There really are no defeats, only realignments, assessments, reappraisals; as long as there is breath, as long as the heart still beats. Of course I wish that the situation had played out differently in the Human Rights Committee, and the union as a whole, and for the forces of repression, division and empire, this was a cunning victory; how to get a “progressive” union leadership to destroy the future of the Human Rights Committee, for years to come! (But I haven’t written about that yet, and will probably post it to the Café Intifada blog when I do, probably some time this week, or perhaps in installments.)
For those of us who have ever taken serious inventory of our lives and begun to make amends for trespasses, what becomes apparent rather quickly, is that rarely was the trespass so severe that the one most hurt was the other person, for in most cases she dusted herself off, and got on with her life. It was more often the trespasser who lost out on a deeper relationship, better opportunity, greater community, usually acting out of fear or greed, not love, hope, transformation, the outcome was always to the detriment of real growth and abundance.
And in this case, the period of devastation has passed. My adversaries will have to live for a long time with the mess they have made, perhaps, even now unable to see what it is they have wrought, but I am sure it will become apparent soon enough. Having reassessed my life, I feel like I am back on my path; my memory of who I am and what I value, restored. I am writing again, planning a future with Andy, working on a few surprises that will provide ample opportunity for community, transformation, connection and healing. The cloud has lifted and my mind is clear enough to enjoy tea with Sonali, lunch with Linda or a visit to a sick friend; without feeling so overwhelmed with my own difficulties that I cannot participate, create a communion of our diverse paths, problems, struggles, visions.
I am not so afraid of public or people anymore. It helps that I am feeling stronger, and as my son reaches adulthood, my responsibilities are not so heavy and overwhelming. I have not needed a scooter for some time, able to negotiate large supermarkets on my own two feet, and only using the walker for longer social engagements where I have to stand and “mingle.” Strange, how standing is harder and more exhausting than walking.
Today I am tired, weak and sore. I think it is from working in the garden yesterday. I pruned the roses and got rid of the weeds. Not a lot of work, but enough to tax my sick body. I don’t mind these relapses when they last only a few hours, or allow me to get some work done from bed. It is when the pain is so great that I cannot sit up and I am laid out flat or when these limitations stretch, so surreptitiously, into days or weeks, so that what may have at first seemed like a necessary nap, lays me out, minute plus minute, for what seems like eternity, each moment a drop of a leaf; each hour, no different than the one preceding, the one following, often too weak to rise, too awake to sleep.
I had planned to go to Pasadena, see my therapist, my acupuncturist and my chiropractor, but I am feeling light headed, weak and sore. Tonight there is a reiki gathering I want to go to that only meets once a month. It is too much for me to do in one day. So, I will have the therapy session over the phone (with the little men from the government adding to their profile of me, if it so interests them!) and visit the other two practitioners on Wednesday so I can go to the event this evening. Today I will spend some time in my home, gazing at my garden; writing. I have been so neglectful of the inner dialogue, as well as the entire writing process; rewriting, sending material out for publication.
If I died tomorrow, I would not regret missing one more meeting, but rather, not having written down the ideas I have that dance in my mind. It is tedious. Solitary work. I am finally feeling a calm contentedness and am ready to court my muse. So, that’s my calling. That’s what most immediately needs to be done.
And community; I had wanted for so long to find Andy. My friends insisting that it was some patriarchal internalization of a need for a man to make me whole. But it isn’t that. It is the beginning of community. My extended family is not close, neither in proximity nor intimacy, and in Los Angeles, we are all so far apart and so afraid. So many people are so self-serving that there is a whole ethic to support the isolation of greed, so that no relationship is really what it might appear to be. People cling to their pair bond relationship, seeing friends less often. Andy is my daily contact with another human being. I don’t have co-workers. My friends are all very busy with their own careers, families and social justice work. I have found a handful of people who have a profound integrity and deep wisdom. We get together when we can. But we are so far apart. In Southern California we bravely attempt to maintain community over such a large geography. The region spreads out mile after mile. There are few discernable communities, there is no container for human interaction. My nearest friend lives two miles away, Ariella lives 5 miles away. Sonali and Jim live 20 miles away. Linda lives 30 miles away and Andy’s apartment is 32 miles from here. It is an impossible geography, one that takes real planning to attempt to breach. Andy and I are waging such a strategy. But it will take time, real creativity, and we’re not showing our hand yet! Not yet!
But it is more than that. . It is also a patriarchal construct that we can do it alone, that we don’t need each other. This rugged American individualism keeps us divided, selfish and apart. There is much growth one can do, on one’s own. There is the work of self-acceptance, independence, autonomy; questions most women need to address. But there are those possibilities that can only occur in communion, in connection, commitment, community. It is the deep work of love, growth and interdependence. I am so blessed to find in Andy a partner with whom I am so aptly matched, even our strange sense of humor, our playfulness, in addition to our process, the honesty we both bring to dialogue, problem solving, growth and discovery, the willingness to support each other’s visions, commitments, work and ambition. His is not an easy schedule. He is at meetings most nights and away many weekends. I joke; it’s like dating Gandhi, except that he doesn’t beat me! (Gandhi beat his wife.) Imagine Gandhi coming home and his partner, for she was an amazing partner to him, saying; “but you never spend any time with me!”
I am not easy either. My health limits the plans we can make and often forces us to cancel at the last minute. I am a single mother and my son has his own set of special needs and demands. As I gain the independence of the empty nest I want to go back to school, go to writers conferences, hone my craft. Andy is the partner, busy with his own path, who will never take me away from mine, never call me home when I need to wander, never try to limit my vision or whittle away at my strengths. Both Andy and I have need for solitude, which will perhaps be the greatest obstacle to overcome when we bring our homes together, and something we must keep in mind while looking for a suitable place to build this life.
But today, this last few weeks, actually, I am filled with hope. I am not naïve, though often accused of it (a rather sexist accusation, never applied to men with lofty ideas or hopes—no one ever said to King, or Jesus or Gandhi that they were naïve—and look how things ended for them!) I know the obstacles we are up against. I am aware of our own brokenness, our wounds, traumas, the internal divisions, egos, fears, ambition, privilege and barriers that threaten to destroy us from within. I am acutely aware of the immensity of the machine we have yet to dismantle.
And I know how small I am, a weak woman, in a bed, watching the daily changes to the pomegranate tree that fills the view from the French doors that lead from my bedroom to my garden. It has been good company this tree. When I leave this home, I shall miss her and the changes of the seasons that she narrates so intelligently.
It was Audre Lorde who said, “When I dare to be powerful – to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid”. Perhaps that’s it. It is my vision that is restored, the direction, the path. I was quite a hiker before I became ill. When the trail got too long, or I got too tired, I remembered to just take the next step. The hike, no matter how long was simply a strand of solitary steps beaded together.
And acceptance brings change. It is my life, not the life of those who would try to control me, condemn me or bring me down. Once claimed, and clearly on the right road, all I need to do is take the next step.
If you are a kindred spirit, I hope to meet you on the trail.
Remember; carry lots of water, and watch out for rattlesnakes.