The foothills of the mountains of Afghanistan, near Tora Bora. This is where I will fall in love. Forever.
One year ago I embarked on a cleanse of sorts – no caffeine, wine or chocolate. All three have since seeped back into my life, although the wine was replaced by Prosecco. Back then I meditated at night, got to bed early, woke up at sunrise feeling rejuvenated, not groggy. I recall driving along the 1, heading north to get The Dudes one afternoon and feeling for the first time what it means to be high on life. Truly high. Filled with effervescent joy. Brimming with hope. Certain that I could create magic at will. Not due to some outside force but solely from the well within.
I noticed a few weeks ago that I’m not naturally feeling that way these days. I feel more like overcooked oatmeal. Sluggish. All mushed together. Unsure of where I am in my quest. What was my quest again?
See what I mean?
And there’s no good reason why. I have to deal with some unfortunate bulls…tuff, but nothing like the Pocket Call or the subsequent bullying and lying and emotional abuse. Yes, I miss my Mom, but I’m so grateful to have had her in my life for as long as I did. The Dudes are blooming and so affectionate and supportive. I’ve got more architects to date than I can hit with a drafting table. One in particular who seems to be a perfect foil for a light-hearted (if I can lighten my heart) summer romance.
So, what gives?
I’m not grounded.
The Ego has worked its way back in to my life. I’m thinking more and therefor feeling less. My heart is on guard. Actually, my heart has kind of gone numb. My body feels directionless. I’m great at pretending – casual dates, playful afternoons with The Dudes spent swimming with seals and bodysurfing, collecting Velella Velella jelly fish and watching Pelicans skim the water, swoop up on an invisible wind ,and then beak-dive deep into the ocean to snatch a snack.
But something is off.
Perhaps it’s the result of that potent cocktail that was Mr. Perfect Timing and my Mom’s death. Maybe it’s knowing that I have to go to court to justify why my former spouse should pay the support he agreed to nine months ago. Then I start thinking things like, My God, what the hell was I thinking marrying him?!
That’s not where I want to be going these days. Negative thoughts like that take up twice as much space as beautiful, powerful, positive ones. Kind of like how fat takes up twice as much space as muscle. I operate better when lean. Getting rid of negative thoughts, defragging my brain, cleansing my spirit, frees me up to SEE. Lately my eyes have been closed.
I’ve been feeling like it’s crucial to get to the bottom of this unsettled feeling really freaking fast, which doesn’t exactly lend itself to quiet contemplation. After a dry spell with signs, things started to pick up in the last few weeks.
First the subcutaneous hematomas which said, Grow some balls, Cleo!
Then a coyote poops in the middle of the road in broad daylight as I’m barreling toward it. Hmmm…be more playful with where I relieve myself? Nah. More bathroom humor? That can’t be it! Expect the unexpected? Kind of good at that now. Rid myself of unwanted toxins – now you’re talking! But what he’s really saying is, Play in traffic so that you may teach others how to avoid being run over. Be patient, yet persistent. Take risks and care not what others think of you. (Especially those who betray you. As Mom would often say, Consider the source.)
A seal pops up out of the ocean 10 feet from the Tall Dude and me. He bobs in the water, looking directly at me with immense eyes that ooze love, play, curiosity. His face a beautiful gray, whiskered and full. Just the kind of face you want to grasp in your hands, lift to the sky and plant a kiss on the most perfectly sweet and salty wet nose. He says, Focus your imagination, get out of the hardscape that is the 3D and go to the fluid space you once occupied. Listen to your inner self (not the EGO!) and balance your life to it.
Then four spider bites on my forehead. That means either (A) clean your room, or (B) don’t fear that you aren’t talented enough to write Mina’s story. I cleaned my room after the fifth bite. Directly on my right eyelid. Hard to SEE the signs when one eye is sealed shut.
Mina is so very different from me. Not just because she is from Afghanistan. Or that she has silky brown eyes and painted nails. She is older by five years and wiser one-hundred fold. She hasn’t experienced divorce. And I haven’t experienced murder. She is a mother to villages and warriors and orphans and three children. I am a mother to The Dudes. It would seem the only thing we have in common is the desire to tell her story.
It would seem…
But we’ve both been betrayed. And we’ve both been in dangerous places. In those instances our reactions were identical – we’ve coined a phrase to describe our reaction when pushed to the wall: Cowboy Confidence. I’ve nicknamed her The Lone Ranger.
Cowboy Confidence is what propelled me through the first year post Pocket Call. That whole Make infidelity and divorce the best thing that ever happened to me mantra. It worked like a match to gas, fueling me. The first several months were about mentally and emotionally surviving infidelity through physical and spiritual conditioning. Then I needed to carve out my own little place in the world, leading me to Bolinas. It was while living here that I officially divorced (and naively expected the MSA (marital settlement agreement) to be a binding document). It was here, on the Calmmune, that I got the news that my Mom died.
…move across the country, discover infidelity, move again, get divorced, bury my Mom…
I think I’ve nailed all the hardest things ever to deal with…oh, wait! Change jobs.
Writing HGM has been the absolute best gig ever, the one that paid the most dividends. It healed me. I’ve never felt so cared for. Shared so much laughter and tears with many I’ve never met. Touched by your kindness. Set straight with your tough love. Encouraged. Inspired. And helped in a myriad of ways. It brought me closer to my Mom than I thought possible. It helped thousands of people navigate their own path through these painful experiences.
In the midst of total upheaval I managed to find my sweet spot writing my way through infidelity and divorce and discovering my journey, the one I created before I ever set foot on the planet. I discovered the power of paying attention to signs – the messages sent by animals to those spoken through the words from a child’s mouth.
The day after watching The Stoning of Soraya M., I went to pick up The Dudes. As I wrote in the last post, I was an emotional mess. While her experience was unimaginable and horrific, and mine was merely devastating, in her eyes I saw things that I felt. Stunned by the magnitude of betrayal, floored by the willingness of others to ignore morals and justify deceit to satisfy the needs of the Ego, and the shock of having one’s free will seized in order for another to fulfill desires, regardless of the consequences, karmic and otherwise. Her story splayed me open, releasing emotions that I have spent time with, bid farewell to, but the pain lingers so I will never forget how it felt to be betrayed. Those feelings overwhelmed me.
I hid behind sunglasses and wrapped my arms around The Dudes as we walked to the car. The Little Dude scampered – that is so how he moves – to his side. The Tall Dude stopped me and gave me a hug. Then he looked at me and said, Mama, I’m so glad I’m a child.
I was taken aback by his words. Why do you say that, honey?
I don’t know. I’m just glad.
I thought of Soroya M’s boys being forced to throw stones at her head as she was buried up to her waist, guilty of nothing other than dealing with an immature and narcissistic man. How they didn’t get to have a childhood. More tears, which I tried to conceal.
Later, at the gym, I climbed on the elliptical wishing I had a mountain to train for to ground me. A summit to beckon me. In my hand was a TIME magazine I grabbed, because frying my brain on all things Kardashian in the various STAR! PEOPLE! US! rags just doesn’t captivate me. And to endure a session on the elliptical with no mountain in sight requires something enthralling. It was only when I tossed it up on the narrow shelf of the machine that I saw the cover.
One word: RAPE.
The issue was from May 26th, weeks old. Never saw it in the magazine rack before. Haven’t read a TIME magazine in years. Totally knew it would have reached out and smacked me across the face had I not grabbed it that day.
I started paging through and came to an article about the girls who were kidnapped in Nigeria. I knew the basic details of the story, heard the updates on NPR, but for the last few years I’ve made a point of not getting too deep into world affairs. I just didn’t have the stomach for it. My heart was already shredded.
The words bobbed up and down with each thrust on the machine – kidnapped in the middle of the night by a group that calls itself Boko Haram, meaning Western education is a sin, they’ll be sold as slaves or sold into marriage, and their crime was being at school when they should have gotten married instead.
Wow. Hate on the progress of women much, guys? Fear the feminine?
In between sweating profusely and choking back tears, I skimmed the article through steamed up reading glasses while bouncing. Some words escaped me. The ideas presented did not. Crimes against women are escalating, slavery is a big business, others will be kidnapped. How can they get an education if they can’t attend school without fearing attacks? I thought of Mina. She faced fear in the name of education head on and won.
I skipped over a few paragraphs, sweat was in the way. A woman was quoted saying that the kidnapping was further proof that there is a “global assault” on women, more heartbreaking details of the kidnapping, fears that they will be forgotten as the world turns its attention to other areas in crisis.
Barbie with Brains’ words came to me – I am so glad I am American. Tears. And then the feeling that I absolutely have to do something.
Then the Tall Dude’s words nearly knocked me off the elliptical. Mama, I’m so glad I’m a child.
He saw my sadness and intuitively knew it had to do with grown up hurt.
And the message he sent me was, Not all children are so fortunate to be able to celebrate their childhood.
This time the tears raged behind my lids closed to prevent their escape. Ten minutes to go on the workout and two paragraphs. I wiped the tears away and refocused on the article. That’s when I saw the name of the woman quoted earlier in the piece.
Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe. Not Sister Rosemary Smith. Or Jones. Or Thompson. No. Sister Rosemary Nyirumbe. Out of all the religious names she could have picked, including those from her homeland, she picked the same name as my Mom.
My Mom was a devoted Catholic. After my Dad died and life began to move forward, she received a call from the convent to ask her to come for a visit. We were all certain they were going to ask her to become a nun. It wasn’t the first time we called her Sister Rosemary, or my favorite, Sister Mary Rosemary. But after that visit the name stuck, along with all her other nicknames. While they didn’t outright invite her, the idea was floated. She declined. Hard to go crazy on a hundred oysters and a few bottles of champagne with that outfit on!
I had been wondering when she was going to make her presence felt to me. The rose petals on Limantour was the first sign, but my siblings were inundated with delicate kisses from the afterlife near daily. Well, this was no kiss but a call to action.
And I better start paying attention or more subcutaneous hematomas are sure to come. And spider bites.
I need to ground myself. And focus. I have a story to tell. And when we get to the end, Mina and I will realize a dream we did not know we shared until last week: to open an orphanage in Afghanistan. Near Tora Bora. At the base of a beautiful mountain. So we can give love, and feel that rush that comes from stepping out of the comfort zone and into the magic zone. The rush that I get when I’m high up on a mountain or far away from land in deep water.
An orphanage just like the one Sister Rosemary built in Uganda.
I’ve got a mountain to train for, but it’s not about climbing it. It’s about building at its base a safe haven where children can be children, and Mina and I can love them unconditionally.
Holy crazy journey. You NEVER know where divorce will take you. Be courageous with me. Get on your Cowboy Confidence. Flick off those who want to derail you.
Do this with me.
Tomorrow I begin a new ritual. Hike to Commonweal and meditate in the cabin on the water’s edge. I’m going to find Mom there. I know it. And she is going to lead the way as I write the prologue to Mina’s story and head off on a journey I never dreamed I’d experience.