Flashback V: Fantasies

Around the time of that last haircut this piece was written.  This numbness persisted until the fight to the surface began on the Singlestream.

Morning walks with Julius and Lola are becoming a little haven in my day. The evening walks are different – a part of my routine of chores – and I’m begging Lola pleasepleasePLEASE just pop a squat. But in the mornings the sun has been rising early and by the time I’m out there with them hell bent and arrow straight on their taut little leashes the cool of night is a whispering ghost and the air is moist with the breath of summer. In the shade of the odd little tree on the walking circle the smell of rain lingers and the dew lines are cut clearly by the bright sun spots. The dogs focus on the task at hand – Julius smelling and then obliterating every marking of every other stud with yellow streams and Lola’s special mission of pulling till she chokes with the odd burst of speed after a wild chicken.
In between the poop stops I wake up in increments. I wave at the neighbor who seems to have the same dog walk programmed into his smart phone. The dreams of the night before shake out with each sleep-heavy step like dust. I fight the creaking knees to bend and pick up the odd spot and my mind wonders.

It is on these walks in recent days that I have come to realize that I have no fantasies.

From my experience and in the experience of every woman who has shared pieces of her life with me I have concluded that a woman is driven by love. As a child she dreams of Cinderella dresses and glows at the thought that a handsome someone will think her beautiful and want her for his princess. As a teenager she struggles with the fight between her innocence and fear and the messages of society that tell her that with inch of skin she reveals she shall be repaid in love. As a young woman she will go to sleep at night re-living the attentive conversation of a nice man looking for clues and snuggle warm into her fantasies of what could happen if he were to turn out to be “the one”.

And so it is easy to feel myself somewhere in the neighborhood of the shadow of death to feel no thrill and to find no fantasy waiting at the end of the day to rock me to sleep…

Have I finally taken the bullet square in the chest by my last heartbreak that I have been taken off the battlefield entirely? Has the last healthy nerve ending been soldered off so completely that nothing and no one has the power to move me? Is this God’s answer to my prayers that “if it is not Your will for me Father please take away the desire”?

If so, it has come with more pain than I imagined. I imagined a clean break and inner peace. Now not only do I feel the void created by loves lost but by the loss of the ability to love itself. The death of the idea, if this is in fact what it really is, is infinitely worse.

Perhaps it is more like a coma. I think I would prefer to believe that. It must be! Death would leave a ghostless void wouldn’t it? Not an echoing chamber of voices and photographs of loving moments frozen in time. The heart still has its ears. Isn’t hearing the last sense to go? Isn’t that why families hold on to hands with desperate grip and pour out their souls’ secrets to their loved ones laying white in hospital bed and gown with the only sign of life the beeping of a monitor?

The heart hears still. It is frozen, waiting, listening for words warm enough to melt, real enough to slice, and strong enough to last forever. The lock on it’s casing has a code that only one other soul should know and many thieves may attempt to simulate. Many will speak to it, beg it, cajole it to no avail. Like Excalibur it waits for one hand – the right hand – to dip into the icy stone and pry it free.

I much prefer this to the thought of a death of a piece of me. I suppose the preference is in itself evidence of some truth to it.

Meanwhile the empty moments before sleep are not filled with fantasies. They are not hopeful and trembling, not listless and lusting. They have no images of smiling faces and quiet moments and beating hearts. No sounds of sweet nothings. Memories have been completely banished from these moments – they are even more painful. The minutes passing are simply… empty. For a few days now they have weighed heavy and empty – so heavy in fact that I am moved to fill them with wine and company or stories of “How I Met Your Mother” and “Two and a Half Men”.

Is this what you would have me do?

Deep down, after passing through the flailing of a despairing brain short now of balance from its emotional counterpart, after passing through the stress barrier of the demands of my work and of my life obligations, past the frozen silence of my nighttime moments and the dew spots of my morning walks, under all that sits the knowledge that this is a time with a purpose. It has to be.

Every moment of despair in my years has been used by my Father to prepare me. He has used childhood grief to bring reason to my life even if from the strange starting point as a vehicle through which my dying friend could live vicariously. He has used failure to open doors that success would have persuaded me to ignore. He has used heartbreak as an earthquake to move me from a place of danger into safety. Illness has been the medicine used to bring me back to spiritual health. Loss has brought me moments of intangible and incalculable wealth. This knowledge is my foundation, my rock bottom, a low past which he will not have me go. It is the hand in which my world rests and as deep as I dig I will only go this low and no lower than his hand. This emptiness too must have a purpose…

Today, with a cup of coffee in one hand, the sheen of the morning’s walk on my brow and the dogs sat by my feet still panting after coolness, I am praying for guidance. I cannot see the map but I will take instructions from Your satellite navigation system. Turn me right, bear me left, teach me, stretch me, trim me, make me. Serve through me. I will trust You to fill my emptiness.

Be my Fantasy.

To see the other Flashbacks in this series, visit the links below:

Flashback III: For My Daughter

This is part of an old and complicated story… a place in my life that I was taken from with some amount of pain.  Maybe one day I will tell it… but for now this is the message I had for a daughter who was once and briefly mine.

Even though I had no part in bringing you to life and didn’t give your little body a home, I am the woman honoured with shepherding you at this moment, the end of your girlhood. I see all my habits and flaws in the stark light of Truth. I see how much of me needs to change, and how much has changed by Grace, for me to be worthy of being your example.

I also see the innocence, the unbruised hope, and pray that it lasts throughout your life. I watch you battle next to me as I battle through the challenges of my life, practicing for your own womanhood in the shadow of my example. I see you grieve for me as I grieve, learn as I learn, and grow as I grow. And sometimes more.

I long for you to love yourself as I love you. You are a unique being created to reflect a beautiful part of God’s image that no other being has ever done or ever will do. So BIG and AMAZING is our God that each person, a prism to reflect a part of the image of who He is, is unique. Your piece, your unique image, is one that cannot be replicated and is beautiful and strong.

He must have been smiling designing this woman on His heavenly drawing table, delighted in her intricate mind and the mystery of each cell of her body. Late into the night I imagine that he drew, as the angels sang in the background. He put you in a welcoming womb and laughed with you as you first smiled up at your adoring mother as she counted ten perfect fingers and ten perfect toes in awe. He grieved with you and sheltered you under his feathers when she was untimely ripped from your tender life. He sheltered you from blows and led you to a place of safety over very rocky ground and slippery slopes. Of COURSE He loves you!

You are special and dear to him and to me.

And so my dear one, never let any man, woman, pastor, friend, teacher or enemy change the way you look at you. YOU are beautiful for a reason – He decided you should be and delighted when He made it so. YOU are strong for a reason – He decided you would be and He made you so. YOU have your own mind for a reason – He wanted you to know Him for yourself and He made it so. YOU are right here right now for a reason – His plan for you is perfect and He will make it so.

Do you baby. Only you can do you. He made it so. And so, in thanks to Him, do you WELL.

To see the other Flashbacks in this series, visit the links below:

Opening old wounds

I can’t believe how raw this post today has made me… how naked it makes my heart feel.

But it turns out that the heart is still there, beating under layers and layers of scars.  Perhaps it is better to let sleeping dogs lie, let the scars be, and the fresh scabs become keloid.  It certainly would be easier.  Healing hurts too much!  And it isn’t guaranteed.  Is it?

A wise friend and I spoke recently about pain.  He has studied James with me and we have spoken at length about Considering it Joy.  He has found himself in a place of total brokenness – his body, his work, his family, his reputation, all broken.

But in it he has found peace.

I explained to him that I am completely unaware of any other way of dealing with pain other than attacking or running.  The fight or flight in me is strong when it comes to pain.  There is no middle ground.  Or is there?

He said to me embrace the pain.  Be with it.  Ride it out and let it take you to the lesson.

Hmmmm ok.  I kinda reacted with a flip mmm hmm.  But he didn’t move.  He meant it.  Savor every emotion.  Get to know it and let it know you.  He patiently waited for it to sink in to me.

Embrace it, eh?  Will give it a try before I trash the idea.

Today is a step in that direction.

Flashback I: Truth and the Shell

It has been a hard day of grief and pain. This time he is heeding my request to please stay clear and allow me to do my growing and grieving alone. But oh does it hurt!

“What hurts?” I have asked myself. It is the sucking drain of the disappointment drawing back the wave of joy that flooded over me at the realization that “I have found someone who I can love for the rest of my life!” It is a pain that tells of the stripping bare of the garden that bloomed in my heart, watered by that wave of joy. New leaves and fresh blooms all viciously uprooted in their youth, torn from my bosom. Holes that once held clutching roots and ground that was not so long ago shaded by trees are now dry and cracked and gaping, assaulted by a burning sun of Truth.

Truth that reveals every weakness in blinding, sweltering brightness. Truth that cuts through the beautiful words and whispered dreams passed lips-to-ear by the seaside. Cuts through the mirage of lies and folly-happy belief. Truth that burns away chaff. Leaving grief. Grief that the leafy ferns and tender orchids were not real but a bedtime story that needed to be grown out of. Grief at the loss of the cool, damp earth and fragrance of jasmine under a bright full moon all lost to truth.

Even when you tried you lied. Your lies covered my days with painted colours, a full garden of imaginings. Now all swirled and sucked into the vortex of the drain. If only I had not believed. If only I had not allowed you, time and again, to deceive. Truth tugged at me, peaking through the sky-flung Poinciana branches and so I slipped to the side to a greater comfort, deeper in your fanciful creation each time. Until the midday of my heart came and truth, right over my head, burned the matrix away. I am the one. The one who has to see and now must live in TRUTH.

And now… in the glaring light of the Truth that destroys all lies, I sit on a real stump of a real old tree – solid, dry, dead wood with the reprieve of Certainty that comes in the presence of Truth and the sound of the sea. Julius keeps coming back to check on me, walking only so far with the girls before coming back.

The darkness I battled with threatens to return and my mouth calls out for numbing rum. Things of the past. Tears come at awkward times, tugging on my composure and pealing the edges of my theater mask, my warrior mask, my happy mask. No mask sticks to a slick pair of cheeks! I sit with myself, in myself, smothered under myself and vomit onto the page every bilious thought that steals my quiet. And I glance down and see a piece of something shiny and pink. Shining through tear-chafed eyes. A gift, simple and rugged. A full and pink conch shell! If I had not sat there with my tears I would not have seen it.

After seeing the shell I put my book down and stooped to get it. But it was stuck. I dug around it with my fingers clearing the sand away between the roots of the old dead stump. The points at the top of the old conch shell were buried in the dead roots, cured by salt and covered with sand and thoroughly stuck. Stuck so fast that no amount of wiggling made it give. And so I searched for a piece of stick and dug with the stick. My right hand had already gone raw by now and threatened to bleed. I lost track of time in my focus and dug furiously. Hand and stick, hand and stick, wiggle here, tug there, still no give.

And so I called to the girls down to beach to come and help me.

Thus the shell had become my only focus, a symbol of happiness. I dug in relentless pursuit of it, the dig itself a fierce determination not to give up my hope. A struggle that brought blood to my hands and tears to my eyes.

The girls didn’t hear me and I began to get frustrated. Why didn’t they pay attention? The sky was darkening and the fireball to the west had begun a low, dripping, over-ripe mango-sticky descent through the clouds. I called out again and they began to walk ever so slowly to me. It angered me that they weren’t there and didn’t care, that they couldn’t hear my calling out. Didn’t they know how important this was to me? Couldn’t they see me and my gestures and waves saying hurry?

And plain as day I got it. THE POINT. Like a dream that gives such aching clarity to a situation obscured by daylight wakenings I saw. This is the purpose of my pain.

To bring me to call on Him, the Most High. The One who can answer all my questions, cure all my ailments, and dig out all of my shells. And right there I looked up and said to him Father, the girls aren’t going to hear me. They aren’t here where I am right now. And they probably couldn’t help me anyway – I am stronger than they are. Please help me get this shell out.

And so I bent over again and began to dig. It wiggled more and I dug some more. I stepped on one side to turn it loose and dug some more. I took my hands and scooped under the shell with sand cutting into my raw flesh. By this time the girls had strolled over to me. One came and reached down to help as I straightened up.

It came loose in her hands. First try. No struggle – out it popped.

MADNESS

But it was my struggle. There was a reason.

Later at home I took that shell into my bath tub. There it will always stay pink and fresh with constant watering. It will also remind me at least twice a day, at my most naked and exposed moments, that my God is with me in every struggle and will be my armour when I feel exposed.

And so I prayed into my little book. Father, please put that gem and hide it in my heart like that shell. Stick it in there and never let it wiggle free I pray. Please remind me that You are never going to leave me and that You are so much better than anything else I could ever find. Help me remember to call to You first because You are always right here, right now, where I am. Help me remember that when my friends are far away, or when they are up close – it doesn’t matter! They don’t have Your power.

Please also use these struggles of mine, these battles I face, to strengthen the people around me. Help my struggle to allow them to find their own shell loose and ready for them to just pick it up. Take my writing and use it to Your honour and glory I pray.

Amen

It seems I knew once how to deal with pain.  I knew once how to reconnect to the core of me and commune from that core with the Source of all things good.  I am so blessed to be reminded of that knowledge today.

As each young man dies, the land that bore him cries…

And the sounds of warning become familiar,
Flashing lights bring fear to the dark night,
And screams take place the prayer that should be recited.
The cut.
The puncture rips away the flesh, the bone, the spirit.
… Rest – until judgment – to be here in a second, a flash.
Wells pour over and ground never fills.
The wrong paths, un-forgiveness, rage – void of love and revenge wraps its determined finger around the trigger.
At long last the morgues are happy and a community stricken with grief.
© Alta Bodden-Solomon, 20 September 2011

Last night of life…..our Caymanian men are dying of unforgiveness.

I closed my eyes

I held my breath

I clogged my ears

But I could still smell death

The taste was there

On the wind in the night

And it ran its fingers

Around them tight

The last one out

Was like the first one in

Can’t put them back

In the nozzle & start again

Last night of life

Last night into death

First thoughts of fear

Last thoughts of regret

Laid down in the blood

Lifted up without myrrh

Another violent night

And it leaves us in a blur

Cry our bitter tears

Weep and wail our lost,

Beat our grief stricken chests

And still we can’t pay the cost.

I closed tight my eyes

I held in my breath

I clogged my ears

But I could still feel death…..

 

© Alta Bodden-Solomon, 20 September 2011

Overnight two young men lost their lives to violence.  They were the fourth and fifth of this last week do die in savage warfare.  Pointless warfare.  As each little boy dies, the land that bore him cries.  Thank you to Alta for putting our mixed feelings and the pain of our nation into words.

Vanishing Deductible – The Marathon

What hasn’t yet been written anywhere before is the account of Bushlings and her attempt at a half marathon.  The half marathon, some 13.1 miles, was a goal I set to take my mind off weight and get me healthy and fit.  Reasonable and objective goals, much like the Hair.  In the fall of 2010 I teamed up with a guy I know who planned my training schedule for me, coached me with diet and weight training, and ran up to six miles once a week with me – a true champion.  I made it to just under seven miles before all hell broke loose.

Both knees.  Busted.  Off my feet for days.

The disappointment was tangible.  I couldn’t run.  I couldn’t take stairs.  I couldn’t wear heels for a few months.  I have a jagged patella that aggravates and rubs causing a buildup of fluid.  So very very very sad.  I had finally found an exercise that I enjoyed only to have it ripped from me by my own traitorous body!

I loved it!  Running in the rain along the shoreline.  Running on the beach.  Running before breakfast.  Running with an eager mutt.  All glorious and burning and fresh and open and in time to the music.

My trainer is still an inspiration.  He still believes in me.  I started again to run since, just to break a sweat.  I’ve made it back up to three miles!  So what if the doctors say I can’t?  One mile every days won’t kill me right?  Pain is weakness leaving the body.  My coach tells me all the time.

This week he met me out for a quick catchup. He has just come back from the San Fransisco Marathon – one of the hardest in the known world of marathons.  It is super exciting to hold his medal and feel the weight of his accomplishment!

He is also in the best shape of his life.  A very bulky guy with big bones and strong features, he is now half the size he was when I met him a few years ago.  If you’ve seen that Nationwide Insurance ad on American television or on YouTube you’ll know what I mean – he’s a vanishing deductible!

Congratulations to a man who slowed down to let me keep up for a while and continues to inspired me to stretch to, and then beyond, the edges of my limits.  As for me, I’m about to lace up those shoes again.  Time to stop talking and thinking and just jump.