That’s A Lot Of Minutes

Yesterday, at 2:14 AM PST, the Little Prince turned two.

That’s 2 full revolutions around the sun.

8 seasons.

24 months.

730 days.

17,520 hours.

1,051,200 minutes.

That’s a lot of minutes…

Time is an interesting thing.  It’s a constant that never feels as solid or certain as it should.  It speeds up and slows down, zooms along and drags out.  And, all too often, it does the opposite of what we want it to do.  Time is mysterious like that, elusive, and more than a little rude.

As mind blowing as it is to ponder that my child has now made the long journey around the sun twice, the simple, rhetorical question that immediately follows, “where did the time go,” does not really do justice to the achievements, triumphs, struggles, tears, giggles, scraped knees, lost sleep, smudged faces, sprouted teeth, words, fails, falls, spills, slips, jumps, laughs, grins, and on and on and on.

By necessity, we over simplify time.  We don’t have the time to truly grasp time.  We have to see it in general terms because if we attempted to get into the specifics of its passing, and what that passing means to us, we would lose ourselves in the process.  And yet, we still allow the concept to govern most of what we do.  When we wake up, when we go to work, how long we stay at work, when we eat our meals, how long we brush our teeth, when we get ready for bed, how long we sleep, how long we play, how long we talk on the phone, how long we spend on social media, how long we study, how long we party…  We break our days into little buckets of time, compartmentalized, so we can assess whether or not we are taking proper advantage of our time.

I’m not out to trivialize how we process time.  I am, however, fascinated by how quickly we try to denote its passing in arbitrary amounts to break it down to something we can understand.

The Little Prince is so much more than just a 2 year old, than just a human who has been on the Earth as it orbited the sun twice.  I’m all for celebrating that milestone, as silly as it is (since he’s actually be on Earth nearly ¾ of a year longer than that, if we want to be specific about it, and aside from that, it seems odd to be celebrating a random day based on the relative positions of this planet and its sun), but, aren’t there better ones we could be celebrating?

Happy all your baby teeth are in day?

Happy you spoke your first word day?

Happy you took your first unassisted step day?

Kneeling at her side, holding her hand, I watched the Queen give birth to the Little Prince at home, so trust me when I say that I understand what a big deal being born is.  I’m not taking anything away from that.  Birth days are amazing and important and very worthy of being celebrated.  In a very rambling and disjointed way, I’m just trying to get us to look at how we rationalize our usage of time, and start a discussion on what is and isn’t really important to notice, monitor, celebrate, etc…

Do you have your normal days broken into specific time buckets?  Are those of your own choosing or forced upon you by work and other responsibilities?

What is one anniversary you don’t think is worth celebrating anymore?  What is one anniversary you’d like to see celebrated that isn’t?

Rather than breaking the Earth’s daily rotations into hours, minutes, and seconds, how would you like to mark time’s progression?

Did this post make any sense at all?  I wrote it, and I’m not sure that it did…

terribly right

I did the right thing, the legal thing, the safety conscious thing, and I’ve felt terrible ever since.

She looked scared, and confused, as I pulled my truck in nose-to-nose with her Outback, and I wasn’t surprised that she waived me over as soon as I stepped out into the parking lot.  I noticed she was very close to the car next to her, a Charger, so I went around the back to approach her window.

“I’m sorry, I’ve never done this before, but I’ve somehow locked myself in.”

Her hair was white.  Her skin sagged away from fragile arms.  She had lived many years.  Her voice was small.  It didn’t quiver, but it was full of fear and confusion.  Her eyes begged for me to solve this mystery for her, so she could get her shopping done and continue with her day.  I asked if she had a key fob, and if she had tried to unlock the door using that button, and she quickly produced and tried again.

“Yes, here, I’ve already tried that.” She clicked the button and I heard the locks distinctly disengage.   She heard it too and tried to open the door, but it still would not budge.

That was when my attention was drawn to how close she was to the vehicle next to her and I finally saw that her driver-side mirror was flush with the neighboring car’s passenger-side mirror.  More than flush, they were touching, and that was likely the culprit in keeping her trapped in her vehicle. “I think you’ve hit this car next to you, why don’t you back up, and straighten out, and let’s see if that will let you open your door?”

“Oh, okay.”

So, she put her Outback in reverse and moved back two feet, and her door popped open immediately.  There were clearly scrapes grooved into her mirror and I said, “You’ve got some damage on your mirror, why don’t you pull back in and we’ll figure out what to do next.”

“Oh, that’s okay if my mirror is scraped.  I’m sure I didn’t damage the other car.”

“Why don’t you pull back in and we can see if there is or not.”

At that point I couldn’t move closer to the Charger to see if the mirror was scraped as well without risking her hitting me as she either pulled in or swung around in backing out. “No…  I think it would best if I change changed spaces…”

“Why don’t you just pull back in, and we’ll figure out what to do next,” I repeated myself, calmly trying to get her to park her Subaru so we could properly assess the situation together.  But, she would not listen.

“I think I should just change spaces, that would be best.”

And, so, she did.

She moved ten spaces down and parked and went into the grocery store…

I looked over the Charger, saw that there was damage to its mirror and then retrieved a scrap of paper from my truck, walked down the aisle to where the Outback was parked and wrote down her license plate number along with a quick summary of what had happened.  Then I went back to the Charger and waited… and waited… and waited. I was hoping the owner would come out so I could tell him what happened and he could make up his mind if the damage was enough that he wanted to call the cops to report the incident.  I was hoping the driver of the Outback would come back out so I could try again to convince her to at least leave a note with her contact information.

I waited for an hour, and would have waited a few minutes longer before leaving my note on the Charger’s windshield… but then a cop car rolled through the parking lot. He was there on a separate hit-and-run incident. I flagged him down and told my story.  He thanked me for doing the right thing and said he’d handle it from there, and I finally went about my errands, nearly 90 minutes after first pulling into the parking lot.

I know I did the right thing.  Legally, it was a hit-and-run and the little-old-lady driving the Subaru Outback should have left a note with contact information so the insurance companies could handle the resultant claims to repair the damage. She left.

She hit.

She ran.

Once the cops are involved, it becomes more than a matter of insurance, but a misdemeanor.  I know, because I’ve been in that situation myself, but that is a story for a different day.

I know I did the right thing.  Safety-wise, I have no idea how long she had been sitting in her vehicle, scared and confused, “locked in.”  If she couldn’t figure out that she had hit the car next to her and that’s what was keeping her door from opening, she probably shouldn’t be driving around anymore.  Maybe by turning her in I saved some lives.

I know I did the right thing.  I know she will probably have her license revoked.  I know these things, and I also know the pain, humiliation, and inconveniences she will experience with the resulting court proceedings for the misdemeanor charge.

I know she is likely losing a huge part of her freedom in getting out her house to run errands, see friends, get things done… to live.  I know that if someone had turned in my grandma, and completely changed her life for the worse, over the same kind of minor parking lot fender-bender I’d be very angry.

And I am angry.

I’m angry with the Outback driver for not doing the right thing on her own and therefore putting me in the position she put me in.  I’m angry at myself for turning her in.  I’m angry that I can’t let this go and accept that the “right thing” was the best option.

Rara Has Moved Again

Thank you all for your continued support of our favorite jail-dino.

Here is her new address:

Radhika Jaini WF0124
LA 249 UP – CIW
16756 Chino-Corona Road
Corona, CA  92880

Keep on spreading the RawrLove!!

There’s Always a Chance to Start Over

The following Story was submitted by Caleb T, who is closely connected with our very own Brother Jon. We thank him for sharing and give all our best to him and his little family.


Growing up was an experience I’ll never forget, and I hope to possibly help someone in a positive way with this story… The setting takes place in a very small residential area of only a few hundred. Farms and silos are more common than shopping malls and towers of steel and concrete. (more…)

Extremely Regrettable, But I Don’t Regret It

After reading and posting GlowWorm’s piece this week I couldn’t help but reflect on my life and experiences with alcohol, specifically drinking and driving. Every time I’ve thought about this, over the last three and a half years, I’ve become sick to my stomach. I never was out there running around as a teenager, but I did my fair share all throughout my twenties. I ran through quite a few vehicles too.

The first car I owned, while I was of drinking age, was an eighty-eight Lincoln Town Car. That car was pretty sweet. It was all-electric, had leather interior and floated like a boat down the highway, or even the back roads. I had that car from about seventeen to twenty-one. No wrecks or major tickets, but that doesn’t mean there wasn’t drinking and driving going on. For a couple of years we used that car as the “hunting wagon”. We would stay up late at “deer camp”, drinking and playing cards. Around midnight we would all load up, with loaded high-powered rifles and go spot-lighting. On one particular night, someone gut-shot a doe, so we sent out two guys to drag her back to the side of the road. She was kicking them the whole way to the car. When they got her to the car someone cut her throat and we through her in the trunk, her kicking the whole way home. The next day I had blood all over the back of my car and in the trunk. It’s so shameful I can’t believe I’m acknowledging the fact that it happened.

My next car was a ninety-two Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra. I can’t remember how long I had this car, but it wasn’t long. It was my dad’s car. By the time I was twenty-two I was a regular in the bar scene, so much so that I was friends with many of the bartenders in our small town. Thursday started the weekend for me every week, but Fridays were the best. I would go to the local bowling alley/diner and sit at the bar for a few hours. When I was starting to feel good I would walk over to the other side and shoot some pool. The bar portion always closed at midnight. The ladies would sometimes go hit up some different spots after they got off of work, and I would sometimes go with them. One night I did just that. We headed over to the local sports bar, doing a couple of laps around the block to smoke up some funny cigarettes. I don’t remember much of anything after that, except being dropped off at my car. I could barely walk, but they were far enough gone too they didn’t know how bad I was. I somehow had the self-awareness to stop by the side of the road to go to the bathroom, and then I was back on my way. About another mile down the road a telephone pole got the best of me. I sideswiped it, busting out the passenger side window. It didn’t sink in until the next morning, when I had to tell my mom why it was time to look for another car.

I went back to driving the Lincoln after that for a while. That’s the car I moved to New Braunfels in. It died a few months after moving there and I ended up buying a 2002 Ford Ranger. I didn’t like that truck at all. It survived Texas well enough, but bringing her back to Missouri might’ve been a mistake. Shortly after moving back I was at friend’s house for a party. When it was time to go, my roommate and I loaded up and headed down the gravel road, back to our little country house. I hit the gas and fish-tailed a little bit. He goaded me into doing it again and I got a little carried away. I somehow pulled a 360 in the gravel, taking out a mailbox with the rear tail light of my truck. Everyone at the party came running after us to make sure we were alright. The man whose mailbox I hit came out to the commotion and they talked to him. They told me to go home, so I did. The next day I went back and gave the man some money to replace his mailbox. A few months later that truck got repossessed.

When I lost my truck I started driving my mom’s 2001 Ford ZX2. It was a little two-door, five speed. I really liked that car. Having to shift would keep me away at night, or at least that’s what I thought. By this time I was about twenty-six or twenty-seven. I was living with my dad. After about a year I was able to move into a studio apartment, about a block away from my dad’s house. This was also five blocks away from my favorite watering hole. The short drive was usually a piece of cake, but not the last time I drove that car. One night I made it four and half blocks before rear ending a parked truck…a half of a block away from my apartment. I pulled in front of my apartment and walked over to the truck. The impact had totaled my car, and shoved the truck onto the curb by about two feet. The only way you could tell that I had hit the truck, other than looking at my car, was a little bit of red paint on the rear bumper. The owner came out and looked at his truck, pulled it out and drove once around the block. He said it was okay and sent me on my way.

I feel extremely lucky and blessed to have made it through all that unscathed. I never got into any trouble, I never hurt myself and I thank God that I never hurt anyone else. If you’re going to drink, by all means, drink. There’s nothing I can say or do that will make you stop. But, I will say this, Please Don’t Drink and Drive. Everything I’ve told you is extremely regrettable, but I don’t regret it. I don’t regret it because I can tell you first hand, no; I can demand from you…Do Not Drink and Drive. I won’t demand from you what I don’t demand from myself.

Not everyone can be as lucky as I have been. You might think you’re just throwing your inhibitions into the wind, but in reality, sometimes this causes a daddy or an uncle to never get to go home again.

What have you promised never to do, because you remember?

This post originally went up on Marvelous Pigs in Satin by the wonderful GlowWorm. On her site you can usually read post about crafts, pregnancy, cleaning tips, recipes and awesome cross-country road trips. Today she shares something very personal and powerful about alcohol and what harm it can do. 


I was three.

But I remember the night my father was brought home with a forehead full of glass and a broken hip.
I remember two of the friends who came to help my mother.

A few miles of rolling Missouri fields away, the police were telling my aunt that her husband would not be coming home, ever.

My father and my uncle had driven together to a church meeting that evening.

On their drive home, as they crested a hill, a car full of drunk teenagers crossed the center line and hit them head-on.

My uncle, who was driving, was killed instantly.

My father was badly hurt.  I do not know why he was not taken straight to the hospital that night.  Perhaps he refused to go.  Perhaps the EMT’s didn’t think he was injured badly.

Soon after “the wreck,” as us kids always referred to it, my dad developed pneumonia and had to be hospitalized.  The doctor told my mother that it was common for people who suffered an impact to the chest in a car accident to develop pneumonia.  While still weak from the pneumonia, my father developed a second infection and had to be hospitalized again.

I remember that it seemed like forever that he was in the hospital.  I think it was actually about two months total.  I remember asking my mother when daddy would be coming home.

A few miles away, my pregnant aunt had to tell her 5 children that their daddy was not coming home.

The family of the drunk teenagers sued my aunt, demanding that she pay damages and the medical bills for their son’s broken leg because my uncle had been the driver of the car they collided with.

This was my first “experience” with alcohol.  I learned then that alcohol was a killer and not a fair killer either.  Alcohol killed the innocent.  Alcohol took people’s daddies away.  Alcohol took away other things too.  My father walks with a limp to this day–although most people probably don’t notice because he is so tall, and he sort of rolls along like a ship that lists to one side slightly.  Alcohol took basketball away from my dad.  Something he loved to play (and was good enough that he was offered a contract to play with an Australian team before he was married.)  He never complained about it, but us kids knew he didn’t play because of his hip.

In my religion, we follow a health code that we call The Word of Wisdom.  God has told us that “strong drinks are not for the body”  so we do not drink alcohol.

As a child and a teenager, I could not understand why anyone would drink alcohol.  To me, alcohol equals death.

When I was sixteen, I worked in an office.  My boss was a part-time sheriff for the county.  One day he told me how he had pulled over some teenagers who were drinking and driving.  He gave them a warning and made them pour out their beer.  He told me this story, I think, because he wanted me to be impressed by how cool he was and how understanding of teenagers he was.

I remember just staring at him, wanting, but not brave enough to say, “Drunk teenagers killed my uncle.  You should have been more harsh with them.”

Now as an adult, I don’t know.  Maybe he was right.  Teenagers don’t often respond to harshness. Maybe his way was an effective way to teach them a lesson.

Now as an adult, I can understand a little that if a person grew up in a home where people drank alcohol often and nothing bad came of it, or the bad that did was laughed off as a funny story, that they would see no harm in drinking.

I believe God warned us not to drink alcohol for the same reason I tell my children to stay away from venomous snakes.  Snakes aren’t bad, but they are dangerous.  It isn’t so much because alcohol is bad, but because it is dangerous.  It dulls our minds.  It makes us less able to hear Him.  It makes us less able to make good decisions.  Under it’s influence, you can hurt others.  Those who become addicted to it are chained as surely as any slave ever was.

When I was 19, I joined the military.  In our company of about 120 basic trainees, one soldier was chosen as the “Soldier of the Cycle”  the best of our class.  The soldier chosen was a tall young man from New York but of Pacific Islander decent. He was a hard worker and an impressive soldier.  One afternoon, a group of us were talking, and somehow it came out that I didn’t drink alcohol.  He became very excited.  He wanted to know why I did not drink alcohol.  I told him it was because of my religion.  He told me that he had never met anyone who did not drink, but because of the way he had seen alcohol devastate his parent’s lives, he had made a pledge to himself to never drink alcohol.
His courage to change his family legacy all by himself was very inspiring to me.

I don’t judge others who drink alcohol.  I know many good people who do.  But I would judge myself, if I ever drank, because I know it’s wrong.  To me, drinking alcohol would make me complicit in my uncle’s death.  I would become one of his killers.  I would in effect be saying, “I don’t care who I hurt by drinking this, I’m going to have some fun.”

I could not do that.

Still Breathing

The following story was submitted by Tara from Even At Your Darkest. We admire the courage, vulnerability, and radical honesty of this heart-felt retelling.

……………………………………………………………….

I’m tucked into this cute bungalow, feeling its good vibes, listening to my dogs wrestle, seeing the flowers blooming outside the window in my yard…but I am still sad.  The sadness aches and throbs.  The betrayal fresh like it happened yesterday.  I sip my wine.  I said I would not drink, especially with the new medication, but I cannot seem to bear the weight of this.  The wine ebbs the tide of pain.  For a while.
Need to find the quiet in myself again.  I’m always so tightly wound now, shoulders hunched, breathing irregular – and take another sip – Breathe in…Hold it…Breathe out slowly…
Why do I still love him?
In therapy, we talk about preparing for situations that may arise, like seeing him somewhere, how I would conduct myself.  I think I would totally fall apart and be hauled back to the psych ward.  So I sip again.
I know all the steps I have to take, I know everything will take as long as it does, but I want closure, I want answers!  It may never be clear.  He is a part of my story but he is not all of it.  I could die tomorrow in a freak accident, and what is to show for my life?  Suicide attempts, lost loves, some bits and pieces of stories.  Get it out, I tell myself.  Don’t keep it trapped away in your head; it only eats you alive.  I am supposed to tell this.  And I breathe and tear up.  That’s fine.  One of the girls in the hospital had a tattoo on her wrist that read, “It’s okay to not be okay.”  And it is.
My soul aches.
I think I started cutting when I couldn’t write anymore.  I stopped writing and harbored the demons within, trying in vain to keep them locked up.  They crawl around inside me, lurking in the shadows, waiting to show themselves.  I thought drinking would numb it, keep them at bay.  But the demons had to escape somehow, and since I no longer let them flow out through words, I watched as they flowed out in my blood.
I’m a gem, this I know.
I feel like all the signs are saying I’m supposed to be with him.  Some say coincidence, but there are too many instances that keep my heart tied up in him.
I have to face the darkness, like my therapist said and my history has taught me, because if I ignore it, it will only resurface over and over.  What I was doing before was simply surviving; I see it now that I have medication.  Not to say the medication is helping me not think of dying, but ironically, I can write again.  I wish upon stars, I wish when the time reads 3:33, I wish on my eye lashes that keep freaking falling out.  I ask God, Grandma, and Aunt Kathy in Heaven to take away the worst of the pain.  I come from crazy for sure.  As my brother says, I got the crazy and he got the asshole.  But I also have the strength of the women in my family.  It is a quiet and reserved strength that comes from hardship, from heartache.
Unfortunately, I battle with the other side of me too often.

Just gave away my guitar.  Only I don’t think of it as mine, I think of it as his.  How he played, how he loved to play.  How he created songs for me.  How talented he is.  I’m sitting here, with a glass of wine nearby, still in my work wear, tears streaming down my face.  I am a mess.  And I’m sobbing.  Does this get better?  I want to bleed, I want to rage, and I want to do anything but feel this right now.  I don’t know if I can do this.  Everything, everything reminds me of him, of us, of what we had.  How did this happen?  How did it change so much?  I don’t understand.  I don’t get it.  Am I so fucked up that I am unlovable?  Pretty enough to get the guy but not good enough to do what it takes to keep him?  Pretty fades.  It’s fading fast.  I feel like I am poison, I am toxic.
The sound of the pouring rain is not soothing.  The wine isn’t touching this.  My breath catches, snags.  I have to keep forcing air in and out.  My chest is crumpled, my head aches… and my heart no longer exists.
This is the path I have helped to shovel.  I kept going down instead of forward, I guess.  Trying to level now – well, not at this moment because I feel half way down that pit I dug — but I do choose to go forward.  To write my way out of this.  To put it out there, how this shreds me.  How I’d rather be physically in pain than emotionally.
I wanted to call my brother when I started crying or text a girlfriend, knowing that they have all said I should do so.  I just can’t sometimes.  I don’t feel like anyone else should have to help me with this burden.
I feel like I bring out the worst in men.  That I destroy people, that I break them.  They walk away so easily.
Time to put it on the page and leave it.

I ride with my sister-in-law as she goes to work.  She navigates the slippery roads, the early morning still, cold, and dark.  I know if I do not go, I will find a way to die.  We walk into the hospital together.  She hugs me and says she will be by later to check on me, then she goes to her floor for her job; I head to the Emergency Room.
“What are you here for?”
“I’m cut and I can’t stop the bleeding.”
They motion for me to come back behind the windowed partition; they want to get my vitals, all nonchalant, until they ask how the cuts happened.  I take my coat off, roll up my sweatshirt sleeve to reveal all the blood, the stab wounds.  I try not to cry, but I can feel it settling, the adrenaline gone and now the aftershock.  They quietly ask what happened.  I say I did it to myself.  They get me back to the beds quickly.  In a room, they ask me to remove all of my clothing and put on scrubs while some bored tech woman watched.  Like I was a prisoner.  I flash to him saying, “I will see you in my prison and I will spit on you every day.”  The tears are beginning.  I am ushered to the bathroom for a urine sample to check for alcohol or drugs, but for once, I am stone sober.  Again, as if I am a prisoner, she watches while I hover over a cup.  This takes a while, since apparently I am averse to urinating as someone stares at me.  She takes me back to the room.  Another woman comes in to take my history.  A doctor comes in and begins to clean the wounds on my arm, scrubbing with something that feels like fire.  He says he is going to have to staple three of the wounds, not really to me but to the girl entering my information into a computer.  I brace myself.  I am trembling; I hear the click, click, click, as the doctor staples my wounds and then puts liquid adhesive on the others.  Staples are new to me.  He leaves, and the girl entering my data picks up a vial on the counter to read the label and says, “He didn’t even use the lidocaine.”  Then I am alone.  I am shaking and crying.  I cannot stop.  I feel everything, the reality and weight of it sinks into me, choking me, sucking the very core of me.  I cry hysterically for quite a while before someone comes in to give me a shot of Ativan.  They take my blood pressure 100 times.
“Do you have high blood pressure?”
Sob.  “No.”
They take it again.  Same question.  Over and over.
“Are you sure?  It’s awfully high.”
How about I just went through something completely devastating and traumatic and life altering and I cannot breathe, I cannot figure how to get to the next moment, that is why I am here because I have to get to the next moment, I cannot have my sister-in-law, my brother, or my mom think that they failed me and I died because of something they feel they did or did not do?  Then the medication mercifully kicks in, and I stop sobbing.  I am exhausted but feel like my heart is going to explode.  How did this happen?  Is this real?  The pain sure feels fucking real.  Why would he do this?  If he could do this, then I know absolutely nothing about anyone.  I do not understand this world.  Why, why, why…then sobs again.  Eventually someone nice comes in and turns the TV on, gives me some ice water.  My sister-in-law comes to visit during her break.
I am in the E.R. all day and into the evening.  My insides feel like I need to run, to scream, but my body is tired.  There is no sleep.
A porter arrives with a wheelchair, a security guard in tow.  They take me up to the fifth floor.  Psychiatric ward.  I immediately regret my decision.  The atmosphere feels chaotic, disorganized.
“Why is she here?”
“They said to bring her up.”
“Well, I don’t have the transfer papers.”
I have copies of the paperwork.
“You’re more on top of things than they are,” says the porter.  Yeah, that’s me.  Always prepared.
I want to hide away and cry for the rest of my life, not deal with other crazy people.
They take me to my room, which I thankfully have all to myself.  I sit in a far corner chair in the stark nuthouse room.  Holy hell, am I sitting here in scrubs, forcing cold English muffin down my throat, balled up with a pillow on my lap as if it were a barrier to protect me… in the fucking loony bin?  My nurse is kind.  She administers my medication.  I crawl into the hospital bed with a book.  I am out before I know it.
I wake up, and I think it is morning.  I hear people down the hall moving about.  I feel like I have been in a coma.  I have to pee, and as I stumble to the private bathroom, I see something on the floor.  I pick it up.  I think it is scrub pants, but I am groggy and see poorly with my glasses; I drop the garment.  I go to the bathroom.  Then I smell it, the heavy stench of urine, and not from me.  I scrub my hands.  I go out in the hall and find someone who looks like they are staff.
“There appear to be pee-soaked pants in my room.”  The girl is nonplussed, but apologetic.  “Oh, that must have been Gladys; I thought we stopped her before she went in your room.  We’ll come and get it.”  Really?  Some stranger came into my room, while I am in a heavily medicated sleep, and took her pants off?  They come get the pants.  It still smells like urine, and I cannot figure it out.  I sit in my safe chair in the far corner and smell it worse.  There it is, behind the door.  A dried puddle of urine.  So not only did a crazy psych patient wander into my room and take her pants off while I lay unconscious, but she also peed in the corner first.  Sure did.
The corner chair is no longer my safe chair.

Check vitals time.
“Is your blood pressure normally high?”
“No.  It is always perfect.”  Perfect like my lost love.
“It’s pretty high.  Let me take it again.”
Sure thing, nice technician, but it is elevated because I am awake and aware of how my life has quite suddenly become unrecognizable.
Honestly, I am surprised he would cheat on me.  Our intermittent fights were complete blowouts, and things had escalated as I learned of small lies he told me.  His personality had changed in the weeks leading up to this.  I knew something was going on.  The man who daily laid his heart out for me, who always told me how beautiful and amazing I am, how he was so lucky to have me, how I was his best friend, had suddenly become mean and hateful towards me.
I have constant anxiety.  I want to spin off into oblivion and scream and cry and scream some more.  I eat alone in my room, read my book, write, and remind myself to breathe.  Most people probably think that is odd, to remind yourself to breathe.  When I’m all caught up in my head, feeling every emotion inside of me but unable to outwardly express it, I find that I hold my breath, and I don’t realize it until I remind myself.  Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Slowly.

Therapy begins the second day.  I answer question after question with my head up and no tears.  I am determined to find a way to get better.
I walk the halls in the afternoon for hours, just go, go, get away from the horrible sick feeling that threatens to annihilate me; my love is gone, my love is a monster, my love betrayed me and ended any dreams we shared together.  Just three days prior, we went away for the night, to regroup, reconnect.  We looked at houses and talked over wine about our dreams, how well they entwined, excited for our future.  In one terrible night, it was all over.
Walk, walk, resituate the bandage on my arm, stop and take meds, listen to how high my blood pressure is, and is it normally high?  No, it is not.  Hello, I just fucking found out the love of my life was not the person I thought he was, bashed him over the head, and then stabbed my arm so I would not feel the emotional pain.  Perhaps that has something to do with my elevated blood pressure?  Speak when spoken to, be nice to the nurses and techs, nod to the other patients who seem cognizant, and DON’T SCREAM, DON’T SCREAM.  Write.  Read, try to escape from my thoughts.  Read the worksheets the therapist brings.  Try not to tackle her when she says he wasn’t the one, there is love out there for me, and children are still a possibility.  There is no one else, he is the one, don’t any of them get that?  The devastation is like a poison that pumps through my heart, eating away at my insides, devouring anything good I have left in me.  I have to remind myself to ask after my dogs, my poor dogs, when they were always number one on my list of reasons to keep my shit together.  I’d like to think the reason why I didn’t worry about them was because I knew they were safe and sound with my brother and sister-in-law, but I’m being brutally honest, so I have to say I just didn’t think of them very often.  My anguish overrode everything.
Take more pills, feel heaviness in my brain, feel half-sick, feel like I am going to burst out of my own skin.  Dance with Why, scream at Why, fuck Why, beat Why down, ignore Why.  One does not think that the body and mind can actually keep this up.  Maybe the nighttime medications help; being in an almost comatose state for eight hours and being able to completely turn off is quite nice.  Too bad as soon as my eyelids open the realization that it is all over, that this is beyond terrible, slams back into me.
“Your heart rate is pretty high, as is your blood pressure.  Is that normal for you?”  Fuck.
I make myself presentable in my scrubs and slipper socks without even a passing thought about my humble attire.  Normally in heels and something fashionable, make-up and jewelry just so, I am a picture of everything is fine, I got this under control.  Make everything look pretty on the outside, and don’t let on to the depths of the dark that my mind swims in daily.  Don’t let on that I often want to peel my own skin off.  Smile so people won’t for one minute think I have a nasty, hateful voice in my head that tells me I should not be in this world, that I do not matter here.  I walk down the hall to get my breakfast tray; I focus on the task at hand.  Uncover food, take lid off coffee, and prepare plastic utensils.  God forbid they give us crazies a knife to cut our food.  What kind of detrimental weapon would we scheme to make?  I feel like we are always eating.  Clean up, straighten room… then it’s only 9 a.m.
The therapist wants me to join a group session.  It is for higher functioning folks like me.  I feel like a privileged Crazy.  I go and I listen to other people’s problems, which I like.  Let’s focus on you, what your problems are, how you’re dealing with them.  Me?  Bypass me, please.
No such luck.
I’m sitting cross-legged in the chair, picking at my bandage.  I say I had a fight with my now ex-fiancé, it got really bad, I hurt myself to calm me down, because cutting focuses me.  I did not intend to stab instead of cut, but it did the trick.  I knew if I did not go to the hospital, I would find a way to die.
What I do not say is that a stranger had become a part of my life.  That I realized, too late, I could not fix him, I could only fix myself.  Ironically, I had scheduled to start therapy the next week.  His drunken night, him stumbling in the back door, me hugging him and saying I loved him.  That was the last time I touched him in a loving way.  I had written a note for him to find in the bathroom so he would see it when he was getting ready for work in just a few hours.  It basically said, “I am sorry I have been distant lately.  I have set an appointment to go to therapy next week.  Please don’t abandon me.  I love you always.”
What I get is someone calling him at 1 a.m.  I look to see who it is, and it is a name I don’t recognize.  I let it ring.  Then a text message comes through, “Why didn’t you answer?  Talk to you tomorrow, dear.  Xoxo.”  I scroll through hours of texts between him and some girl.  I tell myself to keep it together, but suddenly I am trembling, my brain shuts down, and raw emotion takes over.  I go into the living room, and before I know it, I have smashed a glass over his stupid, cheating head.  Then I launch myself at him, and his drunken ass is slowly coming around.  I am screaming, screaming, I want to destroy everything around me, and I throw everything I touch.  I can’t even remember the next few minutes, but then I am in the kitchen, and I grab a knife, he continues to scream at me; I stab, stab, stab my arm.  The blood pours out; I can feel it dripping down, splattering on the kitchen floor.  And then the calm.  I tell him to put the fucking knife in my chest and end it because he already murdered my heart.  He takes the engagement ring and puts it deliberately in the trash.  He screams at me that he didn’t cheat, I’m a crazy cunt, I’m a psycho bitch, he will see me in his prison and he will spit on me every day.  He’s watching the blood drip onto the floor, and he says, “Go fucking kill yourself, you psycho cunt.  Put your family out of their misery.”  And it clicked.  That is exactly what I will do.
I get my keys out of my purse, take the knife, and in my socks walk through sleet to my truck.  I drive to Lincoln Park on the cemetery side, nearly sliding off the road several times since the ice keeps layering thick on my windshield and I can barely see.  I park.  My left hand cannot even grip the steering wheel; I can’t get my fingers to do what they are supposed to.  I grab the knife with my right hand; bring the blade down into my left wrist, ready to bleed out quietly.  But the knife does not go through my skin as it had so easily just minutes before; it collapses against my bleeding arm.

 

By the dashboard light, I see that the knife has broken.  Broken.  I think, Really?  I can’t even do this?  Failure, failure, failure.  I try to do the other side, but my left hand is still not working.  Then I see that there was no way that knife was going to cut again.  The handle came apart and would no longer stabilize the blade.  If I were going to do this, I would need another plan.  I’ll go back to the house, get the dogs, drop them off at my brothers, and then figure it out.

He is on my cell phone, the cell phone that does not work right because five days prior it had taken a plunge into the toilet.  So I could not dial out, as the screen was black.  He says, “She’s here,” and hands me the phone.  It’s my mother.  He starts screaming at me again, through phone calls with my mom, sister-in-law, and brother, with each of them saying get the dogs and get out of there.  He is screaming that I busted his face, to get the fuck out of his house; he hopes I die in a fiery car crash.  I quietly tell him he’s a liar and a cheater as I gather some things.  He yells the texts are from a guy friend he hunts with whom I had never heard him mention before.  I remind him he referred to her as Jess in one of the texts, not Bo, which was the name that showed up on his phone, and the picture she sent shows she is trash, his ‘hunting friend’ was clearly a girl.  I am in some warped version of Hell; I can see myself from above going in slow motion.  He is pacing around, and I realize he can’t find his phone.  I look in the jeans he had taken off, slip his phone into my pocket.  I have some sick desire to pour slowly through their text messages and torture myself.  Plus, I thought I would need evidence to show I did not just go crazy for no reason.  I’m walking out the front door he says, “I’m fucking bleeding everywhere,” and stupid me, I stop, turn, and ask if he wants me to take a look at the wound.  While I’m dripping blood on the floor and have no use of my left hand at that point.  He of course declines in a gentleman’s way.  The dogs and I leave.

I had no clear thought beyond dropping the dogs off with my sister-in-law, taking off and figuring what to do later.  But as I’m sitting in my truck outside her house going through the text messages, my sister-in-law comes to my door and opens it.  Seeing her face, I remembered the reasons why I could not kill myself: I could not do that to my family.  I could not have my family know that I was at their house and then drove off to die.  I did not want them to blame themselves for my stupidity, my disease.

I say none of this to the group.
Next.
A girl, maybe 18, tells her story.  She says, “I do self-harm as well,” looking at me.  Sweet Jesus, I am 36 years old and still cutting to deal with what’s in my head.  I do not want to be 40 and still cutting.
The last woman to speak is being discharged that day.  She says, “We all in this room fight to die.”  Those words resound in me.  I have fought to die, and I do not know why I keep breathing, but I do.
My parents come that evening.  It goes better than I thought it would…Until my mom says, “He called me that night crying.”
“He was crying?  He called you?  On my broken phone?  How does that happen?”  I had assumed she called my phone and he answered, even though the apocalypse had occurred sometime around 2 a.m.
“I don’t know.  Maybe I was the last person who called you, and he somehow dialed me.”
I start to cry.  I tell her, “I promise I was good with this one, I did everything I was supposed to; I thought we were happy, I promise I was good.”

The echo of his absence seems to never end.
No one can understand the devastation I feel.  They say words meant to comfort — this too shall pass, there is someone else for me, God has a plan — and I absolutely love them for that.  How can I explain that the love I felt with him was all encompassing, that I truly and whole-heartedly believed he was the reason I experienced all of the turmoil years before meeting him, to prepare myself for this relationship.  I appreciated every moment and thanked God each night for him, for what we had.  Others saw when we were together we shined oh, how we shined!  We were so respectful, so loving, so affectionate, and so incredible to each other.  I felt blessed and lucky that I met such a man.  I honestly did not believe it would ever end, especially the way that it did.
It ended epically.

The doctor makes his stop.  He needs to hear me say, “I do not want to hurt myself or others” three days in a row before considering letting me out.
“Do you feel like hurting yourself or others?”
Say no, say no…
“No.”
Keep up with therapy, wound care, medication.  Write.  Read.  Breathe.
When they deem me ready for release back into society, or my insurance won’t cover any more time, I go to live with my brother.
I live in my brother’s basement…

I feel so helpless when I get out of the hospital, so lost.  It feels like I’m living someone else’s nightmare.  My head never, ever shuts the hell up.  I would welcome the disconnected feeling I usually felt before.  I can only do minutes at a time.  Now I’m up, I let the dogs out, I wait to get into the bathroom, I get ready for the day, and I go to work.  I cannot even pretend to be okay because it takes everything I have not to not fall to the ground and scream until my throat bleeds.  I continue to think of him constantly.  Why the fuck am I here?  Why the fuck do I keep screwing up?
At least I have a place to live, as do my dogs, and I am grateful.  The days and weeks after my hospital stay are fraught with a deep, dark sadness I have never known before.  The extreme despair engulfs me. Tears, panic, and anguish have a vice grip and I fear I will never get through these days.  I love words, but there is not a string of them I can put together to say exactly how broken I feel, how sad.  It’s as if he died.  The person I thought I knew is gone.  I lost my best friend.  I had fallen in love with his little boy as well and looked forward to the day when I would officially be his step-mom.  They are just gone.  I grieve for their loss.  I go out to my truck during lunch and sob hysterically, then again when I drive from work.  Even the mention of his name brings me to breakdown mode.  When he texts my brother I have “30 days to get my shit out of his house,” I call him.  He tells me about his injury.  I say I am so sorry.  I ask if we can meet and talk this through.  Even after all I’ve been through and how difficult it is for me to reach out, I still stupidly thought, “We said we would get through anything together, we can fight through this.”  He tells me he could never trust me around him or his son anymore.  It’s over.
My heart breaks over and over and over.  I want God, or whomever, to tell me why I had to meet him, why we had to fall in love, why it seemed so perfect, why I had to lose him.  There is some angry spark in me, something in my very core that tells me we were supposed to fight for this, that our story was not over, so why is it over?  How did I, a cynic of love, allow another man behind my wall?  Did I not pray enough?  Was I not thankful enough?  I feel like someone has played a terribly cruel joke on me.

I gather a couple of my girlfriends and tell them what happened.  When I get to the part about the knife breaking, my dear friend laughs.  She says, “I’m sorry, but the knife broke?  God was watching over you, sis.  That’s amazing.”
Of course, this whole time I have only thought FAILURE when the knife broke, but over the next couple of days, her statement sinks in.
Maybe there is a reason I am still here.
The support I receive from family and friends keep me from huddling in a corner and screaming until I go completely mad.  The countless times my sweet brother hugs me while I cry and shake and sob, so strong for me, telling me over and over he was going to get me through this.  The way everyone at work is so respectful and kind.  How my friends listen, do not judge, and are there for me every step of the way.  How my beautiful sister-in-law deals with me, five dogs, a cat, a rabbit, my brother, school, and work like the rock star she is.  All of this and more helps remind me to breathe every day.
So begins my journey of healing.
I do not want to continue to exist just because I am still breathing.  It matters that I am still breathing.
I am more than darkness, shattered pieces, scars, and open wounds.
I do not destroy people; I do not have that power.  It’s okay that I do not have all of the answers.  It’s okay to cry, miss him, and love him; it does not mean I am weak.  Because I am sad now does not mean I always will be.  I can find success as I once dreamed I could.  I can find that voice again, but this time it will be the voice of a woman and not the whisperings of a girl.  My voice matters.  My losses do not define me, but they have helped make me who I am.
If I acknowledge this festering disease and don’t ignore it, don’t worry about dressing it up with platitudes or making it presentable, I can fight off the dark in a healthy manner.  I can continue a good path and machete the tangled webs of sorrow, self-doubt, and self-loathing out of my way.  I am empathetic, creative, kind, reserved, outgoing, bitter, warmer, and smarter.  I am strong.
I am fucking Fierce.

Teaching Our Children to Love Their Enemies

stormtroopers walking

We can raise a whole generation of children who have the capacity to embody what all the great sages have instructed us: Love thy enemy.

At a weekly meditation group, our hostess, Harshida Mehta, told us that her house had been getting egged lately. This came as quite a shock because the Mehta family is one of the kindest and most generous families I have ever met.

Harshida revealed how just last Friday her and her husband heard loud thumping noises at their windows. Although the fear of gunshots breached her thoughts, Harshida ventured to investigate. “When I managed to sneak in a look, I saw a medley of eggs, oranges, and such coming at our window.”

Courageously, Harshida decided to confront her “enemies.” Armed only with her belief that “all strangers are my kin,” she went outside to see “three cute kids.”

Rather than berate them, Harshida tried to connect, “Hey guys, thank you for the oranges. Can I have them so they don’t go to waste?” But the kids started to run. Harshida walked after them and said, “Wait! Wait! Don’t be afraid. I’m not going to do anything. I just want to talk. And I can use your oranges.” The assailants ran off without looking back.

In reflection, Harshida felt a “sense of motherly connection.” She explained, “More than forgiveness, it was more like an effortless flow of compassion.”

“More than forgiveness, it was more like an effortless flow of compassion.”

Perhaps one of the most universal, yet most ignored teachings in religion is to “love thy enemy.” Obviously, Jesus Christ exemplifies this when he said, “God forgive them for they know not what they do” on the cross. The Tibetan Buddhist practices of compassion for “difficult others” echoes Jesus along these lines.

I’ve found it very difficult to see my enemies as human, much less love them, so every day I work hard to remind myself that we are all the divine at different levels of understanding. I want my sons to have easier access to loving their enemies, so I’m starting their training in this teaching early.

Harshida’s story unveils some powerful wisdom on how and why to teach our children to love their enemies.

When Harshida ran outside to confront the potentially “dangerous enemy,” it turned out to be a group of 10 and 11 year old children. It helps to see all our enemies as children because they once were children and in some ways they still are children (which is why they often act childishly). It is much easier to see children as fundamentally good or acting out in ways that they “know not what they are doing.”

It is much easier to see children as fundamentally good or acting out in ways that they “know not what they are doing.”

People don’t willingly choose to be malicious, vindictive, or hateful. They experience things in their lives—often when they are very young—which force them to take on the defenses of anger, aggression, and scorn. In my experience with prisoners, I’ve noticed that most of the inmates who have committed heinous crimes were seriously traumatized as children or young adults. Seeing my enemies as children reminds me of the saying, “all attacks are a cry for help.”

It is very easy to teach my sons to view their enemies as children because most of their “enemies” are children. So when 7 year old Jett tells me that he is no longer friends with someone because they were mean to him, I ask him if he has ever been mean to someone else.

It is very easy to teach my sons to view their enemies as children because most of their “enemies” are children.

I then ask him how he would feel if everyone that he was ever mean to decided to not be friends with him. Hopefully, this will help Jett to see that his enemies are just like him—a child doing the best s/he can to make their way in the world.

I believe that if children can learn this lesson at an early age, then it won’t be a huge step for them to see someone of a different race, religion, or nationality as just like them. If they begin to see the world in this way, then when someone really hurts them or their family, they might be able to forgive their enemies.

Forgiveness can lead to understanding. Understanding plants the seeds for love. We can raise a whole generation of children who have the capacity to embody what all the great sages have instructed us: Love thy enemy.

We can raise a whole generation of children who have the capacity to embody what all the great sages have instructed us: Love thy enemy.

I know there are a lot of “ifs” in the plan I’ve outlined, but think about the alternative. Do we continue to teach our children to egg the houses of those who are different from us or with whom we don’t get along? And what happens when these children get tired of throwing eggs and want something that does more damage?

I’m joining forces with Harshida, Jesus, and the Dalai Lama by trying to dive into the “effortless flow of compassion” with all who enter my field. Maybe when my children see me marching off every day armed only with compassion, they might take up their battles with hugs, flowers, and love. “You may call me a dreamer, but I’m not the only one…”

Photo: Flickr.com/Kristina Alexanderson

Washing the Feet of the Homeless

homeless feet

Teaching our children to be humble by role modeling selfless service.

Humility has always been a huge blind spot for me. For example, I never really knew the exact definition of humility, but I was too proud to look it up.

Unfortunately, constantly telling myself to stay humble doesn’t seem to work, so I’ve been searching for a “skillful means” practice to build humility. Reverend Heng Sure’s practice of bowing resonates with me, but I don’t have two and half years to bow up the California Coast.

After a mis-take with my son, I realized the power of footwashing. I remembered how Jesus washed the feet of the disciples at the last supper: “I have set an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.” John 13:15-17

Where to Start

When I approached a few friends to practice this ritual, no one felt comfortable. “Thanks for dinner. Can I wash your feet?”

Whose feet could I wash? As always, whenever I ask the Universe a question, I get an answer. This time the Universe used Facebook. A friend of mine, AJ Lovewins, invited me to his Homeless Outreach Walk, so I loaded up my two sons, a 10 pack of new white socks, towels, soap, and Burt’s Bees Foot Cream and headed to the San Francisco Civic Center.

When I got to the site around 7 PM, AJ saw me unloading my supplies.

“Are you going to do foot-washing?”

“I hope so, “ I answered.

“Good for you. Did you bring gloves?” AJ asked.

Oops, hadn’t thought about gloves or sanitizer. Just then it occurred to me that I might be diving into the deep end for my first swim lesson.

First Contact

Surprisingly, most of the homeless people I approached were just as apprehensive of having their feet washed as my friends. A number of individuals seemed embarrassed by their “uncleanliness.” Some didn’t want to expose their feet to the cold night air.

I started to think that this might not be the time and place to start this ritual, when we stumbled upon two homeless men tucked into a crevice of the Bill Graham Auditorium. When I mentioned foot washing, one of the men’s eyes lit up.

“Oh, I could really use that right now,” he said staring at his feet.

His friends seemed suspicious, but after a few minutes of contemplation he told his friend, “Bro, I gotta do this.”

We headed across the street to a park bench, which was nice since it was near a small play structure that my sons could play on. Andrew introduced himself and started apologizing for how his feet smelled. I assured him that if his feet were clean, then this wouldn’t really be necessary.

As I mixed hot water from a thermos with cold water and Epson salt, Andrew literally peeled off his socks. In the dim light, I could see and smell the sores, calluses, and decaying flesh on his feet.

With more apologies, he dipped his feet in the basin of warm water.

I bowed down and silently said St. Francis’s Prayer. I had thought about saying the prayer out loud, but I didn’t want to make Andrew feel like I was trying to “save him,” only serve him.

As I soaped his feet, Andrew winced. He had open sores and toes fused together. I realized that Jesus must have had dirty feet. Surely, someone who goes 40 days and 40 nights in the wilderness, hangs out with prostitutes, and enters tombs to raise the dead would not have perfectly manicured toenails. This thought empowered me to lovingly wash Andrew’s feet.

After cleaning, drying, and moisturizing his feet, I bowed down again with my hands on his feet and said a Hawaiian Peace Prayer—“…my peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you. Not the world’s peace, but only my peace. The peace of ‘I’.”

Andrew couldn’t stop thanking me.

“The only other word that comes to mind besides thank you is ‘orgasmic’,” he said with a laugh.

When I looked up, another homeless man was sitting on the bench.

“Can I get my feet washed?” he asked.

“Yes, but I don’t have any more hot water. We could use this warm dirty water or I could empty it out and use cold clean water.”

“How many feet have you washed with that water?”

“Only Andrew’s,” I replied.

“Oh that’s fine,” he said.

This man’s name was Joseph, and he had just hitchhiked down from Portland. As I washed his feet, he told me about the Rainbow Gathering where thousands of spiritual people get together for a month and “leave no trash.”

I asked Joseph when the Rainbow Gathering happened.

“What is the month before July?” he asked.

“June?”

“Yeah, it starts in June,” he said with a smile.

When I finished, Joseph thanked me and said, “I hope that brings you whatever you were looking to get out of it.”

As I gathered my things, Arthur, a homeless man who had volunteered with us to help other homeless people (think about that for a minute), came up to me and said, “That’s some good karma, Brother.”

The Ripples

On the way home, my boys and I stopped off for the ice cream I had promised them.

“What did you think about Daddy washing those people’s feet?” I asked.

“It was kind of weird,” said 7 year old Jett.

“Do you know why Daddy washed their feet?” I countered.

“Because they were dirty,” piped in 5 year old Fox, “and they were kind of sick.”

“Yes, we can heal people by washing their feet, Fox,” I replied. What I didn’t tell him is that I was trying to heal myself by washing the feet of others.

“To be kind,” Jett added.

“Yes, serving others is kind, but Daddy was washing their feet to remind myself that no matter how dirty or different someone looks, they are the same as us. We are all God.”

Later that night, drifting off to sleep while Fox cradled my ears in his gentle, soft hands, I felt a bit cleaner, lighter, and more humble.

[Names were changed to protect the identity and privacy of participants]

Photo: Flickr.com/JcOlivera

Felt Hearts

Best Valentine’s Day Ever–Alone

Felt Hearts

 

My wife and I got separated last year, so this was my first Valentine’s Day alone in over 10 years. In the afternoon, I was feeling a bit blah, so I decided to bake some cookies.

While buying ingredients at Whole Foods, I shared a smile with a cheerful checker. As she was ringing me up, her friend came over and said, “Happy Valentine’s Day!”

The checker groaned. When her friend walked away, I asked her, “did you just groan?” She was a bit taken off guard, but quickly smirked, “Yeah, I’m sad about my friend getting off work.”

Then she admitted with a grin, “I’m a bitter person.” I smiled.

I wanted to offer compassion, but wasn’t really sure what to do. Driving away from the store, I thought about asking her if she wanted to have some tea or go for a walk after she got off work, but realized how creepy this might come across.

When I got home and got an email from a friend who said that her friends on the East Coast were spending the day leaving notes of kindness “from the universe” for strangers.

The notes read:

“Happy Valentine’s Day! Take moment, give yourself a huge hug, and remember how absolutely amazing you are.

Love yourself today! You are your most precious valentine.

Much love and many blessings,

The Universe

So I found a card lying around and copied this message. I was wearing a hand-stitched heart that the same friend who sent me the email had given me. My friend had gotten the heart from the Gandhi ashram in India and had given it to me the first time we hung out.

Hesitantly, I took off the heart and put it in the envelope with the card. Rushing back to Whole Foods, I prayed that the checker would still be there. Of course, when I went back to the line, she was nowhere in sight.

Walking towards the information booth, I realized that I didn’t even know this checker’s name, but right when I got to the booth, I saw her bagging groceries on the far end of the store.

I grabbed a manager and asked, “Who is that woman bagging groceries right there?”

The manager said, “Oh, that is E­­­­­____.”

I handed the manager the puffed up envelope and said, “Can you give this to her?” and walked away.

When I got home, I was elated. I thought about the checker getting this note and gift, not knowing who sent it. I imagined the smile on her face and the joy in her heart that magical things can happen, even on a lonely Valentine’s Day.

I sent back an email to my friend and told her what had happened on the “Best Valentine’s Day eeeevaaaah.”

A few hours later, I got an email back that read: “And that’s super extra awesome that you gave her the heart pin, too. That gesture is priceless– not just for her, but for you. Cause it’s easy to give away things we might not want or value, but when we give away something we love, that gesture of “tyag” (translates to “sacrifice”– but sacrifice isn’t quite the right meaning) connects us even more deeply to the other person, and the web of interconnection. :)”

Reading this email, I realized that what we are all looking for on Valentine’s Day (or everyday) is to connect deeply with others. We are just brainwashed to believe that we need to connect with a “significant other.” The truth is that we can have intimate relationship with anyone, even perfect strangers.

This experience taught me that whenever I’m feeling lonely or depressed to just go out and serve others, preferably anonymously. As all the great spiritual masters have said, “It is in giving that we receive.”