Thank you to my women friends who come bearing gifts

From birth to death, life is a messy proposition. Sanity, strength, hilarity, tears: I get through one thing after another thanks to my women friends who come bearing gifts and sorrows for one another.

This poem is for you, my true goddsibbs.

 

Birthing room etymology

by Sara Eisenberg

 

On any given day

I ponder

your dear faces:

you

and you

and you,

my godsibbs,

women I would invite

into my lying-in room,

my dying-in room

where fluids leak

sour, briny, pungent.

You have your wits about you,

words precise, blessed, musical,

walk right into trouble,

knives

at the ready,

to cut or cut out,

needles

at the ready

to mend or embellish,

soft cloths and lavender water

at the ready

to cool a feverish brow.

Your strewing herbs are

affection, regard, discretion –

with them you refresh the air, comfort us

in this dark, warm chamber.

Through what meanness,

incomprehension,

listening at the keyhole,

did affections thus exchanged

become idle, trifling,

and the speakers

thereof

common

gossips?

 


Image is fabric on canvas by Kenneth Ngosi that I photographed at the Hillsborough, NC Gallery of Arts.

 

Timeless, eternal words that root and bloom in my being

It’s odd and instructive how a word or a phrase can lodge, a seed in my being, send its roots down, and ultimately bloom.

i. “with”

“With” is one of those words, and it carries the essence and power of Mother.

Stay with me here. This isn’t your dinner order preposition, as in “I’ll have the ravioli with marinara sauce.”  Or one of the common public conversation identifiers of the day, as in “I’m with her.” That’s the grammatical role of a preposition in speech: to establish a relationship between two things.

See what happens when you just let with roll around slowly in your mouth, in your being, as a flavor of relationship.

What sensations, feeling-state, associations arise?

What nourishment is there for your receiving?

Does it feel personal, as if it is meant just for you?

Does it feel somehow timeless and eternal?

Some mix of the two?

“With” as the essential nature and essence of Mother has been with me for several decades, since early on in my training as a nondual Kabbalistic healer.

 

ii. ”the held-back goodness of the heart”

“the held-back goodness of the heart” leaped off the page* and took hold of me last week. Perhaps because these days I am so aware of my stash and the unwelcome Withholding One in me who I repeatedly exile to the unheated anteroom of my life.

There are nuances to my withholding, each supported by an assumption.

reserved: goodness I set aside, a vintage wine I am willing break out for occasions that meet my personal standard for worthiness.

saved up: goodness is “mine,” I have mistakenly concluded, and therefore is in limited and nonrenewable supply.

salted away: goodness is seasonal, reckons the  squirrelly part of me. It comes and goes, and I’d better collect it when I can. Hmm, so it is not mine exactly.

stockpiled, hoarded: similar to salted away, but infused with dread that some peculiar Edward Gorey-like event will forever seal me off from any access to goodness.

Notice that the nuances are in my withholding. Goodness itself is unchanging. It doesn’t vary in quality or go bad, like those food storage experiments lingering at the back of the fridge.

Notice that scarcity arises from my misunderstanding that I am the only source of goodness. The Sane One in me wholeheartedly testifies that goodness is both boundless and ever-present.

Goodness itself is mine, part and parcel of my imperfect human life and even my personality, yet not something I personally own.

Goodness: timeless and eternal, what I am made of.

With: timeless and eternal,  how I am nourished and nourish others.

Mother: timeless and eternal, no matter what.


*The phrase is from Beautiful Painted Arrow (Joseph Rael), co-author with David Kopacz MD of Walking the Medicine Wheel, Healing Trauma and PTSD. Thanks to my dear writing buddy Deborah Green for gifting me with the book.

From the sick-bed

From the sick-bed, the herbalist says: I know exactly when the scale tipped for my immune system and lost its preventive edge against this virus. I had already been taking liberal doses of Echinacea, Osha, garlic  and honey for three days, ever since my husband had come down with a cold. They usually do the trick. Between my go-to herbs and some slowing down of activity, I was keeping infection at bay.

 

From the sick-bed, the activist says: But I tipped the scale toward illness. I made a choice: to attend an all-day training on “cultural proficiency awareness,” aka diversity and inclusion. I am passionate on this topic, and there are so few constructive conversations taking place. I want to show up and participate at any opportunity. The day was engaging and revelatory.  I cannot recall ever before being asked to consider, for example, how stereotypes can be helpful. Everyone had showed up to really do the work.  One woman’s intention deeply touched me: “I want to be the sanctuary.”  The meeting room was cold, and I felt ill and sneezy by the time I got home.

Here I am a week later, having bowed out of traveling to DC for my first-ever writers’ conference. And I have no regrets.

I do have two and a half days of completely unscheduled time now to rest and recuperate. And at least another week of choosing with care when and where to engage, cancel, avoid taking on. Time to convalesce, an-almost quaint phenomenon. One more piece of privilege. I’m still going back and forth with myself about whether it is economic or white privilege or both. Convalescence is a luxury for many, among them single parents and breadwinners, anyone worried about job security, even kids worried about keeping up with schoolwork.

 

From the sick-bed, the healing one says: I feel more grateful than usual for this time, and for

hot teas, miso soup, baked sweet potato, brown rice, veggies with olive oil and garlic

quiet

a soft afghan to wrap myself in

a few herbs for my still-boggy sinuses: droppersful of Baptisia and a neti pot with Goldenseal, Echinacea and Propolis

homeopathic Ignatia to soothe my nervous system

 

From the sick-bed,  the awakening one says: And more grateful than usual for every one of you who is out there engaging with as much kindness, consciousness and skill as you can while I bench myself for now. There are other days when some of you will choose to step out for rest, or be felled by a Big Piece of Life, and I’ll be right out there working my fanny off.

We take turns in actively holding up the world. We run and we return. We do what we can when we can. As we fall back or fall down, others get up and get on with it.

Wherever you find yourself in life today,

if you can throw yourself into the thick of things with an open heart, go for it!

If you are low on courage, be extra kind to yourself.

If you need a rest, pull back.

Lean on one another.

Take good care: of yourselves, and with one another.

What if I had the freedom to be Sara with as great abandon as that tree!

I distinctly remember the moment I recognized is-ness, the common state of all living things except us humans, for whom it remains an illusive state.  I was taking a hatha yoga class, looking out at the trees, and said to myself: that tree never questions what it is, why it is rooted where it is, or its purpose. It never questions.

What if I had the freedom to be Sara with as great abandon as that tree!

What if that freedom came with as much relaxation as effort!

To be human is to struggle with the movement of life. We try to fix life by pinning it down like a butterfly, turning it into a specimen, a dead thing. We put life on the witness stand and cross-examine it. We take our responsibilities seriously. We take ourselves seriously.

Which brings me to one antidote we rarely consider: collapse.

 

Imperative

by Sara Eisenberg

I say this to you in all kindness: collapse.

Don’t worry about rubble, dislocation,  flying dust.

 

It is just to relax,

end the exhaustion of holding

every which way,

in and up,

down and on,

that visceral tension,

those ringing nerves,

air-starved cells.

Collapse

 

into the shards of your questions and their answering wholeness,

sheltered in their feathered nest.

Smell, taste,

map them with gentle and probing touch.

Move with their quaking, aching rhythm.

Collapse,

 

sheltered there by the leaves of your shady oak,

ever undisturbed by thoughts of maple.