the e-dict

…from the imagination of Erika Anne Randall

love letter from the cave of my heart

Dear me, dear dear me.

Hello, kitten. come on back from that edge. it’s nothing, this recent thing that feels like everything. As one of your beloveds says, “be nice to my friend.” You know it’s me you are talking about when you trash talk yourself? Me! Little old, stooped over me! Why would you want to hurt an old granny? So things are not exactly like you would like today, at this moment, but here we are, still trying to be human and there is a gift in that labor. You are letting the patriarchy so far up your snatch right now that you are choosing to become undone by some serious bullshit. You woke me up for this so you better hear it…I want to spank you, tell you I raised you better than that, but you don’t need me to be overbearing… over- bearing …but maybe you do…maybe you do need an overbear? The bear symbolizes your work on a solo journey. There is no predator for the bear (except man) and she reminds you to stand up for yourself (especially to yourself) and to use and make room for your gifts of introspection. Please, today, when words of self loathing creep into your vocabulary, get quiet, take a mini-hi-bear-nate, and cuddle up with that lumbering beast who fears no one, especially herself.

I do so love you and I want you to let go of the extra weight you are carrying right now. (and I’m not talking the pms water weight that is making you crazy and means shit). This psychic weight is not good for my knees or your heart. And I can’t bear it.

Sorry I snapped at you earlier, I’m just tired, but I’m always here if you need me. Just, be nice to my friend. (practice a little “self defense”). She’s all I’ve got.

nooga nooga,

101-year old Erika

love letter from 92 year-old e

Dear Erika,

First morning in a long while that you have been up before the sun. The quiet of your home is a gift you haven’t opened in months and months. And after last night’s bullying brawl, I can only imagine how eager you are for calm, as your inner voice says, “Oh shut up, man” over and over and over. From here at 92, that voice comes in a quiet, gentle whisper…no effort needed to shush the patriarchal bully with more than that at our age. Just a little wisdom cookies and milk and he is sent crumbing off to his corner. But at your 47 yard line, you want to yell at the insanity of lies and the aggressive attacks against the people you love–of course you take what he says personally! When he is yelling “YOUR son!” he could be yelling about your family member who was an addict and just barely survived. When he’s yelling about The Left, he’s yelling at your nephew on the spectrum and your own queer heart. When he’s bellowing about pre-existing conditions, he’s screaming at your sister and your cousins who have autoimmune diseases that have ALWAYS been pre-existing because they are genetically rooted. I know love, the heartbreak that comes from this big meany and his divisiveness based on personal ego is devastating. But the devastation is not just about this one small man, it’s that he calls on something deeper in all of us…our very ugly desire to be right instead of kind.

This question you ask your child everyday, “Is it better to be right or to be kind,” is your prayer that you hope will be answered in time, through action and deed. (ez gets there, I promise!)

How do we human people show just the smallest bird of kindness to one another? “Look there, in the tree, that one!” “And, listen here, at my chest, this sweet warble!”

How to do we let ourselves be vulnerable in our not knowing and cozy up to our willingness to hold space for others within our mistakes? Every damn day?!?!

Oh, how I crave The Age of Silence, the time when the world had to listen harder to the kinesthetic gestures of our beloveds. (Like the bedtime game I long ago played with ezra, squeezing muscle to bone a certain number of times asking to “listen” to get the count correct).

Where I used to worry as a child that death would be all quiet and empty, I now relish the thought of that unending spa day. I just hope I can bring one book for the lobby (The History of Love by Nicole Krauss)– and that they are serving sparkle, not just chamomile tea.

“Forgive me…of course I know I’ve always been right to love you…” (I’m looking at you, kid and opening my palms to say– I’m sorry this life takes its time to reveal everything we need to know and then leaves us unfinished anyway at the end.) I promise that I will be here for you in the waiting room–and beyond.

With love and kindness,

92 year-old e

from The History of Love

During the Age of Silence, people communicated more, not less. Basic survival demanded that the hands were almost never still, and so it was only during sleep (and sometimes not even then) that people were not saying something or other. No distinction was made between the gestures of language and the gestures of life. The labor of building a house, say, or preparing a meal was no less an expression than making the sign for I love you or I feel serious. When a hand was used to shield one’s face when frightened by a loud noise something was being said, and when fingers were used to pick up what someone else had dropped something was being said; and even when the hands were at rest, that, too, was saying something. Naturally, there were misunderstandings. There were times when a finger might have been lifted to scratch a nose, and if casual eye contact was made with one’s lover just then, the lover might accidentally take it to be the gesture, not at all dissimilar, for Now I realize I was wrong to love you. These mistakes were heartbreaking. And yet, because people knew how easily they could happen, because they didn’t go round with the illusion that they understood perfectly the things other people said, they were used to interrupting each other to ask if they’d understood correctly. Sometimes these misunderstandings were even desirable, since they gave people a reason to say, Forgive me, I was only scratching my nose. Of course I know I’ve always been right to love you. Because of the frequency of these mistakes, over time the gesture for asking forgiveness evolved into the simplest form. Just to open your palm was to say: Forgive me.”

Love letter from 99 year-old me

Dear One,

What do you need today?

Forgiveness?

done.

Still need more?

Dammit, I thought I could get off easy this morning and spare these old crooked bridges a moment of arching from one vowel to the next consonant. You want me to list your “sins,” make a numbering from 1-211 of how you aren’t as “good” as they all think? Nope. I refuse. And it’s not because I don’t remember the trouble you caused…

You are cracking me up these days, listening to the new T Swift album like you’re a 14 year-old in heat. And that one song about the heiress in Rhode Island, the one who filled the pool with champagne and dyed the neighbors dog green…the way that song ends in “I,” like Taylor is identifying with all the trouble that came before her…and how “she had a marvelous time ruining everything.” Just wait til you get there–to The Marvelous Time. There in that time, from the other side of the smoke, the fun doesn’t come from the ruining, but from the ruins. In The Marvelous Time, the thorned flowers that bite through those rocks will make a bouquets to bloody your fingers… a small posy to make you really feel the beauty of this life and all its pains and gains. And our skin, now crepe paper thin, feels it all, feels it all. And we feel it all without shame.

Let’s make a different list for you as this school year starts:

  1. You will fuck up.
  2. You will disappoint people.
  3. You will not get that one thing you want and will not dare mention.
  4. You will have to tell someone something that makes you both uncomfortable.
  5. You will be in incredible pain.
  6. You will have one thing cut from your back, and one thing stitched in your hip.
  7. You will keep missing what you don’t have.
  8. You will imagine 10 years from now and all that could go wrong.
  9. You will slip on your own damn tongue.
  10. You will not have the answer.

ok, that was the list of stuff you know, smarty pants. Here’s the list you don’t know:

  1. You will be forgiven by someone who is angry with you.
  2. You will stop caring so much about the anger of the one who won’t forgive.
  3. You will use your words for good and never get a parade or a compliment for your actions.
  4. You will figure out that the green jeans are not the measure of your worth.
  5. You will let go of the emotional pain in your hip after enduring more physical pain and healing there.
  6. You will see the future coming over the ridge and this time recognize it.
  7. You will write something that is a permission slip to someone you will never meet and they will become something else because of it.
  8. You will come undone. (This is a good thing)
  9. You will wish for something new.
  10. You will be so content with what you have that for one moment, you will not notice that you didn’t get it.

Here at 99, this life of ours is just about in ruins. Ravaged and havoc wreacked, we are lying in the thorns like they are new baby blades of grass. We can find comfort anywhere…even, and especially, in the rough patches. Because we survived them. YOU survived them. Keep making lists and I’ll keep unmaking them. We’re in this together, you and me.

From the ruins,

99 year-old e

love letter from 101 year-old me

good morning, kid.

A good day to be up early. With the birds, as they say.

But why so early today, you? That strange dream? That anxious push? That fear you won’t get it all done? Which bird are you trying to beat to the worm? Remember that time in your 40s when you hated podcasts because you couldn’t slow down enough to listen? You wanted the transcript–something to speed read in your own tempo. Be bop you. 126 BPM that brain of yours…

Now I’m not suggesting you need to change the channel to smooth jazz…but you could slow down enough to feel someone else’s tempo for a minute. (You actually enjoy it when you do) Yes, the water and the kayaks help–and so do those first moments when you lie in bed and feel the water’s residue inside your body–the gentle sloshing of your own sea.

I’m also not inferring that you need to change all your reading to books on tape, but why not? From here, where my eyes are as tired as my hips, I see audiobooks as storytime for adults. I love listening to the way the author or the actor hangs on a moment, dog-earing pages with their inflection, underling the poetry the way your mom used to do when reading anything (the books she gave you from her library looked as if they’d been read by a serial killer or swabbed for clues, so heavy was the highlighting and underlining, so thick the margin stars).

I just want you to slow down a minute. Especially when listening to something new and uncomfortable…don’t think you “got it” on first pass. Let someone else “tell you how it is”–and when. Oh my little hummingbird heart, taste the sugar water, recognize the feeder from the flower. Take it all in. It goes so fast. Even now, as I move my tired fingers over these letters, I remember their old pace and relish the memories of how they flew and smoked the keys. But I also savor my now-slowness. The time it takes from wooden table to soft chair just.. over… there…It’s not about more time (never enough, that), but more space within the ticking moments of the time you have. I’ve learned that doesn’t mean cramming extra in, but actually doing less. That’s the magic trick. Try to learn it before…

oops, I dozed off and forgot what I was saying…oh well, you get my drift.

I sure do love you, me little speedracer.

Yours,

101 year-old e

love letter from 97 year-old me

Morning, lady.

I think it’s so cute how you get all brave and say something pithy or punchy in a room full of folks and then suffer the guilt and shame of your own poison more than the intended. I should say, it was cute…but you’re too old for that shame shit now. It’s about as age-appropriate on you as pigtails or that “Jimmy Eat World” crop top.

From here, at 97, I got a quiver full of darts, baby, and not a one of them has your name on it. Quiver…what a perfect word for this thing that carries the arrow of your words. You are trying so hard to get at your voice, crack that 5th chakra, state your power, speak up for and with others. But there, in your larynx and in your boots, you are still shaking. Especially after the fact. You hear that, “the fact!” And still! Still you have anxiety dreams of toilets and last night Trump sitting at the foot of your bed trying to snake his way into your psyche! Ewwww! Enough! Don’t let anyone tell you shhhhhh or quiet or stand down. You, my little peace-making kitten, are aloud (I know it’s spelled “allowed,” Sweet Kevin, but it’s a pun in this case…yes, we still talk to our beloved Kevin when we make an (in)appropriate spelling choice) to get mad, and have “choice words,” (you choose ’em, you use ’em!). Especially when you are speaking up for and with those who are systematically silenced, and tired, and age-old mad as hell.

Here’s what I know–TSwift was right, you’ve been the archer, you’ve been the prey…

“Combat, I’m ready for combat
I say I don’t want that, but what if I do?
‘Cause cruelty wins in the movies
I’ve got a hundred thrown-out speeches I almost said to you”

yes to editing, yes to thoughtful words of ahimsa, (non-violence), especially against yourself, but sometimes…sometimes we have to combat our own fears, our own be-little-ing, and sling away.

My darling girl. I love you. I really, really do. But now, 2020, is the time to speak up. You must practice. And practice means failure. But my future, our future, depends on it. Based on the world I am in now (we still can’t believe that Trump was such a shameful chapter in U.S. history and “Lover” is still your favorite Taylor album to dance to in the kitchen), I’m pretty sure you will not give up…but maybe, if I hadn’t written you this letter, if I hadn’t spoken up, you would have let some things slide or needle you into quiet yet again. But I’m you…and so maybe my speaking up comes from all your practice…well done, you.

Peace and ease to your heart today, beloved.

With the love of ever,

97 year-old erika

love letter to myself from 97 year-old me

Dear Darling,

Whew. What a time. I don’t know what else to tell you but keep going. And to stop. You have before you a pair of docks. The one to the right is rickety, needs fixing, and has a an old fishing boat tied up to its side by a slime green rope. Its 15 horsepower motor is pooling gasoline so thick that you could stand up in it. So much work to do there. So much to toil over. So much to get patched, and stabilized, and readied. The skies pronounce a storm and the sea around you echoes it. The dock lists and sways. Nothing feels stable here. There is so much to be done. There is so much to be done by YOU.

And then over here, ahhhhh. Over here to our left you have these bamboo planks that stretch out to the sea, a berth that could hold you for an afternoon without asking anything from you but to sit. Sit. Here, a wide net bag holding a jug of white sangria dips off the end to be cooled by the calm waters below. Drink. Here, the blue below asks for your reflection and is patient as you gaze from above, tempting a toe every once and awhile to imagine the ripples from your body cascading out out out to the next, where they may be…

This paradox you face at this impossible time is one that will clench the deal for you on control. My dear girl, from here, at 97, where there is only one dock and a great blue day in front of us, you know some things about catch and release. So busy catching, you…not so good with the release… really, what did you plan to do with all those fish?

Without this impossible time, you might have missed some things…this time where your child struggled so much you were forced to see their challenges as their own (not to do with you and yours) and reached out to an old friend who would help you find the perfect “boy therapist” your kiddo had been asking for who would stay as a guide through adolescence and offer tools that could have slipped by. During this impossible time, you were called to really dig in, again, to your issues with the fullness of your body and find gratitude for your privilege to be FULL…you were summoned to gratitude–for community and generosity and small acts that reverberated as behemoth offerings of love…you suffered the loss of a beloved but were given insight on what it is to be held and led through fear by the courage of a lionhearted other…so so much you have been given, even as so much was taken away.

I can’t just hand you all the answers (that would wreck the surprise!), but I can tell you that, yes, you do get that boat running, and yes, you get so many to the other side… but that’s not where you find the answers. Just more questions. The dock to the left, kitten, choose the dock to the left…it’s where the good stuff is. Drink down the wine. Savor the fruit. Do less and more will come.

Funny that pair of docks you’re on right now… So absurd…so contradictory…but so true. Just be mindful of how you walk those planks…

I do so love you. And I forgive you for the mean things you said about me when you were just scared. And, p.s., love that sweet spot at the back of your knees…that clutter of spider veins grows only thicker and more colorful.

Yours always,

97 year-old Erika

love letter to myself

Dear Erika,

So tired, you. But get up anyway. I have exciting news!

You’re still alive!

This (thing that is taking all of your time and emotional resource) doesn’t kill you!

OK. Now that that’s out of the way, let me tell you why I really took pen to paper…to remind you that you are a dancer. Yes, the other stuff pays the bills and helps take care of your kiddo, but you are a dancer. Do you hear me?!?!? And you are not dancing. You are giving too much away. Yesterday you sat, left over right, and you remembered the want of your heels as they lifted from the floor, the stable shelf of your ribs as they buoyed your still-healing heart, the breath that makes your body enunciate “spiral” as if that word held the magic of the world (it does). Simple and infinite, simple and infinite. That’s how you feel when you dance.

And yet, you, you with this one life and this one chance in this body, give that energy away like it’s infinite. simple and infinite. It is not. Just because it’s easier for you than most doesn’t mean it’s simple. Or that it is not draining your reserves. How do you prioritize this thing that helps you kneel and kiss the earth? This thing that makes you YOU in this lifetime? This thing that is yours without anyone else’s approval or parade? What would you say to your students, a beloved, about what matters? About their matter?

Listen, lovey. No. You didn’t get on the map (not like you thought, not like they told you). You didn’t even leave the wings in some cases. But listen to that–you didn’t leave the wings–that means you still have them, those feathered friends who have carried you this far. It doesn’t matter where you fall in all the timelines in posterity; we all die and are all forgotten. That’s the gift. We are all forgotten–which means that nothing you do right now will not be remembered anyway so WHY NOT DANCE? Or whatever it is you are afraid of or too busy for or or or…Use those or’s to row you to the middle of your heart pond. Sit here with me. Close your eyes and practice. Here that buzz? That life electricity? That’s not just the dragonfly by the lotus flower, it’s your true purpose. And you’re no good to anyone without it.

I sure do love you, my little octopus. Now keep at least one of those three hearts for yourself.

x,

82 year-old Erika

letter to myself from 86 year-old me

Dearest,

Remember how you were told by that stunning grouch of a love, Anna, that you were the most decadent person she knew because of how you cinnamoned your half caf soy latte? You laughed, knowing that you keep your decadence at bay–not only because you can’t compete with mama katy when it comes to indulgence (though now in your 80s we are finally giving her a good run) but because why? why are you keeping it at bay? Decadence doesn’t have to be about money–it can be about time and self worth not net worth. Darlin, I want you to drink up splashes of rose water in your face after dancing, truly taste the deliciousness of sitting with a friend while holding their hand as you pet the softness of their human self, no matter what those hands have been through. Every spot, every wrinkle, is a road map that you can travel on if you just slow your roll. Decadence can also come from walking leisurely and noticing more–which is happening naturally now and mmmmm, what a vintage, this moment. The dictionary says these luxuries lead to moral decline–ok, so maybe if we marry decadence with opulence we end up gatsbyed–but I’m talking to you about lavender in your underwear drawer for nobody but you. I’m telling you, my moist-lipped beloved, as you tip into the 20s of this time, put the record on and dance in the kitchen with your boy for no other reason than Tuesday. Decade dance, baby, decade dance, decadence…

Happy New Year, kid.

Happy New Year.

yours,

86 year-old Erika

when noise goes quiet…a list of things to be grateful for

when i let the 4am noise go quiet (which I can rarely do unless I drown it out with “peaceful piano” on spotify or, better yet, my own rhythmic breathing) I find that there are plenty of reasons to be grateful.

1. my health. except for this random hemorrhoid situation, I’m doing pretty well right now and offer my strength to those who need it.

2. my kid’s health. made of rubber, that child. it’s incredible we’ve only had one cast so far.

3. my job. because i still dance almost everyday. and i love my colleagues (except the ones who haunt my dreams). and i adore my students (even that one who tortured me who i recently forgave in my heart and then made laugh outside the theatre). and the chance to be an advocate for the arts–even if it’s “only” within the snow globe of the academy, it sure feels transformative and potent.

4. my people. i have THE best people. i love you, humans. i love you, pocket-dwellers. i love you, mess holders. i love you, soulmates. i love you, art tribe. i love you, long-distance beloveds. i love you, you-know-who you-ares. i love you i love you i love you. i couldn’t live without you.

5. my imagination. oh it’s so fun in here.

6. my hard teachers. may you be well. may you be at peace. thank you for the lessons.

7. my gentle teachers. what mentors you have been and continue to be. mrs. waltzmith. miss annette. mr. hord. mr. dean. mr. hintz. sharon. tymn. penny. laura. rip. michael. hannah. kitty. lodi. wade. katiti. susan. mel. candace. karen. sara. becky. toby. nada. onye. miche. thank you for seeing me and believing.

8. my family. born to and chosen. alive and moved on. (O-H!)

9. poetry. thank you, word saints. thank you, alchemystics.

10. this planet. oh, sweet, dear, tortured thing. i love the way you ocean and river and mountain and flower. i love the way you moss and the way you leaf. i love the way you remind me at 4am that my rhythmic breathing echoes your waves and winds, your clouds and quiet footfalls. i’m so sorry. i will try harder to be more gentle. i am so very grateful.

yours,

e

 

 

love letter from 97-year old Erika

Good morning, you!

Yes–an exclamation point! And another!

I see you where you are. How you are almost able to feel something that is yours alone without emotionally echolocating to loss for self-orientation. You are so close to knowing how wide to reach til you feel your own walls, trusting your own footing, and welcoming gravity again as a gift, not a crushing punishment.

You have always been a “longer”–a wanter of wanting, a feeler of the just out of reach. It can seem to some that you are never fulfilled–by them or anything. Like you are holding up an impossible standard, a yard stick of mis-measure–but it’s not how you see it. You see it as fuel to keep going. This more-shaped hole is why you dance like you’re being devoured and devouring in the same instant. It’s why you cry everyday and sometimes bite something until it bleeds.  But this ness can also conflict with your sense of enough-ness that is your birthright and meditation mantra. Enough. So many times you have rolled that marble around the soft tissue and hard teethbacks. So many times you have spit it out.

There is prayer found in the poetry of odd places…like that old favorite from Belly in the 90s that we still hear as we’re falling asleep:

There is a light under the ocean
Under the ocean, there’s things shining everywhere
There is a lightkeeper under the blanket here
Under the blanket, there’s things shining everywhere

There’s things shining everywhere.

Makes me smile just to think of it. Go under. the ocean. the blanket. your skin. your sadness. There is a lightkeeper. There’s things shining everywhere. And if you need to turn on your bio sonar, try tuning it to joy — forage for that for a moment. be a little happy.  You’re allowed. The ocean is wide…but you light the ocean from behind

With infinite love and happiness,

97 year-old Erika