to be late because I am meandering outside this main room. Uncertain.

Just as I step toward the carpeted threshold, I am taken aside by a new presenter, a slight Asian man, a higher spiritual teacher.

I am both ashamed and confused. I had thought I was only a participant, and I can’t fathom that I would be late as an assistant.

But then I am angry. He does not understand what it is to be a woman. To tend to ones menses, for example; which is what I had been doing. (In my waking life too.)

He matches my energy with his own, making some reference to my sense of superiority, calling me Fräulein, with both disdain and something else. Respect? Provocation?

Whatever it is, it charges my sexual energy and I immediately want to consummate this relationship; though in reality I am not physically attracted to this elderly man, except that he is a powerful teacher.

When I wake, there is a sense of the desire for union–of the masculine and the feminine; and also a sense of ascending among spiritual teachers; and the lingering confusion about my own role.

life is like that…

I wake up thinking about Kelsey.
She was my son’s favorite swimming teacher at the community pool.

Beyond her competency and kindness, I remember particularly liking her name because it combined both mine and my husband’s names–Kelly & Casey–which would have been the perfect name for our own daughter, if we had one, and if that name hadn’t already been a favorite of the man I loved before my husband. Awkward.

Life is like that. A bit of a comedian. My son’s first “girlfriend” from daycare had the first name of my husband’s ex and the last name of my ex.

I don’t know what this all means, but something, somewhere, must be paying attention. How else can I explain that our son was born on the anniversary of our first night together? Which just happens to be celebrated by Catholics as the Assumption of Mary. Which is only vaguely worth noting even with our mothers’ heritage; unless you combine it with the fact that my husband himself was born on the Feast Day of Mary and I was born on the Immaculate Conception of Mary–making our family a trifecta of the Divine Feminine; without even needing to mention that we happened to buy a piece of land and build a house across the pond from a summer camp owned by the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

But back to beautiful Kelsey who is the true inspiration of this piece.

What was stunning about the news that September, 2006, after the god awful loss, was the proximity. My husband and sons had been on that same road, just moments before, heading in the same direction. Toward that intoxicated driver. The one who confessed to shooting up 3 bags of heroin before he got into his truck.

Route 12 in Swanzey, New Hampshire, past the Cheshire Fair Grounds, is not a road our family typically travels. But there’s a Honda dealership down that way, and we had just received the bad news that our old car needed to be replaced, so my guys headed there to find one.

That new car, is now 9 years old, and yesterday, we got the same unexpected news, about it needing to be replaced, so we put in a call to that same dealership.

Kelsey Wells Forever 18
Kelsey Wells Forever 18

Which is how my mind drifted to Route 12 in Swanzey, and to the awful accident that took Kelsey’s and her boyfriend’s life. And to the roses that my son and I brought to the pool and weaved through the fence there.

Which wouldn’t have inspired this post, until I opened the newspaper and saw Kelsey’s picture, on the anniversary of her birthday.

“Ready to die”

cropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-v1_at_8001.jpgMy son returns to college this weekend so I’m thinking about death.
Mainly my own.
How everything good ends.
And how life is such a trickster.
Sucking us in by love, disarming us of our defenses, distracting us with the infinity of doing, and then VOILA–death! Ending. Finality.

Having a family is the worse (or is it “worst.”) Simply because it seems so permanent. Particularly in the trenches. Like the diapers and the feedings and the messes will never end. And when they did, I was HAPPY.

But now, I’m 51. With a second foot into the decade that took the lives of my beloved mother and the grandmother I adored.

Plus it’s winter. A particularly hard and cold and frozen week of January in Vermont. The darkest time of year. And in Paris, a bunch of people were butchered.

“We’re ready to die,” said the terrorists.

A friend relays that he had a moment on his mat this week where he felt that it was okay to die. Really okay.

I had that once too. On my knees. In the garden. Rain soaked. My hands in dirt.

What if we woke every day with this aim?

Without saving any love or expression “for later.”

To be ready TO DIE in each moment.

But not like this:

Farewell 2014

10309510_10152520651623746_3264191283948952743_n 2Sitting vigil with the last hours of 2014.

Excavating insights buried in life’s busyness before the year passes.

Presence:

You know how guys typically want to solve a problem rather than listen to it? How they prefer to fix it and move on?

I think we might be the same with our bodies, no matter what our gender.

I know I am.

When my body complains, whether with an ache or an illness or a tough emotion, I’d rather move the discomfort along as fast as possible rather than sit down and listen to what is being expressed through it; unless it insists, by refusing to depart.

Parenting:

Being “cool” was REALLY important to me growing up, but I don’t need to be the cool mom. In fact, it’s a red flag when my son tells me that his friend said I’m “cool.” Parenting isn’t a popularity contest. It’s a privilege and a vocation and a sacrifice–of coolness–every day.

Process:

I have learned so much, and I have so much to learn; and these two will always go hand in hand.

Just this month, I learned that although I practice conscious living (as a human being, a student and a teacher), I have a lots of anxiety.

I carry a large chunk of that in my stomach.

Instead of noticing that anxiety, and feeling into it, and listening to it, I distract myself.

51 one years and I’m still learning new things about myself.
That’s pretty cool.
(But how did I miss it?)

2014:

I danced a lot this year.
I helped launch a son into a semester break abroad.
I watched my baby grow taller than me.
I began co-teaching with my husband.
I spent 10 weeks away from home.
I endured an emergency root canal.
I missed Halloween.

I did not not finish “my book.” I took lots of stabs at it, from all different angles. I’ve despaired. There have been many more nightmares straddling the conflicting desires of privacy and expansion. The desire persists.

AND what about you?
What say you in farewell to 2014?

Post-Racial USA (guest post)

Holding “both/and” instead of “either/or.”651d184b026fb7ecd9f9e6575e822f6b

We so desperately want to live in a post-racial America, but we don’t. We have to talk about race no matter how uncomfortable or painful, because it still determines the vastly different lived experiences of white and black or brown people.

I still think of this incident with shame. Something like 10 years ago, I locked myself out of my house. Because my dog was inside, I couldn’t wait until the next morning to call a locksmith, so I convinced a friend to break the window in my backdoor. My friend, a young African-American man, didn’t want me to leave him alone in my living room. He was afraid neighbors would report the noise we made breaking the glass and call the police. Imagine the police arriving to find what clearly looked like a break-in with a young black man in the house.

We laugh about it now, but our reactions at that moment speak volumes. What was to me, in all my white privilege, a flighty loss of keys that could easily be explained if the police arrived was for him a potentially dangerous and even lethal situation.

When I look at the video of Eric Garner being subdued by the police, I do not see a man resisting arrest. But others see something I don’t see. The myth of the big, scary black man is powerful, and I don’t doubt their fear is real.

No matter how many times I look at that video, the only frightening thing I see is the police officer who put him in a chokehold while others pinned him to the ground. I am furious he is dead. It doesn’t matter if he had 1,000 prior arrests, he shouldn’t be dead.

How can we not be overwrought with grief that 12-year-old Tamir Rice is dead? A white boy of the same size and age playing with the exact same pellet gun would be alive today.

So we protest in all our fury and sorrow with no apologies for too many black lives lost. That doesn’t mean we don’t also mourn for Officers Lui and Ramos, who were assassinated by a madman. We know police officers are workers doing very dangerous jobs. They are also the heroes who valiantly saved lives during 9-11 heedless of the risk to their own.

We can have two seemingly opposing thoughts at the same time, because both things are true. When we say ‪#‎blacklivesmatter‬, it doesn’t mean other lives don’t matter. It isn’t oppositional to white lives or police lives but to institutional racism. Talk of institutional racism angers people; they call it race baiting. But we have to talk about it, because it exists and silence is killing us.

Sandi Vito, New York, NY

nauseous with vision

Hopper
Hopper

i see shimmering wood floors

i hear music playing

i move across the room

a bright silk scarf brushes against my skin

I dance alone

in my center

a center for learning and consciousness and connection

i feel spacious inside
at ease
offering all that i have to those who come through the door

they soften upon entering

sink into self-compassion,
self-knowing
self-celebration

returning home to strengthen their relationships

to nurture wholeness and integration and acceptance

to release their gifts into the world

this place is my home
my work
my family
my everything

but where–in the world–is it?

10308250_461359630662896_569786176148467051_n

ps. I think it’s some place a bit warmer than Vermont, but with the same good water, good people, good politics and community.