Every Penny Helps

It was a warm September evening and I was out. I had met some friends for beverages and was now wandering the strip seeking the next adventure. And that’s when I saw him. Piercing blue eyes, baby face, an Ohm tattoo, backpack and a sign that said “Every Penny Helps”. So I stopped and I asked him if I could join him on the stoop. He obliged and I asked him what I could do for him. He told me that he was hungry so we went to one of the street vendors, got some food and returned to the stoop where I proceeded to ask more questions. “Why was he here?” “Where did he sleep?” “Why the ohm tattoo?” “Why didn’t he just get a job?” And what I discovered, I did not expect. He told me that he wanted a job; that he applied for jobs in the area regularly but that they always wanted a phone number to call him back and that he didn’t have a phone. It had never occurred to me that something like a phone could be the difference between sleeping on the streets and a job.

I left that evening with my mind full of this young man’s situation. And I vowed that if I saw him again I would buy him a phone. As fate would have it, less than 2 weeks later, as I was headed onto US Route 35, on the other of the barricade, on the off ramp, was a young man with piercing blue eyes, a backpack and a sign that said “Every Penny Helps.” So I got off the highway at the next exit, found a pay-as-you-go phone store and for $80 I purchased a basic cell phone, a sim card and minutes. I went back to the on ramp, pulled over my car, turned on my flashers and ran over to him. I handed him the phone, gave him a hug and drove away. The very next day I moved to a lake house for the winter an hour and a half away from the city. And I never saw him again.

Until last Saturday.

The day was a beautiful 70 something degrees and I was volunteering at a community event in Dayton, Ohio called The Longest Table that would bring together over 500 people from all walks of life and more than 50 zipcodes. I arrived around 2PM and signed in at the volunteer table as a table host. This Longest Table event featured a dinner table with more than 500 chairs spanning the Dayton Peace Bridge over the Great Miami River. Each section of the table held space for 6 people: a table host (me) and 5 other people strategically from different parts of the city to facilitate diversity, discussion, learning, community building and solution finding. After volunteer orientation, I went to the bridge to find Table Section 43 before the Opening Ceremony.

And that is when I saw him. Under the Peace Bridge sign was a young man with a piercing blue eyes, a backpack, an Ohm tattoo and a flower behind his ear. Standing silently watching the crowd. And so I went over to him. I said: “I don’t know if you remember me but last year about this time I..” and he interrupted me and said “You stopped on the ramp and gave me a phone.”  And so, I asked him how he was, where he was living, what he was doing. And he told me that he had a job at McDonalds, an apartment of his own and that he was doing well. And I hugged him. And I got tears in my eyes. And I asked him to stay and share food with the group. He pointed to the Peace Bridge sign and said he would stand for awhile.

At the opening ceremony, one of my closest friends approached me yelling: “Of course you know him! Of course you know him!” because as it turned out, he was standing beneath the Peace Bridge sign because on her way to the event she had stopped to greet a young man with piercing blue eyes, a backpack, an Ohm tattoo and a sign that said “Every Penny Helps” and invited him to this Longest Table event. And he had come. He was here because my friend invited him. And I got tears in my eyes as I hugged her.

After the Opening Ceremony the 500 plus people found their assigned seats. Every chair was taken and more were added. Except for Table Section 43. One chair remained empty when David found me to say goodbye. And my section of the table invited him to stay. As we went around the table introducing ourselves, sharing what part of the city we were from and why we were here, David said he was here because god wanted him to be. And the 83 year old woman to my left smiled a big smile and responded with an “Amen”.  And for the next 3 hours the 6 of us talked and listened and created a brighter future. And David shared with a perspective of our city unique to the streets.

I don’t know what impact this young man with piercing blue eyes, an Ohm tattoo, a flower in his hair and a backpack had on the group members at Table Section 43. But I have no doubt that his presence was far more impactful than an empty chair would have been. And that is how we transform our world. By showing up. By asking questions. By listening and sharing. By discovering one another. By eating a meal together, whether at a table on a bridge or on a corner stoop. By asking the question “What can I do for you?” and meaning it.

When $80 can change a life, when a meal can transform a city, when a hug brings tears to someone’s eyes, when your standing beneath a Peace Sign invites discussion, when “Every Penny Helps”, what are we waiting for?

Intention

Intention.

Sometimes food is nourishment. Sometimes food is punishment.

Sometimes words are creation. Sometimes words are destruction.

Sometimes silence is healing. Sometimes silence is cutting.

Sometimes alone is powerful. Sometimes alone is lonely.

Sometimes stories are medicine. Sometimes stories are sickening.

Sometimes laughter is contagious. Sometimes laughter is degrading.

Sometimes money is uplifting. Sometimes money is burdening.

Sometimes work is empowering. Sometimes work is defeating.

Sometimes goodbye is relieving. Sometimes goodbye is grieving.

Sometimes darkness fuels creativity. Sometimes darkness fuels madness.

Sometimes light is brightening. Sometimes light is blinding.

Sometimes giving is loving. Sometimes giving is expecting.

Sometimes time is endless. Sometimes time is minute.

Sometimes home is to wander. Sometimes home is solid ground.

Sometimes I am lost. Sometimes I am found.

Intention.

Barbed Wire

When someone loves those parts of us that we despise we recoil. It is uncomfortable. The dissonance is jarring. How could anyone possibly be kind to this? Can they not see the ugliness? How can they possibly hold with compassion this pile of excrement? And our lover is met with the rath of this wound. Barbed wire and razor blades. Words and actions from the depth of pain fired into their love leaving shrapnel in the wake. It is as if we say: You WILL hate me. For then our truth is true: I AM despicable, unworthy of love.

We can say: “See, that part of me is truly awful. I am as awful as I believe. I created that hurt and pain in someone that loves me. I deserve this self-hatred that I am sitting in.” And then we throw ourselves a pity party, wallowing in our sorrow, because we are in fact the most awful human being. We will never be lovable. And we ignore the truth that we are the ones who are continuing to create the dissonance.

Only by forgiving ourselves and loving the blemishes can we break the cycle. Like a child who breaks a vase of flowers, we must treat our selves with grace. Yes, the flowers are destroyed. Yes, the vase is in pieces. Yes, there is a mess to clean up.

And

We are still loveable. Beautiful. Human. Imperfect and flawed. Growing and learning. Transforming.

Forgive yourself and remove the barbed wire. Then create love. Receive love. Give love.

Feminine fire

Fall into the feminine fire that burns bright in your chest. Release the bonds that hold you back from unleashing the full strength within your core. That strength that climbs mountains and births babies. The strength that holds the hearts of your sisters and weeps with them, for them, because of them so that together you grow like an oak, strong and mighty, tall and majestic. Within your voice are the words that make movements, the songs that sting and bring peace, the silence that speaks loudly in the noise that drowns this place in chaos. In your body lies the ages of goddess grace that has come before you. Soft and strong, small and mighty.

Your body is a temple that houses life, creates life, is life. The curves are yours, my dear, not his or hers or theirs. Your body is your gift. Every step, every breath, every flicker of the eyelash is your doing, your making, your being. Your beauty comes from every grandmother, mother, daughter, sister, friend for we are women. We are the feminine goddesses that graces this place. Our mother nature calls us to sink into her and allow the water that flows to wash over us and carry us towards one another. You, my darling, are my kin. My tribe, my own. You are me and within each other we fall into the soft strength that we all hold. The feminine feeling, graceful giving.

When you stand strong in your feminine strength, you celebrate every woman who has come before you for within your fame is the story of every goddess who has walked this path. When you nurse your child, you are nourishing all children. When you hold space for your sister, you are holding space for all women. When you use your voice to scream for women’s rights, you are yelling for all girls, everywhere. We are women.

Love remains

When someone loves you, cherish them. When someone sees you, all of you, and accepts the darkness within the crevices of your being that you try to hide, allow the grace of this love to envelop you so that you feel the strength of it. When someone sits with your tears without judgment, listens to words unspoken and reads the meaning in the silence, allow this gift to wash over you so that who you see in the mirror is changed by the love that you have been given. When someone sends a text message and you can feel the depth of caring on that tiny screen in your hand, stop and sit in it. Allow the emotions to rise to the surface and be. When someone wraps their arms around you and holds your heart next to their heart so that you soften into the space that their love creates, breathe in the beauty of the connection. When you look into someone’s eyes and see the expanse that lifetimes created, get lost in the depths. When someone feeds you, let every bite be a celebration to the love that created the nourishment. When someone brings you flowers, let the perfume of them waft through you every morning so that the smile that they conjure shines all day. When someone calls you or sits with you with no other reason other than to see you, hear you, be with you, acknowledge this gift of time that they are giving. When someone is here, remember that at any moment, they could be gone, so be here with them now.

Love expands when we experience the truth of it. When we allow ourselves the grace to receive the love that is given to us – to truly cherish it – we do not take it for granted. We relish it. We allow the love to compound upon the love that we give ourselves so that their love becomes our love and it ripples around out around us.

Too often, we take this love for granted. We do not see the beauty in it until it is gone. Until we lose a friendship or lover. Until the kids are grown and gone. Until death takes the love away. And in the hole that the lost love leaves we see it. In the wake, we grieve the loss of the love.

So, when you mind wanders towards someone, follow your thoughts to find the direction and then extend your hand to let them know what they mean to you. Reach out and let love flow. Let them know. For all you have is this moment, right now, to love and be loved. Receive the love that you give. Cherish the love that is around you, within you, given to you. Recognize the gift that love is. The preciousness. The fragility. The strength. Allow love to change you, so that even when the giver is gone, the love remains.

Travelling at Motorcycle Speed

We are always in motion. Moving through life at the speed of “Where did the day go?” and “It feels like that was just yesterday.” and “I never have enough time.” Moving and doing. We are always going somewhere.

Yesterday, I spent the day on the back of a motorcycle chasing the 2017 eclipse. No destination. Simply a purpose: ride, find some grass and some water, watch the eclipse, enjoy the day and ride home. It was glorious.

Meandering through the windy backroads of Preble County Ohio, the wind loud in my ears, I could taste the journey. You see, on a motorcycle you are exposed to the world. The road is close. I could feel every imperfection in the asphalt. Fresh cut grass filled my nostrils as we rode by. I knew when a river was close without seeing it because the moisture cooled the air a couple of degrees: a refreshing mist on a hot August afternoon. A decaying carcass at a city stop light, black and flattened so that it was camouflaged by the road, left me wondering about the life it had lived, how fragile life is and how in death we too are no more than a dead animal on the road. On the state routes, the sun beat on us and the other vehicles whirled around us emitting fumes. On the back roads, the trees, quiet and grand, canopied overhead leaving shade and enveloping us in beauty and color. I found myself deliciously in the moment, tasting every detail. I stretched out my arms, tilted back my head and closed my eyes. And for a moment, I was flying. And laughing. And feeling. And living.

We are indeed in motion. Moving through life on this journey. And like most of the travelers that we encountered, we do so within the illusion of safety – in a box with glass windows that we look out at the world from so that we see it and don’t experience it. Cars are safe. Motorcycles are dangerous. A life on the highway in an enclosed box is safe. A life on the back roads where you taste the shunk on the side of the road is dangerous.

When we live our lives within the illusion of safety, encapsulating ourselves in the armor of identity, travelling 80 miles an hour towards some future destination, we miss out on the life that is all around us in this moment. We think that we are living in it because we can see it outside of our windows.

Life is lived on the back roads. Life is experienced when we get in it. When we taste it. When we feel it. When we stop and put our feet down on the pavement and smile at the wonder.

It is indeed dangerous to ride a motorcycle. Dangerous because it threatens the allusion of the life lived in a box moving at the speed of Someday. Dangerous because it envelopes you in the beauty of the elements. Dangerous because it forces you to take the roads less travelled. Dangerous because it questions the mundane.

We are always in motion. And we get to chose whether to take the back roads and expose ourselves to the sights and smells or take the highways and protect ourselves from experiencing life.

You don’t need to get on a motorcycle to choose a back road today. Open the windows. Stick your hand out and feel the air. Step out of the box and sit in the grass for a moment. Close your eyes and taste the details. Put your feet on the pavement and smile at the wonder. Travel at the speed of Today.

Miles to go

Emotions suck me into a place where I am blind to truth. Reality is blurred by the rush of chemicals coursing through my veins. I tremble. I yell within my mind to stop overreacting. I can see the ridiculousness in my response and yet I am overwhelmed by the moment.

These feelings suck me into a tiny space when I can only fight out of the corner. My back against a wall of my own making, I lash out. Claws protracted, I growl. Protecting open wounds, bleeding on the floor, my life is on the line. How dare you? I scream. I cry. The dragon in me stands tall to protect the little one within my skin.

In retrospect, I can watch the movie and tell myself how I should have behaved. It is easy to point at the past and see the flaw in exposing claws. After the poison had past and silence calms the emotions, reality returns. And the child who cowered in the corner is still wondering what happened. She is still fragile.

Sober reflection reveals the lessson. I still have miles to go.

This journey is not a straight path. It is a circle turning around itself so that lessons learned are revisited to deepen the understanding. Each experience opening the gate to a new depth, a new death, a new revelation. Each arrival spurring the next departure, reminding me that I still have many miles to go.

 

I am more than this

I live in the deep depths of the ocean where the pressure suffocates the senses. That place where reality narrows to a laser focus. I am all that is. My emotions, my mind, my breath, my body fade and all that exists is the silent pressure. The weight of every decision, every word, every action. The weight of that which my being affects, touches, corrupts and conditions. I sit in the awareness of my impact. Small and mighty. Dangerous and insignificant. Gross and graceful. I am the pain I induce and endure. I am the pleasure I provide and seek. I am the truth that evades us all. I overwhelm.

Words tripping over truths that define ethereal thread. Connections created beyond the stops in the sentences of the stories. Time is an allusion that defines a reality as unreal as dreams. Wrapped in the moment an amalgamation, conglomeration, instantiation of all that transpired to reach this silence that holds this singular expression of life. All that was is now. Upon the history of lifetimes, with the space of the distance imagined to exist between us, this empire of humanity resides.

I sit in this expansion that cradles the future in the past existence. The allusion that where I have been has baring on tomorrow. And yet, the lifetimes of impact teaching this soul the sights unseen and in eyes I glimpse that part of myself that I lost along the way. The connected piece that in the moment I remember. I am not simply this soul. This body. This mind. I am more than this..

 

Community

Four months ago, my friend created space to live in community with other women. She opened her home to myself and another friend. We embarked on this journey together of female friendship and shared experience. We began to create a family, a tribe, a home base. A safe place. And in the garden where the seeds of love were planted, a life of kindred souls has emerged. I am home.

Yesterday, I shared with my soul sisters my current struggle with food. Food and I have had a storied past and my latest struggle sprouted out of a new workout regime, a vegetarian-paleo diet and allergies to wheat and coconut. I confided that my hunger was all consuming. That I was unsure of what to eat and felt as if I could never get enough. My sisters listened and loved me without judgement. They encouraged a day of rest from the gym and offered to help.

Today, I came home to smells of food in the oven and on the stove. A refrigerator full of vegetables, avocados and zucchini on the counter and sweet potatoes and onions in the pantry. With steam wafting through the house, she explained: here is an egg casserole that you can take with you. Here is a vegetable stir fry with leafy greens and brussel sprouts. Here are more on-the-go vegetables.

Here is a house full of love and tenderness. Here is a hand to hold while you figure this out. Here is my friendship, my understanding, my hands, my heart.

Tears are the only response that adequately conveys this moment. To be seen and loved. To be cared about and cared for. To sit in the grace of kinship, abundant love sprouted in this chosen community. This tribe, this love, this moment. I am humbled and grateful. I am blessed.

This journey is not a solo mission

Sometimes we need help. Sometimes we need a fellow traveller to lighten the load. Sometimes we need to take a break. Sometimes we fall and we need a hand to help us up.

Sometimes we need to push through the pain. Sometimes we need to pick up our pack and soldier on. Sometimes we carry the burden so that others suffer less.

You are the only one that can take the steps. No one can live your life for you. Only you experience your laughter and your pain. Only you can set your course and travel the distance. This is your journey.

And, life is not a solo mission. There is joy in sharing the path with fellow travellers. A community of people our kind of crazy that challenge us to push through, reach out a hand when we fall and share the experience. Share the burden. Share the laughter. Share the sustenance. Share the rum.

Your journey is your own. You take these steps. You set the course. And who you choose to travel with impacts the journey. Surrounded by a like-minded tribe, life is gloriously shared, amplifying the experience so that the joy is expanded and the pain reduced.

Live your life. Take your steps. And find your tribe. Your people, the ones that will hold your hand through the pain and sing with you on the mountain tops. For this journey is not a solo mission. It is meant to be shared.