Cleavage.

I choose my most revealing top for a spontaneous drive to sea, not because I want to reveal, but because–skin, air, a September return of summer and something else–something feminine–not soft or attracting–but essential–FULL–surrendered–MINE.

At 53, I can expose my cleavage, and not because it’s in fashion, though that helps, but because: What does it matter?

My softening, descending breasts no longer belong to a man’s gaze or a babe’s mouth.

And still, as I load my car, passing in and out of my mudroom, I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, and mutter out loud, something I’ve never heard said (or thought?) by me before:

“Slut.”

I’m struck by this assault.

“Wait, what did you say?” I ask. “Don’t say that.”

But I’m equally intrigued.
Where has this thought been hiding?
How long has it held me back?
Defined me?
Defiled me?

(And yes, I realize that not only am I talking to myself, but arbitratrating between selves, as if there are 3 of me. So what. I am large. I contain multitudes.)

It was an early August wedding (just before the respiratory virus from hell) when I photographed my nieces’ cleavage. I asked first.

“Why?” they said.

“Because of beauty and light and flesh.”

Budding. Ripening. Surrendering.
Maiden. Mother. Crone.
Defining. Life-giving. Fulfilling.

 

I consider changing my top.
(I don’t.)

Breasts are brilliantly placed.
Over the lungs.
And the heart.

My heart has been broken this year.
By this Nation.
By the election of a man who defiles my gender.
Grabs body parts like my junior high classmates at West Point Elementary in the dark halls circling the USMA Academy Football Stadium.
As if we belong. To them.
As if the whole point of us, was their. Pleasure.
As if men can’t bear for women to be both beautiful and sovereign.

I photograph my nieces’ breasts because it is clear–their breasts belong to them.

That’s why I go to the Sea.
That’s why I expose my Cleavage.
That’s why I take the remaining seat on the bench at the top of the beach.
A man on the other end. Decades younger.
A handful of his companions on the next bench–loud, and taking up space, in the way men are always free to do.

I take out a book and read.
A chapter later, the men rise to leave, and I look up to see them pile into a large van.
Work release?
Were they dressed the same?

My mind re-imagines the bench scene:

“You don’t want to sit here,” he says. “I’m a criminal.”

“Are you?” I respond. “I’m 53, on the brink of menopause. I could be a criminal at any moment.”

I’m struck by how often I say  or think “53” to myself, as if it is a thing, this random number, defining nothing in its ambiguity, but somehow something, a year in which I have been radically reshaped from the inside–blood being held instead of released–while polite society dismisses the transformation as nothing, as loss, as problematic.

“Anger,” a male friend said to me. “Is a problem.”

I think anger is appropriate, I say, Useful, instructive. (I’ve only just begun to befriend anger.)

“We don’t have control when we give into anger,” he says.

“Ah,” I say. And then I launch into all the ways that women have to live without control. In the home or the office or the White House. In anticipation of menses, never knowing when we’ll bleed or how inconvenienced we’ll be. The possibility of pregnancy, the radical transformation of body and self, labor and delivery, not to mention–nursing, mothering and letting go–all capped by Menopause. A journey, not of control, but of surrender, again and again.

I remember sitting with my sister at her long wooden kitchen table, our views at opposite ends. Abortion was the topic. Evangelical her lens. Autonomy mine. Both of us loved our babies, those lost or given up, those hanging by our sides. Without changing our minds, without trying to change each other, we hold hands, across the divide, of what it is to be a woman, to be a mother. We weep. Together.

“It is this tender heart that has the power to transform the world,” writes Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, a man who must know surrender.

I am writing this piece in a cafe, and like the father of the toddler at the table beside me, I have to remind myself, again and again, I may not shout, even as a shout threatens to explode like a thunder clap:

Turn off this fucking music!
Everyone shut up! I can’t hear my voice.
Open the windows. It’s too stuffy in here!

(I may have been too harsh with my family this morning.)

I’ve spent the past year angry and heartbroken and surrendered. Every year has its companion. Mine was a recommendation from my first born: Jack Kornfield’s, The Art of Forgiveness, Lovingkindness, and Peace. I’ve just finished it. (I think I’ll start again from the beginning.)

It’s taken decades to give up the power that my appearance held, while slowly and all at once claiming the sovereignty of irrelevance.

Of belonging.

To me.

Because a heart broken,

Expands.

~

(Related post: I’m Leaving.)

Advertisements

Summer Solstice. prayer. blessing. dream.

Last night, I woke, as I often do these days,
no longer drenched, but misted,
with a fine release–of attachment, I suppose.
Behind my knees and under my
shoulders and also between my breasts;
and lately even, in the crook of my
arms, as if I’ve been carrying too much;
and just this week, tiny beads of sweat, dripping.
down. my. spine.
Refining, I suppose,
Me.
Only this night,
Solstice Eve,
I remain awake, and feel something
more–a lightening inside–so very light–
my bones–that i think to myself…

So this is what it is be a bird.

(Bird Egg Feather Nest, Maryjo Koch)

after a weekend with tara brach

photo: October 2016, Kelly Salasin

This morning I woke with a dis-armored heart.
Which wasn’t as frightening or as fabulous as it might sound.
Only noticeably different.
A little achy perhaps.
With a burning sensation.

As Monday morning quickly unfolded–with obstacles–I recognized my availability to–what was–without wishing for something different. This lent a sweet softness to a time that is typically tense.

I realized then that my mind had been so clever.
Not only had it protected me from the depth of my pain and losses;
It kept me from the depth of love & greatest longings.

The Revolution (Inside)

One week ago, I interviewed for a job–and a revolution began–inside. (Either that or I ate some bad chicken wings.)

revolution |ˌrevəˈloō sh ən|
noun
1 a forcible overthrow of a government or social order in favor of a new system; uprising.
• a dramatic and wide-reaching change in the way something works or is organized or in people’s ideas about it

Finally, the long-held tyranny of a demanding dictator was toppled–inside.

tyranny |ˈtirənē|
noun
cruel and oppressive government or rule:  the removal of the regime may be the end of a tyranny.
•rule by one who has absolute power without legal right.

It was a bloody and painful revolution–inside.

I wish that it were enacted more peaceably, but alas, the tyranny was so much a part of the system that it was numb–until it could no longer bear to be. Unfortunately, this sudden coup left a vacuum of power, making the system more susceptible to another takeover.

Had it been intentionally carried out, plans would have been made for transition. A new governing body would have been installed–one which represented the best intentions of the whole–enacted with compassion and courage.

courage |ˈkərij|
noun
the ability to do something that frightens one;
• strength in the face of pain or grief.

PHRASES
have the courage of one’s convictions; act on one’s beliefs despite danger or disapproval.

The word Courage comes from the Latin “cor” meaning “heart.”  Despite the tyranny of the mind and its troubled past, “heart” had always been nurtured within this system.  “Heart” is what made it possible to endure the dictator and to imagine something else was possible–inside.

imagination |iˌmajəˈnā sh ən|
noun
the faculty or action of forming new ideas, or images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses;
• the ability of the mind to be creative or resourceful;

The word imagination comes  from the Latin “imaginari” which means “picture to oneself.”

I have long “pictured myself” in softer, more colorful hues; and I have learned that this is not a state of doing, but one of being–in alignment with body, mind and soul.

Given the current revolution, I have an opportunity to allow the old way to decay, to fall from the vine, providing room for the new way to flourish-inside.

flourish |ˈfləri sh |
verb
1 grow or develop in a healthy or vigorous way, esp. as the result of a particularly favorable environment : wild plants flourish on the banks of the lake.
• develop rapidly and successfully : the organization has continued to flourish.
• to be working or at the height of one’s career during a specified period;
2 to attract the attention of others.

The verb flourish comes from the Latin “flor” meaning flower; and at one time. flourish meant to adorn, as with flowers, in order to attract the attention of others.  That meaning has become obsolete, replaced by the idea of flowering from the–inside.

This brings some new thought to mind: Rather than replace the old tyrant with a new ruler, perhaps I could employ another use of the word revolution– from the Latin, “revolvere,” meaning to “roll back.”

revolution |ˌrevəˈloō sh ən|
noun
2 an instance of revolving;
• motion in orbit or a circular course or around an axis or center.

The truest revolutionary act may be to “revolve” around my own center, living my life more fully from the–inside.

Kelly Salasin, 2010

(To read the previous post on the Life Purpose Path, click this link:  Great Expectations. Or the ensuing post:Sweet Surrender.  To find out more about the path, click here.)