January in south Santa Cruz County is a dream. Storms barrel through, leaving the air smelling like Technicolor. Frogs emerge in their wake, shrieking to one another across standing water. Green grass comes back like a verdant blaze and you barely remember the crackle underfoot of late summer. The beaches are clear, barrel lines of waves populated by locals, and sunsets fire off phosphorescence before dinner. The turn into 2019 has been a solid one.
I absolutely loathe New Year’s, but I made some promises that evening over dinner with friends so there could be some accountability hitched onto them. More music, more art, more ocean. Lunch money is spent on concert tickets, and I rub my hands with glee adding them to the calendar months out. Long hours were spent in the Getty last weekend, surrounded by that mountain of Italian travertine marble as I stared, hollowed out, at the image of Emmett Mann - small hands splayed on the Murray river’s surface, eyes hawk-fierce as he stares into his mother’s camera lens. I fly out of the house by 4:20pm several days a week, skidding to nearby sands to watch the sun extinguish itself on the Pacific. Getting into a rhythm of Her presence is a warm-up; after a few decades of posturing I finally learned to surf this past autumn and I want to be one of those women who tracks the tides and ignores banal responsibilities to paddle out. I’ve got some hang-ups; timidity to be a greenhorn out on the line, (I’ve always, ALWAYS just wanted to be good at things out-right and avoid the suffering that comes with inexperience), and I’m plagued with seasickness from sitting on the board and watching the waves largely pass, (there’s a lot of that in this stage for me), as you bob around on the surface. I’ll figure it out.
Another, less articulated, promise I made was “getting out of my own damn way.” I wasn’t sure what I meant when I said it, and I wasn’t sure if I was entirely ok with the vulnerability of the admittance, either. Still not – both counts. There’s bound to be some explanation in there as to why at 12:03am Jan 1, I was curled on the floor of the shower, sobbing that way you can where you don’t make sounds. Jacob crawling in after me, putting his arms over the shuddering armored curve of my spine. I don’t remember him saying anything, but at one point I came to a full stop, pulled up my head, said evenly “I’m fine.” and got into bed without drying off.
The next day I kept waiting for him to cautiously ask what had happened, what was wrong, was I all right and what could he do? He never did, and at one point as dusk was closing in on the first day of the year – us descending from a climb up on the ridges overlooking Wilder – I was the one that said, “I’m sorry if I frightened you last night, I’m not sure what happened.”
“You didn’t,” he replied, taking my arm and pulling me across Highway 1 in a gap between cars back to where we had parked. “You just hate New Year’s. Always have.” A moment of indignation, then I let it go. This man, still a mystery to me after nearly decade in his company and some serious declarations. He can fix almost anything in the physical world, yet he doesn’t try to fix me. Not because he doesn’t care, but because he trusts that I’ve got this. Got me. As the bulk of my relationships have been with those who believed they knew what was in my best interests, this continues to be a revelation.
I wonder at what it looks like, to get out of your own way? To be able to wake up in the morning and create whatever the fuck you want without boundaries or restrictions? To shake off the conditions we place on love, and love with such tenacity and boundlessness that there was never any question. ESPECIALLY when it came to loving ourselves?
I am extremely skilled when it comes to loving others. Men, women, creatures – especially creatures. I fall in love, over and over again, with the way the light falls, birdsong at dawn, beats of music, passages read, return of the daffodils. Love wells up in me and makes a mess all over the place, all the time. But it has come curiously to my attention as of late that I am not so sure how to articulate love for my Self.
This hint has hurtled down like a cartoon anvil from a few most trusted teachers, random articles, conversations with relative strangers. Something bigger than me is trying to drop some knowledge, and I am slowly taking my fingers out of my ears and ceasing the loud, distractive humming.
Do you know how to do it? How to frame it? What does it mean to you?
What have I been missing out on? How rad could life be, if I just got out of my own way and wildly loved myself whether I was a heap on the floor, or making flowers for a six-page editorial in Vanity Fair? (yo, VF – I have relative availability in April, look me up.)
Oh, the utter woe I feel faced with the volume of self-helpery this endeavor could plunge one into! My mild revulsion at the possible directive to “mother my inner little girl”, wail in parlayed grief in a sweat lodge, or take up yoni steaming. I can get down on a lot of weird stuff, but I have limits - yoni steaming is likely one of them.
And yet, as much of a mountain as this question seems to be – I’m so very curious. It is my nature to seek, seek, seek. Make the list, set the goal, raze the page to the next chapter. But this answer is one for which there is no action plan or template to follow. There is no timeline, besides, I suppose, when my own mortality kicks in. I peer at the notion of self-love and it’s a Rothko, a soft blurring. For a moment I see through it, hear the message, before it re-solidifies to a 2-D pane of color.
Yesterday I was hiking with a new friend in the redwoods. This zen, Piscean, philosophical ceramicist has an uncanny way of redirecting conversation so you’re always talking about yourself. I’d start with, “so tell me about your two years in Japan?” and within two-minutes he’s got me searching for the right words to shape my personal definition of attachment, and how that’s tied to my fear of being left. The fuck. Known this dude for the total of about five hours and I’m spilling my freaking guts.
Anyway - by the end of this particular span of time we’re sharing a small meal, and he’s pouring another cup of hot tea that is spookily always within his vicinity. People who drink tea in this consistent manner rattle me. They generally enjoy a better handle on their adrenals, have no problem with lapsed silence amongst company, and sincerely wish good health upon the disgusting hacking-cough sitting across from you on the subway. I had just wound up yet another TMI divulgence; this one centered on a Great Love who once told me I was created exactly for him, and how this was simultaneously the most destructive and insanely hot thing anyone had or has ever said to me. He asked if I had ever believed that anyone was like that; made for me? I was silent a long time, thinking, and finally I looked up.
“Don’t you think that you were made exactly for you?”