how do we remember we are miracle?

we have to become more worthy
of our own skins
we have lost the miraculous gaze
we only give it to the newborn
but everyone is utterly unique
amongst the entire galaxy

what does it do to my analysis
to look beyond conjecture and costume
and know this flesh as one that
shivers and bristles and yearns
and the bravado is learned behavior
and the words are hand-me-down

and the sharp theory is a weapon
for moving through the day
propelling ourselves into the unknown
others use sports, statistics on breath,
or aggregation of labor and land,
or escape to a crowded beach one week of the year

how do we shape the future without planning it
learn to feel the present without rejecting
the divergent landscapes of a day
that breaks our hearts and tapes them back together
promising us that the heart can heal, if, if…
but how do we remember we are miracle?

9 lessons from my wayward child

9 months ago today, I became pregnant.

Pregnant in spite of plan b, nonchalance, magic and my non-pregnancy-inclusive plans. I had no idea. I didn’t feel anything particular, didn’t notice my enhanced sense of smell (except in retrospect).

I didn’t glow.

8 months ago today, I reached up to close a window while doing a phone interview for Octavia’s Brood, and was suddenly in the most acute and life focusing pain I have ever experienced. I understood in a quiet inner way that I only had a few minutes to get myself downstairs, and that I needed immediate help if I was going to live. A friend rushed me to the hospital where I, with no insurance, learned that I was pregnant and it was ectopic and I was lucky to live in a time when I could survive it. And I would be losing my left fallopian tube.

I’ve given myself these long months marked with other griefs to process it myself before writing about it, hopefully birthing some kind of wisdom in the absence of a child-based outcome.

Here are the 9 lessons I have learned, so far, from my wayward child.

Lesson 1: I am special.

I rarely date men (frankly it never seems to go that well, in spite of my earnest pansexual leanings). So rarely that when my dad heard the news, I think he seriously considered the possibility that I was involved in a biblical birth. The game of percentages means there’s exactly a one in gazillion chance that this could happen, both the pregnancy and then the ectopicness of it.

Lesson 2: I am not special.

When I got to the hospital, I told them I was pretty sure my appendix had burst. They said it was more likely that I was pregnant. I was adamant, I made my case of how that was impossible, asked them through clenched teeth to focus on the real problem. They said, “uh huh, pee in this cup though”.

It was a common situation, and I was handled accordingly, with very little gentleness.

Lesson 3: People are complex human beings, and also angels.

I had two that night, humans who stepped over into a beam of light. I will forever be grateful for the convergence of events that led to my strange and lovely support team that night, and getting to see the particular goodness that can emerge in crisis. The nurse wouldn’t give me morphine for a while because of my ‘condition’. It was cold, and scary, the pain was nonstop, and there was a torturous internal ultrasound. I both survived and increased my pain by laughing, and it was worth it.

I am also grateful for my mom’s voice on the phone, helping me face what was happening. There was some time between learning I was pregnant and learning for sure that it was ectopic and surgery would be immediate, my hour of conscious pregnancy. My mom’s voice on the line helped me through that time.

Lesson 4: I am human.

After what I initially called ‘the surgery’, I denied my humanity and tried to carry on as usual. I was in the middle of a book tour. I did several major events, which I powered through, hoping no one would notice I was moving slow and couldn’t do simple things like open doors or water bottles. People did notice, and I told various small lies (an ‘ovarian cyst’ seemed close enough) about what was going on. I shared what I could, mostly because I had to depend on others. Other than my closest friends and family, I actually didn’t know how to say the truth. I spent about a month in tears after every event, overwhelmed by the juxtaposition of the high of my life’s work and the strange irrational sadness inside me.

People kept speaking of the book as a baby, asking wasn’t I thrilled about our book baby. I had said that before, too, but I don’t think I’ll say it again…nothing is a baby except a baby.

Lesson 5: I can grieve like a motherfucker for something I didn’t want, something that barely happened. I’ve written about my choiceful childlessness, I’ve ignored healers and intuitives who felt a baby coming for me.

Still.

I had a few people afterwards who advised me not to think of it as ‘losing a baby’ since it wasn’t a viable birth. I tried that. It didn’t work because when I did my research, it said that there were all the makings of a baby, it just connected to the wrong part of me. If it had connected to the right part, or even a different wrong part, I could be in or near labor today.

After my sister’s miscarriage, my niece, four at the time, said she hoped that the baby found another way into the world. I hope the same for the little mass of miraculous tissue that visited me. I sense the size of it’s soul in absentia.

And in spite of my attempts to logic through it, that little lost embryo made me cry a lot this year. It was tenacious and miraculous in it’s own way. A one in a gazillion kind of lost embryo.

Lesson 6: So many humans have faced unintended pregnancy loss, of kids they wanted, of kids they didn’t want.

And so many people get pregnant even when they take measures not to get pregnant.

Many of the children I love most in the world were unintended, were somehow able to outsmart preventative measures to get here.

A lot of my favorite parents felt disappointed, scared, confused and stressed when they found out they were pregnant.

These stories emerged this year when people learned what I had experienced, and I am grateful to all of them for sharing and normalizing my complex emotional response.

Lesson 7: It’s not the little one’s fault it didn’t find fertile soil. They showed me some pictures, it’s confusing in there.

Lesson 8: Everything does not happen for a reason.

That doesn’t mean you can’t create a reason for everything.

This year, this wayward child, has turned my sense of self upside down, narrowed the number and increased the quality of people I need close to me, made me sloppy and vulnerable, changed how I want to dress, made me favor my left side, sharpened my ideas of what I want to generate in the world, snatched my perfection mythologies away, given me good news to sweeten the hardest days, found me wandering in the dark begging for help, and helped me keep choosing to see and love myself, just as I am.

Lesson 9: Time is the most precious thing. Time is the most precious thing. One month, nine months, an hour, a lifetime. During these nine months life and death came in and out like waves, like always. My wayward child was life moving towards life for a month. My mentor Grace was life moving towards life for 100 years and 100 days. Could it be that they are equal teachers to me?

Time is the most precious thing, choosing to learn in this precious time. Once lived, these hours cannot be returned to me, I determine whether it is a miraculous experience with my attention.

So. Nine months are complete. I declare it miraculous.

wild seed dinner, albuquerque nm

on june 3 we had an octavia butler dinner in albuquerque, an intimate event, just three of us (myself, host andrea quijada, and ob lover elena letourneau). this format made me kind of want to do it this way more often – the intimacy we were able to achieve was quite remarkable before we even started speaking about the book.

then we moved into speaking about wild seed, the first (and achingly good) book in octavia butler’s patternist series (the first series she wrote). this book is my favorite starting place for anyone who hasn’t read her work.

we had one of those gorgeous conversations where you get to the root by exposing it. a lot of what we shared wouldn’t fit into words. however, at the end we summarized the shareable things we thought/discovered together:

it’s quite possible that gardening and living together and building community together is the most radical work. intentional community is a skillset to develop. but in a u.s. context, individual spaces, interdependent. shifting to intentional living – but slowly. everyone has their own space in it, with shared kitchen, yard, garden.

the interconnection of these communities brings to mind safety in relationships. right now with the balancing between online and offline work and organizing, there is a way we can commune globally. (example given: march on monsanto). we have lost a lot of physical relationships with people, which leaves everyone feeling isolated. but safety is in relationships more than any other structure.

wild seed speaks to the isolation of being a leader, of being special. (how that loneliness piles up, how deep the desire to be met and matched.)

the radical strategy is to love.
we are in perhaps a dark age. our legacy might be that we maintained and remembered the way to love.
vulnerability, attachment, care, attunement, these are the ways we remember. we have to remember to feel.

anyanwu is the living embodiment of ‘transform yourself to transform the world‘.

this book is an incredible exploration of the arc of long term relationship, from the initial passion –> to negotiations and struggle over power –> to transformation.

noticing that in the relationship between anyanwu and doro, that they loved each other after seeing the shadow sides of each other. there are people who are our mirrors and show us what we don’t want to see, and we want to run. we need mirrors. we need also to be able to see and love ourselves. (moved to share nina’s song ‘images’

She does not know
Her beauty,
She thinks her brown body
Has no glory.
If she could dance
Naked,
Under palm trees
And see her image in the river
She would know.
But there are no palm trees
On the street,
And dishwater gives back no images.
– poem by william waring cuney
)

loving the body, feeling the potential of breath and self-love and healing in each body is radical. (anyanwu is a study of feeling deeply – perhaps we all have her capacity to heal if we could listen inward?)

we appreciate our bodies when we use them. yoga! breath. walking and being outside doing what it is meant to do. ‘moved to tears using my body for myself.’

our culture teaches us not to love our bodies, that something is wrong. it is radical to reclaim loving our bodies.

gender and body insecurity is interesting too – men/boy bodies usually have to do something to get called names. women bodies just walk in, just people look at us and call us names. doing things for ourselves in our bodies is radical. other gender norms…women have to look good on outside, but vagina always good. men can generally look aight but their penis has to be big/just so. insecurities related to those stories. what does this mean for how anyanwu and doro traverse the world, him jumping bodies, coming to her in any body, with her healing and shapeshifting the one she has.

‘i want all women, all people. to lay on the floor and just feel your body and loving each amazing living part, the living organism of the body.’

what is most radical? to transform ourselves.

**

makes me wonder – what is your secret gift?

this life is miraculous. what if you don’t waste any day, any gift? if this day, this activity is as miraculous as anyone’s very best day and offering…what then is the call?

love letter to the babies/they are all ours

they are all ours
don’t let the sickness infect you
that division
that says these children matter
these don’t
they are ours,
holding guns children
sweat on brow
death in their eyes
they are ours
freckles, hair flopping
running from the teacher’s son
death in their eyes

they come from our bodies
from our hard work
from our dreams
from our desires
and they need us to hold them close
so they can become themselves

they need us in the wilderness
however it appears
within and without
to be that greater love
to answer every question
without violence
to cover them with those kisses
that cause them to giggle
that let them know
from the cosmos
they found a place to belong
on this earth
in this time
in these hands
they are all ours

dear babies,

i cannot sleep, thinking of you.

i went and looked at all your pictures, videos, those beautiful faces, hearing your forming voices lifting all of your questions and demands, your expectations and futures bursting off the screen.

i have spent my life wondering about good and evil, heaven, hell, life on other planets, justice on this one. i have sought the cause, the root, the place to put blame. i have spent millions of hours developing theories about all of these things, and building my fury and grief, weeping and wanting to know what could make the world good enough for the possibility of you.

and then you came. from other wombs and other stories, but i knew you were also mine. i held you in my arms for the first time, felt your weight upon my chest, the shape of your whole fluttering life becoming solid in my hands. and i realized my ideas and theories would never come to life soon enough. to love a child is to know the limitations of time, and the horror of being in a particular moment of time, a hollowed out age where babies are collateral damage for borders and egos, among other things.

everyday the world reminds me that i cannot protect you. i don’t know if protecting children has been possible yet on this earth. i just believe that what we do, or allow to possibly be done, to our babies, in this world, at this time – that is the measure of our humanity.

it’s quite possible that this is the purpose of our evolution, to reach a point where we do nothing which takes away from childhood, that protecting childhood is how we grow healthy societies. that the safe unfolding of children into adults shapes every aspect of the worlds we build.

perhaps…

but now? even as a warning i can’t whisper the horrors of what we allow to happen to you. some of us, we do our best, but we are all traumatized, living in a competitive society where violence is normalized and vulnerability is shamed.

how many of us were taught how to live with a switch or belt on our backsides? what world does that create? the small violence opens the door, the gateway drug of violence as control and discipline, it is intoxicating.

and every hour there is more. it is a more thoroughly interconnected world – we cannot pretend we don’t know the violence, genocides, and injustices happening in our cities, in the country, around the world. we cannot even pretend we are not fascinated by, obsessed with, the violence. it is our news, our movies, our music, our video games, our foreign policy, our right, our sickness.

baby boy, baby girl, we who hold your future in our hands are woven into the fabric of violence which is suffocating our species.

so we must do the impossible, and liberate ourselves.

i won’t be defeated by the immensity of the task – my love is unconditional. especially when the conditions are violence, abuse, trauma and scarcity. that is the state in which i give you my heart. love is what i want to be best at.

i don’t want to use the words promise or try with you. i want to give you things that are solid, values that won’t falter under pressure, and a safety that you can create and hold for yourself.

i want to love you without error, i want nothing of my pain to be part of your life, only my devotion to you, my brilliant love. i want you feel and taste the freedom of safety. i don’t want you to worry, to feel scarcity, to live your life in a constant state of defense.

because i long for what you are and what you are becoming.

so – i turn away from anything that could hurt you.
i seek out violence in myself and attend to the wounds that cause it.
i generate compassion in myself, particularly with those who hurt or wrong me.
i turn away from those who live defensively, and turn towards those who let love guide them.
i learn new ways to handle conflict, no matter how much harder they are than giving into anger and fighting.
i conjure up change in myself, my greatest self, to be worthy of you being in my life.

you are recreating me. i love you and i am so grateful for you. i will give my all to make this a world worthy of the miracle of you.

auntie.

they are all ours
that is, why we are here
to hold them close to our hearts
let them run fingers
over the tips of the wheat
lick sunlight from their palms
and find the place without nightmares
in our arms
before dawn

they are all of them ours
our karma and creators
the only test
for our species
over and over given
the air, the food, the water,
their skin, their unique way
their smiles

their smaller hearts
pounding inside our bodies from the moment
we are born
ancestral
unpromised
they are ours
they are all of them ours
they are all ours

it is a miracle: reflection on somatics and trauma training

last week i finished the somatics and trauma training 2012, offered by generative somatics. a few years ago i took their somatics and social justice course, and it left an imprint in me, a longing for more capacity in feeling my body, healing myself, and learning to be a generative healing member of community, towards liberation.

here are some reflections upon completing this cycle of learning, which lasted 7 months:

to set out on a path i believed was impossible, i had to develop an opening towards miracles. and it is a miracle now, to be feeling what i am feeling, all i am feeling, all throughout my body, after years of numbness, self-harm, emotional eating and trauma.

i have had many teachers, some immediately recognizable in the moment, others only clear in hindsight; some positive models, some teaching me what not to do. part of what intrigued me about this course was i could see how it was impacting those who stuck with the training process and practices over years – it seemed to literally be reshaping people into their highest, most centered and grounded selves.

i’ve been involved in many leadership development efforts, and seen a few of them work in some ways. too often, however, they are about recreating one teacher’s style, a cookie cutter model of developing a leader.

having come through those processes, and helped shape them for others, i was starting to wonder if there was any process to truly develop leadership that wasn’t just throwing folks into the fire and shouting ‘good job’ as they learn to keep moving while burning.

the somatics and trauma course really touched something in me. now i am in a new relationship with learning, and my body is the teacher.

it/she has held on for me to get to a place, an age, a yearning that would turn me inward for the love and healing i was seeking.

it/she was/is patient as i hurt myself, made myself big to protect myself, disparaged it/her in internal and external dialogue.

it was years i spent internalizing revenge, cultivating the bitterness that curves up around the heart in clear walls that turned love away even, especially, when i could see it wasn’t serving me.

now i am beginning to see the world through a different lens, or more precisely, to feel the world.

i feel my grandparents’ hope in me,
i feel my father’s hard work, and
my mother’s continuous opening and curiosity,
my sisters’ adorations, wisdoms and patience,
i feel the vulnerable spirit in the babies i love

i feel my strength,
my vibrant race, and my dynamic ability,
my beauty, my brilliant body
my privilege and power

when a beloved leaves, i feel the pull of them on my heart, physically, i feel my life without them physically in it, i feel my responsibility to carry their essential gifts forward in my actions. my body is learning to cry, to grieve, to love, to open, to be whole.

i feel that the next generation of my family is depending on me learning more about how to feel, that it is necessary for evolution, for their own life work.

and it feels like such radical work – to be in a community of people feeling, including my family. and sharing those feelings, growing the capacity to feel. in this world where we are socialized towards numbing, fear, powerlessness and greed, leading to depression, militarism, racism and materialism, it is imperative that we get well.

i am beginning to feel what wholeness in community might look like.

i am learning that getting well in community is liberation. we are interdependent. when one of us attains freedom it elicits/rekindles that longing in each of us. when we learn to feel, when we learn to stand with each other in feeling, when we learn to tune into the wisdom of our bodies, to love ourselves, to love each other, we are doing the unthinkable, we are creating new worlds of possibility.

we were socialized to sleep, y’all. sleep and spend. to break out of that cycle and reclaim my humanity, for these magnificent instances i have experienced, makes me feel like i am in integrity with the universe, serving my highest purpose.

what becomes possible is, without destroying anything or anyone, we can claim power. claim it and live it. this matters for every identity, today i feel the depth of it for my blackness, for my womanness, for my queerness, for the child still within me.

recently i was regrounded in this chant from assata via my friend patrisse:

it is our duty to fight for freedom
it is our duty to win
we must love each other and protect each other
we have nothing to lose but our chains

remember, you are reading this in a body full of miracles you could not create. honor yourself, let love flood your body.

how to make miracles.

i have had a skeptical relationship with jesus – an active relationship which has looked different over the years, ranging from doubt to jaw dropping awe-inspired belief and back again. i love talking to those who believe deeply – it moves me. i’ve landed in the ‘many prophets’ zone [connected to many worlds and many universes theory] – jesus, buddha, muhammad, khalil gibran, my nephew, octavia butler…depends when and where you enter the human experience as to which will work for you, but i feel comfortable calling on all of them.

i have had a similar journey with miracles. i love miracles, but not the type that folks write ancient tomes about. i love the miracle of nature, the way there are these gorgeous and precise matches of prey and predator; i love ecosystems, i love birds flocking, i love sunrises and sunsets and the miracle of the michigan sky most of the time. i love finding whale skeletons at the top of mountains; the miracle of time.

lately i have been meditating a lot on three kinds of miraculous occurrences.

first: our existence as miracle. breath moving through the body, heart pumping, the speed of blood, the relationship of our emotional and spiritual selves to our physical selves. if we acknowledge this, it isn’t a huge leap to realize that our actions must be worth that miracle. so just realizing that we live, and all life is miraculous, that’s first.

then second miracle is the result of more and more people dedicating themselves to the mundane daily practices of existence that align us with the planet and with our own long-term survival. the meditative practices of composting, farming, baking bread, growing mushrooms, raising chickens, preserving water, using and being midwives and doulas, building and retrofitting homes, riding bicycles, healing each other, creating music and art, reaching consensus, holding each other accountable, working in community, learning self-defense together and applying restorative/transformative justice processes and so forth. the experience of being alive grows deeper when we value and work for (and with) all existence.

the third kind of miracle is the sacrifice of life for future generations, for a vision of justice in the world. this is nothing less than a miracle to me.

today is the anniversary of the assassination of martin luther king, jr, who foresaw his death and had this to say about it: “If physical death is the price that I must pay to free my white brothers and sisters from a permanent death of the spirit, then nothing can be more redemptive.”

it’s also easter sunday. i grew up searching for eggs and eating chocolate out of baskets and hearing the story told again and again: jesus was crucified. nailed to a cross and bled out hanging there – was died, buried, and rolled away the rock to rise again. jesus died for our sins, for every sin from killing to coveting, including even the sins of those who persecuted him. he not only forgave them, he was their redemption.

the parallel between these stories strikes me deeply – to have a clear vision of a liberated world {liberated from sin, from racism, from superiority, from hatred}…to KNOW this other world is possible, that it is within us, within our own behaviors – to have such faith in this that you literally sacrifice the life you are experiencing for that greater possibility – this is a miracle of love and faith.

i was always told that the miracle was the rising from the dead, but…i am older now. i look around me and see those who are sacrificing themselves daily for these visions of justice, for this love of humanity.

perhaps because of the ages during which jesus and then martin lived, it was necessary for their sacrifice to be a masculine hero story, a singular miracle. these days i see it much more often as a community act, a giving of one’s life to the practice of taking care of others and being cared for.

i am the first to admit, i am not as selfless as those i surround myself with, and those around the world who risk their lives every day to live…simply LIVE…in tibet, in palestine, in colombia, in haiti, in detroit. i see mothers and fathers make this sacrifice for their children, and later i see children make these sacrifices for their elders. i see organizers do this for their communities – pushing out past sustainability.

of course, we have to have balance….but/and/yet the thing is, we are dying a bit every day anyway. we can either struggle to grasp on to life that is fleeting, or hustle to accumulate as much fleeting material as possible, or we can use the time and space of our lives to be miraculous. and the path that seems to most consistently yield miracles is working to increase our collective capacity to love.

miracles are possible when we let that love consume us and use us, when we give ourselves over to understanding that our existence is a miracle.

life is most meaningful to me when i see it as a great arc of all things, possibly all existing at once but with circles, cycles, spirals, movement to it beyond my own individual days. the stories in history and in the present that most move me are all aligned with the belief that “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.” [star trek: the wrath of khan, 1982]

so whatever the circumstances were, if there was endless bread and fish involved, wine or water, a mountaintop…it was all a dream. a dream so dangerous that the dreamers were murdered before they reached the age of 40. a dream of miracles for the meek, mundane masses. and that dream continues today in a million ways…only time will tell which ones are right.

i have been thinking about what we have to practice in order to become miracle makers…it can’t always be as tragic and dramatic and isolated as being gunned down or nailed to a cross, there has to be a daily action. i am pretty sure it is love, in all it’s forms. love is the act of miracles.

to love is radical, to love in the face of human behavior is faith, and to love those who hate you so much that you would sacrifice your life for them…surely that is a miracle.

at grace lee boggs’ house there is a sign on the wall that says “community organizing is to the collective what spiritual practice is to the individual.” yes, yes, yes…and its all, every small and great act, love.