Talking About Silence

It’s ironic, I know–talking about silence. You destroy it the minute you begin. The only thing you can do is describe the negative space around it. Lo spazio vuoto. Everything you don’t say is the thing you mean.

It takes practice. Silence, I mean.

Silence isn’t something most people love, crave, or become terribly crabby without. Enter: me.

You know the story: silence came to me by accident. I didn’t want it. For 14 years, the tv was on, then suddenly it wasn’t. The ticking clocks were deafening, at first. That’s a lot of punctuation. Are they comas, the ticks, or periods? Maybe they are question marks.

It grows on you.

Sometimes, if you dive down deep enough under water that your belly touches the sand, you can hear whales. Really. Who knew? It’s all this silence and then when you’re down far enough to have to pop your ears, there it is: the language with no words.

I love music. I love lights and noise and having 2 or 12 people over for dinner. I love talking and laughing and telling stories. I love saying the funny thing you didn’t expect. I love telling you a story you can barely believe. Silence waits outside the screen for everyone to go home. It waits with the cats who don’t like a lot of commotion either, and slides back in with them during the night.

You can cultivate silence like a plant. Like a garden. You can plant it and reforest the devastation. You can water it in the evening and check each morning to see if it has new leaves. You can wait for its flowers. You can sit in its shade and watch the butterflies. You can find so much richness in its presence that the pain of it thickens into love. Believe me.

Sometimes I am the one who talks too much, who shouldn’t have started in on that story in the first place. Or who throws out a comment that seems like it’s going to be clever until it hits the air. But not always.

Sometimes I am the one who can’t think of one thing to say. I believe in comfortable silence. We don’t have to talk all the time any more than we have to eat all the time. Why? Can we ever just leave our mouths at rest the way we prop up our feet? I think so. Sometimes there is nothing in me that wants out. Everything is ok where it is. Or I am waiting to know what I mean before I start talking.

Surfing is silent. It can be, anyway. That’s the way I like it. I’m not a chatty surfer. If you can get 4 sentences out of me before I paddle away, you should feel special. It’s easier to pay attention when you’re not using your mouth. That’s about a lot more than surfing.

It’s like your soul condenses in silence. It becomes thicker and contains more of the essential ingredient–the thing it is. More of a bisque and less of a broth.

Turn off the noise and listen to the wind. Or the clock. Or the birds. Don’t speak. Nothing going in. Nothing going out. Stasis.

“What goes on in your innermost being is worthy of your full love.” Thank you, Rilke. Silence become anything but boring.

A Little Heavier

I try to pay attention. I really do. That might be hard to imagine–I know I often talk too much, send too many messages, post too many pictures. I know this about me. I am constantly having to to forgive myself and try again in the morning. But inside all of it, I am trying to pay attention. To listen. To discover the messages.

They’re easy to hear at yoga glass where I’m expecting them–the whole practice is dedicated to paying attention. But I never heard anyone say anything like what the instructor came out with last week. It caught me so off guard I almost burst into tears. Not that it’s anything to cry about, but, you know. Strong emotions have that effect on me.

A resting pose. A twist, maybe? I forget. And the instructor says: “See if you can be a little heavier. Let the earth hold you.”

Seriously.
See if you can be a little heavier.
I mean, who says things like that?
Who does that?

Be heavier. Let the earth hold you.
Damn.

Aren’t we always trying to be lighter? Women, especially, I think, in regards to our bodies–but that’s not the point. In our bodies, in our spirits, in our hearts. We’re always–I’m always–trying to let go, to float, to be less extra and more essential…trying to give the earth as little as possible to hold up. Trying not to be too much. Too heavy, too loud, too bright, too much information, too many glasses of wine, overly honest, too explicit, overwhelming.

And there she goes, and right there on the yoga mat permission is granted to be everything. All of it. Be as much as you are. Be as much as I am. To let the earth hold me up because of course it will. There’s no way I am too big or too much or too heavy for the entire planet. Even I know that.

What is it about the mandate to be a little heavier and let the earth hold it all that makes my eyes prick? Even now. Is it because I am terrified of being too much? Of knocking the whole blue and green ball right out of orbit?

Kind of. I mean, yes.

I don’t know how not to try to be less. I envy svelte people with their shit together who speak in critical sentences and never snort when they laugh, fall of their bikes, post stupid things on social media or tell stories that are too long and end up lost in translation. It must be nice. The day I try to be a little heavier and let the earth hold me, Mother Earth is going to have her work cut out for her. Expect atmospheric disturbances.

What’s the lesson? About being what you are just for a minute? Stopping for a second to take stock of your own baggage before going about the business of trying to let it go, to set it down? Maybe. Because letting go of things is good. Things that don’t serve you. Things you don’t need. I guess I just never knew, until I was lying there on the yoga mat practically crying about it, that you also have to quit trying to peel your fingers off of things that belong to you once in a while. Just for a few minutes, while you breathe. And be everything you are. Have everything you have. And just trust the planet to keep it’s rhythm with all of it. Every last pound, story, poem, wish, tear, stupid thing you said/did that you shouldn’t have.

Oh yeah and keep it together while you’re at it because you’re in public and whereas the instructor just gave you permission to let the earth hold you, it’s not a good place to actually come unglued.

Maybe it’s like breathing in and out, the trying to be lighter/trying to be heavier? You can’t exhale forever. Sometimes you have to pull into you things that you need. It’s very scary. Trying to be less feels safer than trying to be more. Or is it just more familiar?

Anyway. I’m trying to pay attention. I heard the message. It’s about self-love and about trusting the universe to keep me in its grasp.  It’s permission not to be a butterfly all the time.  It’s permission to sometimes be a stone.

How to Be Okay When You’re Not

I thought you might like a suggestion about how to be okay when you’re not. Because it happens to all of us and it’s good to have a plan.

This is mine:

I go to the beach.  Of course.  Because I can.  But you don’t need a beach to do this.  I sit in the sand and curl up into a little ball, like a seated fetal position. That’s the position I take when I’m really bad. When I’m kind of okay, I might sit cross legged. If I’m good, just feel like I need a huddle with all of my selves, I might sort of lie back on my elbows. It doesn’t matter.

I reach my finger out and trace a circle around me–all the way around–in the sand. It could be a big circle or a little circle—it doesn’t matter. The less okay I am, the smaller I make the circle, like a tighter hug.

I don’t know where I got this from, but it’s been with me for a long time, and I am pretty sure I didn’t make it up. If I did, it’s one of those things that can’t I be the first one to have invented.

This is how to be okay whether or not you are.

The important thing is to close the circle. You may not believe this until you try it, but you can feel the circle close. Something happens. I swear. No, I am not insane. Try it. If you can’t get to the beach, sit on your living room floor and draw an invisible circle. Sit in the driveway and draw a circle with chalk. You’ll see what I mean.

I tell myself that everything that is me is inside the circle. Definitions are important when you’re not okay. Basic definitions. Inside the circle: Diana. Outside the circle: not-Diana. Having something you can be completely sure of is a fabulous place to start when you’re not really okay. And it rocks when you are.

I tell myself that inside the circle, everything is alright. There is enough air. The sand is holding me up. Nothing hurts. My heart is beating just the way it’s supposed to. My lungs are doing a great job of breathing. Everything essential is just fine. I tell myself everything I absolutely need is inside the circle with me. Intestines, for example.

And everything/everybody that is not-me must stay out while the circle is closed. When I’m especially not-okay, I write things in the sand outside the circle. The first letters of names, usually. People, living or not, who, no matter how much I love them, are not me. Only I am allowed inside the circle. I have to be in here alone to be okay, and you have to stay out. Sometimes I review a list of things and people who are not me, mentally telling them they have to stay out right now, setting them on the other side of the line.

It becomes easier and easier to breathe.

I explain to myself that inside the circle, everything is alright. Nothing is missing. Here are my two hands, each with 10 fingers. I have plenty of teeth and enough hair. My legs take me everywhere I need to go. If I am hungry, it is by choice.  Outside the circle, everything can be as wrong as it is, but inside the circle, everything is accounted for, working, in place. It is the only spot in the universe where everything is alright.

I just sit there. Sometimes I close my eyes. Sometimes, if I’m not having a good day, I might cry a little. I don’t usually, but it’s not impossible. So if you walk by on the beach and happen to see me, don’t worry. It’s just salt water. And don’t talk to me. I can’t talk when I’m in the circle. I mean, I don’t want to. That’s not generally a problem either because I think there’s something about the circle that makes you invisible to most people. I’m not kidding. You’ll see what I mean when you try it.

Then when I feel a little better–or the tide is coming in, or my back starts to hurt, or the mosquitoes are biting me, or I can tell I’ve had enough sun, or I’m thinking about how my cats are hungry—I reach out with my hands and open the circle. I make a door in it.

And the rest of the world comes rushing in. But it’s alright. Because on some very basic level, I have remembered that I am still here and there are at least some ways in which I am okay. And that, as I said, is a fabulous place to start.

Try it. It works.

The Importance of Being Everything

A friend looked at me with either disbelief or sudden comprehension (they are hard to distinguish) and said to me, “You are everything!” I laughed because that’s silly. The list of things I’m not is much longer than the list of things I am. But I have been thinking, on this 2-week trip out of the Costa Rican jungle into the Mennonite Meccas of the USA, about all the things I am–and it’s a lot of things. Diverse things. Often opposites.

I’ve been thinking about Living Theatre—how Life is theatre and Theatre is life. All the world is, in fact, a stage. And I Iove that. I was a college theatre major many lives ago, and although by all appearances I walked away from it, do not be fooled: I never walk away from anything. I love being a shape shifter, being a little bit of everything. A statement like that make me seem insincere if you don’t take the time to hear what I mean. So, listen.

You can be a lot of things without being insincere. I am never insincere. All of the personas, all of the characters, are real. I just perhaps enjoy this more than most—am able to delight in the scene/language/wardrobe/script(language) changes that drive most people crazy and make them feel that if they cannot always be one person, they are therefore incorrect. Why? Who says? Why be one thing when you can be all the things?

I know. You’re normal and I’m, um, a little strange. It drives you crazy when your life tries to require you be somebody you’re not. I know. Me? I don’t resist it. I take it as a challenge. A new role to play. New lines to learn. A new costume. And I am curious. I want to know everything. From the inside out. If you learn the language, believe your lines as you deliver them, wear the costume convincingly, you will be amazed how people let you in. I have learned this.

In my daily life at the beach in Tamarindo, I feel ageless—neither young nor old nor in need of setting myself at a particular place on the spectrum: undefined. I slip between 3 languages on a normal day which is like having 3 passports to 3 planets. Which one is my home? All of them. Or none? I couldn’t choose. I cruise around on a bicycle in cut-off jean shorts and flipflops (if I can remember them) with a notebook, a baseball cap and sometimes a raincoat in my backpack because you never know. I don’t even think about it until I shape-shift into the farm girl from Manheim, Pennsylvania and then I realize that the things I have in common with other women my age in this place are…well, there are some. Most of them involve reminiscing. Or baking. But what’s not to love about that?

The other night in my journal, I made a list of the things I am. You should try this. It’s an awesome exercise in self-awareness. And then you get to practice being all the things to the absolute best of your ability. Don’t try to shorten the list. Add to it. Deepen. Here’s a truth worth pondering: Acting is acting; lying is lying, but acting is not lying. If you don’t know what I mean, don’t worry. Keep living. You’ll figure it out.

Why anyone else would want to read this amount of my navel-gazing introspection I swear I do not know. But, you’re welcome. You can always shut me up by clicking on the little X in the corner.

This is my List of Things I Am:

the daughter
the grandmother
the step-mother
the good wife
the widow
the American ex-pat
la casi Tica
la quasi Italiana
the nurse (never by profession, but…)
the Pennsylvania Mennonite
the farm girl
the surfer
a single woman
the prodigal child
the cloistered nun
the writer
the student
the teacher
the one who is listening
the maker of maps
the clairvoyant
the wanderer
the stubborn one
the timid one
the guardian
the phoenix

Every day I get up and be some of the things—which ever ones are required of me. These personas are all the more clear when I travel to other parts/places of my life like I am doing right now. I am a human onion. Who, honestly, is not?

The lines blur between Life and Theatre. They melt into the one thing of being absolutely sincere in the moment where you are, and not shying away from any moments because you don’t know your lines or you don’t have a perfect costume. The more things you are, the more diverse moments of sincerity you may participate in.

This is what I’m talking to myself about today on the last day of my trip as a snowstorm approaches.

The Devil, A Hermit, and a Guy Hanging Upside Down

What do you say when your friend offers you a Tarot card reading to start the new year? Um, you say, “Yes.” You get on your bike and ride over to her house and willingly accept a vodka soda first because you don’t know what’s coming. If you grow up Mennonite like some of us (ha ha) you know nothing about Tarot cards except that they are definitely Satanic. I giggle as I write this because the idea of the devil residing in a deck of cards is, well, funny. Right? If only it were that easy. Sigh. Anyway.

I expected the reading to be interesting, but I have to say it was FAR MORE interesting than I imagined.  I’m open to input from all sources, so why not a deck of cards to suggest ways in which I might think outside of my box?

We shuffled up the cards, and I pulled 3. These were intended to represent the Past, the Present and the Future. And my friend said you’re supposed to pose a question. I don’t really have any specific questions in my life right now, just vague ones like, “Which end is up?” and “Am I doing this right?” But you apparently aren’t allowed to be vague, you have to be specific—so I made something up about focusing my energy. Which is still vague. And I feel the cards I drew held a mirror up to me in a way that is IMMENSELY COMFORTING.

Funny. I wouldn’t have said I went there looking for comfort, per say. That’s not generally the way I roll. But I rode home later practically crying with relief. Here’s what I drew:

THE PAST

I flipped over the first card that represents the past and there was the fucking Devil. Sorry about the f word.

I gasped. I mean, the last thing you want to do on your very first Tarot reading as a recovering Mennonite is come face to face with the Devil. It scared the crap out of me. And then I almost burst into tears of joy because HE IS IN THE PAST. You and me, you Beast From Hell, are done with each other. Bye.

The more you know of my story, the more levels of meaning the Devil in the Past will have for you. And, no, I don’t believe I have dealt with the literal Devil in the past. I mean that I have been through many difficult scenarios, most of them in one way or another chosen by me. And of course Cancer is an obvious devil who has very recently caused the complete destruction of the life I had. So yes, a diabolical amount of pain and difficulty are DEFINITELY in the past for me. And what a relief to have this comforting pat on the back from a stupid deck of cards saying, “That’s all done, honey. It’s all over. It isn’t now and it isn’t later. It’s done.”

THE PRESENT

This one was so obvious it made me laugh. I flipped over the middle card and found The Hermit. Ha ha. There’s not even much to say about that. And the Tarot deck only has one devil and he’s in the past so what the heck? Everything else is cream, baby. That’s an amusingly accurate picture of what followed The Devil. A whole year that I spent being a hermit.

I am trying to move out of the hermit mode little by little and I think I’m doing a good job. The Hermit card is said to represent a period of withdraw and reflection, which I think all of you have witnessed me doing.  Right again.

So now I’ve got one card left and it’s the one I’m nervous about. Only mildly nervous because the Devil is in the Past, but being as the Hermit in the Present is SO ACCURATE, I can’t help but be worried about what the Future card is going to be. Because if it’s as right-on as the Past and the Present, then…well, that’s a little scary.  What if I don’t like it?

I flipped it over.

THE FUTURE

Staring back at me was The Hanged Man. I was stunned, confused and dismayed–in that order. The picture on the card and the name of it don’t really match. The name on the card sounds like a death sentence, but the guy on the card isn’t dead. He isn’t even hanging by his neck. He’s hanging by his foot with a very peaceful Mona Lisa type of look on his face. He doesn’t actually appear to be in any type of distress at all. In fact, the more I stared at him, the more it seemed like he was hanging upside down because he wanted to. Just chilling in an upside-down tree pose. And he has a halo on his head.

I stopped being upset and became fascinated. I spent most of my childhood hanging upside down from a broomstick trapeze that my dad finally made for me in in a tree in the front yard after I inflicted on him unbearable amounts of pestering. When I outgrew that, I spent an inexplicable amount of time doing handstands against the kitchen door—just chilling upside down. My parents were perplexed. My sisters were annoyed. I just liked it. I’ve always liked upside down.  No idea why.

So what does The Hanged Man mean? My friend and I had to look him up because he’s a little obscure.  We found this description:

In this card, it depicts a man who is suspended upside-down, and he is hanging by his foot from the living world tree. This tree is rooted deep down in the underworld, and it is known to support the heavens. It is believed that the hanging man is actually positioned there by his own free will. We believe this because of the serene expression which is on his face. His right foot is bound to the branches, but his left foot remains perfectly free. His wearing of red pants are a representation of the physical body and human’s passion, while the blue that he wears in his shirt are representative of calm emotions, a color combination that is commonly seen in saints. His intellect is symbolized by the yellow color of his shoes, hair and halo.

Which, supposedly, means:

The hanged man understands that his position is a sacrifice that he needed to make in order to progress forward – whether as repentance for past wrongdoings, or a calculated step backward to recalculate his path onward. This time he spends here will not be wasted, he does this as part of his progression forward. His upside down state can also symbolize the feeling of those that walk a spiritual path, for they see the world differently.

This is a card which is mainly designated towards waiting and suspension. This suggests that this might be the thing that you need to do in order to achieve success or to wait for the proper opportunity. Keep in mind that taking action is not always the best solution and in certain cases refraining from doing so might bring you just as much, if not more benefits.

WHAT IT ALL MEANS TO ME

I told you it was interesting.

What I got from all of it is pretty much a huge pat on the back from the Universe, and a, “Don’t you worry your little head about it.”

The dark days are in the Past.
The Present is quiet.
I’m not supposed to know, now, what’s going to happen later and there is nothing I need to do to bring it about.  So I should just hang upside down and chill.  Be where I am.

I love it. I can do that. I would have been ok with a bright, joyful and glorious future instead of hanging upside down by the foot, but hey. I can hang. Whatever is coming will eventually get here. And if this is what’s coming, it’s good enough for me.  As long as the Devil is in the Past, I can hang right here for the next 50 years or until enlightenment arrives or until somebody cuts me down.  Whichever comes first.

 

Not to Hide

Silence

This is the end of a year of silence. I didn’t set out to experience a year of silence, but I also promised not to require anything of myself other than keeping my job and feeding the cats. A year of of much silence is what came to me. It was necessary and beautiful in a fearsome way.

Walking out of it, I feel nothing like the person who walked into it. I’m not sure how that happened, but it’s true.

 

2017

In 2017, I lost everything. Not “lost” like I don’t know where I put it–“lost” as in my whole life lifted off the planet like water vapor and disappeared into the sky. You know that story already. Until the beginning of June 2017, I had one life. It vanished and was replaced, first by another completely different life in a country with a language I barely spoke, and then replaced again. Replaced the second time by a life back in my familiar country but in a strange house with a reconfigured job, and a new silence.

So. Very. Much. Silence.

I learned to inhabit it.

 

2018

2018 has been a quiet year. Very quiet. Everything happened. Nothing happened. I don’t really know. If I try to make a cohesive, sensible tale out of all of it, my head begins to split down the middle, so I stop. It’s alright. I just tell you true stories as they come to me–maybe someday one of us will be able to make sense out of it all. Or at least some of it.

I have literally written volumes. Notebook after notebook, obsessively as if my life depends upon it. Maybe it does. Some of it is good, some of it isn’t–it doesn’t matter. I have to do it to keep from going mad. There is so much noise in my head and so much silence all around. Sometimes I start to cry and I don’t even know why. Sometimes I feel unnervingly happy. There’s just so much. So much everything. So much that is so important and so impossible. It’s a very big wind and I attempt to simply stand still in it. To take all of it and not fall.

And yes there is a book coming. Poems for the brave-hearted. It’s called “Certain as Afternoon.” Because everything that will happen is.

 

Fear

I’m not afraid.
I don’t feel weak, either.
I feel inexplicably strong.
Like one of those giant cenizaros that hum with bees when they bloom.
Like that.
A blooming kind of “strong.”

I literally do not know what I want.
Maybe I am afraid to want anything for fear of losing it.
That would be a reasonable fear for me to have, all things considered.
But I just said I wasn’t afraid, so what is this confession?
Not afraid, perhaps, of anything that can come from the outside.
But raw as as a fresh wound on the inside.
Yes.
That.
I’m more afraid of me than I am of you.

 

Resolutions

I don’t do New Years resolutions any more. When I used to do them, I always resolved the same things: to write more, to eat less, to be kinder. I don’t have any other ideas. But if I wrote any more than I do right now, I’d have to quit my job. If I ate any less, I would blow away in the wind. If I was any kinder, I seriously hope someone would tie me to a tree and go get help.

But maybe I do have a resolution for 2019. I resolve not to hide. Why do I feel like bursting into tears when I write that? Because hiding is safe and I am good at it?

Well I won’t do it.

I’m not broken anymore. Not most days, anyway. But I’m not sure I’m the same species of creature that I used to be. Something in me feels like it has the coiled strength of a waiting tiger–motionless and not at all delicate. And I’m pretty sure I have butterfly wings, playful, bright, and fragile. I don’t know what you call a thing like that. I don’t know how you be a thing like that. What does it eat? Where does it sleep?  Will people be afraid of it?

 

Water

It’s like surfing. Everything is. Life is. Every day you paddle out into it, whatever it is. Some days you wait and wait for absolutely nothing. Some days you get cold and you want to go home. Some days the sets are so big and so terrible all you can do is paddle straight at them with all your might and pray to God that the hit, when it comes, won’t be as bad as it looks. Some days you ditch the board and dive for the bottom. And some days everything is right, including you, and it all comes together so perfectly you can’t decide if you more want to laugh or cry. I like those days. I have some like that. I have all the kinds. You don’t get to pick.

You pick whether or not to get in the water.

I’m in.

Intermittent Fasting: Burn the Broken Chairs

So, let’s talk about something practical for a change, a useful experience I can perhaps offer the world that is neither sad nor entirely nebulous. I’m going to tell you about my 3 months of experimenting with Intermittent Fasting.

What it is

Intermittent Fasting, if you don’t already know, is including a “fast” within each day. You can do this every day, or on certain days—there’s not a wrong way to do it. Your fast starts when you finish eating in the evening and continues until you break the fast. Obviously. You can fast for as long as you want, but people working within this model often aim for a 16 – 20 hour fast.

This means that if I finish eating/drinking at 9 pm and I am aiming for a 20 hour fast, the next time I eat food will be at 5 PM the next day. Another name for this is the 20/4—20 hours of fasting with a 4 hour eating window.


What I was always told

I was always told what you were always told:
You have to eat 3 square meals a day in order to be healthy.
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
If you don’t eat enough, you will feel weak and be improperly nourished.
You have to eat an amazing number of portions of certain types of food, or else.
If you don’t eat enough calories, your body will think it’s starving and you will get fat. (?? Thus, all the fat starving people??)
It’s ideal to eat 5 small meals per day.

Etc etc etc

 

What I am discovering

All of that appears to be incorrect, or at best, incomplete. I’ve been doing more 20-hour fast days than not since the end of August, and I am not: starving, fat, too skinny, weak, dizzy, ill. I can surf, ride my bike, run, do yoga and even though several colds have gone around the office lately, I haven’t gotten any of them. I got an infection in my foot from a thorn I stepped on and it went away without me having to take antibiotics. Doing pretty well, all things considered.

 

What made me try this

Two things happened simultaneously that made me so curious I couldn’t resist trying something that I was sure I would hate:

1. Riding along in the car with a friend of mine, discussing longevity in Blue Zones vs all-the-people-getting-cancer-nowadays, I watched him have a complete Eureka moment when I explained that in Guanacaste, the dry season ended in an epoch of virtual famine back when people lived off of the land, not the tourists. Could times of fasting/famine may be one of the Blue Zone common denominators? I saw how much this discovery illuminated him, and I understood that it’s worth paying attention to.

2. Listening to a pod cast this friend send to me later in the day, I heard an analogy that made all the sense in the world about how it is that fasting can be good for you—what your body does when it is hungry that can save your life. Let me paraphrase:

The body is like a wood-burning ship or train crossing the ocean or desert. The food you eat, obviously, is the fuel. So what happens when, in the middle of the ocean, the captain realizes that there is never going to be enough wood to make it to the port? He sends the crew through the ship, room by room, to check the furniture and haul out everything that is obsolete, wobbly, or broken. And they throw it all into the fire. Burn the broken chairs. That is the phrase that grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me. Burn the broken chairs. The extra fat cells, the unhealthy cells that can get out of hand and form tumors, tissue that is damage by too much sun or too much wine or too much whatever. Burn the broken chairs. God knows the closets are full of them. Stuff we save up in our bodies and our hearts because we don’t want to throw it overboard. Burn the broken chairs. When we get to the port, we can build new ones out of solid materials that will hold us up but not create clutter.

This is a link to the podcast.  There’s a lot of discussion in it of other, um, unconventional health measures people take, but don’t let that scare you.  No, I haven’t tried all of them!

I had to try it. I had to know. I’d spent 47 years believing that I could not live without breakfast, lunch and dinner, and actually experiencing very real symptoms of hypoglycemia if I didn’t eat “on time.” So? How in the world could this possibly work for me?

I do not know. But it does. I am not weak, dizzy, grumpy, miserable, or any of the other things you would think I would be. I am also not losing weight. This is ok with me because right now I do not need to lose weight–although many people who want to lose weight are able to do it this way. I kind of feel like a rock star.

 

How it feels to fast

You wonder, am I not starving hungry all day? I’ll be honest. I’ve been starving hungry since the day I was born. I love food. But I am not more starving hungry now than I ever was before. It depends more on how much I ate the day before than on anything else.  If I don’t eat enough food during my 4 hours of “feeding,” I can be pretty miserable by about 10 AM. I get terribly hungry, then I get distracted and forget about it. Exercise helps. Endorphins wipe out everything else. I’m the hungriest between about 2-3 PM, for some reason. When 5 o’clock finally rolls around and it’s time for me to eat something, I couldn’t care less if I have something to immediately start stuffing in my mouth, or not. It’s amazing.

And this fasting, as I mentioned in a previous post, has also (I believe) affected my heart/spirit. I absolutely believe that this has helped me burn the broken chairs in my heart. How, I don’t know. But if fasting has been a spiritual discipline for thousands of years, there must be a reason. I have not tasked myself with being the one to define it, but I will tell you that I do experience it. If you have shit to get rid of in your body or in your heart/soul/spirit—stop eating and let the employees haul out everything that doesn’t serve you well. Burn the broken chairs.

When I am very very hungry and I feel like I don’t want to do this anymore, I tell myself it’s alright to be hungry. It’s alright to feel that way. And I love proving to myself over and over that I can do hard things. Hell, this is nothing.

I feel like I “burn cleaner.” And I don’t even know exactly what I mean by this. If you do intermittent fasting, I’ll bet you know what I’m talking about, though. I feel more….sharp. More like I am made up only of essential elements. I mean my body and my mind. Because who are we kidding—we are all only One Thing. I’m done with those bogus separations. I’ve never been able to separate myself into compartments and I’m not interested in starting now.

 

Practically

Practically speaking, this is a difficult way to live. There are all kinds of occasions where you kind of can’t get out of fast-breaking social occasions. So, ok. I go out to breakfast and don’t fast that day. I go out to lunch and don’t fast that day either. It’s alright. There’s always tomorrow. You don’t accumulate a boat full of broken chairs in one day, anyway.

For how long am I planning to do this? I don’t know. Until further notice? Until I change my mind? For how long are you planning to eat the way you eat? Until I decide I have a better idea, I guess. For now, I like it. My body/spirit feels strong and uncomplicated. I also have zero problems with acid reflux, which I suffered from for 12 years. So, there’s that to consider. I am completely off the meds I thought I couldn’t live without.  As Pio would say: Fa’ti delle domande.

 

My takeaway

Let go of everything you thing you know; it’s all somebody’s best guess.  Let go of it all. Truth will arrive on its own to fill up the empty space.

Burn the broken chairs.

Dawning

Something is going on with me. After a year of what may have looked not-so-bad on the outside but was really deep mourning on the inside, something is happening. It is not something I am doing. I have done many things, but this one is not starting inside me and moving out. This one is coming to me from the outside in, and I am observing it, witnessing it.

To tell you you about it, here are 3 things as they were born from my pen into my journal on 3 separate days, all in the month of November. Turn off Grammar Correct. It’s choppy, but if you hold on, it will get you there.

 

ONE

I feel Pio. Calling me to be alright already. To be happy. To knock it off. To open and close and hold on and let go and be ok. To live. To open my closed hands. To honor him by being joyful and free and engaged with/in my life. With Life.

That is not coming from me. I want to hide and pine and ponder and pontificate and gestate and all. He says no. I am in between these two things, both pulling.

 

TWO

I went to an intense yoga class and then I laid on the floor and understood Everything.

Thankfulness. For Pio. For what we had. For what he was.

For Life that we have while we have it. And we all move into it and out of it, all of us. All. And it isn’t fair to sulk or to be bitter that someone moved out of it before we wanted, because we didn’t will them into it in the first place, and none of us belong to anything but Life.

Pio didn’t belong to me. He belonged to Life.

And when he is gone the world, the planet, cannot keep him. I cannot keep any more of him than what he has planted in me. When we are gone no one can keep us.

There is so much beauty moving in and out of our lives all the time. Pio wants me to experience the beautiful things and people that are with me now today in life, and not hate the space he isn’t filling.

It is inconceivable that he left his life and I am here, but I am because there are things I must do and be. In the end, no one remains unforgotten except Jesus and Shakespeare and Genghis Khan. So all of us–all of us–are like flowers and grass. We have to be beautiful while we can and that is our calling and our blessing.

And we must be open-hearted and open-handed and grateful for everything we have, and not expect not to lose things. Because everything is coming and going and only mountains remain to see it all.

I will never “find anyone like him” again because no one else is supposed to be like him. My beauty and happiness is mine, not created by him or by anyone else. It is mine and comes from me.

Things and people that I love and want may come to me. And go from me. Because my life is not The Main Storyline. The Main Storyline is so big and so long I cannot know it all.

 

THREE

I don’t want to call it a “rebirth” or “moving on” or any of the other words or phrases other people use. What is it? It’s like a fog lifting? No. The fog is there. It’s like developing a 7th sense to see/perceive through the fog.

Yes. Like developing a 7th sense. I guess that’s supposed to be 6th sense, ha ha!, but I think I already have #6. The 6th Sense is knowing on this plane, across time/space barriers. Maybe this really is Sense #7: a sense that can “see” through the fog and perceive the depth of time and space where you and the Lost One both are, but in different forms.

And this form is/was only temporary, anyway.

And no one ever really belongs to anyone else. All of us are Life’s gifts to itself. And where we came from and where we are going, who knows? But before our lives was Forever, and after is even longer, and this life was only ever going to be a flash in the pan for any of us. Whether it’s 100 days or 100 years.

This is dawning on me. That is all I can say. It is coming upon me slowly and silently out of out of deep night like a dawn. That none of us knew would come. Much less how or when.

But you have to Do All the Things during the night. You have to listen to the voice of the deep space and wait for the echo to tell you where the bottom of it is. The echo never comes, but you must wait. And while you wait comes the dawn.

I have a peace now and an understanding. It doesn’t wash away loneliness; it sits with it. This peace and this loneliness sit together. They form together in the dark like twins. There is no way to explain these things. The only thing to do is wait for them and when they come, take them in.

Walk. Stop eating. Watch the stars. Sleep with them. Pay attention. Do not stop crying.  Because you have to let go. Not of love or of pain. Of the illusion of belonging. You have to let go. Of ownership.  Nothing is yours. Nothing ever was. Even you are only being lent to your life for now.

He was never really mine. That much has always been clear if you dare to see it. He came to me to give me pizza and laughter and self-confidence and olive oil and the Italian language and 2 step-kids, a trip through the dark side and into the light, 5 years in Washington with my sister, and a motorcycle. But he would freaking kick my ass if he saw me sitting around crying for him now.

He would want me to have become more beautiful, stronger, more self-confident than ever before for having spent 14 years with him. That is what he would want. That’s what Life would want.

All of this is dawning on me. I am not doing this. I am passive; it is active. It is coming on its own over me. In the dark, I did The Work. Now it is dawning.

Yes I watched the tragedy of how he died. But if he was not angry and did not hold back from it, why should I? He told me he knew I would be alright. And I am. I feel in some ways ashamed to say it because I fear it might sound like I am falling out of love with him. I am not. But peace is coming to me like a slow dawn.

And we aren’t so far away from each other after all, are we, amore mio? Not really.

 

AFTERWARD

I stopped and cried a few times while I was writing that last one just the other day. They weren’t exactly sad tears, just the manifestation of tremendous amounts of emotion in the absence of adequate words.

The only reason I can think of that I should have been chosen for these things is because I am the one who will always bear witness, who will do The Work, tell the stories, carve the totem poles. For you. For the day a story will save your life.

Look, now. You see? The sky is beginning to lighten.

 

Pio in Mexico, on top of the world. Late 1990s.

Radar

It’s generally safe to assume that when I’m not posting much it’s because there’s a lot going on.  When I pick up the talking stick, it’s because I’ve had time to think—to transpose everything that’s happened into words.  It takes me a while but you know I get there.  There’s been a lot going on.  I don’t know if I’m there.

THE LIST

For one, there’s my book.

Then, I had to move.

And the 2nd of October marked the one year anniversary of the last day I sat beside Pio and held his hand.

I took his ashes into the ocean on that day.

Also, not specifically related to any of this but happening simultaneously, I’ve started experimenting with intermittent fasting.

So there’s a lot going on inside of me, but I don’t know what to say about most of it yet.  Here’s a feeble attempt to start:

UNSOLICITED ADVICE

I guess I can begin with an unsolicited piece of advice about what to say/not to say to your friend who has lost someone as significant as air.  Do that person a favor and don’t make comments about how fast time has gone.  Have I said this before?  I’m sorry.  I’m saying it again.  Like, for example, “Wow!  Time is flying, isn’t it?  I can’t believe it’s already been one year!”  Please don’t say that.  Because to the person who lost someone, the first week took a year.  I guarantee you that friend of yours feels like they have already lived without their person for 100 years and I promise you they don’t think it’s a nice feeling.  Just so you know.  There’s that.

LUCKY AND UNLUCKY

AMAZING reviews have been coming in about Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie.  I’ve also had touching private conversations with friends who have experienced journeys that are similar to mine in one way or another.  I can see now that I was right:  this book did need to be written.  And it did need to get out of my computer and into other hands.  I’m so proud of it.

And, yeah, I moved.  My landlord suddenly needed his extra house back, so I had to make other plans.  I was SO SAD to get the news that I needed to move, but then something happened that you kind of won’t believe.  I almost immediately (2 days?) found another house.  It’s about the same price and it’s so close to the beach I can hear the waves all night long.  If there is ever a tsunami, I will never know what hit me.  But the best part is that back before I even knew him, Pio built this house.  Can you believe it?  It feels exactly like home.  It is home.  Caramelo and Ambrogio like it as much as cats can like a new house.  Is all of this some random coincidence?  I have no idea.

So again, I’m lucky.  And unlucky.

I’m not ready to tell you about the ashes yet.  I might have to write it as a poem because I don’t know now you make a thing like that fit into sentences.

And the book deserves more focus than what I’ve been giving it.  You’re supposed to blog mercilessly about your new book and drive everyone who knows you insane with shameless self-promotion when it comes out.  I don’t think I’ve been doing that.  That would have been hard for me to do even if this was the only thing on my plate.  It isn’t.

I have a good friend who does intermittent fasting and got me curious.  I didn’t think I could do it.  It sounded horrible. I  thought I would be miserable or dizzy or grumpy or…  I just thought it would be too hard or somehow unbearable.  It isn’t.  It isn’t easy, but what’s easy?  Pretty much nothing worth doing is easy.   And there’s the spiritual/emotional side of it too.  I’m not sure I have words that give this any meaning, either, but I’m acknowledging it.  Either fasting is a spiritual practice that turns out to be good for your body, or it is a health practice that turns out to be good for your spirit.  I don’t really feel the need to differentiate.  If you get curious, you can read about it on line.  If it was anywhere near as bad as you think, I would not be doing it.  I always say I’ll try anything once, and I didn’t think I could live with something as lame-sounding as “intermittent fasting” being the one thing I wimped out on and wouldn’t try.  I’ll save that for something actually dangerous.

I didn’t take all the ashes.  I saved some.  That’s cheating, but whoever does the surviving gets to make at least a few of the decisions.  I made up that rule.

BATS

I’ve been thinking a lot about bats.  How they fly around in dark caves and no, they can’t see, but they “see” with other senses.  Radar.  They turn on their radar and they can tell where they are, where other things are, where they should go.  I’ve been trying to navigate by radar.  Because I can’t see shit.  It’s all fog.  But I try to see and listen with other senses.  Sometimes when I walk or run on the deserted beach, I close my eyes and try to keep going in a straight line by listening to the sound of the ocean to the side of me, feeling the wind in my face, feeling the sun on my back.  It isn’t easy but I can do it.  I keep trying.  I follow my gut, hoping that will teach it to give good advice.

I spent a whole year of evenings, essentially, lying in a hammock on a dark porch in silence trying to take it all in.  Not unlike a bat in a cave, except I wasn’t hanging upside down.  I was hanging though, in the hammock.  Most people are afraid of or dislike bats and dark places and sadness.  Most people run away from the cave.  Not me.  I am trying to see my way around in it like a bat.

I told you, there’s a lot going on and I’m not sure I’ve arrived at the words for it yet.  But I’m trying.  I never stop trying.  I’ll get there.

 

Those Dreams About Having Forgotten Your Clothes

It’s no accident that Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie came out two days before the date when, last year, Pio went into the hospital and never came home. I picked the release date—it wasn’t assigned to me. I had a premonition that this would be a good time to have something to be happy about, something else to talk about. Not hiding from it—I don’t hide—just adding other ingredients into the mix. It gives you something to say when you see me other than a weighty, “How are you?” and we both know what you mean.

How am I? Somehow or other I’m still alive. Most days, mostly alright. Who knew? Anyway, what are my choices? That pragmatic little rascal you just read a book about hasn’t changed all that much. I can go around being alright and not-alright at the same time.

You ask me how it feels to have Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie out there? Partly like a huge sigh of relief. That’s a lot to carry around for 20 years, KNOWING day and night, you MUST say it all and feeling, simultaneously, that you CANNOT. Well, I just did. The rest of it feels like one of those dreams about having forgotten your clothes.  Except I’m not sleeping.  Lucky me, I’m used to running around in public in my underwear (as in, a bikini) so I’m kind of over it. It is what it is. In the end, 98% of us look better dressed, not just me. My parents are going to read it. They haven’t yet, but they are going to. That’s a whole other subject.

Let me tell you about the 1st three people I heard back from about the book, and how they surprised me. All of them are friends from college days; none of them are “in” the book or were my very closest friends. The first thing that surprised me is that two of the people are men. I greatly feared that this would be more of a “chick flick” than what the story deserves to be. Because on the subject of growing up Mennonite, carrying an immense baggage of expectations, running smack into the world, and having to figure out what the sam hill to do about everything is NOT a girl story, specifically. So I was pleasantly surprised that two of the first people to contact me, who found meaning in the pages, were men. The other thing that surprised me is that nobody wrote me to tell me how funny it was—they wrote me to tell me how meaningful. I could, again, not be more delighted. Because many stories are funny (I hope), I feared that it would come off as a bunch of silliness with some complaining mixed in, and that I would somehow not convey the gut-twisting agony underlying what may seem like silly questions if you weren’t there. If they weren’t the ones your life depends upon. I am happily humbled to begin to believe that the book may do, at least in some ways, what I hoped it would: tell not only “my” story, but a personalized version of “our” story. The details are different for all of us. The underlying dilemmas, it is my best guess, are the same.

There is so much more in my head to write about. I will never have to make anything up, ever, because there are so many stories to tell. I didn’t start keeping a journal at 9 years old for the purpose of being able to look up almost any day (for sure any week) of my life, but that is the result. I have the bones of 3 more books in my computer right now. Will I live long enough to write them all? At 20 years a piece, that would make me 107 when the last one is finished, so something is going to have to change here if I’m going to make it through them all. I’m doing my best. What I really need is for a millionaire to fall in love with me so that I don’t have to scratch around for pennies in the dust during most of my waking hours instead of concentrating on The Real Work. I don’t want to rule that out, but in morning I will be up and scratching.

Write me, after you’ve read Marry a Mennonite Boy and Make Pie. Reflect it back to me. Tell me what it says to you. Tell me what made you laugh. Tell me what stabbed you. Ask me a question—I might answer it. Tell me if you think I’ve been unfair. Tell me, even if you didn’t end up as far away as Costa Rica, if you know what I’m talking about.

The first 15 people to receive “Marry A Mennonite Boy and Make Pie.”

 

 

 

What the Improv Instructor Said

Rewind about 28 years It’s my first year of college.
Where are we?  We’re in Fort Wayne, Indiana at a small college theatre convention.
What am I doing?  I’m sitting in an auditorium with the other Goshen College theatre students, and we are listening to a woman discuss Improvisation.

Improv always terrified me and I was never any good at it, but this woman is about to say something that I will never forget. It’s not particularly deep, and it didn’t make me any better at improv, but I will not ever forget it—ever.

It’s a statement about God, and it came to me at the dawn of my awareness that you can talk about God without necessarily making religious statements. Not God as in Yahweh or some such grouchy guy with a thing for blood, but God as in Everything. That in itself was memorable for Little Diana and maybe what the improv instructor said stayed with me simply because of what it revealed to me about ways to think about God. I don’t know. It was a long time ago.

Context:  You’re standing on stage doing improv. You don’t know what is going to happen next and you’re going to have to come up with something to make it work. (O yes. Life lesson in the making is written all over this one!)

The woman’s words were simply this: “God will visit you.”

When you don’t know what to say? God will visit you.
When you don’t know what to do? God will visit you.
When everything is wrong but you still need to do something right?  God will visit you.
When you’ve made a mess of it and now you have to find your way out? God will visit you.
Open your heart. Begin to speak. God will visit you.

Somehow or other that sunk straight into the core of that 19 year old girl who had heard SO MUCH about God all her life. Heard so much about saying and doing the right thing so that God would be pleased—not that we should leap and that while in the air God would visit us.

I have come back to that seat in that auditorium to listen to that woman’s comforting words over and over and over in my life. I am there now.

What’s going to become of me in my life? God will visit you.
Am I doing this right? God will visit you.
How will I know if I am supposed to do something different? God will visit you.
Help. God will visit you.
What should I say? God will visit you.
What should I do? God will visit you.
What if I can’t stand it anymore? God will visit you.
What if I make an ass of myself? God will visit you.
How will I live my life? God will visit you.
What if I want to be left alone? God will visit you.
What if I don’t want to be left alone? God will visit you.

But you won’t know what will happen until it happens.
You won’t know what to do until you do it.
You won’t know what to say until you hear yourself say it.
That’s improv.
That’s life.
God can only visit you when you have leapt off the edge and are in the air, when you have opened your mouth to speak.

It’s terrifying. I hate improve. I hate life.
I don’t hate life, but life is cruel. Fear is cruel. Fear of the unknown is paralyzing.
Do not be paralyzed. God will visit you.

God has visited me. Often. Look where I am. Could I be anything other than living proof that God will visit you? I promise myself God will visit me, still.  My God, I hope I am right.

I would like God to visit me before I get on stage, before I have to stand there, take a deep breath, and open my mouth.  I would like a script–to know what will happen and what my lines will be. But that isn’t improv and that isn’t life.  Or, it isn’t my life.  It isn’t anyone’s life.

Take heart.
I say this to me.
I say this to you.
The story is written as it unfolds.
Take a breath and the words will come.

God will visit you.

Open Letter to my Characters: MARRY A MENNONITE BOY AND MAKE PIE

This is an open letter to the people who gave shape to my “characters” in MARRY A MENNONITE BOY AND MAKE PIE, no matter how large or how small your role. From Beth to Professor Williams. Nina. Mean Tabitha. Colin. Tom.

 

Dear you,

You are about to find a character very similar to yourself personified in my book.

You may like the character you see, or you may not. You may believe that I have finally revealed my true feelings about you, and this is so, but not in the way you imagine. You may feel that I have misrepresented you, and this is certainly true as well. None of us are, today, who we were almost 30 years ago. Hallelujah. You may feel that I misrepresented who you were then, and I provide no argument. The book perhaps contains a literary rendition of how the 20-year-old version of me experienced the 20-year-old version of you. Real and invented stories in this book create a picture that is true when seen from a step back, as a whole.

Please know that if you find a blurry photograph of yourself in these pages, even if you feel it is unflattering, that a writer experiences this process as a profound act of love. And the process has been going on for 25 years. If I didn’t love you then, I do now. If I loved you then, I love you more. You have lived with me for 25 years, grown into me. You have been here with me all along when I slept and when I woke. You were there with me as I scratched the first draft of this book onto white notebook paper in the shade of a windy porch in 1997. You were there with me through marriages, a divorce, you were there when I learned to surf, as I learned new languages, as I wrote other books, a thousand poems, on cold dark mornings in Moses Lake where I sat at my computer breathing life into you, feeding you, laughing, crying, throwing pens across the room. You have been with me through my entire adult life, and you have been with me through death. You are with me now.

That’s what I want to say to you. I may have had to forgive you. I have had to forgive myself 1,000 times for my stupidities. Now perhaps you will have to forgive me.

I think we can do it. I think we can do the work.

This book maybe be classifiable as a “coming of age” story, but it is not about how to leap out of the nest and fly. It’s about realizing you have tumbled out and your points of reference are not where they belong. We were there together at this elemental moment. I have kept it safe and I am giving it back to all of us with a deep sense of reverence and love.

Namaste.

Diana


me, then