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Sitting at a stoplight, I must have looked quite distressed. Next to my car, a monster truck pulled up and the man in the driver’s seat also had his windows down. We sat there in silence at the stoplight. It was dark, the kids were quiet in the back. Suddenly the man turned to me and said out of his window, “Hey, it’ll be OK”. I said, “Thank you.” The light turned green. We drove away.

Then just the other day, I was sitting in my car, alone, parked at the grocery store. I was receiving a private therapy session from one of my favorite bands, listening to their song. Then a woman came up to the car parked next to mine, started putting away her groceries. She peered into my car and asked, “Are you alright?” “Yes, I’m okay. I’m just sitting here listening to this song…” I replied. She didn’t seem convinced. “You’re sure you’re going to be OK?” I swallowed and nodded. She continued, “It’s a beautiful song. What’s the name of the band?” I told her it was a Russian band. She told me she likes a band with five of them Celtic women singing in it. Did I know that band? I nodded in the affirmative. Of course I did. “Well alright, honey. You take care now…” I smiled again. “You too.” I said.

I wondered what is it in these people that allows them, so effortlessly, to show empathy and compassion to others, and what stops some from doing it even when they want to. It must be an internal peace with self. It must be a lack of self-consciousness. “What if they’ll think I’m weird that I’m talking to them? What if they just want to be left alone?” Such thoughts cross the mind of the failed comforter. These are my thoughts, though I know the truth – nobody wants to be left alone when they are suffering.

Two episodes I regret: one – we were at a playground in San Diego, and there was a young couple with a small girl there. The man was saying hurtful things to the woman, I didn’t hear them but I could tell by the body language. He was bent over her, almost, she was shrinking into herself, holding on to her little girl. Then he walked off, she put her girl in the swing and started pushing, silent tears rolling down her cheeks, choked sobs, shoulders shaking. I wanted to come up and tell her that it will be alright. That she needs to leave him. That I understood. I wanted to hug her because I knew that’s exactly what she needed. She was so alone. Alone with her grief. But I just stood there, paralyzed, thinking up excuses, angry at myself because I couldn’t get over myself and just go and help her.

Two – my husband and I were at a coffee shop and at the next table there was a group of three people, getting ready to pray. I wanted to get up and just go over to them and ask them if I could pray with them – pray for them, and then maybe they could also pray for me? I needed someone to pray for me. Where two or three gather in My Name, there I am with them. And so I wanted to be there, where He said He would be. But I just sat there and stared at them hungrily. Oh, the regret.

There in the parking lot I also thought about Pierre Bezouhof from War and Peace – about his final transformation, his coming to God, his realization that the most important things to be had in this life are right here and that God is right here too. Through tremendous pain he lost his inhibitions. He also lost his doubt. Now he no longer questioned the decisions he made. He just knew, and acted on it, and didn’t analyze it. He had peace. Through the difficult times in my life I have felt that God was trying to cleanse me of my inhibitions as well. He wanted me to lose so much that in the process I would shed the baggage – the pride, the self-consciousness, the fear. And sometimes I feel these things slipping off, agonizingly, slowly. And other times I feel like I am clinging to them. At those times I am fearful because I know that this means that there is more pain to come.

"Old" by Liza Ezhevskaya of lizardartworks.com

Pain and Painting

No wonder pain and painting have so much in common:
The root is the same.

Because what drives the hurts
Drives the words.
Because you take something from the inside – out
Like teeth.
You bleed.

When I pain, I hurt –
Dripping red from my heart onto the bloody page.
A canvas stretched on wood, taught, like the nerves you could pluck.
With oil dripping off my brow
As I labor, as I pain.

Blues of solitude.
Dusty sand tones spread across strips of longitude.
Of alonegitude.

In blue – I see you.
I only longed to bask in your love.
But the blue in your eyes,
Like the blue in your veins,
Strums my arteries,
Leaving grayish blue stains.

No wonder pain and painting have so much in common.

Because the yellow I see reflecting in her smile
Is brighter than the sun, in my daughter.

Joy
Adulterated by fear.

Because the agony of the possibility
Of a certain absolute certainty
Is intolerable…
I hide under a blanket of white stars falling.
Their hyperbolic trajectory
Curves into shapes, letters,
A mouthful of rain
With which I pain.

If only I could see.

But I can’t see that well.
My eyes are swollen.
Outside the stars have fallen.
It is dark.

And then at night
I paint with words.

"Bit of Land" by Liza Ezhevskaya of lizardartworks.com

Lettin’ It Go

Lord
I am letting it go.
As I lean on the bridge
On the cliff, on the ridge
I am letting it go and I’m watching it
Spiral to the waters below
And I’m watching it shoot to the sky
And I’m hearing it
Hearing me cry.
And I’m seeing the red
On its wings, on the shards
Where I bled, where I bled
And I’m seeing the red
As I’m letting it go
To the waters.

Lord
You just take it
You take it from me
I surrender the rage
And I do disengage
And I’m watching it hurl itself
Into the void
And the void shrieks in shock
And the light fears the dark
But it’s no longer mine
Let it go.

And I give you the pain
Take it all – it is yours
And this frail grieving heart
And the wings that are shed
And my hopes in a jar
And the wine, and the bread
All is yours.

Lord
I’m letting it go
Like you said, come to me
Like you told me, I’m letting it go.
Let it go, let it go,
Take the ball, and the chain,
And my wings, and my faith,
And my life, and my fall
It is yours anyway
Take it all.

Just a mirror for the sun...

Road trippin’ with my two favorite allies, fully loaded we got snacks and supplies… (Red Hot Chilli Peppers)

We are driving into the sun, still high over the horizon, the passenger window is open, mine is pegged with a wooden toy railroad piece to keep it from sliding down into oblivion. Speakers blasting 80’s rock ‘n roll, my two favorite allies – Munchkin V and Mr.Fatty Pants, bobbing their heads to the music in the back seat.

With the heat, the haze from the humidity, the music, the wind – I feel hysterically elated. The feeling where pain is so immense that you find yourself at the other extreme; you feel a survivor, knowing that despite it all there is the sun and the joy and life to be lived and children to be loved. You scream out the words to the song at the top of your lungs, you bellow out the hurt and the numbness lifts.

I pop in another disk – “Happy Music for Yar”. Lizard made it for me several years ago. It’s a compilation of soul-warmers and joyful heart wrenchers. Most familiar, the rest – seeming so.

Say Hallelujah, throw up your hands, the bucket is kicked, the body is gone…Dry your eyes, and stand up right, put a smile on your face, He wouldn’t want us to cry(Tracy Chapman)
That first one’s from the Lizard herself. She rides in the passenger seat, grinning at me, we’re throwing up our hands together, the kids giggle in the back, I steer with my knees into the horizon…

In the haze, the stormy haze…I’ll be ’round, I’ll be loving you always(Coldplay)
This one’s from God. I am reminded of the most important thing.

A howling wind is whistling, in the night
My dog’s growling in the dark
Something’s pulling me, outside
To ride around in circles.

– Iggy Pop
This one brings my cousin S and Lizard back, and our road trip from San Diego to San Jose. We’re coasting through the central California fertile crescent, the sun is high, the ocean blue. Munchkin V and Mr.Fatty Pants are there too, and I am joyful. What a collection of most treasured people I have in my car as we roll on!

People are strange, when you’re a stranger, faces look ugly, when you’re alone… (The Doors).
This brings the Anticlimactic of the Underworld, Mr. Morrison-Taylor himself. He’s the one from whom I stole the idea of having imagined folks ride with you in the car. He shared it with me near 15 years ago. With his dreaded hair and maddening banter, I could not convince him then that “Anticlimactic” is not the rightful melding of the “Anti” (as in, anti-norms, ie. rebellious) and the climactic (in his mind – very important, vital)….

By the time the kids and I arrive at the park for our three-person BBQ, I am almost at peace. As if just returning from a therapeutic meet-up with the greatest people on Earth. And the pain is only a memory.

My son hides two cars behind his back. “Mama, pick one hand” – he says. I pick one. He shakes his head and says, “No, that one’s mine. Pick again.” I pick again. And again: “No mama, that one’s mine. Pick the other hand!”

I do.

The problem of pain is intricately intertwined with the problem of choice. Once the latter is understood, the former ceases to be a problem.

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