You have cradled me in your shadows.
May you now, return me to the light.
My sweet Nana. I have your hands. May they always share your message.
What a joy to watch my fingers hit the Keys. They are my grandmothers hands. I never knew her well enough to know her hands, but I know they are hers. She had such a frame. A beauty in ease and grace. An angel who floated through rooms, with a light touch and a temperament which made you wonder if she was even real.
In my memory, she seemed to be made of clouds and fairy dust. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I imagine her to smell of equal parts face powder and night cream. The wrinkles in her skin were more like soft creases where God had chosen to give her flexibility. More flexibility than most. God gave her special gifts. A special mission. Many would say that God has given all of us special gifts, but hers were other-worldly. She just, floated. An Angel.
She came to see me recently, my Nana. In a visualization exercise during a weekend-long, fully immersive course in the roots and rituals of self sabotage. A course I actually PAID for, in which fifteen strangers congregated for a weekend on the island of Manhattan to bare our burdens and shed our wounds.
We discussed the ‘what the fuck’ nature of our history and moments that were still as raw and present to us as what we shouldn’t have had for dinner last night or that thing we still cant believe we said last week. Together, we hashed out the articulation of our fear, what might be holding us back, and how to befriend the light AND the dark within each one of us. And oh, the darkness. She comes a calling like Betty White long after you’ve expected her final bow. An un-relenting force to be reckoned with, the bear we cannot seem to quit poking.
Arguments aside, we looked at the center of it all. Where it comes from, where it is born, and where it is trying to lead us. ‘Off a cliff, surely!’ you might be thinking. But, contrary to popular myths about sabotage, there is a lot more depth to be covered on the subject. It is there for a reason. There is safety in the messages that are decoded only when we are willing and vulnerable enough to take an extra breath before the first bite of temptation, before the first swallow of self loathing, and just inside the first nuance of lusty brutalization…the message is there.
She came to me first, as the Morgan of fifth grade, the week in which I had decided to wear the same outfit five days in a row. Navy blue sweatshirt, black sweat pants. The sweatshirt was new and had that furry, unwashed feeling which you can never maintain after the first trip through the spin cycle, and the sweatpants were un-stained. Winning. I felt super comfortable, a little daring (navy blue and black? In the 90’s?), and on some imperceptible level, I felt cool
God bless my mother and father for their total oversight, in the name of their daughter’s freedom of self expression. Looking back, I cannot fathom how it did not occur to me that there would be any potential problem with wearing the same thing FIVE days in a row. I’m sure it was long before I had started producing particular odors. I was LONG to wait for the days of puberty, and just as I was certain that cutting my own bangs was a radical idea, and I had not yet discovered the purpose of eye makeup remover (though sadly, I was well accustomed to wearing mascara), the thought ever entered my mind that my choices were anything but solid. If the outfit was cool the first day, then surely I could streeeetch those cool points just a few days longer.
In hindsight, I’m not entirely sure that any of my classmates ever actually said anything or alluded to what was obviously a cry of ignorance, but I sure do remember when my mother asked me - presumably on day five - whether I was “wearing that AGAIN? Don’t you think you should WASH it?”
It was one of those moments. A tiny death. I have come to know Tiny Deaths as the moments in which a piece of fearless authenticity is shattered. And I don’t mean fall-in-to-a-puddle-weeping-on-the-ground-shattered, I mean first-layer-of-the-onion- RIPPED off without warning-taking with it any and all the body hair/DNA which it can rip up from the roots.
Emotional whip lash of the first degree.
I thought I was cool.
I thought I was expressing myself.
I thought I was being a trend setter and an trailblazer…and then...WHAM-O.
Slapped in the face.
Dowsed with cold water and sent ALL THE WAY to the back of the line.
I was not cool. I was not original. I was oblivious, I was probably the smelly girl, and everyone was thinking it without my knowing. Tiny Death #1.
I rarely think of her anymore- that young hippie-nouveau, but boy oh boy does she think of me. And after years of self-inflicted emotional brutality, she emerged from the shadows of my mind. She came to me on the beach (my visualization/meditation-happy-place), and man was she pissed. Years she had been waiting. YEARS to look me in the eyes and tell me how long I had been hurting her feelings. Every time I changed myself for another, she railed inside me. Every time I abandoned my thoughts or feeling for fear of the backlash, she took the hit.
As she spoke to me, I waited for her-frankly-to rip me a new ass hole.
I was stunned to find out what she was really after.
All she wanted -wants- is for me to be myself.
Playful, crazy, colorful, imaginative, wild and careless regarding the restrictive conceptions of others, authentic self.
‘Never mind the concerns of others’
she told me
’They are in their own dream. They are in the process of having all of their bandaids ripped off as well. So fuck em’ (with compassion of course).
I asked her what she needed, and she told me to rock my style boldly, to surrender my self expression to no one, and to go wild child on this world. That for years, I have been beating myself with my own drum, instead of marching to it. She cried in my arms, and I apologized. I embraced her and held her lovingly. She squashed her face into my chest, the way I imagine the essence of my childhood holds the closeness of my mother and father. She then looked up at me with a bright smile, rid of evils and self doubt, turned away and leapt down the beach. Her bare feet dragging through the sand, kicking and splashing thru the water, and she was gone.
Next came the monster. Tiny Death #2. A giant, snarling green monster, that appeared to be made of an old tree trunk, entrapped and strangled by its own root system. In its branches, it held captive a simple girl in a white dress. She was pure and pale, either dead or a figment meant to startle me (which worked). The creature approached across the water, cautiously threatening me with its presences, as if to say ‘back off or this could be you’.
Once it came close enough, I made the introduction.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“I am every word you have never spoken”.
As the creature was revealing itself to me, I could feel the words welling up in my throat. They were dry, almost as if they were covered in dust. Words that laid dormant in the inner working of my solar plexus and upper abdomen, where they were held captive. Pure words, meant to express pure intention, that never made it out alive.
As I continued to dialogue with the creature, the girl vanished into the water in a cloud of silver sparkles, and it moved towards me. Upon closer investigation, I discovered weary lines in its face. The menacing presence was not so much something to be frightened of as much as it was to be revered for its exhaustion at keeping years of secrets for what felt like my own protection. I asked the creature what it needed, and as if it was making one last desperate plea, with its final breath it left me with this: ‘speak the words that have not been spoken.’
Be my authentic self.
Speak the words that have not been spoken.
Got it. And then, she appeared.
She did not approach me as the others had. She did not walk across water to get to me or float along the sand to be with me. She just, appeared. As I recon many angels do. I did not watch her fill herself in, wondering from a distance who she would turn out to be, I just turned around, and there she was. Her hands in mine, her blue eyes, as luminescent as the skin surrounding them. Creased with the wrinkles of time and laughter, and exactly the way I remember her.
She took my hands, and I instantly started to cry.
I asked her what she needed to tell me.
“Don’t make the same mistakes that I did”.
Words, not spoken from her lips, but felt in my heart.
“Don’t do what I did. Don’t make the same mistakes. Don’t sell yourself short.”
My grandmother was an angel. She loved a man. Her love went off to war and never came back. The man returned in the form of my grandfather, but the man she married was gone forever. Lost to unspeakable heartache and in-humane heroism, my grandfather returned-as many men did- a changed man. And it was my understanding even as a small child, that my grandmother was the only point of peace he had.
She kept the peace. She was the healer. She passed long before my grandfather, and she made his ass wait until he was ready- really good and ready- to enter the kingdom of Heaven in which she undoubtedly resides.
‘Don’t make the same mistakes I did’.
Don’t keep the peace for the sake of others. Don’t throw yourself under the bus. Don’t take the brunt of the worlds anger. It is not your responsibility to exist in silence to make those around you more comfortable. Keep your light on, and shine it for yourself. Just having it on will illuminate the way for those around you who cannot see.
She kissed my hands, looked me sweetly in the eyes, and in a flash of light, she was gone. My sweet sweet Nana. I do not need to believe in angels, for I know that they exist.
Three tiny deaths. Three precious moments. All waiting until I was available to listen.
Speak your words.
Shine your light.
There they were.
There they are.
Three messages that have been trying to surface in the face of my most heinous attempts to keep them silenced. And with good reason. In the moment of a Tiny Death, authenticity becomes audaciousness. Honesty becomes false apathy. Light shows the devil where you’re hiding - in the shadows - in words unspoken - in someone else's story.
In the Tiny Death, a soldier is born. Armed and trained only for battle, this soldier knows not what to do in the face of peace. And so it keeps on fighting. It is our job, then, as beings of consciousness, to befriend the perceived enemy, and thank it for its service. Thank it for keeping us safe. For protecting the other soldiers on the field, and never letting us forget the origin of our wounds.
Honor your pain.
Honor your wounds.
Honor your battle, for it has been bravely fought.
And then, honor yourself. Your authenticity. Your light.
‘There is no Devil but the Devil inside you. No evil but the darkness you know, and no path that can be walked alone that cannot be walked in the company of angels.’
-Nana and God.