Saturday, January 19, 2008

Long exhilerating exhausting day teaching at the Writing Salon. I had thirteen great women in my daylong class, including a philosopher, a nurse, a couple of social worker-dancers, a theologian, some consultants, and some businesswomen. Thirteen spirited women; a coven. We covered a lot of ground. Everyone participated fully, heart, mind and soul. I gave all I had and received great gifts in return. Great energy.

Afterwards, I thought I'd have enough left to go out to a party in SF but I can't drag my weary (and flat, from sitting all day) ass over the bridge. I may have just enough left for a half hour on the treadmill and maybe fifteen minutes on the rowing machine, tops.

Thursday I took Carla into the city for accupuncture and we had another lovely deep talk. Bittersweet, the flavor of all experience now. She talks about that word, what it means to her, how it's the only way to name the taste of these days, and I look at her and am reminded of the bright orange berries that are made into wreaths called bittersweet, the same orange tone she has decorated her apartment in, color of the sun just before it sets, of leaves in autumn, of her hair which has no gray in it yet.

She challenges me more than I've ever been challenged before to open to all the love that's available here, now, this present moment. It's hard. I close off so subtly and instinctively, climb up into my head where it's safe, where I can deny the preciousness of experience. I spent a long time learning how to do this, practiced hiding from life by writing about it. A paradoxical way to hide, but it helped me survive what was too intense to be borne.

Yet now her honesty and vulnerability crack me open. What's hardest and most important is to take in how much I love, and how much I am loved. How difficult it is to look at that sun directly. It's like exposing raw scar tissue to oxygen and sunlight.

If it's so hard for me to do that with a healthy body and all the distraction it provides, how much harder it must be for her to receive the vast outpouring of love that buckets over her daily and weekly. She and I have both been better at giving than receiving--it's easier to do, keep busy, write a check, volunteer to drive, than it is to just sit and open one's heart. Yet how unutterably precious the service that the open-hearted one provides just by being and saying, implicitly, "Come on in, the water's fine, it's safe to open now."

In fact, it's imperative to open now.

I bought the book, A Year to live by Stephen Levine and have read the first chapter. It's what he talks about, soft eyes, soft belly, soft heart. Allowing ourselves to soften.

I'm sitting here typing in my little study with lists hung on the walls: lists of writing projects I want to get to, plays, essays, book projects. Lists of goals I hope to achieve, 2007, 2008. Yet none of those goals are as important as the task of allowing my heart to open, and without an open heart all the accomplishments I may accrue this year or next are meaningless. Without an open heart my partnership with C becomes just another item on my life list, and each achievement becomes just another addictive notch on my ego's belt.

I don't want that. In so many ways, I have enough, right now. I have a good lover, after all those years of pining and searching. My dad is in good health, my siblings and nieces and nephews are all doing well, I have wonderful friends, writing is fine. Children are all that's missing, and that's a big thing. Ellen and I were walking around the barren rose garden--not barren, but dormant, and beautiful in a different way than when it is in full flower--and musing about parenthood. The parents we know all say that their children are the most important things they've ever done in their lives.

"Maybe it's the experience of total commitment, "Ellen said, and I'm sure it is, but it also goes beyond that--the kids themselves, the people they become. if you're lucky.

What I pray for now is the courage to open and receive and appreciate this life, even as it flows past me, burning with bittersweet brightness and deep tears.

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