on being with what is

i often write when i am learning about something. for some time i have been learning to get present, and be with what is in the current moment. it is much much harder than i thought it would be. it has meant noticing the ways i numb, regress, resist, ignore and deny the present moment, and asking myself why.

this being with what IS, enhanced by meditation and somatics and tarot and my woes and my family and most recently my time away from the u.s. and facebook, is such a powerful learning. i am closer and closer to living in the present moment – i am closing the gap between anticipating/observing my life and actually living it.

i wanted to share with y’all some of my practice ground of late, which has included, but not been limited to, the following:

– sometimes it rains for a week in mexico. the week i was planning to beach and scuba dive was rainy and cold. but i found that there was no feeling of anger or ‘why me, why now’ that would change the weather. so i bought tea and read books and watched ants and listened to the rain pounding on the little skylight and did rituals and booked cheap massages. and i think it ended up being much more restful than my plans would have been.

– David Bowie died, and he was only 69, which seems so very young. he influenced me more than i can pinpoint, his existence was one invitation into the creative weird life that i am carving out for myself, loving earth and space and flesh and magic and colors and travel and art and music. but he is dead. and Grace is dead. and both of them gave me a gift: turning and facing death. listening to the album Bowie released on his birthday, days before his death, is almost a trans-life/death experience. he took the truth that he was going to die and created from it something ethereal, stunning.

Grace, similarly, faced her death and said yes, let me go/come, i am ready.

i have been so scared of death, and so angry with it for showing up all the time. i have seen so much unexpected death, where i didn’t have a sense that my lost ones were ready for the change that came. this intimate/stranger modeling is such a lesson.

i also read a book by carlos casteneda that i will review in my next post – the central figure of the book is an elder named don juan who teaches carlos that death is always with us, to the left, at arm’s reach. to accept and live with that is a fundamental part of a liberation process.

when i finished the first draft of the emergent strategy book earlier this month, i journaled that i felt a new kind of satisfaction. not a desire to die, i adore life. adore it.

but i also felt this sense of having done something that made my existence worthwhile, completed some cycle of expression that i have been playing at for years. there’s editing, but the raw yawp is out.

maybe the world needs this book as much as i do, maybe it doesn’t. but i came here to do a few things…as far as i can tell so far, that includes being good at love, seeding octavia’s brood, and this emergent strategy book. i feel satisfied.

– i landed from mexico into minnesota on the coldest night of the year. as the cold touched me all over my sunkissed skin i kept saying to myself, you really love, you really love, you really love – it was my youngest nibbling Mairead’s 3rd birthday, and i haven’t been with her on that day since her birth, where i got to be her doula. the babies were all super snuggly with me and i really needed that. Mairead and i spent most of her birthday curled up on the couch, watching dora the explorer (such a deeply repetitive show – one madlib style script really….) and the little mermaid. it was so perfect.

i only got two days there, which nibbling Siobhan let me know was not really adequate to her (because she wanted to read me more books – she is basically teaching herself to read because she is brilliant), and i agreed.

but the thing i want to bring up for practice here is that my oldest nibbling, Finn, asked me on my last night there (before a seven am departure) if he could sleep in bed with my mom and i.

as usual when we visit, we’re sharing a futon that is tight for the two of us. but i can’t say no to Finn! so i say: if you wake up early in the morning, you can come down.

to which he says, ‘is that in thirty minutes?’, which should have been a clue about his intentions.

i said no, like, five hours?

he’s like bet.

so around two am he is standing by the bed tapping my shoulder. i scoot over and make room, and then move him between us. and i would say my mom and i didn’t really sleep after that, just adjusted ourselves in various uncomfortable positions with Finn in the middle.

Finn is. and i am not his parent, this won’t happen a ton in our short lives. so, i watched him sleep, i wrapped him up in the covers, i contorted around his long limbs. and then i lay there in the dark, feeling so much love for him, and for my family, and for these kids who know how to be so openly loving.

– i am getting to a next level of my grief for Grace, for which i am grateful. i feel her in me, in us. i landed in Detroit and within two hours was in and facilitating a meeting, then went to another meeting, a circle of local healers who are going to be offering our work to a fellowship of low-income students this semester. and i feel her all in us. part of ‘what is’ is that she is with us all now, in us, lesson/essence. and when i look up from looking back to find her in my memories, she’s right here.

– i gave to a white homeless person for the first time ever. i always resist it on some principle i haven’t even articulated to myself: no, you’re white. i am not a fan of this form of charity anyway. and this is black Detroit, and you are gentrifying even the begging corners? no.

but…last night my thoughts shifted. who am i to limit my compassion according to some system i didn’t create, that is so much more complex than black/white? or hold this moral or political high ground, when i can see this human being’s face, and he can see mine?

what is? right now?

it’s so cold outside. cold enough that no one would be outside if they had an inside.
and i have a car full of food and a life full of met needs and abundance.
and his skin privilege has not kept him from this corner.
and maybe he doesn’t agree with charity either. who knows.

he said he was grateful, and he blessed me, and i said the same.

– i over-scheduled my return. i knew it as i was doing it, but i wanted as much writing/retreat time as possible, and then i wanted to be fully present with family. a lot of people were waiting for me to return and do things.

so. i landed, dropped my suitcase and went straight to work. as i write this, i have not unpacked. that’s major for me.

but the whole time i kept/keep thinking, this is so good! this is my good full strange life. i planned this, i got all the time i needed, i got to be so present, and now here i am. and retreat or no retreat, i am aware that i am a relatively slow person in a fast world, and i am still making it happen.

as a result of all this Being with what Is, this week – which has also held the beginning of my year of no added sugar, and my moon, and mercury in retrograde – i am often moved to tears by the love, the rightness, of my life. not the rightness of the universe, not yet. but the rightness of surrendering to and growing the good in my life, inside of what actually is, right here, right now.

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.’


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