Trust is Possible: a Thanksgiving Blog

Over the last four and a half years, I’ve written here about the beauty of the broken heart, some painful, enraging truths about the patriarchy and its toxic effect on the 51%, lots of self-reflection, and different stages of my own journey through the tangled woods. Sometimes the tree branches seem to come alive and grab at me, darkly, as if I were none other than silly Snow White looking to be saved by tiny, ineffective fictional creatures. At other times sun dapples the forest floor and shows me the way through, so I can make my own story.

Looking back, most of what I remember about my life is having a hopeful, joyful heart. The bubbling gratitude that returns to me again and again. Not despite the bad stuff of life, but because of the deliciousness that fills in all the spaces around it.

But I still trip and stumble on my way. Identifying my own internal roadblocks remains part of why I’m here.

This year on the day of giving thanks, I am most profoundly grateful for a recent shift inside me.

On a recent Sunday afternoon, my daughter and I lit a small fire in a micro-pit (loaf pan) by lighting baking soda and rubbing alcohol. (Life hack if you need a ceremonial fire and don’t have a fireplace or outdoor firepit.) As the fire flickered on the coffee table, we quietly released into it things that we could identify that were clearly not serving us, and invited into our lives the opportunities, attitudes, beliefs, and people we wished to see manifest. Releasing fears, sorrow, limiting beliefs, and welcoming in joy, transformation, and most of all, love.

As we did this familiar ritual, in companionable silence, I had a serious epiphany. You know how epiphanies can be. A sudden “woke” moment when what you have “known” all along is suddenly clear. For me, it usually means that words appear, elucidating the truth so I can look straight at it. What was an unidentified feeling or belief becomes a statement. The words give the belief visibility and shape. If it does not serve me, the words cause it to lose some of its power so I can deal with whatever it is. If it is an epiphany of empowerment, I can own it and consciously, affirmatively accept it into myself.

On this particular day, these words formed in my mind: “Men always disappoint me.”

Harsh. I might have winced (literally) as the thought formed words and opened up inside me.

Though these words were never spoken by me or even in my head before that moment, I realized that my body lived them. The belief, like a miasma, filled the little innocent spaces in me so that as I opened myself to love, experience, and the men in my life, I was sabotaged by it.

“Limiting belief” is an understatement. This belief was a threat to my happiness and well-being.

Lucky for me, I have a toolbox I can whip out at a time like this to begin the uprooting process. But I knew instinctively that I might need to bring in the big guns this time. I called upon a fellow traveler and dear friend, shaman and healer, to guide me through the discovery, the releasing, and the healing.

Knowing where this belief originated was not technically necessary to expunge it, but I’m a curious sort. I like to know, and, for me, knowing with my head is usually (though not always) a key to a door that allows healing through to my heart and the rest of my being.

My experience, in any particular lifetime (choose one), of being silenced or abandoned or assaulted by a man or men in power, is hardly unique. It is the story of women. We all take these lessons into ourselves in our own ways. But they are just stories and can be rewritten.

The individual men that I love or have loved, from my father, to my son, to my brothers-in-law, cousins, friends, lovers, are inside me. Some have brought me nothing but warmth and love, others have done their worst. But what I realized is that society as a whole, going back to almost the beginning, is so infused with the unbridled, unbalanced energy of the yang, so dominated by the male of the species, that attempts to silence or squelch, deny, ignore, oppress, force, or disempower the yin are all around us. They are the overwhelming, overarching reality for all of us. In some countries and cultures, this energy is more intense and unavoidable than in others, but let’s be honest. It is unavoidable until things change for good.

Those sweet, gutsy, humble, strong men who see the forest for the trees, who understand the toll our world’s way of doing things takes on half the population, they are the ones we fall in love with, right? The ones we want to surround ourselves with. The ones we want to raise, marry, hire, elect, along with the women we also raise, marry, hire, and elect, obviously.

So what the hell does any of this have to do with Thanksgiving? Gratitude, of course.

This year I am grateful that I have transmuted my belief about men to an understanding of my own journey through the eons, and an understanding of something even deeper than that. That though it is difficult to trust, trust is possible. And it is still and always has been, for me, easy to love. Love can heal the harshest ache, and I am grateful for love.

 

 

 

 

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Me Too

He gave me a ride home from a party. He was older. Maybe eight or nine years older. He was a friend of the guys my friends and I were hanging out with that night. Pot-head frat types who played great music and had a big room for dancing in. In our first year of college, my nerdy writer friends and I quickly figured out that going to a few of the less mainstream frat houses was a cheap, jolly way to have fun on a Friday night. At this particular place, we felt comfortable. The guys were not grabby or patronizing. We could hang and dance. We felt safe. They were chill, ya know? And we were innocent. Naïve. Very, very smart, but… not really that smart.

Forty years later and I am still friends with one of those guys, someone I dated for a while, thought I was in love with, maybe even was. But I never told him this thing that I’m now going to post publicly on my blog. I never told anyone until the day in marriage therapy when it bubbled up. I said the words out loud for the first time and my then-husband looked at me, incredulous. Twenty-five years together and I had managed to avoid mentioning that I’d been raped. By a trusted semi-stranger in my own apartment at eighteen, a week into my third semester at UVA.

I spent most of my life telling myself a version of the story in which somehow it was “my first sex” and an inevitable, even normal way to “lose my virginity.”

Normalizing sexual harm, male aggression, female powerlessness—yes. I did that. I participated in the massive cover-up that is our male-privilege normative society. I did not want to admit I’d not had power in that moment. I wanted to believe I chose those offensive eight minutes, because what would it mean if I had not? So, feminist that I am, I did not say the word rape to myself, let alone anyone else, for decades. Years of therapy in which I dealt with a lot of crazy shit did not excavate that little artifact of experience from my subconscious. So what finally did?

Don’t know, really.

Fast forward to 2017. The grossest kind of misogynist is in the White House. The entire government seems hell bent on disempowering, disenfranchising, and just plain dissing women and anyone else they don’t want to give up their white male privilege to. And yet none of us who sees what’s going on seems willing to go gentle into that horrific night.

And now, this month, October 2017. A worldwide movement of saying, “Me too.” Me fucking too, ya bastids. It is a huge problem, okay? And you can’t shove all nine zillion of us under a rug.

Many are embracing “me too.” Some question it. Some think it does not do enough to create change or real dialogue. Others ask, “Why is it always on women to tell the hard truths?”

As for me, I don’t even want to analyze it or question it. Instead I’ll simply wholeheartedly applaud the countless women who are saying, not just to their sisters and friends, but to everyone who cares to read their status on Facebook, their blog, or their Tweet: ME FUCKING TOO.

Are people surprised? I don’t know anyone personally who is shocked that women are routinely, daily brutalized in small and huge ways. If people are surprised, I simply don’t want to know that. I would be too angry. Seriously. Enraged at the stubborn obliviousness people hide in, like a closet of privilege that protects them from uncomfortable truths. Because think about all the times that (let’s face it pretty much every) woman has been catcalled or assaulted. Shoved into a corner with a leer and a wink. Groped in the empty hallway and then silenced by shame, threats, or feigned innocence (“Honey I didn’t mean anything by that!”). Blamed by society for her experiences of harassment or sexual violence because of her clothes/attitude/choices. Propositioned by employers or superiors, or just treated like shit for being smart, sexual, ambitious, tough, emotional, or badass. And raped. Violently or quietly or multiply or repeatedly. By the stranger, the trusted friend, the uncle, the boss, the neighbor, the husband, the priest, the therapist, the teacher, the guy who is just pissed off because she did not acknowledge his right to possess her.

And these are not “bad experiences.” These are not “experiences” at all. Experience is when you go outside and there’s a rainbow. Or when you spend the day in the museum. Or you have an afternoon of glorious sex with the windows open. Or jump in the car for an impromptu road trip. Those are experiences. We participate in them. They occur. They can be sought or they can be serendipitous. But no one is perpetrating them.

Assault, sexual intimidation, rape—these are not things that “happen”—they are done by men to women against their will.

So given the reality of “me too”—what about the men? For every me too there is a man who took action. To grope, grab, hold down, threaten, penetrate, bribe, intimidate, belittle a woman. To order her to get on her knees, or fetch him a beer, or smile, or shut up and enjoy it, or just plain shut up.

What about the men who know about it, see it, hear it? How dare men be surprised or “taken aback” by this long-overdue public awareness announcement from all those women on their social media feeds. Where have they been?

I don’t remember much about that semester, after that “ride home.” (“Your friends want to stay. I can give you a ride home if you want.” “Really? That would be great.”)  I remember spending Thanksgiving at a friends’ house in Philadelphia. I remember nothing about Christmas. I know I was not completely in my body. That feeling of not “being yourself?”—that’s when part of you leaves and the rest of you feels incomplete. School—always my happy place—had lost its luster. I did not want to go to class. I did, of course, being always more than adequately “good” at doing what needed to be done. But, you know. The thrill? It was gone.

I left school that second semester of sophomore year. I went to visit my dad for a couple weeks. Returned to Charlottesville. Got a job. Went back to school. And, not sure how, but I gradually regained my optimism, my desire to go outside and see a rainbow.

These experiences take a toll on women. Women survive and “move on” because they have to. These women—so so many women—may, briefly or for decades, have their inner knowing knocked out of them when men steal their power and rob them of…so much. Women may be set back—literally—and need to catch up yet again, to prove that “WE TOO” will persist and all the shit you do to us won’t keep us down.

But it’s hard. It’s exhausting. And it is absurd—a folly, a civil wrong—that it is still on us to fix this mess not of our making. Men? Grow the hell up and stand up for your sisters literally EVERY TIME. In the board room, the classroom, the bedroom, everywhere. If you are not one of the perpetrators, prevent those who are from getting away with it and joking about it later. If you are one of those dudes—if you rape or insult or beat or catcall or belittle or grab or assume—STOP. Just stop now and live with honor for the rest of your days.

And as for me, the rape on the hallway floor of my apartment was one of several catalysts in my youth that prompted a lifetime of self-reflection and an insistence on growth and forward movement. A refusal to accept any status quo. A refusal to stay hidden.

Anticipation in the Now

Ever the questing soul, anticipation is my default state. Thus one of the in-the-process lessons I am constantly learning is to live fully in each moment.

(When I’m writing fiction, I never proceed with an end in mind. Interesting, considering that is literally the ONLY time in my life when I could reasonably be expected to anticipate an outcome.)

In my actual, non-fictional life, I regularly wonder about, look forward to, fantasize about (and sometimes dread) the future. The power of thought, I believe, can manifest real results. I also strongly believe in road trips—life’s superfun way to teach me how to be in the now while thrilling to every next moment.

There is no moment in life that is certain—I’m certain about that. So aside from those concert tickets, a dinner date, planned vacation, my children’s visit at the holidays, and other such events, I cannot anticipate what will come next for me. But I feel certain (despite being a week away from yet another birthday) that I am young enough, brave enough, and have enough to offer the world that much is possible. Maybe not absolutely anything, but a helluva lot.

The more I travel (it’s still not enough), the more I think, as I explore strange new worlds: I could live here. Or here. Or even here! Who made up the rule that I have to stay in one part of the country? Turns out that was my stupid rule, so I can veto it from now on and pack my bags at any time.

Though I have not (as far as I know) met the man with whom I’ll spend the rest of my life (after looking with serious intent and (mostly) an optimistic heart for 11 months and counting), I realize that seeking love is a common practice among both women and men my age and that the odds are not at all hopeless. I will find that connection with a man, someone I will recognize as somehow familiar and yet thrillingly new. And (the other key element) he’ll find me. This fact is something I anticipate and, one day, will make real.

I am a productive person. I generate. I create. And I work my ass off. Secure in a career I really enjoy, I still often wonder if I might yet take a new road. Not necessarily an entirely new highway heading in an entirely new direction, but an exciting tangent, a path, that uses my skills and experience in some tantalizing new recipe. Something to anticipate with curiosity and confidence (and a dash of caution).

Being happy in my now is the goal. Being excited about the (unknown) future—that’s a good place to be too, as long as I don’t become mired in fear or lose sight of my current blessings.

 

Rauschenberg at MoMA: Inspiration, Collaboration, and the Turned-on Mind

Winter Pool, 1959

I’ve been thrilled by visual art most of my life. A combination of blessings, like where I grew up  and one particularly inspiring teacher when I was still very young, created me, a person who is literally vibrationally activated when I’m in the presence of exciting, great art. And there is a lot of great art in this world.

So on August 12, 2017, as my beloved Charlottesville was under attack by domestic terrorists, I was having a very good day. This hurts a little, in that place inside me (a vestigial mental construct left from my odd, if art-infused, childhood), but the bigger, better place inside me knows that it was okay for me to spend the day at MoMA with a friend, renewing myself by visiting the Rauschenberg exhibit called: Robert Rauchenberg: Among Friends.

You can read about it. You can (aka should) go see it if you are within a few hundred miles of New York City. There are great pictures and video clips on the MoMA site (linked above). I’m not going to describe the exhibit for you, or review it, or narrate what was in each room, elucidate each chapter in his artistic journey.

Rauschenberg’s work as stage set for dance.

Just want to say a few things. Like this: the exhibit is a window into a great and thrilling mind. Rauschenberg’s openness and his seemingly endless flow of ideas and “I’m going to try this now” moments, his humor, his relationships, his appreciation of fellow artists from composers like John Cage to choreographers like Merce Cunningham, and visual artists from Jasper Johns to Sue Weil to Cy Twombly. All of these things added to his inspiration. An angsty life of isolation, darkness, competitiveness, bitterness was not for him. He was an effluence of joyful creative pollination.

Rebus, 1955

His life and how he chose to live it, devoted to his art, to his ideas, to the ideas and art of others, inspired by the ideas and art of others—that was as much a thrill as seeing the art itself—both the majestically large pieces and the small pieces, all of it both conceptual and very real and glorious.

I mean he tried things. Nothing was “not worth” his exploration. He’d have an idea and bam. I have no idea how his “Erased De Kooning Drawing” was received critically. Who cares? He went to visit the great De Kooning himself and said, hey, I want to try this thing. I want to make a piece of art that is an erased drawing. How about one of yours? De Kooning was like, okay cool. Here is a piece I actually like a lot so have at it. Rauschenberg gave it a shot. He doesn’t seem to have started an entire phase of his art based on erasing drawings, but it was a thing he did. Jasper Johns came over and said, cool. Let’s frame it.

Canto II, the Descent (from Dante series 1958-60)

The drawings of all 33 cantos of Dante’s Inferno. I could have spent the entire day just on those. My God.

Charlene, 1954

His florid, red pieces—gorgeous assaults. I want to fill a house with them and then never leave it.

Automobile Tire Print, 1953

The tire tracks—John Cage’s Model A, one tire dipped in black paint, Rauschenberg’s 20 pieces of typewriter paper stapled together.

Hiccups (not as it was displayed at MoMA), 1978

Hiccups, the 97 zippered-together pieces of handmade paper, each an explosion of color and each a unique assemblage of transferred items run through a lithograph press.

Grapheion, 1988

His lithographs and silk screens. I mean those ALONE….

Gold Standard, 1964

His use of all media from toothpaste to old clothes to rusty nails to glue to film to silk to tossed out shipping boxes to canvas and paint and about a thousand other things.

His 9 Evenings combining an incredible mix of artists and audience-participation and lights and performance.

Monogram, late 1950s

His humor. The stuffed goat in the tire. Majestically itself. Having gone through several versions. I mean, how can you just have one version of a stuffed goat in a tire?

Bed, 1955

His incredible fabulous combines, (most of the pieces shown in this blog) a term he made up to make people stop asking him “WHAT IS THIS?”

Some of his pieces are statements, some of them just… something excellent to look at. Well, no, I take that back. They are all statements, aren’t they? Statements of an aesthetic and a consciousness and a will to create.

I love how being in the presence of a lifetime of art—his or any artist’s—Van Gogh, Renoir, Pollack, O’Keeffe, Kahlo, Rothko, Nevelson, whoever it is—invites you into the soul of that artist. I guess it’s like that with reading someone’s writing, seeing someone’s dance, hearing someone’s music. But the difference is that you can be inside a room with ten visual creations at once, in an exhibition with 500 pieces, maybe. You can’t simultaneously watch 500 ballets or read 500 poems or listen to 500 sonatas.

So this experience of visual art is like an immersion, a flood. You open yourself to it and you are filled with it. If you let yourself, you almost become that person for a moment. Or maybe for a lifetime, because you have so fully experienced that outflowing of another human, one so willing to commit her or his ideas to the plane of perceived reality (I’m being very careful here). For some that is a risk and for others, maybe for Rauschenberg, simply an imperative, like reproducing, or an instinct, like breathing.

As haters come out of the darkness, I will not let myself forget the light that is in us. Spend a day with art—every city has a place you can go, a gallery or museum with a room you can sit in and feel the flood of ideas and— beauty or not beauty—artistic spirit. Some say that is the very thing (not brutality, not hate, not rage or selfishness or the lust for power) that defines humanity.

Bathtub, 1973

The Wonder of Wonder Woman

When the movie ended, tears welled up. My throat closed. I was overwhelmed with emotion.

Not a tear jerker movie, so why?

I always enjoy superhero movies. We all do—or lots of us, anyway. The possibility of good prevailing. The presumption that there is good. That there are people devoted to doing the right thing, fighting injustice and evil, for the sake of all the world. These heroes have grit and brains, sometimes brawn, and often super powers to boot. What’s not to love?

As I sat with my adult daughter in the theater watching the opening scenes—powerful, dauntless women exhibiting their prowess with weapons and their badass skills, swiftness, and strength—I was thrilled to my core. That feeling never stopped until the final scene. Diana’s evolution into Wonder Woman is superb—the way she always speaks her truth, calls a spade a spade, kicks ass, calls the patriarchy on its shit, does what’s right and not only what is expedient, is not willing to settle for “good enough,” and does not care one sliver of an iota what anyone thinks of her. She even loses the man she loves and… well, she survives.

While I relished every moment, at the same time I was thinking about all the little girls in theaters across the country watching the movie this summer. Not just being inspired by a real-live woman hero, but one for whom there are no excuses made for why she is what she is and why the men defer to her, admire her, and put their faith in her. The little girls sitting with wide shiny eyes in dark theaters across the US are seeing what little boys have absorbed their entire lives. (And by little boys I mean white little boys because little boys of any other color are always dealing with a different paradigm too.)

Our sons, not to mention our sons’ fathers and grandfathers—grew up in a world where this paradigm was their everyday reality. Not just in movie theaters where they saw men and boys ruling, being the coolest, fighting, winning, dominating, saving the women, saving the world, bossing and managing and commanding others—but in every history book, on every street, in their homes, in their schools, at their jobs, on billboards and in TV ads, in the halls of power, on the news. The very fabric of their reality was that they could, would, and do have the “right stuff.” That they can do whatever they want. They’ll be admired and rewarded for it. They will probably even be given a pass on a lot of bad stuff they also apparently “can do.”

For me, my sisters, the women I went to school with, my friends, our daughters—and every girl child born on this planet, pretty much since history was a thing—has NEVER had that. EVER. That thing the boys just get automatically. A system infused with an acknowledgment, endorsement, and affirmation of their power, goodness, potential, and significance in every sphere of life. Every sphere of life, you get me? They grow up just KNOWING they can and do rule. As in—the world.

When Cleopatra reigned over Egypt, Queen Elizabeth I was queen of the most powerful empire in the world, and Catherine the Great was empress of Russia, every advisor, every colonial governor, every other person in power in their countries and every other country at that time, in the time before, and the time after—were men. And the sacrifices they made to do what they did were not any that male leaders have ever been expected or obliged to make. So don’t throw these fabulous outliers at this situation as proof that what I’m saying isn’t true, because you know it is. The unbelievably rare exceptions call the rule into stark, horrific relief.

In spite of the beat-us-down reality with which we are flooded every moment of our lives by not just the media but life-as-we-know-it, women have made truly significant inroads. Painfully, inch by inch, up against odds no man can imagine. Not the odds created by being inferior and having to make it against their natural superiors, since that is a myth of mythic proportions that no civilized human says out loud any more. No. The odds created by the status quo and how comfortable everyone seems to be with it. The sexist objections and roadblocks coming from all quarters.

And still, we persist.

But imagine. Imagine a world in which every CHILD was infused and flooded with a different truth: that all humans have equal powers of wonderfulness. Every child can be fast, strong, cool, smart. Anyone can do any job, with the right skills and aptitude. (Let’s be honest, you don’t want me doing your taxes.) Anyone can invent, heal, design, create, govern. Anyone can learn how to save the world through science, theology, philosophy, technology, scholarship, political or economic reform, education, and love….

In that world, neither gender and no race could or would ever be able to get away with dominating another because all of us would have grown up with these beliefs instilled in us. No man would proposition or deride a woman on the streets. No man would get away with a slap on the wrist for raping anyone. No woman would have to accept less money for the same job, let alone accept that she is “less than.” Women in equal numbers would be senators, governors, CEOs, engineers, brain surgeons, heavy machinery operators, and airline pilots.

The pressure would be off men to carry all that responsibility. Who asked them to, anyway, poor guys?

I know and love the fact that more and more girls are wielding “swords” in the playgrounds of America this year thanks to Wonder Woman. They feel a glimmer of that feeling—that empowered feeling that they deserve.

So why did I cry when the movie ended? Why was I so choked with helpless emotion? Because even the most empowered of my gender, raising our daughters to know and to feel their own worth, their own stunning strength and brilliance, will never really know that feeling—to be ENTITLED to your power. Because there is a different and tragic law of the land, accepted by most without even thinking about it—a law that governs everything from the color of our Legos to the length of our shorts. From the dreams we have about our future to things we do on a Saturday afternoon. From the best possible scenario we can envision for ourselves to the darkest fears we harbor in our hearts.

 

 

Tennessee Roamers, Mother-Daughter Style

The sun rose behind me on the first day as I drove west with Maggie, my 24-year-old daughter, snoozing in the back seat.

First hour of trip. ZZZZzzz

The sun rose ahead of me on the penultimate day of our trip as we drove east again, out of Memphis.

Penultimate sunrise, Memphis, TN

Then on the last day, heading north from our overnight stop in Virginia, I drove first shift as the sun slanted in through the opposite side of the car and fell upon Maggie’s head as she slept the sleep of the innocent and the young.

Final sunrise, somewhere in VA

Those are the sunrises I can measure our trip by. There are other benchmarks. Museums. BBQ joints. Friends. Local music. Local coffee. Local beer.

Seriously local Nashville Brew

Not my first road trip (by a long shot) nor the first I’ve written about in this blog, the recent mother-daughter journey to the heart of Tennessee was one of my most adventurous. Mostly because of the number of miles traversed—2,418, from one Friday to Saturday of the following week.

Road trips need no reason. They need no justification or excuse. They are, a priori, of value.

But why Tennessee?

  1. Never been
  2. It’s drivable
  3. Music and food mecca
  4. Two dear friends have, independently of one another, moved there over the last two years making it OBVIOUS that the universe required us to visit

100% worth it.

High points:

  • The usual road trip with Maggie perks. Epic rounds of “naughty Madlibs” that would no doubt horrify most people but that have us crying gallons of laughter tears. Fabulously twisted 20 questions games. Listening to the same CDs over and over because she is obsessed (currently with The National)– oh wait, that’s not a perk, but I’m willing to put up with it most of the time.
  • We read a whole book as we drove. Or rather, I read. When I drove, she slept. When she drove, I read.
  • Stopover in Cincinnati to see my sister and her family.

    Laughing with my sister

    That visit included long card games, great cooking, a mani-pedi, a fantastic contemporary art center with some great current exhibits around gender, feminism, and race in America etc.

    Feminist cousins at Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center

  • An afternoon at the Kentucky Derby Museum in Louisville, KY. Neither of us is a fan of the racing industry for a variety of reasons mostly to do with the horses. But we are both horse lovers and the museum was all about the ponies.

    Derby hats

  • Wandering around Nashville with friend Betty. This involved non-stop talk-as-we-walked.
  • The Johnny Cash Museum. Seriously excellent museum with interactive musical exhibits, lots of info on the soulful, challenging, often uplifting life and times of the Man in Black.

    Maggie channels Johnny

  • Sitting in a famous Nashville bar (Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge) in the afternoon listening to live music and drinking local beer.

    Tootsies in the afternoon

  • The exact replica of the Parthenon that exists in Nashville (who knew?) with a wonderful American art exhibit and a seriously huge replica of the Athena statue too. Very fun stop-off on what became a torrentially rainy day. We left there and ran barefoot back to our car, headed to dry off and have dinner in the Gulch section of Nashville where we listened to more music, of course.

    Talk talk talk walk walk walk (me+ Betty+ the Parthenon)

    Athena!

    BLAT… having too much fun

  • Memphis! It is a seriously cool city. First night there our awesome friend Charles introduced us to one of the best BBQ places I’ve ever experienced. The Bar-B-Q Shop on Madison Ave was everything it should be, including the ice-cold beer. Their “dry BBQ”—basically with a dry rub to die for—was flawless.

    Dry ribs at Bar-B-Q Shop

  • Graceland—Elvis portrayed through the lens of worshipful love. The home is not huge, but it is flamboyant in its way, with a surprisingly modest kitchen! I was lucky enough to see him perform shortly before his death. I was 17, a senior in high school, and despite not being a particular fan, grabbed the chance because somehow I knew this iconic man was not long for the world. It was an amazing experience and I’ve had a soft spot for Elvis ever since. I’m glad I got to pay homage at the museum of Elvis-homage. 

    Surprisingly modest Graceland kitchen

    Elvis and his mirrored ceilings, amiright?

  • The Civil Rights Museum. Probably the high point of the entire trip. It is at the Lorraine Motel where Dr. King was murdered and is worth going to Memphis for—the BBQ and music are nice bonuses. I wish every high school student in the country could experience this museum. We were cramming too much into one day and did not have a chance to see it all, so I will be going back. Someday. Warning: you will feel lots of things, and you will, in the end, cry.

    Balcony where he died

  • Four Way Soul Food Restaurant. Soul food, the real deal, straight to the face (and waistline).

    Fried green tomatoes at the Four Way … heaven

  • Vince Johnson and the Plantation Allstars playing on Beale Street on a Wednesday night—at Rum Boogie Café (hint: it’s not a café). Some seriously hot and dirty blues.

    Vince Johnson and the Plantation Allstars

    Beale St. Memphis

  • Taking home a cooler full of BBQ from another Memphis standard: Central BBQ, right behind the Civil Rights Museum. Their dry BBQ gave Bar-B-Q Shop a run for its money but I could never choose. Not in a million.

We drove back in two days that should have dragged but flew by, thanks to our tried-and-true road trip protocol. Re-entry was a little tough as it had been a long time since I’d been that footloose and it felt really good.

Maggie and I would both recommend a trip to TN. There’s much more to it than we managed to see in what amounted to 5 days actually in that state, but we were there long enough to realize there’s plenty of soul, beauty, flavor, history, and music.

 

 

 

 

Holding onto My Soul

possible

Hope.

  • Listening to Van Morrison singing “Wild Night” It lifts my feet and pushes up through my floating ribs. It reminds me, outside of consciousness, how I am still that same kid, back when hope was just part of my circulation, even when I had to learn the hard lessons.
  • Even if love is withheld, used as a weapon, or indistinguishable from loss, a cool breeze lifts my hair and brings hope.
  • Remembering to raise up my voice along with my eyes. I will be heard, and I will see you.
  • Road trips.

Love.

  • It is my superpower.
  • It lives in my body and can’t be banished or defeated.
  • Love built my babies, pushed them out, and grew them strong.
  • Love hurt me, and healed me, and taught me how to be strong and soft all at the same time. You too, maybe.
  • There is lots of it in the world. Do you think it’s hiding, or even gone forever? It isn’t. Look inside yourself and you’ll know I’m right.
  • I love the me that loves the you.

Desire.

  • Buddha said it is the root of suffering. Probably. But it fires me up. The wanting and the longing and the excitement. It’s kinda like being on a tall tower, knowing you can fly, and that as soon as you drift off to sleep… you will.
  • I want to hold hands. Whisper into the ear of a lover. Lie on the floor to look up at the Sistine Chapel. Swing my hips. Breathe.
  • Rare air—icy on the mountaintop, salty and soft from the bayou, or warm from the lips of someone who just kissed me for a long time.
  • And then there’s desire for justice, equity, valor, and passion.

Righteousness.

  • Because: it exists.
  • It rolls like water. A mighty stream.

Joy.

  • Hearing music. Let’s start here: STEVIE. Have you listened to “Do I Do” lately? It will make your synapses tingle with happiness. “Hey Nineteen” by Steely Dan. The lyrics really are sketchy but it just feels so good inside my body. What else feels good is “Love (Never Felt So Good)”—that thing Justin made with Michael after Michael was dead. (Must dance.) The Proclaimers proclaiming they’d walk 1000 miles to fall down at my door. (YES, thank you.) “Coyote” by Joni – especially the version from The Last Waltz. (The driving rhythms of this song and the voice—it is a truly flawless thing.) And so very very many more. As George Eliot said, “Life seems to go on without effort when I am filled with music.”
  • Sexual abandon. Rare and exquisite. The certainty that every moment is, was, and will be delicious and full of tangles.
  • The middle of the afternoon. Nowhere to be. A city street, the smell of food, rain, or a woman’s perfume: a faint whiff. Boots made for walking and maybe later I’ll meet up with a friend, a loved and precious friend.
  • The unplanned for.
  • Laughing till I pee my pants. Red faced and bleary teary I am at my best in these moments of helplessness.
  • Road trips (reprise).

Activism.

  • As much as backing into the cave of soft darkness and yellow firelight is a temptation of monumental proportions, being cold and wind-smacked outside the White House somehow feels better, in the end.
  • Speaking my truth.
  • Risking love on the rock-strewn mountainslope of truth.