Try to learn to breathe deeply, really taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really sleep.
Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry.
Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.
– Ernest Hemingway
It was a rainy Christmas, and I was in love.
I packed a little bag and took the N Judah to see him.
We bought a Christmas tree and carried it back to his Victorian flat.
Getting up in the morning and wearing his robe, his warm, cozy socks on the old hardwood floors.
It felt like living in a movie – finally – finally! – having a love of my own.
A love with all the trimmings.
While it rained, we stayed warm in bed.
Laughing and playing with Wotan, his cat.
Nosey, toesy, tummy, tail, Hut! he would sing, touching Wotan’s nose, toes, fluffy tummy, and tail.
Cradling his kitty in his arms.
I like animals more than people, he said. I can trust animals.
We went out in the holiday bustle for Christmas gifts, and for silver-dollar pancakes at Sear’s Fine Foods.
Just like he had with his famous family.
The rain turned cold.
I saw the lightly powdered mirror under the bed.
I saw the look on his face.
I can’t have you here, he said from the corner, unable to look at me anymore. I can’t be with you; my relationship is with this drug.
I left in the rain with a paper grocery bag of my things.
I got back on the N Judah and never saw him again.
And after finally having had enough, 25 years later he blew his brains out.
I can fuck you like a lover, and I can fuck you like an animal. And I’m going to do both.
Please, I begged. I want it all.
I went to yoga today.
And, as usual, had about 100 epiphanies.
As I stood in mountain pose a feeling surfaced.
And then washed over me.
What if …
What if every little thing that you felt … was okay?
What if all the feelings of longing and loneliness, of otherness and shame, of sadness and betrayal were all okay?
What if they were just feelings, stripped of the sexy drama, left to float away?
What if every desire in your heart … was okay?
No matter how voracious your appetite.
Every fear, every self-doubt.
What if you stripped away the judgment, the shame?
And just allowed your tender, wild, beautiful and nasty heart to simply want what it wants?
The explosive lust, the terrifying, bone-shaking love, the hand in the darkness.
What if … all the feelings … all the desire … were the motherfucking point?
The man with the mouth has come for you, he whispered.
I’m going to eat you, he said. And then you are going to lick your own juices off my face.
And he did.
And I did.
We sat at dinner, when someone said something, who now can recall what?
“That hurts my feelings,” my tender morsel of a boy said.
It had been such a mild slight, I all but jeez-get-over-it rolled my eyes.
“Mom,” my little guy said. “I don’t like what you just did. You said that if something bothers me, I should say my feelings.”
I recognized how I had absentmindedly tried to shame him into getting in line, into just moving on.
And I snapped to attention.
“Oh, honey!” I said. “You’re totally right! I did say that! You were totally right to say how you felt. And thank you for calling me out on not listening to you. Good for you!”
“Thank you,” he said earnestly, vindicated.
“I’m never gonna let you go,” he said in the dark.
And suddenly I had to choke back tears.
This love, this love is a balm for my soul.
A love that is mine to keep forever, no matter what.
“Roll over now, little boy,” I said. “I love you. And it’s time for sleep.”
You are nourishing me, I whispered with him so deep inside me I could not move.
We are nourishing each other, he responded moving into me, incredibly, deeper still.
I got off the N Judah in the drizzling rain today.
And walked past the old Victorian, where I had lain naked with him years before.
There was the cupola where we had placed the Christmas tree, the restaurant next door where he introduced me to Thai food.
And always ordered a carafe of wine.
Tears flooded my face.
What if the sadness, the longing to go back in time, what if all of it were all okay?
If only he had known everything that made him other made him beautifully imperfect.
Made him perfectly okay.
Would there have been the exquisite need to numb?
Would he be alive today?
I’m going to come inside you. And then I’m going to suck it out of you and feed it to you off my tongue. Just like you asked.
Yes, I said. Yes.
It had been a long day of revelation and high emotion.
My daughter often mirrors me.
So naturally I came home to a girl who had been crying and fighting with her best friend.
There were a lot of tears.
So I gave her space.
I brought her a candle and turned off the light in her room.
So she could just get deep into whatever she was feeling.
Time passed and I went to check in.
“I’m here if you want me or need me, sweetheart,” I told her.
“I want you, Mama,” she said, and followed me to my room.
We got into bed and she laid between my legs under the covers, this woman-sized child, with her head on my belly.
I smoothed her hair again and again.
“I acted really bad today,” she sobbed. “I said terrible things! I hurt my best friend’s feelings! And I love her so much! But I hurt her so bad – all because I wasn’t getting enough of her attention!”
She sobbed hard then, and I let her cry.
“Baby,” I said. “It’s okay. It’s all okay. I want you to know that everything you are feeling – guilty, jealous, embarrassed, ashamed – it’s all okay. You are human, and those are just feelings. You just gotta feel them. And then they’ll go away. And everything you want – the attention, the love – it’s all okay, too. All of us want that stuff. It makes you human. And it’s okay.”
She softened into my body, and I could tell my words were just what she was needing.
On this day when I had just found them myself.
They may just be what saves us all.
And so much more.