Friday, November 23, 2007

applied morality

(Note: I have to credit the inspiration for this piece to some extent on the article "The Cellular Church" by Malcom Gladwell, which I highly recommend.)

Somewhere along the line I became a highly moralled person. Despite a previously held position of moral relativism I've found that I have very clear ideas about right and wrong, good and bad, even if those ideas are firmly rooted in meta-ethical questions and value pluralism (I love wikipedia). I'm still trying to understand how this happened.

I had a relatively counter-culture upbringing with parents who were both psychologists. I think this fostered in me a relatively high level of self-awareness and emotional sensitivity. I was also instilled with a belief in impending doom regarding the state of civilization, and a strong sense of responsibility and obligation to "save the world." Growing up, I experienced a strong feeling of alienation and isolation, and a predominant experience of ridicule and ostracization

I identified my unhappiness and discontent with myself and life early on. I have maintained an intensive focus on personal growth since I was a teenager. Parallel to this has been a near constant evaluation of "what I'm doing with me life" to see if I am making the world a better place as efficiently and effectively as possible. However, I consider any pretense of selflessness or altruism therein to be highly dubious. I believe it is crucial to accept of my own selfishness as a, if not the primary motivator in my life if I am to make any kind of meaningful attempt to act beyond it.

I was about 20 years old when Paxus introduced to the concept enlightened self-interest. This lead my thought-process down the path of considering my own happiness and well-being to be inextricably linked with that of others and the world as a whole. As a child of behaviorism my psyche has been well trained to make deals. So, I say to my selfishness, I'll indulge you as long as the choices I make are also good for others. Deal.

But if there's one thing I've learned in the exploration of the psycho-somatic phenomenon it is to never underestimate the capacity of the mind to deceive itself. I've often pondered the irony that it is incredibly difficult for most of us to do what is good for ourselves, let alone good for others. This has called me to focus on practices that promote my ability to both observe myself as objectively as possible and accept with love and compassion whatever it is I see. Again, I have found that it is this process of accepting-what-is to be crucial in any meaningful attempt to act outside of behavior patterns that are destructive to myself and/or others.

Now, allow me to explicitly illuminate the basics of my morality. Much of what I am about to write has been borrowed heavily or outright stolen from what I have read and heard from others. I believe good and bad are ways of describing actions rather than inherent qualities. Good and bad exist in the realm of "doing" not "being." Of course, it is our actions, or our doing, that defines us, but given the passing of time and the evolving nature of reality that definition is constantly subject to change.

What is good and bad? I want to live a happy and peaceful life. I want to do things that make me happy, and I want others to do things that make me happy. I don't want people to do things that make me unhappy. I don't think I'm alone in this. So, if there's something I want/don't want done to me, then I should/shouldn't do that to others. It follows thus that a good action is one that helps or supports others, while a bad action is one that hurts or harms others.

This view sees our interactions with each other at the core of our experience of being human. It holds our actions as infinitely inter-related, taking seriously the expression "what goes around, comes around." It is core to our self-interest to do good for others. It also holds morality as meaningful only to the extent that it has practical application to one's lifestyle choices.

Of course, the devil is in the details. How do we know what is really good for others? Given the deviousness nature of our minds, how can we be sure that we are not acting in purely self-serving and self-destructive ways? I have come to firmly believe in the necessity of practices of contemplation and self-observation. It is in being with ourselves in stillness and silence that we have any hope of being able to see the truth within ourselves and how that truth manifests in the world around us.

Any of us are just taking baby-steps in this process, so guidelines that have been established by cultural traditions can be useful. The 8 fold path described by Buddhism works well for me. The Ten Commandments may work well for others. Ultimately I think any of these systems of morality need to be checked against each other to discover a universal or pan-secular definition. And, ultimately, I believe the purpose of these systems, and of morality itself, is to have the motivation for one's actions based more and more on making the world a better place to live for all.

I've met few individuals who have seriously explored these issues outside of the context of organized religion. But really, I've met few individuals who have seriously explored these issues inside the context of organized religion as well. This baffles me. I have found few people who seem to think that society is on the right track. It would seem that as civilization delves further and further into crisis more and more people would be thrown into their own moral and existential crisis'. I know I'm impatient. I believe the faster we wake up and face the misery and destruction we're creating, for ourselves and others, the quicker we will be able to turn things around, averting even more suffering. I want more allies in pushing this process forward.

In my travels lately, as I ponder the potential activities of the next phase of my life, the phrase "for the good of others" constantly bounces around my head. It has pushed my thinking towards the consideration of basic human needs, including food, clothing, shelter, and health. And it has pushed my thinking further and further away from institutional organization and theoretical ideology, except to the extent that it has pragmatic application to serving the good of others. Organizational structures, theories and ideologies, should only exist to the extent that they improve people's lives, and must be constantly subject to re-evaluation, change, and dissolution. If this not the case it is an invitation to oppression an unsustainable forms of human society. The benefits of any social system must be obvious. One should not have to understand the system to see the benefit. Nor should one should not have to buy in to any belief system other then that of making the world a better place for all and in acting for the good of others. But the system should also be easy to replicate or emulate, making it easier and easier for more and more people to make the world a better place.

I'm making a big leap of faith here. I believe that people have an inherent desire to improve the conditions of their lives. The reason people are so apathetic, complacent and lazy is because of how controlled they are by the current institutional structure of society, a structure that fosters isolation and alienation on all levels for the benefit of few over many. My hope is that the opportunity to meet basic needs and improve the conditions of one's life outside of this system of control and inequity is the spark that will ignite people's passion to make the world a better place for all.

Manifesting this vision, or something along these lines, is what I'm ready to give myself over to, in the way it seems people talk about giving themselves over to god or a higher spiritual purpose. I can only conceive of it in concrete, worldly concepts, but I increasingly feel a fervent sense of urgency that reminds me of religious fanatics.

This is my understanding of applied morality. Every day I recognize the ways in which I am living an unmoral life, every time I use nonrenewable sources of energy, every time I take in food or drink that is unhealthy for my body, every time I treat another person with negativity, every time I waste time on computer games or other escapism, every time I allow fear to inhibit my self-expression. So I keep facing this, the impacts, physically and emotionally, on myself and on others. I keep meditating, facing the pain and suffering inside myself. I keep developing my understanding of what the right thing to do is. I keep developing my will to do what I believe is right. And, the nice thing is that the further down this path I go I am finding that I have no choice but to keep going.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

the feeling of family

I'd always thought I would have a child or two, eventually, maybe after I'm 30. Then Hawina wanted to get pregnant. She'd always wanted to, and at 38 years old she hit the now-or-never point. I wasn't ready to be a committed co-parent. Pax wasn't taken by the idea either. But as Hawina started thinking it wasn't going to happen, Pax reconsidered. At 47, he thought, there's not likely to be anyone else I would consider doing this with, so if it's now-or-never for her, it's the same for me. He changed his mind and agreed to co-parent with her.

At that point I could see being involved. I thought, having a child means being tied to your co-parent (or co-parents in this case) for a long time, possibly the rest of your life. I could see wanting to be connected with Pax and Hawina for the rest of my life. Much complex negotiation ensued; in the end we agreed to get pregnant together. But we didn't really grasp or consider the implacations of what that meant for our relationships.

Several months into the pregnancy I remember driving with Pax and Hawina to a small gathering of Hawina's pagan women's group plus partners. A question had been on my mind, which I decided to broach: what are we doing anyway? People had already started calling us the "Willow family." Were we really a family? Or were we just collection of committed caregivers? We stopped at a gas station, bought some tortilla chips and salsa, and spent a little while talking about it. Funny, I don't remember anything we said, but I know it was inconclusive and I felt unsettled. If we were going to be a family I wanted more of a sense of definition for what we were creating. I wanted to know what I could expect.

Wait a minute - Sky, defining family? Why would you need to create definition? What do you mean, what can I expect? A family is a family.

Well, okay, but what does that mean? I didn't have a strong experience of family growing up. Spread up and down California, family gatherings were occassional and didn't allow for much building of relationships. It seemed like each nuclear family was pretty much on their own. Occassionally Jay, Dale, and I lived in the same city as another nucleous, but the sense of seperation never left me. As members of the elder generations died and us kids of grown up, and spread ourselves even further then California, things have seemed to get even more tenuous (until recently.) I wonder if this is part of my attraction to intentional community, seeking out a sense of broader connection and relationship then I got growing up.

After Willow was born Pax, Hawina, and I were joined by Anissa and we created the Star Family. It was exciting. We were creating a new kind of family, based on mutual affinity and lifestyle choices, as well as love and passion. But our process of defining family was incomplete, and we underestimated the time and energy it took to manage such a complex set of relationships. Expectations varied, personalities came into conflict, upsets built up, and ultimately things fell apart. At times I even regreted tieing myself to them (though, paradoxically, I've never regreted having Willow.) After Anissa left the family I was adamant: I didn't want to be the "Star family minus Anissa." I didn't even want to identify as a family.

The crash became clear during our Europe travels in '04. We were in Amsterdam, on the rooftop of the big, family-oriented science museum which hosted a terraced water park, complete with waterfalls and sandbanks. As Willow splashed around we addressed the question again: what are we doing anyway? I proposed that we make a distinction between our personal relationships with each other and our relationship as co-parents, holding the latter as almost business-like in nature. Okay, we said, what are our committments to each other as co-parents? In a nutshell: We agreed that we were collectively responsible for meeting Willow's needs. We agreed that we wouldn't involve him or use him in any personal conflicts between us.

That was the last time I was feeling dissatisfied with Twin oaks and considering leaving. Anissa and I hadn't totally fallen apart yet. I was seriously, though naively, considering leaving with her. I ended up back at Twin Oaks. 2 years later I started warming back up to the idea of being a family. People had naturally started calling us the Willow family again. On a trip to the West Coast last March, Pax, Hawina and I agreed to be the Star family again.

What changed? Why was I comfortable with the idea of family after having been so uncomfortable with it? Family was no longer a visionary concept. It was a practical reality that we'd been living for over 5 years. Beneath the turmoil a basic committment to supporting each other and working things out had persisted. After everything we'd been through family was the only label that made any sense.

It seems for many people family means obligation and resentment. It seems to involve frustrating dynamics and permission to treat each other badly. We've certainly had our share of this, but we strive to work past that stuff. It seems the more dependent, commited, and/or attached to someone you the more likely you are to want them to change. To me family has become about learning to accept people for who they are. But it's also about supporting each other to become more of who we want to be. Part of why I chose to be family with Pax and Hawina is that we share a commitment to bettering ourselves and allowing oursevles to be challenged by each other.

Hawina and I "broke up" last May. But the break up was only of a part of our relationship, not the whole thing. Through the whole process I never doubted the solidity of our relationship as co-parents. And I was committed to maintaining a close friendship. But just calling it a friendship didn't feel like enough. I found in myself a sense of caring and commitment, combined with a deep sense of love and appreciation, which didn't fit that label. We'd already started calling ourselves a family again, and that felt right, but now I was starting to clearly identify the feeling of family.

Hawina and my sexual relationship had been small for years, and it'd been longer since we'd related romantically. I had this sense that ending these parts of our relationship wasn't really a big deal. I knew it would feel like a big deal but that the bulk of our relationship lay in co-parenting and in our bond as family.

It did feel like a big deal, and it didn't help that my relationship with Kassia acted as a catalyst. It simply added more confusion and conflict, distracting Hawina and I from dealing directly with the reality of our relationship. But we made it through.

During the process I got scared. I was afraid that Hawina and Pax would take me less seriously as a member of the family and maybe even push me out , especially given my plans to explore leaving Twin Oaks. As Hawina and I resolved things I asked her about this, and she flatly dismissed it. You're Willow's father, she said, of course you're part of the family. She also made it clear that she had no interest in me leaving.

I expressed this fear to Pax more recently, as part of a larger dialog on our relationship. This is what I wrote to him:

"I feel a deep, strong bond with you and hawina because of the journey we've shared. It is with the two of you, and willow, that I feel like I have really come to understand what it means to be in family. I feel a fundamental sense of connection and committment to you, a bond that I can feel much more then I can conceptualize. It relates back to the commitments we made as co-parents, but it's the energy beneath the words, the labels, the concepts that's really important. I assume that I will maintain our relationship, and not necessarily with any particular frequency of contact or shared activities, but by simply holding space in my heart for you. Many of the people that I consider family are some of the people that I can see after minimal contact for months, or even years, and we just pick up where we left off. Despite the struggles and stumbles, I feel that with you. So, perhaps my question is, do you share that experience with me?"

Recently, as we worked through various issues, he cleared a resentment he had with me around money. There were a couple times over the last year that I'd given him a hard time about money, including a recent incident around money he'd promised me to help me with my current travels. Given my behavior he'd been feeling hesitancy around supporting me financially, which felt bad to him and wasn't what he wanted to do. It was pretty easy for me to see and acknowledge that I'd been a jerk. He talked about how important it is to him to not stress about money, especially with me. He feels as family a self-imposed responsibility to support me financially, as well as in holding down the fort with Willow and Hawina, in trying to figure what I'm doing with my life. And despite the fact that it doesn't look like the whole family is going to move anytime soon he also expressed vicariously enjoying the exploration of considering other interesting places and people to live with. The message couldn't have been much clearer; I had my answer.

Now I feel like I both understand family and know what family feels like, and an interesting thing has happened. I started this blog and got more active with online social networking, and all of a sudden I am in better touch with several members of my biological family than I've been in years. It feels good. We may not see each other any more often or have anything more to do with each others lives then before. But now I actually feel like I'm in family with them, simply by having little glimpses into their lives, and knowing I can get in touch with them easily at any time.

Maybe this feeling of family has always been there and I just didn't know how to recognize it. Either way, having recognized it and knowing how to nurture it, I don't think I will ever feel alone in the world again.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

the miracle of mass transit

After a two week sojourn to the east coast the west wind has returned me to sunny california. The fact that it took me less then one day to more then traverse the continent using multiple modes of mass transit strikes me as something of a miracle.

At 9:45am (eastern time) I started in rural Conneticut. Kassia drove me a half-hour to the train station. 2 hours and 2 trains later I arrived in Grand Central Station, where I entered the NYC underground. 3 transfers and 1 hour later I boarded the Airtrain for the JFK International Airport. After obtaining my boarding pass I took a shuttle to my terminal. I then had enough time for lunch and my afternoon meditation sitting before my 4:45pm flight, non-stop to Oakland, CA. 6.5 hours and 3 time zones later it was about 8:15pm (pacific time - 11:15pm according to my body) I stepped out of the monkey-guided missile into a considerably warmer climate.

Kassia called as I walked through the terminal; we marveled together that just hours before we were in the same place - now we were on the opposite sides of the continent. I bought a piece of pizza and called Julie, Amtraks automated agent, to check on the status of the notoriously late Coast Starlight train service. This was the big unknown of my day. The train was scheduled to depart at 9:45pm, getting me into Chico at about 2am, but I knew it could easily be hours late and that crashing in the Bay Area overnight might be preferable to waiting in a train station until the middle of the night. But I had not contacted any friends ahead of time and had no idea if there were any easy options. As it was, the train was running about 1 hr and 45 min late. Knowing it could still end up being even more behind I decided to bit the bullet and go for it.

From the Oakland Airport I took the AirBART to the nearby BART station. Two stops up the BART line I emerged and considered whether to walk or cab the 12 blocks to the Amtrak station. I decided to walk and was really glad I did. The evening was crisp, and a nice walk after 6 hours on a plane was a welcome relief.

At about 9:30pm (12:30am eastern time) I walked into the Amtrak station and purchased my ticket. As usual, I received the standard amused expressions of the agent upon reading my drivers license. Providing a small amount of variation and comic relief to what I imagine to be an incredibly inane and mundane job feels good. At 11:09am the train rolled into the station, slightly ahead of Julie's prediction.

About 4 hours later, approaching Chico, a friendly conductor gently shook my shoulder and whispered "Chico, next stop." I took a deep breath and snapped myself to attention. After gathering my belongings I called Dale for the pickup. I feel very appreciative of his willingness to be woken up to do a late night pickup. Finally, at about 4am we walked into his house and I collapsed into bed.

This experience is not unique in my life these days, but it was extreme.

Travel time: ~21.5 hrs.
Number of individual "rides": 15
Number of miles traveled: ~3150
Total $$ cost: ~266
Gallons of petrochemicals burned: I don't want to think about it.

As I write all this out the extravagance of the endeavor gives me pause: Thinking about the various costs involved (money, fuel, time, personal stress, etc.) I have to ask myself, is this justifiable? Is what I'm doing really so important? I don't think there's a simple answer to that question. I simply have to take it as my job to make it serve as good a purpose as I can. At this point I think that purpose is to absorb all these experiences, think and feel into them as deeply as possible, and share about them as openly as possible. Thanks for helping me do that.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

portland redeemed

It was my last day in Portland and I didn't know how I was leaving. Craigslist had come up empty for a ride further south then Eugene, and even none of those posts were responding to emails or calls. I had a ride from Eugene to Chico if I could make it there by 10am. It became clear that hitching was my best bet, which I'd never done under a deadline. But this post is not about that adventure. It's about how that adventure led me through Tryon Life Community Farm and what I found there.

I'd heard about Tryon last december. In a chance meeting, whose synchronistic elements are only now unfolding, I ran into Jenny, an ex Twin Oaks visitor from 2001. She was acting as a sort of resident consultant for a co-op in Boston. Kassia and I were crashing there over night on the way to a meditation retreat.

It was an exciting reunion. I gave her 5 years of gossip on Twin Oaks; she told me a little about Tryon, a permaculture demonstration community on 7 acres in Portland next to a state park. Well, I'll be out there next fall, I said, so I'll be sure to come by. Jenny said she was about to embark on major world travels, and it wasn't clear she'd be back by then but I should definitely come see the place.

About 8 days ago, after arriving in Portland, I mentioned to Sabrina, my host in Portland, that I wanted to check the place out. She knew about it but had never visited. We drove to southwest Portland for their Friday "open-to-the-public" hrs and a self-guided tour.

The place is lovely. It is actually bordered on 3 sides by Tryon State Park, and several of the 7 acres are still wild. The other border is a low traffic residential street. Two large community buildings and various smaller structures are clustered on one end of the property. I learned that this was one of the sites for the City Repair Village-Building Convergence. The tell tail sign of highly creative cob siding were everywhere. We saw a family of goats gradually devouring the massive blackberry thickets. Most of the rest of the open space is devoted to gardening.

A wonderfully warm and enthusiastic new member named Laura answered a few questions as best she could. I found that Jenny had indeed returned. Excited, I left her a note, which it turns out she never got, but it didn't matter.

Saturday night was Howl, City Repairs annual Halloween benefit bash. It was an amazing party, with four stages and about 1000 people. Sabrina, a Burning Man enthusiast, hooked me up with costume materials. I was a disco unicorn ;0) With my sequined horn and sparkling blue sunglasses it was impossible to miss me. First I ran into Laura, then Jenny, and we discovered the miscommunication. But then, email addresses properly exchanged, we proceeded to party till dawn.

Jenny's a busy organizer, and after two emails it wasn't until my last day that she called me. "Why don't you come over for dinner," she said. "Well, I might be hitching, and I'll be hitching south, so could I just crash there and get a ride to the interstate in the morning?" "Sure, no problem!"

I threw my crap together and made the last bus out to the farm, but the driver had no idea what stop I was talking about. Luckily a fellow passenger knew. "I saw someone else with a big backpack get off at that stop, and I visited the farm once," she told me. Another example of the renowned friendliness of Oregon. I arrived to a supper of quinoa, stirfry, and marinated tempeh - solid commune fare - and a half dozen warm faces. Over half of the members (there are 17 adults and 5 kids) were out at Halloween parties or tricker-treating, but those present gave me enough to talk about.

Jenny told me the story of the creation of the community: The couple who'd owned the place had wanted to turn it into a yoga retreat center - that explained why the two buildings were so community oriented. But their relationship fell apart and the dream was never realized. Groups of people, many students, rented the place over the years, and no matter who lived there it seemed that the place had a magic to it. Parties there are apparently legendary, and a vast network of people can claim connection of some kind.

3 years ago the couple decided to sell. They sold the purchase option to a big development company, who planned 13 luxury homes. That's when the fun started. A number of the residents wanted to fight the development. Those that didn't moved out, and were replaced by activists, and the vision of the land as a permaculture and sustainable living demonstration and education center was born. They appealed to the couple to reconsider, but to no avail.

Facing eviction, the first thing the residents did was to mobilize a grassroots effort to put pressure on the developer. Their efforts paid off and after a couple months the developer agreed to sell them the purchase option for the price they paid plus expenses - a total of almost $200,000. The residents had just 4 months to raise this, and they pulled it off. They then had 10 months to raise the $800,000 needed for the down payment, and they pulled it off.

Jenny described to me one of the most impressive grassroots efforts I've ever heard about. They covered every avenue possible, local government, media, schools and other institutions, canvasing, and simply following up on every possible lead that came to their attention. But what really caught me was that in addition to incredible intelligence and organizing skills, the relationships were well tended. There was clearly so much heart and soul that went into the effort - I could still feel it sitting in the room, talking to them. And, in addition to that, the vision was solid, and they held it in the forefront of everything they did. Having finally won the land, the residents don't think of the land as theirs. They consider themselves stewards, continually working to actualize the vision that enabled them to save the land from development.

It's an exciting time and they are just starting to figure out their communal systems and structures. I shared my thoughts on membership and labor system structures, and found them to have an amazingly keen sense of the issues. Not only are these folx incredible activists, but they are essentially community minded.

Jenny and I talked about relationships too, including our experiences with polyamory. She talked about being new to the world of sex and romance, and having a very pragmatic approach to her passion. "I love kissing my friends, If I'm going to be sexual with someone it's because it will deepen our relationship as commrads. It's the work that comes first." Right on. I wish I could say I was so unaddicted to lust.

And then came the biggest revelation. I've been writing and talking about what I want to do a lot. Summed up, I want to help build a network of groups for the purpose of mutual support to help people get their basic needs met outside the money economy. All of a sudden I hear Jenny and Brush, another founder, articulating this vision, with the intent of utilizing all the connections they'd made in saving the farm. "All eyes are on Portland right now," said Brush. "There's all sorts of national media attention on Portland as a cutting edge green city, on it's arts and music culture... The city knows that it's because of all the young radicals, but it's not sure what to do with them." "It's all about weaving and stacking," said Jenny. "Stacking functions. It's a permaculture idea. It means that every part of a system should serve as many purposes and support as many other parts of the system as possible." So, the idea is, apply this principle to all the cool, progressive organizations doing good things to help provide social services.

I showed them some of my writing. "Yeah, exactly!" said Brush. I felt euphoric. I'd imagined that if I started this work I would be holding the vision solo for a while, until I gained enough momentum to inspire others. But here are people who are already coming together around the same vision. "We just need a few more people to have a critical mass of organizing energy so we can blow this wide open," exclaimed Jenny.

When Pax, Hawina and I decided to get pregnant we recognized that I was in a different place in my life. When Willow was born, Hawina was 39, Pax 47, and I was 21. We imagined that I might need to go off at some point to do something else, perhaps join the circus. So we established the Circus Claus.

Has my circus come to town? I don't know. But I'm intensely intrigued. This is the first time I have come across an opportunity so compelling that I could actually see moving away from Willow. It's also a place I could easily see Willow moving to, and Pax and Hawina, though I'm trying hard to hold back from that fantasy.

As I write this I am on a train, rolling through the wetlands where the Sacramento river meets the San Fransisco bay, heading towards the Oakland airport and back to Twin Oaks. My physical health has been failing the last few days, and my emotional health feels on edge too. Phase 1A of my exploration is coming to a close. I'm tired. I'm full. But I feel satisfied - mission accomplished.

a letter to a dear friend

"It would baffle me to hear that you don't love yourself, because I love you so much, and it would pain me to hear that you hate yourself, but I know that experience all too well. So I simply, silently nod my head with sorrowful compassion.

I feel protective of you, and, therefor, angry at him. What a fool! Who does he think he is?! He clearly doesn't deserve you. But, again, I know that karmic dance all too well. Be careful of what you will put yourself through out of self-loathing.

When she broke my trust, and then again, and then again, I was too attached to let go. But ultimatley that's what it took. It didn't necessarily mean "breaking up" with her. I had to abandon trust, I had to abandon all my expectations of her. I had to take my heart back. At some point it had just been cut and bruised too many times and it happened involuntarily.

It helped that I'd had my heart broken before. I knew that I didn't really need her, that I would be fine without her. Still, it took longer then it should have. I wrestled over and over again with wanting her to somehow repay me for what she'd done, to make up for it, or at least to be solid with me now. But it wasn't where she was at, and it was never enough.

Eventually, I truely opened myself to the possibility a life without her. I didn't break up with her, but I began to take the space, physically and emotionally, when I needed it, to take care of myself, to reorient myself to being alone and not in a partnership. As I was getting there, one day I snapped and blew up at her: "I'm sick of giving so much to this relationship and getting nothing back!" I yelled. It was the final death-throws of my attachment to her being a certain way for me.

It was a wake up call for her. She knew that I had let go, that I couldn't take much more and was ready to break up with her. That's when she shifted. Having exhausted her whims and her self-sabotaging behavior, having gone through so much together, facing actually, finally losing me, she made up her mind.

She knew she couldn't ask for my heart back. I said to her, you can ask for my heart back when you are so sure that when you ask it will be obvious to both of us that I can trust you again, not before. No, she said, I'm not going to ask, I'm just going to show you. She said, I am going to hold the vision of who I want to be and what I want us to be and live into that, and I don't expect you to trust me or believe me. Yes, I said, I don't trust you, and I don't believe you - this sounds too much like what you've said before - but I will stay with you and allow for the possibility.

Gradually my trust is rebuilding, as time passes and she remains solid. But I firmly believe that the only way for this new foundation to be strong was for me to totally obliterated the ruins of the old. A foundation built on the debris of resentment, frustration, and mistrust will eventually crack, history will repeat itself, and the tower will crumble once again.

This was the steps of our dance, to the music of our karma (and realize that I have left out many details.) It seems we have managed to take the needle of the record skipping.

What is your dance, to what tune? What do you need to let go of, give up, sweep away, destroy, such that both of you are free to make a different choice? What shift must you make in yourself that will give him room to shift? Realize the risk: the shift you each make may be away from eachother, not towards. You cannot do it for that purpose - not for another, only for yourself, only for the purpose of following your path more truely. Then, if he shifts too, it will be for himself, and if you shift towards each other, then it will be like falling in love all over again."