Lovelandia

Lovelandia

For my going away party Kent and I found some letter balloons at a great party supply shop in San Diego. We agonized over what to say initially but when we finally strung them up I felt confident it would be the subject of an Instagram post in the future.

I didn’t anticipate it would take me over a week to get to it, and honestly it hardly seems possible it’s barely been a week since I took it. At the time my apartment with the the downtown views of LA was bare, the movers had come and gone and left me with an air mattress, and I was living out of my suitcase wearing jeans and a tee shirt pretty much 24/7.

Now I’m in Portland with the heat ON, I’m still living out of a suitcase but fortunately I packed all the sweaters I owned (that would be one) and I’m bundled up in that too. My movers can’t get my stuff to me till the middle of January, it’s been raining since I got here, and I caught a cold.

I’ve never been so happy. Well, maybe when I was a year and a half old, but I didn’t KNOW I was happy then, I just thought that was the way it was.

Now I know better. Happiness isn’t something I can take for granted. At least I don’t think I can. But something strange has been happening to me the past week, so I can’t entirely be sure. Because being able to wrap my arms around someone I love who loves me back pretty much whenever I want and laughing so hard I almost wee myself two to three times a day isn’t something I can intellectualize.

I mean, I know it could all end in a second – one of us could be hit by a bus or taken out by a virus or a madman or a tornado – but I don’t KNOW KNOW that. My body doesn’t know that. My body, which is where I live, is starting to get comfortable. Which is frankly really weird.

I don’t know who I am if I’m happy. But I have the feeling I’m about to find out.

End of an Era

Have a great time in Portland

I’ve been waiting tables for fifteen years at a wonderful restaurant on a magical little corner on the east side of Los Angeles. Today is my last day, and I purposely didn’t wear mascara, in preparation for all the goodbyes I have to say. All weekend I’ve been giving my favorite regulars hugs and discounts and loving looks as they hold my hands and get tearful.

People are usually surprised when I tell them I like waiting tables, and it’s probably because most of us have a hard time doing repetitive work that requires you put other people’s needs above your own. But I’ve learned that being humbled is one of the best things that can happen to a person and the love I’ve experienced on this corner isn’t something I can easily put into words. I’ve been laughing and crying and sharing stories with people here for years that I would never have met otherwise.

I’ve easily fed over two hundred thousand people in the last fifteen years, many of them hundreds of times apiece. And yes, that’s gotta be my ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in the field according to Malcolm Gladwell. And for me that’s been about way more than multi-tasking and being able to carry multiple plates at once.

It’s an incredibly intimate thing to feed people. To be with them first thing in the morning and last thing at night. To give them caffeine and booze and the fried chicken they’ve been looking forward to all week. To soothe people who are low on blood sugar and cranky as hell, to say no to unreasonable requests, to manage pleasing people with being efficient. To accept responsibility even when it’s not your fault. To live in the every dayness of the day to day, foregoing goals and ambition in pursuit of the excellence of the moment.

This gig has been one of the best things that ever happened to me and I’ll never get over it or forget all the people I’ve worked with, for, served, and fed. Thanks for fifteen amazing years, Kitchen! I may be leaving you, but you will never leave me and for that I can only be grateful.

One Door Closes

these boots were made for walking

I bought these boots shortly after I split from my ex years ago. They fit me perfectly the first time I tried them on, with plenty of room across the bridge and a low heel for long walks. I wore them to work so much the grease from the restaurant worked its way into the leather and cracked it. I didn’t care. They were perfectly distressed, stubborn, worn in, and wholly beautiful. I loved them.

I resoled them seven times. I found my current shoe smith after another guy refused to work on them again. My new cobbler earned my undying loyalty, saving my precious boots from the rubbish pile another two years, always laughing when I brought them in and promising to do his best. Finally, however, it’s time to say goodbye. The leather has cracked so much it’s flaked off in bits and left only a soft worn skin that stains and tears easily. I still love them, but I can’t wear them anymore.

Besides, I met someone and I’m moving to Oregon to be with him. Boots with holes in them might be all right for an LA winter, but it won’t do for the PNW.

So I bought new boots last week. They’re a little stiff. They pinch slightly in that way new leather shoes often do. The shaft of the boot is a little higher, the leather a dark chestnut instead of the burnished gold of my old friends. They have that sheen that comes with the promise of something new and unknown.

I know they won’t always be like this. Someday they’ll be worn and soft in all the right places, something I both cherish and take for granted, but that’s not today. Today they look like someone I’m going to be but haven’t quite worked out how yet. Today they’re only full of tomorrow.

And tomorrow can wait.

Pride

pride-1The day the supreme court legalized gay marriage I went to the Butterfly Pavilion with my nephew. I missed the fireworks on Facebook, the rainbow profile pics and the exclamations, the sudden rush of love pouring out of all the computers I’m connected to. Instead I spent the day with a five year old wandering around the Natural History Museum looking for dinosaurs and beetles and cocoons.

We had half an hour with the butterflies, shaded from the heat of the day by the mesh netting blanketing the small square of flowering shrubs and vines. We wandered amongst them, spying bright green wings and patterned fliers, caterpillars and ladybugs. My nephew crouched down low to get close to a butterfly near the ground, his hands clasped carefully on his knees, his eyes watching its every move. He was so absorbed he didn’t budge when an older child knelt close beside him.

The kid was jumpy, scanning the scene like he was looking for an opening. Finding it, he leaned in and pressed the butterfly’s wing between his fingers, crushing the velvety hairs underneath.

“Hey!” I said, harshly. “Don’t touch the butterflies!” The kid started, glaring at me, but he released the butterfly’s wing. My nephew looked from me to the kid and then back to the butterfly, never leaving his crouched perch.

The butterfly, surprisingly, mirrored my nephew, remaining quite still on its leaf, fanning its wings tentatively but with success.

prideA butterfly is everyone’s favorite metaphor for transformation, going from caterpillar to butterfly, from legged and squirmy to winged and graceful. It was my friend, Austin, who pointed out to me that the process isn’t all glitter and unicorns. A few years ago he and I were talking about Saturn going into Scorpio and he mentioned how before a caterpillar turns into a butterfly it enters a cocoon. The legs give way to a viscous gel and the skeletal structure of the creature melts to make way for the wings. “Change,” Austin wryly observed, is “gross.”

Driving home that night I listened to the news I’d missed in the day. Interviews with the man who brought the case to the Supreme Court, sound bites from people opposed to the verdict, and bunches of stuff in between. I kept the car running after I’d parked to hear it all. Sitting there in my garage, the reception spotty and the voices veiled by a thin layer of white noise, my mind drifted. My hand, lying in my lap, remembered what it was to hold the hand of my ex inside it. Ten years after the last time I saw her and it’s like nothing to the surface of my palm.

For the first time in years I marveled over how her fingers were the same length as her palm, how small her pinky was, and how warm and dry her hands always were. The silent communication passing back and forth between us walking down the street together, the open proclamation of our commitment, braver than any ring. Listening to the radio, alone in my car, I remembered the totality of her. I remembered our love.

For ten years I’ve described our split as a “bad break-up,” because dissolving a civil union just doesn’t seem to capture it. But when I’ve said divorce I’ve always been uncomfortably aware that I lied. It’s what I meant, but it wasn’t the truth. It was the truth of my heart, but it was never going to be the truth of the state. We couldn’t get a divorce, because we were never married. Gay people couldn’t get married. Couldn’t. Past tense. As of Friday, June 26th, 2015 gay people can get married. Sitting there in my car I realized that we can get divorced too.

Tears streamed down my face. My hand opened and closed around the air inside it.

My nephew refused to say goodbye earlier that night. Wrapping his little arms around my neck he squeezed me, begging me to stay. We giggled and rolled around on the floor whispering secrets to each other. He wanted to talk about that kid, older than him but unable to sit still with the butterfly.

“He was mean,” T said, putting it plainly.

“Yeah, he was,” I agreed. I sighed. “Maybe someone is mean to him and no one is there to stop it, so this is how he deals with it.”

Maybe someone is pinching his wings between their thumbs. Maybe there’s no one to say, that’s not OK! Maybe he doesn’t know he can still fly, missing bits of his wing. Maybe he’ll never know. I hope someone tells him someday, though. I hope he knows the relief of it, of knowing his grief is shared, the weight of his loss is something we all bear. We all bear together.

 

Living With Heartbreak

You've Stolen My Heart

I’ve been working on a piece for almost a year about healing from heartbreak. The other day I realized that for some of us (maybe most) it will never be about healing from but living with. If you can trace the first breaking of your heart back to childhood it never goes away. Not really. It’s why I’ve been blocked writing about it for so long. I fell prey to the idea that it could be fixed, that fixing it would be righting it.

I thought there was somewhere to get. But there isn’t. There’s no passage across this river. The river is where I live. Sometimes I’ve fought the current, sometimes I’ve just let it take me, but it’s always been about escape or not being able to.

What if it was just about living on the river? What if loving someone and leaving someone were the same thing? What if we only get what we get while we’ve got it and knowing how fleeting it is means knowing it will never belong to you. It can only ever be borrowed.

Living with heartbreak means living with the highest highs and the lowest lows. Living with heartbreak expands you, it makes you more compassionate, it makes you patient with others because it teaches you patience with yourself. But only if you let it. Only if you stop fighting. The funny thing is, this is true whether you’re partnered or not. True love doesn’t end with the breaking of a marriage vow. That’s when true love begins.

Holy Mama, Hear My Prayer

Holy Mama

My mum’s in town so that means a visit to the Catholic Cathedral for their Wednesday free organ recital. For me it also means a visit with The Holy Mama embodied in a Renaissance style statue in one of the side chapels. She’s so graceful in this incarnation, a funny traditional throwback who would be out of place in this ultra modern church were it not for the fact that The Holy Mama belongs anywhere she is worshiped. The dissonance in style only serves to underscore this fact.

I knelt beside a silent Filipino woman holding a letter. I bowed my head and asked for relief from my pain and help keeping my heart open. The thing about heartbreak is, you have to be stubborn if you want to survive it because surviving it means staying open when all you want to do is close. So I asked for help with that.

I was crying when I opened my eyes to look at Her face. The Filipino woman had risen, she was standing with her hand pressed to the plexiglass The Holy Mama is encased in. I marveled to think how many prayers She must be listening to just at that moment, how many cries around the world. You would think the plexiglass keeps us out but it doesn’t.

RIP, Honey Wheeler

Honey WheelerI bought this truck nine years ago in the middle of the worst heartbreak. Along with T-Rex she got me through it. I always wanted a truck and she lived up to all my dreams. She made me feel like I was who I said I was and not who anyone else said I was. She made me feel like I could bust through any barrier. But eventually I got tired of her musty old smells and unquenchable gasoline thirst and unreliable ways. She was deeply dented. Today I sold her to a scrap yard for a grand. My tears surprised me. I thought we were through but I still loved her in the end.

,

Eclipse Yourself: What’s UP with October’s eclipses

Libra Eclipse

Driving home from the conference in AZ Jenn and I stopped to get gas. RIGHT NEXT TO A BUNCH OF DINOSAURS. Clearly, this was a sign. So we got out of the car and went in for a closer look.

Libra Eclipse

The pictures I took that afternoon have stayed with me, keeping me company this past week. I know I’m not alone in feeling that the past couple weeks have been very intense, and ancient REALLY BIG monsters have been rearing their heads in the lives of more people than I can count.

Astrologically this links up with the Capricorn Venus cycle, which started last fall, and which Adam Gainsburg so beautifully explains here, and then with the Mars retrograde in Libra this spring, which I KNOW for a DAMNED FACT I’m not the only one to have suffered from, but suffer I did. Between that and the Cardinal Cross everything this year has been about confronting fears in relationship and diving in despite them.

Looking back on it, and collecting the stories of those around me, it’s clear that many of us (those of us with planets in the Cardinal signs especially, ie; Aries, Cancer, Libra, & Capricorn) have been dealing with old fears around relationship and working out how to get our needs met when we are responsible for also meeting the needs of others.

Libra Eclipse
We’ve been struggling to make friends with needs we can no longer ignore. We’ve been working to express those needs to others with varying degrees of success. It’s not been easy and it’s hardly over. Obviously, it won’t really be over until we’re all dead and buried, but I can’t help but feel like a fever broke this past week. The lunar eclipse in Aries on Wednesday saw to that.

I went to Venice Beach Wednesday at five am to catch the last rays of the eclipse and perform a lunar eclipse ritual. Traditionally full moons are about letting go of things, so it’s a good time to formalize your intentions around releasing whatever holds you back, and a lunar eclipse is just a full moon squared, so I headed down to the shoreline to do just that. Release and let go.

It was still dark when I got there and the Moon was huge, hanging in the sky over the Pacific, throwing a shine onto the water that ran for miles. I sat there, huddling under the wrap I brought, wishing I’d worn jeans because the wind was whipping about me. I clutched my pen and wrote out all the things I wanted to let go of and release under this Lunar Eclipse. It was a LONG ASS list, I can tell you, because for the aforementioned reasons, this year has been one peak and valley after another.

staring down an eclipse

And as I sat there, watching the Moon set and scribbling in my journal waiting for my girl, Beth to arrive, I thought about how this whole year has been about relationships and pushing past our known limits and stretching into some very new territory. I thought about my Libra Moon friend who finally met the man of his dreams only to discover that he wasn’t comfortable being happy, since it’s not a story he’s ever lived before. His journey this year has been electric and tough and scary, but it’s the one I keep in front of me because I WISH I had his problems. I thought about the Venus in Libra client I have who has been more successful this year than any other and the toll it’s taken on her family. I thought about the other Venus in Libra client I have who has had to cut people out of her life left and right all year. And the Mars in Libra client who has come to terms with who she really is in her fight for love.

I thought about all my Libra friends who have been struggling with relationships they want/don’t want all year long. The eclipse on Wednesday required us to identify what we wanted for ourselves apart from what we wanted from a relationship. It’s time for us to stop seeking external validation, let go of our need for a partnership that fills all the holes, start filling them ourselves. Stop allowing energy suckers into our lives, stop being energy suckers.

Astrology is a funny business, you know. You stare at your chart for hours, you look at the ephemeris ahead of time, you plot and you plan and you scheme and you try to direct your life in accordance with the flow you see rushing towards you, but at the end of the day life isn’t for calculating, it’s for living. Nothing replaces the experience of being in the swim of things, not resisting, or trying to control it, but just letting go and being with it, with your people, with your experiences. You know, LIVING.

Libra Eclipse

Facing your monsters and your demons and, hopefully, learning to dance with them.

Beth showed up just as the Sun began to rise. There was this exquisite moment there, when the Moon was setting and the Sun was rising and the night was fading and the day was dawning and everything seemed to hang in the balance. I understood in my bones, finally, why the full moon is about letting go of things. It’s because there is no other celestial phenomena that illustrates so beautifully what it is to die and to be reborn.

We sat across from each other, Beth facing the setting Moon and me facing the rising Sun. We held our slips of paper over the lighter until the flames took them over and we had to drop them into the pot Beth brought to hold the fire they made. We watched until the flames burned out and there was only ash left.

By then the Moon was gone and the Sun was firmly above the horizon, the light was gold and soft and the water beckoned. Beth grabbed her surfboard and I threw off my dress. We ran into the surf together and paddled out a ways before separating. The water was warm and the waves, though big, weren’t terrifying. In fact, they seemed to catch me at every turn.

Lunar Eclipse

There’s a Solar Eclipse still coming our way, barreling down the pike in another week and a half on the 23rd. It’s gonna be in the early degrees of Scorpio, emphasizing the degree Mercury stationed at last week. It’s time to delve even deeper, get to the source of our desire, independent of anyone else, root it out and name it. It’s been calling to us, it’s time we called back. Yes. We’ve still got our work cut out for us, and some new twists and turns coming.

Let’s be ready, Precious Treasures. Let’s prepare for the unpreparable. Let us let go of what’s holding us back so we can start anew.

Let’s dance.

,

Maleficent and the Crisis of Fury

you know the tale

I took my nephew to see Maleficent Wednesday. Of course, T, being only four and a half, found it a little hard to follow. With his little feet just reaching the edge of the seat he kept turning to me, saying things like, “why is she crying?” and when I told him, a follow up of, “why did he cut off her wings?” and then much later, at the end, his hand stuffed into his Raisinet box digging for the last ones, “why are you crying, Auntie?”

Because I seriously cried so hard! I didn’t expect to, it surprised me. But it was really moving, and not just because it was lyrical and Angelina Jolie took my heart by storm, but because it was redemptive and I believed it. I wanted to.

I needed a redemptive Mars tale.

there is evil in this world 3

This Mars in Libra transit has been a doozy for me. When Mars stationed direct squaring my Sun last month I swear to the Gods something crawled out from under my 12th house rock that I thought I’d slaughtered years ago. A great big ugly, sloppy, mean spirited beast that looked suspiciously like ME! ugh. In a fit of night terror I ripped apart the fragile threads between me and that guy I mentioned a couple months back. It only took seconds but the damage was done.

Of course, there’s loads more to the story, but the important thing, the thing I want to share here is, that a.) Mars sucks don’t play, b.) the 12th house can bite my ass isn’t something you ever get to sell or move out of. And that c.) you can run, but if it’s yourself you’re running from then there really isn’t anywhere you can hide. Like, ever.

There’s a scene towards the beginning of the film where Maleficent’s sidekick brings her the news that her former love, the man who viciously betrayed her, has had a child. Jolie plays it perfectly. Her eyes reflect such deep pain at the news that I quietly gasped in sympathy, but if you’d looked down at your popcorn even for a moment you’d have missed it. She looks away briefly and when she raises her head again her face has transformed into a grim smile, animated purely by malice. It’s pitch perfect, her transformation from grief to rage.

i'm the evil

You can feel the relief of it, the shiny fabulous weight that is lifted in the way Jolie sheds her sorrow and embraces the purifying rage sweeping through her, clearing away all doubt, all sadness, just washing it away, replacing it with clarity and purpose.

It’s a perfect Mars moment. Liberation from victimhood, catalyzing your grief into rage. A wild, dangerous freedom that will trap you just as surely as martyrdom if you’re not careful.

Sigh. I remember feeling like that. Not recently, but long ago. Mean, hateful, vengeful. I haven’t felt it in so long, but you don’t forget. When the pain runs so deep the only way out is annihilation, of yourself or the person who caused it and that moment when it gets crystal clear it’s not gonna be you. This is Mars at its core. The molten lava pouring out of you in that moment is a profound aspect of creation, but it’s the devil to harness and it will turn on you. It will cut a bitch, and if you’re not careful, the bitch it cuts might actually be the one wielding it.

The way I felt last month when I snapped and crossed over wasn’t even close to how ugly I’ve been in the past, but it revealed to me some hurt left there still lurking in the shadows. It revealed what I have yet left to do. Because the true gift of Mars isn’t the vengeance, or the fury, it isn’t even the liberation from victimhood, but the purpose. The real gift of Mars is the battle it reveals you must fight and the worth of fighting it.

now I have lost you 1

I’ve quoted Rob Hand talking about Mars before, but his take on Mars is so perfectly depicted in Maleficent that it bears repeating here. Hand says that the real worth of Mars isn’t in fighting against things, it’s in fighting for things. Belonging to the nocturnal sect, the sect of the Moon, Mars demands unconditional commitment, it requires tests of will power and stamina. It belongs to warriors and athletes, to people who do impossible things, simply because they said they would. It’s a raw wild power that defies ration or logic, and bows only to the force of feeling.

Angelina Jolie projects this quality perfectly. She was born to play Maleficent. She isn’t just perfect for the part, her chart is perfect for the part. She was born with Mars conjunct the Moon on the midheaven. For better or worse she embodies the qualities of Mars and always has. Like me she was born during the day, so Mars doesn’t naturally act in her favor, it took something for her to overcome the darker side of the energy. She is notorious for her destructive tendencies as a young woman, for her drug use, knife play, depression and anger. Things only changed for her when she got involved with humanitarian causes in 2001.

After that her focus switched. She stopped obsessing on her own misery and became focused on others and what she could do to affect change. I think she understands both sides of the coin Mars offers, because she’s lived through it. She could tell the story of Maleficent because at heart her story is real to her. It’s real and it matters.

I swear no harm will come

So what I loved about Maleficent is how it tells the story of the evolution of Mars, from the shadow side of it, the ugly, angry, wrathful, must-make-things-bleed experience, to the powerfully redemptive glory of it. Because Mars is also that part of us that gives us backbone, gives us courage, makes us stand up for the things we believe in. It shows us where we need to face our fears.

Maleficent is a wonderful retelling of Sleeping Beauty because in this version it isn’t the princess that wakes up from a death like slumber. In this version it’s the villain who wakes up, it’s the villain who saves the girl and in saving the girl, she saves herself. Now that’s a fairy tale for our time. That’s a myth we need, a story to tell our children. A story to tell ourselves.

I’ve been in a terrible stew for the past month, wrestling with my demons. Every time you let yourself down there is a hangover afterwards. Time was I ignored it, ignored what it was telling me, but I’ve learned now, I’ve learned that you can’t ignore it, you can’t leave it, it won’t go away on its own. The only thing for it is to face it head on.

Because the only good thing about seeing that you’ve made a terrible mistake is that you are no longer blind to your failing. It grants you choice. It’s a great and terrible thing, because it means waking up, and waking up isn’t always easy, but there is power in it. Raw, latent, gorgeous power.

I can feel it flexing in me now, shiny and dark, unfolding like wings. I don’t know where it’s taking me but I trust it. It won’t let me down. It won’t falter.

Leaving the theater my nephew grabbed my hand, pleading, “hold my hand, Auntie!” We walked past a kiosk with a young woman blowing bubbles and T ran after them for a bit. When he asked if we could get one I said yes, of course, because I’m a complete and total sucker. We spent the rest of the morning creating little iridescent worlds, chasing them, popping them, and then making some more.

He didn’t have to ask why I was crying again because I didn’t. I might have squeezed him a little too hard once or twice, but he didn’t seem to mind. After all, there were bubbles to blow.