1 - Garden Front

The Pause

I faced a recurring crisis on the playground as a girl.

It went like this:

I am scrambling to the top of the jungle gym. At the top, there is a huge, elegant, thrilling slide.

I want to get to that slide.

My blood is pumping. My gaze remains steady at the top as my muscles propel me upwards. With every rung I conquer, I inhale and get another rush.

“Be careful!” call adults from the sidelines.

I ignore them. I am fully certain of the strength within my bones.

I fly to the top and hoist myself up to the final platform. Beaming with pride, I exhale. My muscles soften. I lower my eyes from the sky, passing over the horizon, and then onto the ground below.

My muscles lock in place.

My breath catches in my sternum.

My confidence swiftly dissolves.

I burst into tears.

“Help!” I scream throatily to my mother down below. “Help!”

I clutch the railing—the same railing that I had used only moments before to gleefully swing upward.

My mother looks back at me with an expression of bemusement. Her shoulders are shrugged, as if to say, “You got yourself up there. You can get yourself down. Or you can handle what comes next.”  

Sometimes, I wailed until an adult consented to rescue me. Sometimes I climbed back down to safe ground, feeling defeated, perhaps resolving to try again.

Sometimes, I took the leap and hurled myself onto the slide.

To this day, I find myself back there. I set my sights on somewhere distant, begin climbing with vigor, and freeze in terror once I’ve reached a new height.

The moment in which courage turns to fear is where my practice lies. When I encounter that moment now, I try to remember to pause.

Pausing changes everything.  

In a pause, new growth gets digested into existing musculature. With slow breaths, oxygen finds its way back into the blood.

Pausing allows me to acclimate to a new altitude. And from there, I can take in the marvelous view.

1 - Garden Front


I held a yellow Post-it note in my hand. Written on it was a phone number and the name of a doctor.

My emotional meteorology had always been extreme. From sunny days of ecstatic bliss to dark tempests that nearly rendered me immobile, my temperament was a fierce one.

Moodiness. Sensitivity. Emotional energies that, I believed, were flaws in my design. I spent years attempting to conquer them.

This was before I (mercifully) learned about the delicate beauty of high sensitivity, the lunar ebbs and flows governing those born under the sign of cancer.

That week, I had been struck by another emotional torrent and was wondering yet again if something within me was broken. Perhaps I was afflicted with depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Perhaps a medication would turn my choppy ocean currents into a tranquil lake, and render my inner world smooth.

The yellow Post-it held the phone number of a psychiatrist who could write a prescription.

It was a familiar juncture. In the past, I had chosen not to make the call, and eventually threw the Post-it away. Would I call now?

Medication seemed to be a wellness trend like yoga. After all, most of the women I knew had taken medication to remedy their emotions.

This thought suddenly struck me as bizarre. A question mark began form.

Why did I know so many women who had taken medication for their emotions?

Forgotten knowledge was lifting forward within me, and something hideous was being revealed.

We had learned that our emotions were problems. So we were squashing them away.

Emotional currents are powerful information. They can detect what has been relegated to the margins, what has been forgotten or erased.

When elements of voice are stuffed underground, they churn and boil until they overflow. Many voices have been flattened into projections. Two-dimensionality is simply easier to understand.

But depth and richness extend beneath us.

Pent up voices are bubbling.

My voice emerges from my bone marrow.  Like surges of energy pulsing underground, like electricity with no outlet, it erupts in circuits of internal fire.

My voice does not need to be sizzled, defeated, nor smothered. It needs to be released.

When we remove the lids and uncurl our limbs, our voices take flight. And our existence, it turns out, extends in infinite dimensionality.

1 - Garden Front


“It used to be our neighborhood,” Tony laments, “but now they are taking over.”

Tony is an Italian-American college student from an old Italian-American neighborhood. I am his writing tutor. His assignment is to explore an issue affecting his community. He has chosen to write about the changing demographic.

New York City: the womb of America. It is a place that roils with possibility and uncertainty, shudders with the deepest of terrors and glimmers with the heaviest of hopes. At its shores, huddled masses yearning to be free strike the soil and grope through the dark to find their footing. They build ladders and bridges, and their children climb up and away.

New York City is a landing space for refugees. It catches people who are fleeing and seeking, who live in a journey between worlds.

I was born into this primordial soup. Like a tadpole peeling away from the mass of its brothers and sisters, I have peeled off to swim away to find somewhere empty and unmarked. I left to find a world beyond extreme humanity.

I smile at Tony. I smile at his attempt to cling to a world that is fading away. I empathize with his fear of the unknown, with his frustration at his powerlessness to prevent change.

An old wisdom comes up through my roots, sprouts from my bones, and spreads through me. It is a deep knowing that extends backwards into history, tucked into my genetic inheritance.

“It has always been that way,” I said. “Every neighborhood here is merely an incubator. Our part in the story of this place is ephemeral.”