89. You Keep Quiet and I Will Go

BLOG 89—(present reflections tied to March 2001 journal entries about my healing journey)—“For once on the face of the earth, let’s not speak in any language; let’s stop for a second, and not move our arms so much,” wrote the Chilean Poet Pablo Neruda in his poem “A Callarse” more than fifty years ago, when life moved much slower than it does today. He added, “Perhaps a huge silence might interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves and of threatening ourselves with death.”

Today, not only do I still treasure Neruda’s words and poem, but I also love the wisdom that he shares that is so needed in today’s fast-paced world. It reminds me of a time, more than 20 years ago, when I had a chance to truly slow down and experience the rich flavor of stillness that awaited me against my will. I had become injured toward the end of the last century, and despite the perseverance and fight I had learned to muster to push on forward—to keep moving—I was forced to stop, to be with this “huge silence” that, as Neruda spoke of, interrupted “this sadness of never understanding” myself.

I look around me now, as the Polar ice caps melt and California and Australia swim in fires; as we consume more; as the old guard f8c159e8c0b875506c3d009d8b6a8b3aof unbridled greed sinks its claws into more power and wealth; and as more and more of the same short-sighted living leads to the destruction of life for all of us on this planet called Earth. And I look at my own busy life, from teaching, writing, and publishing, and I think how special it was to have truly stopped 20 years ago, to have stepped off of that train of life (even if it was by kicking and screaming) and to have sat still long enough, as Neruda described, to “interrupt this sadness of never understanding ourselves”

For five years, I struggled to walk, and for five years, beginning in 1996, I was forced to listen to a different voice than that of an American culture whose emphasis has been of movement and growth for its own sake. By March of 2001, when I housesat for friends in New England, and remained writing as I continued to heal from pain, I had already faced what seemed an eternal pain. No way out, I was forced inward. Back then, I reflected—as I do now—on those earlier years of stopping, and what it was that sat below the surface wishing to be heard.

Here are a few reflections that may open your eyes to your own inner journey, when that time comes to slow down and be still:

26250e6deeecb99c9a474a9992488892“Permission is in the shadows. Answers are what I have invented, what I have held onto so tightly, in order to fill the silence of myself. The true answers are in the space of waiting for clarity to present its gift to me.”

“There is no judgement when I breathe. I belong to my soul, and I am beginning to realize that I will take care of her,” I wrote back then as an old worn-out part of me was dying (I was only 28 when I began this journey, but I felt much older then). “Love is what we cannot have until we have experienced our own death,” I continued to write. “I have seen death naked in my bed. I have tasted her tears, her deep tears for life. I have felt this deep knowing of what it’s like to not have anything, to have it all taken from you…to be left without fear so I can truly surrender to life and learn to love.”

When I look back at these years, I am humbled at 79fdaa4e6a530c8b5c67dec937036fd1what life’s pain was able to teach me. Those years gave me wisdom and love (and a novel, Child of Duende), which grew within me because I had to face myself, day in and day out, with nowhere to hide. Every time I tried to run from my pain, to solve the problem in front of me, I faced a mirror that was myself…that part of me that is as small as a grain of sand, and as large as the universe…that part of me that is nature, that is life, that is love. Then all the lessons, all the shoulds of this fast-moving train of modern life, shed from my skin, from my bones, to leave me with a delicious taste of a deep silence, a deep stillness where life speaks and continues to speak, even today, when I slow down to listen.

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Pablo Neruda walking along the ocean.

So, as Pablo Neruda wrote at the end of his poem, “Perhaps the earth can teach us as when everything seems dead and later proves to be alive.”

“Now I’ll count up to twelve and you keep quiet and I will go.”

My Novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit, is a story of returning home to the earth inside and all around us. It’s now available in Spanish as Niña Duende: Un Viaje del Espiritu, that’s available on Amazon at Amazon Page or at www.michelleadam.net. It will soon be published by the Spanish publisher Corona Borealis and the Portuguese publisher, Edições Mahatma. It can be ordered at a local bookstore or directly from me (for those outside of the U.S.) as well. Also, watch a brief video on “duende”, “the spirit of the earth”: YouTube Video

 

 

30. We Circle Around Ourselves Until Landing in the Middle

Blog 30: Dec. 1997-April 1998—Greg is his name. I meet him at the YMCA in downtown Berkeley, not far from home. He’s a trainer, and I go to him, thinking he can bring strength back to this broken body of mine. Instead, he becomes another angel in my long healing journey.

Soon, Greg and I are visiting every healer known to mankind: osteopaths, energy healers, chiropractors, orthopedics, and yes, psychic surgeons. After seeing a psychic surgeon, I’m laid up in bed for days, barely able to lift myself up. Greg is amazed. Having worked as a nurse in the army, he tells me that I’m behaving just like post-surgery patients he’s seen. And yet, it’s just energy work. We are both surprised.

When Greg and I travel from one healer to another, we laugh a lot. We both have a twisted sense of humor, and our time with healers becomes a pleasant relief from my pain and serious attempt to heal. My body and hip issues don’t go away, but my heart begins to heal. I feel held, cared for, and there’s relief in having someone by my side to laugh with despite it all.What-If-at-TheDailyDoll.com_

I continue to write in my novel and journal, and I find myself reflecting on what it means to be in my center, to be whole no matter what happens.
I write, “If I stand in the center, in the self, and know from this place that I am a part of the whole, then I don’t need to step outside myself. I only need to go deeper inside myself to uncover the universe, because knowing myself is trusting my connection to the whole.”

I draw a circle. Inside the circle, I place a dot somewhere on the right side of the circle. I write, “If I stand here, I am nowhere. I am neither with myself nor the whole.” The center of the circle is where I need to stand, and honor my needs, every day, every minute. “Going inside can take many forms,” I add. “But the first step is stopping, not moving forward, and beginning to move from the center, from myself.”

 

 

27. May an Angel Carry this Pollen into the World

IN STANDING STILL, WHAT GIFT OF YOURS EMERGED?

Blog 27: Dec. 1997-April 1998—Living in the hills of Oakland, California, was too much heaven for my hips after months of painfully traveling up and down five flights of stairs to survive. Looking out through immense windows of my idyllic home perched above the Bay and, in the distance, the San Francisco Bridge, was breathtaking, but I couldn’t live in this paradise anymore.

Reluctantly I moved into a home with four to five other housemates in the Berkeley lowlands, by a BART (subway) station. The woman who owned the house lived there too, and despite the fact that her name was Faith, I soon discovered that she wasn’t anything like her name.

I had been weak, vulnerable, and had sought a place I could afford that would also be supportive of my disabled and painful condition. She initially pretended to be caring, but, as her true nature revealed itself, and my other housemates struggled with feeling alone in this cold, sterile home, I found myself spending more and more time in my bedroom. I meditated in front of a beautiful plant under my skylight. It was the closest experience I had to being out in nature—that, in addition to sitting in the hot tub outside in the weed-infested yard. There I sang poems to the trees, finding the courage and heart to believe in a magic I wasn’t living.

2ac3abe815ba6b1db5bb294691e01666      I missed New Mexico, being able walk and being still with the earth as I had been in the desert. I especially missed a time I had had there with my friend, Eric. We had wandered upon sandstone cliffs that looked out over the badlands in all directions, and there we sang into the land that echoed its beauty back to us inside a golden, pink sunset. About it, I wrote:

“I close my eyes and my tears wet my cheeks as I recall our moment sitting inside what seemed the infinite. There was an eternal stillness even in our echo, in hearing ourselves as part of the summer silence under the stars. Back then, I still walked with innocent hunger.

“Now I surrender, sad, toward my fate. I no longer believe in miracles, in unusual miracles that appear as bold statements I had always looked for. Instead, I expect no miracle except the miracle of surrendering to my circumstances. I have nothing left to do. Layers of proving myself have peeled off my body. My soul is resting. Now, I don’t care about the politics of living. I am a flower, rooted, waiting for the pollen within me to be picked up by an angel and brought into the world.”

IN STANDING STILL, WHAT GIFT OF YOURS EMERGED?

(Check out my novel, Child of Duende: A Journey of the Spirit at www.childofduende.com)

 

22. A Flight of Inspiration

WHAT SERENDIPITOUS MEETING INSPIRED A PASSION OR WORK?

BLOG 22: July, 1997—Debilitated from having pushed myself dancing in California, I travel, armed in crutches, to New York State, to our annual family reunion at my uncle’s house. I haven’t seen family for more than a year, and never in this condition I’m in.

Everything I do at my uncle’s house and on his pond is an effort. At one point, my mother gives me a hard time for not getting up to fetch something I need, but I’m in pain, and I spend most of the time longing to lie down or sit to alleviate my condition. I can’t explain what I am going through with my family, because I myself don’t understand why my groin pull injury from last October has weakened me this much. I’ve had tests and have seen plenty of doctors and healers, but nobody has been able to help. So my family seems to create a simple diagnosis: either I’m lazy or I’ve lost my mind.

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Later, I begin to cry heavily in my sleeping quarters. My oldest sister walks in at that moment and I share with her my struggles—not just the physical ones, but the emotional ones that have been coming up for me around my family. She listens and consoles me. It’s probably the first time in my life I’ve reached out to one of my sisters like this and it feels good.

On the flight home, I sit next to a man my age who calls himself Archie, and whose personality seems a comical combination of Jerry Seinfeld and Woody Allen. To top it off, he’s writing a screenplay on his laptop. His real name is David, he tells me, but he changed his name to Archie when he wrote a screenplay a few years ago, as a film student at New York University, based on three months spent in a trailer park in the Dakotas. The premise of his screenplay was to discover if David, as Archie, with a completely different history than his own, could, in the middle of nowhere, become the person he wished to be.

Did David become Archie? I ask him, while laughing the whole time at his self-deprecating humor and story. No, he tells me. I laugh so hard that it actually hurts, and Archie, who seems to be flirting with me, tells me he wishes he could be could as bold as Archie—and not David—and just walk up to an attractive blue-eyed woman like me and talk to her. I tell him the key to overcoming his fear is to begin dancing.

The magic of our encounter is this: I go home and begin writing a novel. I don’t know it’s a novel yet when I begin, but Archie’s great story-telling for hours on our flight home made me realize I too was a storyteller (not just a journalist), and it was time to tell my story. Plus, I don’t have the capacity to dance, so I might as well put this hunger and passion somewhere. Meanwhile, Archie goes home to Los Angeles, puts music on, and dances. Later he takes his first dance classes, and I begin the novel that just two weeks ago I finally published!

WHAT SERENDIPITOUS MEETING INSPIRED A PASSION OR WORK?

20.Perched up High,no Wings to Fly

WHEN DID YOU FIND PEACE IN THE MOST UNLIKELY PLACES?

BLOG 20: July, 1997—I am sitting in my bed in the livingroom of my home in California’s Oakland hills. I have nowhere to go now, no matter what I want to do. I am no longer working and I’ve applied for temporary disability. It’s a strange feeling to be in such a beautiful place with a gorgeous view of San Francisco, the bay, and mountains all around. I am a bird perched up high, on a bed of all things, and yet with no wings to fly. I’m only able to watch and to be still. I am strangely feeling a sense of peace with not moving. I have nothing to prove, nothing to become, nowhere to go. I am here, just me, with permission—possibly for the first time in my life—to be with me.

Prior to coming out west, and before living in New York City for a year, I had spent a summer at Omega, a holistic retreat center in New York State. I had lived in a tent and was first introduced to dance, shamanism, and earth-based cultures then. I used to stay up at night, reading Federico García Lorca’s poems in my tent under the rain, and I felt the preciousness of those moments where art and nature held me in their embrace. Back then, I tried meditating under the trees, but I kept hearing my father’s voice, telling me to be useful. It was a challenge being still, being with myself. This meant defying how I had been raised.

But here I am, and for the first time, I am not hearing my father’s voice, or maybe that of my ancestors, telling me to keep moving, to keep making something of myself, to be tough. I’m broken here in my bed, surrendered in my brokenness. There’s space for me to listen. There’s peace for me to be. During the day, my downstairs neighbor plays Roberta Flack on his record player, and rather than ask him to turn it down, I yell down for him to turn it up. Roberta Flack’s voice resonates “Killing me Softly with his Song” over the hills as my neighbor enjoys a moment of spontaneity. I make the most of life that happens around me, since it’s all I’ve got. And I stop for once in these hills of Oakland.

WHEN DID YOU FIND PEACE IN THE MOST UNLIKELY PLACES?

19. Crawling on my Knees

WHEN HAS YOUR STRENGTH BEEN YOUR DOWNFALL?

 BLOG 19: July, 1997—Life has never been the same since my ballet class in San Francisco. I’ve been in perpetual pain, despite the help I received from the chiropractor. When I walk, my hips swell up, becoming inflamed and making it too painful to dance, let alone move around. My injury that began as a groin pull when I stopped in New Mexico for eight months on my way to California has now become a chronic hip problem with little remedy.

Given that I’m in Northern California—the land of every kind of healer—I try them all. From regular doctors, who claim that my x-rays and MRIs are perfect, to the most out-there psychic surgeon visiting from the Philippines. I receive no relief, and in many cases, I only get worse with each treatment I try.

At one point, an orthopedic doctor explains to me my problem: “You’re too strong,” he tells me. You were able to push through your pain and not feel it, he says, and then goes on to explain that most bodies can handle up to 80 percent not working before hitting a tipping point. At that point the body breaks down completely and it’s hard to turn any damage around, he adds. I had done too much to my right hip by ignoring my groin injury, and this doctor, who works with professional football players, amazingly tells me that my biggest downfall has been that I’m too tough. I have never been accused of that!

I don’t consider taking drugs of any kind to lessen the pain, and instead, I begin living out of my bed, which my housemate suggested I move into the livingroom, one floor below my bedroom in our shared house in the Oakland Hills. It hurts so much to move that I crawl from one room to another—a sight that devastates my friend Jane, who, when she sees me, tells me I remind her of beggars she saw in India who crawled because they had no legs.

I do what I can to survive. I try working, but sitting for more than an hour is extremely painful. The muscles around my hip tighten so much that I want to sit on a small tennis ball all day to break up the tension in my butt.

The man who lives in the loft across from my work sees me in my new crutches and pain and gives me a piece of his Martial Arts wisdom. He tells me that any time he gets injured he gets real still with himself, for days if needed, and becomes clear on the lesson he needs to learn. Once he does, the injury heals. What is my lesson? he asks me. There may be one for me, I think, but either I’m too oblivious, too determined, or it just too late for awareness to change my fate.

WHEN HAS YOUR STRENGTH BEEN YOUR DOWNFALL?

18. The Last Dance: The Last Straw

WHAT WAS THE LAST STRAW THAT BROKE YOU (or said “enough!”)?  

BLOG 18: June-July, 1997—I am sharing dinner with my friend Jane and her girlfriend on the patio of my new home in Oakland, California. With good wine, food, and a view that looks out over the entire San Francisco Bay, it’s hard to imagine a better place to be. We are living in paradise, I think. The water and the outlying mountains feel like a tropical Asian land far away from the Americas.

I am excited to have finally made it here after an eight-month hiatus in New Mexico. I am back on track with my original plan to relocate in this dynamic area of the country. Despite my injury that slowed me down in the desert lands—and my calves that feel as hard as surfboards from having moved all of my belongings up four flights of stairs—I’m now taking modern dance classes in San Francisco and Berkeley. I surrender my body to the music, and move through the pain and tightness in my body, and my limited training among dancers with many more years of experience.

I begin my work as at a temporary agency for artists, helping artists find jobs in creative industries. It’s a nice part of town, along Berkeley’s bay, and in a loft area shared with other artists and residents. When I’m not working, though, I’m in dance studios where, especially in San Francisco, I feel out of my league. Fit, trim, elegant dancers move across the floor with much more grace than I feel I have (or a lot more training to make it look easy).

My passion for dance inspires me to keep going, though, until I take a ballet class. As I am lifting up my right leg and pivoting it around my body, my legs begin to weaken below me. It’s only one movement, but just the perfect one to break my innate strength and stubborn disposition that has kept me going so far since having pulled a tendon or ligament, possibly off the bone, in my inner thigh eight months ago. When I finish the class, I sit on the studio floor and stretch my legs along with other dancers. But I feel it. My body is crying what my eyes dare not show. This was the last straw. My body has had enough.

For weeks after that class, I walk as well as I can. But something is wrong. I feel as if I am walking over my right hip joint. My femur is not moving correctly in my hip socket. The more I walk, the more inflamed my hip becomes, and the less I am able to move. I begin walking with crutches and become desperate to find relief from my pain. I seek out healers, but little helps until my friend Geri drives me out of the city to a highly recommended chiropractor. After looking at my condition, the chiropractor jerks my right leg and returns the femur bone to its correct position.

I was out of alignment; the bone was stuck in the joint. He fixed the issue and my hip feels better, but it seems it never quite returns to the hip I had taken for granted for almost thirty years of my life.

WHAT WAS THE LAST STRAW THAT BROKE YOU (or said, “enough!”)?