It is always the same.
I am waiting, waiting for you.
My life is shaped by hunger.
But, it isn’t just my hunger for you, for your mouth, like some part of me will cease to exist if I don’t have it, a part I spend hours obsessing about, about how much I need this part of me, to live, the part that hungers for you. It is also a hunger for other physical experiences like food, which I consume without thinking and quickly, trying to fill a space, and for things beyond the body—hunger for ease, hunger for solutions to the world that looks like a problem, everywhere I turn. It is a hunger to be freed from the world of dissatisfaction, from the world of the busy, imperial mind.
And then, I begin again.
I wake up early, and it is winter so the world is dark. I think to myself, what if it was always like this? And how would I live in a world of actual darkness? I walk the dog, watching the trees turn to skeletons with the season’s change. Then I come home and sit on my purple meditation cushion and try to watch my brain without trying to change it, for as long as I can stand. I watch the waves of sensation, the waves of clinging, of grasping, the moments of gratitude, and finally, feel the relief of stillness.
Weeks later, I come to my actual home where the discomfort and hunger continues for days. I run from friend to friend, conversation to conversation. Even the big sky cannot calm me. My family rubs me wrong, I am irritable and don’t know why, uncomfortable and I can’t rest.
Finally, it is the Monday before Christmas and I set out for my morning walk around the golf course by my dad’s house. And finally, after more than an hour, I find that still place of ease, the part that wants tea and quiet and not piles of food and unfulfilled longing. It takes this long, of body and breath and step after step to find it. My family brings me back to life. These moments feel something like gratitude, for the big sky, for the bright light of the solstice, for the way New Mexico moves more slowly than New England.
On Christmas Eve, I make my way to the Pueblo with an old friend. We follow the crowds to the center where bodies pack in tight and the air swirls with fire, falling snow, smoke and flames, the air punctuated by our greetings, bells clanging and the procession of the Virgin, with its shotgun announcement. I find myself in the center of this chaos, I find myself not alone, but held by my loved ones, in the winter dark.
And so, I don’t want to blame the world for my mind. But I keep asking questions about my own brokenness and I keep coming back to the world. It has left something inside of me, crying and shattered, raw. And hunger seems like a way I can prove that I want to live, even if the grief of this planet is too much for me. For both the pain of the personal and the pain of the universal, for what is far from me and for what is close.
Recently my sister freed herself from a terrible relationship with the father of her children, a man who was twisted by his own family and in turn became a man who revels in the breaking of women. After years of suffering, she was finally ready to leave. He has made this as difficult as possible for her, threatening her, stalking her, causing her to live for months in fear. She fought, and fought hard. She will always have to live with him as a part of her but she has begun the process of moving back into her own self, her own life. I am proud of her. And I too have spent months, waking in the night in fear, telling myself that she will make it, that most men don’t kill their exes when they try to leave, even though I know that many of them do. I know that women, most of us, also fear the man we love.
When I tell friends this they justify it for me, and like all good friends, they try to make it better. They say that she made decisions to be there, true. They say that I can’t take care of her, or save her, true. They say that she will be just fine, probably true. They don’t want to see me hurt and afraid, grieving. Everyone except one, who simply answered the phone one night and let me weep and weep, who let me say how angry I am that men get to do this to women, how there is just a big, gaping hole in my life and heart because I can’t protect my baby sister, because I haven’t let go of my own hunger for a dangerous man. He was the only one who told me to not turn away. Because in some ways, what everyone else was saying is, go ahead, close your heart a little.
Now that I’m home, my sister and I are running errands, driving to Taos together, telling stories, laughing. She is exhausted but still so funny. She loves her kids. She tells me how much she feels about Syria, how she sees her own children in their faces and how she can’t understand how now, we are distracted by politicians and aren’t even talking about this much, though it was only a few weeks ago that it was the big story.
I don’t have the answers about how this all works, how we keep moving like hungry birds from one place to the next, in our minds, in our hearts, from tragedy to tragedy, seemingly with ease. How we get fixated on the things we have lost. I don’t know why we are so afraid to look into the dark.
Late in the night on my birthday, Johnny and I sit and sip one last drink and talk about this, about how we are always looking for the pleasure or the pain, seeking one, avoiding the other. How very busy this keeps us. We imagine together, an open space without this kind of thinking and it feels like magic, as if we have taken hands in the dark and begun to glide across the ice, fireflies rising out of the emptiness between us.
He reminds me that in the Tibetan tradition, essentially all spiritual work prepares you to come to terms with death. That in this, this looking, you will have more awareness of the sweetness of life itself. Solstice, Christmas, the New Year, all seem like a perfect time to think about this intersection, the dark and the light, the sweetness and the seeking, the hunger and the satisfaction, the endings. Our indiscretions and our joys, lie side by side. It seems like the perfect time to not turn away.
So, I wake in the night, so lonely without your body beside me, a physical hunger. I fling myself into the cold winter river laughing, naked, and come alive again. I cannot undo the well of tears holding court inside me for the children across the world, without home, living in fear. Then my sister turns to me and laughs, and dries the flood of sorrows, for a sweet moment. Then, I find the morning sun; then I encounter coyotes on the trail, then I inhale the sweetness of winter. In my experience, always, life is all of these things. I am hungry and I am full. Held and held at a distance. I will not turn away.