Saturday, February 14, 2015

Valentine's Day 2015 Meditation

“Love, that moves the sun and the other stars - L'amor che move il sole e l'altre stelle.”

-- Dante, Paradiso

Above is "Person with Questions" in gouache, water, and chalk pastel on paper, created by me around 1982 during the last years of a marriage I had entered against my better judgement. In 1976 I had married a man I didn't love and had remained in what I then knew as love with a man who was as incapable of love as I was. Still, that man and I were kindred spirits, trauma-bonded by our experiences in connection with the war in Vietnam. 

When I looked through my drawings and paintings for something to post for Valentine's Day today, I noticed the heart-like images to the left of the woman in this painting and wondered why I had not remembered them until I saw the image again. 

In 2008, when my kindred spirit was in the last months of his life in a VA hospital in California, I used this same image a few days before Valentine's Day and then posted this on Valentine's Day. 

Here is my first Valentine's Day post in the first year of my blog. At that time in 2007, early in my blogging days, I had been out of touch with R since early 2003, unable to act as a witness to the alcoholism and drug addiction that continued to destroy him and doing my best to go on with my own life.  2003 was the year he sent me lovely pale purple carnations on the day after Valentine's Day but didn't respond when I tried to thank him and didn't respond when I let him know of my father's death on St. Patrick's Day a little over a month later, and then sent a flower arrangement including red roses on July 3 of that year, the day after what could have been our 35th wedding anniversary.  On that day, I was horrified to find myself feeling no love at all for him, only an anger that I had never dared to feel. I couldn't bear to have the flowers in my home and decided to take them to the chapel at the local hospital and to leave them there. As angry as I felt that day, I couldn't bring myself to throw those flowers in a dumpster. 

Completely letting go of those flowers proved impossible. The next day I went back to the chapel to see if they were still there. For several days, I returned to the chapel and sat looking at them in the silence. Then the day came when I returned, and they were gone, and I felt both sadness and relief. The anger was gone. I assumed that they had wilted and that someone from the housekeeping department had disposed of them.

I'm not sure why I returned to the chapel an additional time a week or more later but as I entered the silence again, I saw dried dark red rose petals arranged in a chaotic way on the disturbed white cloth covering the altar, and I knew they were the same roses R had sent to me, being used by someone else to make a startling statement. As I approached the altar, I saw an 8-1/2 x 11 inch piece of paper with a child's handwriting on it. It was an anguished prayer to God. The girl was asking God to help her alcoholic mother who was in the hospital for life-threatening complications of alcoholism. I could feel the anger the young girl felt in connection with her mother. Somehow, by letting go of those flowers in the most loving way I could imagine while feeling the long-denied anger that turned out to be part of my healing and regaining my ability to love, I was able to pass on to that young girl what she needed to express herself in the best way she could imagine under circumstances that were pushing her to the edge of her own ability to cope.

Have I told this story before? If so, I must have needed to tell it again this Valentine's Day, and thank you for listening again.

Looking at the hearts on the left side of the person with questions today, I remembered writing a poem about an experience I had in a meditation where I suddenly was aware of tiny hearts everywhere. With a little searching of my bookshelves, I found the poem and was surprised to see that I had written it sometime between December 28, 2003, and Good Friday of 2004:


Someone breathing
Someone not alone
Someone walking lonely paths
Someone leaving lonely shelters
Someone finding a lonely ocean

Someone feeling Something New
Thousands of tiny hearts
Within the left side of Someone
Someone's right side perfectly empty
Someone's emptiness graceful as sky
Thousands of tiny hearts
Filling half the emptiness
Something loving the emptiness
Emptiness loving Something
Yes and No becoming simple again
Something New becoming emptiness
Emptiness becoming Something New

Something New and emptiness finding Someone
Someone finding the seasons of a lonely path
Someone finding shelter from a lonely storm
Someone finding a lonely ocean

With Someone sleeping, there was still Something New
Still the emptiness, still a path,
Still a shelter, still an ocean.

And Someone waking up
Feeling sacred hearts everywhere
On paths in and out of time
In shelters from a lonely storm
By the lonely and beloved ocean

Hearts bearing sacred cushions
Of loneliness, emptiness, 
And Something New.

As I recall, I wasn't thinking about "Person with Questions" when I wrote that poem, but it describes her well in that moment before she woke up to feel sacred hearts everywhere.

In the past few days, I noticed that the day lily bulbs on my porch are up and that my flowering quince is budding out. Watch for the Red-winged Blackbirds in the cattails. Maybe you can identify some of the other bird voices, including a Steller's Jay:

I'll leave you with a song which I first heard as part of the soundtrack of "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood," which tells a story about alcoholism and drug addiction from the perspective of the daughter of a Dexadrine-addicted alcoholic mother whose first love died in a time of war. The mother reminded me of my own mother who also suffered from the effects of using prescription Dexadrine and alcohol. This song from 2002 seems to have planted the seed for the experience I had in meditation and reminds me of what I want to remember as part of Valentine's Day 2015:

And one more thing I came across late in the day today at whiskey river that made me think of one of the gifts R gave to me:

Many love stories are like the shells of hermit crabs, though others are more like chambered nautiluses, whose architecture grows with the inhabitant and whose abandoned smaller chambers are lighter than water and let them float in the sea.

-- Rebecca Solnit, from A Field Guide to Getting Lost


dritanje said...

Thank you so much for sharing this story, I hung on every word - and painting, and poem 'lonely and beloved ocean' and 'Something New'. It is all moving, and so encouraging.

Anonymous said...

You tell such beautiful rich stories, like paintings with hearts everywhere. Simple words a brush stroke and all is said.

Sabine said...

Dear Am, everything in this post resounded with me. Your story moves me and I feel sad about it. Addiction is cruel. I hope that every time you tell this story, the various aspects of it, the memories and the way it affects you in your daily life, etc. it will bring about something positive. Although this may not be the correct term, maybe better: soothing? Sometimes I feel I return to my mother's story as if it was a scar that will not heal, scratching away the scab before it can heal, other times, it feels as if I put on another layer of ointment to speed up healing. Hard do tell. Whatever compels us to remember and recall, we must let it happen.
Take care.

The Solitary Walker said...

And thank you for telling it, for sharing it again, Amanda. As Robin Andrea said, it is beautiful and rich, and it is moving and encouraging, as Dritanje wrote.

'Whatever compels us to remember and recall, we must let it happen.' We must indeed.

Our wounds and scars are as integral to us as any unblemished parts.

And you are capable of weaving healing patterns, creating positive connections, and creating light out of the darkness, as your blog has shown.

Vagabonde said...

My prior comment has been deleted as being too long. Your story is very nice and I enjoyed reading it.

am said...

Vagabonde -- Thank you for visiting and for your comments. Not sure what happened with your long comment and why it wasn't published. I found it in my inbox on another computer. Let's see if I can publish your comment here:

I am catching up going to all the blog friends who came and commented on my post on Charlie Hebdo – thanks for leaving a comment. I looked at some of your past posts and noticed some people I like. I remember seeing Jimi Hendrix live at the Monterey Pop festival in June 1967 (where we had gone from SF for our honeymoon) – there were some good people there, like Ravi Shankar. My husband’s best friend was a friend of Janis Joplin so we talked to her several times too. Joan Baez we saw in Berkeley – we have her old LPs. But I don’t know John Martyn so I’ll listen to him. As for mandala, I saw that coloring them, since they are intricate, is good for brain coordination. I bought several books of mandalas for my husband’s birthday this month for him to color to see if this will help (he has been diagnosed with Alzheimer.) What else – yes, Bob Dylan was there too on another live show we saw, just before Joan. I never really liked his voice. We lived in San Francisco 10 years, just about all the 1960s. I have several posts on that time if you’d like to read them. Thanks again for coming to my blog.
I just saw your Valentine painting. I like it very much, there is a lot of expression in this woman’s face.

Vagabonde said...

I’m sorry – I was not clear. I went back to read my comment and did not like it as I thought it was too long and not interesting – sometimes I talk too much, so I deleted it, it was me.

am said...

Vagabonde -- Thank you for your long comment. I am grateful that it wasn't deleted. I enjoy your long comments. We must have crossed paths in 1967, as I was at the Monterey Pop Festival and saw Ravi Shankar. Glad to know that you like my painting.

dritange -- Good to see you here. Thank you for reading and commenting and for your appreciation of this post and for understanding the spirit in which it was written.

robin andrea --As always, thank you for being such an receptive reader of what I write.

Sabine -- Yes. These stories from the past that we tell help move us forward. I can feel things now that I couldn't feel in the past. There is something healing about that.

Robert -- Thank you for being such an affirming witness to my process of healing.