Sunday, April 4, 2010

mysterious universe

this is an old post that i started and never finished....until today....

a new series began on NPR called "the hidden world of girls." it documents stories about "girls and the women they become," female rituals and rights of passage, and unlikely traditions around the world.

i was inspired by the perfectly phrased thesis of one reporter: "one thing we noticed, if you're delving into the lives of women and girls, you can't help but enter into the mysterious universe of their bodies..."

the lives and rituals of girls and women fascinate...the daily ritual of cleaning our pores, plucking our eyebrows, picking out the best bits of granola from the bowl, the 8-octave range of laughter when we gather in groups...

the phrase "mysterious universe" instantly ignited in me two things: my own awe and adoration of the physical body in motion, and the tremendous pressure put on women to look a certain way to be considered "attractive" in our society; the obsession with physical standards put on a form that is so varied and powerful and designed to break boundaries. creating a collective belief that all bodies must adhere to one aesthetic goes against nature. okay, this is not new information. but women are still prey to it's grip on our minds and behavior. women are still fighting themselves and killing their spirits in order to fit into a trendy new look. or, in order to feel accepted in the world. which is what this comes down to. women's day may confuse some people- why do women need a whole day? women are powerful. yes. beyond measure. but we are not accepted completely. our bodies are not celebrated- not as they are, but as someone, somewhere decided they "should" be because it's more aesthetically appealing on camera. i'm going to put out there that 99% of women have/have had some form of an eating disorder. in my opinion, obsessive calorie counting is an eating disorder. it is absolutely true that counting calories can help people get healthier. physically. mentally and emotionally, i believe it is self-destructive. my opinions are based on my experience- what i have gone through myself and what i have witnessed in others.

i think it is a right of passage, unfortunately, to go through a period of disconnection to one's physical self. as a woman, coming in to one's own with a body as capable and powerful as the female body, "women who swell with the tide, women who change when the wind blows, show us we are connected to everything, show us we are not separate from everything." naturally the passage would be fraught with mistrust, misunderstandings and discomfort. i personally spent days gripping onto my inner thighs, staring into the mirror in horror at what i saw. i pulled back the flesh on my legs to see, just for a moment, how it would look, to feel what it would be like, to be 'pretty.' i don't know where this started or came from, i just know that i was living in a body i didn't understand.

over one summer in high school, i dropped from approximately 123lbs. to 102lbs. at 5'4" i was underweight. every thought i had was about food- i had my food down to a science and any deviation threw me into pure panic. i never felt nourished, i never felt satisfied, i just felt i had control over something. i was light and it felt good to hear people tell me i was "little." but i was dying. i had no emotional strength and i was disconnected from the world around me. hell, my hair was falling out. when i look back at that time, i was 100% lost in my neuroses, and never in my body. the result was a shell with a smile that i showed the world. the worst part about that time, in addition to the obscene mood swings, is that i have so few memories. i remember so little about the time i spent with friends and the things i did because i was never present in a single moment.

as is often the case, the weight started to come on. slowly at first, and then with a vengeance. i turned a corner and went from one extreme to the other, eating to fill this well i had created in myself. there were times when i could not stop and i made myself physically ill. there were times when i just ate with the intention of purging later. now eating brought me into my body, but i was even more uncomfortable than before.

with time, only time, and a deep knowing inside that i was living at the mercy of a lie so pervasive it has generated a billion dollar industry, i began to live inside my body- as it was. i was heavy now. unrecognizable when compared to images of my "former" self. but i was learning to accept that, to move on in spite of being uncomfortable and insecure. i not only felt a shift into a different physical space, but mental and emotional space as well. i had depth again. i was becoming whole, although still incomplete.

i found ways to express myself physically that felt joyful. i dove into my yoga practice. i started dancing again. getting back in front of a mirror and putting on tights with 40 more pounds than i had before was shitty, to say the least. but, really, there are worse things in life. i had legs and the desire to move and nothing was going to make me feel bad about that. with my weight, i felt i was in a cocoon so that i could emerge, at some point in the future, my Self. at least, that's how it made sense in my head. it was a lot easier to deal with that than to get up every day and say, "i'm fat and ugly." that method doesn't work if you hope to keep your spirit in tact.

it must be said that i am in no way disparaging exercise or eating right or becoming more mindful of what you put in your body. what i am saying is that everyone deserves to feel at home and loved inside their own space. and as a very wise woman said, we only have dominion over our own bodies. women naturally feel and sense more physically, and that is why this article is addressed to women. if women's bodies weren't so powerful and misunderstood, then how did female genital mutilation come to be? who invented breast implants? and vaginal reconstruction? who put the idea in our heads that after pregnancy and giving birth, a woman's body is "destroyed?" by diminishing and objectifying the female form, we diminish and confuse the woman's role in society. it is in our vulnerability that we have power. i can take into myself and create out of myself. i am soft and it feels good to rest against me. for someone seeking world domination, you can see how dangerous it might feel to really engage emotionally with that power- the power of letting go and receiving and connecting to nature. who's in charge? no one. all of us. it's not for you to know.

women take in the world around them and process it through an inherently sexual filter- their bodies. we give birth, which is, like it or not, the result of having sex. which is, if you're lucky enough to be with someone with whom you share trust and respect, utterly pleasurable. pleasure is part of the life-creating process. women feel, and we give life and we give love, and that is what makes the world go 'round. of course, that is not one-sided. women give, and are happy to give with a little understanding and respect. in order to bring the world into balance, men and women have to accept each other, as we are, and move forward with the intention of growing our consciousness to really view each other as equal. so women become vindicated for their inherent sexuality, and as punishment become "sexualized" and stereotyped. what i experience as sexual does not require me to wear stilettos and leather and purse my lips to express myself. at least, not all the time. the problem is the "stickiness" of that image, the grip it has in the psyche of our society as the apex of sexuality, and even what it is to be a woman. how about the sexiness of menstruation? what's not sexy about a woman moving with the tides of the earth, pulled in time with the moon, generating fertile ground to create life? if we gave ourselves the time and space to ride the waves of emotion and physical discomfort, PMS wouldn't be an ugly word or an ugly reality. it wouldn't exist.

in my current body, the excess has been shed and what's left continues to surprise me in it's effect on people, even myself. i don't have a perfect body, but i have a body you can hold on to. i have a body that's real. i have a body that's round. and i think the sexiest thing about my body is that it's MINE; i know it inside and out and it loves to move, it loves contact, it loves feeling.

i starved myself of my life for so long because i didn't feel like being me was ok. i buried myself in food for so long because i knew what "they" wanted wasn't possible. i wasted so much time not loving myself because, no matter how many times i heard the opposite, the world out there does everything to make you believe that what YOU think about YOURSELF doesn't matter.
what is healthy? what is beautiful? what is any of it?

your body is not a temple, your body is your home, your nest, your refuge. take care of that. spend as much time on the living room and the bedroom and the kitchen as you do on the facade. because really, no matter how good a house looks on the outside, if you walk in and there is garbage on the floor and one lone folding chair in the corner, you'll never want to be there. take care of yourself, and praise the beautiful being you are.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

the lover

i'm a romantic by nature. i love to love. i live to love. love is everywhere, love is everything, LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE. so imagine my chagrin when i pick up a lovely buddhist periodical, ON VALENTINE'S DAY, and read this:

"Romantic love, no matter how delicious, is the primary symptom of cultural malaise, the central neurosis of Western civilization.

By romantic love I mean that which focuses upon the loved one as an object of passion, devotion, and fixation. The loved one becomes the answer to all of life's problems, the source of all our happiness, and potentially, the source of all of our woes. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we can see that romantic love is deeply unhappy love, addicted to misery and suffering, cloaked in fantasy and separation."

i have enough experience with meditation and yoga to "understand" this message, but my heart, frankly, yelped like a puppy being kicked when i read this. i tend toward the dramatic, but doesn't EVERYBODY need love? what is love if not complete and utter surrender to another? well, some might say it's a healthy relationship...the idea behind the article i found is that pumping up love, or the object of our love, to be the cure-all in our lives is a recipe for disaster. therefore, we should use meditation to cut through fantasy and illusion to relate to life as it really is, in order to create REAL magic. well, if you put it that way, creating a relationship to something real is undoubtedly more fulfilling than relating to an illusion. but letting go of fantasy and romance....well, where's the fun in that? i'm torn between these two seemingly distinct beings within myself who approach love from entirely opposite ends of the spectrum- reason and passion, and i'm determined to reconcile the two. or maybe introduce them for the first time...

let's be clear that we're talking about romantic love here. we've all felt love, in the general sense, whether we classified it as such or not. that light, lifting feeling when you're surrounded by people you love, laughing, standing two feet deep in the crashing waves with the sun on your face, or having all the wind sucked out of you while listening to a certain piece of music. that sense of awe and wonder, to me, is the definition of love. in those moments, love is big and beautiful and wondrous and life-giving. but when that feeling is caused by one other person who makes your nether-regions tingle, well you better watch out because here's where it gets confusing; here's when we have to ask, what does it mean to love, and who decides?

i remember being in a yoga class and the teacher said, "when you give support to your heart you can open up without risking getting hurt." she was referring momentarily to a back bend, but obviously relating to real life scenarios. she always spoke so beautifully about the importance of having boundaries in order to be truly open. but without a full explanation i imagine the real meaning was lost on most of the class because, in our culture, any reference to the heart is either medical or entirely poetic. we have movies and music talking about the ecstasy of love and the 'ONE' and all that other poetic perfection, and then experience the real life instances of saying 'i love you,' and having the object of our affection turn on their heels and run for the hills. how then do we deal with the emotional aftermath of rejection? listening to sade on repeat, staring at the phone, driving slowly down the other person's street with the headlights off...or whatever...with 'Grey's Anatomy' polluting society's collective mind about the 'shoulds' of relationships, people end up going through life either exposing themselves and their emotions to the point of indecency, or walking around with electrified barbed wire fences around themselves.

if you've seen the movie, 'UP,' there's a scene between a man and his dog that illustrates my heart's understanding of love; Dug, the dog, knocks on the door of his master's house (Dug decided this man would be his master, while the master refused...classic dramatized love story.) then he says simply, "i was hiding under your porch because i LOVE you.....can i stay?" in Dug's world, love is something automatic, and mindless. Dug doesn't THINK about it, he just loves his master because that's his master. and even when the master says over and over again, 'i'm NOT your master,' Dug persists. it's adorable, it's heartbreaking, it's a cartoon. it's entertaining because we know it can't end badly. put that into the context of the real world it's slightly pathetic. and painful to watch because, unfortunately, in real life, the Disney producers aren't guiding the story line to ensure a happy ending for the love-starved dog named Dug.

i don't believe the heart can be controlled. but it can be reasoned with, to some degree. if you live your life in a 'protective' state of mind- not expecting anyone to be able to understand your heart, or to fully appreciate and protect the gift of your love, you're not going to believe in or even recognize the miracle of that person when they show up. the balance point is to be present enough to recognize the butterflies and skipped beats, AND protective enough to realize that YOU are ultimately responsible for the fate of that little heart. it's up to each of us to determine whether or not the object of our lust deserves that pink pulsing muscle in our chest. love is a gift, and sometimes we give gifts that are appreciated fully and sometimes we give gifts that WE really like, but the significance is totally lost on the recipient. believe in the possibility of shared love, fall in love with your own heart first, and when the time is right you can spill your guts in a tidy way. magic is real, but we have to give it REAL LIFE context, because it can be really not fun, too. in that way, loving someone is just like anything else- let's say a shower- it's something you need regularly, it's something that can go from hot to cold in a split second, it can make a big difference in your day and your health, and it's something that can be easily taken for granted. but we all need to shower.

in the game of love, there are bound to be casualties. involuntary manslaughter. homicide. suicide. if you know the content of your own heart, if you talk to your heart regularly, know its secrets, its desires, its needs, you will learn how to feed it and care for it. and then when someone comes along who might be worthy of the gift of your love, the two of you can share it. i don't know that i'll ever completely get over the impulse to rip my still-beating heart out of my chest and wrap it in a big pink, bloody bow for my lover, but i guess i just have to take that risk, one love at a time.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

why can't you be perfect?!, or, "she who is independent and free"

"If you're a left-winger, you may think right-wingers are stupid or evil or both. If you're a right-winger, you probably hold the same attitudes about left-wingers. A similar pattern prevails between most other groups that hold opposing views. You're a rare person if you've never looked at a certain group of people and thought to yourself, "They are all sick idiots."

But I'm asking you to find out what it's like to dispense with judgments like that. In fact, try living without any scapegoats whatsoever. If even for an hour per week, visualize the possibility that those with whom you disagree might be sincere and well meaning.

I'm not suggesting this exercise merely because it's a nice thing to do. It will also have the effect of giving you access to parts of your own intelligence that have been closed off to you."

searching for inspiration today, i sit down at my roommate's computer, open up my treasured "Free Will Astrology" reading for the week, and what do i find? a gem of a fortune. not my horoscope, but a "Sacred Advertisement" for my sign. this man seems to know all. was he reading my thoughts all morning? and was it really the stars that aligned to create a day full of judgment and disappointment in another?

why is that we- i'm sorry- why do I put so much pressure on people to be perfect? why am i so critical? well, i have done some research into myself, and because i believe in taking responsibility for our lives, as well as cosmic truths, i use astrology to gain some insights into my tendencies.....for better or for worse....

my sun sign is capricorn- ambitious and practical, likely to have an excellent sense of social responsibility. great. read on: "you put yourself under enormous pressure to perform, and can feel personally responsible for those around you. you may have suffered from a restrictive early environment, and your aloofness may serve to protect you from dealing with a fear of intimacy, or low self-esteem. you exemplify the values of hard work and accomplishment, and service to the goals of humanity, and your redemption comes when you allow the spiritual joy that you feel inside to fully express itself in graceful acts of loving-kindness."

*often unable to reconcile the "i shoulds" with the "i wants," i turn my confusion onto others. "you should, because i can't!" and sometimes just, "i suck." yet, somewhere inside there's a *SPARK* of love and compassion and grace that i would really like to put forth more often...especially in situations like yesterday....(details aren't important...let's just say my expectations weren't met and i got a little huffy...)

the sign of capricorn is ruled by the dark, paternal planet of saturn. great. daddy issues: "saturn is the planet of limitation and contraction, and the trials of life experience. this includes discipline, punctuality, and the conservation of material resources. it indicates areas where the personality will be restricted by fears and lack of confidence."

*ironically, my father was never the disciplinarian, but here's how i've learned to behave under saturn: i HATE to be late for things. ANYTHING. and if you tell me you'll 'be there later,' i want you to give me an exact time. please. it really stresses me out. and if you tell me that you'll be there and have to cancel, i get mad. or really sad. i make mistakes. often. and tend to dwell on how to redeem myself. oh, and i revert to being 5 years old if you take my food. serious big brother trauma. don't i sound like fun?!

LUCKILY, capricorn is also an earth sign, so there's some balance to all that hard-nosed, know-it-all energy: "the earth element is feminine or yin, in-taking and receptive. it corresponds to the jungian typology of sensation. earth people are in touch with their bodies and the pleasures of the physical world around them. they are givers of form and structure. they endure."

*so, basically, i like to tell people what to do, and i like it when people touch me. i really like it... and i'm a giver. who loves food and drink. so, you know, i can be fun OCCASIONALLY.

how about chinese astrology, in which i am the poster puppy for the sign of the dog, "who symbolizes character traits such as loyalty, compatibility and kindness. dogs frequently offer kind words and useful advice, always listening and lending a shoulder when necessary. dogs often become deeply involved in others’ lives. ensuring others are happy is more important to the dog than wealth, money or success."

*i'll be there for you whenever you need me. i'll even scratch your belly. just bring me a treat!

"dogs at times can also be temperamental, narrow-minded and stubborn. dogs can benefit by learning to relax and being more rational."


now take a listen to some jyotish (ancient astrology of india) advice for yesterday (when my critical knob turned WAY up!): "today practice seeing what you can’t see. see beyond the limitations of your pre-conceived notions about people, places and things. maybe he really isn’t a jerk. maybe she really isn’t selfish. maybe this world is just a dream happening in a gigantic mind."

*hah. maybe he really isn't a jerk.....interesting....

ok, so maybe i overreacted. perhaps i could offer a more graceful solution to the situation (again, details aren't important, because the FACT of the matter is that i tend to be overly critical AND sensitive...lucky him...) i don't know that i can fully let go of my resentment and violent wishes for the workmen upstairs (SERIOUSLY?! WHY do you need to THROW everything?! isn't there a way to hammer quietly???) but now i can acknowledge that my thoughts are futile, if not a little childish. (no, stacey, construction can't be done quietly just because you don't want to be disturbed. these men are actually WORKING. you're sitting on one's out to ruin your day.) at the end of the day, and as much as i hate to admit it, deep down inside i'm just a wet little puppy dog lookin' for someone to love...

and to conclude, i'll share what i think is by far the most meaningful reading of all these traditions- of all the ways to read the stars- here's what the cosmos had to say today:

Thursday, February 4, 2010 (Waning 7th Phase; Libra/Svati ~ “She Who is Independent and Free”)

"In the days of Rama (the epic hero and godman of the Ramayana), no one believed that a mere monkey could defeat a powerful demon. And yet, one by the name of Hanuman did.

In the days of the ancient Israelites, no one believed that David could defeat Goliath. And yet, he did.

And in the days of Middle Earth, no one believed that a humble hobbit could rescue the world from darkness. And yet, he did."

so why do you think you’re so helpless?

gather your courage. surrender your pride and insecurities. you have absolutely nothing to lose. take a momentous leap of faith.


Monday, January 11, 2010

For Lovers and No Others

Peter McWilliams is an old hippie-poet I discovered through my friend and (cynics, close your eyes) soul-mate, Cassandra. In college she introduced me to this crazy man's work, and every time I read him I cry and laugh because he writes my inner sentiments so perfectly...

Here are just a few I wanted to share:

I don't know if love conquers all.
I do know it conquers me with alarming regularity.
Oh this one is going to hurt.
I am falling faster than I said I would
or thought I could.
And you aren't helping any.
You're so comforting and creative and beautiful and full filling.
I am falling.
I will flap my arms and pretend to be flying.
Help Me!
Catch me with your smile.

Hold on to your hopes my friend.
Squeeze them in your tepid clammy hand
until blood runs from them and trickles onto the floor.
But what if your dreams are made of clay or cotton candy
or gossamer wings?
What can I tell you to do with them then?
Well, whatever they're made of and whatever you do,
don't offer these dreams to anybody.
Because I offered mine to somebody (you) once
and that somebody (you)
turned them into rocks and threw them back at me
from behind their (your) wall.
And I hope if this ever happens to you,
you will write a better poem about it than I just have.
Why must I always fall for chicken shits
on ego trips?
I cannot love half assed.
I must love well and intently and creatively
or the forces within me turn back upon themselves
and explode....boom.
Do you want love
or do you want someone to drive the
loneliness from your life?
Do you want me
or would anyone do?
Do you want love in return
or just to respond?
I was not put on this earth
to test your reflexes.
Excuse me.
I am currectly afflicted with the world's number one crippler.
Commonly refered to in non-medical circles as
Any spare comfort you have to give would be most appreciated,
although my ability to recieve may be temporarily impaired.
Thank you.

-Peter McWilliams

recounting the moments

it's another friday night in rio. i arrived three weeks ago and finally feel the rhythm of the place setting in. i don't have my capoeira classes, i don't have my friends to call, i don't have a routine, but i have myself in a city that pulses with so much energy sometimes i feel like i've spent the last 26 years in a hyperbaric chamber. what's on the agenda for tonight? well, it's friday so we're obviously going to lapa. that's where the people are. meet at the caipirinha stand (for just anybody, this would be the most unspecific direction of all time, considering the 50+ caipirinha stands on the street in lapa on any given friday...but within this group, it's one singular point on a map.) what are we gonna do tonight? tom suggests a reggae show at some place called 'casa de geral' in santa teresa. well, that's close to home, and it only costs R$3 to get in. plus, the invitation came from tom's love interest- the beautiful portuguese-speaking german ballerina. heck yes! but let's hit lapa first. it's early.

we get down to lapa at about 10pm. caipirinha, check. R$5 for a caipirinha to conquer all caipirinhas. about 1/4 of a bottle in a 24oz cup, complete with electric green sugar syrup decoratively dripped around the cup like the work of some barista at starbucks. once we've all got our first sip down and the heat sets in, the crowd grows exponentionally with each passing minute like some kind of amoeba dividing and sub-dividing... suddenly i hear something very familiar... no, it's not lil' wayne on mr. caipirinha's ghetto blaster, it's bigger...badder...and way more fun to dance to.

"do you guys hear that?" i ask my crew of escorts (i.e. my male roommates who serve as companions on the night out, but offer about as much deterrant to the brazilian boys as sugar water to mosquitoes...) looking out through the crowd and the screaming traffic, my ears lead me through the cars, across two streets to a sub-crowd of people standing in front of a garage door. above hangs a green, yellow and black sign that says, 'orunmila centro cultural afro-brasileiro.' unable to contain myself i bounce in place, oblivious to whether or not my friends have followed me across the street and managed to dodge the speeding buses and taxis. the bateria plays a steady beat that feels so familiar and so comforting and sooo intoxicating, all feelings of culture shock and not speaking the language go out the window. right now, i understand everything...and for everything else i'll just follow along.

the garage doors fly open and, following the drums, the crowd streams into the tiny, dark room, set up with a small bar, a smaller stage, and acoustics to make your heart melt. the beat stops, just long enough to introduce the featured singer for the evening. the smiles light up the barely lit room, reflecting off the beads of sweat on everyone's forehead. the rasta on stage takes the mic, and leads everyone in another round of pulsing movement and sound...i look behind me and tom, my punk-rock compadre from the streets of nottingham, and rob, the streets-of-new york-bred harvard grad, are dancing in the crowd like it's their neighborhood spot, so familiar, so happy, so brazilian....

we float out of there on a wave of music and pile in a taxi that takes us up, up, up the hills of santa teresa almost to corcovado. we are sitting on top of rio de janeiro and get out to find a small house party. we make our way to the back patio, where reggae music awaits us on the stereo and home-made music videos play on the projector. following orunmila, this is the only place that could have improved upon the vibe.

people walk in, new faces appear, the music from the dj's lap top gets better and better...a man appears who stands about 6'3" with dreads bursting out of his head. he's the singer for the band. i saw him in the video. then the next set of dreads appears. and the next. i love it here...
tom, knowing my tendencies, looks to me and says, "you're loving it here, aren't you?" i don't need to answer. the smile is practically too big for my face. but i have enough sense to notice that his girl just walked in with another guy...

"you want another beer?" i ask. his face says it all as he nods. i walk over to the make-shift bar- one of the guy's bedroom windows opens up onto the center courtyard. the house shoots up two stories, enclosing us on three sides. the back "wall" is the forest of santa teresa- banana trees and thick branches dangling to the ground. i'm waiting for a monkey to come sit on my shoulder. the air slowly fills with swirling smoke, the earthy smell of reggae music floats through the crowd. then something catches my eye. more dreads. bleached blond. dark eyes, almost black, and a face like i've never seen. i grab tom's hand to show him my find, and he just speaks for me, "yeah, he's beautiful..." but in nottingham they say, "yeh, 'ees beyoot-i-fol."

i look again and he looks at me. my stomach drops and i smile. i have to look away. hmmm...a beer i i stand in line i look around at all the faces i see; they're all smiling. voices are getting louder, the band is setting up and the space to move gets tighter and tighter. i grab my beer and turn to see the blond dreads and face that make me grin like an idiot....
"quere entrar pa' falar."
"nao, ainda nao. uh, vou para o banheiro!"
he looks at me with eyes so wide and innocent i feel like a six year-old on the playground...i'm waiting for him to hold my hand and tell me i'm pretty before he pulls my hair and runs away.
deep breath. i need music.

so the music starts. and it's OFF THE CHAIN!
the lead singer, udi, has one of the most unique voices i've ever heard. they play a set of original reggae-funk songs, and then start into covers- everything from bob marley to james brown to amy winehouse and vanessa da mata (i thought it was a recording of her voice when he started singing 'nao me deixe so'.) the band never stopped playing, the crowd never stopped dancing, and i never stopped stealing glances from my crush...
finally he started dancing with me...he did his best to ask me questions i could understand...i did my best to answer...his name was saulo. i looked over to see tom chatting with a beautiful blond girl holding hands with a creepy looking "band manager" type...the smoke in the air mixed with the spring breeze and it all seemed like an alternate universe...that felt so close to home...glances turned to dancing, which led to hand-holding, bodies leaning into each other, faces touching, and the kiss...then the hours passed like minutes. i remember looking around suddenly to find a nearly empty house.

in this transition moment, the smoke was starting to clear, the caipirinha fading away, the voices quieting, the night transitioning to morning...i saw tom wandering about like a lost infant.
"hey! are you ok?" he looked at me from under his cap and just broke. no words, just tears, and i grabbed him for a big hug. "hey, you wanna go? do you want me to take you home?" saulo was there behind me looking for a way to help. i told him we needed to get tom home. saulo looked at him with all kindness and heart and offered him a huge hug. "take it easy," he said. tom lightened a little. "i just want to go home." he had ended a 2 year relationship before coming to brazil, and the girl he followed to this party just made out with a creepy old man in front of his face. so we loaded him into a kombi outside, and i was relieved to see the driver from morro dos prazeres with black lights inside his converted vw bus and a dvd player that always had hip hop music videos playing...
(in portuguese) "i need you to take my friend home- make SURE he gets there. rua aurea 80."
"the pousada, right?"
"right. make sure he gets in. can you help me?"
"you got it."

we set tom off and turned back to the house. so quiet now. the band sitting on the front porch, seeming so calm and normal after putting on such an amazing show. where are you from, what are you doing here, how are you liking rio? all the questions flowing back and forth in a language i don't yet know that i speak. i hear it. i get it. but it doesn't come out of me the way i want it to. but sitting on that porch at day break, i feel at home.

it's almost six. i tell saulo i need to go home. i live in santa teresa, by the football pitch. we get on the bus and head down. out the window, i see a cidade maravillhosa- the ocean lit by the dawn's pink sky, pao de azucar rising out of the bay, and all the favelas descending down the mountain. on top of everything, cristo o redentor standing on top of corcovado, in perfect view. the colors of the morning, of the mountainside, the richness of the landscape and the air itself...i feel myself wrapped up in rio, wrapped up in saulo's arms.

when the bus stops, i can hardly get off, my legs are so shaky... is it the eight hours of dancing? the 24oz caipirinha? the contact high? the city? whatever it is, it's inside me, and one dream drifts into another as i put myself to bed that my new home, rio de janeiro...

Friday, January 8, 2010

Escuto no silêncio que há em mim e basta, Outro tempo começou pra mim agora.

"Pra Rua Me Levar" ~Ana Carolina

back on native soil for almost a month now, and rio tugs at my heart every day. or is it something else?
missed opportunity? frustration with the cold? faraway friends?
i've been fielding all sorts of questions, getting the answers as i give them, sometimes after...
and due to various levels of support, i'm pleased to report i'm uncovering some deeper answers
and inspired direction for 2010.

before i dig in to the "shtuff," i'll first give examples of the helpful levels of support which have helped
me arrive at my current state of mind:
level 1. a smile and a hug, and a, 'i'm so happy to see you!' no questions asked.
to you, i say thank you...
level 2. the friends who look at you cross-eyed, ask a million questions, then say,
"ok! if you're happy, i'm happy!" again, thank you.
and then we have level 3. this is the stuff that really gets the ball rolling in a new direction...
you know, the questions don't really ask anything, but tell you things, the sit-down conversations
that make your stomach drop to the floor and all the water in your body gush to your eyeballs, the look
that shoots straight into your soul and latches hold, and those words..."i'm concerned,"...oh, god...
to you, from the bottom of my heart, thank you...

leaving rio was one of the hardest decisions i've ever had to make. mostly because i knew
either way, whether i stayed or left, i wasn't really fulfilling my goal. i thought about
my options for weeks. i rationalized. i got really scared, made excuses and thought about all
the things i could tell people to convince them that leaving was my only option.

i know my hands, my heart, carry an incredible bounty of memories from my trip. but memories
fade. as my tan has regrettably done as well... what i have now, i can't name. it's the result of exposing
blood and bone, and finding fear and cowardice. what i have is mine, and it doesn't need your input.
for me, that is greater than any day at the beach, sweeter than any suco, and stronger than any cachaca.
i realize that i make a great co-captain; but in my own life, co-captain has gotten me to the middle of a lot
of paths, and never to the end result. on this path of self-discovery i have realizations out of exciting and
high-intensity experiences, but rarely put them to use in the day-to-day experience.

what i know is that i've always been an all-or-nothing type of person. i tend to jump in with both
feet, without asking what/how/why/when/where. i trust. i give. but i don't always take control.
as one wise woman put it, "you're like a little fire that keeps burning up." so how to tend that flame....

and that is where i stand now, balancing between deliberate, measured, even-keeled actions, and free,
passionate, caution-to-the-wind experimentation. life is a practice like any other: in yoga, if i only
practice back bends (which feel easy and natural) without strengthening my core, my overall practice,
and especially my lower back, suffer. in capoeira, if i focus 100% on kicking and don't observe my opponent
and evade their kick, i will end up taking a martelo to the face or getting knocked on my butt for the world to see.
hmph. wouldn't be the first time...

somehow i always end up on my feet, but i'd like to avoid the bruises on my backside as much as possible
moving forward. i am so grateful i took the risk i took because it stripped me inside out and i now get to
start from scratch; with a bit of wisdom tucked in my pocket. a very good place to start. even if it is already
the sixth..."today is the first day of" something or other, right?

so to all friends out there, types 1, 2, and 3, thank you...and if you ever need a hand to help you
up off the floor, or someone to ask you how you got there, or maybe someone to look down at
you and say, "i'm worried about this," consider it done.

i will do my best to offer some wisdom when it counts.

"Your reason and your passion are the rudder and the sails of your seafaring soul; if either your sails or your rudder be broken, you can but toss and drift, or else be held at a standstill in mid-seas. For reason, ruling alone, is a force confining; and passion, unattended, is a flame that burns to its own destruction."

~Khalil Gibran