I’m leaving.

I wake with a start and a stirring. A tug. A pull.

“I have to go to the ocean,” I tell my husband.

Our bank account disagrees; so I tell it that I will drive there and back in a single day, departing absurdly early and returning late, without the need for an overnight stay.

But a week passes, and still I haven’t recovered enough from that tenacious August respiratory virus to fund the energy needed for this kind of day trip; which is unfair because it is this very virus that no doubt produced this untimely insistence on the ocean. It is already September, the air is cooling, and school has begun.

Rumi’s words echo even as my commitment wanes:

What matters is how quickly you do what your soul directs.

 When a week passes and a string of summer-like days return, I go to the pond–a place where I am stirred, again and again, by beauty and light, but like a toddler, denied a specific spoon, I am unsatisfied.

“I must stay overnight,” I say, and with that, I renew my commitment, and add to it–boldness and creativity, while my efforts are met, without success.

I go to bed on Monday, muddled, and wake the same on Tuesday, and decide to find clarity, inside:

I get on my mat.
I write in my journal.
I take my supplements.
I tend the garden.
I shower outside.
I do what needs doing for work.

All the while, I do something else, slowly, nonchalantly, covertly, just in case, little by little—setting aside, at first, some underwear, and then a bra; and then an outfit or two; a toiletry kit; some beach things; waters and snacks, and finally a meal for lunch and then dinner.

At 11:00 am, I leave a note for my family on the kitchen table:

Heading east.
Be back tonight or tomorrow.
Will message.

Just then, an email comes through–a single night in an Airbnb at a very friendly rate. I update my note to my family.

It is well into the afternoon when I arrive up the coast of Maine, not all ideal, and I have to resist chiding myself so that I can receive what daylight remains–to sit and read and take in the smell of the sea and the sounds of waves, and to walk in the surf, and finally to float and then to submerge myself fully in Her embrace.

Afterward, I rack up a $9 check at an upscale restaurant–a glass of Portuguese wine and a mini lobster roll with fries—Yay, Maine Happy Hour!—and when I arrive back at my room, I receive another email–an unexpected payment from a client—for the exact amount of my stay.

Alas, the angsty restlessness I felt in needing to come, and in deciding to come, and even in the coming and the arriving, continues, even the next morning as I sip coffee at my favorite cafe, and even as I walk along the stunning cliffs at the lighthouse, and even as I sit in the sand and build a sand castle like I did as a child; so that it is a continuous practice, this being with me, with awareness and compassion:

“Of course, you’re restless,” I say. “These are shifting times. Not just summer’s end, and your mother’s anniversary, and a month of coughing, but this heartbreak of an administration, and the fires and floods and shootings, and then, of course–this leaving of motherhood, not to mention hot flashes and a road trip without air condition.”

Exactly 24 hours after I arrive in Maine, I begin driving south, and then west, and three hours later, I cross the Connecticut River from New Hampshire to Vermont, and then turn off the highway to stop at the fish market to soften the separation of the sea and me.

Mothers do, you know.
They leave.
They drop their kids off at daycare or at school and never come back.

I’m leaving.
I’m leaving.
I’m leaving.

These words appeared like a mantra after I’d written the note to my family, ominously hinting at a larger leaving, and continuing, even after I arrived back home.

I’m leaving, I’m leaving, I’m leaving.

I half-thought I might not make it to Maine or home again. That I’d die on the road like my grandmother did just a year older than me. I remind myself, firmly, that I’d like to transform without such drama as she (or my mother) enacted.

And still, my spirit is called into the wild, and as I lean in to listen, I hold back, for fear of going too far.

~

(Related post: Cleavage.)

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the deva in the darkness

A certain day became a presence to me;
there it was, confronting me–a sky, air, light:
a being. And before it started to descend
from the height of noon, it leaned over
and struck my shoulder as if with
the flat of a sword, granting me
honor and a task. The day’s blow
rang out, metallic–or it was I, a bell awakened,
and what I heard was my whole self
saying and singing what it knew: I can.

by Denise Levertov

Fuessli, visipix.com

I wonder why we’re so quick to reach toward the Sun on Solstice.

Why do we dismiss the gift of the darkness?

Sipping margaritas under the summer sun is simpler. Much simpler.

I’ve read that the days leading up to Solstice are the most feminine of the year–a time of pause, of rest, of surrender. Winter’s yin to summer’s yang.

I need that.

Why do I fight it then? (Curse it, even!)

Why do I place a higher value on the expression on my yang than on the yin which necessarily conceives it?

This Solstice day is a dark one in New England. I’ve lit my tree and my staircase and my wreath to make Holy the darkness. In this week before Christmas, I’ve opted for extra yoga classes instead of the gym–seeking that which is slow and restorative to anything more invigorating.

My doctor calls, suggesting an upgrade with my progesterone cream–offsetting the havoc inflicted by my shifting hormones.

I’m hesitant to claim the relief.

Do I not deserve it? Wouldn’t I prefer to be my usual, satisfied self?

These are the questions I ponder in my therapist’s chair.

She tells me that some women say that it is their PMS self that is their truest reflection.

Am I an edgy, agitated, easily-irritated woman?

I can be.

Do I want to be?

I’m surprised to discover that, right now, I do. I prefer her. She fits. She has something important to say.

Annie Dillard writes that, How we spend our days is how we spend our lives.

This morning I wake in self-love, the first I’ve felt in weeks. Gone is my fractured mind and my ever-present angst. My body is tired, but I feel whole. Still. Contained. Embraced.

I open my computer, and watch as that changes. With each click of the mouse, my mind wakes to the day. My fingers speed over the keys, delighting in the rapid succession of taps. Despite this engaging stimulation, my wellbeing begins to fray.

When I click on my browser, I am at once overwhelmed by how many pages I work at one time. I close all but one, and then suffer the lack of efficiency.

I resist the urge to check email while a page is loading. I don’t scan Facebook. I stay present to the site that is open in front of me. Even though nothing is happening. Even though I am bored. Even though this is impractical.

I witness how my thoughts race ahead of my body. I bring them back. I am gentle.

Slowly my sweet sense of sanity fractures away. The phone rings. An email comes through. A Facebook chat chimes. The Christmas cd skips. I have to pee.

Had there been sun–or hormones–I wouldn’t have noticed any of this…

This is how I live my life.

This is its cost.

This is the darkness illuminating the price tag.

Kelly Salasin, December 21, 2011

To read more on self & the holidays, click here.

To read more about the Sun and Winter Solstice, click here.

Pain Meditation, a message for my mid-life friends

I feel the headache come on suddenly, at my right temple, soon after the dinner guests leave.

I scan the lovely evening for triggers:

vodka, pizza, massage.

Then realize that my vision had been off for hours, which means the migraine was already on its way.

I no longer fret and tense up in fear when they arrive… unless it’s my birthday or something… which has happened twice in the past decade.

Hormones.

Migraines have been hanging around me for thirty years… so if nothing else, they’re familiar.

They were the worse in my teens and early twenties; and then again in my thirties when I was pregnant; and now, in my forties as the mid-life changes are upon me.

But I don’t fight them anymore… which seems to soften them.

I have some new tricks too. My favorite is a lightweight knit cap that I put over my head as soon as I feel the vascular pressure shifting. This helps stabilize the temperature which lessens the constriction.

Green tea is another soother, and I’m sitting down with a fresh cup right now.

I use Arnica cream on my neck as it often tenses up in response to the pain, and then prolongs or intensifies the headache.

I feel like Migraines and I really know each other now, though I try not to take them personally.

I don’t do so well with menstrual symptoms however. It’s only been in the last decade or so that I’ve really suffered serious cramps or mood swings.

Lately it’s been viscous.

I know this means that the fertility party–inside–is almost over… I’m almost 50… so I try to buck up… even when each bleed comes sooner and sooner; and often leaves a migraine in its wake, just as I start to feel better.

My most recent cycle was particularly fascinating. For days I felt like weeping (which is unlike me), and then on the last day I woke in a rage (also unlike me.) “Isn’t this interesting,” I thought, when I wasn’t terrified.

Fortunately for me, there is little in my life upon which to assign blame for this drama…  so I get to see it for what it is:

an Invitation.

I challenge myself to stay with my cramps or my sadness or my fury… without trying to add a story to it.

It’s not because the kitchen is a mess or because my husband forgot the bread or because my boss asked me to do one more thing.

It just is.

And if I don’t run from it, or medicate it, or otherwise distract myself from it, I’ll find something in the pain worth finding.

Fortunately, this month’s round of rage is so strong, it doesn’t lend itself to distraction.  I’m forced to come face to face with it, despite my fear; and here’s what I find:

Leftovers.

Garbage disposal contents.

Unprocessed fury.

25+ years old and rotting.

It is excruciating to revisit this time in my life, but I do… only to let it go.

Of course, it’s not that simple. I have kids. I have a husband. I have a job.

But no worries, because this anger is insistent.

I’ve read that at middle age, a woman must resolve her “issues” or enter the second half of life bitter. It’s this pain that gives me the opportunity to shed yet another layer of hardness that I relied upon for protection.

But no 50 year old woman needs that kind of added armor. We are too powerful a force of nature!

What we need (and the world needs of us) is all the tenderness we can muster.

And to do that,

we must meditate

on our own pain.

With love,

Kelly

June 2011