Your Own Hallelujah

I want to hear this song over and over. I hum it while I stir wet things in wide bowls and I feel my soul sit down around the relief of meeting a hallelujah I’ve hidden away. I think of it when I seem to be at war with my partner but am really at war with myself. The mixture of male voices in this song reminds me of the male quartet of my Minnesota high school. Once they sang, “Two Silhouettes on the Shade,” by The Rays. They were so fresh and on fire with the feeling of music that everyone left having met their own version of hallelujah. Maybe some were grieving the loss of an old love while others were doo-wopping along with the notes. I remember how people looked and acted as they left the auditorium. They had been invited to see something in themselves, which music often does for us. Music gives us a glimpse of what’s important to us in that particular moment, depending on how we experience it.

This song is no exception. The lyrics are from Leonard Cohen’s poem, “Hallelujah.” I’ve been hooked on it since I heard a slightly different Spanish version by Gepe in the movie, “Sugar.” The original poem and the various versions of the song all seem to connote that there is no one route to hallelujah and that it’s not limited to joy. Depending on the reader’s perceptions, union between two people or  the union we experience between ourselves and our larger divinity gives us the opportunity to live every moment fully or not.  Even the dark, scary moments in relationships or within yourself that  you’d rather bury and forget deserve recognition. And there is no one way to go about expressing your unique moments. They are already unique because they’re yours, and you get to name what feels like hallelujah to you.

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Freedom is a spider whose web you might want to survey

My partner had a long weekend away from work, and with a new schedule change will have many weekends off in months to come. I can say this is a nice change, but I can’t say I would’ve complained otherwise. One of the many positive perks about frequent schedule changes in our home is how they invite me to sift right through the unchangeable things of the day and be with them rather than put up my mental dukes to fight them away. I seemed to have a weekend full of these kinds of moments and think I did pretty well, considering my northern European ancestry. Everyone knows how much we like to hang the Serenity Prayer on our walls because we all know it’s true. And when we start to feel how true it is, that’s even better.

My Qi Gong and meditation class was canceled on Friday and I was looking forward to that time. So I went home and we lathered up with a new assortment of sun screens to paddle around in kayaks in the Bay of Cadiz. I packed a little cooler, dropped in two Fanta Limons for Carlos and a Pink Lady apple for me and considered us prepared. I was geared up for feeling something in my body besides sitting, jogging, yoga-ing, and curling around Carlos on the couch. As heavy thinkers all must know, body sensations are one of the best ways of leaving our heads out of an en vivo experience. But after waffling around the area and encountering the solitary kayak stand replete with padlocks and an obvious lack of personnel, we easily succumbed to returning another day.

The day before, when I had had a hankering for chocolate chip cookies and then ate them for dinner, I realized the result didn’t feel wonderful but the moment had already passed. I enjoyed the anticipation of kayaking, as well as I enjoyed baking and eating the cookies. So you see, there is really no reason for any mental mish-mash about why something I couldn’t control had occurred. I had already eaten the cookies for dinner, and the Bay of Cadiz had already determined their kayak schedule. We spent the rest of the day delighting over new groceries and watching Mary Louise-Parker flaunt her glimmering skin at us through re-runs of Weeds.

Today I sank into the couch, noticed the word “Freedom” flung about the internet for the American holiday, watched more re-runs, took a picture of our homegrown basil, and flitted about house noticing chores that might have been completed. At one point, I asked my partner if I was bad. He joked back, reminding me that I’m worthless unless I’m cleaning or producing something. So I kept on going with it; this feeling of  sloth-ing around and commenting on my soft addiction to Showtime was actually a nice way to spend a Sunday.

For a slightly different appraisal of this same experience, you can read about the spider below.

SPIDER

She crochets a web outside

my kitchen window. A busty

head pumping, her wispy lines

making more than a home. The

wind whips in an uneven jog to

her corner and I watch her legs –

how they calibrate so quiet and easy

to that air. I feel my hands sitting

white and still and remember other

times, when an impulse called for

action. I seized a broom, stabbed

the web. Wiped a grayness away.

It was so important to keep

a surface polished. But now

something stops me between

the movements. Like the legs

of all those spiders spun a circle

and sat down at once inside of me.

Oh, the tasks I leave undone

just to hear their tiny knees bending.


-Jennifer Sandberg

Noticing and Responding to the Divine

I’m so thankful to have friends who are in touch enough with themselves to care about who they are beyond their flesh and blood bodies. You know what they say about birds of a feather…so today I’m posting a prose piece I wrote during a time when I noticed my response to relationships was strikingly parallel to the way I respond to feeling the Divine in my everyday life. For those of you familiar with the Enneagram, the number five, or the truth of wanting to feel inner-peace while your mind works overtime to hide it away, then you are likely a close or distant feather. We can give the bird whatever name we choose!

A Five’s Letter to the Divine

My love is stingy. I see you set out a tablet in front of me, pages and pages of honey words, pointing to the one true love, to the one joy that kisses the whole body at once. I see the pages and hear them turning; I smell the musty dampness of years this book has been with me. I even lean in close enough for a peek. But usually I close the binding, leave it tucked under dusty things. I carry on living as if this being alone was so sweet.

What can I give you with my calculated peering in, my depression-era recipes to save ten cents…while you run like fire, incorrigible through the clanging stock market, diving riskily into  flailing hands, shouting and dancing for the possibility of one return?

And if I had something to share, how would it sit beside your offer? I’m trying to tell you, “I know, I see, I understand it all…I got it, I got it!” But I feel my airless gasping fully when all you do is look lovingly at my chest, where my heart musters a soft, circular motion. I might be feeling it for the first or the fifth or fiftieth time – it doesn’t matter. Oh, your gaze. The sense that there is no archive of my trying. You think a tally could be hilarious, but it’s almost as useless as penance. You only sing about the sweet reconciliation of my remembering you.

You are like one huge, hollowed room: excruciating for even the most curious visitor. All space, all air, exposed and un-fleshed, waiting for anyone to sit down and feel you stationed in their deepest spaces. While I wonder about peeking into your unzipped chamber, it happens to me. The paradox of feeling you slightly, inside of me. And as a comical gesture that outwits the slyest of guests, you’re off to take a nap when my mind is working its hardest to determine what that feeling means. I want to know how I can inhabit it fully, how I can explain why we can’t get past our need to self-improve and kneel instead in reverence to ourselves. It’s only sudden, like syncopation, that when my mind has stopped looking, you appear from the dreamy haze of your easy slumber, and ask so nicely, “Can I make you some dinner?”

I’m not sure I want this kind of love: its un-contempt and easy gentleness, its rambunctious child without a diagram to chart its wild movements. It devalues my terrain, quiets the chattering of my mind-y elders, and leaves me looking for smooth things that wouldn’t make good weapons.

So maybe I’ll ask you to carry on with your nap. Alone feels more like home than your spacious rooms, than your open pages of honey-basted words, than your unrelenting laughter and always-invitation. I don’t see how it happens, but it does. You stand vigilantly inside of me with a palms-up posture, turning those pages, watching the market, laughing like a child when I peer in and offer nothing. You always keep your widest rooms open for my narrow, tiny giving.

Written by Jennifer L. Sandberg