While we are singular, we are not alone.

Light as a prayer
I realize
I, too, am forever.

Just finished facilitating a bunch of brilliant LGBTQ people from all over the Upper Midwest, gathered by an inspiring and accountable regional foundation called PFUND.

There were some folks, primarily from Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, who have been at the forefront of the movement locally and nationally for years. Inspiring.

I was deeply touched by the number of people in isolated rural settings, especially in the Dakotas, who have found themselves and come out to live their truths in spite of having few models or relationships, and literally no spaces, to indicate that they would survive, thrive.

While we are singular, we are not alone.  Seeing that, seeing other people realize that, is healing.

There were two children present with us, a young child and a 6 month old baby. Knowing that this self-liberating circle would form the normal for these kids…this work does something divine to my heart, brings tears to my eyes.

A poem came during the work:

Sometimes I feel I am
just behind my own life.
Out a breath ahead
my great heart dances.
Almost caught up,
I sway
Longing to surrender.

Sometimes I feel I am
inside a cracked glass gift,
a small dropped globe
gone fragile as a gasp.
Mute, scarred and wondrous,
I press
my palms to bleeding.

And sometimes I feel I am
in the soft grip of the goddess,
womb deep in the long crevice
of her sacred life.
Light as a prayer
I realize
I, too, am forever.

Love wins.

love life

there is a lot of love in my life right now. some moments i look around and all i see and feel is love, everywhere.

i just spent the weekend in the house with the babies and autumn and sam, while all around us it rained and the mosquitos came out and minnesota was being very beautiful. sam made us a feast, taught us an italian card game, and was as always just a fascinating man to be around – he makes me feel better about men altogether. autumn blows my mind, the smartest most on point mama i have ever known. i am so grateful for her friendship and sistership.

it was siobhan’s birthday, and she is Four now, and was in a state of exclamation and clarity the whole weekend. she is a delightful gorgeous self-directed child who loves puddles, creating and reading books about her own life. she shrieked with joy to receive new ballet slippers after wearing her last pair out – not dancing, but just as the right shoe to wear around the house. she says no easily and loves to be a goofy middle sister. she entertains, she is developing her coy side.

finn is five going on sixty and he is full of wonder and connection to the natural world. he made friends with a toad he named hopleg, and a turtle with a long tale who finn talked with about the importance of getting across the road. his imagination paired with his love of facts makes him excellent company. he likes to be the first one to my bed in the morning, which sometimes means a 5:30 wake up call – he likes the alone time to discuss his dreams and the day to come. he is a bit obsessive over angry birds, but can be assuaged somewhat with creating angry bird art or looking at real birds. his emotional presence is humbling, he feels everything and hides nothing and it’s inspiring and makes me want to build a house around him where only kind people can enter whenever he goes out in the world.

mairead is sixteen months old, smells sweet, is a quick and skilled dancer doing diaper drops when the beat comes in…and she’s just a fantastic person. she giggles, screams in joy, knows exactly what she wants and will not be fooled. she understands there is humor in troublemaking and often moves her fastest when she realizes she can create a major mess. she has deep conversations with bran the dog, has no patience for dresses. and when she is ready to snuggle there is nothing so magical as her soft weight and warmth, her skilled way of tucking her head under an adult chin.

going away from them gets harder and harder, but in the best way. i don’t want to miss the new words they learn, the moment of clicking through from putting letters together to reading, or learning to swim. they are so much fun and they love me easily, without attachment or expectation.

it is also gemini season, many of my dearly beloveds are celebrating. i am not an easy person to be friends with – i travel a lot and barely keep my schedule together, i forget important things, i like to be alone. so i deeply appreciate those people who stay through it all and keep loving me and holding me close. gemini seem to have a special ability to do this with almost no guilting.

my friend janine at harvard, radical mama, one of the sharpest thinkers and most precise poets i know; my love dani, blogging pieces we need on women and reproductive health for the nation and being the place where bullshit must stop and surrender; brilliant education scholar and writer and soon-to-be mama adriana; prolific musician daddy joshua gabriel. there are so many in my life, so i generally experience this as a second birthday season, with gratitude.

and then today is my first anniversary with lynnee denise. we began our conversation, our love scholarship, last year on this day. she reached out to me in response to this post, and i saw a picture and leaned in.

i mean, have you seen her?

and from our first exchanges it has been a significant journey, with both of us in mutual wow, humbled by how much we needed to grow to face each other. and we grow, reflect, learn. we don’t coast, we fly as the result of realizing again and again we have wings and jumping off of ever higher heights. i am a better human because of her, more connected to myself, to the life i am meant to live, to what freedom i have to choose my life. i know the capacity i have to create and change and give.

that post that caught her heart begins with this poem:

Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut more deep.
Let it ferment and season you
as few human or even divine ingredients can.
Something missing in my heart tonight
has made my eyes so soft
my voice so tender
my need of god
absolutely clear.
–Hafiz

and i just wanted to offer here that i think all of the love i am experiencing now is a result of my beautiful loneliness, the time i have spent in my life cultivating my love for myself, and my love of all that is divine in the world outside of romance.

that loneliness wavers in and out of aloneness, the experience of being satisfied with your own existence in the world, not as a reflection, but as a miracle in real time. my osho deck says ‘aloneness is the presence of oneself. aloneness is very positive. it is a presence, overflowing presence. you are so full of presence that you can fill the whole universe with your presence and there is no need for anybody.’

that aloneness has deepened my presence as an aunt, as a friend, and raised the standards of what i would receive and could offer as a lover. all of this abundant love in my life springs up from within, something in me opens to the presence of god-is-change all around me. i can rest in it, open in it, set the right boundaries and invite that which is not love to move along, i can be more honest, be more present, be humbled by all that is beyond my reach, be humbled by all that i can touch and how precious it is.

my life is green everywhere. love is what comes when i let myself blossom.

funny moments with the babies

(wrote this last week but just getting around to posting. yay babies.)

i spent 48 hours being on point with the kids. we had a blast, although i couldn’t quite seem to get them to the bath or get the meals on schedule. i am more lenient with time, the auntie with no set hours.

here are some humorous highlights:

watching the sunrise: siobhan woke up at 6:30 this morning and came to get in bed with me. she lay quietly for one minute, and then said, ‘it’s really dark!’ i told her ‘that is because it’s still nighttime’. she was quiet for another moment. then she sat up and pointed, gleefully, ‘but look!! the light is coming!’

choice: whenever i put on happy feet two, which we happen to have recorded on the dvr thingy, they both scream, ‘i don’t want to watch happy feet!’ if i ignore this, about five minutes later they are transfixed and dancing around to this cautionary climate change musical. want vs need, kids.

on reality: finn is perpetually disappointed in my lack of ability to tell what is real and what is pretend. case in point, finn, siobhan and their grandmother-in-law decorated the house in spiderwebs, spiders and a pumpkinhead scarecrow. all terrifying. when it was time to show off they made me cover my eyes and come with them to see. when i see it all i start giving an oscar worthy performance of fear. finn turns to me and screams at the top of his lungs, ‘IT’S FAKE!!!!!!!’. he then gives me this ice cold glare tinged with disgust.

this helped me later that night when i walked past the window and saw a strange huge man sitting on the porch. the scream caught in my throat as finn’s voice echoed through my head, ‘it’s fake!!!’

bathroom as water cooler: at one point while they were transfixed with happy feet 2, i realized i could go to the bathroom! i got really excited and went in. i closed the door and danced over to the toilet for this alone time. literally as soon as i sat down finn came running in, followed by siobhan, both yelling ‘i have to pee!’ i told them it was my turn, and they both shrugged and began having a polite conversation with each other about the very bathroom itself, with no intentions of leaving until we’d all had our turns. sigh.

dance break: i play music most of the time i am at the house with them. this trip i was playing nina simone, drake, jessie ware, beyonce and emeli sande. i was in the kitchen cooking while the kids played – and i was feeling REALLY excited because we had spent the day not watching tv or movies. suddenly siobhan comes up and says, it’s time to dance! i was amenable, so she ran and got finn, and we had an amazing dance party where we were often holding hands. finn and siobhan took turns directing the dances we were doing. this isn’t really funny, just awesome.

things you have to tell auntie because she doesn’t generally wear pajamas or underwear and thus forgets crucial things: tonight siobhan fell asleep on the couch, and i carried her upstairs to her bed without waking her up, which is an unbelievably sweet and magical advanced act in parenting.

when it was time to take finn upstairs we were both working hard to stay quiet and not wake siobhan up. that looks like finn yelling about how they could run out of water if their local water table goes dry (he JUST turned 5) and me reminding him about his inside voice.

i helped him get in bed, and then in a stage whisper he said, ‘i need underwear!’ i pulled out a pair of outside sweatshorts and he looked at them skeptically. i put them on him and then he looked at me with deep concern. ‘i’d really rather have…underwear.’

once we got the proper situation happening, i kissed him goodnight and told him to let me know if he needed anything. i went back downstairs.

roughly two minutes later finn again stage whispers from the top of the stairs, ‘auntie adjin! remember how you said to tell you if i need anything? i just remembered my dessert part didn’t get full yet!’ finn has determined that his stomach has several parts, which adapt based on the meal. his pancake and pizza parts never get full. lately his cooked vegetable part is very very small. he holds these parts up with his hand opened or closed to express the state of the part.

i laughed and gave him something. on his way back upstairs he stops and says, ‘auntie adjin, i love you.’

melt.

storytime: siobhan invited me to sit with her and listen to a story from her notebook. here it is, verbatim: ‘once upon a time, there was a little car (pointing to a car sticker in the middle of an otherwise blank page). and then, it went BUMP! and see, it was in this (pointing to a dark scribble on the next page, also in the middle of an otherwise blank page)! and then there was a big surprise (pointing to a completely blank page). hey! i need my crayons!’ future artist-griot in the house.

choice, part 2: siobhan is a fashionista. it’s not unusual to put socks or a dress on her and then watch her little 3 year old face crumple because ‘it’s not working,’ or ‘it’s not right’. we went to get ready for a walk in the crisp fall outdoors and after three different outfit attempts, siobhan decided that the only thing that worked was a sundress with no leggings and finn’s rain boots. and i daresay she looked fantastic! but clearly underdressed for the weather. finn was wearing shorts with a pair of siobhan’s legwarmers and a sweatshirt. i decided not to fight with them, as we were all a bit done with being inside.

so we get outside and jog to the top of the road. on the way back siobhan turns to me and says, in genuine surprise, ‘i’m freezing!’ i asked why she thought that might be and her face got woeful as she shook her head and said, ‘i just didn’t listen.’ i carried her home under my sweater like a rescued puppy.

with pumpkinhead

the good people

ah, the tender vast space between myself and the good people.

i generally don’t use the terms good, bad, right or wrong with any seriousness. this is an exception. i’m going to use ‘good’ in the simplest sense here, shamelessly, because i was just really good for like 4 days and am thus a bit exhausted. proceed at risk of gross simplification.

i just spent a few days with one of my sisters and her husband. they are ‘good’ people. friendly, brilliant, hardworking, and nice to others because they genuinely want to be.

i, on the other hand, am more of a visitor to the experience of being a ‘good’ person. when it happens i feel like a different self, a self that aligns with what i imagine actually-good people feel like most of the time.

i used to strive for good with virgo zeal. a pedestal-worthy good – selfless and kind and working for justice and honest and hardworking and knowing-how-to-do-things.

in addition to my sister and her husband, i happen to know lots of people who are good in this way most of the time, and still let me come around, so i have reference points and observational wisdom to bear. (my best friend is good!) i sometimes feel like i live in a forest of people on well-earned pedestals who all manage to still be interesting.

i want to document this because i suspect the tipping point of whether humans deserve to continue our existence on this planet is somehow linked to the ways in which we are good. not just good out of some obligation to others, but the good that grows wild because it feels natural and right.

it feels like this:

a) without thinking about it, hours pass in which i make decisions where my concerns are not centered, not even necessarily present.
b) there is something that needs to be done, i do it.
c) if i don’t know how, i figure it out.
d) if there is a best way to do it, i aim for that, even if no one else will know.
e) when the task is done, i don’t sit around feeling proud of it…i look for the next task that must be done.

i can do this for hours, even days.

but so far i can only really do this when i am in auntie mode or, occasionally, in love. with my sister autumn’s family, this good self comes out easily.

i notice it, usually in retrospect, because it’s not how i am usually wired. i find myself having just done a lot of helpful things and just feeling alive and present and happy.

my norm – which fortunately also feels alive and present – involves shamelessly thinking of myself a lot of the time. i don’t know if it is even possible to be good in the way i mean and have a blog. i think deeply about my comfort, my joy, my pleasure, my learning.

i think about what is a fair contribution from me relative to others in terms of effort towards whatever tasks may be at hand. i get bored, my mind wanders. i start writing blogs on being helpful instead of being helpful. even when it comes to chores around my own house i have to turn it into a musical costumed event with wine (‘presenting and i daresay toasting adrienne as domestic goddess’) or i just can’t really apply myself to the task.

when people ask me for help, there is still an inner voice like, ‘do i have to?’ i would rather not be asked to do something good…just let me do it on my own. i like my good acts to be inspired, not obligated (more on this later).

but i also rarely initiate goodness.

and then, when i am good, i usually want thanks or praise for it – see how good i am? is anyone watching me be good here? cause otherwise i would rather be watching louis or archer.

i accept and love who i am. i share an astrological sign with mother teresa, so this acceptance has been a journey. but i would love to be a more generally good person. so i am really interested in what has pierced my self-orientation here in my mid-30s.

(i’m dramatizing, i am. i hope.)

but when i land in rural minnesota for my monthly visit and move into the rhythms of that two-full-time-job-three-kid having household, my good self emerges. my source of joy shifts outside myself. being helpful, doing what’s needed, being present with the babies, all of this suddenly becomes enough for a life. janelle monae starts singing ‘to be victorious, you must find glory in the little things,’ and it feels like it could sustain me indefinitely.

what i know as clearly as i know the ‘good’ feeling is that part of how i can be so good this one week of each month is that i leave. i don’t have the capacity yet to be that good all the time. i visit good, then go home and go about my life being…not bad, but more just thoughtfully middling.

as i mentioned earlier, i don’t really do anything out of obligation. i tried being good out of obligation for much of my 20s and it was a mess – everyone within silent-resentment range of me could feel me suffering the sacrifices.

but the good i get to visit now is magnificent in part because when i am in it, i am doing the only thing i could even imagine wanting to do in that moment. it feels like an appropriate use of the miracle of my life.

i am in a real exploration of how to bring this passionate goodness into the rest of my life, with people over the age of 5 and not related to me, in places that don’t look and smell like rural fairy forest heaven.

because it feels like life force in my body, and why humans are here – to be living embodiments of love. to be good.

i would love to hear experiences others have with being good – when does it happen, who inspires it, where and why, and how is it sustained?

it is a simple thing, but it might just be everything.

the human right to home

recently i have been experiencing the unique joy of home, when my home is in order, has the right amount of things in it and no more, has capacity for holding friends, family, laughter. when the lighting is just right and the sun filters in just so and i have to pause and revel in the clean spare beautiful lines of my home. home for me means the place where i feel safe, surrounded by beauty, the place in which i receive the world.

i think it’s no mistake that one of the oldest sounds we know of, om, is in the word home – i feel it when i am in it.

my sister and her husband recently bought a home around the corner from his parents in rural minnesota. it is beautiful, it is possible because of loans and incentives and friendship with the previous owners. it is the place my nephew and niece and the baby coming in january will grow up. home here means the house itself and the five acres of land around it, the path through the woods to their grandparents’ house.

with the state of the world right now, i have been thinking about the human right of home. in the universal declaration for human rights, the closest right is a right to property in article 17. but i am thinking of this deeper right, which may or may not come from ownership. i think it is the right that so many people around the world are trying to attain or hold onto, which i feel in the privilege and harmony of my home.

here in detroit, we are currently pressed once again to hold onto home as a vicious and quick land grab escalates. a couple years ago our mayor was rebuked for talking about ‘right sizing’ the city, because it would have meant displacing people from their homes. (the effort continues, though the words are different.) it showed that in this city people don’t think of their homes just as the buildings in which they live, but their blocks, neighborhoods, their particular part of the city with it’s histories and fertile grounds. in detroit, as in many cities, home includes sitting on the front porch or stoop, the community gardens, the neighbors who care for each other – home includes the people who fill the world around your building.

it is getting cold again in detroit, and the homeless folk i interact with most are becoming more scarce as they spend less and less time moving about the work of their lives – hustling, hunting, gathering same as anyone else. a friend recently noted that we have more vacant houses in the u.s. than we do homeless people, which i feel acutely aware of in detroit in the winter. it makes me think the rights of owning property should not trump the right to have home. home here means shelter from the elements, a safe place to sleep, to store one’s things.

there are many conflicted nations around the world, most of them with some link back to u.s. foreign policy, few as distinctly supported and funded as our ‘friend’ israel. in gaza, in palestine, there is an old struggle for home happening…palestinians holding onto home, as many have been displaced from the houses that were home and herded into ghettoized sections of land which they cannot leave without permits, in which they are brutally attacked regularly with u.s.-funded weapons. many palestinians hold home in their hands, literal keys to the homes they were moved out of, to which they long to return. home here means land and legacy.

and who is attacking them, but other people? not machines, not alien invaders, but human beings traumatized after centuries of not being able to find safe home on this planet.

when i look at israel i see that we as humans have so much to learn about addressing collective trauma. to be without home is dehumanizing – it is a violence unto itself, and increases the vulnerability to other violence. i’ve been learning that with patterns of bullying and abuse, most people who use violence to move through life learn that behavior by receiving and witnessing violence at a formative age. and that the bullies, underneath the bravado and actions of violence, still feel like victims, powerless.

in the same way it is clear that continual displacement mixed with violence has created the conditions by which the primarily european descended israeli population can feel justified in displacing and murdering the people of palestine, and still call themselves the victims. as with the violent child, steps must be taken to disarm, deescalate, resolve conflict and redirect the positive desire for safety towards a viable option. because home has to be a place where violence is abnormal, free from the tension of potential attack, where none of the children are seen as soldiers, or collateral damage.

in fact, nothing alive, including the planet, should be seen as collateral damage. i love the recognition coming out of Bolivia that home is this planet, that there can be no human rights without earth rights, because fundamentally we have this one small home in all the universe, to share, to care for, to find safety and abundance in. home here meaning source of all life, existence, the only planet capable of sustaining human life that we know of.

to me all of these things are connected – the right to home, the joy of home, the significance of safety, the insignificance of boundaries when we see how small and perfect our home truly is, and how much it relies on the homefulness of all others.

this is how i move through my home with mindfulness:

i compost, reuse and recycle in my home and wherever i find myself,
i use energy and heat sparingly,
i make and display art in my home,
i am constantly learning to simplify – which feels like post-capitalist deprogramming, finding more beauty in space than in materials,
i cook,
and i am intentional about bringing into my kitchen and into the home of my body the most local healthy food possible,
i support the boycott called for by palestinians by not having products from starbucks, sabra hummus, and other zionist companies in my home,
i don’t keep anything i don’t need and love, and i don’t allow toxic energy to build up in my home,
i sweep the floors and make the bed and fold the laundry…

all the while aware that what i have is not guaranteed to anyone yet, and is what i want for all people, is not to be taken for granted, is under attack, and is worth fighting for, is worth living for.

home mehta meditation:

may you find home
may you feel home
may you always be home

may i find home
may i feel home
may i always be home

may we find home
may we feel home
may we always be home.