A Letter of Closure: Part Two

(One Year Later)

It’s the same here, in that way that can make a place feel oddly frozen in time, despite a year having passed. The people I am with are different, but they’re somehow the same, with the same hearts.The roosters still crow us awake before dawn every morning, and the cacophony of the donkeys braying and the birds singing is as simultaneously melodious and discordant as I remember it. The dogs, the big sweet one and one who is aloof except during mealtime, where he might coax a small morsel of food from someone, still smell—of farm, of dirt, of manure and of some other intangible dog odor. The sweetness from my first donut peach this summer immediately sends me into a fit of bliss and nostalgia. The geraniums in their window boxes continue to bloom their same vibrant shades of red, and the sun still sinks behind a nearby mountain ridge every evening, beyond a lone cypress tree, enveloped in a hazy, orange veil.

The passage of time is marked only by the horses, grown from awkward foals to sleeker, more adult versions of themselves, and the children, who have done the same.  At Ebbio for the second time, in what has become my Tuscan home, I’m reminded of the magic I found here last summer, its energy humming all around me as loudly as the buzzing insects. I had worried it might not be the same.

But you can return to wonder, I learn, and I have.

(One Month Later)

It took half a year of planning, but it was over within seconds. Resigning from a career was surprisingly anti-climactic.

One minute you have a job, a career, an identity, and the very next minute you do not.  Poof! The person you have been announcing yourself as for the last fifteen years is gone. You’re no longer the character you were so proud of playing, parading around in it like a coat you never removed. You don’t get to use the slightly smug smile that you couldn’t help using when people seemed impressed with you. You leave yourself behind in an instant.

For six years, you answered the phone, “Katie from Allure.” As if you didn’t have a last name. As if you didn’t have anything else. As if nothing else mattered.

Not as much anyway.

This was your life. You thought it was what you wanted, until one day it wasn’t.

You stay. Play the part, dance the dance. Keep up appearances to hide the twisted insides. Focus on all of the things you’ve acquired, and steadfastly ignore the whispers that say, “there must be something more than this car, this bag, this life.” Build up that house of cards and climb so high you can’t see the bottom any longer. So high you can’t remember how you even got up there, or why you thought you might like the view; so high you don’t know how you are ever going to get down, or what the fall might feel like.

Because it will fall down. That’s what card houses do. They’re not built for forevers. And as soon as you start this interrogation of your heart from its apex, it quivers and buckles and threatens to collapse completely, and you’re left with the choice to jump off the top, from where you can no longer see the ground, or come crashing down with it, a jumble of cards and regrets.

So you jump.

And you immediately wonder, will I freeze now, without that well-worn coat? You wonder, should I have stayed? You wonder, am I crazy to have left? You wonder, what comes next?

You wonder, who will I be now?

(One Day Later)

The words echo around in my head, bouncing from one side to the other. I’m hearing them in the voice of the one who first uttered them to me; a prayer:

“You do not have to be good.

You do not have to walk on your knees for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.

You only have to let the soft animal of your body love what it loves….”

 

The opening to Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese, and I can hear it now. I hear it here in yoga, at Ebbio, where the voice that first told me I could have more asks me to write another letter of closure, one year later. I watch this girl, this Katie from Allure, as if from a distance, and I think about what she needs to hear.  So I write.

 

Dear Katie From Allure,
Everything is going to be ok.
 
You do not have to always have all of the answers.
You do not need to make money to make a difference.
You do not need to have valuable stuff to feel valued.
You do not need call yourself by a fancy title to feel proud.
You do not need to worry so much about what you won’t be anymore.
You do not need to know what you are meant to do before you start doing something.
You do not need to know where you will end up in order to take the first step.
You only have to take the first step.
 
Take the step.
Then take another.
And remember this: you are the only person who can pursue your happiness. You are the only person who can listen to your own heart. You are the only person who can nurture your soul.
You are the only person who can save your life.
 Do it. Save yourself.
 
Everything is going to be ok.
 
Love,
Katie

 

(One Minute Later)

A bug committed suicide in my bed.

I woke to find him dead, my body covered in bites, his engorged with my blood. I wonder if he knew where he was headed but was simply unable to stop. I wonder if, at some point, he had an inkling of his fate, but thought he could somehow outrun it. I wonder if he would make the same choice again. I wonder if I actually killed him, smothering him as I rolled over and tucked my right arm under my pillow so that only my hand stuck out, floating in the air.

I’m here with my dead bug, thinking about the last minute, the last hour, the last month, the last year, all from a Tuscan farmhouse that feels suspended between a dream and reality, with people who are both strangers and family. I think about how happy I am to be doing it. I am saving my own life. I think about how easy it would have been to not do so, to have stayed, and I’m so relieved that the pain of the jump begins to subside. This is my life now.

I’m not that dead bug, I’m not buried under a collapsed house of cards, I’m not Katie from Allure.

I’m just me, removing coats, taking steps, saving myself.

 

Under The Tuscan Sun

Under The Tuscan Sun

 

photo 2 (33)

Girasole=happiness

That Time A Five-Year-Old Called Me The F-Word

Recently a five-year-old dropped an F-bomb on me.

We were hanging out while her mom was running errands. She curled up on my lap, drawing on a notepad and telling me she liked my manicure. She showed me a game she liked to play on her iPod. She asked me if I was flexible, or if I could do a headstand. I was wearing a skirt but kicked myself up into a headstand in the middle of the floor anyway, my skirt shifting to reveal my black Spanx shorts underneath. She giggled at the sight of them for a moment, at my skirt floating over my head, before she dropped the F-word on me, exploding like an actual bomb right in front of me.

“You have very fat legs.”

No judgment, no malice, just matter of fact. “Your legs are fat,” she repeated, like I could have somehow missed it the first time around. I explained that it wasn’t a very nice thing for her to say, but she simply said it one more time, for good measure. “But you DO have very fat legs.”

I lowered myself out of the headstand, my face beet red from more than just being upside down. She looked at me, wide-eyed, waiting for what I would say next. I was speechless. So she moved on, unaware of the effect her words had on me, and went skipping away from me to practice her splits and backbends. I turned my head and blinked back tears.

For the rest of the day, her words haunted me, fueling my inner dialogue with myself. I heard those words repeating, over and over, in her high-pitched voice.

You shouldn’t wear that skirt again. You have very fat legs. Don’t eat that piece of chocolate. You have very fat legs. You need to wear the long yoga pants, not the short ones. You have very fat legs. Why are you even taking yoga? You should be on a treadmill. You have very fat legs.

How could I hear anything else over that refrain?

What happens when a five-year-old sees exactly what you fear everyone sees, what you, in fact, see yourself? What happens when a five-year-old becomes your personal dressing room mirror, with its bad fluorescent lighting and unflattering angles, reflecting back the image you dread?

It knocks you down from your headstand, panting and out of breath, and rattles you to the core. It makes you want to hide somewhere no one can see this flaw, until it maybe somehow magically disappears.

I looked for the teaching moment with my little friend and came up empty. How could I make sense of this moment and come away with anything other than hurt?

I couldn’t. It sunk its teeth into me like a dog does with its chew toy, gripping even harder the more you try to shake it off.

It took a week, and a trip 8,000 miles away for me to take anything good away from this experience. The voice followed me, strong as ever as I boarded the plane to take me far, far away. Somewhere over the Pacific, it dulled to a soft whisper. But somehow, between Hong Kong and Ho Chi Minh City, it started to lift, and that voice finally, finally, quieted.

Knee-deep in my own exhaustion, outside a closed airport in Vietnam at 2 a.m., I realized I couldn’t hear it anymore. It was gone, and I now understood that the teaching moment here wasn’t for my five-year-old buddy. It was for me. I was the one who needed to learn the lesson.

It doesn’t matter.

That’s right, it doesn’t matter.

It doesn’t matter if a five-year-old thinks you have very fat legs. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t perfect. It doesn’t matter if you’re too old, too young, too fat, too skinny, too short, too tall, too anything.

What matters is that you live your life.

You don’t hide. You don’t keep plotting what will happen when you are thinner. You don’t avoid the things you love because you’re worried you don’t look good enough. You don’t save all of your best moments for some imagined time in the future when you’re sure you’ll be more perfect.

And you certainly don’t waste your thoughts on some silly thing a five-year-old said about your very normal-sized legs. Of this I am sure.

I’m not going to say that it doesn’t suck when anyone, even a five-year-old, in her infinite five-year-old wisdom, calls you fat. It does suck, even with all of your reasoning and rationalizing of it. And sometimes you forget that it really doesn’t matter. But then, you convince yourself to remember. You remind yourself about this life lesson.

Because life is not about fat legs, or skinny legs, or being perfect. Life is simply meant to be lived.

Confession: I Wasn’t Paying Attention

I drive home from work
Left on Crescent Heights, past all of the stop signs
Get on the freeway, move to the left lane
Traffic, start and stop, I can do this in my sleep
Am I asleep?
 
I’m not paying attention.
 
I get off at Lincoln
Head to the grocery store
Pick up spinach, milk, chicken, Diet Dr. Brown’s cream soda
It’s always the same
Does it ever change?
 
I’m not paying attention.
 
I stop at the dry cleaners, hand in my ticket
I’m on the phone, I don’t look up
I don’t make eye contact
I’m going through the motions 
Isn’t there more than this?
 
I want to pay attention.
 
I drive down my street
Then I turn again, onto another street
I’m going the wrong way, this isn’t the way home
I don’t know how I got here
Why do I do this?
 
I need to pay attention.
 
I turn around to drive home, it’s ok, I know where to go now
The sun is setting, I can see its spectacular glow
The air is thick, I can smell its ocean salt and its blooming flowers
A bird is chirping, I can hear its beautiful melody
Can I feel it?
 
I am paying attention.
 
I am not asleep
It does change
There is more
I can feel it
Will you too?
 
 
I will pay attention.