Like Words Together Reflections from the deep end of Practice.


The Soil in Which I Grow

I'm in a spot where I'm winding down, between laundry loads -- last two are folded & put away, the last for the night is in the dryer. In what I find to be the meditative space of folding laundry I was thinking about the weekend I'd had. The bicycling on Saturday and a day of shared chores & dinner today. The time talking in between to CK and with AM. The feelings that come up around being cared for.

I got back to my laptop after getting the laundry done for the moment, the leftovers put away, and sat down to most lovely message from CK. She commented to me how she used to think of relationships as plants, things to be tended. She said that now she saw each of us as a plant, the relationship is the soil in which we all grow.

My eyes closed to just let the words settle. It is so lovely, so apt.

Hogen has told me that all the terrible things that I have survived can become potent medicine. Something so powerful and healing is able to be distilled of awfulness. I had shared this with CK earlier while lying on the bed upstairs feeling the breeze from off the river move over us. I was very mindful in repeating this to her how hard this is to me, how often I observe myself trying to hide or push away the the parts of my history that arouse shame, fear, deep grieving, and worry.

I thought of our compost pile. The things which make a plant grow big, healthy, and in the case of vegetables, most nourishing. Our vegan house sends that majority of all food waste and scraps into the compost. Quite often things go into a very large container at the side of the sink, the mostly clear plastic presents a view of decomposing plant matter. This stuff that looks rather nasty to my eyes will go out into the pile, be broken down further, mixed with clippings, and existing compost. The stuff will get hot, chemical reactions happening all the time, beneficial stuff culturing & growing until the whole of it steams with energy.

In the end it is a beautiful nourishing thing. The compost builds up the hard, clay soil here, slowing helping what wasn't nurturing much of anything into something that will grow the plants that in turn will nourish us. The growing of food is such a direct and intimate relationship with what we eat; all made more productive by having rich soil, compost.

The somewhat overdone plant analogy is a lotus. Out of the nasty, black muck of a pond's bottom a lotus grows. From the deep darkness it reaches upwards to produce the most radiant of blossoms. The lotus represents purity, renewal, creation -- all because it grows out of the nourishing slime.

So is my history. Damned awful stuff I went through, but out of that nastiness I have not only managed to grow, but now find myself thriving. Like the compost pile, it is all thrown in, stirred around, and in the steaming heat all is distilled into goodness, potent medicine.When I allow myself to feel the range of things, even the nasty stuff, I grow. I grow in the rotting, steaming compost of my past and I grow in love.



Riding my bicycle over the Broadway Bridge for the first time today, with CK riding behind me for support and encouragement, brought me back to wondering why sometimes it is so easy to sink into feeling good about being cared for. Not only that it feels good, but it is easy to sink into it and just be in it. At other times being cared for by another person simultaneously arouses feelings of guilt and unworthiness. I find it impossible to sink into, just relax in the sensation of being cared for. It is pretty easy to look at it and trace back to how fraught my childhood was with the feeling that being cared for had strings attached or that my input on how best to care for me was unnecessary, bothersome.

Today was an easy day. Perhaps it is because I feel so new to bicycling, returning to it after years of not doing it at all. Traffic is more intense, both cars and other bicycles, and the gear has changed a lot too. Immediately back to a beginners mind when it comes to bicycling, so the feeling of being watched out for, kept safe, was helpful and comforting.

I found it harder when CK bought me a book at Powell's. Little twinges of guilt. She makes comments about my birthday coming, hinting at gifts, and I felt small for a moment, off center. I'm wearing the hoodie she bought me at UBC, which I love to wear because it is warm, comfy, and reminds me of CK. When she said she wanted to get it for me I felt, all at once, pleasure & excitement and guilt & discomfort, not wanting to seem a burden.

Similar emotions all rushed up when she gave me a massage in Vancouver. Eventually I was able to relax into her touch, until such time as our energy mutually shifted to being less relaxed. Always so many moments where my initial reaction to her caring, her affection is a feeling of uncertainty and not being worth it. I shift past that immediate response, into reality and the present, sometimes that transition takes longer, feels more rocky.

I make it eventually, able to at least truly feel the way I'm cared for even if I feel the discomfort in it at the same time. Finding some way to be on the mid-span, bridging two extremes. One extreme is the place where I feel shaky, uncertain, ashamed, unworthy, and afraid that if I sink into being cared for it will be suddenly pulled away from me in a way that inflicts humiliation. The other place, the other side of that bridge is where I am fully able to relax into being cared for, trust in it and be nurtured by it.


Finally Home

CK got home this evening and I am so relieved, happy and just settled feeling now that she's back. We got over to my house, grabbed up my things, she got to see the new bicycle and we came over to her flat for the evening. Dropped stuff off, went to the market, came back and made up some quick tempeh tacos. Sat on the bed, ate dinner with a beer then played Magic (I won after not having played for years & years with an "elven" deck of hers).

Just a slide back into "routine". I realized, as she was hugging me at the car in the airport garage, that some undercurrent of fear had really crept in. Some nagging sensation that she'd gone down to see her family and they'd have "talked sense" into her about this whole relationship thing. She set her things in the back and hugged me close; just huge relief whooshed through me.

A trickle of it has started inside, I went ahead and paid to park for the 10 minutes (tops) I was in the lot so I could meet her as she came through security. Her flight had been a little early, luckily I checked at the house AND my house is very close to the airport, so I just made it. Walking across the open area just as I saw her come out of the gates. She smiled when she saw me and gave me a quick hug & kiss.

It is the ease with which she displays affection for me that just leaves me silent and smiling sometimes. The first long-term girlfriend I had wouldn't show me affection in public to the extent of pulling away from me when I went to take her hand while walking together in downtown Portland. I set that aside, never being able to adequately explain to her why that hurt me so much and she never really allowed the space to put it to words.

There is just such intimate beauty in being able to lovingly touch someone in public. Not even to the extent of passionately kissing or touching. Holding hands, the way I put my head on CK's shoulder when I'm tired of standing, or the way she puts her hand on the back of my head and neck. They are not passionate, excessive displays in public but they are very intimate. They are precisely why I have started telling my Zen sangha about my relationship. Those intimate touches give it away and it is unfair of me to try and hide them, suppress them because they might be seen by someone who will judge.

What I find so interesting is how powerful they are when I'm made aware of how people can react. The rude Texan woman giving us a glare in line at the aquarium in Vancouver B.C. All that had happened was one of those sweet, simple intimacies of comfort and affection. Had we been a heterosexual couple of any age at all she would likely have not even noticed or maybe even smiled. Because we are two women sharing that level of intimacy, clearly "more than just friends" we got a glare.

I don't think about making those kinds of gestures. There's no time to get wrapped up in worrying that someone will condemn me for kissing CK lightly, or holding her hand when we walk together. We share that deep, intimate connection and love so why wouldn't I want to just have the simple pleasure of having that level of public touch. I don't even think twice about it. I suppose that's why it hurt so much years ago when MM pulled away from me -- although she loved me and would say so, she was always thinking about who might be watching, who might tell her parents (at the time they lived in Hawaii still), a client might see and not call back. She was never just caught up in loving me and wanting to hold my hand for the sheer pleasure of that connection.

That so much of American society thinks that way and worse is pretty infuriating. Why should it matter in any way at all when people want to express love and joy in the world. There is such a stinginess about Love. When Jessa was dying I really had a perspective shift on Love and gained this sense of the vastness of it just out there -- rather along the lines of how the late Douglas Adams described how immense the universe is* in The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

I am perplexed at people wanting to hold Love in, codify it, contain it despite it being so utterly beyond our full knowing.

* "Space is big. You just won't believe how vastly, hugely, mind-boggling big it is. I mean you may think it's a long way down the road to the chemist's, but that's just peanuts to space."

If you replace "space" above with "love" up there and it pretty much sums it up.