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.

 

It’s worth it to keep trying, to keep trusting.

“Trust is a confusing thing. It seems so simple, but when you try to pin it down it can be elusive. We talk about trust as something you build, as if it’s a structure or a thing, but in that building there seems to be something about letting go. What it affords us is a luxury. It allows us to stop thinking, to stop worrying that someone won’t catch us if we fall, to stop constantly scanning for inconsistences, to stop wondering about how other people act when they’re not in our presence. It allows us to relax a part of our minds so we can focus on what’s in front of us.”

“Trust is your relationship to the unknown, what you can’t control. And you can’t control everything. And it’s not all or none. It’s a slow and steady practice of learning about the capacity of the world. And it’s worth it to keep trying. And it’s not easy.”

“I almost imagine trust as these invisible hands that we stretch out into the world looking for someone to hold on to.”

How can you grow your trust?

Stay Open. Never Close.

In my previous post I shared one of Jack White’s quotes from his Bonnaroo performance. I didn’t get to see his show, but my friend and coworker did, and it sparked our conversation about staying open (minded, hearted) and allowing space to let the magic in.

For the fourth year in a row I worked at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee. When I tell people I travel around the country working at music festivals they are excited and sometimes jealous. “You must see so much awesome music,” they say. And sometimes I do. But usually I work 12 hours or more a day and don’t get a chance to see a full set, let alone a full song. Usually I’m too exhausted, emotionally drained, and frustrated/stressed about work to stick around for any shows.

It wasn’t always like this, but lately the work has felt just like that: work. I’ve forgotten to stop and think about what I’m actually doing. So many times I’ve driven through crowds of beautiful people without even appreciating how wonderful and colorful they’ve been. I’ve been too focused on driving slowly and getting to work on time. I’ve gotten off work, stepped into a magical, festival environment that’s so thoughtfully and artfully created, and I’ve overlooked everything to get to the staff catering tent in time for dinner. I’ve gotten caught up on the small things that don’t matter and have forgotten to look at the bigger picture.

Bonnaroo sunset

Bonnaroo sunset

At the end of Jack White’s set he said, “We all know that in your heart you love music.”

This year at Bonnaroo when I felt frustrated at work, I took a step back. I caught my breath and reminded myself, “Hey, April, you’re working at a music festival. This is something you’ve wanted to do for years and you’ve been doing it for years. You’re working at a music festival, and you’re educating people about something that matters to the planet, to humankind.”

In moments of stress and frustration, it’s so important to take a step back and think about what’s actually happening. I love music. I love music and how it connects us, pulls us, motivates, inspires, and soothes us. I love music, and that’s why I got involved in the music festival industry to begin with. Sometimes, even at music festivals, I get so dialed in to a work problem that I forget about the music.

This is a promise to myself to never forget how much I love music, to never forget how much music binds us. To know that regardless of the work-related issues, there’s always the music. There’s always the connection and magic that music and creation provide.

music connection
My friend who saw Jack White said that he reminded her to leave time for the magic to happen. She realized that this year she was so caught up in work that she didn’t allow herself to be open to the magic of Bonnaroo either. She was just too busy and too tired. We talked about life behind the scenes at corporate music festivals and how working effects your festival experience.

To everyone who works in the music festival business (specifically the corporate ones, although I’d love to hear opinions about smaller ones as well), how do you separate work from pleasure while working events?

Always leave time and space for the magic to happen. Don’t let the stressful moments of life affect the bigger picture. This relates to so many aspects of life: relationships, friendships, adventures, etc. With love and work and all things in between, stay open.

Keep listening, even if you’ve heard a lot. Keep sharing, even if the stories are painful. Keep trying, even if you’ve been rejected. Keep observing, even if you’ve seen many things. Keep listening to the music, even if you’ve been to hundreds of concerts. Keep your heart open, regardless of how many times it’s been broken. Keep suggesting ideas, even if you feel unheard. Keep smiling, even if you feel like no one is smiling back. Stay open to life, love, festivals, new experiences and everything that being alive brings.
life leap

“Anything is possible.

Stay open, forever.

So open, it hurts and then open up some more,

until the day you die, world without end.

Amen.”

-George Saunders

 

 

 

Go For A Walk In The Woods Today

Today I was en route to a meeting when it got rescheduled. Errands to run flooded my mind. Before I had a chance to reroute Plan B with my GPS, I ended up at the Asheville Botanical Gardens. Before I turned in, for a split second the thought crossed my mind, “Maybe I should Google to see if they’re open.” This thought partially stemmed from thinking I had too much to do to spend time elsewhere. It also showed me the unnecessary reliability I’ve had on technology lately.

“But, I’m already here,” I thought and turned in.

Trust that life organically takes you where you need to go.
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It’s okay to let go of control.

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Once I started walking around, I realized how much I needed fresh air, green plants, trees, and grass. How much I continually need these things. Nothing else I “needed” to do just to “fill my time” mattered.

Trust in the path even if it seems confusing, painful, challenging or impractical.
flowered path

Sometimes it looks like the path goes nowhere. And sometimes the path goes nowhere. It’s okay to take that path anyways. You never know what you’ll discover along the way.
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Being outside is the best medicine. I grew up with acres of woods in my backyard. Being in the woods surrounded by plants and trees has always soothed me. Sometimes I spend so much time indoors that I forget how nourishing and replenishing life outside is. Spending time in the woods helps me understand that what we are a part of is so much more than broken hearts, aggressive drivers and to do lists.

tree river

Watching a dragonfly flutter from one plant to the next helps me appreciate the depth of a moment.
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Getting up close to a bug reminds me that life exists in so many other realms.
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Trees remind me that sometimes beauty can’t fit into frames and parameters.
tree at botanical

It shows me that we’re not the only ones who get all tangled up.
tangled plants

Even in the prickly places life blooms.
prickly

Wild bleeding hearts can still be beautiful.
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Today I walked into the woods feeling hurt and upset about recently discontinuing a romantic relationship in my life. I left the woods feeling hopeful, replenished and happy.

At the end of my walk I saw this quote in the information display case:
do not let the world make you hard

The world is still filled with so much sweetness. Sometimes the best way to figure this out is through having a broken heart.
botanical bumper

Asheville Botanical Gardens:

The Botanical Gardens at Asheville is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization. They aim to preserve and promote plants native to the Southeast with an emphasis on the Appalachian region. The Southern Appalachians have the richest diversity of native plants outside of the tropics. The gardens are open from sunrise to sunset. There’s no admission fee, but donations are appreciated.

Directions: (Or you can just trust that life will guide you)

151 W.T. Weaver Blvd.
Asheville, NC 28804-3414

From Downtown Asheville
Take Broadway/Merrimon Avenue (US 25) north for approximately 1.5 miles to the traffic light at W.T. Weaver Blvd. Turn left. Pass the entrance to University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA) at the traffic circle.  Entrance to Gardens is the about .2 mile on the right.

From the South (Hendersonville)
Take I-26 West. As you approach Asheville, I-26 will be joined by I-240.  Continue to follow signs for I-26 (future I-26). Once the road begins to cross the Smokey  Mountain Bridge, move IMMEDIATELY into the left  lane. Take LEFT Exit 4A. Go to Exit 25 which comes up quickly.  At the bottom of exit ramp turn right. At second traffic light turn left on to W.T. Weaver Blvd. BGA’s parking lot is first driveway on left.

From the North (Weaverville)
Take I-26 East to Exit 25.  At the bottom of exit ramp turn left. At second traffic light, turn left on to W.T. Weaver Blvd. BGA’s parking lot is first driveway on left.

Once I got in my car I put on the Sim Redmond Band’s Live at GrassRoots album. When I can’t get outside, Sim Redmond and GrassRoots will usually do the trick for an uplifting, soothing outlook. Here’s the soundtrack:

 

One more reason to trust and know that everything’s going to be okay.  Once I got home I saw this quote a guest left:

happiness is a choice

Learning How to Love Chocolate (continued)

The first part of this story is about my realization that chocolate really isn’t so bad. For as long as I can remember I didn’t like chocolate. But things are starting to change. Read Part 1 here.

The second cacao ceremony was a complete heart-opener.

Before the ceremony started, I was having a great day at the Mystical Yoga Farm, the spiritual community in Guatemala where I spent the winter. I woke up and stayed in bed to write myself a love poem (read that here). Then I fasted for the ceremony. Fasting is supposed to intensify the experience.

Cacao, or chocolate before it’s processed, has been used ceremonially for centuries in Latin America.

Continue reading

Learning How to Love Chocolate

I have a confession to make: I don’t really like chocolate. This single taste preference has excluded me from many crucial bonding moments with other females. I’ve never devoured away my pain in a pint of chocolate ice cream or bought a chocolate bar when it’s that time of the month. I’ve never spontaneously bought a chocolate bar in the grocery store line or willingly chose chocolate cake at a birthday party. When I’ve received chocolate for various holidays, I’ve always given it away.

I’ve felt like this about chocolate for as long as I can remember. So when people have offered me some, I’ve politely declined. But recently I’ve learned that chocolate isn’t just one set thing. Chocolate comes in all different shapes and sizes. I’ve learned that even though I don’t like chocolate, I love cacao.

Cacao, chocolate before it’s processed, originates in Latin America. In its purest form chocolate is not sweet; it’s bitter. In the United States and Europe chocolate is inundated with milk and sugar, and most often, the ceremonial aspect of cacao is forgotten about. Until I went to Central America I had no idea that people used cacao as a plant-based medicine in ceremonies. Until I went to Central America I had no idea that chocolate is a plant, that chocolate grows on trees. Continue reading