Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Love Song to Essence

{Artist Unknown - sourced from Pinterest}
 
To: All of you who have forgotten who you really are. So much love to you.


Come sit with me.
There.
Across the fire.
Shhh.
Come sit with me.

Let me gaze into you.
Let me breathe you in.
Let me see your flame rising,
engulfing you in the light of Love.

I feel your luminous reflections rippling out to sea.
Like the tide, they return,
beckoning you,
licking the ankles of your soul’s shore:

See me.
See me.
Please...
See me.

It is time to remember.
It is time to fuel the consumption of desire.
It is time to witness the crystal heart of illumination in the center of your chest,
calling you home.

Come home.

Breathe.
Stay with me.
Let the fire between us become us.
Let it burn away the facade: your hiding places, your distant lines.
Shhh.
Come closer.

The embers glow upon your face.
The crackling sparks cascade down your arms,
lighting up the stars, the mysteries, the stories you carry.

Free of illusions, of fear, of holding back:

You are a bright sky of luminescent Love.
You are the golden, open palm
radiating,
radiating,
radiating
a whirling stillness within the sanctity of who you are.

I see:
Your staff of resonant, vibrational love standing within your spine,
a pointed sword of truth, the sharp strength of loving discernment:               I see you:

Vertical Queen,
expansive as an echoed horizon,
spinning your ecstatic magic,
your gifts of words and sound,
of music and laughter,
of touch that heals.
An ancient cosmic light-dance of Love.

I
see
you.

Recognize this power: the flames of your existence, burning you whole.
Your solar rays, electrified in the rhythm of honor.
The drum beats of grace.
The pulsation of bliss.
The liberation of Essence.

You are here now.
You are home.
You are here now.


Come.
Sit with me.
Across this fire,
within this fire,
inside this fire,
becoming this fire.
Shhh.
Come.

©becky cavender, 2016

Thursday, March 17, 2016

All the Little Deaths



I give you an emptiness,
I give you a plentitude,
unwrap them carefully.
- one’s as fragile as the other -  
(Norman MacCaig, Presents)

Patterns of death weave their tapestries through my life. Sometimes the connections are uncanny, tightly knotted:

12 years ago, grandpa died.
Part of me died, too.
Nine years later … so did my marriage.
Same day. Different year.

My grandfather was one of the most important people in my life. As a young girl, I’d interview him, pretending to be a journalist.

Stories of our heritage, including our Irish ancestors, fascinated me from an early age. He'd spend hours telling me where we came from. These were moments we'd spend alone, looking at old photographs, soaking up genealogy.

Through this, I felt connected to my lineage ... so much so that during my teenage years, when alone (I've never told anyone this before!), I’d play “Oh, Danny Boy” on the piano and cry, dreading grandpa's inevitable death, intensely feeling it within my bones; it was almost like a practice run ... a way to prepare for when he did die, so it wouldn't hurt quite as much.

Even though he wouldn’t die for many more years, the raw thought of being without the person who loved and accepted me unconditionally, unraveled the few places in my heart where I felt worthy, important, and valued, leaving me with an impending sense of self-doubt and vacancy.

As an adult, when he was dying from Parkinson’s, the ritual of interview was repeated so I could collect our history, his history. Sometimes he’d raise an eyebrow, whisper, smile coyly, and ask if grandma was out in the garden so he could speak freely...

Then he'd tell secrets.

On St. Patrick’s Day, he died.

...And the knot tightened.

I was living in Ethiopia at the time and had just attended the expat community’s annual formal - yet riotous - St. Patty’s Day Ball at a swanky hotel. One of my most beloved memories was sitting amongst Irish friends, early into the morning, as they sang harmonious folk songs. Bittersweet melancholic tunes echoed through the somber rooms, saturating us with the timbre of another life, another home. Perhaps grandpa was there, too, watching on the sidelines, being sung out ... I think he would've liked that.

Grandpa loved my husband - an Englishman who spent a few years with the British Army in Northern Ireland.

...And the knot tightened.

And it was on St. Patrick’s Day, three years ago while we were living in Myanmar - and I was remembering grandpa, feeling the loss of him - that my husband said he wanted a divorce, that he wasn’t happy, that he could not give me what I needed, that he needed complete freedom, and was not living the truth of who he was.

It was too easy not to slip into feeling incredibly betrayed, like a victim. Especially on that day.

 ...And the knot tightened again.

I felt emptiness, a lack of worth … to the point that I willingly - greedily - grasped for crumbs: Just tell me you love me, sometimes. That’s enough, I exclaimed. Ask me how my day went. Occasionally tell me l'm beautiful. Hold me. That's all I ask, that's all I need - and I can stay!

Writing that now hurts my heart. My belly aches. My throat tightens. Tears well up for that girl, that woman who prided herself on how "low-maintenance" she was.

I flew that flag like it was a positive trait, a winning factor, something so rare that he'd be stupid to discard it. This is how I puffed myself up, compared myself to other women: Who else could be as accommodating and non-demanding? No one! Who else would be so independent and non-needy.

Within my heart, I knew this was all a lie, some elaborate story I sold myself so that I wouldn't get hurt. If my emotional needs were low, then I wouldn't be disappointed. Or rejected. Or reminded of the dark crevices where I pocket feelings of inadequacy, of not being enough, of not being lovable.

Play it safe, don't have needs, and then I can be invulnerable to feeling these parts of myself that need a bit of love. The parts my grandpa filled up. These parts - in truth - that I still ache for someone else to fill up. These parts that I don't fill up ... or fill up in ways that do not lovingly sustain me.

Of course, this didn't work. Of course, I actually have needs. (Gasp.)

And so, after X amount of time of them not being met - because I didn't ask for it, because I said I didn't need it, because I created and attracted relationships with others that were unavailable to give - then I'd take a deep breath and do the unthinkable for me: cry out for what I need and withdraw my love, close down my heart when it was not given ... even though I set it up like that.

 ...And the knot tightened. Another little death. Another excuse to not stay radically open-hearted.

But here's the thing. Challenges in our lives can bring us back to life. Resuscitate us. Jolt us to face the sword of truth staring straight at us. Force us to look at the lies we tell ourselves and how we create victim-y type situations without even realizing it, playing out old tales that we've tightly woven for years.

I still do it. We all do. We're human. And, yet, we have the ability to - even when facing death - feel the stillness of our hearts resonating truth, wide as a horizon. In those moments, it is as if a hand rests upon our cheeks and says, “Shhh. All is well. It’s time to start listening. It’s time to be who you are. Open to the possibilities." 

So, on this Irish feast day, I honor all the ways we experience death in our lives: the death of loved ones, marriages, careers, friendships, romantic relationships, ideologies.

It is through these endings that the foundations for new intersections and weaving knots of stories can take form. Through death, we begin … again and again and again.  

Through the stillness of death, all things are possible.

And this I hear:
 
Lie down.

Surrender to my desire.
You are here to listen.
You are here to write a new story.
You are here to be my reed:
Hollow, tender, attuned.
Play me.
Sing me.
Dance me.
Write me.
Be me.

Come,
Lie down.

Come,
Surrender.

 
May you surrender to all that needs to be let go of at this time in your life. May you face each loss, death, and challenge as a gift so that you make space to create that which you truly desire.

...Do you know what that is?

Sunday, January 31, 2016

On My Birthday

In less than an hour it will be my birthday. My 42nd time around the sun.

Before the day gently folds into the next, I’m finding a tender moment of reflection.

...I’m listening to what my heart wants from me this year: A bit more grace. A little more kindness. Space to breathe between the lightning bolts of intensity. Burning all the ways I hide in plain view. Allowing for the ecstasy of life to surge through me while honoring the times I need the sanctity of a quiet hush.

This year, as a dear friend said: it’s time to become comfortable being uncomfortable, to accept the parts of me that are paradoxical ... and trust me: there are quite a few of them.

I have judged myself - often harshly - for being traditional and untethered; wild, yet rooted; distant and then present; lovingly open and withdrawn; generous yet self-absorbed; unattached to outcome, fully surrendered to the moment (or a relationship) and occasionally completely attached, full of expectations.

But ... Life wants us to love ourselves regardless. Even the messy, complex, unsavory, shadowy, human parts.

So this year, I will attempt to gracefully accept who I am right now. Imperfections and all.

Maybe it's not our "Divine" and "Light" parts of ourselves that make us luminous and radiant ... perhaps its the raw edge of our humanness, embraced with love.

Here's to your imperfect beauty, your perfectly imperfect human-ness.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Year's Eve Love Letter



Dearest You,

...Yes, you. 

In two hours, the doors will gently close on this year, allowing the space for the next to ease in.

I don't need fireworks or the pop of fizzing champagne tonight. My year doesn’t need to go out with a “bang.”

It wants to burn low to the ashes and dissolve into the crystal snow outside my window.

It wants to be a gracious host and sweetly dim the lights, letting me know it’s time to leave. It feels the story is over; it’s time for the next one to begin.

I want this next year to gently arrive like the tender elegance of fingertips tracing my palm.

I want it to feel like a graceful sway of Love beckoning me closer ... alluring, enchanting.

I want to be seduced by the new year, then held in a cherished, spacious embrace.

Let's slip into a sense of adoration.

Let's see the divine beauty in stillness.

Let's feel the stars kiss our hair.

Dearest you ... I want to see how you write this next year of your life.

What will your chapters hold? Which lines of poetry will you sing?

How will you love?

May you be filled with an abundance of what you desire.

May you light the inner fire of your spirit.

May you be who you truly are.

...until next year...

Friday, October 30, 2015

This is Not Your Average Break-Up Letter


Dearest You,

It’s been awhile since we’ve talked. Really talked.

I wish we could sit in that café where we shared a loveseat; I rested my head upon your wide shoulders and you slowly inhaled the scent of my hair, kissing the top of my head.

Or we could meet in my car where I’d feel your strong hands wrapped in mine, your lips pressed against them.

If we were in your bed, I’d savor one last time the weight of your thick legs curled around mine, nose buried in my neck, chills cascading down my back.

Mostly, I wish we were on my sofa – where you said you loved me – so we could breathe in this moment of truth.

I’d look into your unsteady eyes, hoping you’d see my heart.

But you are in another state.
Across town.
On a business trip.
Picking out furniture with your new girlfriend.
Planting seeds to harvest with other women.
Fishing.
Holding her.
In a bar at 2 a.m., asking to come over.

****

You know I write to process, to navigate the unknown and become clear.

It’s how I face myself.
It’s how I face the truth.
It’s how I’m facing you.

My words are all I have to give you.

***

It seems only fair to let you know that the stories I’ve written in my life are changing.
The plot.
The patterns.
The characters.

You.

Stepping back, I see the similarities.

In each of you, I see the intricate ways you intersect in my heart with common themes of inconsistency, unavailability, and dishonesty all woven together with patches of vibrant beauty and moments of tender sincerity. None of it black and white.

It’s an artful, literary display of lessons spread across faces, across years.

Each of you etched upon my skin a powerful, repetitive myth.

One I am done with.

***

My whole being aches for a new story.

It is time to feel the steady pulse of my worth.

I am ready to consciously dream new patterns into creation.

I will weave words of golden flowers along my spine.

I will spin all your patchwork lessons into a delicate crown and place it upon my head.

In this story, I choose nothing less than love.

In this story, I choose me.

***

If you’re brave, come sit with me.

Feel my warm palms against your cheeks.

Hear me say that I love your wild, red flamed spirit; your blue throated wisdom; your radiant sun of a soul. This is how I saw you: the real you, your true essence.

Now, too, I see the tempered version of this you choose to be … and the dulled version I chose to be with you.

Feel my hands slowly leave your face.

Be well. Be happy. I wish for you all that you need.

...It’s time for me to go.

I have a new story to write.

Monday, October 5, 2015

To the Vulnerability in All of Us


In a month, the reign of my marriage will take its final bow. All will be legally dissolved, despite having been divorced in every other way for well over two years.

I’ve written a lot about it.

And you’d think that any emotions or wounds connected to ending a 12+ year relationship would’ve been mended by now.

But divorce makes you see patterns in your life, the interweaving of similar choices made in slightly different ways, in somewhat different relationships; but pretty much the same story. Just a new version each time. 

I’ve been given the opportunity in this process to come face-to-face with the roles I’ve repeatedly played over the years: the effusive caregiver; the lenient, understanding lover; the tolerant, forgiving wife; the “nice girl”; the empathetic friend.

There’s nothing wrong with these … except when used to avoid painful emotions, a violation of some sort … a sting to your heart.

Since childhood, these roles have been my golden shield, protecting me, ricocheting the penetration of betrayal, manipulation, judgment, and not feeling entirely loved, accepted, or cared for.

They’ve kept me safe from truly experiencing the full range of my feelings. It has been a way to numb out in some respects … without even noticing.

When a hint of anger would enter my throat, I’d swallow it down, place that nice girl shield in front of me and absorb my tears, letting them swim quietly inside.

Lovers have seemed confused by the calm veneer when they might've been a bit shady and exclaimed, "It's OK to be upset! Aren't you upset? You're not mad at me?" Friends have nearly yelled, "Why aren't you ANGRY!?"

The shield has been so intricately integrated inside of my veins, in my marrow, that I didn't even think I was covering rage. I truly had no clue. And I'm only now beginning to see this truth.

That's because the shield is not effective; it just allows me to not take the full hit of hurt.

Part of this comes from an intertwined and rooted inner story that demands perfection.

This story says: If I stay true to these roles, maybe then I’ll be accepted. Good enough to be loved on the raw days when dullness comes over me, when my bones are tired and an inner-ache softly cries, yearning to be gently held, then told - genuinely - that I'm beautiful.

Maybe then, all my flaws – my size, this body – will be overlooked and I won’t hear that old diatribe that slithers through self-love and hisses: “See … there's a reason you weren't chosen. You won’t ever be enough. Look at you! You were warned about this your whole life. Maybe this time, if you lose the weight you’ve gained it will be better. Someone might see past your size. What makes you think being exactly who you are right NOW is enough?”

This gets triggered when a scab, nearly healed, gets picked ... an event that loops you back, reminding you of the web of patterns you've created and played a role in.

As challenging as it is to write this (even embarrassing), I know I am not alone.

So many of us feel similarly from time to time.

Most of us, probably.

Our culture, society, familial structures, churches, and even school systems teach us to compare ourselves to others, to measure our worth against something or someone outside of ourselves.

Rarely are we taught that our imperfections are just as sacred and holy as the magnificent light within us. Rarely are we taught that it’s OK or safe to fully own and express all of our feelings, like a musical scale, singing each note – whether sharp or flat – accepting the range of them in any moment as a way to honor and nurture ourselves while recognizing that we are truly beautiful – scabs, tired bones, and all.

These patterns and roles that I’ve clung to throughout my life are reaching their hands out, asking to be dissolved along with the marriage.

And that’s hard. Scary. Change would be required.

It means truly feeling and acknowledging painful emotions. It means creating firmer boundaries.

It means ripping off the masks of being nice all the time: because I am not always nice, forgiving, lenient, understanding, free of judgment, or compassionate! I absolutely can be selfish, self-centered, and wrapped up in my teensy little world.

… But most of all, it means letting go and trusting that I AM really enough. Just as I am right now.

I have choices to make.

Will I allow myself to be imperfect, to feel rage along with ecstasy, and be true to myself, knowing my real worth?

Will I release, with love, relationships that no longer nourish?

Because this is life, right?

We are imperfect.

There will always be scabby little scars.

And that is OK. In fact, that’s more than OK. It’s the place where we can pour our love the most.

So as I begin to dissolve these patterns and roles and very slowly lay down my golden shield – and as you join me to do the same – it feels that there will be a place of inner warmth and embrace, holding us, loving us, and cherishing us.

There, we will hear the whisper: “You are enough.”


Sunday, August 2, 2015

I AM NOT MONOGAMOUS


I am not monogamous.

(Gasp!)
I know. I know.
But here’s the thing…
I don’t think you’re monogamous, either.
…Not really.

When we talk about monogamy, we usually frame it within the context of sexual exclusivity. And that got me thinking: What does it truly mean to be monogamous? Is it just about being intimate with only one person?

No.

While we don’t discuss it much, there is the expectation that monogamy includes being emotionally exclusive. So ... what does that mean, exactly?

…That’s where things get a little tricky.

Because if monogamy means that once I love you, there is an unspoken “rule” that I must cease loving anyone else I have ever loved before … then I am not monogamous.

If we’re stingingly honest, that’s precisely what most of us want: For someone to – in essence – forsake each person they loved before meeting us and now lay their loving claim in the center of our hearts forevermore. Amen.

We want to be The Only One Loved. At least currently, right?

Come on … admit it.

The thought of our beloved still loving, on some level, another person makes our stomach curl and twist. Our faces scrunch in jealousy. We feel young – and not in a good way.  

We want to tightly cling and hold onto the person we love. We want to yank their memory away from any other person they could possibly have loved in their lifetime – ever – and snatch them back into our embrace, then build a high, thick wall around it so NO ONE CAN ENTER!

We want to be The One Who is Loved. Right? We are afraid, really. We are afraid that if love is expansive and doesn't come with an expiration date, then we cannot be The Chosen One. We feel that tinge of competition and fear that somehow we are not enough, that we do not measure up. That our beloved loves someone else more than us. That the other was better than us in some way. 

But we want to be The Best. The Most Loved. The Most Important. The Alpha!

I get it. I have been there. Many times. I still feel that.

…Which causes a teensy problem for me, because here’s the truth:

Once I love someone, I simply always love them.

Yes.
Always.

Nooo …. Not in a freaky stalker kind of way. Sorry to disappoint! 

You can see the conundrum here. The hypocrisy, even. (Hey, we're all imperfectly human.)

The love I have for others is not based upon the “success” or so-called “failure” of the relationship (or even friendship for that matter!); it’s not conditioned upon whether their happiness includes me being part of their life.

If I loved you, then I will forever love you. No matter what. It’s unconditional.

Does that mean I remain romantically IN LOVE with every man I was in love with before?
No.

Does that mean I wish I was still with each one of the men?
No.

Love takes on different forms, though. It shifts, changes shapes. It can move from romantic, passionate love to a more distant, friendship-type love. In fact, it can even turn into a familial love … like the version I have for my ex-husband.

We know this to be true because we can feel the variations, the different tones of love within our current relationships. We can feel how there are times our love is so passionate for our beloved, it's as though a symphony is playing a beautiful, grand romantic tune. At other times, there is a lull and well ... it's kind of a sugary, superficial pop song in the background. 

So while I continue to love each man I have loved before, let’s be clear: That does not mean I want to invite all my exes over for Thanksgiving and Kumbaya with them. My dad did that one year and I thought it was a bit awkward. Just saying. (Sorry dad! Love you!)

In fact, I may actually feel quite strongly that it’s best some of them not be part of my life at all.

Yet, if I saw an ex in the store or at a festival, I would light up and give him a hug. I would genuinely be interested in how he's doing and wish him well. Isn’t that a form of love?

If his father died or he got ill and reached out to me, I would be there to support him any way I could.

If monogamy requires or makes it uncomfortable for me to do that … then I am not monogamous.

I used to believe that good, nice girls who loved their partner would never think twice about someone they had once cared deeply for or loved.

Maybe it’s just me, but I thought that if I really loved my boyfriend/husband, then it would not matter one iota whether an ex was happy or not. You’re supposed to stop caring about them, right?

In fact, our culture has a subversive message that tells us we can only truly love ONE person in our lives. Ever. 

It’s the story that tells us about: The One and Only; The One True Love; The One Soulmate. So, if you thought you loved someone before, and now find yourself in a different relationship, you have the sudden realization that you never actually loved the other. Not REALLY. Not like this new love.

You know what I’m talking about. Our culture immediately tells us to dismiss the possibility of having loved more than one person in our lifetime. At minimum, it tells us we have to severely compare and measure our love for one person against the other. Unless that person was from our kindergarten days. But anyone after 9th grade? Fuggetaboutit.

While we never actually SAY we are supposed to stop caring about people from our past, we expect it. We expect it from ourselves and we most certainly expect it from our beloved. That belief shapes our societal views of relationships and our capacity to love and defines loyalty. We don’t talk about it. It’s just understood.

Well, my experiences have not matched what our culture tells us it should. 

I never stopped caring for and loving those I once did.

Sometimes, I wonder how so and so is and hope he is fishing a lot – because he loves it. Or I hope that someone else is still acting and doing voice overs. I might imagine him playing soccer or listening to reggae, smiling. Is he still an excellent cook? Does he think of me when he hears Macy Grey or drinks a chai? Did he regret not finishing law school? Is he safe? Was he deployed overseas during the war? Is he happy?

I think of them. Even if I don’t speak to them. I thought of them when I was married or in relationships and felt guilty for not following "the rules." And though I probably did not need to hide that I continued contact with a couple of men, I did. And by hiding that, I hid part of who I am - part of who I think we ALL are - someone capable, innately, of loving many people, for many different reasons and in many different ways, all at the same time. 

And I love those men still. Just differently.

We are socialized to believe that love is a possession and is rare.
We collectively believe that we must claim ownership to it before it runs out.
We fear we won’t get many chances to experience it.

But that is not true!

My beautiful friend, Love is everywhere. We have opportunities at each moment to embody it.  

…I fall in love multiple times a day. Often just for a few seconds. I’m not joking.

I fall in love with the stranger driving along the road, singing.
I fall in love with the homeless man on the corner who plays his guitar and never asks anyone for money.
I fall in love when someone hands him money and I see their face light up and in return, the homeless man’s face becomes the face of God.
I fall in love with the man who holds his daughter's hand as skips down a busy sidewalk with a smile wide as the sky.
I fall in love when a friend rambles and makes no sense.
I fall in love with whoever makes me laugh so hard, I snort. (And let me tell you, that happens quite often.)
I fall in love with the moon. I fall in love with the stars and the sunset.
I fall in love with a really good piece of chocolate.

Love is in everything. 

There is no shortage of it.

And when we love ourselves, then by default, we enter a relationship with another that is NOT monogamous! (Because then you’re immediately loving two people: yourself and the Other. HA!)

There are not limitations on love. There are not expiry dates on it, either.

Love itself is not monogamous. Love loves everything and everyone.

Love is not something you capture and own. It is not a possession. It is not a One and Only.

It just is.

It is what we are made of. It is the essence of who we are.

So if monogamy means that I cannot radiate the abundance of love I have within me and share it with others – even in friendship – then I am not monogamous.

And I doubt you are, too.


P.S. I love you. YES. YOU!