Saturday, March 29, 2014

The world, according to Dawn

Ever had one of those moments when you feel detached, VERY aware of what's happening, participating in that moment, yet knowing it's something special?

That happened to me Wednesday during what I thought would be a routine haircut. However, my stylist is anything but hum-drum. She's a hoot and about as unique as they come. She'll tell you exactly what she thinks while giving you the best cut. I've never trusted anyone else to just do whatever they want. She really has a gift and it goes beyond cutting hair. She's had a very hard life, yet risen above it with grace, humor and the goodness to help others with similar paths.

Surprisingly her cubby in the warren of mini-salons was empty when I arrived, about a minute late. So we had time to chat about what I wanted and catch up. Dawn just knows everything. She's given me sound advice on teen girls and helped me open to a sassier look. Her knowledge is earned – from experience. She's even shared a Spirit-moment when, as a child and life looked impossible, something BIGGER let her know it would be okay – and it was. I found her on the recommendation of an artist friend, who said she was a genius with a frankness about life. She needs to write a book, "The World according to Dawn."
courtesy of Stuart Miles and FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As Dawn was finishing me up, a young woman quietly appeared and sat down. Soon a new father showed up and the party was on. Our hostess offered us each a glass of wine. I kept covering mine while the hair flew. The wine was a good antidote to a busy day and evening.

The young woman went to the chair and Dawn began to shave her head. She had an edgy cut, half to her chin and half shaved. Apparently, she'd grown braver after she'd come out. Dawn teased her that she'd always known "since you were nine and wore those baggy clothes and t-shirts." It was affectionate teasing. Dawn doesn't care who you are. Last time, I witnessed as she cut the hair of an older woman with some disabilities. The cut was gorgeous and made the woman shine. Dawn sheared the hair away from her face and her entire demeanor changed. I made a point to share how becoming it was on her.

Dawn told the young woman she shouldn't get any skinnier, to which she responded the stress of an ended relationship was the culprit. "Ok then, let's get you a new cut and a new girlfriend."

While they bantered, I took a few minutes to polish off my cabernet and chat with the new father, a cute IT engineer with an adorable five-week old. I asked all about the birth, how his wife was, the size of the baby and if he slept yet. In the process, I also learned the father is from a region in India called Kerala. We discussed the spicy food, use of coconut milk, how he's been here five years working and brought his wife over two years ago. I confessed I had always wanted to visit India. You should, he encouraged me.

We were this odd, ragtag bunch: a young lesbian, a thirty-something immigrant father and a middle-aged artist chatting away, enjoying each other's company thanks to the salty hospitality of a wise, witty and gritty hair stylist who accepts everyone who darkens her door on THEIR terms.

• When have I been detached and aware of a special circumstance?
• How or where did I see Spirit's hand in it?
• Whom do I know that accepts people for who they are?
• What has that taught me?
• How have I learned to do the same?

I almost called  
to ask if I'd 
be waiting

last time,
my turn
was delayed

while a women
it seems struggles
with life was
on the spot

I was on a
tighter schedule
today and less
than normal

funny thing
is, she was
waiting on me

not another soul
in sight

with my cut
well in progress
and some

strangers began
to trickle in

but the flowing
wine and

made me feel
anything but
strange with
this random

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Friday, March 21, 2014

Gathering the pieces

Yesterday, we took our teen daughters to the county clerk of courts to begin the process of applying for their passports; we're traveling as a family this summer. I was caught off guard when the clerk asked us all to raise our hands and swear the photos we were handing over were actually our daughters.

Quakers don't take oaths or swear, I wanted to announce.

But there wasn't time and I'd already been admonished by my husband to behave and get this over quickly. He knew the clerk piqued my ire when she questioned the paper the photos were printed on and, with a scowl, asked if we'd taken our own. "I thought so," dripped out of the side of her mouth. She had no clue what a wonderful photographer had taken them AND paid full attention to all of the rules and regulations.

I merely raised my hand and said nothing, which seemed enough for her. Quakers believe in integrity and always telling the truth, so there's no need for an oath.

There are other things Quakers don't do and I missed growing up Methodist that I am just learning. Take the practice of Lent, for example. All I remember as a child were the candles (and I could be mixing up Lent and Advent; I can't recall any explanations), a new-color cloth on the cross and many sermons building up to Easter, when everyone dressed to the nines. The words seemed so ancient and removed from me and the dressing-up business, well, a giant mismatch to what I, even as a child, learned as the teaching of Jesus.

Because Quakers value every day as sacred, Easter is often not put on a pedestal, nor is it neglected. Ever since a Quaker mystics gathering last summer, I have been fixated on the cross and what it truly means to me and my life. I want to personalize its symbolism, not merely dismiss it as part of a rote story.

Interesting that Catholic priests and an Episcopal minister have gently nudged me in my exploration and search for truth. I regularly read Catholics Henri Nouwen and Richard Rohr's daily meditations. And Pastor Mary launched me on a New Year's retreat that has bled into Easter. She's the one who gave me the word "purification" as my mantra for this year, which seems like the ideal Lenten focus. Rohr brings the idea of the false self and being separated from God to life through Jesus' pre-Resurrection journey. And, Nouwen has helped me identify the mystical Jesus, or Christ energy as I call it, in myself. I feel as if I am on a similar journey of stripping away what is not of God with the exclusive purpose of becoming closer to union. There are also elements of absorbing the world's pain as Jesus soaked in universal sin and letting that action be transformational; surrendering to Spirit.

In an e-mail, I recently thanked Mary for her guidance and even my word. She responded that she was glad it was blessing me. Blessing me? I thought. I wrote backing saying, some days, it felt like work. Her wise response: "Yes, healing often feels like work, which is one of the very few reasons this kind of work can sometimes also be a blessing."

Not the answer I wanted to hear, but truthful, I understood.

Somewhere in all of this, I had a flash that instead of looking at my body separately (this health issue and that), I needed to consider it as a whole, much like the body of Christ.

But God has put the body together ...  so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. [I Corinthians: 24-6]

I understand that metaphorically, so why not physically, in my own body. Unity in my body, wow, what a concept! No fighting or battling, competing or quarreling. Just peace. 

Could this be a path to healing?

• What did my childhood faith neglect to teach me?
• What truths did I retain?
• Where do I find truth these days?
• How do I view the concept of resurrection?
• How is it applicable in my own life?

the division
IS false

this or that,
it says

until it drives
you into

breaks you
up, spits you
out, helps you
believe you
are nothing

only then,
can you

the pieces
to be picked
up and made

by Spirit

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Community of strangers

And I thought I was teaching. Saturday, they arrived in a steady stream with enough space between to begin to get to know them, their pain and stories. I had been prepping for this event for weeks with my new partner, and years before that.

As often happens, I had not counted on receiving so much from a group I was helping facilitate. Yet, that's what transpires when you invite Spirit in with the intention of deep community.

We laughed, cried, ate, played, turned inside, shared and learned together. We may have entered as strangers, but we didn't leave that way – at least not from my perspective, even if we never meet again.

This courageous group opened me and provided community I had been missing without knowing. Mostly I have experienced my pain in isolation, sharing with immediate family and close friends. But, honestly, they have no inkling of this journey. I tend to put it away on a shelf when not dealing directly with the pain. Nobody really wants to hear about it, except God. And this group.

It was as if we could not believe it was ok to talk about what we experience, including our darker thoughts. The ones that typically remain unspoken for fear of being misunderstood. 

This group certainly got it. They live it, daily. For over three hours, we vacillated among discussion, one-on-one conversations, prompts, journaling, playful and interior activities aimed at confronting our pain and seeking its spiritual messages. For most, it seemed the only path with the promise of real answers and transformation, though certainly not the first path for many of us. Seems we've reached a place of desiring understanding and not necessarily healing because of so many false promises. I can't say I've had the surgeries and hardware others have, but I know all too well the disappointment of a shiny new therapy, test or drug promised to work.

We all seemed to share the idea that we are less than. Chronic pain can do that. But I suspect we had some of that in us before the pain. Yet, hearing another person verbally articulate those feelings broke my isolation. One wise soul shared that she had learned to become her own best friend.

I felt normal for having such an inconsistent life and ability to work because they live similarly. I am more patient with my lengthy morning routine, grateful that I can get out of bed and into the gym or studio.  It was as if Spirit blew in a breath of fresh air, helping me see there is connection even in pain.

I came home and crashed. Frustrating, but not unexpected because I typically can not count on performing major activities back to back. My partner was down two days with a temperature. Yesterday, we e-mailed each other from bed. It seemed so pathetic as to be funny. Humor was another common element in Saturday's group. We laughed more than anything else – a rich and welcome surprise!

There's still some processing to do and program tweaking, follow-ups and prepping for the next session, but I suspect this group will be in my heart for a very long time. Isn't it amazing whom Spirit randomly seems to pull together?

• When have I felt accompanied and understood among strangers?
• What bound us?
• What is my experience of receiving when I thought I was giving?
• When have strangers marked my heart?
• Whom has Spirit randomly pulled into my life?

Thought I was
SO organized

everything neatly
packed and in
the trunk

ready to
the room into

a colorful
splurge of
playing with pain

yet I forgot
my latest art
piece, a rainbow
pain meter

my partner gently
encouraged me to
get past it and
move on

into Spirit's lively
flow of reaching
down deep with
patience, humor
and tenderness into
our pain and tapping
the places we
all share


a community of

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