What Does It Mean to Thrive?

Falling In Love AgainFrom Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore:

“Care of the soul is not solving the puzzle of life; quite the opposite, it is an appreciation of the paradoxical mysteries that blend light and darkness into the grandeur of what human life and culture can be.”

“We can be the curates or curators of our own souls, an idea that implies an inner priesthood and a personal religion.”

In preparation for memoir writing, I’ve been visiting my past, seeking out the important influences on who I’ve become.  I’m on a mission, to figure out who I am beyond mother, lover, and nonprofit/volunteer leader.

What I know about seeking out the deepest parts of myself is that it requires a seduction of the soul. I need to start by seeking out those things that light me up – the tiny things, the everyday things that make life sparkle no matter what the day holds. I learned this years ago from Thomas Moore. His books were instrumental in my ability to embrace all of my quirky interests, from what books I chose to read to being pierced with needles when I felt the need to (sometimes physical body rites call to you as a ritual representing the transformation taking place in your psycho-spiritual body).

Soulful things that never change for me: Candle light. The burning of of my favorite incense I bought years ago at a Buddhist temple or sage or Palo Santo given to me by a dear friend. A glass of wine or cup of tea or a caramel mocha. A piece of quality chocolate. An elegant and tastefully sexy dress or nightgown that feels pretty. Hours steeped in a book that stimulates both my mind and my heart. Music that makes my heart flutter. Fresh flowers on my altar. Tarot readings. Writing. Creating with my heart and my hands. Yoga. Walking in nature. Blowing bubbles. Poetry.

Recently I listened to Elizabeth Gilbert’s podcast on creativity and she counselled a mother and artist who was struggling to find her voice to have an affair with her creativity. I found resonance in that advice. I need to have an affair with all of myself. I need to call back the pieces of me that fade into the distance when I adapt to the needs of the people I love. Rather than find myself, I need to remember myself. Who I am beneath the labels and the relationships they represent. Who I am when I’m not giving/sharing some part of my self empathically.

I was inspired as I began this post to pull Care of the Soul off the shelves last night and immediately felt the allure to dance with my soul, to nurture the quirky parts of myself that are dying to be set free. From there I will shape a life that is not defined by caring for others. My life will be defined by my needs and desires.

Like a deeply loving, intimate, interdependent, transformative relationship with the man I love. Incredible, nourishing sex that both expresses and intensifies the magic of our connection. Gentle interactions between two wounded healers basking in the kindness and generosity that is new and precious for them both.

Time to write for myself and for my art. Quiet to sit with words and find the shape of the stories I need to tell. Space to experiment with my hands immersed in clay, paper, paint, and glitter. The feel of squishy, wet materials between my fingers. Making beauty.

The building of a creative work that combines my writing, art, and community building. A work that allows me to collaborate with other conscious creators, people who want to transform their communities and nurture connection in innovative ways. A work that allows me to support others in deepening their relationship to their soul and their emotions. A work that grows radical inclusivity – spaces where everyone is welcome without masks or walls. Space where people can be free to be themselves and know that they are seen and held. A work that grows belonging.

I find it both fascinating – and obvious – that I need to go deep into solitude in order to one day build community. It only recently occurred to me that what I am building will take some time – years rather than weeks or months. Just like raising my children was a long road, the creative work I am now pregnant with will take time to birth and nurture into fullness.

I’m not just writing a book or incubating a creative idea, I am simultaneously building a new self and a new story of who I am. Instead of being driven by the need to survive and transcend hardness and trauma, I am now motivated by the desire to thrive. It’s new territory to explore.

What does it mean to thrive? What does it look like to live beyond the identity of survivor when all your life you’ve been fighting to be something more? What does success mean beyond overcoming – overcoming poverty, overcoming mental illness, overcoming the inheritance of abuse? Won’t it be fun to find out? It’s a whole new kind of evolution for me to get off on.

As I finally settle into the reality that my partner adores me, loves me and holds me exactly as I am,  and will rise to any opportunity or challenge that comes up in our lives, I recognize that I am finally thriving in intimate relationship, something I have hungered for all my life. I desire to nurture our relationship and our building of a life together, from choosing where and how we live to what we will save for and how we will nurture our own and each other’s creative pursuits. I want to immerse myself in the wonder of Us for a little while. To know what it is to have Us-ness rather than be constantly yearning and aching for it.

I am learning that life doesn’t have to hurt anymore. I don’t have to confront my birth mother pain every day to be a good Amma. I don’t have to fight anyone for anything. I don’t have to overcome. I can change circumstances that aren’t working for me. I can rest. I can be more than content. I can learn what it means to thrive.


thrive: 1. to prosper; be fortunate or successful. 2. to grow or develop vigorously; flourish:

Pain is Stealing My Life

Honesty and Hope (aka No Pain No Gain) by Sheila Kalkbrenner at painexhibit.org

Honesty and Hope (aka No Pain No Gain) by Sheila Kalkbrenner at painexhibit.org

“Wholeness means embracing brokenness as an integral part of your life.” Parker Palmer

Two days ago I woke up with the worst kind of Fibro pain, the kind in my back where it can even hurt to take a deep breath. Usually my pain sits somewhere between a 2 and a 5 on the pain scale, hitting a 6 or 7 during flare ups. But this is like an 8 when I move and nothing is bringing relief. I can mildly mitigate it by smoking pot, sitting very still against a lot of pillows, and using a heating pad. My back is actually discolored from how much I’ve used a heating pad over the past year. I’ve scarred the top layers of skin because it’s a small sacrifice when heat relieves the intensity of the ache.

While it is relatively easy for me to accept heart brokenness, it is damn hard to embrace this brokenness.

I don’t understand what the pain is teaching me. I am doing everything I am told I should make things better – good diet, supplements, medicines, yoga, walking, good sleep, and support from my loved ones. I don’t know what else I can do.

I am on my third day of bed rest and the fogginess of dealing with pain through heavy use of marijuana (yay for legalization!). I called in sick to work today because I can’t imagine trying to sit in an office chair all day, especially without the relief of the only medicine that works for me right now but isn’t allowed in the workplace (it’d be fine if I was on narcotics!). I have to go back tomorrow no matter how I feel because I only have one day of paid time to spare. While I am blessed to receive generous PTO, since I was hired in February a conglomeration of physical, emotional, and family issues have required me to take leave as I earn it.

This kind of pain is rare for me. I can usually function through my pain at all levels – at least enough to get through a work day and a bit of time with the baby. This is disheartening since I’ve finally taking Lyrica again and had such high hopes it would help. It still could, especially since I’m only a couple weeks in and taking half the dose that worked for me before. But I don’t see my doctor again till next week. I just don’t know what’s causing this intense flare up or if I can do anything to make it better.

Pain is stealing life from me.
I miss my friends. I miss going out – to movies, music, theater, art shows, etc.
I miss being active in volunteer service and leadership in my community.

I miss being able to help with our son the way I did before I started working. It’s hard to admit to myself or anyone else, but I felt like a Mama then and I don’t anymore. That makes this brokenness so much harder and contributes to my need to move out.

I wish the people around me could truly understand what it takes to manage pain on a daily basis and how withdrawal is the kindest choice for all. When my pain levels are higher, I have to minute-by-minute spend some part of my attention on pain management. I have to do what I can to make myself comfortable. I have to push the pain into the background of my mind and diligently hold it there so that I can focus on work tasks and have grace with the people I interact with (rather than taking the pain away, weed helps with this). I mindfully manage my pain so that it doesn’t take control of my emotions. I’ve seen the way pain can consume people and then they walk around flinging it on everyone around them in hurtful ways. Retreating into the most comfortable place I can be is my way of preventing my pain from hurting others.

I desire with all of my being to have relationship and build community.
I am confounded by how this brokenness is an obstacle to doing so.
Pain is stealing my life and I need to figure out how to get it back.

The Ups and Downs of Chronic Illness

Judith Rose “Vivir con una Enfermedad y Dolor Crónico”

Judith Rose
“Vivir con una Enfermedad y Dolor Crónico”

I am excited to finally be back on Lyrica – the one medication that truly helps my Fibro pain and makes me functional outside of work. I was without it for over a year due to it being a very expensive drug, being on a state healthcare plan that wouldn’t cover it while I was unemployed, and then struggling to find a primary care doctor that would take me on (because apparently I’m “complex”) and prescribe it after getting insurance again. It’s been a fucking process to get something that significantly improves my quality of life. I am seriously happy to have it back and the potential of less pain.

But after a week I am on the roller coaster of initial side effects – sleepiness, dizziness, spaciness, general brain weirdness, and vision alterations. Side effects are stupid. I get that it’s a drug that works on parts of the brain, so the brain has to get used to it’s presence. That doesn’t make it any easier to deal with a whole new set of symptoms, even for the short term. Work and home still require a fully functioning brain and I feel like I’m falling short, damn it.

One of the hardest aspects of chronic illness is the constant fluctuation. Things change all the time – day to day, month to month – from how much pain I have to how much brain capacity I have to how different substances and medications impact me (like I can no longer drink more than a couple ounces of beer or wine because it prevents sleep). Much of my energy goes to managing symptoms so that I’m functional enough to work full time and help support my family. It’s wild to imagine the life I was living 5 years ago – working full time, raising a teenager, running an all volunteer organization on the side, and dating. Now I’m only succeeding at full-time work and my relationship with my partner. My other relationships and my creativity are suffering. I’m hoping Lyrica will change that.

At least there is a light at the end of the tunnel, as long as it works like it did the first time. I can’t imagine what the pregnancy would have been like without it. Keeping up with a two year old is definitely hard without it. I have hope that this could be a game-changer for me and the people I love.

*Art from painexhibit.org. “The PAIN Exhibit is an online educational, visual arts exhibit from artists with chronic pain with their art expressing some facet of the pain experience. The mission is to educate healthcare providers and the public about chronic pain through art, and to give voice to the many who suffer in silence.”

Radical Acceptance: Living with My Birth Child is More than I Can Bear

I am the First Work of My HeartAfter all my bluster about being an emotional mountain climber, sadly I am writing to tell you that our experiment in living together as a family is not working out. We decided this past week that we need to live in separate homes. We’ve been in a pattern of avoidance for awhile, then Mama Jen and I had our second falling out last week. We’ve come to acknowledge that there is just too much pain and intensity around our individual and collective processes – some of which have to do with the adoption and some that don’t – to be able to manage life joyfully under the same roof.  We are all hurting for our individual reasons and we are trying to take responsibility for each other’s feelings by avoiding conflict and the vulnerability of sharing our personal struggles.

I learned that Mama Jen is feeling more and more guilty about being happy with Lake because of my heartache, which is not ok. I need for my son’s Mommy to feel free to be happy with him. That’s the point of my giving her this gift, so that she can know the joys of motherhood. Unfortunately what she didn’t know, because I haven’t been talking about my process with her, is that I feel compersion and joy when I see and hear them happy together. I love when I hear him giggling when they play, or witnessing her teach and him learn. I devour the pictures and videos on the Facebook group. It’s only aspects of his behavior in wanting/choosing/calling her – and rejecting me – that get to me. Nothing about her behavior as a mother hurts me. She is an incredible mother. Far better than she gives herself credit for. Even with my extremely high standards for parenting, I couldn’t have wished for better. All I’ve wanted since I knew it was her child in my belly is for her to be happy in her motherhood.

We need to choose the most loving and kind way to move forward as a family and separating seems to be it. We agree on the reasons for separation – that there is too much pain right now and there are some irreconcilable difference in how we live in a home. No shame and no blame, at least not toward one another. There is already a sense of relief and a new lightness in our interactions because of this decision. We are still a family choosing love and generosity every day.

Chris and I are planning to find an apartment and cash out a small 401K account he had in Humboldt that will make moving easeful, as well as help Jen and Gaius so that everyone’s needs are met in the transition. They are hoping the landlords will allow them to find a new roommate situation so they can stay in this great house. We’ll come up with some arrangement for continued time as a family, as well as time for Chris and I to have Lake for sleepovers and other adventures.

For myself, I had the insight that an unconscious reason I made this choice is because it felt safer to continue being a mother and a woman overcoming adversity – two foundational pieces of my identity – than to start a happy new life with Chris in an empty nest without big emotional challenges to navigate daily. I healed the identity neurosis of Borderline Personality Disorder in my early 20’s by building my foundation on being a mother who puts my children first and being a survivor-artist who turns my suffering into meaning and beauty. Moving in with Lake continued to fulfill both of those identities for me in some ways. I’m not sure who I am beyond those identities and I need to figure it out for my own well being. I need both physical and emotional quiet in which to recover and heal from a life of continual emotional stress before I can bring both my best self and my best work into the world. I need to let go of being a mama and learn to be an Amma. I need to evolve into an writer-artist who turns suffering in the world into meaning and beauty rather than focusing on my own pain. I now see crafting a prescriptive memoir as a bridge between who I’ve been and who I’m becoming, discovering the parts of myself beyond mother and survivor, as well as establishing my “expertise” in self directed psycho-spiritual development so that I can support others in recovery from emotional and mental illness.

I have to admit I am struggling with feeling like a failure and fraud as a community builder, something I’ve been researching and talking about all year. I am not accustomed to failure. I wonder if I could have done better and if it would have made a difference. And I’m worried that I’m letting everyone down by being unable to make this work – Lake, his adoptive parents, the journalist who invested her time and art in us, Yahoo News that invested money in our story, and all the people who’ve been touched and inspired by us.

On the other hand I know that we are all deeply courageous, generous, and loving for having tried to do something most people imagine to be impossible. I pushed the edges as a birth mother allowed to have any relationship I desire with my child and I learned there is a limit to the intimacy I can manage with him and his adoptive parents without suffering too much pain over what I’ve lost. That isn’t a failure, it’s just my humanness.

Writing my memoir, crafting the Radical Mystic project, and transitioning into the identity of writer-artist-community-builder that I’ve been craving for as long as I can remember is going to take some time. I have healing and self work to do before I can focus on my work in the world. I need to build a new foundation of identity based on something other than motherhood and surviving trauma. While I will continue to write here regularly, I am going to stop being concerned about writing the right things in the right way to draw an audience, or platform building, or getting the memoir done as quickly as I can. I will make my art with the simple goals of understanding and expressing myself in this process of transition for now. If I touch others in the process, that’s an extra blessing.

I gave the first half of my adult life to being the center of emotional safety and belonging for my children. As a dear friend reflected to me, now I need to take this time and emotional freedom to give birth to and mother myself. I am in the middle of a life changing process of healing and redefinition. I am evolving as a woman, as a mother, and as an artist and now I am creating the circumstances in which I can thrive as all of these things. I need to know who I am becoming and find my new belonging before I can build community and nurture belonging for others.

I am relieved and heartbroken. I am excited and scared. And I am ever so grateful that I have a family who loves me and will hold me through this transition, no matter where we live.

*Image is an artist trading card I made several years ago – I am the First Work of My Heart. I’ll finally be living fully living into this truth.

If you enjoy this blog – please come to radicalmystic.com – as I will eventually stop cross posting.

The Heroine’s Journey: I am an Emotional Mountain Climber

540361_10201504920558445_1441567995_nI am struggling as I live between two opposing forces – the desire to build community with my son and his adoptive parents, and the desire to run as far as possible from the birth mother bruising of mine-and-not-mine every day. My heart is being pushed and pulled between conflicting needs, a daily wrestling match that leaves me emotionally exhausted and withdrawn.

I crave this family, the belonging, and the sense of purpose I have found here. And my heart aches daily as our son simultaneously cements his preference for Mommy and shifts toward the independence of toddlerhood.

Despite the perception in popular books and movies, the Heroine’s Journey looks different than the Hero’s. Women undergo journeys of awakening and self definition, but it is often an internal process that happens through our emotions and our intimate relationships rather than through confrontation with forces in the world. Heather Plett says that feminine rites follow a pattern of containment, transformation, and emergence (vs the masculine rites of separation, transition, and reincorporation). I am currently between containment and transformation, waiting for emergence to occur.

I have come to understand that I am an emotional athlete of sorts, an emotional mountain climber. Much like people who train to endure, and even enjoy, the growing pains and discomfort of intense physical adventures (marathons, surfing, skiing, etc.), I am trained to endure and enjoy the growing pains of seemingly unbearable emotional circumstances. The traumas that often damage and break other people are just added weight to the barbell my powerful heart can bench-press.

I experienced life as deeply emotional and profoundly painful from an early age. I score at least a 7 on the ACES test regarding childhood trauma, although there are many more traumas that aren’t listed. I also have an unusually deep capacity for empathy, meaning I feel other people’s emotions in addition to my own. Imagine what that is like when everyone you are a developing child/adolescent and everyone you love is suffering in a significant way. And I’ve worked to recover from Borderline Personality Disorder, also known as Emotional Intensity Disorder. I am running a lifelong marathon to maintain my sanity, emotional regulation, and the chance to thrive in a healthy family dynamic.

My Heroine’s Journey is a map of how to navigate the world with a raw and open heart. I don’t wear emotional armor to protect myself. I don’t know how. Instead, when I am too raw for exposure I hide in my bedroom, my sanctuary, away from people. I am not interested in fighting – not other people, not my own demons, nor the world’s evils. I am passionate about creating and nurturing justice, reconciliation, and belonging through acts of love and generosity. As part of my training, I strive not to turn words into weapons against others when I’m hurt and angry, whether beloveds or strangers. I’ve spent my entire adult life disarming the triggers that can transform my typical gentleness to verbal violence.

One of the primary challenges for people with Borderline is that we have difficulty living with opposing truths, called dialectics. The term’s dialectical means a synthesis or integration of opposites. This is why Dialectical Behavioral Training (DBT) is vital to recovery. Through my research I’ve learned that I consistently provide my own DBT by confronting opposing truths over and over, often on purpose, in order to learn how to regulate my thinking, feelings, and behavior in relationship. For instance, my experiences of polyamory required embracing the opposing truths of my desire for big open love and my abnormally strong fear of abandonment (another BPD trait). I could simultaneously feel compersion and jealousy. I could be deeply frightened and keep choosing love anyway.

Physical masochism is also a dialectic. I surrender my body to experiences of pain from someone who cares for me. Pain, pleasure, love, and fear usually weave together to carry me into ecstasy. But sometimes the physical pain gets wrapped up with my heart pain and I have an emotional release, where something that causes me deep heartache becomes more bearable as the pain is pushed through me with a flogger or a cane. This happened over the weekend when my fiance and I played a relatively mild BDSM scene,  the day after I read a memoir excerpt from a birth mother in an open adoption. Seeing myself in the mirror of her particular words and phrases brought my pain to the surface so that the slightest stimulus rubbed me raw and left me sobbing.

The emotional strength training I put myself through the last 20+ years gave me the ability to make an impossible choice – to give mommyhood to a beloved friend and  retain my place as a different sort of mother in my child’s life. I live the dialectic of mine-and-not-mine with my son every minute of every day. I feel the biological and emotional pull to be his mommy and I keep my distance to allow another woman to be the foundation of his safety and belonging. I ache because he favors her now and I am immensely grateful that I don’t often have to endure all of the hard parts (irregular sleeping patterns, tantrums, etc.).

I try to nurture connection and distance at the same time, both with my son and his adoptive parents. I truly crave the intimacy of chosen family and intentional community. I also choose to live with them because I desire to lighten the burden of full time parenting and help them afford a nice home in a good neighborhood with all of the related benefits. After so many years as a single mom, I don’t want our son’s parents to ever feel alone in their care and responsibility of him.  Yet as my relationship with our son shifts I become more withdrawn, spending less time with the family. I focus my attention on the parts of my life that aren’t so painful and complicated, like my relationship with my fiance and my book creation (and a good dose of television).

I am living in this family dialectic, navigating it mostly with grace, and yet I worry that I am not doing enough. I worry that I am not present enough, connected enough, or co-parenting enough. Because my work in the world is now focused on belonging, I am learning about the psychology of community and the practices that are required to keep community functioning in vibrant ways. Yet I refuse to act on these knowings with those closest to me because I am frightened of my own vulnerability. I don’t know how to be this raw with other people. In my journey to find emotional stability I have always lived in my own head – and bedroom – when in pain. It is how I contain myself, keep my emotions from overwhelming others. I have no idea how to be in this strange place I now live between love and pain in a home and intimate relationship with other adults.

Some days I feel like a fraud. Who am I to write about courage, connection, and community when I can’t yet find the strength to bring my own vulnerability to the table with those closest to me? I was able give a child from my body, I can give my work to support my family, and yet these past few months I can rarely share myself with them.

The focus of my self work these days is to hold myself in the same compassion and acceptance that I give others. I am working to stop beating myself up for falling short of my own high standards for conscious living and relationship. The truth is that to evolve from suffering a mental illness that will not allow opposing truths to living peacefully in a situation that is built of opposing truths is a significant accomplishment. It is in recognizing how far I have come these past 20 years that I  see I need to give myself patience. I am in the endurance race of my life. I will be living in some form of this dialectic with my son and his adoptive parents forever, whether or not I continue to live in the same home with them. I have plenty of time and safe space in which to build my emotional muscles with people who love me no matter what I bring to the table on any given day. I am already enough simply by choosing to be here and contributing in this home with this family.

Just a reminder to friends of this blog – I am now at my own domain – radicalmystic.com. Please consider following me there through email, wordpress, or my Facebook page


Image by Flickr Artist Christian Thompson

I’ve Moved to My Own Domain – RadicalMystic.com!

Dear Friends –

I’ve finally made the move to my own domain! If you follow me or receive email updates about this blog, please take a moment to visit radicalmystic.com to follow the new blog through your desired medium (it’s still WordPress).

I have lots of new content coming and am really excited about the coming months in my both my personal and creative worlds (a profile of our family by well known journalist, a speaking gig at Life is a Verb Camp, a book and/or crowdfunded multi-media project, and more!).

I thank you for the time and witness you’ve given me in the past and hope you’ll join me on the next stage of my adventure.

Big Love,
April Cheri

The Slow Unfolding of Birth Mother Grief


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I am having a new experience with our son. He has taken to his Mom in a much deeper way lately. He seeks her out when she leaves the house, or even the room. He often wants her when he has a need or is in distress. And he calls her name a lot more than any of the rest of the coparents. Yesterday, when he and I were at home alone, he spent a few minutes calling for Mom as he went down for a nap and he didn’t want me to lay down with him, though I could sit near him.

On one hand it’s exactly as it’s supposed to be. Jen is his Mom. She is his primary caregiver. She is the one nurturing the Mommy relationship with him – she’s there for nearly every need and desire all day and night. This is the whole intent of the adoption, so Jen could be Mom and I could be free.

I work and then I spend a lot of time in my bedroom in self-care because it’s difficult with Fibromyalgia to work full time, nurture my primary relationship with Eros, and nurture my creative projects (so that someday I can work on my own terms). I am doing everything I can to manage my condition and decrease pain, but it’s always a process. Since I started working I have very few spoons left for our son and I knew this is how it would be. This is one of the main reasons I gave him for adoption to someone who was both willing and able to be present to his needs in a way that I am physically incapable of being.

On the other hand it’s really hard not to take his refusal of my care personally. It’s not an overwhelming feeling, in fact it sneaked up on me a bit at a time over the last few weeks, but I have this sense – whether true or not – that he is rejecting me because I am not there for him enough. I struggle with feeling that I’ve hurt him, and myself, by allowing this distance between us.

It’s been several months since I’ve felt birth mother grief. This is a new petal unfolding in this complex flower of experience. We’ve reached the place where he is choosing Mom over all others, which is appropriate and normal…and yet it aches. It’s a dull ache. Not anything like the grief I felt the night I left him the first time (a story I will tell someday soon). Nor is it as sharp as the grief that came when I first moved in with him and his adoptive parents and adjusted to being Amma.

I imagine this is what it will be like from now on. Long stretches of goodness and joy, with small bouts of heartache for what I’ve lost in giving up my right and privilege to be this amazing human’s Mom.

He is mine and not mine. He is Ours.

There is so much magic, delight and meaning in this unique family we’ve made. The goodness far outweighs the heartache. We have our tiny conflicts around sharing a house, but there is only understanding and kindness when it comes to sharing our son. Even when I ache I know I am held in love and generosity by his co-parents.

And I get to experience the incredible every day moments of our son learning to be a human. He’s starting two and three word sentences now, so proud when he puts words together in a meaningful way. He’s started singing songs on his own – with just enough intonation and tune for us to know if he’s trying to sing the ABCs or Old MacDonald. He’s a little bundle of dramatic highs and lows, in some ways very much like his older siblings and in other ways completely his own person. As it should be.

Everything is as it should be.
I know this because I am the happiest I have ever been.
Even when it hurts.

A New Home

11101211_10204738218788880_4724480382999700391_oI will no longer live with constant traffic noise and sirens on 82nd street or the pounding of three children’s running feet above my head. I will no longer see prostitutes and johns negotiating in our parking lot downstairs. (I hope) I will longer hear shouting and screaming from across the street on a too regular basis.

I will no longer live in this place that is far too much like the life I thought I left behind, where we were poor and surrounded by people who are struggling and suffering.

I will no longer feel like I’ve moved backward in my capacity and success in creating abundance.

I will no longer live on pause because of the limitations of this space.

I felt grief in leaving my last two homes – the quirky barn surrounded by redwoods and the precious home with the giant sun-room where we lived through the pregnancy, birth and and adoption.

But saying goodbye to this apartment only brings relief and excitement, so much joy I don’t care that my body hurts. I feel no stress today.

This apartment has been a space-holder rather than a place that feels like home. And for this Cancer-Moon Child, who needs a beautiful and comfy space to be home in the way a crab needs the fit and safety of its shell, it was hard to feel good and happy here. It is the love I share with my special family and the profound generosity of Jennefer​ and Jillian​ that sustained me through this uncomfortable, unsettled time.

We’ve been dreaming together for more than a year. While it took a bit longer than was comfortable, the Universe worked some pretty spectacular magic to give us a home that met nearly every aspect of our wish list on the first try.

Today our hopes and dreams become real.
Today we create Our Home, a place where all of us can thrive.

We Need to Talk about Belonging


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belonging_graphic-565x333“We are all longing to go home to some place we have never been — a place, half-remembered, and half-envisioned we can only catch glimpses of from time to time. Community. Somewhere, there are people to whom we can speak without having the words catch in our throats. Somewhere a circle of hands will open to receive us, eyes will light up as we enter, voices will celebrate with us whenever we come into our own power. Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.” – Starhawk

This morning I did a Google search on the word belonging. I was disappointed by the immediate results. Six of the first nine links are definition sites (dictionary, thesaurus, wikipedia, etc.). The third entry is an article on Psychology Today on creating one’s own sense of belonging from March 24, 2014. A year ago. The fifth entry is an article from CNN about one research study done on the highly positive impact of creating belonging for college students through a particular intervention from June 1, 2012. The one brilliant gem is link seven, a pdf booklet called The Importance of Belonging, which was written from a human services perspective about providing belonging for people with disabilities who live in isolation. The same people I am striving to relate to every day at work in order to learn how to create and nurture belonging for all of us.

Belonging is in the middle of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Which means that it’s the third most vital need to our health and well-being, the first two being physiological and safety needs. And yet we aren’t really talking about it. We talk endlessly about physical health and safety. Think about it. How much media is about our health and safety? We also talk about esteem and self actualization, the fourth and fifth needs on the hierarchy. Yet we are just starting to research and talk about belonging, particularly because of Brene Brown’s TEDTalk on vulnerability, shame and connection going viral. As a culture we aren’t yet paying attention to its importance in creating a healthy society, where all of the needs of our human family are met.

Much of our conflict, addiction, depression and other mental-emotional human challenges could be solved by creating a place of belonging and connection for everyone. I think this could be the answer to bullying as well. This is why the work I do now is feels vital. We have to recognize that this is just as important as addressing disease and climate change. And that belonging is the foundation of social justice because social justice seeks to repair the impact of exclusion on various populations. We could do so much more long-term good if we were building communities rather than bureaucracies to address our deepest needs and greatest heartaches.

I had hoped when I googled belonging that I would see books, studies, projects, communities, etc. addressing this basic need. The first book that comes up on page two is a romance novel. bell hooks’ book Belonging: A Culture of Place comes in at link thirteen. There are other resources out there, but it says so much that they aren’t on the first two pages of the largest search engine in the world.

I look back on the arc of my first 40 years of life and I see that this has been the point all along. In the shadows of a narcissistic mother, emotionally absent father, and alcoholic stepfather, I was literally starving for a sense of belonging. The sex and relationships that led to my first two children were an attempt at finding belonging with someone, with anyone. Belonging was the basis of The Impropriety Society (I would argue more than sex), as well as all of the other groups I’ve been a part of. All of the people in my life who have suffered deeply could source their challenges in the hunger for belonging. Kids join gangs to belong. People join cults and terrorist organizations to belong. Women stay in violent relationships to belong. Consumers even follow brands to belong. The issues we have with materialism, race, gender, sexuality, religion, and all the other categories we use to divide ourselves, they can all be sourced back to this basic need for belonging.

We just want to belong. Each and everyone of us.

Unfortunately we spend a lot of energy trying to be exclusive with our belonging when its inclusion that brings the greatest reward and deepest satisfaction. If we’re going to improve our society and the lives of our human family, there has to be a cultural conversation about our needs for inclusive belonging and genuine connection.  Being conscious of this basic human need, as well as intentionally nurturing it within our communities, could change everything.

There is so much more I have to say. The muse is on fire and there will be more soon. I have been looking for the “hook” for my book and my new work in the world and now I know I have found it. Belonging. This is where my passion meets the world’s need. I can’t wait to see what we create together.

Thank you for listening. I pray you experience belonging in your life.
Please know you matter and you are loved.

Grief as Deep Activism


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Recently I was introduced to the idea of grief as deep activism and today I experienced it in action.

“What has become clear is the powerful role grief plays in enabling us to face what is taking place in our communities, our ecologies, families, nations, etc. What I mean by that is that grief is a powerful emotion capable of keeping the edges of the heart pliable, flexible, fluid, and open to the world, and as such, becomes a potent support for any form of activism we may intend to take, indeed is itself a vital form of soul activism.” Francis Weller

This afternoon I attended the annual interfaith memorial service for those on the streets of the Old Town community who died in the last year. Operation Nightwatch in collaboration with several downtown religious leaders (Christian, Muslim, Native American, and others) led the service with prayers, music, poetry, and a reading of the names/lighting of candles for those who died.

I went into it thinking about this concept of grief as activism. I didn’t know anyone on the list of over 100 names. I’m certain I will next year, as it turns out more than 20 were once members of our center. But each of those names represents a life, a person. Someone who was once a mother’s child. Someone who has brought moments of exquisite goodness into the world. I believe each and every one of them are worth honoring. Every one is worth taking an hour of my time to hold them in my heart and mind as if they matter. Because they do matter.

There aren’t very many of us, people who will take the time and heart to share in this celebration and grief. There aren’t many of us who say with our actions that these humans have value in our lives. In a city of more than half a million people, there were only 50 people in the sanctuary, less than half a person for each person on the list.

Fuck. I used to think I was invisible. Now I understand that I really have no idea what it is to truly be unseen. I have always mattered to someone, even if in specific moments it was only my crazy mother or my children. I have had many friends, lovers, mentors, and people who believed in me. I know people will show up to honor me when I die. I am blessed beyond measure in this way.

But because I do know the pain of feeling invisible, and I now know the joy of finding my place, I want everyone to be blessed with belonging. I want everyone to know that they matter to someone. I want my local community to understand that these are our people and we need to take care of them!

Whether you break it down biologically, through quantum physics, or through spirituality, it all comes down to the absolute Truth that this is our family. We are all connected and we are hurting ourselves by allowing our people to suffer.

We all deserve belonging.
We all deserve to be witnessed in our lives and our deaths.
Damn it, we can do better than this.