Posts filed under Creativity

Love & anarchy are what keep your dreams high-stakes and thrilling

You're tired of being exploited by systems and institutions that take advantage of your labor and leave you with barely enough to live on.

You're tired of seeing it happen to everyone around you.

You're hungry for change that's real, that's lasting, that's beautiful.

You're willing to do whatever it takes to make that change happen through joy rather than violence.

And you want to thrive along the way.

Me too.

Welcome to Love & Anarchy.

I believe that deep success, real success, entails creating a world where everyone has enough and all our resources and knowledges are held in common.  The kind of success that says, "I've made it big! And all you guys can either go bugger off or pay me lots of money to learn my secrets!" is no success at all.

I'm interested in transitioning to a world without interest-bearing debt-currency.  I'd like to live in a society that engages in sacred gift economics.  I work towards this by offering my book for free and my one-on-one coaching at a low-cost. I'm interested in exploring more of what it means to live in the spirit of the gift.

Revolutions that result in the same-old-same old domination games bore me.  So do revolutions that are just  New Age  metaphors for attitude shifts.  I'm excited by the thought of real revolution -- a fundamental change in the way that we live together and organize our resources.

I'll be offering you stories and helpful ideas from my own path of evolution and from inspiring folks all over the earth.  The days of "personal development" are over.  No genuine personal development can happen in isolation from societal evolution.

It's clear to me that love & anarchy are two primary ingredients of every human soul and imagination.  Our night-time dreams are lawless gifts that come with no price and no condition. They have important things to teach us.

I don't believe we can make cultural evolution happen without giving deep attention and honor to our own inner landscapes of dream and archetype.  Within us are the symbols that will found a fresh world.

This site is a bright hearth for you in the strange and liminal world of spirituality, gift entrepreneurship, and radical politics.

You're so welcome here.

 

 

 

 

Image: [eflon]

Heretics, Heart and Hanuman

Hello wonder, Here's the gems I dug up a few weeks ago.  If you'd like them hot and fresh, go ahead and sign up here.

THE GEMS

Giordano Bruno - collected writings

What a handsome heretic! Check out that cowl.

In 1600, the Roman Inquisition burned at the stake Giordano Bruno, an Italian Dominican friar, on charges of heresy and pantheism. Bruno earned the respect of modern-day depth psychologists like James Hillman and Thomas Moore for his profound insights regarding the relation between the human soul and the cosmos (which he understood as non-hierarchical, with God immanent in every particle -- a view the Catholic Church did not like too much, hence his execution). Today I'm especially digging Bruno's treastise on The Heroic Frenzies, which takes a Socratic view of love as a means of mystical ascent.

The Coherent Heart: A Discussion with Dr. Robert McCraty - interview on Reality Sandwich

I'm a big fan of the research of the somewhat-comically named HeartMath Institute, which proves the dramatic effects of the human heart's electromagnetic field. In this interview, Dr. McCraty, director of research at HeartMath, discusses the Institute's findings and their relevance to the global shift in consciousness we're working toward. This interview puts in simple terms the fascinating phenomenon of coherence -- a state wherein heart rhythms and brain waves match up, amplifying the power of the heart and the health of the body. Interestingly, coherence is created when we generate positive, loving emotional states-- sincere appreciation, compassion, and kindness. The HeartMath Institute's findings scientifically confirm the wisdom of the great spiritual traditions that the heart is the key organ of spiritual growth and change.

Krishna Das - Hanuman Chalisa - youtube music video

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Crj6z0FJYOg&feature=related

One of my favorite means of achieving coherence (apart from loving-kindness meditation) is just listening and singing along to the music of Krishna Das. For those unfamiliar, Krishna Das has been singing kirtan, Sanskrit love chants to the divine, for decades-- a practice he took up when he asked his guru how to meditate to get enlightened and his guru just cryptically replied "Meditate like Jesus." Well sure, just meditate like Jesus! You know, it's easy! -- Krishna Das interpreted the instruction to mean that he should focus on loving God with all his heart, all his mind, and all his strength (Jesus' own advice-- check the Gospel of Matthew) and that he would do this by singing kirtan. His voice has all the deep-bass soul of Leonard Cohen or Johnny Cash, layered with immense joy. I once hugged Krishna Das after one of his concerts and was astounded to feel an actual huge, wonderful electro-magnetic pulse emanating from his heart. I think I need to write to Dr. McCraty and ask him to use Krishna Das as a test subject so my experience can be objectively confirmed and published in the annals of science.

UPDATES

You'll notice the look of the site is changing-- I'm taking the uber-helpful Girl's Guide to Web Design Course and learning to build my own magical design using the Thesis wordpress theme. I'm just in the first week now, so things look a bit plain -- but 7 weeks from now, oooooh baby, we should have something good.

Fear is a Lack of Gratitude  - posted on Monday, is generating lots of thought- provoking discussion about the nature and value of fear.

I'm continuing to be overjoyed and astounded by the progress folks are having while working with me in the low-cost coaching sessions I'm offering for 2012.

Perhaps you'd like to book your session today?

Love!

Carolyn

Soul Sustainability + the Temples of Humankind + the English Opium-Eater

[Whenever I send out a new letter full of gems and updates, I post an old one here.  Sign up now to get the gems hot and fresh as I find 'em.]  

Hello wonders,

This week we've got a deep meditation on soul sustainability, a tour of the Temples of Humankind, and the first best-selling addiction memoir ever.

THE GEMS

Soul Sustainability (pdf)

 

Soul Sustainability from Evolve Deep

Rhina Ju is a dynamic visionary artist and lifestyle concierge (the word means "keeper of the candles"!). This week she offered a beautiful meditation on her philosophy of sustainable soul culture. Check it out if you need some nourishment.

Damanhur - The Temples of Humankind (youtube series)

Damanhur Temple Dream Intentional Community

Deep beneath the earth in Northern Italy, an intentional community has built an astounding, gigantic network of chambers dedicated to honoring the fullest potential of humanity and divinity in concert. Built over decades by dedicated artisans as a labor of devotion, hese halls and temples are visually stunning and profoundly inspiring.

Confessions of an English Opium Eater - Thomas de Quincey (pdf book)

 

Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

"I am too much a eudaemonist," the erudite Thomas de Quincey lamented. He meant, "I really want to feel good ALL THE TIME." This, of course, is a hallmark of an addictive personality. De Quincey shocked the world with his loopy, brilliant, and touching memoir of his opium addiction -- the first that the genteel world had ever seen. De Quincey, a prolific and well-respected political economist, suffered terribly during his youth as a homeless orphan in London. He began taking opium first to ease the horrible stomach pains he acquired after too many years of hunger damaged his digestive system. After a time, he noticed opium's entertaining side effects and began taking it for visionary exploration. Sadly, his fondness for the drug led him into terrible despair and paranoid delusions. (He came to believe that a Mongolian warrior was visiting him at his cottage in the cotswolds and threatening the purity of his maidservant.) As far as I'm concerned, one of today's addiction memoirs touch De Quincey's for sheer lyrical wonder and emotional intensity. Read it to better understand the addict in all of us.

THE UPDATE

My first low-cost coaching sessions ($25 each) have been going amazingly well. Here's a testimonial from the brilliant Abigail Amalton, artist and photographer at The Silent Infinite:

"Carolyn’s approach spoke to my soul directly. When I spoke of my difficulties with finding my audience, she knew exactly what I had to heal in my own psyche in order to connect better with others through my work. I’ve had negative past experiences in the field of life coaching that have left me feeling condescended to, being forced into a specific ideology and like I needed to be fixed. Not so with Carolyn: she spoke to me as a friend and kindred soul on the same path, extending a hand and rooting for me. I experienced total acceptance in her presence and as a result of the compassion she extended me, I learned how to be kinder to myself. In my conversation with Carolyn, I felt truly appreciated, listened to and valued as an artist and a human being. Months later, I’m still amazed at how just one experience of true compassion can so positively shift one’s self-perception."

Thank you, Abigail! You can schedule your own soul-shifting session with me here.

Also, Part 4 in the series Surrender Your Addiction to Suffering is up.

Love!

Carolyn

Iron John + Leo Tolstoy's nonfiction + Buddha in Suburbia

(Whenever I send out a new letter I post an old one here to the blog. To get the gems and updates all hot & fresh, just sign up here to my mailing list) Hello wondrous creature,

I always get extra-reflective on snowy days like today in Pittsburgh. I've got a handful of discoveries for you to share that reflective vibe, and exciting news about my work.

THE GEMS

Iron John by Robert Bly (audiobook on youtube) 

In addition to being an amazing poet, Robert Bly is also the leader of the Mythopoeic Men's Movement, a movement dedicated to reclaiming conscious masculinity via ritual and myth. In Iron John, Bly offers an in-depth exploration of a fairy tale story that holds important wisdom about what it takes for a man to free his psychic energy from that of his parents and the culture at large, and to integrate as a fully life-giving individual. I found out about the book via the brilliant hip-hop artist Eric Venuto aka Bamboo, who recommended it to my partner, Dey. As soon as Dey mentioned that the book had a heavily Jungian point of view I couldn't resist digging in and reading it myself. I finished it in an afternoon because it's just that good. This audio version offers the distinct pleasure of Bly's soothingly gruff voice and the advantage that you can "read" it while washing the dishes and otherwise doing tasks around the house. (I would NEVER clean my apartment if not for audio books-- I'd be too busy reading!)

The Kingdom of God is Within You - Tolstoy (ebook)

 

Until stumbling around wikipedia the other day I never realized that Tolstoy wrote nonfiction-- but he did -- and quite an important work of nonfiction, too. This is the book that spurred Gandhi to adopt his principles of nonviolence which led to the liberation of India from British rule. In it, Tolstoy explores the radical political dimensions of Christianity and makes the searing (and still extremely relevant) point that Jesus' teachings leave no room to justify violence of any kind, including the violence of war, which many ostensibly Christian leaders in the U.S. and around the world encourage everyday. But his critique doesn't just target those in positions of power-- it also beckons whoever digs Jesus to get way more serious about integrating that great man's disruptive and profound teaching into everyday life. Read it if you're looking for an inspiring jolt for your political and spiritual awareness.

Buddha in Suburbia (streaming documentary film)

 

Buddha in Suburbia follows exiled Tibetan lama Lelung Rinpoche as he strives to get along in the Western world and to reclaim the lost teachings of his previous incarnation, teachings which are key to the legacy of Tibetan Buddhism. It offers not only fascinating insight into the plight of the Tibetan people, but also the pleasure of watching a man pursue a genuine epic quest for spiritual knowledge. I don't want to trivialize the difficulty or sadness of Lelung Rinpoche's work in the wake of the Tibetan exodus-- but he's seeking the missing scrolls of his ancient people. How cool is that?!

THE UPDATE

I'm delighted to announce that I'm launching a low-cost coaching program for 2012. Each one hour session is just $25 (that's about $75 less than you'll find most coaches charge). Curious why the price is so low? You may want to read my post that details the spiritual and political motivations that inspire me. I only have 20 sessions available per week, and two of those have already been taken -- so if you're interested in grabbing a slot, I suggest you go ahead and purchase it.

Love!

Carolyn

How to Enter the Aether with a Poem

I'm trying to network on the interwebs, which is stealing some of my writing mojo away from this blog and putting it on... other blogs.

To get your dose of awesoming-your-lifeness this week, I invite you to check out my post on the fabulous Sources of Insight.  I've written about how anyone– and I mean anyone – can read poetry better-than-a-pro with a simple contemplative exercise that I've perfected and tested over the years with my students at the University of Pittsburgh.

In the post, you'll learn

  • how poetry expands your heart and intuition
  • how to "enter the aether" with a poem to understand it deeply

Here it is: How to Read Poetry to Expand Your Heart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Sexpot Star + Your Heroic Journey + Money as Debt

[Whenever I send out a new letter with 3 gems from the interweb, I reprint one from a month previous right here.  If you want to catch the gems while they're fresh and hot, go ahead and sign up for the letter here.] Dear wonderful genius,

This week we're a little off-schedule because I spent two days on planes travelling to the small town of Cuttack, India--where I'm now getting to know my partner's family and being overfed great Indian food.

THE GEMS

Oooh La La Tu Hai Meri Fantasy - music video

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5XjpV9n25Yk

This bubbly hit song from Dirty Picture, a film about Silk, India's first sex-pot star, is blasting on stereos all over Cuttack. It's as sweet as a mouthful of cotton candy and oh-so-catchy. I have to share it with you to get it out of my head!

Hero With a Thousand Faces - book

 

This month I'm revisiting this illuminating classic by Joseph Campbell about the universal spiritual adventure underlying all myths and folktales. Campbell's work is a mix of hard scholarly fact and tremendously wise insight. I love to watch films and read novels while asking myself about what in the story corresponds to the plot movements that Campbell noted: What's the Call to Adventure? Who's the Mentor? Where's the Inmost Cave? When I do this, I get better at understanding the movements of adventure in my own life and learn more about what it truly means to be a hero.

Money as Debt - animated movie

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dc3sKwwAaCU

The biggest heroic journey of our time might be the movement to question and alter the very foundations of our present financial system, a system which is so damaging to our earth and to human happiness. This probing gift of a film concisely and simply explains the dangerous sleights-of-hand that make money out of debt and imprison countless people in a painful cycle. A must-see for today's heroes.

UPDATES

"Surrender Your Addiction to Suffering - Part One" has gotten more hits than any other post in my blog's history! It's great to know that the quest for deep freedom resonates with so many folks.

Andrew Long, of the delightful Excellence blog, gave a happy review of my book, Awesome Your Life: The Artist's Antidote to Suffering Genius on Amazon: "Carolyn has a real gift: it lies in evoking the latent brilliance that resides in each one of us. If you're ready for it, this course will take you for a ride. Her writing is also a gift: it is fun, funny, easy to connect with, and encouraging. Her voice is warm, coaxing, and personal. I feel like I've known her for a long time."

Thanks, Andrew! You can check out the book for yourself right here.

Love and joy!

Carolyn

Gravity and Grace + Raw Blues + Bad Lip Reading

(Every time I send out a new letter, a post one from the archives on the blog. If you'd like my interweb gems hot and fresh in your inbox, sign up here.)  

Hello certain someone,

Today we've got a severe French theologian, an album of piquant bluesy songs recorded in a bedroom, and the most surreal and hilarious political humor a girl could ever ask for.

 

The Gems

Gravity and Grace by Simone Weil

Low cost life coaching, gravity and grace, Simone Weil

 

It's not that I agree with the great French philosopher and theologian Simone Weil on most points: she was much more severe and ascetic than I would ever hope to be. But her stark, unromantic and completely unsentimental thinking about the nature of divinity and the forces of habit and competition that govern everyday life (which she called "gravity") is so rigorous that it's breath-taking. This book is basically a compilation of aphorisms. Though it's pithy, it's dense. I've read it about 10 times now, and I think I'm close to understanding it. My very favorite part is in the first chapter on page 3, where Weil offers the insight that there is truly only one fault possible in human nature: the incapacity to take energy directly from divine light. All other faults, all "sins"-- greed, lust, gluttony, etc. are merely the ways that humans seek to gain energy from things other than divinity and in doing so hurt themselves and others. Whoah. In my experience, this is totally true. I become more free from my shortcomings the more I'm able to tune in and gain energy directly from love rather than from stuff out in the world.

 

The Room Demos - Raw Guru

Room demos, raw guru, low cost life coaching, surrender gravity and grace

Having recently recorded my own little lo-fi album, I've gotten more interested in the genre. And this is a wonder of it: intense, hot, menacing blues. Raw Guru sounds a like Jim Morrison holed up in a desert motel with a microphone and a guitar. Love.

 

Bad Lip Reading

 

I'm inclined to think that Bad Lip Reading should just be called Spot-on Brilliance, but I guess that's a less-descriptive title. The geniuses behind these pop and political spoof videos take real footage of our nation's idols speaking or singing, watch them without sound, and make up what it looks like the idols could be saying. The result: dazzling videos like the one which has kept me cracked up for days, wherein it looks for all the world like Herman Cain is really saying stuff like, "Maximus holds the patent on rice cream and you have to go make it-- it's gooooooood" and "Women have a special feelin' though-- they have an extra fatal lady shimmer of no maximum strength-." The surreal words of the videos just serve to highlight the actual meaninglessness of what politicians and pop musicians habitually jabber. It's. So. Grand.

 

The Update

On the blog, there's an insightful guest post from Samuca Love on Occupying Your Heart.

 

I haven't been posting as much as usual because I've been wearing out my clicking fingers trying to get my book, Awesome Your Life: The Artist's Antidote to Suffering Genius up and ready for sale on in Amazon's Kindle Store! Almost there... click click click. ;)

 

As always, feel free to shoot me an email at sweetsongofjoy at gmail dot com about how you like the stuff in this letter or anything else under the sun.

 

Love! Carolyn

Love is What Makes Life Awesome / "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone"

What is an awesomed life? It has more to do with love than coconut oil.

 

I'm aware that the title of this blog and of my book can sound a little ridiculously upbeat.  "Awesome Your Life" -- like, hmmmm? What's that supposed to mean?

 

Does it mean living on a beach, working 4 hours a week, being regularly massaged with coconut oil by sultry servants?

 

In my experience -- not so much.

 

To me, an awesomed life isn't a life that's brimming with luxury and prestige.  It isn't the inflated capitalist magazine-gloss dream that's only available to people who make massive amounts of money.

 

Instead, it's...

 

A life that's burgeoning with radically all-embracing love, community and creativity.

 

Somedays, I forget this.  I look at my tiny (but adequate) bank account, tiny apartment, and think "I must be doing this wrong."

 

But other days something happens that snaps me out of my negative trance and shows me-- no, I'm doing it pretty darn right and my life is indeed incredibly awesomed.

 

Just this kind of snapping happened on my birthday this year.  My friends gathered together and surprised me with their rendition of "Ain't No Sunshine When She's Gone" -- in reference to the month I spent away from them in India when everyday in our hometown of Pittsburgh (so they tell me) was grey.

 

They met in secret to practice the song complete with accordion, guitar, voice and tambourine parts.

 

It sounded amazing. They gave me the best birthday present ever by performing it to me in the very same tiny, cramped apartment that the mean and incorrect part of me sometimes uses as evidence that I'm a loser. Check it out:

 

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bt-RzLiM07Q&feature=BFa&list=UURgQm6XbQSl01KLvxXBDoxg&lf=plcp

 

I mention this not to brag (I'm so adored! Look at ME!) but because my ability as a life coach is tied to my own personal experience and accomplishment. I can't guide you on how to set up a trouble-free existence with mad cash in a tropical paradise because I haven't done that.

 

I can, however, help you work through what holds you back from forming deep connections with others and enjoying a life filled with art and meaning. You might want to check out the stuff people say about me to see what that entails.

 

Love!

Carolyn

A Sufi anarchist sage + Share or Die + Glasgow Corpse Pop

Hello wonder,  

These are intense times we're living in. The Occupy Oakland encounters with police and their General Strike yesterday, the foggy weirdness of All Saint's Day and the tanking economy have got me in a funny mood. I go from exuberance to sadness back and forth. Here's whats helping me think:

 

THE GEMS

 

Hakim Bey on the idea of Temporary Autonomous Zones 

 

 

 

Hakim Bey is a stunningly original thinker. Wikipedia notes "his ideas evolved from a kind of Guénonist neo-traditionalism to a synthesis of anarchism and Situationist ideas with heterodox Sufism and Neopaganism" -- in other words, not your average bear. I've been thinking about Sufism a lot lately (perhaps because the most-read poet in America and one of my own personal favorites is Rumi, a Sufi mystic) and in conjunction with the Occupy movement, I've also been thinking about a phenomenon that Bey identified: the Temporary Autonomous Zone-- a space of magical communion that can emerge under certain conditions and undermine political oppression. You'll have to watch the video to learn more. ;)

 

Share or Die - Ebook from Shareable.net 

 

 

 

Shareable.net is an incredible gathering place for ideas about gift economy and other warm, conscious ways of dealing with the cold economic realities at hand. Their free ebook (also available in hardcopy for $15), offers essays gathered from the site. Some of the essays gesture to solutions-- some just describe the present hardship with the compassion and tenderness wrought of first- hand experience. Both are healing and vital.

 

Corpsing - by How to Swim - free music download

 

 

You may have noticed by now-- I love to play on bandcamp. So much incredible, free music! My selection for you this week is gleefully dark. When the singer crows, "I drag your body / out on the dance floor" he's not necessarily talking about your living body. It's a morbidly wicked incredibly bouncy dance track and (die-hard Morrissey fan that I am) I can hardly resist it.

 

UPDATES

 

The wonderful Andrew Long of the compelling Excellence Blog interviewed me. You can check it out right here.

 

My latest essay is In Defense of Dirty Hippies.

 

I'd like to send a big Thank You out to Sam Wise, who came and performed his super-fun magic show for the weary campers at Occupy Pittsburgh to the delight of all.

 

If you're in the Pittsburgh area, I highly recommend that you hire him for any children's parties you may have. Check out his site.

 

Remember to feel free to drop me a line about anything on your mind. I also invite you to sign up for llow-cost life coaching sessions with me.

 

Love!

Carolyn

The Arcana - Chapter 1 - Laney Mitchell's Life Sucks

 

 

So, I wrote a first draft of a novel for NaNoWriMo this year.  It's a metaphysical farce, which I know is not as popular these days as bodice-ripping supernatural teen romance-- but, what the hell, it's what I got.

 

The plot has a few dozen holes and logical inconsistencies-- but there's stuff in it that's really amusing and compelling, in my humble estimation.

 

I realized that with my ever-mounting to-do list related to making a living, I might never get around to revising this novel into something that fits neatly together and makes sense.  Then I remembered that some of my favorite 19th century novels appeared first as serials in magazines. So, in the hopes that having a bit of an audience might prompt me to do the nitty-gritty fictional work of cleaning this thing up, I've decided to start publishing it in bits here on this blog.

 

You'll find the work deals with themes I'm generally obsessed with: addiction, romance, mystery. If you feel so moved, please comment on it-- I need all the encouragement I can get.

 

Love!

Carolyn

 

The Arcana - Chapter 1 - Laney Mitchell's Life Sucks

 

The Arcana are the mysteries of sex and death, masculine and feminine, transmutation and evolution.  They’re movements in the dance of love and power that pervades all space and time.  They’re the major figures of the Tarot. No one on the deep journey escapes the Arcana. They visit you, they change you, and they either call forth from you your deepest gifts or they rush you into complete despair. The outcome depends on you, but the visits themselves are fated.  They commence the moment you step out of your coded, familiar world and into the vast unknown.  Each mystery has its own initiation and crisis; its own secret and trial.  You are always The Fool. - John Dee, blog post March 2011

 

Laney Mitchell’s life sucked.  Not sucked a little, as in, “Oh, some things haven’t happened that I would have liked to have happened” but sucked a lot, as in “Nothing about my life is going well at all.”

 

Growing up, Laney passionately fell in love all the time.  Falling in love, excessively and madly was her major forte.  Her first romantic relationship was with a young man ostensibly named Draco, who lived in Vermont, whom she met in an AOL horror movie fans chat room.  Laney did not at all like horror movies.  Except for A Clockwork Orange, which the world in general did not count as a horror movie, but which Laney did because the violence in it terrified her.  She liked Alex in A Clockwork Orange.  She loved his one eye, with false eyelashes on the bottom and upper lid, the way it made his one eye seem so lurid and alert and menacing while his other eye looked so normal and fresh.  While she hated the violent scenes, she loved the threat of violence in Alex’s eye, the mad look in it.

 

The young man in Vermont whom she met in the horror fans chatroom called himself Draco and identified with dragons.  By regular mail he sent her pictures of himself, and a lock of his chestnut-flat brown hair which he sprayed with his cologne.  When Laney opened, alone in her bedroom, the envelope that he had sent with his hair in it she swooned with joy.  Other things that made Laney swoon with joy were bees and hunger.  Laney loved bees not only because they threatened to sting her, but because they made honey, which seemed like an excessively generous thing for them to do.  She knew that theoretically the bees made honey for themselves, but she never saw pictures of them eating the honey, only making it, so it seemed to her that the honey-making enterprise of bees was exclusively altruistic.  Laney loved hunger because she liked the gnawing, empty pain in her stomach to match the gnawing, empty pain that she carried with her in her heart most of the time, when not presented with cologne-doused locks or bees.

 

At twenty, Laney had no advantages. She wasn’t pretty. In the least.  In fact, she was the kind of awkward-chubby-and-pimply that you’re supposed to out grow at age thirteen. On top of this, she was intensely, acutely, insanely sensitive.  The kind of sensitive that you’re supposed to out grow at age four.

 

She lived with her alcoholic mother in a small rent-subsidized apartment in the Highland Park neighborhood of Pittsburgh.  Laney’s mother, Joan, wasn’t just alcoholic— she was a mean alcoholic, and obese. Her meanness focussed mostly on Laney, who was the only one around to take it.  Joan had never married Laney’s father, Mickey, a day laborer and glam rocker who now lived in New York City.  Joan hated herself and she hated her daughter and she didn’t care much who knew it. Joan got a tiny disability check each month (bad back) and used it  to buy cheap gin, rolling tobacco, and frozen Hungry Man Sports Bar dinners.

 

Laney’s meals came from the neighborhood Thai restaurant, the Happy Turtle,  where she worked as a waitress.  That part of her life wasn’t so bad.  The owner of the store, Mai, was a good-natured middle-aged lady who felt compassion for Laney and didn’t get upset with her even when she was discombobulated and slow.  Which she often was.  She wasn’t a very good waitress.  Waitressing is a far more demanding profession than most people like to acknowledge, a job which makes all sorts of demands on one’s social skills, short-term memory and co-ordination, none of which Laney had in ample abundance.  She spilled soup while trying to serve it, forgot to refill people’s waters, and out of shyness sometimes waited so long to approach a newly-seated group at a table that the group would just get up and leave.  Still, Mai was kind about it and when Laney cried as she went home at the end of every shift, part of what made her cry was how touched she was by Mai’s patience.

 

Very vivid dreams

 

Though Laney had little to offer by way of physical charms (well, maybe we’re being too quick about this— she did have some notable features that could be potentially engaging to a very singular type of taste, namely: large, watery blue eyes,  a snub nose, plump knees, and wealth of red hair that went all the way to her waist), she did have a great deal to offer in terms of soaring, throbbing, obsessive adulation.

 

Also, she suffered from very intense dreams.

 

Some people have boring dreams.  They dream that they go to the grocery store and buy furry kiwis, or that they forget to send an important email, or that they’re having sex with a porn star.  These kinds of dreams are just the ordinary human mind coping with its routine pleasures, anxieties, desires.  They’re mild kind of dreams, at just the surface of the unconscious.  They happen at a kind of low volume, and they’re pastel-colored.  Nothing smells too strongly in these kinds of dreams, not the kiwis or the porn stars.  Everything at this level of the mind is a little plastic and a little lame.

 

Laney never dreamt at a low volume.  She often awoke to her alarm in a sweat, feeling fatigued as if she’d been physically carrying out the work of her night’s journey.  Her dreams were overwhelming, loud, tidal.  They ensnared her in epic expeditions, bullied her into tremendous sagas, and rode her through scenes of pulsing, riveting emotional intensity.  In the morning she’d often sob and moan with grief, still suffering the pain of seeing one of her dream comrades die.

 

The most brilliant and shocking dream Laney ever had concerned a geode.

 

Laney dreamt that she was the pageant director for religious plays inside a giant cathedral.  She lived in the attic of this giant cathedral— she had a small moppet of a dog and a rusty red tea kettle there on a little wood stove — but it wasn’t a normal Christian cathedral.  It was something else, something pagan.  The stain glass windows depicted Dionysus instead of Christ— lots and lots of grapes, barrels of wine.  Her mission, as pageant director, was to put on plays that would inspire the audience and remind them of their faith, of the miracles in everyday life.  Accordingly, Laney designed a little presentation in which a geode stood on a tall pedestal.

 

A young boy would throw a rock at the geode, thus knocking it off its pedestal and onto the floor.  In its fall to the floor from its pedestal, Laney estimated, the geode would break open and the ordinary-appearing stone would reveal its magical wealth of crystals inside.  Laney reasoned that this breaking-open of the geode would be a thrilling sight for the crowd, and a reminder of divinity’s sometimes-hidden but ever-present splendor.  Yet when the time came to present the pageant and all the congregation assembled in the cathedral attic to see Laney’s show, the little boy threw the rock at the geode and the geode fell and broke open, but when it broke open, it didn’t just reveal its internal amethyst.

 

No, instead, a very fat and tender green shoot, about the width of an arm, unfurled rather lewdly from the center of the broken geode.  The shoot swelled into a bud.  The bud plumped and gradually, luxuriously, opened up into a light-blue lotus flower the size of a kiddie pool, which proceeded to revolve very slowly in the air.  Then, adding perplexity to perplexion, another tender green shoot emerged from the center of the lotus.  This shoot turned into a long, tall stem and then eventually bloomed into the cup-like form of a lily.  Out of the open mouth of the lilly spouted a fine mist of glitter and it also began to revolve.  The glitter hung motionless in the air surrounding the revolving flowers.

 

The cathedral audience in Laney’s dream stood up and gawked.  They pointed at the spinning floral shimmering affair and began to shout at her: “Mirablis! Mirablis!” until Laney’s guts shook with fear.  She realized that they were accusing her of being a miracle-worker.  “I didn’t do it!” she cried back at them, “I didn’t plan for those flowers to pop out! They weren’t supposed to!” but the crowd rushed at her and lifted her up on their shoulders, carrying her downstairs to the cathedral altar in order to annoint her.  Laney woke from that dream in a cold sweat.  She had a sense that the dream meant something deeply significant, but she wouldn’t allow her conscious self to know just what that significance might be.  Something inside her heart, though, said that the dazzling appearance of the flowers signaled a tremendous birth of magic in her own soul, and that the dream meant that she could complete the great work of self-realization in this lifetime, that she could succeed in becoming unconditionally loving.

 

Laney secretly longed to heal the whole world but didn’t dare believe that she could be someone capable of achieving that healing.  She hated the greed and injury she saw everywhere, but she felt too weak and too small to combat it.  The only way she could understand all the hard-heartedness she saw around her was to imagine that people who behaved cruelly had themselves somehow been treated very badly somewhere along the way.  She suspected that the world could be a shining and delightful place to live if only this cycle of cruelty could be broken, if only no one ever had to have her heart stomped upon.

 

The stomped-on heart

 

Laney’s own heart had been stomped upon when she was seven years old.  That was when Mickey, her father, left the small apartment that he shared with Laney and Joan.  When Laney was a very little girl, Mickey had seemed to her the most loveable and thrilling creature in existence.  He took her for long walks in the woods and taught her how to tell regular grass apart from onion grass, which was greener and taller and tasted like garlic when you chewed on it.  He showed her how to find daddy long legs in piles of rocks, and told her that she was a princess.  That’s ordinary stuff that fathers do, but Laney wasn’t an ordinary girl.  She was a girl extraordinarily capable of imagination and love, and she fully believed Mickey when he said she was really a princess and he was a king, even though no one else knew it.  This secret knowledge that Mickey and Laney shared of their underground nobility colored all of Laney’s childhood world and made the nonsensical pain of living make sense.  When the other kids in the neighborhood teased her for not liking to play rough games or for being bad at sports, Laney just had to remember that she was a princess, therefore different from the rabble, and didn’t have to feel bad that she was so different from the others.  She could go home and have her father sing to her before bed and feel magnificent and adored in his eyes.

 

When Mickey left because the screaming fights he was having with Joan got to be too bad, he made efforts to stay connected with Laney.  He tried to get custody of her, but Joan prevented him, showing the court photos she had of Mickey cross-dressing in eyeliner and high-heels for glam rock shows and doing cocaine with his buddies.   Every time Mickey showed up to pick up Laney for a weekend visit to the zoo or an ice cream shop, Joan would make sure than she and Laney weren’t at home.   Mickey would sit outside waiting on the stoop of the apartment building until the landlord would make him leave.  The sad thing about Mickey was that he didn’t have much perseverance.  He could have fought harder for Laney, but he didn’t.  After months of struggling with a resentful and drunk Joan to get a chance to see his daughter, he gave up.  He got more into drugs and more into music.  He moved to New York City.  He sent letters to Laney which Joan burned.  Whenever Laney asked Joan about her father, Joan just told her that her father was a creep and didn’t care about her.

 

Laney’s very large, very sensitive, and very delicate heart was dealt a near-fatal blow by her father’s departure.  Without Mickey in her life, Laney couldn’t maintain the make-believe that she was a princess.  She succumbed to thinking she must really be what all the other kids said she was: a loser, a weirdo, a freak.

 

The magical power

 

Laney’s dreams were right, though.

 

She had magical power and potential.

 

Laney’s power wasn’t anything flashy or dramatic.  It was something that all of us have, but which very few of us are aware of.

 

Laney could heal things and people and situations with the love inside her.  And this kind of healing wasn’t just the kind that fixes something that’s broken— it was the kind that could actually evolve beings into higher versions of themselves.

 

Stay tuned for our next installment...

 

Love!

Carolyn