the e-dict

…from the imagination of Erika Anne Randall

a whisper, from 103 year-old me

“Shhhh…

closer…

I’m trying to tell you something…”

(I lean into the air like she’s there)

“Everything you don’t know doesn’t matter.

And everything that matters you can’t know.

Not with your mindbrain anyway.”

(I can’t tell if her paradoxical whimsy is a  symptom of her age, 103 last weekend, or her wisdom)

“I was once like you. exactly like you in fact. So like you, I was you. And so, even with all that I have forgotten, I remember…”

(Her bent finger taps her exposed, freckled, sternum.)

“That ache in your chest is not lack

or longing

it’s the work of unknowing…

unknowing what they told you

unknowing what you believed

unknowing what you thought you needed

and how you thought you should act

and look like

and fear.

Unknowing is not ignorance

it is a deepening, a coming closer to a whole.”

(I can only start to begin to see myself in her slightly clouded blue eyes.)

“Unknowing, as a verb, is resistance training. It is the way to knowing yourself as you truly are–before, as St. Janis Ian says, “the world has done its dirty job.”

(She closer her eyes and loses herself in a memory of the rest of that song for a moment…I think she is asleep but she is humming the chorus. I wait patiently until her eyes blink open.)

“Oh kitten, I love the parts of you that you hide, the naughty bits that make you spit and snarl–they are what gets us through this next thing you’re staring down…and the next thing…and the time after that. Unknow who you are so you can be free of all the bullshit.”

(I’m not entirely sure what she means, happy that she still swears for emphasis, and know for certain that there is no all-seeing, unknowing manual.)

“Where do I start?” I ask.

“Not where,” she says mischievously. “But when.”

“When?”

“I’m so glad you asked,” she smiles.

“Right…Now.”

(And then she drifts off again, humming a crackled melody, “Stars, they come and go, they come fast, they come slow and they go….like the last light of the sun all in a blaze…)

 

 

 

Letter from 73-year-old Erika

Dear Erika,

What do you need to hear today that you don’t already know?

That it works out in the end?

That it doesn’t and you survive that, too?

Here’s the thing, from here, all those things you “didn’t get” only matter in that they help you get what you need. And oh how you want to carry the world and all her hurts–especially her people’s hurts–but it just doesn’t work that way. You are so close to stepping into your full voice and ending this karmic cycle of over-taking care of others and under-taking care of yourself. Don’t be your own undertaker. You’ll get buried alive.

And another thing: on grieving. Remember what you learned in that beautiful and haunting storage unit art installation that held the artifacts of the dead yesterday:

1. That when you peer inside the rough cut hole in your heart, those you love are always there. Whether its someone you lost to death or to life, they are there and they have stories for you, lessons that even they didn’t know.

2. That it’s ok to still have grief, and to sit with it. Sometimes you only get 30 minutes, sometimes you need a year.There is no hourglass for this work and it comes when it pleases, comes when it pains.

3. Your sadness doesn’t need an ocean to float away on–not an ocean of busy or booze–sit in its salt. It has its own sea inside it. See inside it.

4. When you open the heavy, clanking door of your heart to return from the faint light of grieving and back to the too-bright world, meet those on the other side with compassion and awe. They are grieving, too, even if you don’t know it. Everyone is grieving and we are all trying our best to be human people  (some better than others), but everyone is trying. Remember, even if they’ve been here before, this is their first time in this body, in this “storage unit,” in this story, in this loop of loss and found. Compassion and awe. Compassion and awe.

5. Look up. Not just to the blue skies or the imaginary flowers overhead or to optimism. But look up to someone who you believe is doing somethings right and maybe to a higher someone or something (dare I say power) that holds some sway with you and allows you to let go of your ego just a little. That ego has served you plenty, gotten you into rooms that only she could imagine, but she, too, needs a little R&R. “Holds some sway,” mmmmmmm…sounds like a slow dance with god. Maybe try that.

I love you so much. And I’m not worried about this little sad patch at all. Or if you are building enough strength to get through the next one. So strong you. So kind. Lean into what holds some sway. 1,2, 3, 1, 2, 3….

Love Always Always Always,

73 year-old Erika

“hat-shaped hole” from Ondine Geary’s “Radius of Transmission” project. My father’s flat cap.

 

love letter from 94-year old me

Dear Erika,

Here we are again…back to the beginning.

And still, all these years later, you hear The Spaniard in your head, “I am waiting for you, Vizzini. You told me to go back to the beginning. So I have. This is where I am, and this is where I’ll stay. I will not be moved.” Even after 80 years, you cannot forget a single line from that film. Sometimes we just sit here, watching it in our head. Scene after scene. Feeling the star twinkling descent of Buttercup from that window as if it were our own memory of falling. People think we are listening at dinner, but we are really watching the Princess Bride and hearing Wallace Shawn’s perfect lisp, “You’ve given everything away! I know where the poison is!…”

But I digress, today is a different cliff of insanity. A different inconceivable return–another school year beginning.The students are just moving in this week but you and your team of artists return to “retreat.” I’m writing to you to help you get back on that proverbial horse–you can choose her color–but up you go. Here, my gnarled hand–spotted from the glorious sun–still strong as hell–place your foot in its cup. And my shoulder, wide, almost returned to wings, for you to rest your palm (stop cracking your knuckles, it does you murder in the end). Quiet your inner complaints about the other jockeys and your tired thighs. Lucky you to still feel the wind, to be in the field, to have apples in your pockets to offer at the day’s end to the softest muzzle of a mouth (no, not your son’s, this is still the proverbial horse I’m talking about. She’s a beaut and you better treat that mare right). Get thee back up and out and see if you can try a few new tricks this year.

  1. Stop caring so much what other people think. Their thoughts are not your business.
  2. Try going in without already seeing the end…as a dear one says, “Something will happen,” but you have no idea what it is and really no control over it. So let go of expectations that set you up for misery before anything has actually gone awry.
  3. Less sugar at night. You’re making your body work too hard while you sleep. Give the girl a real rest.
  4. Open your mail before you check your email. I have been writing you almost everyday and you are only getting a smidge of my letters…There’s so much old lady wisdom in there–and a great recipe for oatmeal cookies that you are missing out on.
  5.  Trust the abundance that is coming to you. This is not a fluke. You have worked hard for it and lived off such crumbs. And I’m not just talking money here, kid.
  6. You thought about this again on the water yesterday and something about the reflective blue made you really get it:you are not responsible for other people’s responses to your life, especially your happiness. When you feel happy, feel happy. This too shall pass.
  7. Really look at those toilet dreams you have that stand-in for your fears. What are you trying to flush away? You do stop dreaming about bathrooms eventually, but only after you finally snake the drain of your own anxiety and let some serious shit go.
  8. There was an 8th thing but I forgot and started thinking about the scene in the fire swamp…”No.No.We have already succeeded…”

I do so love you, Erika. And that’s all that matters, isn’t it? No need for others to tell you that they see how hard you are trying, and how hard you are working, and how hard it is…Maybe replace that word “hard” with something cushionier. Maybe let that hard work just be work, or good work, or maybe, if it’s so hard, consider a change. Things only get harder the less resistant to gravity we become. You know you love a firm mattress but with a pillow top–hard as support but with a fluffy embrace. Perhaps more fluffy barriers between you and the hard? More embrace. Less bracing. It’s better for these old bones of ours, so do it for me if you can’t quite get around to taking care of you.

Ears up, girl, ears up,

94 -year old Erika

 

(a reminder–this is you today, almost one month away from 46. about halfway to where i write from)

 

word of the day: remembrance

Hi Friends,

Before me, in my favorite cut glass vase, is a bundle of white Woodstock wild flowers and one singular hot pink rose-an unabashed flush against a backdrop of summer clouds. Woodstock, the music festival, happened 50 years ago next month, and tonight, I am off to see the new Tarantino film that also takes place in 1969. Last month, the 50th celebration of Stonewall. Last Saturday, the 50th anniversary of the lunar landing. 1969. The year John and Yoko are married (and the Beatles give their last public performance), the internet is created, the Buckeyes win the Rose Bowl but later that year lose to Michigan, ye olde halfpenny ceases to be legal tender in the UK, the draft is reinstated and all those born on 9/14/44-51 will be the first selected on Dec.1., and Niagra Falls ran dry. The Army Corps of engineers “de-watered” the falls to divert water from the American channel and two bodies were found dashed upon the rocks.

From thoughts of flowers to an hour reading about the Manson family and Nixon and the woman’s body wearing a ring that said, “forget-me-not” found at the base of the falls. So much to remember, so much not to forget.

word of the day: remembrance

as a noun that behaves like a verb:

The action of remembering

The act or instance of recalling

The putting back together of memories

 

as a noun that behaves like a locket:

The object that holds the memory of something bigger than the thing itself

 

So funny that these flowers, so very alive before me, could serve as a remembrance of a time I only imagine I knew in the life just before this one. And yet these flowers will die within days and perhaps it will be the vase that held them that will in the future hold their memory which will point me to this morning where I sit with a sore knee and a healing heart recalling a time immortalized with nostalgia for others but could only be guessed at by me. forget me not! yell these things from their tables and frames and news paper clippings. forget me not! sing my knees as they remember dancing without pain. forget me not! cry my dreams from last night–full of rooms from old houses and snowy owls and lost loves. Already today, so much time spent re-collecting my own moments and those borrowed from a farm in upstate New York. Today, I will listen to Melanie, who only played Woodstock because she was willing to sing in the rain, and think of the first time I heard her song “Brand New Key” as an 18 year-old in Manhattan with my girl Jess and remember how I survived til now to smell these blooms of nostalgia before me and live so many moments over again. remembrance.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e

 

 

 

 

 

love letter–with blood

Dear Erika,

I’m writing to you from a  time when the only blood of yours you regularly see comes from the small nicks you get on your hands from rounding corners too tightly or from the impatient opening of the foil around the top of your chardonnay. Here, in this time of contusions and small profitless paper cuts, you miss the blood. Your underpants stamped with resilience and moxie. The reminder of your ripeness and youth. Oh you were a woman who knew how to bleed. Remember that time you bled all over the floor the first day you started teaching at U of I? Nic Petry, then an unknown grad student, came over to welcome you and there you sat, in your own red ocean. “I’ll just stay a moment and stretch,” you said when he offered to walk you out. And then you peeled off your long blue warm-ups (thank god you still wore unitards back then) and wiped the floor with them– laughing as you did it.

I know you get tired of wringing out your clothes.

I know you get tired of that electric dizzy spin that threatens to tip you out of consciousness.

I know you get worn out imagining another day of soaked cotton and a body that feels like a flotation device.

This is a love note to those monthly reminders of your capacity. Not your biological capacity, but your emotional one. Your ability to do the hard stuff. The stuff that is both seen and invisibilized. Remember how that rad drummer chick, Madame Ghandi, ran the London marathon with blood streaming down her legs? Remember the shock waves she sent? All because she made visual her inner reality–a reality that so many of us humans hide while doing other extraordinary things. And what a way to raise visibility for menstrual support around the planet. I know, you are no front line activist (not yet). You have more subtle ways. You, my 45 year old love, would never write a blog post about (wo)menstruation.

But I’m tired today as I write you, and I might be writing as much for myself as for you, my lovely. It’s hard drying up. I can’t even imagine how Mother Earth feels. Here at 63, I am not quite old enough to know this new desert of my body as home. I have not yet moved fully into the secret tributaries that run beneath the hot earth of my skin, found complete sweetness in the shade of wisdom and memory. Today, I only feel the ocean receding from my shores and am keenly aware of the lack of lube in all areas of my topography. I’m writing to you, my dear crampy one, to say to you, sister, be grateful! Rise up! Get off your whiny ass and use that flow to move you through your day with fierceness and joy. Do it for me–because it’s the actions of what you do today that give me the sacred wells of memory to drink from tomorrow…which together with more time give us the wisdom we need to become the slow crone of our future…the one who knows how to find nectar from a cactus and get drunk on it.

Get up, Trinity.

Love you, kitten.

Yours,

63 year old Erika

 

 

 

Love letter from 67 year-old Erika

Dear Erika,

Do you remember when you didn’t know how to grill? Or thought you didn’t? And how you didn’t think you could fill the air in the tires of your car? Now, you still look like you’re on a Japanese game show when you try but do it you can! Oh, and remember taxes? How impossible they seemed? And budgeting? And opening envelopes that looked like bills? And making chili? (damn, you make good chili). And what about long division and how to teach it to your kid? And getting your plates renewed? And your car in for an oil change? And being chair without Sharon? And signing the boy up for Y camp? And making a good single cup of coffee? And going to bed without crying? Remember when you didn’t know how to do that?

Oh I see you, and though that right big toe bunion is so huge you’ve named her Paul (short for Paulette), you haven’t slowed down much on all the learning–though your relevés have gone to shit. There was the learning from the time you lost a longtime friend in your late 40s–your personal truth won out over trying to make someone else happy and that cost you. Don’t worry, you get them back. And there was that learning from “failing your boy,” I mean, mothering. Don’t worry, you get him back, too. And there was the learning about disappointment–but that came with the learning about self-forgiveness, so yay! And the learning about “inappropriate servitude,” giving away too much of yourself  for fear that you might not be good enough at your true purpose and look foolish.  To whom? you finally asked and Fuck it! you finally said, thus sealing your karmic work on that bullshit once and for all (this may or may not have been just last week…).

My dear, dear one. From where I sit  at this table by the sea, you are infinitely connected to your time on this earth because of all you have learned and your openness to learning more–from love, from losing love, from grief, from longing, from joy–and maybe, most of all, from forgiveness. Forgiveness. So much gift/give in that word. For the ness of giving. For give’s “ness.” We live for this ness and for giving this ness to ourselves. It is our birth rite, though it often takes until our death to receive it. You’re not at that door, my love, you still have more turns to go, and you’ve almost got it down. Almost.

There’s something you have been saying to yourself as a whisper that you will start to say aloud. First to yourself and then to others. We have it printed on our personalized stationery now (yes, paper–a delicacy) and it’s our favorite motto so far. Don’t know what I’m talking about? Oh, lady. Get a little still and quiet and listen. You hear it? Not yet? I’m not worried…I have the stationery to prove that you can.

Love you, beauty.

67 year-old Erika

 

a very important memo from the basement

Hi Dear Friends and those in charge,

There is snow on the ground this May 21st and I am wondering about my capacity to hold any more cold. I need someone who is listening (someone on the top floor) to know that, today in particular, I just can’t take another winter. Give me the hopeful press of green, the tightly wound purple that has already warriored her way through the frozen earth. I don’t need one more fucking frost. Today, give me the possibility of spring.

My friends and I down here in the trenches have seen, through our small subterranean window that only props up halfway, enough Decembers. We are ready for birdsong and hyacinth, rebirth and possibility. Enough of this deep freeze. We have worn our mittens through.

Sincerely,

your humble servant from cubicle number 92173,

e

 

 

 

Letter to myself about bedtime prayers and starting over

Hi My Dear,

That NY Times article about Anne Lamott and her “late life” wedding (Let me tell you, 65 is kid stuff from here) really made an impression on you. Most profoundly, that tiny end note about her perfect prayers “Whatever,”(for mornings)  and “Oh Well” (for bedtime). You’re so funny–I love how you didn’t even read/need the prayers, just their titles, in order to start practicing their medicine in your body. The nighttime prayer has really worked its magic on you these last 50 years. 50 years of Oh Well can do a lot for a girl! You are so much more forgiving of yourself and your fellow humans. This sweet mantra has not been an “Oh Well, I should just give up,” but an “Oh Well, I should just give in.” And I don’t mean give in as in admit defeat, I mean follow those actual instructions–Give in to yourself. To your needy, wanty, grocery store-checkout aisle temper tantrum heart–the heart that is hungry and thirsty beyond what food and drink can quiet. Give in to yourself the good stuff. The high calorie lovin’. The full fat forgiveness. Feed the well of your Oh Well with your so much enoughness that your soul/spirit/inner bear totem stops rumbling for you to do better. You did what you could. Maybe you can do better tomorrow. Maybe not. It’s sure worth staying curious about. So don’t go to bed angry, sending that part of you who said that thing by the copier or in that text or in your head to the couch. Oh Well-come her under the covers. Tuck her in extra tight. Maybe even sing her that Suzanne Vega song you used to sing your boy…”And do not ever look for me, cause with me you will stay, and you will hear yourself in song, floating by one day.” Then wake her ass up tomorrow, pack her a good lunch, and “Whatever” her way through the day.

You really like being a human, even when you can’t dance as much as you used to. Don’t worry–you have mastered the low impact soft shuffle and found lightness and indirection in a way that makes your moves rise like vapor. Folks still ask, even from this chair, if I used to dance. “I am dancing,” I say and smile.

Go get ’em, kitten.

Love always,

95 and a half year old Erika

love note to myself

Dear Erika,

I feel your new moon melancholy today and I wanted to let you know that, just like phases of our old heavenly orb, this too shall pass. Maybe it’s the too much. Or maybe it’s the not enough. Maybe it’s the distance from your root chakra to your heart. Or maybe it’s the sound of busy buzzing in your brain.

Whatever it is, I’m dashing off this quick note to remind you of that dancer you beheld in class on Tuesday–the one who knew how to shed her human body and become light so she could connect with her dark. Also, since you might have forgotten on this particular friday that it was only last week that you took class from that wild beast of a unicorn from Batsheva, that her use of that tiny word “the” changed your mind forever about time. “Connect to the plenty of time,” she said. Not –“you have plenty of time” or “there’s plenty of time,” but THE plenty. Oh–your cells screamed–Time has her own enough-ness! She has plenty! And she wants to share it! And she wants to share it with ME! Thank you, Time, Thank you, for opening your ice box and showing me the plenty of it. Nothing to worry about–no one will go hungry here!

And, I know you get lonely in that job of yours, as much as you are filled by it. I know you are surrounded by love and that you are surrounded by expectation and that you are surrounded by generosity and that you are surrounded by things that sometimes feel like the opposite of love. But this job, this seat in this chair, is a teacher for you and it is helping you get clean–about what is yours and what, frankly, is someone else’s. And that most important lesson is teaching you that it is not your responsibility to manage someone else’s response–nor can you, nor should you, try to take it from them. If you are coming from positive intent (a meditation that serves you well–even all these years later when you can’t remember the stories you tell and if the stories are dreams or memories), then the rest is not under your control. So let it go.

I hope you’ll see that the spots on your hands are reminders of your days in the sun–not markers of frailty. You never do get that tattoo that says, “be brave”  on your inner left wrist, because you don’t need it in ink to know that you are.

Please take this moment and look around–no not at that misstep, or that one. Stop my dear friend, and look at what you have and feel the plenty of it. The moon is new but she is on her way to full. And so are you.

Love always,

83 year old Erika

 

 

word of the day: rush

Hi Friends,

Mornings are my time to see the world and write it right. And with early meetings and teaching, I have had no mornings to speak of. This morning, with our beautiful guest, Uri Shaffir in my class, I planned to drop off, go home, sit down, and dig in. And then I/we/he left the lunch. The lunch I made and put no note in (oh my gosh, mom, so embarrassing), the lunch I handed him and he put down as he velcroed his shoes (stop rushing me, geez), the lunch that has to be brought to school by 11 because he refuses to eat the hot lunch (They put broccoli on soggy pizza, so gross), the lunch that stopped the world.

And all of a sudden, post drop-off, I’m crying. Not because of the lunch but because of lost time. And not time this morning, but all the time. All the rushing. past and through and around. All the moments that got left on the counter. That got packed up without a note.

word of the day: rush

rushing water. the rush of blood. the gold rush. that terrible first two weeks of school where all the girls wear the same short  dresses and impossibly high heels. the surge to an unnatural speed. the act made with haste, eagerness, or without preparation. mountain dew plus lucky charms.

So many ways to see the wor(l)d.

But when I’m rushing, I miss so much.

Yesterday in technique class, Uri had us walk through the space. He instructed us to move as if rushing, as if we were trying to claim the space around us. The energy of the room tightened and the interstitial spaces were wrought with a kind of ego-centric magnetism that one finds when navigating the stairs leaving the subway at Columbus Circle. He then asked us to keep the speed but to treat the space as if we were giving way to others. We hurried around, but this time, to give back, to make way. We moved quickly but with generosity. We had to look. We had to offer. And still, we moved fast.

In these days that come in like a lion, I might not be able to slow down. I might keep rushing from my office to the copier to the classroom…but what if I did it with a wake of generosity and giving way? How does that change me? Might it actually ease my path while making more room for others? The go(l)d we are all rushing towards is connection. It is easy to miss when we are in a blur.

And then I dig in, mining the real metal of my sadness…What if I had never felt like I was in someone’s way? What if they had softened their path and made room for mine? How different would I/we/they be? What if the “lunch” that I left was brought to me unexpectedly and what if in it, they had placed a note…what a rush that would have been.

This is the love note I tucked in your brown paper sack. The one I wasn’t too busy to write. Because I love you. rush.

Love to all,

not-so-silent e