You might be wondering what would compel me, after no blogging for…what, 3 months?…to suddenly post a picture of myself in a bathing suit.
Well, I’ll tell you.
About two years ago, someone told me about Burning Man. (Just…follow the link. Or Google. I’m not going to go into it here. Go ahead. I’ll wait, if you don’t know what it is.)
I listened, I read about it, and I thought…”Oh my God…I didn’t know there were people out there who believed in these–seemingly disparate, at times–things I believe in! That looks wonderful!”
And I bet it probably is.
To add another layer to what I’m about to go into, I’ll just let you in on another piece of the puzzle; the person who told me about it was someone I had fallen in love with. Someone who also represented the same surprise that my introduction to Burning Man did, at the time…I didn’t know someone like that even existed, someone who was this odd, beautiful combination of qualities that I would have never have thought would ever come together, in one human being.
And just like Burning Man was something I was amazed by, and couldn’t take part in, this person who struck a chord in my soul, was someone that I couldn’t be with.
At first, my happiness that there was something like Burning Man was just that; joy that it was even a thing, this event where people tried to embody radical inclusion, self reliance, and the celebration of art. And also, at first, my love for the person who told me about it was just that…love. No expectations, just appreciation.
But by the time the next Burning Man festival had rolled around, life had walloped me a little. I’d been trying to get divorced for a while, and I’d been run through a financial and emotional wringer. And I realized something about myself that probably isn’t unusual; when you’re hurting, when you’ve had some basic comforts stripped away…you can get a little desperate.
Sadness and struggle, when they’re heaped on you, tend to make you grasp for things that make you feel good. And when those are in short supply, you can get a little, well…morose.
I wasn’t content with just knowing that this person I thought was so incredible existed, I wanted to be around that person, because they made me feel good. And I couldn’t.
It wasn’t giving me warm fuzzies to know that a festival took place out in the desert where people congregated in freedom among amazing works of art and lived out these principles that I felt so deeply connected with…I wanted to be there, too. And I couldn’t.
I’m still struggling, a year later. I still love the idea of Burning Man, but I have to tell you, when I saw the pictures online today, and realized it was time again, for Those Who Can Afford It to roll out to Black Rock City and live out the version of their lives that can really only take place there…I had a pang.
I barely make rent and groceries for myself and three kids right now. I don’t plan for this to be a place where we end up, forever, but I’m so far away from being able to do something like Burning Man, it might as well be a trip to the moon. Hell, I’m “Moon Trip” distance from being able to do something that requires driving a car that can be trusted for more than an hour on the road.
I have pangs quite a bit, actually. Pangs when people talk about the stuff they can do for their kids (I can do very little, materially, right now) pangs when people post pictures on social media of the restaurants they’re visiting, or the vacations they’re taking…I have pangs when I imagine the person I love finding the person he’ll love and settle down with.
Loss and struggle made me something I never, ever thought I was…a jealous person.
But I had another feeling today, after the pangs (I also had a couple when I saw this photo shoot of Emily Ratajkowski–both because I don’t have an ass like that, and because I’m not in Santorini)…I remembered something.
Almost a year ago, a while after the last Burning Man (when I cried after seeing photos online like this one), I was in my little living room, doing yoga, and a thought popped into my head like I’d been shot with a little BB of positivity…
“I have everything I need.”
I’m not sure when it happens, when that inner peace that I get built up, spiritually, gets toppled by desire and longing (and the daily grind), but I know I need to find a way to keep it up. To get back to remembering, daily, that I have everything I need, and I’m rich in every way that matters.
When events seem to spiral, when one thing after another happens, or I begin to feel stuck, I have to remember to open up, and let in, as well as let go. (I wish I could remember the yoga teacher who said that, but I don’t. But if I know yoga teachers–and I do, fortunately, a lot of them–I know that whoever said it won’t mind if I share.)
I can love the person I love for who he is. And I can wish him the best. (And if I really love him, I’ll mean it.)
I can love that something like Burning Man exists, and I can be happy for those who get to take part in it.
I can also remind myself that my life is an ongoing festival. Every day.
In this last year, I’ve had some of the roughest times I’ve ever had. And I really thought I knew about hard times. I had a horrible marriage, and I’ve gone through not just the death of loved ones, but horrible deaths of loved ones. I’ve seen things that I thought I’d never get out of my head.
But if having your heart broken is bad, having what feels like a soul break can feel almost unbearable.
And it can wear your happiness down, even when you get to the point where you can stand (literally and figuratively) again.
Here’s the thing, though; this has been one of the best years I’ve ever had, too.
Why? Because every time I’ve been broken down, something has happened to build me up. And I honestly think it’s made me stronger.
Friends have rallied around me like nothing I could have imagined. My children have not only survived, they’ve shown me that they’re tough little bastards, and although I didn’t think it was possible, I admire them more now than I did before.
And I share this because even though I do want to be sure that I stay aware, always, that I have everything I need, and I’m rich in every way that matters, I think it might be a good idea for me this year to mark off a week to make especially sure.
The same week that Burning Man is happening, I’m going to have my own festival, and I’m going to call it the Wakened Woman Week.
I’m going to make a post, with a pic, every day this week. (Except Sunday. I’ll explain later.) It’s going to highlight some aspect of what I have in my life that embodies the principles I hold dear, and it’s going to serve as a reminder to me–and hopefully, an encouragement to others–that ideally, you should live your life every day as an embodiment of your principles.
And you should have fun while you’re doing it.
I created the Live Small, Stand Tall category of this blog because I wanted to encourage people who don’t have a lot of money to keep dreaming. Yes, it’s important to help those who are in such desperate poverty that they don’t have homes, or access to things like the Internet and blogs for encouragement and support. (And if you’re in Oklahoma, I’d encourage you to support The Homeless Alliance to that end.) But it’s also important to remember that there’s a spectrum of need, and those who have the basics like food and shelter covered might be suffering because of what they perceive is an insurmountable gap between them, and the people who get to do things like Burning Man.
I want to (eventually) offer practical tips that can help people in that position find ways to enjoy the better things in life, but I also want to remind everyone that you probably have a good life, already.
So, the first pics of the week are my version of frolicking in the sun in a bathing suit.
No, I don’t have Emily Ratajkowski’s ass. My legs aren’t the smooth, unlined gams of a twenty-year-old.
But these are pretty damn good. They get me where I need to go. My body isn’t pristine, but I have five beautiful human beings to show for it. Emily’s a gorgeous girl, and I’m sure that body and face get her a lot of attention, and I don’t want to begrudge any other woman any happiness she can get. I want to be happy for everyone, for every gift they have.
Because as a woman, I believe that just like her flawlessness is a gift, my flaws are gifts, too.
Being single at 45, with five kids, might seem like a nightmare to some women, but I don’t believe it has to be. I believe what seem like hurdles to some are actually pretty good filters; I’m not going to end up with anyone who is dazzled by my physical state, I’m going to have a soul mate, that loves me for my inner beauty. I’m not going to be saddled with someone who gets queasy when faced with a challenge, because before we even get involved, he’s going to have to first look at my life, with its circus train of baggage, count the cost, and say, “Yep, you’re not only worth it, I think this herd of children is awesome, too. Bring the chaos.”
Weaklings need not apply.
So, here I am, in a bathing suit. Not against a Santorini backdrop, but on the bright blue cushions of my apartment complex’s pool furniture. Pretty swanky, if you ask me. (Although, full disclosure; the pool was so gross I didn’t get in. But we’re celebrating the good, aren’t we?)
Get ready. I’m remembering what I have this week, and I’m shaking off the soporific negativity that’s hurt my heart in the past, and reawakening the knowledge that keeps me mindful.
So…Wakened Woman Week. You can take part or not…but I think you should. (Don’t let the name fool you–men can participate, too, just like women can take part in a festival called “Burning Man”. See what I did there?)
Time to wake up.