Monthly Archives: October 2008

Echolalia

Prompt today from

which said, in part:

…So in honor of the confusing speech of this time, in honor of repetitive talking points, in honor of verbal nonsense, in honor of lies and not-quite truths, in honor of “straight-talk” (which seems neither straight nor talk — discuss) and especially in honor of 50-cent verbiages, I present to you your poetry mission: Write a poem that somehow hinges on the word echolalia. Perhaps it can be the title of your poem, or the literal center point, or maybe just the crux, or pivot. Whatever you do with it, let’s work together to put meaning back into our words — let’s take our language back through poetry!

This is the Wikipedia definition of echolalia: the repetition of vocalizations made by another person. Echolalia can be present in autism, Tourette syndrome, aphasia, Rubinstein-Taybi syndrome, developmental disability, schizophrenia, Asperger syndrome and, occasionally, other forms of psychopathology. When done involuntarily, it is considered a tic. The word “echolalia” is derived from the Greek meaning “echo” or “to repeat” and “babbling, meaningless talk.”

you told me to cut it
with the serenades.

too many notes
you said.

but

the echolalia
does not stop
in the anxiety of silence

only moves down
another chakra
like a straw with many leaks.

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The best laid plans

I live in the most magnificently, impossibly beautiful place on earth.  I do not know how I ended up here or how I know I belong in this place, right now, but I do.  (I reach for the camera… where??? Heaven knows.)

I had a crisis of trust today.  4:something pm and I have not accomplished all I intended.  I do not know where I will be living in six days.  I am lonely and unsure.  About everything.  How have I put myself in this situation?  What to do?  I know, in my heart and being, that trust and joy and perfection is available to me right now.  But how to simply abandon the fear?  The fear feels real.

I want to eat chocolate and nap.  I do eat chocolate.  I check e-mail and do half-hearted work instead of nap.  I decide to read the blog of Laura Diamondstone, our current Big Sur Artist-in-Residence who I have been actively involved in getting here for an 8-week residency through the Big Sur Arts Initiative. I fall into her words and experience so far.  Her appreciation for this place overflows like a blessing.  I am so profoundly grateful to live in a place where everyone recognizes the majesty.  It is lost on no one who has eyes.  And there is always someone who is remembering when I’m not, who can help bring me back.  Today it is Laura.  She helps me remember, and I get up to go on a walk.

Small, stingy tears start leaking, as I take my steps and listen to the perfectly human voice that comes forth.  This voice of such an understandably fearful, human girl who just wants to know where she will be living on Monday and how the money will come in if she follows her heart.  Who misses companionship and wants to turn back around on this lonely and beautiful road every time she thinks of mountain lions and loose dogs.  She picks up a rock and keeps walking.

Her want and will to surrender to trust is inexplicable and powerful.  She needs to know that there is an easier, more aligned alternative to life than to arm-wrestle it.  More leaking.  She walks by the broken house.  The house that after architects and planning and county soil specialists and permit approval, broke right in two when the ground slid out from under it, only weeks before it was to be occupied. The house that with the best laid plans, now sits empty, broken and caught up in lawsuits.

She makes a deal with the universe.  One week.  One week she will give herself and her heart entirely over to life.  She will banish worry and fear with absolution.  She will not let either make a single decision and she will walk through every door open to her that aligns with her intention.  No matter what.  If it does not work, if nothing opens, she will go back to arm-wrestling.

She sees a loose dog and turns around. Then remembering, no fear decisions, turns around again.  She stands and faces the dog.  She asks silently and respectfully for passage and walks more steps. The dog stays looking. She soon feels the natural cadence of her journey close, nods appreciation and goodbye to the new Aussie Shephard friend and without fanfare, turns to start the climb back up the dirt road.

The sporty red car of friend Christian turns the bend and is coming toward. The crunchy roll of dirt and gravel under the wheels is reassuring.  The girl smiles and waves and he stops.  She leans in the window and he tells her she is beautiful, walking on the road.  She says the view makes her look good.  They chat and within three sentences are negotiating her next house-sitting gig.  She will move in on Saturday.  She has 12 more days of bed and home while he is in Maui.  She throws the rock back to the mountain and follows him down to his house, taking careful mental notes on dog food, sprinkler systems and TV remotes.  He tells her there is a light around her.  That it is strong and powerful and fortuitous.  She hears the universe smiling and thanks him and it and herself and looks out at the sunset.

There is a fox and a wood spider waiting for her at home, and she greets each of them before they go along their way.

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Waterings

I was driving down Highway One tonight in a delightful, blissed out, open heart, giddy, love-for-humanity place. I saw a bumpersticker on the car in front of me – something demanding-sounding that I don’t remember – and I had a sudden little fantasy: what if every car in the world had only bumper stickers that were kind, loving reminders?  Stickers everywhere that said things like “Receive.” or “Enjoy.” or “Thank you.”

Maybe I’ll start a business.

This reminded me of all the little wisdoms and reassurances I’ve been writing for myself every morning, which reminded me of a list of “good parent messages” that my friend Linda dictated to me over a glass of Pinot at the Big Sur Bakery the other day.  I know this list is part of some probably copyrighted teaching I should credit**.  Someone, presumably with a psycho-something background, created this list – a conglomeration of the primary messages we (ideally) should have received (but almost none of us did) as kids.  The list is intended to be something practiced and spoken by the internalized parent we all now carry around in us.

For some reason tonight, sitting in the middle of my spontaneous compassion for all of us and our foibles and perfections, I want more than anything for me and you (yes, you) and the whole wide wounded world to hear and receive and know each of these things. Unflinchingly and in your bones.

I love you.

I want you.

You are special to me.

I see you and hear you.

I love you and I give you permission to be different from me.

It’s not what you do but who you are that I love.

I’ll take care of you.

I’ll be there for you.

I’ll be there for you even when you die.

You don’t have to be alone anymore.

You don’t have to be afraid anymore.

You can trust me.

Sometimes I will tell you no and that’s because I love you.

My love will make you well.

I welcome and cherish your love.

(you might want to read it again.

slowly.

out loud.)

Can you imagine what a world it would be if we all knew these things?

As Linda said to me, on the dark days, reciting this list can have the miraculous effect of actually feeling like someone else is speaking it – that “it’s like drops of water on a wilting flower.”  I love that.

**Since posting this, I have since learned that credit goes to Jack Rosenberg and Beverly Morse. (Thanks!)

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Proposition 8: why you should you vote NO

I’ve never made a political foray onto my blog before, and I don’t plan on making it a regular practice.  But there is a proposition on the California ballot this November election that I feel so very connected to, and I must speak.  I have been in two long-term relationships with women, and have many, many gay and lesbian friends who will be very directly impacted by this ballot initiative.  This is not one of those ballot check boxes that is filled out and will be forgotten next year.  This is an unprecedented and permanent reversal of rights for a substantial population of people.

I’ve submitted the following letter to the editor to six different regional papers and so far I’ve heard from the Carmel Pine Cone, who will be featuring it in tomorrow’s paper.  If it is useful to you, please feel free to copy and distribute it to anyone you know who might not be fully educated on the issue.

In love,  Lisa

Supporters of Proposition 8, those that seek to permanently eliminate the right of same-sex couples to marry by changing the California Constitution, are fond of holding “activist judges” responsible for the fact that California is currently one of three states in the U.S. where same-sex marriage is legal. The law was indeed a result of a judicial ruling by a Republican-dominated court, citing “equal respect and dignity of marriage is a basic civil right”. The majority opinion went on to say, “An individual’s sexual orientation — like a person’s race or gender — does not constitute a legitimate basis upon which to deny or withhold legal rights.” But supporters of Prop. 8 say the definition of marriage is a legislative issue, not to be determined by the courts.

The fact is that the legislative process, and in fact the American majority, will never be the source of advocacy for the minority. It will always be the courts, it will always be acts of defiance like the San Francisco marriages, and it will always be our Constitution. If we took a vote for “same-ethnicity marriage” in 1958 when 93 percent of white Americans opposed inter-racial marriage, or heaven forbid, that majority amended the Constitution to define it as “two people of the same ethnic background,” the civil-rights movement would have been much longer in the making.

Our founding fathers created the judicial system to protect the Constitution, but who will protect the Constitution from us?

What’s true is that the vast majority of Proposition 8 supporters are conservative religious leaders who, as directly quoted from their website, are “fighting to preserve God’s design” and who believe somehow that same-sex marriage “threatens to forever muzzle Bible believing Christians.” It’s understandable then why so many Republicans and Democrats alike, including the Governor, oppose this constitutional amendment. It’s a dangerous precedent that caters to those most invested in perpetuating a culture war.

Voting NO on Proposition 8 takes nothing away from anyone, and in fact will likely be a huge fiscal boon to the state. Voting yes invalidates the legal marriages of tens of thousands of loving couples.

It is my hope that anyone who feels threatened by this look closely at these marriages, at these families, and then look closely at themselves and ask – “Who am I to discourage love?”

—————-

A similar, earlier version of this letter was published in the Boulder Daily Camera in 2004:

http://www.thirdtablet.com/ThickboneColorado/PamRhodes/2004/LisaGoettel-Marriage.html

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Lily in the Valley

Vernon Bush

I learned a new gospel song last weekend from friend and superstar Vernon Bush called Lily in the Valley.  Words, “there’s a lily in the valley… a bright and glorious star…” lots of times, followed by a bunch of “amens.” It’s a good song. An uplifting song. It’s a simple, joy-filled tune about finding the good.

Finding the good is easy to do, I find, when I’m not in a valley. But today was a swampy, off-kilter, oh-no, not-at-all-comfortable-in-my-britches kind of low down yuck day, and now I’m not in bed yet because I don’t want to go to sleep feeling bad.  My brain, my darling brain, is a broken record, tormenting me with its perpetual skipping to the accumulated list of everything that went so very wrong today.  It is instant gratification, like eating a whole roll of cookie dough (if you like that kind of thing) to review and add to this list.  It feels like I’m in an endurance contest of trials and each of these wrong things is a notch in my belt. I grow ever more righteous, resentful, frustrated and victimized as the day progresses.

And I find, after focusing all day on this list, that I feel like I missed a day of my life.  I had a few good moments there, where I stopped the record for a time or pulled the reigns in on the momentum, but then another thing would go wrong and I was kicking the dirt again.  It is compelling now, to want to review the day in a kind of audit, making a power point presentation out of it and putting big yellow arrows at all the moments when I made poor choices.  Or big red warning signs on situations I walked into that I know tend to make me grumpy.  I think about all the decisions I could make – wear different clothes, do more yoga, drink more water, quit my job, never talk to people again – that will save me from this fate in the future. I’ve done this for 34 years.  It hasn’t worked yet.

How to stop, so wholly and completely, that the strength of the momentum of this habit can’t take me on it’s ride?  It feels today like turning physics on its head.  A thing in action tends to stay in action.

This is why I write.

Somehow, somewhere, whenever I sit down to write and ask a sincere question, the answer comes.

Just like that.

Now it came, like a tiny whisper from deep in the canyon of my left ribcage, saying “Make a list of the lillies.”

Ok then.

Things I loved about today:

  • Pumpkin pie with whipped cream.
  • Fresh laundry.
  • The neck crack I’ve been waiting for for weeks.
  • Sweet and kind words on my blog from friends and strangers.
  • Saying hi to the new guy, and knowing I made his day better.
  • A confirmed “yes!” from a donor for a $500 sponsorship.
  • Singing along with Ani Difranco in the car.
  • Firefighters.
  • Kittens.
  • This perfect, dark, crickety, warm night, and the pjs I’m about to climb into.

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the wind today

Prompt compliments of:

the wind today won’t stop.
and this is no warm, gentle, autumn wind,
mind you.
this is wind turned loose from its pen.
this is not the science of rain,
this is a whisper with velocity,
shouting slam poetry in exclamations and anapests over a philharmonic of chimes.
a pestilent end to silence everywhere.
this is a tricksy and stubborn wind with arguably devious motives.
(oh I saw you this morning, when you jabbed my espresso off the car roof, yes I did.)
this is a hulking and hooded figure, staggering by with a flask under his coat, too close – turning to wheeze, laugh and yell at anyone who will listen.
(do we have a choice?)
this enormous, interminable sigh of a wind is navigating cracks in my igloo,
whipping through my coat as if it were made of threads of light
exploring hips and throat and belly.
this is a cold and brutal loving –
a thief in my field –
an unwanted insight.

I’m more tenacious than you realize.
my incandescence cannot be put out.

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In the village

I am really really wanting to figure this out.  This thing I do. This way I get pulled out into the circle of the people I’m with and lose my own feet. This way my consciousness gets right up and goes and sits on your lap.

I am the fern who grows only into the little space offered by my neighboring ivy and sage.

I am the bright foreign exchange student who knows philosophies with intuitive insight but cannot say “I want a loaf of bread” in English.

I am the small child who knows how to shield his mother from anger but cannot tie his shoes.

I will tell you what I think, then read your face to learn my wisdom.

Was I brilliant or naive tonight?

I am a prophet with him and an empty shell with her.

Where is my own heart and the knowing of things when you stand here?

My mind is looking for the thing it alone obstructs.

I try relating with form where there is none.

There is no this for figuring.

Only coming back here, to where I live.  Alone and amongst all of you.

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The great debates

It’s another glorious day in paradise – hot sun, blue sky, big ocean, sun setting and I’m eating chocolates dipped in peanut butter and drinking a blueberry Izze.  I’m in the honeymoon phase of a new love affair with life – serenading and writing poems to it, making dates, walking around all giddy. To this I credit a whole host of responsible parties – namely me, Cheri Huber, my person I talk to (I hate the word therapist), healers, friends, random path crossings with wise people… in some more meta way, everyone who has ever crossed my path ever. This is proving, once again, my circumstances have nothing to do with my happiness.  It seems it is the human condition to need constant proof of this.  We are slow learners. (Or perhaps I will just speak for myself.)

Just for kicks, let us paint the picture here.  In the external realm, I am recently broken up from a serious and wonderful relationship of more than 3 years, I’m homeless, my checking account balance today is -$347 (yes, that is a negative sign), my car is making one of those little “uh-oh” noises and the check engine light came on again, “catastrophic rain-related mud and debris flows” are predicted by all the experts to befall Big Sur this winter, this morning I spilled a mug of hot tea all over myself (again) and last, but oh no, not least, I am likely the proud new party to a frivolous lawsuit.**

**Indeed, a woman behind me when boarding the plane home from Colorado tripped on a bag I set down in the aisle while I was stowing my guitar and it seems she is rather enthusiastically tormented by her swollen ankle. Susan from Risk Management at US Airways has called me to let me know I should give my insurance company (which insurance?) a heads up about the coming claim.  Know any good lawyers?

This is not to say each of these hasn’t given me pause – it’s not hard to start ruminating on any one of these subjects and watch myself dissolve into a seething, sobbing or withering puddle of goo. I have to check myself constantly.  But the will to check myself, and to choose something different, now that’s news.  I find it’s not so much these arguably legitimate concerns that even bother me really, it’s the voice in my head that never ceases to remark on my culpability, unworthiness, righteousness, (pick your judgemental characteristic of choice.)  This voice sucks my soul out through the head of a pin and spends all day letting me know why I deserve it and offers me every situation I encounter as proof.

I have recognized this voice before, and been unable/unwilling to disidentify with it for long.  It’s powerful and wily and reasonable and convincing.  By even getting me to hate it, it has sucked me back into itself. Cheri Huber calls it self-hate, even when it’s directed outside.  I’m in a three month class with her via e-mail and phone calls and she wrote this yesterday: “Print it out and hang it on your wall–everybody! Self-hate, the incessant voices of dissatisfaction, leave you feeling frustrated/exhausted. THEN the same system talks you into doing something that will strengthen IT and leave you feeling WORSE!”

Indeed. (Flash back to so so so many lost days spent watching movies and eating sugar because “I deserved it.”) Perhaps even more poignantly though, she responded to a participant who was doing the “yes but…(bemoaning his/her terrible situation)” by asking simply “And, of course, you know the only way to address this problem is to stop, yes?”

I’m experimenting with this whole stopping business.  Just stopping.  Watching the train take off from the station, working me into a lather about exhibit A or B and just stopping.  If it takes zoning out for a minute or breathing or leaving or walking or temporarily distracting, whatever… just stopping.  And I must say, if this were a diet shake infomercial I would sign up to be spokesmodel.  I am deeply changed in my days.  The content hasn’t changed at all, but I am changed.  I’m waking up in the morning (early!) and writing and reading reassurances to myself, meditating, doing yoga, making breakfast.  I’m cooking really good dinners and walking on achingly beautiful roads being grateful.  I’m reaching out to friends because I want to, and receiving the love they have to give.  I’ve even set up my calendar to e-mail me things like “You’re Wonderful!” throughout the day, and who would have guessed I could believe those voices too.

Yesterday in my session with my un-therapist there was another touchstone moment of realization (it should be noted that as time goes on I’m finding epiphanies are less and less “my god!” and more and more “oh yeah”) – and that is: this isn’t requiring my familiar “muscle-through” approach to life. While committing to stopping does require some force of will that often feels like a strict parent or that coach who used to shout through the last, shaky push-ups – more than that it requires that I allow all my most deeply uncomfortable feelings of rage or shame or disappointment to just be there. Not doing anything at all.  I’m begging to do push-ups at those moments.  They’re just sitting out there for everyone to see, and there I am, just sitting there.

So here I am, hereby announcing this commitment to the world to keep stopping and sitting there, which at this moment feels like it’s giving more weight to the commitment.  Most of the time, that has felt like a bad thing.  But look at all I have to lose!

I’m going to go now and not watch the debates.  I’m a political junkie turned politically-inspired-but- non-debate-watching happy person.  They should talk about that.

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testimony

you stood

lacing the void with your scent;
until you were more scent than you

your words a dummy trail –
crumbs, leading to an empty room
where the sound of each syllable in my ear is more real than your fingers

this space, so full of un-you,
how does it live so brightly without even one particle of light?

you are far from here, and so am I;
a story frozen in pictures.

I stand, naked
asking the moon the way
(Yemaja!)
but moons are made of longing.

I want to be led down a river
where your standing is my swimming, perfectly navigated
and our meeting is the effortless death of our dreaming

I want to crash through the floor in a freefall of expansion
singing the tune of joyful beggars and saying grace to our crackings open

I want to gaze in the face of the lion, kissing and rubbing her ears,
knowing fierce is will and will is juice and juice is firing the pistons of my shouts of joy

I want to ooze into your cradle
where our entwining is a sacrifice on the alter of consciousness
and surrendered breathlessly to the movement of tides,
where our sweat is a baptism
and our skin teaches us where we don’t end.

you pull my cord,
and I sink into the slow knowing that we are both here always,
following trails of words and doings and silences
incapable of moving away from this place
where god is reclining,
waiting patiently for us to notice our perfection.

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Of mountains and molehills

It’s late and I have to get up in six hours.  It’s been weeks and weeks and weeks since I’ve written regularly though, and I’m determined to prove to myself that typing a few words is not pushing a boulder up a mountain.  I wrote two whole posts last week and had internet problems so I didn’t post them, and when I re-read them later they felt forced and inadequate.  Blah.  I’m sticking my tongue out at my inner critic right now.

I’m just going to say a nighttime prayer (I wish that word wasn’t so associated with churches and bibles) to this infinitely supplied universe, full of things that are healing and nurturing and fulfilling. Heirloom tomato pizza, suprise path crossings with old friends, singing(!), Ani DiFranco’s new album, the nighttime that is serenading me with crickets.

For the majority of you with whom I’ve lagged in contact, here’s an update in five minutes or less:

  • I’ve moved 12 times since July.
  • I’m luxuriously perched atop a Big Sur ridge in one place for a whole month, as of Saturday.
  • I went to Colorado for 10 days and saw changing Aspens and old friends.  I love Colorado, changing Aspens and old friends.  I saw my cat and three ex’s.
  • I’m teaching myself how to play guitar with “Guitar for Dummies”.  I know 16 chords and am very, very proud of myself.
  • I’m single for the first time in 10 years.
  • I’m taking a three month Zen class with Cheri Huber remotely, using conference calls and e-mails.  My assignment: do something that a) nourishes my heart and spirit and b) will earn me $500 in three months.  I think this is scary and implausable and fantastic.
  • The neighborhood skunk just waddled by the open door and gratefully decided against coming in for another cat food feast and four hour nap under my bed.

I’m back!

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