COMPASSION

Please be kind to me.
Be gentle.
Be patient. 
I am a wounded animal,
Not a stupid one. 

Dreaming

When we are awake and dreaming, we are incredulous — daydreaming
When we dream asleep, we are skeptical — night dreaming
When we have terrifying dreams, asleep or awake, it is as if they are real — nightmares

Why do we only believe in fear?

BATTLEFIELD

He storms out the door and I know he is going to the corner store to buy beer. Less than ten minutes later he returns, having chugged half a six pack and I am standing in the street trying to get him to come inside and talk to me.

The loud yelling has ceased, but my fear has not quieted. I am terrified.
That he will wake the neighbors.
That he will hurt himself.
That he will hurt me.

The alcohol soothes his rage, but now he is senseless, unreachable, unpredictable. I am holding a bomb in my hands, and I don't know when or if it is going to explode.

"If you leave me, I will kill myself," he tells me.

With those words and his maniacal stare, I am trapped. All I can do is keep my finger where the safety pin once was and hope I can hold this thing together.

I have spent years blaming myself for staying with him after this episode. Hating myself for spending the following twelve months of my life in a battle zone, dodging bullets and dancing around landmines, still carefully clutching the grenade he threw at me that summer night.

I knew better. I know better. I saw the red flags raised, flapping in the wind, clearly warning me of the danger ahead. And yet, I stayed.

I'm smarter than that, I think. More well-educated. Well-adjusted. Why did I wait?

Logically, I see it is not my fault. I was manipulated in the most evil sense of the word, tricked into feelings of trust and affection for someone who treated me as a prisoner of war. It is the purest form of torture to be filled with such intense love and hate at the same time.

The wounds I sustained are deep, they feel permanent, though I remind myself the bleeding has stopped. What's left are scars, and those are only reminders of the past, not indicators of the present.

But I still struggle to forgive myself. To love the part of me that just wanted to feel love and belonging so she put up with terror, trading it for moments of being seen. I knew he had issues early on, but who doesn't? We all bring our own baggage to relationships; some of it heavier than others. His weighed me down, until it became my own.

I am finally starting to unpack it now. Slowly, curiously, I examine each piece. I record the details carefully, making observations and drawing conclusions about the lessons learned. I cautiously pick up each item; some of them weapons, still sharp. One at a time I lay them down gently, spreading them out in front of me. After cataloging the remnants I am ready to let them go, piece by piece.

The scars are healing with time and there are bits of shrapnel still inside me, but I have no need to protect myself from the threat of attack. The armor I have been wearing no longer serves me, so I remove it.

HEAVY

No wonder your shoulders are hunched
You are carrying the weight of the world on your back.
That is not your job.

Dancing with God at The White Horse

It is a rare occasion in which I leave my house at 9:00pm, much less on a weeknight, but the allure of the slightly sticky 78° evening and a pair of VIP tickets to an art opening have me putting on punch pink lipstick in the back of a Lyft as I cross town to meet my friend.

The event is enjoyable, but almost over by the time we arrive (thanks to our earlier plans). Neither of us being one to waste a great outfit and perfect patio weather, we head to another venue where we discover some friends and an upbeat jazz band.

Tequila seems to be the drink of the evening and we sip house margaritas before trading to Mexican martinis, essentially the same thing, but served in a fancier glass with an olive. When we get bored with the bachelor party we've been flirting with, we decide to head to The White Horse to kick up our heels and work out our wiggles.

The band is switching up when we walk in, giving us time to grab another beverage at the bar and pop outside to once again chat with some friends we have bumped into. The music starts back up inside and we follow the beat of the drums and the beat of our hearts towards the dance hall.

Despite my almost five years in Texas, I'm not much of a two-stepper. I watch with awe as sexy women gracefully whip around like a carnival ride, delicately pushed and pulled by their partners. Their boots, their booty shorts, and their smiles are dazzling and I'm mesmerized, mentally practicing their moves and trying to copy their steps in my mind.

Before I am fully prepared, the gentleman to my left asks me to dance so I throw back the rest of my drink and jump into the second song of the set. I make it through with minimal coaching and keep my eye out for someone who can actually show me the ropes.

The old men are the ones you really want to dance with here. They have expert-level moves and a confidence that sets them apart from the younger boys who are sweet but still awkward in their asking women to dance, and amateurs at leading with conviction. 

After another song or two on the sidelines, an aging cowboy with white hair and a matching beard asks for my hand and gently leads me to the middle of the room. He is the perfect height for me, and I notice that his beer belly is firm as it presses into my stomach. His hold is equally solid and I am grateful for his strong lead as we start to follow the rhythm of the song.

I count the cadence in my head. One-two, one-one, one-two, one-one. Quick-quick, slow-slow, quick-quick slow-slow. When he spins me around, which I love, I lose count and it takes me a couple of beats to catch the tempo and get back to the flow.

"Relax," he says with a knowing grin. I understand that he is telling me to lighten my grip and release the tension in my arms, but I smile as I think of the larger metaphor his advice holds in my life. He removes my purse from my shoulder and places it on the stage and tells me not to worry about it.

Right now, I'm not worried about anything. Normally, I live with my shoulders to my ears, a tightness constantly coiled in my core as I run from place to place, making sure I am smiling for people and saying the right things at the right time. But tonight at The White Horse, none of that matters. There is just honky tonk and two stepping.

This Thursday evening is about learning to let go, and in my blissful buzz I have a hunch this white-haired hero is God telling me to just breathe and enjoy the music. Life is short and like this brief waltz it is not about counting every step or having perfect technique as we weave in and around the others sailing in circles. I loosen up and as he twirls me I am overcome with a sense of freedom and ecstasy that feels a lot like love. The winding unwinds me and the stress of daily life is forgotten, futile in this fun-filled moment in time.

The song comes to and end and with a Santa-like twinkle in his fatherly eyes he escorts me back to my friend on the outskirts of the crowd.

There is silence for a second, but as the music picks back up and I find myself in the arms of another dancer floating and flying around the floor with increasing finesse.

I let go, and I am free.

MOTHER

I have always seen motherhood as a negative thing
Sacrifice
Stretch marks
Sleepless nights
It is the conceding of a career
The giving up on spontaneous trips and faraway travel
Surrendering all of your dreams.

It means pain
Hunger
Stress
Expenses

But never have I considered the beauty that it is to be a mother...

It means perfect love
It means power
It means discipline and confidence and hard work
It means a nurturing spirit
A natural ability to help things grow
It means leadership
And negotiation
— with two year olds
It is personal development and power

And whether or not you have biological children
You can embody the spirit of womanhood
Own motherhood
Honor your inner goddess.
Because what it means to be feminine
Is to be both soft and strong
Both nurturing and commanding
Both disciplined and spontaneous
To be tender, and inspiring, and sweet.

You are a mother.