Displaced

beach-windI have a place in my heart that will not heal. It grows but does not diminish. Coming to the ocean helps me empty it when it gets too full. The pain is an ache, a heart break, an intolerable hurt that makes me wish I could throw it up and out.

I am displaced, a person put down on the wrong planet, a snail pushed naked from its shell. The people here are nice; most are sweet and kind. We interact but my sense of belonging and sisterhood remains disengaged. Where is my tribe? Where are the others like me? Where can I plant my feet and feel my spirit returned to its home place?

I come to the ocean to heal, to breathe the air deep inside my lungs, to weep without apology, and be accepted by a vast watery expanse greater than my sorrow.

The man who owns the Oceanside Inn tells me that he is perfectly happy there. There is no place else on earth I would rather be. He means it. I know many people like him, people who are at one with the place they live, the people they interact with, the work that defines them.

I am a healer for the artists, the creative souls, the sensitive ones, the spiritual seekers. I know the landscape of their pain and the road they walk upon. I understand the loneliness of being different and set apart. I am the wise woman they seek to heal their hearts, because I don’t hold up societies mirror and tell them to be what they can never be. I show them the reflection of their gifts and greatness. I teach acceptance and celebration. I take them to the core so they know how to breathe into the sacredness of their lives. I support and love them as they become their dreams.

So – why can’t I do the same for myself? Why can’t I find my own path to freedom? What bridge will connect me to an experience of life that makes sense? When will I stand on land that I never want to leave? When will I look into the eyes of others and feel a sense of tribe?

Gib thinks I am elitist, but that is not true. This is not about class. It is about finding the lifestyle and energies around me so alien that I can not relate. He has no such problem. My husband is wired for this place. He slams up against life like a game of bumper cars, and is better for it. He rejects nothing, because it all makes sense to him, television, sports, taverns, community. He is in it all, racing up and down the highway every day, ready for the next adventure. Our relationship is one of opposites. I am the turtle and he is the train. I am exhausted by people, while he is recharged. There is a lovely tenderness between us that overrides this polarity, but it remains a challenge.

If only you didn’t feel every single thing, he tells me. If only you could censor or repress, like the rest of us. You don’t have the emotional walls we have to protect ourselves.

Maybe that is the definition of a psychic. Everything comes in. There is no shelter, there is no escape.

But I have not given up hope. I still believe if I keep traveling and searching that I may eventually find a place that resonates as home and a people I can call my tribe. If not, I look forward to returning to an unseen realm as expansive and vast as the ocean that cradles my spirit today.

A cool breeze lifts the papers in my notebook as I write, while an unexpected January sun lays against my forehead like a long lingering kiss. There is peace here, in this moment. I will take it with me; tuck it away like medicine for the secret broken place I carry in the truth-telling places of my heart.

Life Sentence

My writing voice comes from the past. It’s like a fine-tooth comb moving through and around experiences that are otherwise forgotten.

My writing voice remembers the steel clank of heavily guarded prison doors, where I emptied pockets, answered questions, signed papers and allowed myself to be searched by people who had forgotten how to smile.

I was in a high security prison for my friend’s wedding, a slight bird-like woman named Linda who popped into my life when I was alone, exhausted and struggling. Linda thought of herself as a black woman, even though she was the tiniest little white thing you ever saw. I first met her when I was opening a storefront in Seattle, ripping out interior walls and refinishing floors. My overalls and tee-shirt were dripping dust, as I walked outside to rest on the sidewalk.

 “What’s going on here? What’s this going to be?” I looked up at a delicate woman with dark corkscrew curls cascading around her head. Her jewelry glittered against morning sun, as she stood with one hand on the hip of her thin summer dress. Her high heeled shoes clicking in rhythms all their own.

“What it is, is a disaster,” I replied, feeling more then a little defeated, “but what it’s going to be is, The Mount Baker Psychic Center.” I pointed to the wreckage of lumber and sawdust heaped inside.

“Are you doing this all alone?”

“Yeah.”

“Not anymore, you’re not. I love psychic stuff.  I have to work today, but I’ll come by later and help you.”

I expected never to see her again, but at six o’clock she knocked on my door, all smiles and bounce.

“Here I am, let’s get to work!”

Moments like that are not quickly forgotten. 

Linda had been living with Dave, a once famous jazz musician who landed in prison after becoming addicted to heroin. He robbed stores to support his habit, ending a brilliant musical career.  After two years of visiting Dave in prison, Linda accepted his proposal of marriage.

Linda asked me to be her maid of honor.

Dave asked me to do readings for the inmates.

I said yes to both.

Door after door opened, as the last slammed closed behind us.

Finally we were delivered to a large room where the ceremony would take place.

The guards were at bay.

The service was sweet and sincere. Linda married in a pink satin dress holding a trailing bed of miniature roses. Dave and his best man were dressed in black suits, high gloss shoes and crisp white shirts. After champagne and cake, I set up a table while Linda and Dave went off to a trailer. “You will do readings, won’t you, Karen?” Dave asked. “The brothers are really excited about it.” 

The men lined up, smiling and ready. They were mostly black, large, masculine and sincere. Their questions were no different than questions asked on the outside. They sought information about loved ones, wives, children and parents. They needed hope for the future and to have someone witness their goodness. They wanted to be listened to, shown respect, given comfort and guidance. I thought I would be afraid of them but I was not. Instead, I felt gentle and compassionate.

The tempers ready to detonate had not come from the inmates, as expected, but from the guards. Their behavior was dominant, controlling and abrasive. Repressed anger radiated from closed hearts. Those were the men I didn’t want to meet on a dark street, not the prisoners. The prisoners had committed crimes, but the guards were living day after day of malignant rage which was destroying their humanity ~  a whole different kind of life sentence.

My writing voice is also my healing voice. I offered it then, and I offer it now in the hope of making connection.

written 5-28-08