It’s an unparalleled notion, to know
that you will always, and without a hair of doubt,
love something so
fully and completely.
It’s an unparalleled notion, to know
that you will always, and without a hair of doubt,
love something so
fully and completely.
I was noticing the Jamaican lilikoi, and how it was finally, after two years, growing. The sweet potato was looking healthy too, had it been raining? Just then, I feel my socks expanding with water. Somehow I always remember to water the garden after I put my socks on, deciding not to take them off for the sake of convenience. Dropping the socks on the bench inside, I come back out with the bird food and begin scooping it into the tiny tray of the feeder.
My thoughts drifting from the birds, their usual rations, the cost per bag…sharply interrupted by first, loud barking and then “BABE! BABE! GET IN THE HOUSE, HURRY UP, GET IN NOW!” My husband, Jon, with an urgency in his voice that shakes me. I start immediately towards the patio door, fear rising, I’m trying to make sense quickly of what it could be…” Dog? Rabid dog? Did he see something? What’s happening??”
Just then, he comes running down the stairs reading his phone, “BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.” Heart plummets into stomach. What does this mean? Like what does this mean we do?
His words sort of float through me, without fully landing yet. I think, “No, this can’t be happening. This can’t be real,” and walk into the garage with my soaked socks to put in the washer. During this somehow necessary and meaningless act in the face of nuclear destruction, I begin thinking about time. How I’d calculated from a recent podcast, that if it took 15-20 minutes for a missile to hit the West Coast from North Korea, a missile aimed at Hawaii would be 10-12 minutes? Maybe? I’m trying to make sense of this being “it.” Like our last moments on earth, “it.” One of my worst nightmares, “it.” No. “NO!” I want to scream. I hold my pregnant belly, wishing I could comfort my unborn baby boy. I think of my older boys, 6 and 9 who are with their dad today. I have to call them, NOW. I hope there is time.
I dial Dan’s number. Kaleo, the 9-year-old answers, “Hi mom!” he says in a voice that tells me he has no idea what is going on. “Please get your dad on the phone, I command, sounding as least panicked I can muster.” He doesn’t hear me, the phone cuts in and out with his voice, and then Quinn’s. They must be doing something, distracted, as usual. “GET YOUR DAD ON THE PHONE,” I say louder, more firmly. Muffled voices and then Dan, “Hey, what’s up?” I tell him about the missile threat, and he says, “Oh, that’s what the little message ring I got was about?” “YES!” But there is no time for that. “Where are you? Are the kids safe?” They are at the Farmer’s Market, and he says they’ll head home. OK, hang up.
At this point, I’m sitting on the floor with Jon. We’re searching the internet, Facebook, anything that can give us some idea of what is going on. He’s texting his sister; I call my dad twice who works with FEMA, text him too with no response. And now we’re just sitting here on the wood laminate floor, on an all other ways, normal Saturday morning, trying to figure out what to do to save our lives and if we even can. And all I can think of is, “If we’re going to die, it’s going to be with the kids.” Tears. Shortness of breath. Panic surging through me like electricity with no grounding. Jon says, “Calm down. It’s going to be ok.” Or something like that, I don’t remember for sure, I just know it helped. I stop and pick up the phone to call Dan again.
“Where are you guys?” I ask. “We’re at Kalani’s.”
“OK, I want to be with the kids, can you come down here?”
He suggests we come up there. Because if shit (nuclear holocaust) does hit the fan (Hawaii), we’re safer where there’s food growing and fewer people, somewhere out of the city. I agree because it makes sense or as much sense as it can make when absolutely nothing is making sense. Jon agrees too, and we start preparing to leave.
I’m saying out loud as I run up the stairs, “I don’t even know how much time we have?!” Imagining us on the road, watching some apocalyptic scene, like something out of Independence Day but without the aliens, just fire and blasts, and pedestrians and cars rolling and, “Is this the best idea??!” But I have no other plan. I have never had a plan for this. Sure, we have some extra bottled water, what’s left anyway of what we haven’t used in a pinch for bringing to the beach. We have batteries, some packaged food, a flashlight ( i think?), from the box of supplies that Jon put together after a Tsunami warning a few years back. Jon says, “Get shoes you can run in.” I grab my lightweight boots, the ones with traction, my best bet for the “end days,” I decide in less than five seconds, and head downstairs. He’s by his car, and before he closes the garage, I reach in to grab the Costco sized pack of Oatmeal sitting on top of our supply boxes.
We’re off; the road seems too normal. The morning light too expected. We were going to head upcountry to the Farmer’s Market, anyway. That was the plan we had at 7:45 am when I came upstairs to get dressed and sat with Jon in bed talking about the day. Farmer’s Market, we’ll eat brunch there, and then a hike.
The moment your life seems like it’s diminished to minutes, is completely arresting. I think about others like this; maybe someone recently caught in the mudslides, or fires of California. This feeling of knowing it’s going to end, and still feeling like you have to do something, and really, what can you do?
We didn’t have any plan other than we were going to, like a magnet, move closer as fast as we could, to what matters, to family.
We leave the computers, paperwork, clothes, pictures. I bring my boots and oatmeal. Jon brings his Converse and his watch with a reliable battery. We take our phones and credit cards. We are singularly focused, on the kids and getting to them as fast as we can, with a few things of no consequence.
Jon is driving up the hill to Dan’s, and I’m checking my phone. Something, anything, please tell me what is happening and how quickly. I call Civil Defense; the line is busy. 911 – busy too. Then I get a call from Dan, “It’s OK,” he says. “It was a false alarm.” “Where did you hear this?” I ask. “It’s on Twitter,” he responds, “Lots of people are posting about it.” Twitter…TWITTER? How can we be getting informed by Twitter on the state of our survival?! Jon turns on the radio and finds an AM station. We are almost to the top of the hill, almost an hour since we learned about our imminent death, when we hear a man’s voice, “There is no ballistic missile threat. I repeat there is no ballistic missile threat. This was a false alarm.”
We look at each other. I can feel myself filling back into the reality that I have known, back into my “normal.” But not fully. Not even close. A part of me still feels like I’m clinging on to life by my fingernails, just barely. I don’t feel fully settled even when we’re out of the car and Kaleo is running up to us with a smile. “You look worried mom; it’s ok, there’s no missile, you heard that right?” I hold him, I smell his hair, and I am reminded of the few things of this life I would miss.
In all, it took 38 minutes for the state to issue an update that in fact, there was not a ballistic missile headed our way. I am intensely aware of the power of each of those minutes, life in that in-between. How each movement felt futile, running up and back down the stairs, closing windows, grabbing the oatmeal, the boots, locking the door. When in seconds, this could, and as far as we knew, would, all be gone.
There is a sense that we, in Hawaii, are survivors. But we have nothing real to feel we have survived. We are left with the story of a false alarm, generated by someone accidentally pushing the wrong button, twice. My relief coupled with lingering anxiety, in some ways, feels unjustified. I am jealous of my friends that slept through the alarm and woke up to the missile threat combined with the retraction. Those of us that went 38 minutes, or an hour, or more believing that our lives and the lives of our loved ones were ending or at least ending as we knew it, are changed.
Maybe it’s that I’m even more aware now, of the fragility and uncertainty of life. It’s more than that too. It’s the reminder that when something unthinkably terrible happens, it just happens. There is no lead-up to any moment. Moments just arrive, or in some cases, collide, with the last thought, the last action. Bird food/ imminent death. Dog barking/ missile attack. The expected/the unthinkable. It’s the realization that we are always living on the edge, there is no bubble, no safe zone. We are born on the edge, and we die on the edge, and our life exists too, on this same edge, just as thin, just as vulnerable, just as real.
The Mystery We Must Live Into
We are tapped on the shoulder, again and again, until one day, we turn around.
We turn around, but it’s less directional than that, because in the space of the infinite there is no up, down, right, or wrong.
We are asked just one question every moment, of every day – “How can you be awake to the mystery we must all live into?”
How can you be with each moment, each person, as they are – completely new? completely now?
How can you thread yourself through the myriad of stories that arise, to the other side of nothing – to truth.
It’s always been there. Beneath the dishes in the sink, beneath tomorrow. It lies hidden, beneath every “to-do” and holds close to every reason why.
This warm and knowing place is the home that unites us beyond race, borders, and beliefs. We are found here, in the place that we’ve never left, but ceaselessly attempt to return.
What if your plan doesn’t work out? What if you don’t become every dream you had when the world was an impossible place of endless possibilities. Life will un-spoil you. If you were lucky enough to come into this world believing the sky to be life, you will die knowing you are dirt.
We won’t always get our way, no matter how hard we try. The seat on the airplane won’t recline. The refrigerator, against all reason, will heat the food that needs to be discarded. The last egg, thoughtfully stowed away and saved for a breakfast will slip unceremoniously into the sink drain upon cracking.
But this is not what we are here for. Life will happen. The seasons do not hurry one another into the next, but summer always comes, no matter how brief. And even if the frost comes early and the fruit dies, life will go on, in it’s own way, in it’s own time. No matter how skilled you become in manifesting a desirable future, there will be traffic and heartbreak and dreams crushed by the reality of what is.
The beauty, is this job was not meant for you. You have assumed a role you cannot fill, a reality you cannot really articulate. It goes beyond the finite, the mind. And “figuring it all out” is the futile attempt to use a drawing of an ax to cut down a forest – the goal goes beyond the function of the tool itself. The finite cannot comprehend the infinite wholly. The finger is not the moon.
It’s much more simple. Dear one, you are here to live, each moment as it is. Each breath, you are here with every sense and every emotion – to feel everything.
Frustration, perhaps, is not over things that don’t go our way, or unmet expectations, but instead, is the distance felt between what we think we want and who we truly know ourselves to be.
In any moment, each of us, is exactly just as far as we’ve ever been and ever will be, to what we really long for. The access is now. It’s what is here, in this moment, right in front of us, right under our fingertips. The broken egg, the wasted food, the dirt.
Im at the precipice of myself again.
Another jagged cliff and I am blindfolded.
Ive been told by someone whom has never lied to me, that there is beautiful turquoise pool just below, and that the only way, the absolute only way – is to jump.
Trouble is, I’ve been crawling. For months now, maybe years, I’ve been crawling with bloodied knees and raw palms. I’ve been grasping at sand that slips between my fingers, my lungs- dry and burning.
Too, this same journey has led me to valleys of a thousand shades of green, to waterfalls that I’ve laid beneath to soothe my wounds and even once or twice- a garden of clouds that I’ve curled up in and almost forgot where I was and why I was here.
But none of that matters when you are at the cliff’s edge, when you feel every pore of your body gaping for oxygen because at this altitude – you either live or die.
“Never underestimate the desire to bolt” – are words I’ve recently heard. Words I need tattooed on my hand, I need tattooed on the part of me that clinches and retracts my heart like a vault- metal doors crashing together into sudden layers of impenetrable metal.
“You wont get in, and I wont come out!” I hiss, eyes wide and teeth tight. I know this place all to well. I know the dark and cold and I know how to keep just warm enough to survive here. I know how to window shop pretty thoughts of my future and how to candlelight all things that I “will become” – skinny, successful, happy, me in a future house, in a future smile, in a future life.
I hide here until its safe, or until Im pried open. Secretly and desperately I want to be pried open, I want my handsome prince to come and jaws-of-life me out of here because I’ve swallowed my own key.
Sometimes, the right alchemy of compassion and strength can wedge its way into the cracks, sometimes this is enough for me to trust that I can open one inch, maybe two, sometimes, on rare occasion this is enough for me to open completely.
In this space, sunlight hits my face as if for the first time and my insides illuminate. Every sense is activated, sounds, colors, life as I know it in the deepest part of me, is pulsing. This feeling is what it is jump blindly. This feeling is trust, this feeling is surrender in its most beautiful form.
And jumping is what we do when we stop resisting ourselves. The exhilaration is not the moment of feet hitting the water below, but is in the air – the transition from ground to not ground, from known to unknown, the sudden lightness we feel when just let go of every reason not to.
I want to massage her shoulders until she half collapses into herself, into me. I want to feel her breathe deep and watch her head fall back against my shoulder, neck open to the sky and all the expanse above – mouth open, eyes closed.
I want to crawl into jealousy and build a fire in the cave beneath caves beneath caves. I want to go into the vast underwater canyon of jealousy – what you see on her surface is so infinitesimally small in comparison. I want to write love poems on her inner walls and draw pictures of hearts and sunsets and planets.
I want jealousy to know she’s not alone. I want her to know that there is no “right way”, there is no “perfect”, there is just this – the moment and her relationship to it. We are either open or closed, we either accept or resist.
I want to brush jealousy’s hair. She needs so much self-love. She is calling for it in tears and screams, and completely crazy non-sensical thoughts and behavior. She often feels panicked. I want to giver her chamomile tea and a kitten and a sunny window-seat.
I want to put her to bed early and tell her to leave the dishes. I want to tell her ‘it is, and will, all be ok” I want to infiltrate her dreams and supplant every monster with flowers and chocolate.
Jealousy sometimes has a hard time speaking her truth. For this, I’ll give her a journal and a new pen. I’ll tell her to write everything out. Read it, and write it again. Write it backwards or upside down because words and emotions are flexible and sometimes they need to be bent in order to be seen.
I want to tell her, more than anything else, that she is loved, that she is love. Not in this flippant way the word has been used, but in the realest way, because there is nothing more real. On second thought, I won’t tell her she is loved at all. I will kiss her every morning and hold her every night. I will wrap my arms around her and just hold her, wanting nothing in return.
Jealousy feels empty. She feels like she has nothing to give. She doesn’t want to be so self-absorbed but she is one dimension, she doesn’t see outside her own field of vision no matter how you try to show her.
You don’t need to change jealousy, and I wouldn’t suggest trying. That will only make her defensive. She craves, though she might not always see it, to go deeper inside her own darkness. Every jealous thought is an invitation to explore more of herself and to ultimately love more of herself. Every contraction is an expansion on the other side if there is a willingness to be uncomfortable, vulnerable.
Jealousy eats fear at every meal but vulnerability is the only thing that satiates her. She rarely goes into her own garden to pick it though. She, like an addict, clings to fear and other accompanying feelings of unworthiness and unwantedness like a tree in a rising tide. It takes the risk, equatable in force to jumping off a cliff, to pull at the roots of what she is so afraid of and speak them honestly instead of blindly living off fear alone.
“For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.”
— Carl Sagan
There is an immensity to each moment. Bulging almost bursting with meaning and intention and everything past and future and yet so so so present.
There is something of the moment that takes us for granted. We open to it with wide eyes and the taste of hope in the back of our throats.
This feels like falling in love. In the moment, this moment, we are captured by the all-ness that is any and every moment if we breathe into it. If we simply allow, allow all of it.
This though, is scary. It reminds us, if only briefly, of our vastness. Of our almost conceivable nature of infinite. We want so much to touch this, to be so close that our lines become indistinguishable to that which is and always has been and forever, and just forever…but we’re also defined by things and words which have a hardness, an innate construction which gives us a purpose that part of us is unwilling to surrender.
If only we knew we were always home instead of trying to get there. As Ram Das said “We are all just walking each other home”. Even more so, we are always reminding each other that we never left. That we never can leave. That the nest we continue to jump from to find our ever evolving wings, that this nest can never be anywhere but with us, within us.
Take nothing personally, even love. It’s not “ours” to give or receive. It is just what is. Beyond all other layers. Love is an invitation, over and over, to tap into the source that is “us”, has always been “us” and will far outlive “us”. It connects us to that mysterious truth of “infinity” which our minds will never grasp and our hearts will always strive to hold.