When we knew love…

Another last day of February, and with March comes thoughts of my mother, because shamrocks; but of course, then Valentines Day brings her too. (Aren’t shamrocks made of hearts!)

When Casey fell in love with me, I was as I am now. This is who I am, I said. My heart has been broken. I have already loved deeply and lost tragically. I don’t want marriage. I am afraid of surrender. I am on guard. Always.

That seemed okay for him.

“I’m lucky,” I wrote at the end of our first month together, the very first words I wrote to him in a card.

And then I added: “You’re lucky too.”

Maybe he lacked higher expectations. Maybe I did.

Or maybe what we had in common was our sense of Love as something higher.

We had two boys by the time we came upon this tune. It was winter. It was dark. There was darkness inside and between us.

Her. Voice.

The way she says: Pain. Tears. Heart. Met ours. Even our boys wanted to listen again and again.

The forgetting is the hardest part except that in the forgetting we don’t know what we forgot.

The forgetting makes it hurt less. Helps us surrender into day to day life without the extremes of love, promise, passion, wildness, hurt.

But what about these tears? A piece of good music. A painting. A play. A film. A passage. The light. The silence. A certain smile. Even the air.

There must be, beneath memory, beneath thought, beneath recognition even, a deeper current of being, reminding us of what we once knew.

The moment beckons, but we turn away, anesthetized from what it is to be whole.

~

Or maybe that’s too high an expectation.

Maybe showing for these moments is what is most true.

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Two

Orgasms. Are they better shared? And if so, why?

Whenever two or more are gathered…

Certainly, re-creation and pro-creation are holy ground.

God’s recreation of the new day…

Wine. Good food. Laughter. Conversation.

My troubles are halved. My joy doubled…

Is it the same for introverts?

It’s Monday morning, so my attention should be drawn to practical matters, but I’ve been leading three different women’s groups through the second chakra this month so I find myself drawn deeper and deeper into its womb-like center.

How might your life have been different if, deep within you, you carried an image of the Great Mother? And, when things seemed very, very bad, you could imagine that you were sitting in the lap of the Goddess, held tightly… embraced, at last.

These words by Judith Duerk, in her seminal work, Circle of Stones, arrived in my lap as a new mother, seeking the feminine without knowing it, and they return now to remind me to let if flow.

I’ve soaked, I’ve skated, I’ve skied, I’ve played under the covers with the man I first brought home 33 summers ago at the shore.

When that summer ended, I left for the Rockies, a homecoming of sorts, as I had lived there as a kid and had longed to return. Casey came along.

I taught skiing by day and waited tables by night. We made love between jobs.

To say I love you right out loud…

Over a Thanksgiving return to the shore, an elder relative asked, “Are you going to blog about us?”

I paused to consider her concern. Blogging wasn’t on my mind, I assured her.

“If you do want to write something about us one day,” she began, and then she motioned for me to come closer.

As she spoke, I was struck by her tender tone, so in contrast to her natural boisterousness.

What she said could only be spoken by someone who has loved and hated and fought and devoted and drenched 50+ years with the same lover.

Whenever two or more are gathered…

December 8


The hardest part of my birthday isn’t getting older, it’s worrying that I won’t make the most of it.

I love my birthday, and just like Christmas Day, I’m sad to see it end.

The best part is that Casey takes the day off to play with me, offering himself to whatever I conjure.

Even ice skating.
(He’d really rather not.)

Sometimes a day trip.
Often Christmas shopping.
Always an indulgent meal.
(The real reason he’s willing to do everything else.)

I remember the first birthday that I celebrated after my mother died. I turned 37 that year. I woke up and wanted to be alone. I left before the boys were up, and missed the coffee cake that the neighbors brought to share.

I was up before dawn this morning too, and apparently, I left behind some of the facial mask I had applied–a dark crusty clay–circling my right nostril–which I didn’t notice until after we went out to breakfast! (Though apparently, Casey saw it and never thought to say anything.)

Without giving it a thought, I licked my thumb and scrubbed.

And then I smiled.

My mother was the one to wipe spit across my face when I was young, particularly on special occasions.

I found it revolting.

I made sure I never did it to my kids.

“Hi Mom,” I said.

It was such a gift to sense into her touch after all these years.

Another gift of my birthday is that it almost always snows, no matter where I live, but not today, except, I hear, back at the shore where I was born.

Love, the underdog

On the third day, we rose, and resumed “normal” life, having resurrected tenderness with two days of love play which to our surprise included a visit to a widow and kindness toward a stranger; and something else–a new insight into an old question: Why do we always end up in these marginal towns/cities/places? Can’t we imagine/afford/allow more for ourselves?

No doubt the long light of our nuptial month and its thousand shades of green inspired another perspective:

We share a heart for the underdog and for the sense of possibility in fragile places…

like this morning’s bills and the laundry and the neglected lawn.

Devotion & the sea

i couldn’t bear to interrupt their flow to ask for their email to send them the photos i never should have taken… but they nourished my anniversary view as much as the sea beyond them and my beloved’s face beside me… her foot. his hand. their eyes. his leaning in. listening. how she pulled the table as close as possible to the sea. to catch the last kisses of the sun. how her skin had already soaked up the day. how she knew how to love and be loved and how he knew how to give himself to that…

 

looking into the eyes of the one you love…

looking into the eyes of the one you love
the last documented time we (almost) looked each other in the eyes

lately, i’ve noticed how often i go without really looking into my husband’s eyes.
entire days pass with meals prepared and schedules orchestrated and teeth flossed and still i haven’t paused long enough to look into the eyes of the man with whom i spend my days.

sometimes i remember.
i call him back.
we pause.
we really see each other.
we have a moment.

today, after 6 days home together, i see it. his hand. the top of it. i reach out and touch it. it’s magical. like wow. here’s a hand. here’s a whole person who i see every day, but rarely notice.

(2015)

The Weight of Balance

In my mid-twenties, I began to crave balance. I extracted myself from my family of origin; gave up my lifestyle of travel and partying; and settled down with a man, a job and a home.

Despite the absence of my long coveted freedom, I was surprisingly happy; so I went in search of even MORE balance: cleaning up my diet; incorporating regular aerobic activity; guarding my sleep; attending Al-Anon meetings; delving into spiritual texts, and even taking fiber.

While friends and family members suffered lives strewn with chaos, I strode steadily along my neat and narrow road. I was so carefully balanced, that by the time I had kids, I tipped right over.

Children challenge a life reliant on balance. (Duh.) Parenting by nature inhabits a world of extremes. The most vigilant of those among us, however, will keep at it. We’ll institute feeding schedules, bedtimes, chores and limits. We’ll carefully carve out our own time to force our lives back into balance–like shoving feet back into a pair of pumps at the tail end of a wedding reception.

Yoga provides a quick fix. An hour on the mat, and even the most harried parent will find that sweet gift of “equanimity.”

I love that word. It represents everything that is perfect about balance. But don’t expect it to last. The moment you re-enter family life, you’re knocked on your ass.

Until you stop trying.

In his book, The Three Marriages–Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship, author and poet David Whyte claims that “Poets have never used the word balance. It is too obvious and therefore untrustworthy… and seems to speak as much as to being stuck and immovable.”

Whyte suggests that balance is overrated and self-defeating, often leaving people feeling frustrated and exhausted.

This makes me think of the difference between my two favorite yoga teachers–the one who came before my children, and the one who came after.  I’m forever grateful to Ann for forcing me out of my mind at a time when it defined me, but my current teacher, Scott, is a better fit for my life now.

His approach is ecclectic, incorporating silence and silliness, focus and distraction, chanting and Stevie Ray Vaughan.  Scott encourages us to do a pose “our” way. He reminds us to go to the “steady edge” of our own stretch. He asks us to breathe “santosha” (contentment) into each pose as we express it, no matter how it looks.

I can bring my “whole” imperfect self to Scott’s class, and this resonates well with David Whyte’s advice about integrating work and family and self:  “Separating these aspects from each other in order to balance one against the other serves to destroy the fabric of happiness itself.”

Whyte emphasizes the integral connection between the core commitments of our lives, telling readers to “stop trying to work harder in each of the marriages and start to concentrate on the conversation that holds them together.”

This reminds of the unique way that Scott leads the class through balancing poses. First of all, he guides us to use the wall for support, and then he tells us to let the “falling” out of the pose be a part of its full expression.

Whyte claims that this sense of “unbalancing” must take place in life in order to push us into a new and larger sets of circumstances.

Does this sound scary to anyone else? Especially to those of us who have held our lives together with a fierce commitment to balance?

“Get out of the dynamics of self-entrapment,” says Whyte, “and fall in love–with a person, a future, a work, or with a new sense of self.”

This is the fragile place of imbalance and expansion where I find myself now.

On a recent trip to Chile with my new job, I discover that I can survive without sleep, that I can navigate unknowns in a foreign country (five-thousand miles away from my family), and that I can drink wine with every meal and still be productive.

This experience of freedom from balance allowed me to say yes to the idea of celebrating my  21st wedding anniversary with a large party shortly after I arrived back home.

When the week before the event was loaded up at work, I held onto my new found sense of freedom from balance; and when I was completely tipped over by the news that my date didn’t fit  into the calenders of my precious out of town friends and family, I challenged myself to breathe santosha (contentment) into my choice no matter how it looked.

Dozens of local friends joined us for an evening of celebration, but none needed the space we rented for overnight guests so we decided we’d use the space ourselves.

“Why would you sleep on camp bunk beds when you could go home and be in your own bed right across the road?” my sister asked.  I’m not sure she’d understand if I said: freedom.

I lay there on that thin cot into the wee hours of the night, with the rocking and squeaking of the metal frame, acutely aware at how I had chosen passion over balance again and again, even in this small way.

I woke weary and eager to see how this willingness to “fall” might expand the conversation of my life even further.

I thought back to the anniversary ceremony that my husband and I included in our celebration.  We decided against the traditional “renewal of vows” in favor of an impromptu honoring of each other.

21 years earlier, we stood on a carpeted altar, face to face, holding hands, repeating words from a minister.  Now we stood apart, among friends, flanking a camp stage like opposite pillars of strength.

From that unplanned distance, we spoke words of respect and appreciation and love–a conversation that wove our hearts and our witnesses together.

The next morning, after we finished cleaning up the camp, we danced to our wedding song that we had neglected to play the night before.

Casey drove the first of our cars across the road while I walked home alone.

When he returned by foot to fetch the remaining vehicle, we arrived at opposite sides of the pond at the same moment.

Immediately, I saw us in the roles of the story he’d shared during his honoring of me. It was a lovers myth with the God Shiva and the Goddess Parvati. They too went off on their own to nurture their strengths and visions, and then joined together for a thousand years in “love play.”

As Casey stopped to visit with a neighbor who passed him on the road, I crouched down to dip my fingers into the cool spring waters of the pond and dab them on my third eye. As he finished up the conversation, we each stepped up onto the dock that spanned the pond and walked toward the other.

Half-way across, we met at the damn, where the waters rushed into the stream, heavy from a week of constant rain.  We shared a final celebration embrace, and then continued on our separate ways.

There was a time when our fierce dependence on balance demanded that Casey and I choose the safety of togetherness over the risk of differentiation; But we’ve discarded the weight of that balance in return for a thousand years of love play.

Kelly Salasin, May 22, 2011

The Three Marriages, David Whyte, Riverhead Books, 2009.

For more information about Scott Willis and Hit the Spot Yoga, click here.

The Taste of True Love

Anniversary celebrations, particularly at this stage of the game, traditionally include a “renewal of vows” –but if you’ve been following this blog, you already know that I don’t believe in them; which raises the question–What do I believe in?

Dissing vows or admitting that I don’t put much stock in: “till death do us part,” probably doesn’t give a full enough picture of how important this relationship is to me–nor  does it reveal how hard I work to protect it. As a lifelong educator, the least I could do is to offer whatever wisdom I’ve gleaned from a relationship that’s been allowed to thrive for 25 years.

I touched on this with a fellow American, as we walked through the streets of Santiago last month. Noah talked about open relationships–and swapping, and I talked about fidelity.

“It’s not that I think that there is something inherently wrong with the way you see it,” I say, to my young American friend.  In fact, I appreciate the transparency of Noah’s generation. “Back in my day, we just cheated on each other, while pretending that we were ready for commitment.”

“When you have kids, the cost is greater,” I explain, referencing friends whose marriages fell apart after swapping; or whose relationship survived, but suffered root-deep damage.

A sobering silence follows. Noah and I both share the history of a “broken” family.

We pause at a playground on the hillside of Saint Lucia. I explain to Noah that Casey and I don’t stay together for the kids, but that we are extra careful because of them. He climbs atop an intricate metal structure, as I talk about the preciousness and weight of parental responsibility–while considering that this playground would be an insurance nightmare in the States.

Noah motions to me to join him on a long, wooden seesaw.

“That doesn’t mean our world revolves around the kids or that we don’t take risks,” I tell him, as he raises me precariously into the air. “Casey and I are committed to having lives that are alive,”  I say, “He took off for a month last summer to study yoga, and I did something similar a few years before that.”

It was after the birth of our second son that Casey and I realized that we were both holding back in some subconscious attempt to maintain the stability of “equal deprivation.”  We decided then and there that we wouldn’t survive this way–so we gave each other permission to act on behalf of our selves–even if left the “other” behind for a bit. There was a great deal of vulnerability in that decision, but ultimately it brought new life to the relationship.

When you spend an entire day with a man you hardly know, these are the kind of conversations you  have as you walk along the river in a foreign city past lovers lying in the grass.

The topic returns to sex.

“One surprise is that it keeps getting better,” I say. The same is true for another friend of mine from school who has been married longer than me, and who was just as much a “player” as I was back in the day.

“There’s a gift that comes from commitment, from fidelity, that draws lovemaking from an even deeper source,” I tell Noah.  “It’s not something than can be artificially stimulated by the titillating experience of swapping–or by pornography.”

I launch into my organic sex soapbox; and Noah politely listens.  College students “living life” suffer enough lectures from middle-aged professors “about” life, without having to endure another from a friend of their mother’s; but I’m on a roll…

It’s really hard to capture how loosely and how carefully Casey and I hold this gift of our relationship. We certainly don’t pretend we aren’t attracted to others. We’ve always known that each of us is susceptible to falling in love–or lust–with someone else. We’re pretty honest about the close calls. We’re in this together, and we remind each other of that.

After 25 years, I think Casey would be really happy with a long-legged brunette with silky hair who rides horses and has a barn and who challenges him–on the outside.

Instead, he’s got this curvy, curly-haired petite woman who regularly has him traversing the inner landscape of just about everything, whether he wants to or not.

Today, it’s Noah who’s traversing, and he redirects the strength of current with a “Terre Mote,” a famous Chilean drink, appropriately named, “Earthquake.”  A third of the way down, Noah’s voice gets louder, and mine softens into the sweet memory of the youthful abandon I see everywhere around me in this outdoor bar.  By the time night falls in Santiago, and Noah and I return to Nunoa to eat Egyptian food with our hands. I am too tired to talk, and my thoughts turn inward.

The love my husband and I share is so strong that it increasingly has us placing each other’s happiness above our own comfort–even 5,000 miles away, when I’m sleeping in another man’s apartment–a Chilean colleague who I described via email to my husband as “gorgeous.” Granted “Pablo” is away for the weekend, which is why he lent me his place, but that doesn’t stop Casey from slipping into a well of self-doubt on the opposite continent. Casey didn’t realy his angst, however, because he appreciated how VITAL  it was for me to find myself “free” in the world again.

When I return home to the States two weeks later, I laugh when he shares what he put himself through, and then exhale, as he wraps his arms around me and reclaims me as his own.

There was a time when I would have loved to have “collected” another experience–a swarthy Chilean man, for example; but that fleeting pleasure has become “too” sweet for my taste, which has grown much finer.

Kelly Salasin, May 19, 2011

On my 21st Wedding Anniversary

In Your Eyes

The simple phrase “in your eyes” immediately brings forth the chorus of a Peter Gabriel song.

Almost simultaneously, I see an image of a young John Cusack (aka. “Lloyd Dobler”) standing outside the window of his ex-girlfriend’s bedroom in the wee hours of the morning with a boom box overhead.

In your eyes–the light, the heat.  In your eyes–I am complete.   In your eyes–I see the doorway.  In your eyes–to a thousand churches.  In your eyes–the resolution.  In your eyes–of all the fruitless searches.

My husband and I named our first son after this character in Say Anything.   And the poster of that now iconic scene hangs in our 14 year old’s room–a recent gift from one of my old highschool friends–who was there when I first fell in love.

In fact, it was Lou Ann, almost 25 years ago,  who completed the realization of my feelings for Casey after I tenuously began, “I think I…”

Love him?” she asked, with a smile.

And I did.

But unlike Lloyd Dobler and his heart throb, there were no sharp moments of pain for Casey and me.  Our relationship unfolded easily without the dramatic edges of a coming-of-age romance.

It was during my own highschool years, long before I met my husband, that I fell in love for the first time .  And it was in “his” eyes that first I learned about passion and devotion and ecstasy.

Shortly after I graduated however, my parents marriage ended, and then so did my relationship.  Thus, it was a broken-hearted me and a much wiser one who fell in love with Casey.

This made for a good choice in a mate as I can affirm over two decades later, but it also meant that I guarded my heart more closely.  Until now.

…so much wasted and this moment keeps slipping away
I get so tired of working so hard for our survival
I look to the time with you to keep me awake and alive

Last weekend, Casey made a surprise visit home from Kripalu where he is studying to be a yoga teacher in a month-long intensive.  His was a short 18 hour stay, and our house was filled with company–but we found time to make love–and it was the first time–ever–that I looked into his eyes at that most tenderest of moments–fixing my gaze.

…and all my instincts, they return
and the grand facade, so soon will burn
without a noise, without my pride
I reach out from the inside…

Funny to think that there was still some of my heart left to give after so very long together.

But there was.

And I did.

…in your eyes
I see the light and the heat
in your eyes
I want to be that complete
I want to touch the light,
the heat I see

in your eyes

Kelly Salasin, June 2010


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