New Year Navigation

A fresh blanket of snow, glittering and wondrous in the dazzling light of a cloudless sky, is the perfect canvas for the start of a new year.

2021 ended with such fragile, exquisite beauty, my heart was soaring with the hope that everything was coming together at last. Then, 2022 began with a painful, jarring reminder that my past lessons continue to repeat themselves. A reminder that I am solely responsible for some of the things I allow in my life.

I’ve chosen to live in the grey now for quite some time. There is more context and meaning when one moves away from either-or, and all or nothing. Empathy lives in the grey. Compassion feeds off muted, washed-out tones. I see myself in others through this foggy lens, and with these eyes, I can afford more grace.

Some of the most powerful lessons of my life have been gathered over the last four years. The greatest being that I am my own best source for everything. This doesn’t diminish my capacity to connect or to be open and vulnerable. True autonomy allows for softness and transparency because I know now that if I am not received in the way I need to be, I already have all that I require to live the kind of life that I want.

What are the things you value above all else? This list is a compass by which to steer every decision, every direction you choose. This values compass navigates the grey like a lighthouse beacon.

If you value family, this doesn’t mean that you must choose family over all else. It means that you can choose friends and partners who also share deep family values.

If you value independence and freedom, it doesn’t mean you should be alone. It means you can align yourself with others who also need solitude from time to time and who have a vast array of their own passions to pursue.

If you value stability and security, it doesn’t mean you should slam the door on situations that feel unsteady. It does mean that you should nurture your own stability and security while you observe how the swirling grey might move and shift to a reality that better aligns with what you value.

The clean slate of a new year is truly an opportunity for a fresh start. I will move ahead, grounded in self and certain of my worth. This is my story, in which I take on huge personal challenges in the hopes of bettering myself and creating more stability and security for myself and my children.

I’ve realized my theme for 2022. This is what I will dedicate myself to; growth, courage, stability, and security. If the choices and relationships in my life cannot align, then I will choose other directions.

And because I love the grey so much, I recognize that growth and courage are most certainly going to lead to some measure of instability.

Some adult in my childhood long before the days of GPS and Smartphones had a compass stuck on the dashboard of their car. The thing contained water, and any bump in the road would create a tiny tempest under the bubbled dome. The directional points would swirl and toss and then eventually right themselves again.

I’m watching my life like that little device. I’ve got both hands on the wheel, and I’m steering around the biggest potholes. There once was a time where I was perpetually off-roading, and it was as messy as you might imagine.

Happy New Year. Thank you for spending some time here with these words. If you’ve arrived at your own theme for 2022, I’d love to read about it in the comments below.

The Why Doesn’t Matter

The mailman unloads his route from the box on the corner and I watch him from my seat on the porch. He listens to a podcast, and I find this endearing.

I’m on the phone with a new friend. As I listen to him speak about his work with trauma and plant medicine, a hummingbird decides to visit the honeysuckle growing up the side of the porch.

This morning, I sat with a friend who recently lost her father. He went quickly, which is always the hardest for those who are left behind. The shock takes a long time to dissipate. I feel such tenderness towards people when they receive painful reminders of how finite our lifetimes are.

The perfection of this late summer day is as much a reminder of the fragility of it all as anything else. The sun shines brightly and the sky is a painting of perfect clouds and boundless blues. I need a shawl to sit out here and ignore the work I should be doing. I’m taking a day off. My heart feels like it’s outside of my body, pinned on my sleeve again.

I’ve got a wedding to officiate this afternoon in the always-cheerful town of Niagara-on-the-Lake. When I come home, I’ll clean my house, burn some incense and play some music. I have no idea where this day is taking me.

Tomorrow my eldest child turns 18. I remember her gap-toothed smile and her fuzzy cloud of hair. She’s always seemed to float just a little above the earth. What kind of woman does she want to be? How will she choose differently for herself? I have no doubt that hers will be a remarkable life.

I am trying to transmute a mountain of feeling that I have amassed. I’m grateful that I have so many other places to put it.

This is all a preamble. What I really want to say is that a truth came forward for me today and it had a leveling effect; I am afraid to receive the kind of love I know that I give. For two decades, I’ve been choosing to put my love in places where there could never be the kind of reciprocity that I know I actually yearn for.

My therapist would tell me not to get hung up on the why, but to focus on what I am satisfying and avoiding with these choices.

I’ll sit with that, and maybe I’ll get back to you.

All The Beautiful Things I Tend

I wanted passion and excitement this summer. Carefree, sensual enjoyment of the heat and the full, lush green, and the feeling of wet sand between my toes.

I wanted campfire hair in the morning. Bug bites in scandalous places. Freckles on my shoulders like constellations waiting to be mapped by someone’s mouth.

I wanted the opposite of last summer, and so, I got all of that. I’m grateful. I have no regrets. But I’m also embarrassed to be writing this post.

The last time we spoke, I was heading into fall with a burgeoning relationship to nurture, alongside all of the other beautiful things I tend. However, the wires were crossed. We put a label on something that cannot be defined, and I still don’t truly understand why or how that happened. This is perhaps a record for my shortest span of time in a relationship.

In many ways, the words we exchanged were matching up, but as I look at it all from over here, I can see that the truth was in action and intention. To me, it felt like the kind of polarity and parallel I’ve always wanted. Someone with a deep sense of purpose, driven to give and work hard and create a life of their own imagining. It was and is all of that, but we don’t want the same things. I want to build something with someone.

Always be clear on someone else’s intention before deciding how to invest.

What I want isn’t possible in this connection. I always knew this, but I started to believe that things had shifted. The irony, of course, is that this connection made me realize I want something I can sink my teeth into. Chemistry is a confusing thing, though I still maintain this isn’t just chemistry.

I can’t be sorry for wanting to build a partnership. I suppose I shouldn’t be embarrassed about that either. If you’ve been reading here for a while, heck, if you’ve spent an hour talking to me, you won’t be surprised that I want to fall in love and be loved.

We are great at communicating. He is so steady, and although so many of the things he said were hard for me to hear, he knows himself and his capacity and was transparent. Transparency, yet contradiction. It’s no wonder I get confused.

I know myself and my depth. I also know how hard I’ve worked to write a new story about me in love. So I peeled off the label, and I’m collecting my threads. I don’t want to spend any more time trying to imagine how this can work. It will either make sense, or it won’t and I’ve done all that I can to be clear and open.

I weave parts of myself into the dynamic I create with other people. Now I wonder if it’s possible to explore intimacy and keep every thread of me for myself?

I don’t know that this is over, but I’ve taken several steps back. I’m also adding reciprocity to my list of personal values. I hope that some space will bring clarity. I think we both need to feel what it’s like without our connection.

Here are the lessons, and they are always the same lessons. At least I can say I’m getting faster at learning them:

Be slow and careful as you observe what is unfolding. Don’t write the story, witness the moment. Ask vulnerable questions to try and understand what the other person is thinking and feeling. Watch how their action supports their words. Look for reciprocity. Trust your intuition. Know that when you worry more than you feel content and at peace, you’re back in the old story. Stay out of the old story and be aligned at the moment. Repeat, repeat, repeat.

I can take all the love I wanted to give and pour it back into so many worthwhile places where it will flourish and heal and thrive. I’m never worried about that part of the process. My well runs deep and so many facets of my life seem to feed the source. My heart is renewable energy and the beauty I cultivate is everlasting.

Casual Intimacy

Casual relationships are not for me.

I’ve been spending time with some truly incredible humans this summer, and through these connections, I’m learning so much about myself. However, despite feeling all manner of feelings, there’s been no immediate potential for a committed, intimate relationship. In the past, that would have been a signal for me to move on. Now, however, I find myself lingering.

There’s nothing casual about the way I enter into intimacy. I wholly reject the term casual. I’d like to replace it with ‘intentional’ or ‘carefully measured’. Perhaps even ‘low expectation’. I don’t need monogamy as much as I need transparency. I don’t need large commitments of time as much as I’d like quality, connected time.

I enter into these interactions assessing how a person might fit into my life. I’ll meet someone, try to understand their values, try to get a sense of their lifestyle, and then I can calibrate how I interact with them, and how deeply I’d like to connect.

Of course, this sometimes goes awry. Unpredictable elements like shockingly good chemistry, or a nearly perfect alignment of values and thirst for life can throw my best intentions of a measured approach way the hell off track. I grow fond of people, and fond of the way I feel in their presence. I’m learning to temper my lifelong ability to get carried away by this heady feeling with my newfound practice of self- connection and grounding.

I can’t use casual to describe hours of conversation about life, and purpose and the way we choose things for ourselves. Casual is not witnessing people describe their world in ways they’ve never been able to articulate before. Casual isn’t stepping into my body in ways I’ve never experienced. If you find a place where you can explore physical, emotional and mental corners you’ve never examined, do you just dust yourself off after and say ‘well, that was nice’?

Every morning, I sit on my porch and write. I’m doing that now. Every morning, this compact, wiry man is out for his morning walk. He’s likely younger than I am. He’s always at top speed, and always yelling at someone into his headset. He’s so loud. He’s oblivious to the cicadas and the cardinals and the way the pine trees smell when it’s been humid. The judgemental part of me figures this guy is great at casual relationships. The truth is, I marvel at people who can connect and then disconnect so easily. I wonder if they are actually connecting at all…

So, while I wholly recognize that one of my lovers is far too young to even contemplate being my partner, and another is in the midst of re-imagining his life, I will care so deeply for them both. Everyone knows about the other, there are no secrets. We have an agreement to keep communicating how we feel as we move through our time together. I trust them both to tell me about any new partners they choose to engage with. I trust them both to be clear if they want our connection to evolve into something deeper, or if they feel like it’s time to move on.

I suppose I’ve found my way back to polyamory again. I’m not necessarily committed to this lifestyle, but it seems to suit me well in this moment. I love the freedom, and the way it challenges conventional relationship traps, like codependency, that I believe really inhibit personal growth.

Each day, I choose to nurture the intimate connections I have found, while I also tend to my child, my practice, myself, and my clients. I choose these connections because of what they are teaching me about my own heart, my needs in relationship, and my desire to slow down the process of falling in love. I can transcend the euphoria of great sexual chemistry and see my way through learning about a human in all of their aspects before I declare my love for them aloud. I can watch how they show up, and learn about what they have to offer me, and what they don’t.

I know I’m wholly capable of choosing one person to commit to. When I do so, it will be from a place of clarity and safety this time. That sweet rush of falling will always be a thrilling ride, but the next time I tell someone I love them, it will be after I’ve landed and know with great certainty that I’m safe and still intact.

It’s Because of the Trees

I love him, a little bit. I think there’s a part of him that believes that my love is parsed out among too many other contenders. I know that I can see the most beautiful parts of people, and as such, it can be very easy to love them. 

I’ve never told him I love him, (a little bit), because I know he’d dismiss it. It’s not a big deal; it’s a truly manageable kind of love, born out of who he is, rather than what I think I need from him. Every once in a while, I flirt outrageously and he jumps out of the way of each serve. Most of the time, my affections bounce uselessly out of bounds, but then he occasionally lobs back one or two serves of his own. It’s our little game.

I am perfectly content to be his friend. I’ll even make a toast at his wedding when he finally finds someone who fits into his personal definition of what he needs and wants. Maybe he’s a reminder that I can love a man in a way that has nothing to do with sex and complexity.

I’m not surprised when, at the beginning of our wander, I find a blue jay feather. It’s matted and dirty, but I put it in my purse all the same. Last year, as I began my spiritual journey, I discovered automatic writing as a means to connect with my guides. They have repeatedly told me that they will appear to me as blue jays. When I hear them, I must listen with more than my ears. When I see them, I must see with more than my eyes.

In my last attempt at a serious relationship, we would each find blue jay feathers at pivotal moments of our disconnect and attempts at reconciliation. Reconciliation, I’ve learned, should never be pluralized. 

This friend who I love is happy to wander through the woods with me. Had I worn better shoes, I could have walked all day. I realize this is exactly why I didn’t wear great shoes. It’s just easy with him, to be myself. To laugh until I think I might pee, to see and be seen. He tells me more about his heart than he ever has on this particular walk. I know it’s because of the trees, and how their leafy boughs create a sense that they can hold onto anything.

When we finally decide to head back out of the woods, we get halfway through the park when I discover one of my magic-women on a picnic blanket with her girlfriend. I knew she was on a picnic because I’d reached out to her earlier to see what she had planned for the day. I had no idea that she’d turn up in the exact same place. 

We get invited to join the picnic. She’s amazed because just moments before we spotted them, she’d texted to see if I’d like to meet up. I’m amazed because I realize that the blue jay feather was a signal that I was stepping back into the magic.  I’m aware, down to the marrow of my bones, of the abundance of love and laughter in my life.

There is beauty everywhere I turn.