Word Winding

attempting to spin cacophony into sanity

Archive for the category “Mere Existence”

Looseleaf Serenity

This gap between the holidays and New Year’s is the epitome of serenity.

2017 is gone. 2018 has yet to begin.

It is a quiet time, but not a passive one.

I hold in one hand last year’s dented, grubby nub of a pencil, dull, cracked point leading directly into the faintest glimmer of an eraser. In the other, my fingers tentatively trace along a luxurious expanse of unblemished yellow, buttery pink, glistening silver. Waiting to write the first imperfections, the first aching, beautiful truths.

How I reflect on the past year determines the shape it will stamp out for itself in my memory before nestling down like a sleeping moose. How well I learn its lessons and shed its lingering does-not-serves determines the reception I will give whatever enters stage left.

This week feels out of time, like a blank sheet of looseleaf inserted between two chapters, but like any moment it has the power to alter all that came before and all that follows.



The year feels aged yet spry in October. An unapologetically sharp cheese, it’s been around awhile and packs a punch.

My mind always dives eagerly into leaf-piles as Halloween approaches. Childhood costumes, lovingly handmade, worn crunching through maple discards. High school shenanigans on playgrounds after dark. My first autumn of college, watching absurdly awful horror flicks far past midnight, the man who would become my husband tugging my leg as it dangled off the top bunk in an attempt to maximize the movie’s affect. Scuffing through Harvard Square with my head pounding out a complex rhythmic counterpoint to my footsteps. Counting cats with my wee little firstborn Owlet as we took our routine twilight walks.

It is strange and lovely to summon those ghosts in their exuberant youth and stretch the ribbons of their lives from there to here, where I sit, gratuitously treasuring my choice of life partner in haiku:

Love, I would know you
In a crowd of a million
From your steady heart

Your capable hands
In music and in woodcraft
Equally well versed

Your mischievous laugh
Igniting the brightest blue
Starlight of your eyes.

Thor just finished building me these surpassingly amazing benches for my teaching studio. Aren’t they lovely?

Feelings (nothing more than…)

Is it possible to be steadier and more volatile at the same time?

Apparently, yes.

I’ve been hitting vivid highs and lows on a regular basis lately, often within a single week. My heart is hanging out there, flapping in the breeze, and that means…


(Cue earworm.)

And yet, I am stable. I am centered as my life careens along exploring uncharted territory. My moods dance across the floor tile pages of my calendar and I willingly embrace them, but as seamlessly as we waltz, I know I am leading, not they. In fact, the frequency with which they flicker is driving home the point I have known intellectually for a long while but am only beginning to use as a cornerstone for my day-to-day operating system: I am not my emotions.

I am not my emotions. And really entering into the truth of that statement somehow makes it easier to experience them fully, to revel in the incredible roller-coaster pull of them, knowing that centripetal force is my utterly dependable friend, keeping me tethered no matter how tempestuously I whirl around. Knowing that in a few minutes the ride will lurch to a stop, the clattering will cease, my vision will sharpen, and I will toddle off on trembling knees to wait in line at the next big adventure.

Vulnerable and precarious and stable. Catching my breath and then diving right back in.

That’s my new normal.


Farewell to Gemini

I was a touch melancholy today, and it took Rapunzel about 30 seconds (over the phone, while driving, even — she is good) to figure out why for me:

My sister Gemini headed back to China yesterday. And I miss her.

She has been teaching in Shanghai for the past school year, and is under contract for another year with an inclination toward staying longer than that.

It’s hard having her live so far away, in a time zone not conducive to skyping. Once I dismantled the emotional barricade of missing her, however, I was left with a swell of gratitude.

I am so lucky to have her for a sister. Despite being very different from me externally, in both personality and lifestyle (she is lively, extroverted, an incorrigible shopper, usually surrounded by heaps of friends, has neither spouse nor kids, etc. etc.), when we make the time to talk, we land on the same page with very little effort. She is a deep and unconventional thinker who asks the right sort of questions, and although she can chatter up a storm when she wants to, she listens well, too. The stories of our childhood, and the mother we lost, are alive in one another, and just being together recharges them, even when they are not actively being recalled.

It is a nice memory I have now, from the other night: me perched on the bed, her nestled into the chair, our eyes sparkling with laughter in the lamplight. Swapping stories from the past year, unraveling who we each have become, and are becoming.

Mom would be proud. I know I am.



My whole self

“I always felt that my speaking words was inadequate. When I was able to write words down, I could put them in order and make them say what I wanted to say better than when I spoke them. Saying words was the hardest thing, writing them down was better, but singing words I’d written down was the best thing. The words combine with the music and I felt I was able to express my whole self.”

— John Gorka

I have begun writing songs singer-songwriter style. It suits this place in which I’ve found myself. I wrote a handful of songs in college, none of them stellar, and two between then and now which I know I loved but cannot remember well enough to play, possibly because I was so lacking in confidence in my vocal abilities that I insisted Thor sing them instead of me. They are archived somewhere. I will dig them out eventually.

The new ones are just right. I don’t even care if anyone beyond my immediate circle ever hears them. The process of writing and playing and singing is enough.

I like the immediacy of it. The ease with which I can put it down and return, unlike composing a more complex piece or something for a larger ensemble. I like that I don’t need to obtain outside help; I even like the challenge of working with my own hands and voice, their quirks and limitations acting as my guide, though if the music demands that they be pushed then push them I do.

Just a moment ago I found myself full of doubt, fearing I was not truly growing. Sometimes growth feels dubious, enigmatic, impermanent. But as I sat down to play a song I’ve been wrestling with, it occurred to me — when looking for progress, it can help to feel the absences. The loss of negatives, sloughed off like dead skin.

I no longer feel stagnant. I no longer wish I had time and energy to pursue the things I love because I am now. I no longer languish on the couch every night watching tv and snacking endlessly (although I did both last night, and it was nice, but only like a place I enjoy visiting occasionally).

And most importantly, I no longer feel disconnected, like a piece of me is lost, or missing, or buried.

I feel whole.

I feel present.


Video killed the radio star and then the internet frankensteined it back

In other words, I was on the radio today discussing teaching and learning with my student, who just so happens to channel a wise collection of entities known as Eloheim. Check it out!


And a gratuitous photo of Owlet.



The kids are asleep, email and Facebook checked, Thor is at work, and I am out of ways to postpone feeling out of sorts.

I’ve been coming alive this year in remarkable, beautiful ways. But the side effect is that I am no longer so easily pacified. I’ve rejected the usual grammes of soma or “happy happy” patches or whatever your favorite nerdy reference is for hiding from darker feelings; which is to say, I am no longer satisfied to eat or imbibe or media conk or even read this restlessness away.

So I just simmer in it. Play a little music, draw some, write a few words. Sit and leave the room for no known reason and then sit again. Uncomfortable, yet preferring the current dissonance to the even-temperament of the past. Knowing I am just paying the bill for sharpening my ability to live and love and grow.

Last time I felt like this, I wrote a poem. Tonight with luck maybe I’ll get there, but for now, I’ll just have to squirm like an skewered insect specimen until the mood passes.

I sure am proud of the way my self-patience has grown lately. I am able to sit consciously through emotional waiting rooms I never would have set foot in before.

Anyway, here I am, for now. Achieving balance as best I can.



I’m stealing just the first sentence of Victoria’s recent Facebook post because it is perfect:

“Before Pride month is over, I just want to make sure everyone knows that I’m not straight.”

What am I, then?

Because obviously I am married to a man and I love him and we have kids.

Which is kind of like being inadvertently closeted. Because while I am not ashamed of who I am, it just doesn’t come up in conversation now as often as it did in college.

So what am I?

All my life, I have been attracted to individual people.


(This is from a sticker you can buy here.)

Many would label a statement like this bisexual. Some call it pansexual to make sure all possible gender identifications are included.

Personally, I think it should be everyone’s default assumption about others. Because it sort of covers all the bases.

Not to mention it covers that tricky concept that one is NOT attracted to all members of a particular gender, no matter what one’s declared orientation may be. Put me in a room of 100 people and I’m only going to be even remotely attracted to a handful. Let me actually have a conversation with each of those few and the odds I would even consider a first date with one of them are slim.

Not to mention the additional crucial fact of fidelity. Bi/pansexuality sometimes gets a bad rap because people assume it means you are sleeping with “everyone.” People are entitled to make their own rules about monogamy vs. polygamy, but for me, when I am with someone, I am with them exclusively. That means that since I am married to a man I am indistinguishable from a married straight woman who shares my views on fidelity.

Until I post about it on my blog, that is. Haha.

Tucking in Stray Thoughts

I was unbegrudgingly late to yoga today and was rewarded with a bit of insight.

I was late because Owlet appeared inside with a mildly bloody finger just as I was about to leave. Thor was with Platypup outside and would have handled it for me, but she would’ve gotten upset at the delay in bandaging.

I didn’t hesitate, or feel overly stressed about being late. I took exactly the right amount of time to hug, wash wound, apply ointment, wrap bandaid and tape, and say a slightly hurried goodbye, and then I left. I didn’t speed on the way there or feel my body contort with tension. I sang gustily to myself in the car, as is my habit these days, parked with the usual care, walked briskly but not urgently, and arrived roughly ten minutes late, with just enough time to set up and settle in before the opening meditation period ended.

This is far from the way things might have gone. More often than not I would have shunted Owlet onto Thor, she would have cried, and I would have left feeling both annoyed and guilty only to discover that I was also running late. Hopefully I would have resisted the urge to speed too much, but would definitely have hunched forward in my seat with too-tight limbs and a furrowed brow, parked in a rush, run across the street, and awkwardly whispered a flustered apology in the teacher’s general direction as I shuffled in, out of breath and clumsy with stress.

It would have taken half the class just to unravel the morning’s damage.

Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to discover my flexibility, strength, and mental focus had all mysteriously improved since my last class several weeks ago.

At what felt like just the right time, we concluded the active portion of class and submerged into yoga nidra. Usually when I meditate I treat thoughts as gnats, mostly to be ignored, the more persistent ones brushed gently away. Sometimes I let my mind ramble a bit first, recognizing that my time for lucid uninterrupted thought can be in short supply. I almost always eventually coax a sweet, elusive stillness into joining me.

I was alternating between periods of gnat-swatting, stillness, and mind-rambling when I found myself mulling over a parenting gem I keep as close to the top of the heap as possible since I would very much like it to one day be second nature. It is the best (though oh so hard in the heat of the moment) way I know to respond to a child spiraling out of control: namely, to articulate your best guess as to how they are feeling. Every time I do it, I am sure it isn’t going to work, because the kid usually ramps up their upset in response, but immediately thereafter a corner is turned and soothing toward equilibrium is magically possible. Because more than anything we all just want to be understood.

All in a moment I realized: this is a way to approach meditation.

When a thought appears, I could shoo it away, or allow it to tumble into a horde of ideas running rampant through my restless mind.

Or I could truly see that thought, describe it briefly to itself, and then smooth it effortlessly back into stillness.

It shouldn’t work. Engaging the idea in any way should lead to the usual endless chain of follow-up, right? But something about the act of succinctly rephrasing… It just so satisfyingly works.

It works so well I can’t even remember what those stray thoughts were, and usually I do because I figure if it was important enough to interrupt my meditation attempt it deserves attention later (again, not unlike a child).

The process goes something like this. Let’s say I am distracted by lesson planning. I then say to myself, quite gently, “I am concerned about issue &$@ with student XYZ.” And that finishs it. And my mind is left utterly clear.

Like working a stray piece of yarn seamlessly into the pattern, then setting the completed garment aside.

No. Easier than that. Faster, too… I do so hate the tedium of weaving in ends.

More like tucking in the tail of a ball of yarn: one quick move and no more unraveling.


Identity Nude

How do you define yourself to the world? In what identities do you clothe yourself? Which are easily removable and which are your version of Tobias Fünke’s “never nude?”

Job, family, politics, hobbies, sexual orientation, religion, pets, parenting practices, food preferences, socioeconomic status… Sometimes we drape our personal collection of silks with an alluringly eclectic beauty. Sometimes we arrange them in a way that proudly proclaims our super-uniqueness to any who will look. Sometimes we cling in vain to these shawls wrapped around us as they droop and bunch and threaten to fly away altogether.

It can be tempting to spread one identity out over all the others, obscuring them from view. Even more tempting is the urge to lift one off of someone else walking by.

Mighty difficult it is to tease just one particular facet of identity apart from the rest to change it for another or discard it altogether. Sometimes all the others are snagged along, too, forever altered.

I have my own adornment of veils, of course.

But I’d always rather leave it behind and walk unencumbered under the sun and moon to stand, just me. To meet, just you.


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