open handed loveThere is a story about an attended wedding where the groom’s vows made a lasting impression. The exact words are fuzzy, but this gist was something like this:

The key to loving is to hold it well. Not like this (hand rolled closed into a fist), but like this (palm wide, upward).

And, that’s it. That was what was remembered.

The simple gesture speaks volumes. What does it mean to offer open-handed love?

Since the time we are children, we have the tendency to wrap our fingers around things: the toy, the friend, the grade, the plan, the income, the outcome, the relationship. It’s human nature to hold fast to what we want, what we love. But, like anything natural, we are meant to be free and the being held tightly can squeeze out the beauty of love: growth.

If we could move past the ego’s desire to have to oneself, love may just blossom wildly.

I get it. It’s hard. Who doesn’t want to be rewarded for peristence, to gain due to goodness, to be loved reciprocally? Yet, the moment we grab onto expectation, we’re screwed.

Life is impermanent. It shifts and changes and shifts again. All the cliches are true. Expecting things to go our way can lead to pain sooner or later. Letting go, surrendering…this is what nature does. This is what lets other beautiful things to happen.

This is what opening your hand, offering all your best, and watching love freely is really all about.

photo (23)Marianne/ 37

What is something you’re grateful for?

Where I am: Northern CA, in a tiny cottage near the ocean in the middle of nowhere…kind of…simple, quiet, lush, easy, authentic and real. Peaceful…mmm, peaceful.

Who is someone you’re grateful for?

My parents. You. Hmm, I mean, a long list…Timothy, Kara, Kara’s parents, all my friends who are just supportive and open and get it.

What part of your body do you love?

My hands. My shoulders and this whole area (she motions the span of her clavicle)…my hair (laughing); I have a long list.

What advice would you give someone who is feeling low?

How can you flip what’s making you unhappy into something to your advantage? Whatever is making you low, can you re-write the story to make it to your advantage? How do make an asset of what’s making you feel down?

photo 2

Gus/67 yrs.

What is something you’re grateful for?

Gainful work activity for a number of years, in spite of having encountered difficulties along the way.

Who is someone you’re grateful for?

Your grandmother. She was an example to follow of family importance  and being a provider.

What part of your body do you love?

My right hand.

What advice would you give someone who is feeling low?

Snap out of it!

photo 1


On the other side of the door, the phlebotomist asked a couple of questions.

“Christine, what is your birthdate?”


“And, what was the blood work ordered for?”

“Mmm, Ova 1?”

(whispers) “Oh, cancer.”


It’s at that point, the point of watching your blood fill up a vile, get labeled and placed on the tray with other questioning viles…at the point of hearing that results will arrive in about a week and half while pressing down on the cotton swab, the point you’re scooted off since the waiting room is brimming over with lab slipped patients…it’s at that point that life is out of your hands. Or, better yet, control.

So, what do you do?

You get in the car. You do your work. You engage and smile. You continue to make plans for dinner. You are present.

Somehow, though, present is harder to be.

Many women have growths on their ovaries. I’ve heard about five in the last two days. There are very good chances that the pain I’ve felt for a number of years is the result of the small mass that’s decided to lodge onto me, that with a short out-patient procedure, they can heal me, that my quality of life will be all the better for it, that my dimming chances of having a baby will improve.

Until then, blood work has been done to show tumor indicators. Negative and we move forward with the plan above. Positive and other measures will need to be taken.

I want to be optimistic. I want to see this as a good thing. But, the mind goes dark sometimes, and I feel scared. Still, there’s nothing to do but wait. So, I can choose to wring my hands…get dark, or I can relish each day I am able to go on a morning run, or work on a design project, or be with loved ones or lie in savasana and watch the clouds roll by.

Because there are no guarantees here. There never were. I am just really aware of this now.


You know when a song just seems like it reached into the pit of you, feeling around and gathering the most shiny pieces? When it strikes a cord of longing or tranquility, grief or knowing? Recently this one poured onto me while on a run.

Says a lot about where I am.


In the morning by the sea
As the fog clears from the sand
I have no money in my hand
I have no home, I have no land
But it doesn’t trouble me
As I lay beside the fire
I am easy to inspire
There is little I require

I wasn’t yours and you weren’t mine
Though I’ve wished from time to time
We had found a common ground
Your voice was such a welcome sound
How the emptiness would fill
With the waves and with your song
People find where they belong
Or keep on

Through the never-ending maze
Where the way is seldom clear
There is no map or compass near
I drive a ship I can not steer
Through the bleak and early morn
Where a stronger will is sworn
Where the moments move so slow
And seem to never you let go

When my hands are old and ache
And my memory flickers dim
And my bones don’t hold my skin
And there’s no place I haven’t been
I’ll recall the days were few
That is all that I can do
Feel the carvings in the tree
That gave shape for you and me

RIOT-paramore-6412664-1280-800In 2009 I was a 4th grade teacher in Seoul, Korea. My class was primarily made up of Korean students with the exception of one…Owen. A young American, Owen was many things: brilliant, awkward, and opinionated. The kid had a comment for everything, and many of those comments could not go unrecorded. With personality and innocent humor, Owen made my teaching year very colorful.

I fondly kept a list of “Owenisms” as I called them in a journal. Recently, I came across them. Here are a few.

  • Ms. Martin, do I look Goth to you? (he was simply wearing all black that day)
  • I think it’s outrageous that this school doesn’t have escalators! (the school had four floors)
  • You’re just like my mom! You always make me do something else after I finish a task.
  • Ms. Martin, I may be going through puberty because my voice can’t reach certain pitches. I’m not growing any arm hair, but I do have peach fuzz. (He didn’t; he was ten)
  • Jinsoo (a classmate): “Women are weaker than men.” Owen: “Well, that’s insulting!”
  • In the future I’m gonna start a riot.

And my personal favorite… in answer to the question: “Does anyone know what a conscience is?”

  • Yeah, a conscience is the small voice inside you that you always ignore.

Just like that. Matter-of-factly. How did a fourth grader know that?

At a moment when cloudy things are finding clarity, I stop at times to listen. What is my conscience saying? Can I make out that teeny voice that was background noise all along? Trusting intuition has never been my strongest skill. Guess I’ve been afraid to “be wrong”. But, what’s that anyway?

Being wrong is one of fear’s favorite outfits, strutting around, seemingly untouchable. It’s old, outdated, and boring. The truth is that we’re only as wrong as we decide to be. What are we afraid of really?

I don’t know the answer to that yet. These weeks have revolved around that question a lot.

If only Owen were around to share with me a profoundly honest answer.



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