Life is not a straight line. It's a downpour of gifts, please – hold out your hand

Thank you for being here. I'm so glad you're here.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Breaking Open Structure

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.”  Rumi

I'm taking a deep breath as I show up here this morning. There is so much I want to say and share and this mind of my mine wants to structure it somehow, it wants to make a plan and place it inside something neat and digestible.  But here's the thing this deeper place in me wants  - it wants so much to let it all tumble out, however it feels like tumbling.

Years ago, when I was at a writing retreat with amazing woman and author/artist, Natalie Goldberg, she said something that stuck and keeps sticking, something I repeat inside my head continuously.  What she said as we entered the room with chairs all lined up in neat little rows was, BREAK OPEN STRUCTURE. Our five days of writing time together began with moving those chairs out of their straight obedient little rows and scattering them in a way that felt spacious and free.

If there is one thing this soul of mine has been saying, whispering - screaming at me for as long as I can remember, it is this:  LET YOURSELF BE FREE. Break the fuck open structure!

Years ago, while having a discussion about intelligence and all the unique ways it shows up in people, a friend who knew me well, said to me, You are smart in a very non-linear way.  You know how some things just stick, how certain things just have that special kind of zing?  Well, there was something about him saying this to me that's felt important and I think I'm only just now, almost twenty years later, getting the why of this.

I've spent pretty much all of my life resisting the very things that make me uniquely me - thinking I needed to be more like this or less like that.  I've thought I needed to be more organized and structured, for example - less sensitive, more knowing of things that I "should" know. I've yelled at and belittled myself over the fact that I pretty much suck at remembering names and dates, that I don't know things most people seem to know. Resisting these things about myself have blocked me from truly allowing me to be me. The me who remembers feelings more than facts, the me who eats corn on the cob, not in neat, little rows but scattered and all over the place, the me who feels everything intensely, the me who wants to dive in to the depths of people and stay and stay there.

The reason I bring this up, is because I see that so much of the suffering in this world is people (and by people I mean we, us - me) resisting themselves - people thinking they aren't enough of this, too much of that, continuously comparing and judging and deciding they come up short. Containing what they have decided is shameful or wrong about themselves, their lives, their stories. Rather than wrapping arms around what makes us unique, and therefore brilliant in a way only we/you/me can be, we press down and push away.

In other words, as Rumi speaks to above, we put up barriers to love - to our own truer than true, beautiful selves. And oh - how painful this is.

These last few months have been intensely painful for me and I come here now feeling like I'm on the other side of some of the pain. I'm in a kind of clear open meadow where I can see some things I wasn't seeing when I was deep in the thick of the shit.  The shit that was telling me how I should be, what I should be doing, what my life should look at almost the age of 44.  There was so much shit being tossed at me from the crazy lady in my head (as author Cheryl Strayed likes to say), I blocked the love from getting in - or out.

And it took my breath away.

A couple weeks ago when I was deep in the thick of that shit, I had a nudge to get Cheryl Strayed's book, Wild.  At the time, the crazy lady in my head was being so harshly judgmental about what I should be doing, telling me all the ways I should be productive with my time, I could hardly allow myself the time and space to just sit down and read it.

But one gloriously sunny and uncharacteristically warm day, I took that gem of a book with me to the top of a big hill, planted myself in the sunshine, and read and read and read.  I read as if my life depended on it.

As I read, something started to fill and fill and something else - something heavy and stuck - started to fall away.

As I read, a soft, gentle, tender hand-on-my-shoulder voice said,  just let yourself be, sweetheart. This is your next step - to just let yourself BE - to meet yourself right where you are - crazy lady and all.  To
not judge any of it.

The minute I let myself be, whew...I could breathe again. I could hear the singing birds.  I could stand in the center of the IS-ness of that moment without making any of it wrong, without pushing a single bit of it away.

And in that place of not pushing any of it away, I could hear a voice in me that told me exactly what to do next - and that next had nothing to do with trying to be productive in that way we humans think we should be. And everything to do with loving myself more, listening to myself more, quieting my mind more, sitting and feeling that nameless something that sits deep in the center of me more. It had everything to do with allowing that hand-on-my-shoulder voice to lead me to my next true step. It had everything to do with allowing myself to BREATHE again.

What is clearer than has ever been clear is that I can't hear the voice that matters, I can't know true next steps, if I'm tangled in fear. Being tangled in fear, pushing myself to do, do, do, doesn't lead to "success" and productivity, it leads to pain and paralysis. When I give myself permission to feel what I feel, to break open structure, to be who I am, to do that thing that feels gentle and loving (even when it doesn't look the least bit productive), something takes my hand and leads me gently forward, forward toward love - forward toward the only kind of productive and linear I want ever to be.

*              *               *

Happy Love Day to you, beautiful people.  I'm so deeply grateful we're here together.


  1. Oh sweet sister of my heart, this letter is so honest and liberating, so reaching into my soul and saying yes yes yes! I love how love delivers us from our own unloving selves. How I love how love finds us, the gentle touch at the top of a hill, the words of a woman plainly written, now inspiring you to write, and to fill me up as I read it all. This is truly magic. This is truly love. I love you sweet lady. Thank you!

    1. Aw, Leah. I hope you can feel my love because I can't possibly put it in to words. It is such comfort to know that I really don't need words with you...

      Giant, warmest hugs to you, beautiful one.

  2. Reading WILD had a profound effect on me too, Julia. Before reading your post, I hadn't thought of it as a jumping off place to where I am now, but I think maybe it was. I definitely had the sensation, as you did, of baggage/old stories falling away.

    I so agree with you that much of the world's misery happens when we deny who we are and try to be someone else. I think embracing your non-linear intelligence (or as a friend of mine once said to me, your "skittering genius") is the first step to discovering all that your capable of, which is so much more than you know.


    1. J, how I would love the two of us to have time and space to sit and talk about WILD and Cheryl Strayed and embracing our "skittering genius." Skittering genius - I love that.

      I so appreciate your perspective, my friend. You're just one of the best people ever.

      Sending heaps of love.

  3. I'm of the mind that if other people look at you (or me or anyone) and judge their productivity by how you look...then they need to get a life.

    Maybe they never even think about it, maybe they do. But our little monkey minds make us THINK that they do...and wow does that make us suffer. I know I could "write a book" on that topic, as no doubt many others could, too.

    To come to this place, to stand on your own two feet, here, as you are, and say that This is the real You...oh, my, this is brave and courageous and rare. Not many get to this sacred place in life.

    But when you do, when others see you get there to that sacred place that holds your precious soul, we notice. And we know then that we can do it, too. All because you keep telling us about this love, this way to love ourselves and be who we really are meant to be.

    1. Ahhh....Deb - that's me sighing a big, big sigh. Do you know how much I appreciate you? You see my courage because you have so much of it yourself, my friend. I am so very grateful that you keep showing up and opening more and more to this love you speak of. There really isn't anything else, is there?

      I'm sending you the warmest hugs today.

      P.S: I'm so happy we got to have that beautiful conversation...

  4. Reading your posts are like reading self-help guides to feeling beautiful and self-fulfilling again. They're lovely.
    How hard it is to remember to love ourselves. I remember back when I first began realizing I had "issues" , I was at a retreat myself. I wasn't even Catholic at the time, but one thing they said that stuck with me was in order to love others, you should love yourself. And I realized in order to forgive others, I had to forgive myself as well--for not being good enough, for making mistakes, whatever it was. It was accepting that I was never going to be perfect that got me through the worst of it.
    I hope that whatever you're going through settles and you continue to feel the peace you have found.

    1. Karin - thank you for these words. You are so thoughtful and generous in the way you show up - your presence is always a treat for me.

      Accepting that there is no such thing as perfect (how boring would perfect be, anyway?) is one important step. I am seeing more and more clearly that, when accepted/embraced, these imperfections of ours very much point to our gifts/our unique genius. I see that the difficulties/challenges we face help us show up in a softer, real-er way. I guess what I'm trying to say is that we don't need to push any of it away, it's ALL here to wake us up, to point us back to what matters most.

      Sending tons of love your way.


What are you thinking/feeling? I'd really love to know...

♥ Julia