What does it mean to know someone? What does it mean to be known?

This is a part of the Choosing Vulnerability series. Read more about it here.

Like an airplane trailing an advertisement in the air, a quote from my favorite movie as a teenager trails through my head. In high school I used to feverishly imprint it into my journals and brain. In Brett Easton Ellis’s ‘Rules of Attraction,’ one of the male characters says to the girl he’s in love with, “I just want to know you.” She responds: “Nobody knows anyone. You will never ever know me.”

Around the same time that I saw ‘Rules of Attraction’ I watched a Bob Dylan documentary. A reporter asks Bob what his songs mean. “Know. K.n.o.w. Nobody knows anything. I don’t know shit about these songs I write. I just write em,” Bob says while walking away.

And then enter the infamous Socratic paradox: “I know that I know nothing.”

Nobody knows anything. Nobody knows anyone. Needless to say at that time in my life I grew stubborn, independent, certain that people could never really get to the depths of someone else, and simultaneously determined to disprove these theories. Continue reading

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The Je Ne Sais Quoi Connection

For the first time in years The Strokes were back on stage as a full band headlining the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Thousands of people swarmed us singing and dancing, enamored in the band’s reunion. We sat on the grass in the middle of it all.

“I’m almost 30 and I still don’t know what love is,” you tell me. “But this, this is what love is supposed to feel like: the ease and simplicity of being around each other, the electricity between us. This is love.”

Even at a music festival with millions of things happening all around us, all I see is you.

“You’re going to graduate and go on to do amazing things. I wish I could be the man in your life, but if not me, it’s going to be someone better than me.” You start to cry. I start to cry. The Strokes start to sing, “Last Nite,” and we spring up off the ground to sing, “I ain’t ever gonna understand…”

This is a part of the Choosing Vulnerability series. Read more about it here.

Continue reading

Your Eyes Haven’t Lost That Sparke…yet

This post is part of the Choosing Vulnerability series. Read more about it here.

When I was solo traveling in Costa Rica I spent a couple days with a guy I met at a bar. An architect.  A weakness of mine. A man with ideas to better the world, to create beauty with his hands. He cooked me breakfast and gave me surf lessons. He didn’t ask my age until just before I walked out the door. I told him to guess. I was 23 at the time. When I asked him how he guessed correctly he said, “Your eyes haven’t lost that sparkle yet.”

I've posted this picture before, but it's relevance is the same here.

I’ve posted this picture before, but it’s relevance is the same here.

Three years later on my 26th birthday, I felt strong, but a little broken. I remember my conversation in Costa Rica with the architect and how he said that life beats you down and hardens you. I keep thinking how I’m not ready for that yet. I don’t want my heart to harden. I don’t want to grow cold to life. I look back on the past 6 months or so, and while there has been so much goodness, there has been heartache as well. Most of which involves being disrespected by men. The two most painful cases happened at the beginning and end of summer.

For a long time I’ve dived into connections with people with the full knowledge that they could leave at any moment and so could I, that life is fleeting, that everything is temporary. I’ve opened my heart as wide as it could possibly open because I’ve wanted to experience love even if it meant suffering. Love in the moment. Bathing in the rays of tenderness. Authenticity. I live for moments like that. But after the pain of my interactions lately, I’ve felt unsure. I don’t want to prevent myself from living in the moment or to be closed off. I want to remain open to life and all the possibilities it brings. Yet more than ever I feel the need to look out for myself. Continue reading

The Delicate Dance Between Holding on and Letting Go

This is part of the Choosing Vulnerability Series. Read more about it here.

“How can I live in the magic of the moment and let it go right after,” this question plagues me as I sit across from Stefan, look into his eyes and take a bite of the vegan lunch we prepared together. We agree to eat a meal in silence while staring into each other’s eyes the whole time. Later that night at Kirtan (a form of bhakti yoga that involves singing and chanting), Samata tells us to think of a moment we felt love in our lives. I think of that one. Sitting across from Stefan after weeks of sharing our views on life, our dreams of community, raw cacao, homemade chai tea, giggles, dance moves, intimacy, and my twin size bed.

My connection with Stefan came out of nowhere. After months of hoping to find a partner and searching for one in each attractive passerby’s eyes, I connected with Stefan beside a fire on the last night of a sweet summer gathering all about love. Finally I felt like someone looked into my eyes and actually saw me, looked into my eyes and felt my heart. After months of knowing Stefan from similar traveling paths, everything just clicked. I had long admired and respected him, and now I realized I wanted to get to know him on a deeper level.

I felt that ‘je ne sais quoi’ connection with him, that unexplainable feeling of sharing buzzing electricity with someone. I felt it every time our eyes met and every time we were near each other. That feeling was there and so was the laughter, the playfulness and silliness, the freedom, the right combination of lightness and seriousness, and of course, the always looming realization that he could leave at any moment. Stefan has been on the road for five years. Gypsying all over the place with the biggest free spirit and heart to match. I first saw him at Envision Festival in Costa Rica as Rising Appalachia performed. My friend and I were dancing and singing along to the traditional folk song, “Who’s Gonna Shoe Your Pretty Little Feet.” As we sung, “Who’s gonna be your man,” Stefan appeared behind us dancing and laughing. He danced in and then danced right back out.

How can I appreciate what’s happening when I know it’s not going to last? How can I love and then instantly release? And how can I do it without being so overly analytical all the time?!

How do I do this when I want to know that something is real and not just the magic of the moment. For the most part I understand to appreciate the feeling in the moment you feel it because life only exists within the moment, but at the same time if I feel a strong connection with someone, I want to explore the possibilities of what it means. As I write this I feel conflicting thoughts: knowing that that feeling only exists in the moment and that I have to let it go after, yet wanting to preserve it in some sense.

Does this feeling of preservation come from a desire to hold on to something to prove that it happened? Like obsessively chronicling all these moments and journaling as some sort of subconscious validation and proof that I am alive and breathing.

“She was lost in her longing to understand.”
—Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Love in the Time of Cholera

I know that love is everywhere. Love is around, within and inside of me constantly. I know I can access this at any moment. I am extremely grateful for the moments I’ve shared love with people. Yet sometimes I feel a pang in my heart, a longing to consistently share this love with one person in a secure, safe, comfortable place.

I crave the security and knowledge of love. To know that the love, that feeling in that moment is lasting in a way. To know that it’s real beyond the moment and that we share a mutual connection and appreciation. But nothing is lasting. If nothing is lasting then how can something be secure? Is love only meant to last in these fleeting moments? Is love only a fleeting moment? Is life?

“Albert Camus wrote that the only serious question is whether to kill yourself or not.

Tom Robbins wrote that the only serious question is whether time has a beginning and an end.

Camus clearly got up on the wrong side of the bed, and Robbins must have forgotten to set the alarm.

There is only one serious question.

And that is: Who knows how to make love stay?

Answer me that and I will tell you whether or not to kill yourself.

Answer me that and I will ease your mind about the beginning and the end of time.

Answer me that and I will reveal to you the purpose of the moon.”

– Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker

It’s the same questions over and over. The same questions in the form of another face, another soul connection, another place. Months after connecting with Stefan, my friend and I tell each other that those are the only questions. Loving and letting go is the only lesson. Regardless of how many times I learn this, it always stings. Maybe it gets easier to some degree, but as I come to realize what I want in a partnership, the questions and the longing burn deeper.

It’s been years since I’ve been in a committed monogamous relationship with someone. Being around Stefan made me see myself in the perspective of a relationship. Weeks after our first connection around a fire, I realized some things about the kind of relationship and love I want in my life as Stefan and I were once again around a fire (there’s a lot of being fireside in this community). I craved Stefan’s attention and affection and wanted him to sit next to me. I thought about him leaving and daydreamed about the possibilities of traveling again, spending more time with him. But then I realized that’s not the kind of love I want. I pulled out my journal and started writing with the light of the fire:

I want to love without attachment. I’m learning to love without attachment. I choose to love without attachment. I want to give without expectation. I’m learning to live without expectation. I choose to see people for who they are on their own path and not try to fit them into who I am on my path. I choose to accept people for who they are in each moment without expecting or needing more.

This has been my mantra since I wrote it. It’s always a work in progress. Especially the bit about seeing people for who they are and not for who I want them to be.

Now that time has distanced the intensity of the connection, I can look back on all of this with a lighter feeling in my heart. But I’m always dancing with the feelings of holding on and letting go, longing for love and saying goodbye.

How do you handle these types of situations? How do you embrace the moment while the very existence of it indicates an end?

*Update: After posting this I was reading one of my Rumi books. I thought that this poem fitted so well with the theme of this post and couldn’t resist including it:

 

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Love As Fermentation

“Food tastes better when someone else feeds it to you, that’s what they say in Ethiopia. So before someone takes a bite they prepare the best bite and feed it to someone else,” you tell me as you prepare a fork of Indian food to feed me at a restaurant in New York City. It’s the gift of giving and receiving. Being willing to receive without quite knowing what you’re going to get. You were the first person to tell me that as we shared Indian food in a city far away from Ethiopia, far away from here. You told me stories about traveling in Latin America, sleeping in hammocks, sailing from Central America to South America, working at a hostel on the beach, teaching English in the Andes. You were the first person I met who traveled through Latin America, who followed your heart and the spirit of adventure.

You didn’t tell me the part about giving and receiving. I figured that out on my own later. But this act of feeding, of giving to another person, giving the best bite you called it, the best piece you can give, the best part of yourself. This Ethiopian custom became one I passed on to other lovers, to friends, to anyone I shared food and nourishment with. Passing you on everywhere I went. Now at a fermentation class in Asheville, 6 years later, this same Ethiopian custom comes out the teacher’s mouth.

Pulled between watching the cooking demonstrations and the greater need of sleep, I hazily remember that first night we spent together. I start writing before I even realize I’m thinking of you.

“In order for a seed to germinate it has to be warm, moist and slightly acidic,” every so often the teacher says something that speaks directly to my thoughts. A seed needs warmth in order to grow. We need warmth.

“It’s a wrap,” I just glanced at the worksheet and notice the title of the workshop. It’ a wrap: our story. Maybe not our story per see, but the romance between us, the things I’ve created in my head, the you I’ve longed for . I chuckle out loud as the reality of fermentation hits: slow process. Do something, create something and then let it sit and do its own thing. Slow food. Just like the drawn out process of our relationship: slow, over many moons and years, different lessons and growth with every encounter. Fermenting. Fermentation tastes better. It adds flavor. Fermenting grains lets you get the most nutrition out of them.

How can we get the most nourishment out of something? You could never give me the best bite, the best of yourself. But I’ve finally realized that it’s okay. I’ll give the best of me to others instead. I’ll give the best of me to myself.

Next I attend the workshop, “Gardens That Give
and Give.” A garden
I’ve been
relentlessly tangled around the idea
of you.
Perennials come back
year after year,
are more self-maintaining
over time. You’ve become
the perennial in my mind.
With deep root systems
I want to fall in love
and remain there.
“You’re helping me thrive; let me help you thrive,”
the teacher says and then shows us another slide. Strawberries.
You taste so bitter and you taste
so sweet. Love
ripped away at the seams.
Fresh and ripe and destroyed.
Always falling; I’m ready to land.
And still be on my feet.
Are these connections only meant to last in fleeting moments?
Six years. Six weekends. So many muddled thoughts in between.
Slow process.
Create something
and then
it takes on its own life.

This is part of the Choosing Vulnerability Series. Read more about it here. This is an unedited excerpt from the notes I took while I was at the Organic Grower’s School in Asheville. Sometimes out of nowhere, in the most unexpected places, a former lover finds their way into my heart again.

 

Choosing Vulnerability Part 1

Rilke quote
Lately I’ve been feeling so inspired by my community in Asheville and the people in my life. My friends are musicians, healers, activists, artists, dancers, connection-builders, and change-makers in every sense of the word. They are people who address others by looking them square in the eye and often speaking directly from the heart. They aren’t afraid to shy away from challenging questions or dive deeper in.

I am so thankful for this community of people who want to inspire and bring out the best in others. Being around them activates me and inspires me to look within myself and ask myself how I can be the best version of myself, how I can share my gifts and how I can grow and flourish.

Influenced by my friend Dominique Warfield’s event Indigenous Soul and my friend Jai Dee’s ‘Choosing Vulnerability’ playlist at Dance Church (ecstatic dance), I’m inspired to share a writing series entitled, ‘Choosing Vulnerability.’

To me choosing vulnerability means taking the risk even if the outcome is unclear or cloudy, being authentic with myself and being authentic around others, sharing my heart in every moment even if pain looms around the corner, following things that frighten me, listening to my body, establishing boundaries, and more. Vulnerability opens up darkness and a place to be wounded. But because of this, it also opens up a sweet spot of lightness. We can’t have one without the other. There’s a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in.

The picture for Dominique's event

The picture for Dominique’s event

This series will enfold on my blog as direct excerpts from my journal, essay-like excerpts that try to make sense of my ever-conflicting ideas of living in the moment and letting go, questions revealing my curiosity in polyamory and how people love in Asheville, and any other form of storytelling that I want to express. I’ll be reflecting on my last six months or so of living in Asheville. I’ll be looking back in my journal sporadically but also giving present day updates. To me choosing vulnerability means sharing myself through my personal writing. I want to explore these thoughts, these themes. The best way for me to explore these thoughts and questions is to share them with others. To first go within and then seek without. I want to share a piece of myself with you. I choose vulnerability.

This past weekend I felt activated through various events and interactions. It all started with my friend Dominique’s (Shamanique’s) Indigenous Soul exhibit at Lush-Works, a gallery in downtown Asheville. On Friday night there was a free event featuring prayerformance, inspiring talks, and dancing. On Saturday and Sunday nights there was a blindfolded shamanic journey dance. I didn’t get a chance to attend the blindfold dance, but the Friday night event was enough to awaken realizations in me. Watching Dominique perform made me realize how often I’ve shyed away from embracing my own sexuality. With a stark ferocity she fearlessly expressed primal and raw emotion through dancing and drumming. At first this made me feel uncomfortable, but I realized I felt uncomfortable because those are things I want to work on expressing as well. Those are things that frighten me. Life begins at the edge of your comfort zone. Dominique’s prayerformance awakened in me a primal feeling of longing, desire, connectivity and sexuality.

Sunday morning at Dance Church I realized these feelings further as I shyed away from interacting with anyone on the dance floor. When I saw a group of people tangled together, I felt curious, but also unsafe. These feelings of sexuality, connectivity, and touch have frightened me in some way or another. Because of that I want to explore them deeper, to figure myself out and navigate my emotions.

These are common themes I’ll address in this series. Others include: loving without attachment, giving without expectation, seeing people for who they are on their own path and accepting people for who they are in each moment without expecting or needing more.

I choose to be vulnerable in sharing my wild, bleeding, raw, aching, pulsing, happy heart. I choose to step towards the things that frighten me. Do you?

New Moon in Virgo: Surrender to being

After a beautifully busy and full past few weeks I’m finding time and space to ground down again. This re-rooting coincides with the new moon in Virgo, an Earth sign. The more I pay attention, the more I realize how aligned my emotions and actions are with the moon cycles and the cycles that exist around and within us constantly.

Divine Encounter by Simon Haiduk

Divine Encounter by Simon Haiduk

We are interwoven with the cycle of the seasons, the cycle of the moon and the natural cycles of life. As human beings we represent the cycles of life. As beings on this planet we live by the cycle of the sun every single day. We are cycles. Our whole existence as we know it is a cycle. Often distractions and busy day-to-day details pull me out of this connection to source. I want to take this time and this new moon cycle to remember and to honor the cycles and our connection to them.

This new moon cycle is about taking time for stillness, for mindfulness, and for healing.

The previous moon cycle spun and blazed a ball on fire, constantly catching momentum and moving. The cycle ended with an eruption: one of the largest earthquakes in 25 years to strike San Francisco. If that’s not a sign to pay attention then I don’t know what is.

During the previous moon cycle I skipped, pranced and danced from one gathering to another. Every moment struck with such fierce and precious intensity as a reminder to wake up, as a reminder to how fleeting and chaotic and beautiful life is. Yet everything kept moving so fast that I rarely had a moment to myself to ground and center with this information.

I felt a strong pull in multiple directions. And I’m still navigating these feelings. I feel the need to root, the need to ground, yet I feel the pull of wanderlust again, the desire to kiss the lips of the unknown and hit the road, to head back down south to Latin America.

I’ve also felt myself getting swept up in other people’s stories, imaging how I can weave my way into other people’s paths. I’ve had to question why I’m interested in venturing to Latin America for another winter and if it’s coming from a heart place or a desire to be around friend’s who are going. Last week especially I spent a lot of time questioning where I want to be, what I want to be doing, worrying about what’s going to happen next, how I’m going to make money, how I can live more align with my beliefs, how I can contribute to the greater good, how I can be conscious in every aspect of life, and how I can balance it all out.

Bloom by Ashley Foreman

Bloom by Ashley Foreman

In my community in Asheville I’ve talked with a lot of people lately about the previous cycle. Most people felt the same intense energy and momentum, the same pull in multiple directions: the desire to ground, yet the pull to leave. The collective consciousness continues to build.

As the heat from the summer winds down, let’s all take a moment to build this consciousness into stillness. Let’s bathe in the subtleness of the end of one cycle and beginning of another. Let’s recognize the slight changing in vibrancy of the leaves, the cool air slowly inching in. Let’s pay attention to what is actually happening.

This is an invitation to surrender to the doing, the questions, the doubts, and just be. Give yourself permission.

As this Virgo new moon sets in, focus on what’s necessary for you to do to heal yourself. What do you need to do for yourself to heal? What do you need to do to heal others? How can you balance your standards, your desires, your needs and your commitments while still going with the flow of life?
Give yourself the nourishment to stop the doing and embrace the being. Hold yourself accountable and responsible for the life and love you want. You weave your reality. Be compassionate and loving with yourself. Forgive yourself. And then forgive again and again. Surrender. Let yourself surrender. Let yourself let yourself.

A new moon is empty, how will you fill it?