Browsing Tag


And So It Is, Beating Fear with a Stick

Don’t Let Them Steal Your Happy.

April 5, 2013

There’s this parallel life running alongside yours.

They usually don’t intersect except every once in a great while. When your eyes won’t close late at night like someone is holding the lids open for you to look at something, but you’re not sure what so you just keep looking and looking until you see that parallel life and go Oh My God, there I am, that’s me if I had gone there instead of here or said this instead of that and then the longer your eyes stay unblinking they see farther back into the space before you were born. In that space, which is dark and wet and grey, your eyes notice things like your parents falling in love and laughing in a car and you’re not even in the picture. You’re not even an idea yet. You’re not even a kiss.

You’re simply a pair of dry eyes who won’t close in the middle of the night. It’s like someone is holding your eyes open and saying Do you see? And you say Yes even though you have no idea what you are supposed to be looking for and all you want to do is close your eyes and fall asleep.

You stare at the ceiling and pretty soon the cottage cheesiness of it starts to move in on you until it’s pressing down on your chest and finally you fall asleep because there is so much weight on you that it makes you tired. As if you climbed up a hill with someone on your back. Maybe you did in a parallel life but for now you just want to sleep and you want them off your back and the ceiling off your chest.

Parallel lives to mine:

  1. I stay at NYU and graduate and then get an apartment in the West Village which is small and has no light.
  2. My father never dies. He stops smoking and my parents get divorced. We get together twice a month and drink red wine and eat burgers. I am not a vegetarian. He gives me funny quips for my articles. I live in Philadelphia.
  3. I am completely deaf.
  4. I am still a waitress.
  5. I am standing by the host stand at the restaurant I work when my husband comes in. I don’t recognize him from 10 years prior.  He sits down and we never talk. We both marry other people and never see each other again.
  6. I never stop writing.
  7. I never start writing again.
  8. I marry my high school boyfriend and we live in Miami, miserably. I smoke and he has affairs. 

Then there’s the life I have now. Or the life that has me. Number 9: The life I am aware of.

Sometimes, I see around the hairy edges into the other ones. The lines that separate them aren’t as solid as you would expect, but rather a wispy strand here and there, a stroke of luck demarcating this life from that one.

This morning, as I left a weeklong stint at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts, I sat in the back of a fancy minivan. The driver, an avuncular fellow named Bruce, was giving my mother and I a ride to the Albany train station and was determined to show us all his beloved spots on the way. The town of Lenox, Olivia’s Lookout, Tanglewood. I had to keep asking my mom What? What did he say? Like a crazy old aunt in the back seat because I couldn’t see his mouth to read his lips. Turns out Bruce was raised by deaf parents. Parallel lives. He showed us pictures of his family. His wife at age 17. His granddaughter.

His wife had been beautiful in her turned-away from the camera way 17 year olds in the 1960’s posed for their high school graduation pictures. He told us that she was going to be a nun until he came along. Her father had kissed him on the mouth in relief. Parallel lives.

He still wants to kiss me but I don’t let him, Bruce joked.

Bruce drives people back and forth from Canyon Ranch to the airport or train station every day. When I asked him if he’d ever felt sad that he wasn’t able to communicate better with his parents because they had been deaf he told me that he was living the dream! Sad? I’m living the dream! My wife says to me everyday “Don’t let them steal your happy.”

In Bruce’s parallel life his wife became a nun and they never met and his parents could hear, clear as a bell. Is it a better life? It’s impossible to say.

The only life is the one we are aware of so better cannot apply. It might be out there, somewhere, on the side of the road or in the middle of the night inside a racing heart but the only life worth knowing is the one here and now. In this minivan, on this train, in this body.

I couldn’t write the whole week at Canyon Ranch. I taught my workshops and rested and ate and read but I didn’t have the usual pull to sit and write. That’s how I write. By inspiration. For better or worse. I wish I could say it was by discipline but it’s born of a conversation or a look or the way the fire crackles and pops and makes you jump because the quiet is a penetrating fog and you forget that something called sound even exists. You think the world is only fire.

My writing is born of that. Of the things people do and say and the way it feels and how the ceiling closes in on me and I can’t see anything but mistakes as sharp as rods.

So nothing came to me all week. Not because I wasn’t inspired but because I was waiting for that intersection of a parallel life to cross and hoping I would be awake enough to catch it at just the right moment so as to recognize it for what it was: a gift.

The timing has to be just so, so that when Bruce says Don’t let them steal my happy, I am facing him, I can see his lips, I can hear his words without the usual pillow-over-face-sound and I can nod and agree over our luggage, What else is life about?

Do not let them steal your happy. If only I could print that out on t-shirts and hand them out on the streets. Here, take this. Here, wear this.

He told me once when he was a small child he had said something nasty to his deaf father while Bruce had his back turned. He said his father had smacked him and sent him to his room. Years later he asked his father how he knew what he was saying since his back had been turned and his dad said that he didn’t, that he had just seen Bruce’s ears moving. When he spoke, his father had told him, his ears moved. He also said that he could never scare his father like they’d wanted to as boys, because the air moved as they approached him.

The air moved. How do you like that?

So the air moves. The subtle way the air moves and catches a parallel life and here you are sitting with a man who understands hearing loss and happiness and What-if’s in the way most people don’t. You spend your whole life looking back and forward and staying awake trying to get a ceiling off your chest and here’s the answer in the form of a driver.

Those other lives? The What-ifs? Don’t let them steal your happy. They are not possible.

She was never going to end up a nun. You were never going to end up here instead of here. I was never going to marry my high school boyfriend and live in Florida. My father was always going to die.

It’s the way we keep ourselves awake at night. It’s the way we keep ourselves tethered to something unattainable and perfect. Perfect is always on the other side of the ceiling. Perfect is always at the top of the hill. Perfect is always the What-if. Perfect is never the happy. Don’t let them steal your happy.

It’s the way we keep ourselves stuck, this letting something hijack our eyes and make us watch what we think was another option of our life. There is no other option. Sure, starting now you can choose to go back to school or get a divorce but you can never ever not have dropped out of college or not gotten married in 1969 to someone you wished you hadn’t.

It’s hard to see this when you are carrying so much on your back but if you look closely you will see that what matters most is the air moving, slowly in circles around someone’s face that you love, so you know they are there. So you know they are there.





And So It Is, Awe & Wonder, Inspiration, Manifestation Retreats

In The Voice of Someone Who Loves You.

February 19, 2013

**This essay is dedicated to all my Manifestation Maui Retreat Tribe members.

I am on Maui contemplating lost continents and lost lives.

It’s rainy and windy and mostly gray. Ronan passed away the day I flew here. He was almost three and he was suffering, badly. It was time. But, just because it was time doesn’t mean it made sense or it was fair or you didn’t want to pound your fists on a table and watch the shells and lamps fall onto the floor in millions of pieces and it also didn’t mean that you didn’t want to step on the broken glass with bare feet so you could feel something akin to being broken.

I got on the plane anyway, despite the sad news. I had a retreat to lead in Maui. People paid thousands and thousands of dollars to be there with me, and besides, me not going wouldn’t un-lose any lives. There’s that.

When I landed on the island my husband texted me from Los Angeles to tell me that his cousin and dear friend had had a heart attack as he was driving and died right before he crashed the car.

Lost lives. 

Yesterday morning, in the Manifestation workshop at my retreat, I asked my group to pick someone who loved them. They sat their on their mats and got misty eyed and nodded their heads to signal me that they had the image of that person in their minds, that their person had been picked.  Now, I said, write a description of yourself in the voice of that person. 

They read them aloud. One said this: 
Kelly you are beautiful, strong and important. You don’t need to change to be accepted. You are enough – good enough – kind enough. I love you for your compassion. You are beautiful and strong. You don’t need to struggle so much with who are. You are enough just the way you are. You aren’t how much you lift or how much you workout or how skinny you are. You a beautiful – you are strong – you are enough. You need to just believe it yourself. Love, Dad.

People started writing. Some sobbed. After the pens came down I asked why it had been so hard for them.  A woman in my group said because he believes in me when I don’t believe in myself. 

The things that break me. One: people saying Your dad would be so proud of you. A knife in my gut. It’s a here take this blade right in your heart. It’s always been that way and I have surrendered to the fact that it may always be that way.  

One of the girls on my retreat who is here from South Dakota told me at dinner last night that her 17 year old son was having a hard time. Melissa Shattuck showed me the text message she’d sent him: 

Only in stillness every day do we touch the realm of infinite potential, that space of our highest self. What are your intentions….put them into that space where you are in a deep state of quiet and calm. Talk and listen to the Universe/God in this way. Let it know what you want and that you want it with every cell of your being…..and then sweet heart you let it go…..the Universe/God will bring it to fruition at just the perfect moment and has a grander plan for our lives than you or I could ever think of….You are loved and adored and treasured!! And I think you are the most amazing person. And you’ll do it. You’ll live the life of your dreams… doubt about it. You are good and you are deserving, so deserving of everything you want. Much Love… Mom. 

I passed her phone back to her and let the knife stay there in my heart.

I went and meditated the next morning in a group sitting.There was this man there, Claudio, who apparently was “enlightened.” Now, I am not sure what that means but this man was special. He looked into my eyes for about 5 minutes straight without blinking. His mouth did these little twists and turns at the corners so it looked like he was going to cry and then a smile would sweep across his face as big as an ocean and he spoke something about oceans and being the ocean and not the wave and sitting in infinity. I didn’t really understand and yet I did.

Lost lives.

I started crying when he looked into my eyes because I felt safe and loved and his face turned into my friend’s Steve’s face who had passed away last year.

Lost lives.

Lemuria, the lost continent of the Pacific and I am here and there are no more lost lives when I look into Claudio’s eyes. He is saying we are the ocean. There is no separation. 

So when I asked my retreat folks to write those descriptions of themselves in the voice of someone who loved them you see, it was like asking for the infinity. There is no separation.

Their voice is my voice is your voice is the ocean is the baby is the I behind the I and then who is the I?

I am here thinking of lost lives and lost continents and lost beliefs. When did I lose this belief in myself? some of the people here have asked me. Not so much me as they are asking the wind and the lawn and the journal in front of them. It’s not lost, I tell them.  Nothing is lost. You are right here, where you always were, I say pointing to the place where they know their heart should be but where some think there is nothing but a windy hole. 

I am leading my retreat at a place called Lumeria in Maui, on the north shore of the island. 

Lemuria is the name of a hypothetical lost land located somewhere between the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Stories of Lemuria vary, but all share a common belief that a continent existed in ancient times and sank beneath the ocean.  An ancient civilization which existed prior to the time of Atlantis simply disappeared. Gone. Lost lives. Lemuria is also sometimes referred to as Mu, or the Motherland (of Mu). At its peak of civilization, the Lemurian people were both highly evolved and very spiritual. You can’t help but feel that here. You are infinite in all directions, says Claudio, and even though you have no idea in God’s name what that means you understand and know it to be true.

Concrete physical evidence of this ancient continent is difficult to find just as you may feel that any concrete evidence of you may be hard to find. Who is the you? Who is the I? Where are the lost lives? You may scribble in your journal or think in your mind which is always thinking thinking thinking.

(Look harder. Listen closer.)

Those descriptions written in the voice of someone who loves you, you might read them and think this person they are speaking of has sunk into the sea. This person does not exist anymore and in fact may never have existed. It may be a myth. You know nothing.

It is the concrete evidence.

Continents can move and float on the surface of the ocean so why shouldn’t you be able to do the same? Maybe you simply shifted or some geographical error occurred or maybe it wasn’t an error at all, maybe you forgot where you were? Maybe you were lost at sea. But see that description there? The one you wrote in the voice of someone who loves you? That is your map. You are no longer lost. You are no longer one of the lost lives or lost continents. You are here I say pointing to the place where your heart actually is. The place where I will now take the knife out of because my father wouldn’t be so proud of me.

It is not a hypothetical thing. He is proud of me. He is. The would be makes it myth. The would be makes it legend. It is fact. He is proud of me. As I am proud of me. My voice is his voice.

I don’t know if Lemuria existed or not but I am here at Lumeria and I fancy the idea. I am contemplating all that was lost and all that thought it was, but wasn’t lost at all. That place, right there. Your heart.

The ocean is the I is the heart is the you is the everything. 

I hope the son of the woman gets the text message she sent him and prints it. I hope he he saves it so one day when I ask him to write something about himself in the voice of someone who loves him, he can reach for it in his pocket and say I have it right here. In fact, I memorized it.

It is the ocean is the I is the everything is the love.

It will never have been lost. I hope that for him.

For all of us.