Held together by softness
Dispatch #5: "You carry eternity inside you."
This month I found myself in Italy. I like the phrase “found myself,” rather than its more explicit brethren, “I went to” or “I traveled to.” “I found myself in Italy” has two connotations. The first, suggesting it could be incidental, or on the other hand fate-like, but either way somehow out of one’s control. Oh, look at where I’ve found myself. The second connotation is: the opposite of losing oneself. For example, “After he left her, she found herself…” You get it. I found myself (first connotation) in Italy because my partner was there for a writing residency & asked me to come visit. I found myself in Italy (second connotation) in all my sensitivity, my quiet, my neediness, my delight.
I tried to work on my novel (oh, yes, I’m writing a novel! Did I mention that? More on that soon.) But it didn’t want to find itself in Italy. So instead I wrote one long poem in couplets. I can’t tell you why. It just arrived, wanting to be written, more than the thing I was “supposed to be” working on. Art is funny like that. So are feelings. Creativity, & being a human being for that matter, is sometimes like packing a suitcase full of tools, intentions & plans & opening it only to find a gaggle of garden snakes. We want to say “WTF?! Bad! Terrible!” We want to judge & label, don’t we? It’s a gaggle of garden snakes after all! “Aren’t I more civilized than this?” No, my love. Perhaps it’s an indication of my bumpy [the girlies will understand that what I’m really saying is traumatized, lol] path through life, but I think we are held together by softness. We are held together by softness. What a paradox!
The older I get, the more tools I acquire, the more I meditate, the more I communicate - it doesn’t “fix” this inherent softness. Jeffrey Marsh said this so beautifully in their recent post about feeling “safe.” I must have watched it 3 or 4 times. Sometimes, in all of our efforts to pack our suitcase toward Destination Safety (we pack yoga, we pack therapy, we pack medication, we pack, we pack, we pack…) we can underline that part of ourselves that secretly says, “You need fixing.” I’m not sure that’s possible, because I’m always learning. I’m always taking a few steps forward, a few steps back. I’m vulnerable, then I’m wise, then I’m foolish, then I’m regretful, then I’m wise again. I contain multitudes, I lay squashed on the floor with intrusive thoughts in my head, I’m vast, I’m a whimpering infant, and so on, and so on. As Jeffrey says in the end of their video, “You may be yourself for the rest of your life. Do you have enough guts to love who that is?”
In a similar gutsy vein, I feel lucky to have stumbled across Britchida’s work (on Insta, of course. Where else do we find anything these days?)
In these simple images, so much is conveyed. The jumble of trying. The deeply felt mismatchedness of emotion as it tries to get a handle on reality. The touching-ness of things: there’s the truth, there’s what I said, & they touch, but they also miss.
A wonderful poet & teacher - & one of ISL’s October Visiting Artists - is taking over stories on the In Surreal Life instagram today. When introducing himself, Jay Deshpande posted the most beautiful thing,
“I’m a poet, teacher, and a psychotherapist. And somehow, often, those all come to the same thing for me:
Frequently, people find themselves in situations where they’re stuck, in or outside of language. And part of what we’re looking for, through language and around it, is a way to get unstuck.
And doing the work of problem-solving almost inevitably involves our creativity. Or, put another way, our aliveness.”
In Surreal Life is my business, yes, but it’s also a way for me to eavesdrop on some of our time’s most creative minds. Jay’s gentle approach & his remarkable work (this sonnet is unreal & hearing him read it from memory, live, was unrealer) nourish & ground me. He’ll be leading the BIPOC-exclusive call this session. He’ll be joined by the inimitable Mira Jacob, who has broken genre right open & continues to discuss the lie of youth-as-benchmark in the publishing industry. In this Harpers Bazaar article she writes,
“Not to brag, but my 40s have been the decade I finally published my first book, had a quintuple orgasm, and lost my ability to see most of the pores on my face due to astigmatism. And not to keep not bragging, but they are also the decade I drew a second book, found a haircut that makes my head not look like toast, and perfected the art of leaving conversations that don’t deserve me.”
Jay & Mira will grace the ISL community alongside brilliant poet & teacher Monica Sok, and ISL’s first painter to visit (!) Ghislaine Fremaux.
We have extended the deadline for applications until this Saturday 9/24. There are just a few spots left, so apply today!
Incredible daily prompts. A global community of heart-centric writers. Teachers Monica, Ghislaine, Jay, Mira & I answering your questions & demystifying our process. It’s all here, waiting for you.
And just in case you wanted to hear it from the mouths of our ISLiens (what we call ISL alums), here’s what Sam & Kristin had to say…
Some things I’ve been loving recently:
This love letter to a mountain: Journey to Mount Tamalpais by Etel Adnan
“What are we now but voices / who promise each other a life / neither one can deliver” This poem by Eliza Griswold
I’m obsessed with soccer, maybe you knew that. I rewatched Take the Ball, Pass the Ball which seems to be about FC Barcelona’s new manager that changed the team’s direction, but which I find to be about a team transcending the individual
Eating bread (thank you Italy for reviving this)
This meditation offering on “Unstable Emotions” by Michael Stone
Spending time with my brother
Playing music more lately & posting my songs to Instagram :)
Drawing while waiting (hence the photo below)
Till soon, my loves. Please take good care of your human heart. Find yourself wherever you find yourself. Practice returning to what’s real, what nourishes. I’d love to close with a quote from meditation teacher Michael Stone, mentioned in the list above:
“You carry eternity inside you. You have a teacher inside you… So I encourage you to love enlightenment, which is already inside you. And it’s always at work in your life, whatever form it comes in, whatever ways. So listen, pay attention, hear what your life has to say to you, bring awareness to your body all the time, and use your practice to continually bring you into the sanity of this moment. Sometimes our enlightenment will ask us to love things that seem impossible to love. And that’s why we practice.”
With ample maple syrup,
thank you for always taking me there! <3
put a little extra maple syrup on my oats with the close of this offering, thank you shira ❤️🩹