I am a herd animal

The restless herd animal inside me is always seeking the next pasture. The next mountain range. The next spring.

I tell my hurried brain to soften: there is nothing but now. Nothing but rocks and worms and clouds and sun.

But my nerves buzz incessantly: what else- what else- what else. The answers come only in the form of soil shifting, of gravel and pebbles, of worms and rot.

November clouds. February sun. The seasons keep cycling no matter what.

Calm feels like a crime, but the busy days devastate me.

I want the wide sky stretching out ahead. I yearn for water, for rolling hills, for tree lines opening into unexpected meadows.

What could I be, if I spent my days doing nothing but living? I would watch the trees. Dig my fingers into dirt. Cook my food. Clean my pan. See the wind moving. Feel the temperature shift over the day.

There is nothing more I want. There is nothing more I need. But my mind always turns to something else. The next thing. Tomorrow.

So again I pull myself back. To the rocks. To the worms. To the clouds. To the procession of bees in summer and the dark birds in winter.

Diligence

I am tired of everything the universe asks of me

I am tired of patience, or diligence, of seeing the higher purpose

Of opening my arms to catch the bricks of every falling tower

Only to have them crumble in my hands and return to the earth, covering my toes in dust

I am spread across the ground like this leftover rubble

Dirty with regret

My best years are gone

And my future is hidden behind giant clouds and lightning

Yet the universe asks for more patience. More gratitude. More discipline.

I have nothing left and there is another leap to take. So I must tumble myself into the next phase.

I am told: this is greater than the individual course of your fate. But there is so much I don’t understand.

How do I know what to do next if I have never lived this before?

And over and over the answer comes:

Patience. Diligence. You must wait. You must continue.

The last brick falls. The earth swallows every last crumbling stone.

I stand in a bare field, and the universe asks me for faith. She asks me for trust.

I am as angry as a bare root. I am as hardy as a seedling. I am as grieved as a stump. I am as small as a twig.

But in the emptiness I plant my feet

And root

My New Life

This is how it feels to come back to myself

Finally

A valley away from where I started out

And I have found home within myself

At last

My soul flickered tenuously, life time to life time

Uncomfortable in my body, carrying a deep knowing of what was to come

Living was like walking a terrible tightrope

But when I finally fell

Somehow I landed on my hands and feet

Hips square to the ground, my nose to the dirt

And I found my place in it all

No more circling

No more agonizing

No more waiting to hear the terrible ending

The only way out of this cycle was through

How in this lifetime did I finally learn discipline and surrender?

How did all the lessons line up this way?

The way my feet press down into the ground is different now

The pattern has ended

I can return to myself

It is over

At last

Broken

These are the years that broke me

Broke me with black eyes- black tongue- throat gaping

These are the years I survived

Survived with bones of grey and nerves of white

My fingers prying open what had closed

The ash of each tragedy poured like thick dust from my mouth

There was hardness where there should have been softness

There were leaks of bile and blood where there should have been strength

Dampness eroded my core. Dryness peeled apart my skin.

These are the years that broke me. Years of skeletons, years of gravestones.

Worms grew out from under my nails.

I was muffled by my own corpse. Waiting for early death.

These are the years that broke me. These are the years I pieced myself back together.

Pulling apart each thread in my own fate.

I broke open. Rebuilding cell by cell. Fusing back what fell apart.

These are the years that broke me. That tore me open.

Weighed down by own death. Weighed down by fate.

But I am alive now, and my soul drifts untethered.

The rebuilding

Now I begin to rebuild

Slowly

Starting from the bones

Starting from the roots

New tendrils spreading out under rocks

Veins curling around organs delicate and white, like lace

The winding spirals of mitochondria

My circulatory system pulsing outward through networks of fungus and soil

Intimately mingling with the moistening tissues

To recharge my life, starting from the deepest places

It will take eternity to heal

It will encompass my entire soul

Now it begins with the smallest budding stems

And a handful of moist earth

Growing upwards, pushing outwards,

Tendril after tendril unfolding, reaching for the sky

I Died Every Day

For a year my body died every day.

Thunder rolled in my chest. My brain stuttered fast.

For a year my tears would not stop. My breath flew away from my chest. Dread circled in my gut like a spiny shark.

For a year my body died every day.

And I was not brave. My spirit fluttered weakly. I cried hot tears as I felt each moment pass- and each moment was my last. Endlessly in a horrifying spiral.

Every breath the final breath. Every second for a year. I said goodbye to the world. I said goodbye to my life.

I could not explain it. I could not put words to it.

Every moment I was dying. Without my deepest concentration I knew my breath would leave forever- my heart would beat into oblivion.

For a year my body died every day. But now I am alive.

So I ask myself: how do I come back from the dead?

How do I haul my soul out of the grave?

Losing Two Years

This is how I lost two years

I fast forwarded into now

This is how I lost you in those years

I lost us both inside myself.

I tried to explain: my brain is full. There is no room.

It was like living in a house with one room lit

Like sailing away into the fog

Like drifting down into the dust

Like disintegrating into ash.

I tried to explain: this is not who I am. This is not who I’ve always been.

Two years I lost.

They slipped away from me

Like holding onto melting snow.

I try to explain: for two years I wasn’t there.

Mind slow. I could not learn. I could not see.

The road washed away beneath my feet

The seasons changed around me.

This is how I lost two years

My head submerged in thick water and mud.

How it is

This is how it is

This is what it’s like

I’ve reached my late 20’s, and the floors are never clean enough

I can’t keep up with the grass- it keeps growing- it’s seeds spreading everywhere while I sleep facing away

Spiders sneak through the old siding of the house- they nibble at the backs of my legs while I dream.

Friday morning they canceled my yoga class so I climbed the butte downtown

The freeway whoosh drives the thoughts of my meditation up to the hills crowned in smoke

They have been drowning in it all summer

Each day the sun burns orange, brightening the night

But every surviving oak tree still twists up proud into the sky seeking safer air

And my heart aches with love for this valley as it burns, as it hates us, as sickens me.

This valley will boil me alive some day. But where else would I go to die by earth’s hand?

This is how it is

This is what it’s like

Here I am: the age I always wanted to be

Is this what I wanted?

Cheap house, cheap clothes, cheap couches. Cheap everything.

And my body tired far beyond its age.

Yet I have made a life for myself where most of the time

I am okay

I don’t get touched when I don’t want to be

Except once a year in a dream

I grow to accept the failings of my body

The healing of my body

The inevitable imperfections of this life

Questions hover around my future

Will the garden flourish?

Will the spiders ever stop biting me in my sleep?

Will I be forced to flee this burning valley someday?

Every year I feel the sun get hotter

Every day I feel my body struggle

Every summer the wind chokes me

Yet somehow, more than ever

I find peace

I Don’t Trust My Body

It is so hard for me to trust my own body. Some people feel easy in their bodies. They assume their body will automatically do the things it needs to take care of itself. They know their hearts will speed up when they run and slow when they lie down. They believe their lungs can handle the exertion of being in motion, they have felt that their nerves can take the stress of a hard day, they are assured that their livers can sift through the toxins they encounter and will protect them. They live their lives without thinking much about their bodies and how they function. They assume it will all be fine. Their bodies will take care of themselves.

I do not feel this way about my body. I never have. I have always thought that there was something deeply wrong with my body. I have always had an idea in my head that I will die young, and strangely. That people will scratch their heads in surprise when they hear about it, and how it happened. I have always been convinced that I need to be careful with my body, more than other people. I can’t trust that I will not die at any moment. I feel that I must tiptoe around my body, that I should subject it to too much or it might just break down. It could all just collapse at any moment: I track my heart beat to make sure it stays steady. I listen to my own breathing all day to make sure it doesn’t stop. I have lived my life in this fear, outside of the natural flow others find in their bodies.

I look back to find the deep roots of this problem, emotional and physical, that is now manifested. My parents never trusted me growing upno matter what I did to try to prove it. They always told me that trust is earned, but somehow I could never earn it. They didn’t trust my abilities, they didn’t trust my motivation, they didn’t trust my desires. Eventually, when faced with an impossible situation, there is nothing to do but internalize the very problem you are faced with. No matter what I did I would not be able to make my mother happy. If I was perfect, by her standards, she would be happy. But no body can ever be perfect. And eventually I turned this in on myself- finding all the imperfections in my own body.

I was betrayed by my own culture. My body was compromised from early on but no one intervened. My body cannot tolerate the expectations that are normal in this society: to eat foods that are toxic to us, to soak up the poisons in our shampoos and body washes, to live a life drenched in stress, to cope with the every day violence that is synonymous with womanhood. And no one helped me. My body was left to desperately survive on it’s own- so what could it do except internalize that is is inadequate? But it is not. It struggles like everyone else’s- the fact that it can put up with less of the stress that we are all under is a sign of it’s own strength, a sign of it’s own ability to sift right from wrong, to set clear boundaries with myself and my own culture and say NO, this is not how I was meant to live. Nobody knew how to help me until I was deep into autoimmune disease and I sought answers on my own.

What was my body supposed to learn from a world that didn’t help me as I struggled, except that I cannot trust myself, and there is no hope for me? The message was that I must suffer alone- I cannot trust my body to take of myself, and I cannot trust others to take care of my body.

So now these messages manifest in my disease. My body over reacts to everything. And I cannot trust it. It responds strangely and suddenly, without warning the inflammation starts and I feel like I am dying. Every fear I’ve ever had has been realized in this illness.

And yet, somehow, little by little, I am beginning to heal. I try to pull my illness out of me from the roots. Reaching down even farther, seeing if I can find those firm and stubborn seeds deeply imbedded in my cells, in my psyche, in my spirit. And the truth I know is that to heal I must open. I must allow. I must trust. I must forgive every betrayal of my own body.