How Lancelot can enter any hospital tale

16 Aug

Uncle John’s Band fills the room, and I can’t look at my Father. He’s wearing a diaper and his breathing is like a death rattle emerging from deep within. He’s been this way for hours. We have said our goodbyes two days before.

“Daddy, I love you,” I say, and he goes, “I know.”

A part of me still doesn’t believe him. How can he know? How can he know that the distance between us is because I can barely stand to be around him? I don’t know this man with a cane – I don’t know this man who does 2nd grade word problems to help with his memory. How can he know?That looking at this man makes me want to take the fetal position and never get up again – that if I did that I’d be an utter disappointment, but at least he would know how much he was loved.

Though, that’s all done now. A week before I noticed that he was silent, sitting at the edge of his bed with his feet planted on the floor. The TV was on, but I could tell that he wasn’t really watching. It rang out like empty noise that was meant to distract – not entertain.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, and as he usual he responded with, “nothing,” and I didn’t believe him because despite everything he still couldn’t admit to me when he was in pain.

I wasn’t sure if he fully realized what he was doing. How long he sat there like that. I wasn’t sure if I should try to talk to him or leave him alone. Our conversations were stilted, and at times they seemed to take away all of his energy.

Months before I had witnessed his writhing body laid out before me, and while my Mother screamed at me, “tell him a story,” and I began to tell the story of Lancelot – not the knight, but the handsome, womanizing, almost-lover that I had become friends with in the North of Colombia. I had no idea what I was doing, but I went with it.

Under most circumstances, I loved telling the story a Lancelot, and it wasn’t just because of his name. He pulled me into a corner in a dark club in Taganga, infuriated with my inattention toward him and demanded, “but Samantha, who do you like? You seem to like everyone,” and I wanted to explain to him that what I liked was being free.

Outwardly calm, but deeply panicked, I couldn’t stop the story’s telling. My Father murmured, “morphine,” and I said, “Daddy, it’s coming, don’t worry. You know what’s really funny? Well, maybe not funny, but umm, when I met Lance I was traveling with another guy..who was my friend, of course. But, um, I was annoyed with him. Ever heard of helicopter Moms? He was kind of like that, and when I saw Lance what I was really seeing was an opportunity to get rid of him.”

All the while I kept thinking, “I’m a terrible person. Not only did I ditch that guy and use Lance to do it, but now I am telling the story of Lancelot to my Dad whose every nerve is tensed in excruciating pain.”

So, I paused and wracked my brain for any other story, and all I saw was nothing.

Everything was covered in this mist, and I couldn’t even see my own recent experiences. I gripped my Dad’s hand, and plowed on, moving onto the part where Lancelot bought wine and cheese, and we laid by the pool, flirting, until I slipped and hit my head on the concrete in an attempt to be both sassy and sexy. After a bottle of wine, it seemed okay to stalk off, in false indignation, on a slick surface.

When it came time for the apology behind closed doors, I paused again. I couldn’t go on with the story, even the beginning wasn’t really parent-appropriate: the nightclub, the traveling with a man who I ended up leaving. It was all in my first months of backpacking, and it was a delicious chaos that I had never permitted myself.

But, here I was, standing in an equal chaos, and in response to my Mother’s demands to distract, it was the only story that lit up in my terrified mind.

She kept screaming at me, “what’s wrong with you? Talk to him, you’re not helping – can’t you think of anything?” and I wanted to lean across the table and scream at her, “how are you making anything better?” I wanted to weep for my life, which took me far and wide, and yet always yanked me back to where I began.

Eventually, the morphine kicked in and my Dad fell asleep. I looked at the white walls and laughed to myself; it was all so absurd.

In the silent room, I took in the white: the sheets, the pillowcases, his gown and the walls, and I knew that each room contained another person who was wearing the same thing. Some had families and some didn’t, and we had been there so many times over the years that the staff knew us. That they were witnesses to our families’ story; that they probably knew us better than our closest friends because they had seen our pain.

I looked down at my Father, “my Daddy,” and again I was wordless. Overcome, I knew that nothing had come to me because everything was nothing in the face of this – that Lancelot needed to enter into this moment because I was trying to save my Dad through a story.

Through my fully lived life; that was rich in experience, many of it joyous, adventurous, and I drove myself into the ground at times with it all because when the time came I knew I wanted to grip each moment into my hands and offer them up as worthy.

Looking into the grim reaper’s eyes, and whisper, “I’ve learned.”

I’m back, at the page, and it feels good

4 Aug

I walk through the streets of New York and feel the throbbing energy pulsate up through my feet, and I smile, like a never-ending summer; like the melting heat that I can smell, and I know I’m in love.

It’s a ripping kind of love, an earned love – it’s not easy or quiet. In fact, it never shuts up.

People don’t stop talking here, and we all can hear each other. There isn’t enough space for our words to breath, so we’re all on top of one another, complaining, but we love it.

In English, Spanish, French, Mandarin, Hindi and Portuguese, we’re all here standing together on the goddamn subway – stuck underground. Eventually, though, we all emerge, streaming out into the streets, bumping into one another as we rush to our next destination.

Having lived in Illinois, Indiana, California, Colorado and New York – I am keenly aware of the different styles of living that each city and state possess. And, I’m aware how each environment both attracts a certain kind of person and shapes their perspective.

And, a fierce rooted love lights up in my heart for New York because there is a sliver of space for me to be all that I am – and, if one is willing, there is room for you too.

And I think, “Isn’t this the kind of country that we want to live in?” one that believes there is room for everyone even if we’re straining against the seams?” A country that believes we can get a little closer, squeeze together, to make more room for another soul who has the right to, “pursue their own happiness,” and whatever that looks like for them?

It is in the arid expanses of space, conforming and white-washed, that we can forget all that exists outside our own environment and perspective; we can forget that a tapestry’s beauty lives in the varied colors that are woven together.

But, I get it. I get it more than I say – and I haven’t said much, as of late. There was a silence that descended upon me after my Dad died – the words left me, and all I could think about was, “move forward.”

I had nothing then: jobless, homeless with a few thousand dollars to my name. It was January and bitter cold. There were no travels ahead, only an entire life to rebuild, and the determination to do it.

Now, a year and half later I can revisit the page, and in doing so, I’d like to champion communication, I’d like to champion bridges – not walls.

We are scared, and we have every right to be. We are divided and that makes sense to me. I don’t comment on politics because I have seen so many different perspectives – I have lived in them.

I have sat in small towns in Indiana and listened to the reasoning, I have heard spur-clad cowboys in Colorado, and I put my face to the sun in Dolores Park, in San Francisco, and heard from people all over the world commenting on our nation.

But, at the end of the day for me it is New York, it is the subway – the most efficient and obnoxious form of transportation. The great equalizer.

It is the brown child laying it’s head on what I believe to be its Mother, it’s the French couple discussing things I cannot understand, and it’s the Asian schoolchildren, giggling, and that white guy staring into his phone.

America is a dream – one made from Utopia, and for those who don’t know what that means it’s nowhere.

But, don’t we need to believe in what we cannot see; that can potentially not exist? Don’t we need to believe that we can leave our childhood homes with almost nothing to recreate our lives? Isn’t that what is “great” about the “United States,” that we, at times, have provided space for people to come onto our shores with a few dollars and a dream and believe that they can make something better for themselves – which can benefit the country as a whole?

Isn’t that the true spirit of being an entrepreneur? How can I approach this in a new way? How can I make possible something that doesn’t yet exist?

Creation is not a solitary act – bringing any being into life takes two people, two perspectives, and that is just a beginning.

The ending is where we stand alone. This I’ve seen. I watched my Dad take his last breath, and I wasn’t with him; he was by himself somewhere, a place that I might see myself one day.

That is the fear – that is the uncertainty. That is why I run down the street, knocking into others because, “I’m not going to let anyone else steal my cab,” that is the nature of the beast, and that is why I love New York.

It is a place for beasts and for compassion – the dual sides of our nature is wrapped around every mode of living. The man who carries the homeless woman’s walker up the stairs, and the person, slamming their hands down, screaming at a car, as if it will respond.

But, I don’t want to live in the screaming. Make space for it? Yes. But, I’d like to believe that at the end of the day, most of us want to be the person who’s carrying that disabled, impoverished woman’s walker up those fucking stairs.

Emerging, into the cloudless, August day – knowing that intangible, idealistic myths are the very story of creation.

A being of energy, of light, some all-powering God, spent seven days making this earth – and then we bit the Apple, we are the creation and the Fall.

(Wo)man will always bite the apple, and that’s okay – so there’s no need to reach for that tempting snake who promises you a paradise that you already live in.

The subway will arrive eventually, though never on time. And, all of us, standing together, fighting for our square to stand in will both smile at one another and push each other out of the way, struggling, hurrying, reaching towards our next destination – which ultimately will end up being our last one.

So, maybe, let’s slow down, and take some time to get there. Let’s make space for our different perspectives and modes of being – let’s create in a way that serves us. Let us believe that we have the courage to go off, with very little, and make much of it.

Today in New York

22 Mar

Sometimes I just feel the rhythm of this city – the energy that swells up from beneath the layers of concrete.  It throbs through me, and echoes out of all of the layers of myself; all the Samanthas piled up on top of each other.

People ask me, “Where are you from?” all the time, especially since I’m new to this filthy, rat-infested, glorious, crumbling empire.  I feel that; that I choose to move here and watch it all fall, but I know that it’s already fallen.

“I don’t know where I’m from,” I say because I’m not from anywhere. I’m a culmination of all of my experiences, of all things forgotten and remembered.

Sometimes I sift through my memories, like pages of a book that I cannot put down.  I am terrified of forgetting and know it’s the inevitable conclusion.

But my experiences are my most precious possessions – the shining jewels of my mind.  People don’t realize that when they tell me I have a good memory I shine brighter than when I’m told I’m beautiful.

I don’t care about being beautiful, really.  But, when I look at my aging face I know that I am lying to myself.  That my life will change as my body changes because people will respond to me differently.

And who I am if I am not pursued and shouted at?  Who am I when I no longer look like the person that is recognizable to me?

And yet, when the young waitress, whose beauty is so obviously flourishing, serves me my glass of white wine, I don’t envy her.

She is too fresh, too ignorant – her beauty is in the blossoming and not in the experience; her beauty is a shiny shell and not the nooks and cracks – the marks that chaos leaves behind.

And what is beauty anyway?  I have seen so many different types and faces, and when I sit across the table and ask two woman of color if they have a difficult time dating, their response is, “”yes, thank you for asking.”

Asking is my pleasure, as is knowing others, or, “the other.”  The unseen city, the yet-to-be climbed hill, the person I haven’t yet met.

This is what I love about New York, it’s a city of extroverts, of people constantly wanting to tell something to the other because we’re all standing so close together.  Piled up in so tight that it can be stifling.  Elbows are bumped, drinks are spilled, and apologies are rarely made – there is no room.

The mountainous, sea-smelling spaciousness of other places that I have lived reminds me how I didn’t fit because no one had the need to talk or listen.  No one wanted to scream out their story to me – people had too much room to, “journey.”  Here people need to cut through to make space.

And sometimes I feel my joy radiate out of me like an incandescent light that others smell – I strut down the streets, smaller than most, and yet, still noticed.  At other times I feel so lonely that I can’t get out of bed, feel that I’m trapped in, weighed down by all of my unshared experiences.

I’ve been so loved by so many people, but never really loved; never had a man (or woman, for that matter) want to spend the rest of their life with me.

I know it’s me – I’m the common denominator.  I keep people at arms length or throw myself into and/or against things.  The thought of truly giving myself to another horrifies me but so does my ever-abundant freedom. 

A friend of mine told me I was looking for the perfect partner, but aren’t we all? Aren’t we all looking for that puzzle piece that just naturally clicks itself in, forming a greater picture, making a single soul larger with it’s connection?

Maybe God is my soulmate – maybe I am just a child of the world, the universe because the only thing that I’ve been in love with these past two years is life.

I’ve looked up at the sky, on a boat in Bolivia, floating along a lake were sea meets sky because its 3,812 meters high.  I felt the sky’s nearness.  I wanted to take my fingers and poke them through the scattered clouds that were hanging above; to swing across that lake with clouds in my hands.

My heart was so full – the richness and luck of my life so apparent; time and time again, I looked up and whispered, “thank you.”

And when I stride down the streets of New York, on my way to a meeting, an opportunity, a date, and I feel the millions of people who are also going somewhere, I believe that I can do anything.  That putting myself out there into the world is an accomplishment; that I am here because I am willing to push forward, persistently, toward the image of Self that I hold in my mind.

That unattainable Perfect image that isn’t real; that is a mirage in the distance, the person we all believe ourselves to be if we were just a little bit more or less of something.

I hear the hustle outside my window, steaming out with sound, and I look to the handsome man sitting next to me, and I pretend that knocking over my coffee is an accident.

He turns towards me, offering one of the napkins piled high on his table, and our fingers brush, just for an instant.

It is in that instant that I lower my eyes, and then quickly look up.  My hazel meeting his blue, and I breathlessly say, “thanks and what is your name?”

Beginning again what I’ve done before, and will do again, in cycles, one piling on top of the other, seeking out and writing all of life’s unwritten chapters, and here in New York with it’s abundant stories, ferocious underbelly, with it’s bloody gorgeous rhythm that rips people apart is where I will dwell, for now, as I write my endless, infinite chapters.

New Beginnings and Loss – it’s all the same

17 Jan

I have suffered so much loss – incredible loss.  Heart aching, breaking loss – more than I ever talk about, more than I can express through action or words, and long before my Dad died.

But he did die, recently, on the exact same day my Grandpa died – one year apart, so I have lost the men of my life.  There really haven’t been any other, and in a way, I haven’t allowed for anyone else because those I did allow betrayed me – all when I was very young.

And now I’m 30 – a significant age, an age I’m happy to be, and I’m in a time of my life that I’m happy to be in, but it all feels strange because I’m without a Father, and grandfather, and I know in my heart my childhood drifted away amongst all my adventures.

And I’m not unhappy, nor happy.  I just am here, navigating this new phase of my life with all of it’s uncertainty.  I truly have no idea what’s ahead.

And I can’t run away because I don’t want to, but I am consistently seduced, tempted by the thought of changing locations, of endless travels in endless cities where everything is an adventure and nothing means anything with the quiet hope that somehow, somewhere I will find that unknowable something that will allow me to know here it is, my final stop.

But stopping is a choice, as is living, as is not letting the undertow of grief sweep you away and allowing the happiness to continue on.

As is never letting life beat you, as is never letting shame overtake, as is forgiving yourself for the missteps and haps that occur along the way.

As is the journey continues on, even while stopped because roots need stillness, nourishment, need actual planting to grow.

So I will try and trust this moment, that is what I tell myself everyday, let’s stay here, and trust that it will grow.

And trust that I don’t have to know everything, know what’s next, that I am strong and capable, well-traveled, ready and experienced; that I can make life what I want it to be even while stopped, even in grief, even in the shadows of happiness that dance across the moments where I let it in.

In fear, in pain, in joy, in sadness, in rage, in desire, in frustration, in love it’s all there all the time, this spinning wheel of uncertainty and in the living we create, and in the loss we evolve, so here I am, in this moment, uncertain, sad, joyful, wanting, hopeful and angry that life isn’t always what we want it to be; that love is not always waiting; that expression isn’t always possible and that acceptance, choice and change is all that’s left.

A Piece of Fiction – Midnight At The Party

23 Sep

It’s midnight in this poetic darkness, but you do not see the words that I have inscribed on my forearm with that black marker we found in the street, and grabbed because we thought it would be a fun thing to bring to the party.

At that point we already had too much to drink,

But you never listened to me when I told you that it was enough – that we should stop.  You never listened to me when I told you that we shouldn’t take it so far; that I couldn’t take it anymore because I kept moaning it was all so good.

It was good, wasn’t it?  Even when I was lying we had those flickers of fun –

And when you passed out, I scribbled, “turd,” across your face and told you someone else did it.

I couldn’t believe how juvenile I was.  I looked at my hand holding the black marker, and ran out of the party, leaving you there.  I told you I was too blacked out.

I told you that when I saw those words scrawled across your cheek I knew it wouldn’t work, but I knew long before. I knew that evening you looked at me, while I begged for your support, on my knees, in tears because my life was so heavy sometimes and you said, “I can’t be there.”

You needed me you said, but nothing was wrong.

You didn’t know what wrong was, and so you told me that I was wrong all the time.  You told me that I didn’t accept you, you told me that I didn’t love you…

And you were right, I never loved you, not like that.

But what do I love anyway?  People, in general, with their terrible flaws that try to take each other down?  These weak, deteriorating beings that don’t last as long as the objects that they create.

It’s funny, I never miss you until I do.  And I think of that night, when I wrote liar on my own long-sleeved arm to remind myself to release you from me because you never had the courage to do it yourself.

The Space Between the Chapters of Living

12 Sep

No matter where I go in the world I know in Newport Beach the sun will be shining.  This flawless beauty disturbs me – it doesn’t feel real.

And it isn’t.  Next to me, at lunch, sit gaunt women, with pinched faces who pick at their cucumbers and cottage cheese.  I want to shove a hamburger in their mouths.  I want to turn to them and say, “do you know you are wearing your unhappiness?”

But who am I to judge strangers over lunch?

It is just at this moment of my life, I have no grounding structure to sit within.  I am in-between one chapter and another, and am impatiently awaiting to acquire what is next.

Yet, in this space I am crystalizing what I want to do; in this space I am plotting my next chapter.  At times, though, it feels hot and uncomfortable – like the sunburn that I acquired at the beach, making me red with my lack of protection.

And I know better – know to wear sunscreen, to be patient, to understand the importance and significance of this moment that I am sitting in.

People keep asking me outrageous questions, such as, “where do you live?” or “what do you do?” and I want to answer with what I see for myself – what I believe to be ahead of me.

Instead, I say the truth, which sounds equally outrageous, “I haven’t had a permanent address in over a year,” and “I’m a strategic creative consultant who helps other people tell their stories – both business and personal.”

“Oh,” is usually the response – it’s beyond a categorical understanding – there is no box to place me in.

But this is what all of my travels, people and jobs have brought me; the knowledge that you can make a blank canvas of your life and color it any way that you want.

It might not be easy or fair – it might seem hopeless or the result might look very different than the picture that you had in your mind, but your life can be crafted from your own abilities, desires, and whatever else you decide to throw upon the canvas.

Still, at times I am entangled and frightened.  At times, I get caught up with words like, “normal,” “typical,” and “broke.”  At times, my parent’s words ring in my ears, “when are you going to grow up?” which is what they recently asked me.

And my response was, “how am I not grown up?”

I built a career, made a home, attempted to create a lasting, long-term relationship, traveled the world and participate in managing the responsibilities that come with having an extremely ill Father and an overwhelmed Mother.

Are we so caught up in our own societal constructs that we cannot celebrate the many chords and keys in which one can live their life?  Are we so stifled that we cannot be open to what can be the joy of autonomous living?

And I want some of the above, of course.  I want (one day) to be married, I want (one day) to own some kind of abode that I can dwell within.

But even more than that I want to create – I want to continue to travel down the path that I’m on; the one that sees books and companies ahead.

I want to strike my own notes, so loudly that I forget the doubt, the fear, the uncertainty and pain that have brought me to this very moment of in-between.

The Exquisite Anguish of Being…

4 Sep

I have always written about fire – it fascinates me. Not the physicality of it, but the idea, the metaphor; for what are we without illumination? Yet, what is illumination without the danger of destruction? The pain of truly seeing? The ash it leaves behind? And who are we without our desire for warmth and consumption? Are we to arise again and again to both spark and destroy?

These are the questions that encircle my mind and frame my life, and the conclusions that I have come to regarding human nature often fuel my choices. That I believe we are both our greatest illumination and destruction; that we are born to die, and that it is the fearless act of living that truly matters.

Recently, I came across a quote of Albert Camus from ‘The Sea Close By’ that captured me because I thought it so beautifully illustrated, as what he coined, “the anguish of being,” or the duality of being – the illumination and the it leaves behind.

“Space and silence weigh equally upon the heart. A sudden love, a great work, a decisive act, a thought that transfigures,all these at certain moments bring the same unbearable anxiety, quickened with an irresistible charm. Living like this, in the delicious anguish of being, in exquisite proximity to a danger whose name we do not know, is this the same as rushing to your doom? Once again, without respite, let us race to our destruction. I have always felt I lived on the high seas, threatened, at the heart of a royal happiness,”

I am happy to be stuck underneath this dense (almost unbearably heavy) quote for I believe it is saying that what we yearn for, what makes us feel most alive is also our greatest fear; that our triumphs, our loves, our most meaningful decisions are what we are afraid to lose – and loss is the inevitability of life.

For a “royal happiness” is a happiness that invites envy, and the cliche that, “there is always a light at the end of the tunnel,” also means there is always a tunnel beyond the light.

Yet, what is life without an end? It would be a life without, “irresistible charms” because we’d be weighed down with the knowledge that everything would go on and on, so nothing could truly be appreciated. It is living on this edge of doom, the risks, the tingling fears that make us feel truly alive.

What is the point of our choices if we didn’t live with the, “danger whose name we do not know?” To me, we know the danger is our finite time, and yet the length cannot be named.

So the, “race to our destruction,” is living fully, “on the high seas,” which will rise and fall at will for we do not always know the consequences of our choices. Life can only be lived this way if one is striving for a “royal happiness,” which most are afraid to reach for because it is a journey across a choppy sea – full of risk and loss.

But the consequences of living otherwise is often a protective numbing darkness that alienates one from their own feelings and possibilities.

This is why I’m drawn to the fire in all things, and why at times I throw it all in and let it burn – for I want to be taken with the swell, the up/the down, the flame and ash, the beginning/the end, and the anguish of being the in-between.

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