Dancing in the Dark

the danceOh, has it been over a year since I posted on this blog? Well, crap. That’s a long time!

So where have I been? Well, sometime last year, I wrote about my decision to put down my spiritual and self-help books and start LIVING the truths I’d found in their pages. Doing that looks different than I expected—much messier.

I am not a graceful ballerina, moving gently through life lessons with a pirouette and plié. More like a spastic buffalo ramming into everything around me at full force, knocking stuff over and having to decide what’s worth cleaning up, and what should just stay broken.

I’ve spent a lot of time this last year journaling, meditating and sleeping, as well as focusing on creativity and a select few friendships that are deeply loving. Day to day, I’ve turned my attention toward experiencing emotions, people and life just as they are. Just being with them, without judgment or analysis or attempts to change.

Life has given me much material for practice. A few highlights: changing jobs and finding myself in my dream position; going through a deep, four-month depression; meeting and falling head-over-heels for someone, then having the relationship fall apart for no discernible reason; bulging discs in my neck and a botched medical procedure that left me with migraine-level headaches for a month; and a fallout with a family member that left us not speaking from Thanksgiving until last week.

So. That’s a lot.

My decision to stay present with myself through all of this, no matter what, was probably more about throwing up my hands in surrender than any sort of high spiritual commitment, to be honest. In the past, I’ve attempted almost every method of “escape” under the sun and nothing has ever brought true, lasting peace. Why not something new?

Turns out this “something new” is absolute magic. There are days, particularly over the past two or three months, when I actually shock myself. For example, my lifelong, compulsive need to make resolutions to “get good” has disappeared. I have spent immeasurable psychic energy trying to force myself to be better / different / kinder / calmer / braver / worthier…with few results from the effort. I just ended up exhausted and frustrated.

I’ve come to learn that for me, change begins with accepting things exactly as they are right now and looking my fears straight in the eye. I quit trying to change, move closer to myself and poof! I CHANGE (though often in ways I didn’t even expect). Who knew?

Another fruit of this “something new” is that there’s more “padding” between me and everything sharp in the world. I am more open to whatever happens: Happy, sad, good, bad. I can relax because I am less afraid of somehow being undone or collapsing into an experience. There is confidence in my fundamental “OK-ness.”

Finally, the “something new” has revealed to me even more the utter ENORMITY of Spirit / the Universe / God / Higher Power / Whatever You Want to Call It. There’s nothing intellectual about this—it’s completely of my heart and shows itself in these astounding moments of compassion and love toward myself and others. It’s a hugeness inside of me that is not of me, connecting me to all beings in a gorgeous way.

I don’t really know what’s next in the grand scheme; I can only take a stab at doing the next right thing for me. Tonight, that’s spending time with friends, picking up my paintbrush for some creative work and going to bed with my sweet pup. And that is just perfect.


Tattoos Are for Life (plus six months)

I recently decided–after ten short years of mulling it over–to get a tattoo. A BIG one. And within four days, I had found an artist, created a design, and was under the needle, so to speak.

I got a couple of small tattoos in my late teens/early 20s, one of which is so awesome that I plan to have it removed with my first tummy tuck. But for this artistic endeavor, my motto was GO BIG, OR GO HOME! (With the caveat from my friend Lisa, “But stay employable.”)

What is it? I’m not totally sure what I designed. I mean, obviously, it’s a bird. But it’s also in bloom, a thing of movement and beauty. It’s organic.

Perhaps it’s a peacock. There’s a story I love about peacocks eating thorns–those very things that are meant to wound–and from them they are nourished to grow their plumage. Spectacular beauty arriving from an unlikely and painful source: I like.

This could also be a phoenix, that mythical creature that plunges itself into fire every 1,000 years, only to be born again from the ashes to live anew. Like that, too.

The whole impetus for getting a big, badass tattoo was about honoring a wish I’d had for a decade and always dismissed as impractical and expensive. I don’t know what made me take action, except perhaps the desire to live big and be my most authentic self. And the most authentic Leah has a giant peacock-phoenix-flower design on her back. And she loves it.