My First Sunday Without You

What would we normally be doing at this time of night? We’d probably be lounging on the couch, watching some kind of documentary on Netflix, or I’d be lazily scrolling though my Facebook news-feed with our legs entangled, intermittently glancing up to see your handsome face lost in whatever it is you were thinking about. We would share tea, or I’d mix us a drink with magnesium in it to help us sleep. Our things would be all around us: the big comfy sectional couch that we found online, the beautiful table that you built with your own hands, the plants we re-potted and nurtured together, the books we used to read each other before bed forgotten on the bookshelf.

And although you are only an arm’s length from me, I can’t reach you. Routines, misunderstandings, and neglected intimacies pile up like dust, and we forget what color our love is underneath. It’s not bright, or immediate, or attractive. And as I looked up at you, your strong arms folded across your chest, every detail so well remembered to the last hair on your face and freckle on your skin, I’d remember what it felt like when we were falling in love. That sweet, thrilling, optimistic, endless feeling time. I’d long to climb into bed with you, to feel you hold me, to comfort me, to tell me everything is going to be alright. What exactly? What’s wrong? Nothing, something. I don’t know, I don’t know.

What else can we do besides let go? Sometimes love is ripped from us so violently, so suddenly, and other times it tiptoes out like a shadow, like a sunset. And we can do nothing but watch it go, powerless to bring back its light. I can’t plead, or beg, or bargain, or manipulate, or seduce you back. I saw our separation like a ship on the horizon. At first I wondered if it were real at all – perhaps just a flicker of the imagination. A cloud. A mirage. Then it drew nearer, and I could make out the shape of the sails, the mast, the bow. It was coming, this was certain. But when? And how? And why? What cargo was it bringing? Was it here to pirate our happiness? To pillage us of our promises? I turned the ring you gave me on my finger over and over again with my thumb before taking it off, a pale band of skin left behind from wearing it for so long. I still search for it with my thumb, and its absence is like a phantom limb. Like when I reach for you in the night and you are gone. Sometimes, when I’m not quite awake, I think I’m home, and for a sweet moment I anticipate your touch, your lips, your scent. I’m happy; I’m comfortable. Then consciousness flows in like a cold wind and I’m alone in a strange bed, in a strange world, where promises aren’t kept and ships come to shore to take you away.

The pain is acute. It’s real and stabbing and it catches me in waves. I wonder if you think about me, too. Do you look at the paintings I did for you and wonder, “who is she, really?” Do you loathe seeing my clothes still hanging in our closet, the love notes I wrote you still tacked to the fridge? Do you miss that I always filled the ice cube trays and tidied up your dishes? Or are you glad I’m gone? Are you relishing your freedom? Have you wanted this all along? Are you hurting at all? It’s like you were a dream, an actor playing a character. And now the film is over and I’m no longer your leading lady, your love, your life. I’m as much a stranger to you as you are to me.

My first Sunday without you. I miss you, my love. To my deepest heart of hearts, I do. But in these quiet moments alone, I also realize how much I’ve missed myself more.

The Color of Surrender

What color is surrender?

Is it the shade of violet the sky takes

At the end of day

The luminous blush that shifts and glows

As the sun traces a golden fingertip

Down her softly clouded cheek

And descends into the folds of Earth’s flesh?

Is it the color of autumn leaves

Clinging with their last ventricle of life

To the familiarity of mother tree

Ablaze with rage against the dying of the light,

Edges curling in crispy resistance

Like aged fingers wrapping scratchy shawls

Around thin-skinned, boney shoulders

In feeble attempt to ward off the cold

Uttering one last orange-red scream

Before departing to the ground?

Is surrender the color of dawn

The peeking, pale yellow of a distant star

As it blinks, yawns, and stretches stiff limbs of light

Reluctantly sliding a leg out of the blanket of night

To attend to its duty of awakening the world?

Or is surrender the tender pastel

Of the innermost petal of a virgin flower

That quivers as the others unfurl to expose her

Like a tight knot deep in a lover’s belly;

She yearns to be massaged and unraveled,

Made vulnerable

Her longing to be seen

Finally stronger than her fear of being open?

Or perhaps surrender is pure white

The color of light

As it passes through a dewdrop

That fearfully shook on the end of a blade of grass

Before its heaviness tore the meniscus

Like the seal of a womb

Experiencing its momentary, singular life

Before being returned to the ground,

To the ocean

Where it was made.

Surrender is the color of awakening

From a night well slept;

The hue of an exhale

From a breath long kept;

The tint of tears ceasing

From a sadness long wept;

Surrender is the color

Of pure,

Aching,

Emancipating,

Joy.

Choose to be stubbornly happy

This blog is called “Chasing Santosha” because I’ve always been fascinated with happiness. What is it? How do we attain it? How do we keep it? Is it tangible? Is it real?

Yoga teaches us that happiness resides inside us at all times, and what happens to us on the surface is mere circumstance in which we can choose our reaction. A lover can’t guarantee our contentment. They can challenge us to be vulnerable, test our patience, and create chemical bubbles of lust and giddiness to burst from our pelvic floor like the froth of shaken champagne, but they cannot make us happy. I’ve quested for lasting happiness in this wanton wilderness many times before, tried to net that butterfly until its wings were tattered and it was within a flutter of its life, only to realize that even if I’d caught it and pinned it to my wall I wouldn’t feel any better then when I was butterflyless. I can’t say much for those who’ve chased santosha to the bottom of a glass or to the peaks of mountains, as I’m not much of a drinker or adventurer, and I’ve never been wealthy enough to report that money can’t buy you happiness (although I have a sinking suspicion that it can’t). But what I have pieced together in my lifetime between moments of mediocrity, the popping of champagne bottles, and the deafening crackle of hormonal fizz is that happiness is a choice.

Now. I’m not saying that we need to be happy all the time, hold hands and dance around in circles and such, and that people who have mood disorders are merely making poor choices. I’m familiar with the lethargy of depression and am well-acquainted with anxiety. What I’m saying is that while these things happen TO us, they are not US. The evidence for this intangible phenomenon of santosha is found in the hearty laugh of a beggar on the street, or in the spirit of a terminally ill patient who loves deeper and truer after diagnosis, or in how a mother allows music to move her heavy limbs in defiance of death after she loses her child. Because I truly believe, when you peel away all the layers, what we are in essence is pure bliss. To chase santosha is to come back to who you are. It’s a journey home.

The world is a big, scary, turbulent, sublimely beautiful place. Bad things will happen to you. Great things will happen to you. And it is our duty and our right to surrender to our heart of hearts — not to chase, but to BE santosha, or as Jack Gilbert writes, “we must have the stubborness to accept our gladness in the ruthless furnace of this world.”

A Brief For The Defense

Sorrow everywhere. Slaughter everywhere. If babies
are not starving someplace, they are starving
somewhere else. With flies in their nostrils.
But we enjoy our lives because that’s what God wants.
Otherwise the mornings before summer dawn would not
be made so fine. The Bengal tiger would not
be fashioned so miraculously well. The poor women
at the fountain are laughing together between
the suffering they have known and the awfulness
in their future, smiling and laughing while somebody
in the village is very sick. There is laughter
every day in the terrible streets of Calcutta,
and the women laugh in the cages of Bombay.
If we deny our happiness, resist our satisfaction,
we lessen the importance of their deprivation.
We must risk delight. We can do without pleasure,
but not delight. Not enjoyment. We must have
the stubbornness to accept our gladness in the ruthless
furnace of this world. To make injustice the only
measure of our attention is to praise the Devil.
If the locomotive of the Lord runs us down,
we should give thanks that the end had magnitude.
We must admit there will be music despite everything.
We stand at the prow again of a small ship
anchored late at night in the tiny port
looking over to the sleeping island: the waterfront
is three shuttered cafés and one naked light burning.
To hear the faint sound of oars in the silence as a rowboat
comes slowly out and then goes back is truly worth
all the years of sorrow that are to come. ~Jack Gilbert

Namaste, and choose happy.