Into the Valley of Hope: A Five Day Trek Through Athena Graceland

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Yesterday I felt free.  I inhabited my Self and my Life as an Artist– ecstatically engaged in the continuous dance of creation (and creative destruction).  I wonder if this orientation IS freedom….  My hypothesis is YES.  I bet Henry Miller would agree. I also wonder if “Self” and “Life” are actually synonyms… You might not thinks so at first glance… but peel back the tender skin of appearance, and see that they are indivisible subject and object of God “Godding”.  A playful, infinitely looping inversion.  Consider that your Life is a vast, kaleidoscopic, externalized projection of your Self.  Alan Watts would cast his vote in favor of this holiest hypothesis.

And now I shall slip into some clunky moon boots and shimmy on down to the ground, where Life happens.  Where Love masquerades in ridiculous, imaginative costumes for the sheer BANG of it.  Wait– can “Love” be lumped into the club with “Life” and “Self”?  Probably… but Love seems harder to corral and contain, than Life and Self…  Hey!  I think these moon boots are defective!!…I’m still orbiting in obscenely conceptual realms!  Lemme tighten the velcro straps and see what happens…

Okay, that’s better.  Here I am.  Breathing on my couch.  Six fifty-nine am, and I hear soft baby sounds wafting occasionally from behind the closed bedroom door… which makes me feel frantic to get a few more nutrient dense sentences committed to the page before my day gets devoured by the slobbering (and Grace-full) beast of ceaseless, self-less service.  Never mind.  I must retrieve my daughter… Greet her with enthusiasm and delight, gobble her cheeks, breathe in her sweetness, take off her nighttime diaper, and put her on the potty.  How’s THAT for moon boots?

Now it’s a new day.  And my heavy-assed heart is pressing me into the couch like moon boots that have been splashing in shadows.  I hear intermittent sounds from the bedroom, like Serena’s sleep is lightening, but she is not yet awake… so I imagine this will be a brief fling with my writer Self.  But even a paragraph will be the best sex.  My heart hurt so bad yesterday.  I spent a big hunk of the day groping to figure out how to care for my poor, sick mama.  (She has a handful of infected teeth.)  The last couple times I’d seen her, she looked like walking dead.  I conceived of the possibility that she might not live to be eighty eight and four months, like the fortune teller of her childhood predicted.  She might not live past sixty nine.  But then, Serena and I visited her in the late afternoon, and she had a quarter tank of life in her… and I washed with relief and hope.

Hope.  I’ve been meaning to write about Hope for a very long time.  I used to despise it.  I perceived it as wispy and weak.  I “hoped” that it would work out for Ed and I to be together.  But I felt no personal power or responsibility as I peered wistfully through the dirty picture window of my hope-full-ness.  It seemed thin and wispy, like an overgrown weed, reaching determinedly for a Heaven it would never meet.

It’s a new day again.  I probably only have a few minutes before my little Shrimp wakes up.  But I’ll squeeze every last drop of insight and wisdom and gratuitous self-expression out of them!  I used to be the campaign manager for the war on hope.  Because it seemed to imply powerlessness.  And I wanted to feel power-FULL.  I preferred to side with personal responsibility and action, wielded against a backdrop of Faith.  Not that I *took* personal responsibility and action…. but… that’s where I recognized the most potential satisfaction.

But instead of merely casting poor hope, like a piece of scrap meat into a pit of starved wolves, I held it in my curious hands, turning it over and sensing its raw, essential ISness.  Some part of me was determined to make space for it in the over-populated rainbow of virtues that shine from my Insides.  A turning point occurred one day when I shared my misgivings of hope with Gopal.  He was a quick and warm ninja in hope’s defense.  He testified that HOPE was the determining factor between life and death amongst prisoners of war.   This touched the prisoner of war who lives in my own heart…. fighting for that which matters most to me.  I often wonder if I am barking up the wrong tree, so to speak… mis-investing my hope… But… even still… there is something true and beautiful in my hoping.  Innocence.  Yes… hope is a life-line to my precious Innocence.

And now it is yet another day, and again I strive to corral my thoughts and yolk them to the subject of Hope and Innocence.  Yes, I think innocence is the nucleus of this holy riddle.  Because the child in my heart is not “pragmatic”.  She gazes at the upside-down carpet of stars, and bleeds into innate communion with their riveting, unknowable mysteries.  Hope is the sound of her sheer, glittered, neon wings beating the open sky.  She doesn’t give a hoot about civilized notions as “personal responsibility” and “action”.  She is a flowing river of dreams and intuition.  A frivolous, gurgling fountain of experiential revelation and whispering hope.

Hope is a lullaby wafting from my soul, even in the darkest hours of my uphill climb through this concealed and arduous dimension of heaven we call “life on earth”.  Hope is a sprawling ribbon of my own soul’s luminous, fractaling body.  Everything does not have to be so blunt and obvious and linear.  Hope blurs the edges of my being into softer scapes of Heaven.  Hope smears my solid-seeming soul into the pulsing Ocean of Love’s warm potentiality.

With YOU as my witness, I am standing tall and proud on my faded, vintage soapbox, and staking a fierce claim in the holy land of Hope.  I am proud to announce that I HOPE I will be a famous writer some day.  I hope that I will find my Soul Mate– a Partner with whom I harmoniously share the rest of my life with… and who embraces Serena as though she is his own.  I hope I have another child with him.  I hope to feel what it feels like for the father of my child to be utterly delighted as I grow a miraculous merging of our love and blood and strengths.  I want to be held and kissed and celebrated as The Goddess as I offer my body, life and heart as a sacred bridge to the New World, where Love boldly leaps in flaming song from every heart, igniting the world AS BEAUTY and limitless, soulful goodness.

Now it’s day five of my linguistic trek through Graceland.  Autumnal cold has engulfed the Sierra Foothills.  My toes are icy.  Baby toys are strewn about the floor that BEGS to be vacuumed and mopped.  I feel melancholy stretching in violin strings across my incredibly tender heart.  I could cry, but instead I am going to publish this blog, take a shower, pick up messes and secretly fan the delicate, pastel rainbow flame of hope that burns in my chest, with every devotional breath I take.  And with each exhale, cascading this shy, under-valued yet essential virtue into the invisible infinite, as sweet sustenance for ALL.

With sincere blessings from my heart,

Athena Grace LMNOP

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Scattering Seeds of Peace and Happiness in the Soil of an Aching Heart

For a lightening second, I thought I didn’t have anything to say this morning.  But then I realized it wasn’t that… it’s just that I feel very depressed and I feel ashamed to admit it on the page.  You know how human beings get… we always want to appear like we have it together and all that junk.  Why is that?  So others will love us?  I think what it is, at least my version… I have a deep seated belief that if people witnessed me in a state of need, desperation, helplessness, lonliness, they would all feel deeply repulsed and leave me wildly, ridiculously alone.  Which, of course I don’t want…

I’ve been left alone like that.  Not because I exhibited any of the aforementioned undesirable qualities, just cuz that’s how it worked out… but still, a two year old mind doesn’t quite comprehend that.  So it’s taken me about a quarter century to unfurl enough to once again find access to the ability to open my valve of “less attractive emotions”, such as sorrow, anger, loneliness, etc.  But now that it’s open, Jesus, it doesn’t seem to want to close.  Yes, that’s a bit of an exaggeration… but not a vast, chasmatic one.  Lately, it seems, I am on the verge of tears every single day.  Why did I bother putting on eye make-up this morning?  Maybe just for the dramatics of letting it run wild down my face in black and copper rivers?

Anyway, I feel the dull ache of tragedy perched like a weighty, rabid elephant in the center of my chest.  What’s a seniorita to do?  The divine message from A Course in Miracles invited me this morning to pray to God, asking for happiness and peace this day.  I thought to myself, “Heck, why not?!  You only live once… I’ll give it a shot.”  So I did.  And here I am, at ten oh eight on a sunny morning, aching, turning life over and over and over in my mind, examining it from a [limited] multiplicity of angles and I can’t say that I’m not happy and peaceful… but it’s not the down home, stereo typical happiness and peace they teach you about in Hollywood movies, woman’s magazines, or even in public school.  It’s a happiness born of honesty, humility and acceptance.  It also helps that it’s a sunny day, and I had a good bike ride to Hudson Bay Café.

Last night was date night.  Usually, on Thursday mornings, I ooze enthusiam about impending date night.  I wake up feeling like a kid whose destiny is to visit Disney Land on this very day.  (Time out, because Karen just texted me and asked me if I fancied having lunch with her, since she’s in Oakland… That’s music to my heart.  I guess there IS a God, and this God character truly DOES support my happiness and peace.  Not that happiness and peace are contingent upon external circumstances… but the company of good friends is some sort of soothing balm, any way you slice it.)

Time in.  I am always excited about date night in the morning… but by the time it arrives, around six pm, I am usually short on inspiration and wishing that we could spend ma-ma-money, $$$, cha-ching!  It was my turn to choose last night.  Earlier in the week, I had been sincerely thrilled and inspired by this.  I imagined us spending the evening working on the huge, joint painting we started near the beginning of our relationship and haven’t touched in at least a year and a half.  I imagined giving attention to our long forgotten relationship altar on the hearth, sharing a luxurious, extended love making session, maybe going outside and drawing on our sidewalk in chalk pastels, riding bikes to the cemetery in time to soak up the sunset…

But six o’clock rolled around and we were two mildly pathetic messes.  I could hardly move, but I suggested trying out this seductive looking taqueria on Grand Avenue, across the street from Lake Merrit.  Mykael seemed pretty enthused about this.  Personally, the thought of getting on my bike and pedaling through the clear early evening seemed almost impossible.  But what’s that saying from Alice in Wonderland?  Do six impossible things before breakfast?  Well, if breakfast comes and goes, you can still do one or two impossible things before dinner.  Hey, don’t knock it, it’s better than doing ZERO impossible things before you hit the hay…

I just changed seats here at the cafe.  I traded my autonomous little table for a big, uncomfortable chair with a concaved back.  But now I am sitting next to a priest.  He’s pouring over his bible.  I bet he’s writing a sermon!  I find that thrilling.  Even if he’s gonna preach bullshit, I don’t care. I’d bet my own mixed bag of a life that he has at least a single, sincere bone in his body… if not twelve or a hundred… Because something in his heart is tickled by the Holy Spirit.  Tickled enough that he’s giving himself over to the feeling and offering it back out to like-minded, hungry souls.  Even if he’s clogged with dogma, he’s doing his best to reach inside and find that which is greater than himself and give it away!  I want to do this.  Oops, now my eyes sting.  Prepare for the impending black and copper rivers…

Anyway, the bike ride to the taqueria was way less impossible than I imagined it would be.  We flew downhill the whole way, and I got drunk off my ass on cool, spring air.  Unfortunately, the food blew.  But I was such a good sport about it, which is far from something I can count on about myself.  Hooray for me!  The highlight of the journey was seeing a grown man sucking on a dum-dum lollypop and reading the paper while he waited for his take-out order.  What is it about adults licking lollypops in public?  It just seems so… so… so overtly sexual.  So telling and vulnerable and innocent.  Plus, his existence looked wicked simple, something I wish I felt more often.  (I wonder what the priest next to me is thinking about.  I keep trying to peek over his shoulder and read the scrawl of notes he is jotting down on his white legal pad.  Yeah, a priest would NEVER use a YELLOW legal pad for Mother Mary’s Holy Sake… only virginal white…)

Another highlight was a very ROUND, fierce, punk rock woman in skin tight black leggings, tattooed arms and stiletto heals!  Yeah, the taqueria was getting tons of traffic.  Every time I pass it, it seems to be buzzing with happy face stuffers.  Usually that’s a sure fire way to know if a place is good… But I have to say that though eclectic and highly interesting, the contingency of Oakland folk who walked through the door in enthusiastic pursuit of dinner have very LOW standards and poor taste.  Surprise!  But I tried to be nourished by the fascinating company more than the stupid, flavor and soul-less veggie tacos I inflicted upon myself.

Mykael ordered two fish tacos, rice and refried beans.  Is it just me who is turned off by his lack of interest in making veggies an integral part of his meals?  He ordered and I flooded with disapproval.  But I’m sick of making a stink about his choices, so I shut the hell up.  He was disgusted by the fishiness of his deep fried tacos, but he devoured them, regardless. (Though he drowned them in ketchup to try and disguise the raunchy flavor.  God, I feel like barfing just thinking about it.)  Then at home, he confessed that he felt uncomfortably full and wanted my sympathy.  Really?  How on earth did he expect me to muster sympathy?!  What the hell did he expect???  I am the totally wrong person to offer sympathy for overeating garbage and feeling bad about it.  If you don’t want to feel that way, don’t eat a pile of heavy crap.  Being someone who has a history of overeating, I now execute much self discipline and inspired mindfulness around my eating habits and I expect others to do the same… but they don’t.  As far as I’m concerned, his choices suck and I feel agony about it, not sympathy.

Especially because again he had no interest in sex.  I guess I wasn’t that inviting either… But I feel so heartbroken about this.  The more he doesn’t want to have sex, the more rejected and disappointed I feel, which compels me to close and brood, which creates less invitation for intimacy.  It’s a vicious cycle.  How can I be happy without being well fucked?

I know, I know I can… but… I still feel like crying about it.

Woops, let me end this on a note of happiness and peace… A Course in Miracles teaches that in extending blessings to others, we make them available to ourselves.  That ain’t really so far fetched… So I wish YOU the kind of happiness and peace unbounded by the craggy circumstances of this world.  The kind of happiness and peace that are carried like tiny, hopeful seeds on a divine breeze that wafts right into your heart, right this instant!  There they land and take root, drawing nourishment from the goodness and beauty that lives in you.  And before you know it, they are flowering, fruiting trees, stretching their leafy arms all about your holy consciousness providing sweet shade and juicy fruits to the masses.  Amen.

Who Knew Salvation Was Only A Haircut Away…

I think the barista must have forgotten how beautiful she is.  I kept finding my eyes lingering about her satiny platinum skin… entirely of their own accord.  And I felt this tough girl vibe from her, as if she was saying “what the fuck are you lookin’ at me for, lady?”  All this was very subtle though.  It’s the kind of conversations we have all the time as we swim about our blushing, incognito lives, amidst other racing humans, but mostly do not have the presence of mind to notice, except once in a while.  Anyway, if she had have remembered how beautiful she was, she would have felt that it was completely natural for my eyes to play about her flower petal skin.  But here she was, just slingin’ coffee for the masses and gathering crumpled wads of meaningful paper, smoothing them and organizing them lovingly in a special drawer.  Mundane.  This world seems to be designed for us to constantly forget our radiance.  This world is a plea for us to time and again and maybe even once and for all remember our radiance.  I’ve been in her shoes.  Someone is staring at me and I am thinking to myself, “Man, why you gotsta be all up in my she-it, back off, wouldja?”  But if I could just remember that they are merely a thirsty soul, feasting upon God’s divided beauty, I would graciously smile and open wider.  Next time…

Okay, there went that topic… Now what?  Where is the weight?  Where is the resistance?  What are the truths that I squirm at the idea of disclosing?  What would God have me say?

A few things.  Mykael gave himself a haircut the day before yesterday.  Finally.  He was only threatening to for the past couple of months.  And then, Wednesday night, I come home from dinner with my fantastic friend Dan, and there’s Mykael, dressed to kill in his gray briefs, lily skin and the pinkest nipples, standing ankle deep in a sea of his own copper mane.  His hair looks awful.  It’s fuckin’ short… and very jagged and sloppy.  I panic, because I have already been feeling repulsed by him, and now he doesn’t even have his endearing eighties sit com heart throb hair.  He looks like he’s been drafted by the military.  Great.  It’s getting on nine o’clock.  He pleads for my aid.  I don’t want to, but I feel compelled to clean up his terrible mess.  I give him a couple of hopeless swipes with his dull scissors before realizing that I am not the messiah that he was hoping for.  He keeps at it.  A buzz here a few snips there.  Buzz, buzz, snip, snip, while I slither between him and the bathroom sink to slather my toothbrush with white, minty paste, stepping in his stunning auburn puddle, tracking sticky locks about the house.

Once when I was maybe fourteen, I cut my mom’s hair on the front porch of our house in San Leandro.  It was a very traumatic experience for me.  I snipped a bunch off, realized the seeming permanence of my actions and panicked at the unruly, erratic slop I had made of her hair.   But there was no turning back, so I fought the fear, and I kept snipping my way to attempted redemption.  But the more I snipped, the more helpless I felt, until I finally gave up and fled to my room in tears where I refused to come out.  My mom finished the job herself and looked seven eights decent upon completion.  Good job, mom.

Time out, because a man just left the café with a large sized cup of something… topped with a bountiful squirt of whipped cream.  He took an eager, glutinous sip as he strode toward the door, and whipped cream clung to his bushy salt and pepper mustache.  I was captivated.  I couldn’t help it.  My eyes were magnets that stuck to his endearing, cream strewn ‘stache.  He was one of those manly men, who looks like they’ve lived a full, manly man’s life, driving big rig trucks down the long, lonely road of life, his stony heart riding shotgun, he stops every few hundred miles to fuel up on chicken fried steak and eggs and a black, steaming cup of folgers at the desolate diner along the endless, rural highway.  He felt my eyes burning holes in his cream coated anonymity and soon enough his wily, leather tongue emerged to lick himself clean the way only a man can.  Priceless.

Time in.  The moral of the story about my mom’s haircut is that haircuts just aren’t my bag.  And that’s okay.  It’s just a horrible feeling to see that I have made a mess of someone’s appearance (!!!)  and the weight of the pressure to fix it crushes my delicate psyche.  I mean, it would be a different story if I knew what I was doing… if I had some actual techniques or something.  But I don’t.  And so I shant give any more haircuts… until I go away to beauty school, once and for all.

But I brought up Mykael’s haircut to say that something has shifted in his being since he cut his hair.  I can see glimmers of hope.  I had been totally wearing the dick in the family. (And loving it and HATING it, but mostly wanting to leave my pathetic pussy whipped man) But now, with his short, almost stylish faux-hock, he pushes back, and I am forced to reorganize my orientation toward our power play.  God, I can be such a sorry little drill sergeant.  Such a punishing father.  But only when I have a willing accomplice to carry out my steely commands.  This new rendition of Mykael hasn’t been so willing.  I think I like this, though it is a bit startling.  It’s kinda funny to notice our dynamics and poke fun at them.  This morning I was feistily teasing him about how big my balls were; how much space they took up in my briefs.  Listen, I don’t want to make a habit of this game… but it’s refreshing to reveal the covertly ruling, subterranean energies playing out in a relationship and then act them out in a comical way… just to let them know that they are no longer slipping under the radar and dominating.  Just to let them know that they are not so mighty and all powerful.

I announced my enormous balls as I attempted to pin him down on my bed.  “Surrender to me.  Surrender to my huge balls,” I commanded, as I exerted my full force, pressing down on him, feeling like a semi-domesticated tigress.  But thankfully, after not too much struggle, I was the one pinned, entirely helpless and choking on my own peels of exhausted laughter.  Thank God.  Maybe there’s hope for us after all.