Without guile

It’s fair to say that life since returning to Portland has felt like a bit of a test.

Do we want to be here?
Are we happy?
Is this meant for us?

These are deeply personal questions.  And while I ask them of myself, we also explore this somewhat endlessly between us.  On drives.  In quiet moments, or busy days, before coffee and after beers.  Often in hushed tones or private moments because we agree that the process is personal.

Staying in touch with our own feelings on the matter is task enough.

To compound the feeling, we’ve been planning our nuptials and that involves a metric ton of decision making, follow through, organization, patience, communication, and money.  Mix in there some pretty heavy grief on both of our parts, the stress of demanding jobs, an unusually long, grey winter, and an unforeseen housemate all summer long.

To say that I’m looking forward to the future is an understatement.

I can’t wait for this wedding.  I can’t wait for married life!  I can’t wait to take some time away from it all, just the two of us, without any wedding planning.  But in the meantime …

From April 6-August 25 2017, Saturn has been retrograde in Sagittarius.  Sarah Varcas, brilliant intuitive astrologer, put it this way:

We must now face without guile the impact of who we once were.  Saturn retrograde offers an opportunity to process the experiences and insights since its arrival in Sagittarius in September 2015. Cast your mind back and reflect upon all that has happened since then: changes welcome and otherwise, shocks and surprises, the new that arrived, the old that left and those things which seem forever intransigent! Saturn speaks most deeply about the latter now [the forever intransigent], revealing why we struggle to change unhelpful habits, get a grip of negative behaviours or marshal our inner resources in a constructive way. In doing so it reveals exactly what we must sacrifice to be free; where we bind our self to a comfortable status quo that keeps us safe.

Y’know, in all of the reading I’ve done before now on this theme (facing shadow, going into shadow, facing without guile, etc.), I subtly, as if by default, assumed that this required bravery.  A kind of warrior bravery.  Like slaying some sort of dragon.

But I don’t think it’s that at all.  I think instead, it’s been the opposite.  Dropping in.  Enter softly.  Just looking.  Offering softness.  Saying: I have room for you. I love you. I’m sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.

This is ho’oponopono.

Over the last few months, I’ve done a ton of releasing.  Made offerings.  Let it go.

In some ways, it was easier when I was elsewhere: I felt less accountability while I lived abroad. I held fewer feelings of obligation (which weigh everything down).  In Portland I feel some responsibility to maintain relationships to people and places and versions of myself.

But it has occurred to me that being who you are now while you’re away from home is a different bag than being who you are now while you’re at home.  Home knows you as you were.  Home holds our past and our future at the same time.

If I took a poll of how people reconcile their present selves with where they’ve come from, it seems like the goal is reintegration — but that concept presupposes separation.  I think for me, living at home in the present is more like the practice of being in two separate moments in time at once.  There’s me, and there’s me again.  There’s me (the hurt version).  There’s me (the healed version).

There’s something about the dry grass at this time of year that reminds me of other chapters.  Empty schoolyards at Main.  The field behind FCHS.  Living on 64th.  These last days of August, when the light is golden. I’m amazed to think of all the Augusts that have come before; those lazy, long days.  The summer we take for granted.  The one that ends and suddenly we find ourselves in September, thinking about apples.




I told her:  “I know at the core of being that I am enough.  That is not my issue.  I get that there are a whole bunch of people who struggle to feel like they are enough, but that is not my thing.  When I say, ‘I am enough,’ I get only positive resonance from my entire system, up and down.”

She said:  ” Repeat after me:  I do enough. ”

That, I felt inside, provoked a different sensation.

I felt it first in my third chakra.  I described it, and she suggested I drop into that feeling to explore.  As I sat, I offered breath and curiosity.  I wandered the edges and looked around with non-judgment. Eventually after much focused breath, I felt it migrate: up my shoulder blade, to the base of my neck. It shifted from electric sensation to a dull intensity.

Asked to describe it, I found the words:  grey.  brittle like a dry sea sponge.

She asked how I felt and I didn’t want to tell her at first.

She said: “This area, the base of the neck?  It’s your primal brain.  It’s your fight or flight center.  I want you to continue to presence with me and tell me how you feel.”

I spoke without hesitation: “I feel skeptical, I feel threatened, I feel tense and I feel fear.”  I felt my eyes narrow as  I extended my hands from my lap to show her clenched fists.  “I feel like… like throwing my fists.  I feel like fighting.”

She said: Do you feel anger?

I responded.  Yes.

She suggested I start tapping on my chest, as she became insistent: “I can feel your whole system, okay? You’re slipping to a primal place and I want to keep you here grounded –so tap gently, as long as you want, just like this. Maybe wiggle your toes. I’m going to say some things to you now…”

I can’t access what she said to me. It came from some deep part of her and it was intended for some deep part of me. 

She instructed me to then tense my entire upper body.  Neck, shoulders, biceps, forearms, midback, shoulders, face, fists.  Get wound up, she said, and then release everything all at once.

I did it.

“Do it again,” she said.

I felt my body release and returned to my breath.  Take a sip of tea, she said.  Let’s stay grounded while…

(If I’m honest, I didn’t want to take a sip of tea.  I wanted to stay in it.  I liked that charged up feeling. I wanted to kill something and I felt powerful.  I observed the flood of fight mode in my system and felt some amusement and pride and anticipation.  This is a biochemical process for my surivival, I thought.  I was built to do this. I was built to do this.)

She asked me something I can’t recall now.  I wish I could remember it, because it feels like a big piece of the puzzle.  Maybe it was to repeat after her, or to see how different phrases resonated.  Maybe she asked me about my sea sponge.  I don’t know but what I remember happening next is practicing some call and response, where my part was:

“I don’t want to.”

It felt childish to say.  Impish.  I don’t remember why that was the phrase, or to what it was responding.

But we said it twice before a wave of absolute sadness came to the surface.  She suggested I could close my eyes, and just observe, or presence with her.  Either way, she assured, she would be presencing with me and I should know that I am safe.  She said other things, too.

And so there, in her nearly empty basement office, hands open on my thighs, looking into her eyes, I felt the universal sadness move through me while she sat in the place of knowing.  A groundswell of sadness obliterated any sense of self.  I was a constellation. Deep pattern disrupted.  I noticed my breath, my chest riding heavy from nearly gasping for air through a constricted throat.  In Chinese medicine, lungs carry grief.

We did not go back to the sea sponge. We didn’t need to. After all that sadness moved through, I simply needed to come back down to rest. 


Spring, with all it’s optimism, has returned.

Today it hailed so hard that ice bounced off my lawn and Jill said they looked like jumping beans.

I found out this morning that the local gas company is going to be digging into the street in front of my house (and one other house next door) to replace a steel pipe with a new pipe made of a more modern material.

I was immediately reminded of that time in Illinois the walkway to my apartment was dug up.  I remember laughing then at the absurdity of the symbolism of such an unavoidable and literal unearthing.

Time is not linear.

Here we are again, with the street being dug up.  Jupiter, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury are all retrograde right now.  Our American structures are being tested at the seams, and I find myself in a lot of different directions.

I’ve been working with an energy healer since late last fall.


Safe Passage

I left work and started walking the streets of downtown,

unsure how to feel.

I imagined myself walking wet streets with melting ice for hours,

and then settled on the need for food.

Hungry, tired, bored, thirsty:

Don’t let yourself get too much of any of those things.

I settled on Mother’s – not because of the deep sense of symbolism or irony –

but because they had sit-down service six blocks from my office.

I thought about the times I’d been here before: with work teams, with my mother-in-law.

These walls see birthdays, anniversaries, reunions.
The chandeliers celebrate, the velvet wallpaper the perfect wrapping.

I sat with tears so impossibly welled in my eyes.

English breakfast tea, omelet du jour.  Wheat toast.

I returned to my breath, thankful for its grace and compassion.


I entered the house like I had one hundred times before.

Her eyes, impossibly welled, reflected my own back to me.

Slow-moving supernovas, the room spun out in every direction.

Staring straight ahead on the sofa, slumped in a kitchen chair.

The bodies here all alive and miraculous; doing their best.


Hospice calls it “the active phase.”

It is the phase of actively dying: when the body has begun the work of shutting down each system.  Sympathetic systems go first, followed by parasympathetic.

Fluid pools in the lungs and leads to the death rattle.

That’s what they call it.

They, who work closely with the dying, have words and phrases for each phase.


We simply be together.  In our uncontrived messiness and our imperfections.

Some of us are too loud, and some of us can’t bear to enter the room.

Some of us have been swallowed whole by this world, by this cancer, for fifteen months and can’t hardly recall life before the chemo, the surgeries.

Some of us will bury our children, our mother, our best friend since childhood.

Some of us will whisper as though she cannot hear us, and some will sit silently and gently by her side, adrift in the gape of her drying mouth.

And some of us will say: Go on now.  Your work here is done.  Have a safe passage home.  I’ll talk with you again soon.





December 26th.

Fall came and went.

It’s winter now.

God, how I’ve been looking forward to winter.


I’ve had a difficult time going as deep as I want.  I’ve been preoccupied with surface demands.  Moving here during Mercury retrograde meant that there were a lot of extras that needed revisiting.  Our house wasn’t move-in ready.  Our belongings were lost in transit for more than a month.  We needed new everything: voter registration, car title, registration, driver’s license, insurance companies, bank accounts.  My cell phone was in disrepair.

All of this, and work didn’t skip a beat.  Our social life didn’t either.  Wedding planning is happening in the background.  We celebrated our anniversary, her birthday, and every holiday.  We had a ten-day vacation back east in there.  We’ve hosted 4 house guests.  The demands of my job have been absolutely off-the-charts. I was struggling with foot pain, then hurt my back, then had an ear infection, then a cold.  I went to Salt Lake City for business.  Plus…family.  Always family.


I have been selfishly looking forward to this for a while.

I should have known it was going to take the next Mercury retrograde cycle (12/19-1/8) for this move to feel resolved.



And here I am.

Achey. Contemplative. Restless.  Eager.  Wisened. Optimistic.  Hopeful.

The hustle of moving is over.

The holidays came and went.

This week, I reconnect with purpose.  I slow down.  I recalibrate.  I rest.



Somehow, it’s November.

Just like that.

We’ve been in our rental house for three months now.  We’ve hosted four house guests.  We’ve hosted four parties.  We’ve had bonfires in the backyard and very recently, fires in the fireplace.  We caught the tail end of summer here, and that was nice.

It feels like fall has lasted forever.  The rain has lasted forever.  It’s so gray here!

It’s been a bit of a crash landing.

The next one hasn’t begun yet

It just got clear to me: I’ve left one phase, and the next one hasn’t begun yet.

This space between is lingering.  I’m getting different information and feedback here. Some of this information has been from others: Harold and April told us all about the new neighborhood and when it floods and how long everyone has lived there.  Some of this feedback has been from observing my own internal process: like when Denny asked if we are excited to be back in Portland, I felt myself ineptly reach for words to try to express that I don’t feel excitement and I’m trying to be neutral about that.  I’ve been struggling to answer questions about how I’m doing.  The words feel clunky when they come out, but I haven’t known how to fix it yet.  

I think people are graceful to let me off the hook – or quick to take my words as they are.  Either way, I’m sure some can tell by the look on my face that I’m tits up in transition – ha.  Note to self: when you encounter others in transition, just be loving.  That’s all you gotta do.

I think sometimes we hesitate to leave one chapter because we haven’t figured out the next one. We fret: how will I meet my basic needs? We ought to spend more energy contemplating: how do we want to be?

Speaking as someone who has left a chapter and is suspended somewhere in the in-between, I can tell you that it’s easy to get lost.

I could use a night of dancing,

A candlelit meditation,

A yoga class,

A day with my feet in the river,

More beer,

A trip to the beach. 

In the bath this morning, I thought about one of my favorite quotes from Mark Nepo.  I posted it here before – when it first struck me.  I come back:

“To journey without being changed is to be a nomad.

To change without journeying is to be a chameleon.

To journey and be transformed by the journey is to be a pilgrim.”

I’m optimistic.

Tomorrow, the packers arrive. 

For this move, I’ve been trying this crazy thing called trust.  I’ve chosen, all along, to believe that we’re being somewhat divinely guided and protected.  And I’ve noticed that this belief seems to have inoculated me in some ways…

It’s not realistic to say I’m not stressed.  I am stressed.  I am pushed to my maximum threshold for amount and intensity of change and stress applied to my system.  My body, my emotions, are okay but it’s sort of like driving at high RPM — eventually you take your foot off the gas, shift, or your engine explodes.

In no version of events will my engine explode.  I know better.  I am better.

Despite the stress, however, I notice something different than moves prior: a lack of panic.  Maybe it’s because I’m moving home, or maybe it’s because I’m REALLY SUPER NUMB (I don’t think that’s likely)….  but I am not feeling panic.  And what I notice is that the moments that my mind reaches for panic feel both inauthentic and well-trodden.

It’s like the neural pathway is well-lit and cleared out and really easy to walk down (fancy that), but a larger part of me just knows in her bones that it’s simply not the path for me.

Which: my god.  It’s been a battle to get here.

There’s a lot of scarcity thinking out there and it’s contagious, you guys.  I’m left wondering: what do you do when you’re not panicking?  Panic takes up a lot of space, and so I find myself a little more restless and listless than usual.

I’d love to relax, but my mind seems to think I SHOULD BE ACTIVELY DOING.  My hope for the next few days is to embrace constructive rest – whatever form that can take.  To appreciate the value of zoning out.  To honor this time by laying down in savasana and breathing.  And maybe floating — more floating.

I was reminded recently of a premise that I love — that we are the only ones who know what we want, and how badly we want it.  That we are the only ones who can truly know our inner selves, and so it’s up to us to represent that inner self in the outside world with the most tender care and love, kindness, and joy.

So here’s to us. Here’s to our inner selves serving as anchors for our outward facing selves.  Here’s to seeing the pathway to panic and choosing differently.  Here’s to more floating, and believing it’s all going to pan out like it’s supposed to.