rosary-rear-view-mirrorthe rosary swaying on his review mirror was familiar to me in the way that growing up with religious objects are. i sank in the back seat, my small suitcase beside me, ready to be home.

polite exchanges revealed information i really didn’t ask for: he’s married, two years in the U.S., has a 7 month old, and apparently devout in his faith.

my smile and “how nice” response to his being a father prompted him to ask the double-punch question: do you have kids-are you married? a quick no-no is my usual reply, relieving both interviewer and me from emotional entanglement.

but this time, i offered more.

“no”…and, “actually, I’m going through a divorce.”

why I opened up like that, i don’t truly know. maybe it slipped. maybe it was in hopes for a sympathetic word. maybe it was the presence of the dangling cross turning the Chevvolet Cruze into a confessional.

“oh, i’m so sorry.”

there it was. sympathy.

this sincerity was followed by the question: did you marry out of love?

when affirmed, it was clear the driver had a mission, a message. in his culture, marriage is prearranged and love follows. it’s chosen and maintained. in his faith, marriage is sacred. divorce is not an option. in his view, i needed to be prayed for so that we could reconcile and remain married.

my eyes glazed over the freeway signs, the trees and buildings blurring. my heart became weighted with every word. my mind wondered: what is this?

as i closed the door to a “God bless”, my steps leading closer to the front door unlocked my grief. at the doorway, open, loving arms wrapped my sobbing self, until my spirit quieted.

with a propensity to read into most things as divine nudges, i thought more about my viceral reaction. what was it about this that upset me so much?

it was the rubbing of a healing wound. it was the overt crossing of personal boundaries. it was the religion+judgement combination that i’ve always struggled with. it was the failure story loop.

i truly believe my driver was operating from a definition of goodness and care; that he wished wellness and salvation for me.

but, the unexpected exchange left me raw and without desire to judge, rate, or allot stars to an uber evangelist.

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nayathe quirky way she laughs is a combination of borrowing observed behaviors and the pure joy she gets in repeating an exaggerated gesture: throwing back her head, a wide smile, eyes brilliant, an occasional hand at the mouth, and hearing the sound of her own voice tickle.

with an absurd rainbow-unicorn towel, she envelops herself in music and movement, uninhibited. here she loses the stifling self-consciousness that often comes with viewing eyes, the recording iphone. a hop here, a twirl there. this is raw experimentation and it’s beautiful.

moments in the backseat of the car, she weaves reality and fantasy in breathless story lines that prompt questioning for clarification. her listeners will never truly understand her three year old truth, one that shape shifts and forms organically without effort.

when asked occasionally if she wants to be four, she shakes her head no.
” I don’t want to be old. I want to be three.”

I wonder, then, where does it go? the rawness of life experience, the one I witness in being with my dear niece.

And then, I’m reminded, listening to poet Paul Muldoon explain simply the loss of our natural poets, children, as they grow:
“I’m afraid that, too often, it gets educated out of us.”

when did we learn so wrongly?

blackbird in copenhagenThe record player spins on a well worn mid century modern dresser, akin to the cafe’s chairs and orb chandeliers. It’s all intentionally unpretentious with framed Hendrix posters and bathroom graffiti. These are pieces from Danish homes, second hand finds found on every other block. The Beatles serenade this 8AM morning, perfect melodies suitable for the melancholic gray outside, the romantic candlelight inside.

This pure artistry of a place, this mingling of quiet conversations in a foreign language with background latte making, this cozy nook where I write…this will forever, I believe, spoil future cafe moments.

Oakland FallThe trees are hinting a seasonal change. Walking around the Mission in a tank top and flip flops on a late October day, you would think otherwise though. You’d think the microclimates once explaining the need for layers in San Francisco are made up. You’d question the use of an umbrella. You’d feel there’s no such thing as seasons in California.

Still, the trees push to tell another story, to encourage the spirit of upcoming holidays, to finally give us the chance to wear boots and a scarf. It is with their dazzling color shifts, that we’re given a sign for what’s ahead. To prepare for darkening days and the upcoming cold with warming hearths and hearty soups. To open our homes and bask in communal gatherings. To add light with candles and window decor and the gift of giving.

Cyclical patterns offer a comfort we crave. Just knowing that day follows night, spring follows winter, high tide follows low, helps us feel thethered to a consistency that feels familiar, that feels like our breath.

This simple fact is important. Because in a world that shows us again and again that we are not in control, we tend to cling to the few consistencies life offers, whether inspired by humanity or nature. The rituals help us make sense of our time here, the sequence of seasons harness the apprenhension that comes with the unknown.

But what if the signs are not evident? What if we’re not notified of what is to come? What if the what we’ve counted on disappears?

Certainly, we’ve all had this experience. After years at a company, the position we had is no longer there. A healthy loved one gets terminally ill. An unexpected expense puts us in debt. A  long-term relationship takes on another form.

The feeling is unsettling.

This spinning of events out of our reach is possibly what causes the most suffering. If doing the “right” thing and showing commitment do not guarantee us the things we thought, how can we trust the path ahead?

I once heard the idea of having “faith in the unfolding” and it struck a chord in me. What if we just let things happen to us without harsh judgement or guilt? What if we embraced our vulnerabilty and lowered expectations? What if we let go of the worry and fear that comes with life’s detours and simply had faith that things were unfolding just the way they were meant to?

What if we stopped looking at the trees to monitor our timelines and just observed them for their simple beauty?

Would we feel more at peace?

FullSizeRenderI received this written meditation some time ago from a beautiful friend. To me, it is a prayer. In a time of change, the change of relationship (with a person, with a work situation, with a life path), it soothes and empowers. I’ve kept it to myself but have been feeling compelled to share it out to others here. It is my hope that healing and new perspective is offered through it. 

Guides & Angels (you can substitute in whatever speaks to you),

The relationship between ________ and me is passing from one phase to the next. It has entered the great mystery of death and rebirth.

O Guides & Angels, give guidance to me. For I am now alone with the joys and sorrows of my past ties. Guide me to see beyond my blindness and to let go of attachments, so that I may move freely through the passage from what was, to what is to be.

May the power of unconditional forgiveness embrace me.

May I be clear and unafraid amid the karmic winds that surround me.

May I know all sounds as my own sound.

May I know all lights as my own light.

May I know all pain and pleasure to be transient.

O Guides & Angels, help my heart to be open. And, may the thought of loving kindness guide me to choose a new path that will benefit myself and others.

May the sound of this prayer emanate in all directions. May these thoughts become my thoughts. My all doubts dissolve. May the power of my love be strong and clear.

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Here in your alone, you will find yourself, a person you may have never thought you were. A person who is capable of so many things you may have never thought possible. The answer always lies within you; your happiness, bliss, joy and nirvana are within you naturally.

-The Difference Between Lonely and Alone.

Behind the counter, the Aegean attendant smiled at my request to check in two bags.

“Are you traveling in Greece alone?”

“Yes, sir!” I beamed with some pride.

“Wow! That’s brave. I don’t think I could do that!” he shared.

In that moment, I squirmed a little; I wondered if he knew something I didn’t. Was it particularly dangerous for a lone woman to travel through Greece? Was I more of a target for theft? Should I heighten my guard?

Given that I had experienced two weeks already on and off with friends as travel companions, I was sure that was not it. From what I could tell, Greece is like walking into a large family reunion celebrated by tables and tables of delicious home-cooked food in a stunning setting. I felt comfortable, welcomed, and appreciated.

Maybe what he was doing was revealing a moment of raw honesty: that traveling alone is scary because it can be lonely.

This lonely vs. alone comparison has come up for me a lot here. I will be the first to admit that I’ve always struggled with being alone. I consistently surround myself with people, have an active social life, have had a history of always having a roommate (until recently). I don’t see this as a flaw per se, but I have wondered if there’s a reason this is my go-to.

This trip has helped shed light on the matter. There has been a correlation for me between being alone and the questions that emerge.

Am I comfortable in my skin?
Can I be with the quiet?
Do I like myself?
Does it matter what others think of me?

The most challenging moments would come up around dinner. Walking along restaurant lined paths, lit candles on the tables, incredible sunset sinking in the Med, hands being held, sessions of dreamy eye-gazing, the evenings were truly the most romantic times in Greece. At first, sitting across from no one was hard for me. I’d lose myself in my iphone just to cope, texting, uploading photos to be seemingly entertained.

But then, something shifted.

Although there were certainly moments I felt lonely, I began to embrace my alone. I enjoyed the world I was framing in my way as I snapped photos. I rested in my breaths as I rediscovered my yoga practice. I treasured serendipitous encounters with others who shared themselves with me. I sat easily. I smiled often. I liked being with me.

It may seem silly that it took a journey of many miles and days to come to this discovery. But, man, was it ever worth it.

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