Promise of SpringThere’s melt in the streets.  And a strange sound over my head—water drizzling down from the eaves into the downspouts.  Winter is letting up—at least it’s affording us a breather.  A collective sigh rises up from the whole town.  Folks hunched over their coffee cups at the café sit up a little straighter.  Smiles come a little easier to winter-tired faces.

My own internal winter is letting up as well.

Wednesday I hit a wall of despair.  Swimming my laps in the pool, I knew I couldn’t go back to my apartment for one more day of fighting myself and losing.  I gave my self permission to go to Des Moines.  After six weeks of frugal living, I allowed a therapeutic splurge.

The movie was awful, but the actual movie is never the point.  It’s the going.  It’s the ritual of driving through Starbucks, going into Panera for my bagel, sitting in the huge, empty food court and writing in my journal with earbuds firmly in place.  It’s the familiar rite of ticket, popcorn, and finding the perfect seat.  It’s making a nest and soaking in the previews—all those good movies coming.  The rhythm of ritual is comfort and safety.  It’s my rosary with a different kind of bead.

Afterward I went to Barnes and Noble to read magazines and fell asleep in the big easy chair.  So tired.  Worn through by this long depression.  Then, meditation with my friends, who were so glad to see me after six weeks away.  And in our quiet conversation, I felt the melt begin.  A subtle shift of temperature.  A warming of my mental air.  I thought the day and my friends might have just cheered me a little—I’ve been fooled by false springs before.  But, the thaw seems to be holding.

I can feel my brain recalibrating and leavening as the mental ice floes break apart.  It’s a little easier to do what I want instead of being driven by compulsion.  There’s a suggestion of joy, like the tremor of seeds under the frozen earth.  And it’s enough.  Just knowing winter doesn’t last forever.  It’s enough.

Back in the Driver’s Seat

I can’t be alone!  Because—as you must have noticed—I’m—not very well…  Blanch DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire

♦ ♦ ♦

I got in my truck this morning and drove.  Ear buds firmly in place and rocking to John Mellencamp.  Sun warm and golden on my face.  Belly pain mitigated by Advil.  Oh, sweet freedom after giving up driving to surgery.

I ended up seeing a movie (Friends with Kids.  Highly recommended), then camping out at Panera the rest of the day working on Callinda.  I put in a good four hours of writing, which felt fabulous after a week and a half of narcotics-induced brain fuzz.

The weather today was pure spring.  I had the windows down on the way home and could smell the trees budding.  Heaven.

Today gave me courage to think outside the post-surgical box.  Monday, I’ll start back to the Y, now that I can drive without issue, to walk on the track and in the water.  Take it easy, see how it goes.  The next four weeks of restrictions are starting to seem possible instead of incarcerary.

And as for Callinda, I’m down to the last three chapters of the book, which I plan to post all at once.  There’s too much weaving back and forth now at the end to try to do otherwise.  And there is an end.  I’ve seen it and it sees me.

Shuffling Through Marshalltown

I just got back from my afternoon walk—a slow-motion shuffle around three square blocks.  All the better to see the lilac bushes greening and crocus heads swelling.  Iris blades like emerald knives slice through the winter brown.  A warm, moist breeze calls Spring to come forward.

This is my fourth walk since coming home from the hospital yesterday.  Each time I go a little farther, see something a little different.  At 1:30 in the morning, stars talk out loud and warm, velvet air slides over skin.  At 8:30 the Saturday traffic takes over, rushing to compete with the trains wailing in the yard.

Sometimes I’m the only human being on the street.  Sometimes I’m one of many.  The homeless shelter and emergency food bank are just up the street, so people in need pass by often—families, singles, elderly.  People who roll their entire lives with them in wheeled garbage bins.  People with nothing.  People who fight and swear at each other.  People who scold and natter at themselves.

Teenagers wander by in groups leaving their detritus of gum wrappers and Red Bull cans.  The library is next door, and the Kwik Star down the street, so I imagine they gravitate between the two.  But, what do I know about teenagers?

And the dogs are always out.  A plethora of Chihuahuas in all shapes and sizes.  They’re like a box of left-over Valentine’s Day chocolates—nuggets, and cherry centers, and dark mousse—all excited, all yipping in their tiny rodent voices.  There’s a black and white Bull Terrier who sits on the corner all day long, staring at the flower shop.  And a Pit Bull with pink eyes who seems bored out of her mind.  A trio of Corgis race up and down their fenced yard like jousters challenging the entire neighborhood to a duel.  Behind the dog noise, feral cats slink along the alleys, quietly going about their feline business.  They’re happy to let the dogs grab all the attention—anonymity is more their game.

If I could bend over, I’d start picking up the refuse winter leaves behind, but I have to leave that for now.  It’s enough to be outside, in the unseasonably warm, feeling the stretch of my stride in my sore belly, walking my way back to whole.

Back from the Crucible

Rejuvenated.  Renewed.  Re-energized.

One weekend in Minneapolis with my spiritual clan and I feel like a whole new person.  My god!  I had no idea how much I had put my head down and slogged through the last few months.  Think Little House on the Prairie snow drifts with gale winds and biting cold.  Think numb limbs.  Think hypothermia creeping up the spine to whisper, “Just lay down and sleep.”

Suddenly, I could see colors—the waxing, gibbous moon silver against the gray-blue dusk.  I could smell the lilacs and the worm-thick rain.  I could wrap my arms around my friends and feel their very different bodies—Karen, slim and athletic; Richard, vibrating and solid; Tina, enfolding and lithe.  I could taste the glorious, healthy smorgasboard prepared by folks who dig the energetics of food.  And the chorus of their voices, their laughter, rang me like a bell.  Conversations ranged from “The End of Days”,  to the artificial satellite in orbit around Mars, to theosophy, to prophets and channelers, to the quality of the sunsets in Puerto Rico.

Then, there was the Work.  This session we discussed the book Spiral Dynamics, a study of the development of cultural complexity.  The book presented different cultural “memes” or ways of seeing and responding to the world.  We study these materials to learn how to be better spiritual teachers, to help us develop sensitivity to the many different ways human beings are unique in their development and cultural anchors.

With our teacher, Melanie, beaming to us via Skype from Pennsylvania, and our colleague, Ken, joining us similarly from New Jersey, we listened to lecture, broke into work groups, and gave mini-presentations.

For me, the intellectual stimulation was exciting and challenging.  After attending so many sessions in total brain-fog, I actually grasped the material and contributed to our group efforts.  I could feel my brain humming, clear and bright.

But what we do at Teacher Training is much more than participate in classwork.  The group acts as a crucible, forcing us to watch our reactions as we become triggered by each other.  All the little irritations, joys, hilarity, and deeper feelings like insecurity and pride that pop up in any group setting become fodder for our personal work.  We get to see what we’re attached to and how we use up our energy focusing on those things.  And because everyone in the group is doing this work, we can go to each other with our process.  “I need to check something out with you…”

And then, there’s the love.  The connections between us come from respect, honoring the vast and amazing Work each person seems to have found, and standing together through triumphs and tragedies.  We don’t all like each other, but we love each other deeply, and we choose to keep coming back together for more of the alchemy.

This time I brought packets of my handmade cards as “favors” for everyone—a token of my gratitude.  The group responds to my art the same way they respond to me—with delight, appreciation and wonder.  They hold those cards so gently, but I know they will slap stamps on them and send them out in the world.  That’s what we’re all about.

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